The World of Gurus
Revised Edition © Vishal Mangalwadi 1987
First Edition by Vikas Publishing House in 1977
The Divine Light Mission
The spectacular rise and the scandalous fall of the Divine Light Mission has made it the most publicized sect of our day. Its recently dethroned leader, Balyogeshwar alias Guru Maharaj Ji, was claimed to be "the brightest event in the history of the planet" by Rennie Davis, a leading American revolutionary of the sixties, who later became a devotee of Guru Maharaj Ji. Balyogeshwar's father, the founder of the Mission, had declared him to be the "born saint," his mother, the patron of the Mission, and Bal Bhagavan his oldest brother and the new leader of the Mission, called him "Perfect Master." Like Sai Baba, Balyogeshwar claimed that he was Jesus Christ come again and Krishna reincarnated. Millions believed him and surrendered their minds to him. They testified that he had given them the experience of divinity. But now this brilliant star has turned out to be a meteor that flashed across gurudom only to fizzle out into darkness.
The founder of the Divine Light Mission, Shri Hans Ji Maharaj, was born in Badrinath, UP. He was drawn to the Arya Samaj at an early age because of his religious inclinations. Later by sheer coincidence he met a saint known as Dada Guru and became his disciple. He entered samadhi while meditating, only the day after his initiation. He lost his body consciousness and realized the divinity within. Dada Guru had appointed Hans Ji to be his successor but after Guru's death a small band of disciples refused to acknowledge the leadership of Shri Hans Ji. Therefore he left for Sindh and Lahore and started disseminating the knowledge of Divine Light and Holy Name. From 1930 onwards he visited Delhi
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frequently preaching to the labourers of Delhi Cloth Mills. He was no scholar but his simple, practical well illustrated lectures, with a strong moral tone, backed by his magnetic personality, attracted many followers. By 1960 it is claimed that "tens of thousands" had taken initiation and therefore the Divine Light Mission was founded. (The Mission is not always honest in giving statistics; for example a book published by the Mission in 1970 claims that there were approximately a hundred thousand members at that time! But a book published in 1973 claims that in 1966 they had several million followers).
Generally in the tradition of Sant Mat, guruship is hereditary or at least confined to the family. Shri Hans Ji Maharaj married Rajeshwari Devi because his first wife did not bear him a son. Mataji and he had four sons; all were claimed to be divine but the youngest was the "born saint," therefore the "Perfect Master." Rajeshwari Devi became the "divine mother" but the first wife who lives in Dehra Dun had no place in the Mission. Balyogeshwar became the leader of the sect after his father's death on July 19, 1966. Balyogeshwar was born on December 10,1957, at Hardwar. He had his schooling at St. Joseph's Academy, Dehra Dun. His father initiated him when he was six years old but it took about a month of meditation before he realized his divinity.
On August 1, 1966, when he was eight years old, he declared himself to be the "Perfect Master." To the thousands of devotees present at his father's funeral, he said, "Why are you weeping? Haven't you learned the lesson that your master taught you? The Perfect Master never dies. Maharaj Ji is here, amongst you now." Awed at this declaration, his mother, brothers and mahatmas (apostles) present, prostrated themselves at his feet and received his blessings.
1 C.L. Tandon, Satgurudev Shri Hansji Maharaj (Delhi, 1970), 18.
2. Charles Cameron, Who is Guru Maharaj Ji? (New York, Bantam Books, 1973), 35.
At a mammoth gathering in Delhi in November 1970 Balyogeshwar said, "I declare that I will establish peace in this world." Six months later he went on his first tour to Great Britain, Canada and the United States. His mission had phenomenal success in the West. By 1972 the DLM (Divine Light Mission) claimed 45 centres in the U.S. with 15,000 members. By June 1973 they claimed to have 480 centres in 38 countries.
The Mission launched a popular paper called The Divine Times and a magazine And it is Divine. Their movies, "Lord of the Universe" and "Satguru has come" attracted many viewers.
Balyogeshwar reached the zenith of his popularity during the Millenium Festival 1973, in Houston. There his devotees declared him to be the saviour of the world who was ushering in the thousand years of utopia. It would not be an exaggeration perhaps to say that at that time his popularity overshadowed that of all the gurus and religious leaders in the world. But it did not take too long for it to dwindle to almost nothing.
The descent began in late 1973, when the 16 year old god married his 24 year old American secretary, Marylin Louise Johnson. By the middle of 1974, he had reached the point of no return on the road described as "unspiritual" by his mother, brother and C.L. Tandon, the Secretary- General of the Mission in India. The "divine mother" spent virtually the whole of 1974 trying to get her son back on the proper path. Mr. Tandon made two visits to the U.S.A. to persuade the "Perfect Master" to mend his ways, but was appalled to see that "night clubs," "illicit relations" and liquor were part of the routine of the young Guru. And that the four taboos of the Mission, "no sex, no alcohol, no consumption of non-vegetarian food and complete celibacy" had been broken within the ashram in the U.S.A.'
The cracks within the "divine family" became impossible to cement after Balyogeshwar issued directives that the photographs of his mother were to be removed from all the centres since she was no longer divine, and in their place were to be put the photographs of his wife who was "the incarnation of the goddess Durga." This precipitated a situation because of which his mother, the patron of the Mission had to remove him from the leadership of the Mission and enthrone his eldest brother Bal Bhagavan in his place.
3 The Statesman, April 4, 1975.
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Balyogeshwar and his Western followers, however, described his mother's step as "ridiculous," since he had taken over the complete management of the Mission on his 16th birthday in December 1973 in accordance with the will of his divine father. Mr Joe Anctil, Balyogeshwar's Press Secretary, defended the Perfect Master on the grounds that he is not following any traditions or Indian concepts and so cannot be bound by Indian social taboos. Mr. Anctil argued "Maharaj Ji does not say what to eat, drink or smoke. He wants to change the hearts of men and not their habits." Besides, he argued, when Balyogeshwar's mother was in the U.S.A., "she lived exactly the (same) life-style,"' and Balyogeshwar had to remove her from the Mission because she "had mismanaged the Mission which caused us to be in debt at the time."
After Bal Bhagavan was declared to be the leader of the Mission, Balyogeshwar levelled serious charges against his brother's character, too, for which he was taken to court. The particular case was withdrawn because this "battle of bhagavans (gods)" made the entire "divine family" a laughing stock in the world. But the legal battle for ownership of the property in the West has continued.
The Western followers have generally sided with the "Perfect Master" whereas the Indians have generally accepted the leadership of Bal Bhagavan. The average Indian devotee is in fact little bothered with these details. In talking to some, I found that they still consider Balyogeshwar to be God. One of them said to me, "Lord Krishna also lived this kind of life and we worship him as God; why hold Balyogeshwar guilty?" The Divine Light Mission has not been interested in "teachings and philosophies." Balyogeshwar and his brother have consistently rejected "theoretical" knowledge as "useless." I found the DLM devotees most difficult to talk to, because they neither wanted to teach their philosophy to me nor answer philosophical questions and objections. Their one note was, "Take the practical knowledge of the experience of Sound and Light and all your doubts and questions will be answered."
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We need not discuss their philosophical world view because they don't attach much importance to it and also because it seems similar to that of Radha Soami Satsang's discussed in the next chapter. It will suffice to look at their "practical knowledge." "Practical knowledge" or simply, knowledge is a term used to describe meditation. DLM claims that the "knowledge" has been handed down through the ages from one realized person to another. It was there when the world began and it is with us now. In times of greater darkness great saints are sent to disseminate this knowledge. The knowledge or meditation consists of four techniques, namely the techniques of seeing the divine Light, hearing the divine Sound, tasting the divine Nectar and hearing the divine Word. These techniques are taught by the guru or by the Mahatmas authorized by him in a secret initiation ceremony, which includes meditation.
A person is initiated only after a Mahatma can see that he is spiritually prepared. There is no definite criterion for judging whether or not a person is ready. You can go to a Mahatma today and be declared unprepared. But go to another, and you may be told that you have been ready for a long time. The main thing a Mahatma generally looks for is the intensity of one's desire to receive the knowledge. Often people have to fall on their hands and knees before the Mahatmas to beg for "knowledge." They may be refused even after such prayers.
After some people have been selected for initiation, they are taken into a closed room, where the Mahatma explains to them the importance of the knowledge, satsang and the Sad guru. The would-be initiates make an open profession that henceforth they will follow no other guru or saint except their own, and that they will worship and serve the Sadguru with all their hearts, strength, wealth and talents.
Serving the Sadguru
The following information regarding initiation and "knowledge" is kept strictly secret by the Divine Light Mission. I am indebted to Mr. Bobby Cumiskey for revealing it to me. He was one of the first in Scotland to take initiation into DLM in 1971. Later he left the mission because it failed to satisfy his spiritual longings. Instead of giving him a spiritual relationship with God it taught that the experiences derived from physiological manipulation of eyes, ears, and tongue, and autosuggestions were experiences of divinity.
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in practice means obeying the orders of the Mahatma and propagating the knowledge.
After making the vows, one by one the initiates bow before the picture of the Sadguru and worship it. Then the Mahatma gives the knowledge or the techniques of meditation.
In order to show the divine Light, the Mahatma asks the initiates to close their eyes. Then he places his middle finger and thumb on their eyes and starting from the corner of the eyeballs he presses the eyeballs up from the bottom so that in actual fact if the eyelids were open the centre of the pupils would be looking at the third eye point. Now if the initiate concentrates on this point he can see a light; some others see a psychedelic movie of moving patterns and brilliant colours, whereas some don't see anything at all.
The technique of hearing the Music or the Sound is simple. One is asked to block his ears with the thumbs so that one does not hear any external sounds. When one listens long enough to his inner silence he can eventually here some noises. To some people this sounds like celestial music whereas others think they are hearing their favourite tune played on some heavenly instrument.
The technique of tasting Nectar is a very difficult yogic exercise. Usually it is experienced after much practice. One has to try and curl his tongue to come up to the back of the throat and then has to swallow the tongue in such a way that it points upwards. Here the tongue is supposed to hit a point and make contact with the nectar that is constantly flowing through one's body. It is claimed that this nectar is indescribably tasty and it is the "living water" of which Jesus spoke. Some of the devotees also describe it as the "bread of life" and claim that after making contact with the everflowing stream of nectar you can live without food or water- but no one has as yet come forward to demonstrate these claims. Hearing the Word is the main meditation. In fact it is often regarded as the knowledge. It is simply a breathing exercise, in which one sits in a lotus position (if possible), with both hands on the knees, and concentrates on his breath going up and down, 6 The point between the two eyebrows on the forehead above the nose.
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up and down. Through concentrating on one's breathing, one supposedly tunes into that "primordial vibration," the Word or logos, which has created the universe and sustains it. By constant meditation one is supposed to reach samadhi or the expanded state of consciousness which according to the DLM is the purpose of life. One knows that he has reached samadhi by the light. At the initiation the light seen may be only a small point. But as one meditates the light gets brighter. Eventually the light overtakes a person and he becomes literally full of this light. Once you feel (or perceive) that you have become the Light, you may know that you have reached samadhi or merged into God. You will never be reborn.
In the two chapters that follow we shall be evaluating the monistic presuppositions of the Divine Light Mission and those aspects of its teachings which it shares in common with the Radha Soami Satsang. Here we only need to say in defence of Sri Balyogeshwar that his life which has been described by his mother and brother as immoral, is quite consistent with his philosophy.
If God is an impersonal Sound, Light, Nectar, Word or Consciousness, without any specific moral qualities; if liberation is merging into this impersonal, amoral God and if the way to liberation is through physical manipulation of certain nerves and auto-suggestions, then there is no need for one to be moral. Morality has no relationship with religion or liberation. Therefore, Sri Balyogeshwar as such has every right to live the way he wishes to live. And his so called "immoral" life in no way disproves his claim to divinity or guruship.
Since writing this chapter I have seen slogans and posters put up in many of our cities by the Vishwa Shanti Dal (World Peace Corps), asking us to receive knowledge from Balyogeshwar the avatar! To those who cannot accept an immoral man as an incarnation of God, this must seem to be the height of religious deception. If the Vishwa Shanti Dal succeeds in putting
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Balyogeshwar back on the religious map of the world, it. will become a classic example of the gullibility of man. This must cause us all to re-examine our beliefs and deities. Do we also believe blindly? If we do then our beliefs are no better than those of DLM's followers.