The Spiritual Tourist
Bloomsbury publishing ISBN 1-58234-034-X
Chapter Her Master's Voice' pp. 197-198
"[. .] the Maharishi went on to build a world wide organisation, shrewdly dispensing with the Eastern trappings and the references to 'Heavenly Bliss' in favour of flow charts and statistics demonstrating TM's benefits to health and business efficiency.
In his wake came the Guru Maharaj Ji, the chubby faced teenaged 'boy god', who made a spectacular public debut in Britain in 1971, when he arrived at the Glastonbury Festival in a white Rolls Royce (hired for the day by his first English devotees).
'It was very odd,' remembers Michael Eavis, the dairy farmer who runs the Glastonbury Festival. 'Somebody said God had arrived and could we put him on stage, and my thought was: Well, the festival's for everybody really, so why not? By the time he went on stage everybody in the audience was completely stoned out of their minds, and you could hear this ripple going around, "Wow! That's God!" Then he started preaching against drugs, which I think everybody there found a bit disconcerting.'
Maharaj Ji was the youngest son and heir of Param Hans Yogiraj Shri, a spiritual teacher who had built a large following in India, establishing several ashrams, the largest at Hardwar, named Premnagar, 'the city of love'. Maharaj Ji promised instant bliss through a process that he called 'the knowledge', which involved simple meditation and yogic techniques. His Divine Light Mission Organisation quickly flourished in Britain. The former Odeon, East Dulwich, became 'The Palace of Peace', the headquarters for a range of 'divine' businesses, including a haulage business, punningly called GM Motors. Maharaj Ji moved on to America, on a ticket paid for by the writer Alan Watts, establishing residences in Denver and Los Angeles. In 1973 he rented the Houston Astrodome, for 'Millennium '73', describing it as 'the most significant and holy event in the history of mankind'. While a rock band played on stage, the electronic scoreboard flashed 'G O D', 'Enjoy! Enjoy!' and 'Sugar Is Sweet, So Are You, Guru Maharaj Ji'.
His most celebrated devotee was Rennie Davis, the former leader of the radical Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Davis had been a leading campaigner against the war in Vietnam, and one of the 'Chicago 7', along with Abbie Hoffman, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, who stood trial in 1969, on charges arising out of disturbances at the Democratic Convention. But he had grown disenchanted with radical politics. Davis described the arrival of Guru Maharaj Ji as, 'The greatest event in history … If we knew who he was we would crawl across America on our hands and knees to rest our heads at his feet.' The San Francisco Sunday Examiner publicly wondered whether Davis had undergone a lobotomy: 'If not,' an article on the op ed page declared, 'maybe he should try one.'
In 1974, Guru Maharaj Ji married his American secretary. The Divine Light Mission began a steady decline, and the Denver headquarters closed in 1979. In 1992, in a deliberate attempt to distance itself from its Indian origins, and its own history, the name of the organisation was changed to Elan Vitale. Maharaj Ji continues to travel the world, lecturing to private audiences, distributing his teachings on video and tape and politely declining to talk to the media. Even the word 'meditation' is discouraged.
While Westernisation had overtaken both the Maharishi Mahesh and Guru Maharaj Ji they at least avoided the worst taint of scandal. The Indian guru who most inspired ridicule and opprobrium, and tainted the whole idea of Eastern teachers with disrepute, was the man popularly known as 'Bhagwan'. Rajneesh Chandra Mohan came from no particular religious tradition, declaring instead, 'I am the beginning of a totally new religious consciousness.' His teachings bore the traces of an eclectic reading list: Lao Tzu, the Bible, Buddhism, Plato, Freud and, not least, Gurdjieff."