RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF AMERICA
J. GORDON MELTON
RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF AMERICA, First Edition MAHARAJ JI *570*
Guru MAHARAJ JI
Spiritual Teacher, Elan Vital
b. Dec. 10, 1957, Hardwar India
Guru Maharaj Ji, more recently known as Maharaj, is the spiritual leader of Elan Vital. (Guru Maharaj Ji is a title rather than a name; Maharaj Ji was born Prem Pal Singh Rawat.) The Elan Vital organization has superseded the former Divine Light Mission in the West. Maharaj Ji originally inherited his position from his father, Shri Hans Maharaj Ji, who was a spiritual teacher in the Sant Mat tradition and founder of the mission. Shri Hans had been a follower of Sawan Singh, a prominent Sant Mat leader who was the direct or indirect source of a number of different spiritual groups on the American scene. Shri Hans established independent work in Delhi in 1930. The work was formally organized as Divya Sandesh Parishad, or Divine Light Mission, in 1960. At his death in 1966 he was succeeded by his youngest son, only eight then, who assumed the title Guru Maharaj Ji
Encouraged by young Westerners who had traveled to India and became premies (initiates), Maharaj Ji journeyed to the United States in 1971 and addressed a large crowd at a gathering in Colorado. The people initiated at this meeting became the core of the movement, and headquarters were established in Denver. The mission grew rapidly, so that by late 1973 hundreds of centers had been established and tens of thousands of premies had been initiated. In addition, social service facilities were established and periodicals began to be published.
The movement's early growth phase began to spiral down in November 1973 with "Millennium 73," a gathering at the Houston Astrodome that failed to attract enough people to pay the Astrodome's rental fee. The fiasco also attracted attacks against Maharaj Ji's followers by the anti-cult movement. The last series of events to set back the organization began in 1974 when Maharaj Ji, then 16 years old, married his 24-year-old secretary, Marolyn Johnson. He announced that she was an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Durga. The marriage ruptured the already strained relations between Maharaj Ji and his family. His mother declared her youngest son fallen, and further declared his oldest brother the new guru. The conflict ended in a court battle in which Maharaj Ji assumed control of the mission outside India, while his brother and mother were awarded the organization inside India.
In the early 1980s, Maharaj Ji began a process of disbanding the mission and its local ashrams. He dropped the remaining Indian cultural trappings, began to call himself simply Maharaj, and, adopting an extremely low profile, chose to relate to his followers on a one-to-one basis. He created the North American Sponsorship Program to raise financial support for his home in Malibu and his many travels.
Over the years, many of Maharaj Ji's talks were transcribed for publication in the various mission periodicals. Others were circulated on cassette tapes. Only a few were collected and published as books or booklets.
Gale Books by J. Gordon Melton
Nationally recognized author, lecturer, and scholar Dr. J. Gordon Melton is founder of the Institute for the Study of American Religion. He has been described by the Los Angeles Times as "a leading chronicler of religious movements, in the United States."
Religious Leaders of America
Offers biographical profiles of more than 1,000 founders and leaders of individual churches, religious bodies, and spiritual groups in America. Includes often overlooked contributors to American religion, including African-American, women, and Native-American leaders as well as televangelists, songwriters, artists, poets, historical figures, and writers. Profiles include typical biographical information as well as details on training and background; people, places, and events that helped influence their beliefs; and the leader's contributions to his or her church's establishment, development, and doctrine. contributions to doctrine.
Encyclopedia of American Religions
"Far surpasses anything yet produced and is an indispensable guide to the confused landscape of American Religion." So said the editors of Choice when- describing this comprehensive reference that describes nearly 1,600 religious groups in North America. Named "Outstanding Reference Source" by the American Library Association's Reference and Adult Services Division.
Encyclopedia of American Religions: Religious Creeds
Presents 464 religious creeds, confessions, statements of faith, summaries of belief, and articles of religion associated with the diverse religions practiced in America. "A superb reference that also makes fascinating reading," said Library Journal reviewers, who ranked the book as "Highly recommended."
The Churches Speak Series
Systematically and conveniently brings together texts of statements from religious bodies on controversial topics facing society today: abortion, homosexuality, women's ordination, euthanasia, AIDS, pornography, capital punishment, and sex and family life.
New Age Encyclopedia
A welcomed addition to libraries that have a constant demand for current, in-depth information on topics, terms, and personalities within the New Age Movement. Offers 300 essays on history, development, and current trends within the movement, as well as information on organizations and publications. Named "Outstanding Reference Source" by the American Library Association's Reference and Adult Services Division.
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