Mahatmas of Prem Rawat (Maharaji)
One of the most important factors in the early success of DLM were the Indian 'mahatmas', supposedly celibate men and women who lived in ashrams and dedicated their lives to practice and proselytisation of the "Knowledge".
The idealistic and ignorant young Westerners believed these people to be "liberated", "realised souls", "yogis", "swamis", etc. They were thought to be above normal consciousness and to exist on a higher plane. And certainly the few mahatmas that came to Australia, especially Padarthanand, put on a pretty convincing show in this regard.
When Knowledge of God is spread through the whole world, there will be one religion. The Knowledge will be spread through mahatmas, because, without these great souls, it cannot be done. - Shri Sant Ji Maharaj, July 29, 1966, Prem Nagar Ashram, Hardwar, India
A critical article in the 1973 Realist magazine shows the respect the mahatmas were given:
As the devotees settled on the floor, it was as though we were watching a rock star paying a surprise visit to his fans. There was excitement in the air and everything in the office came to a standstill the moment Mahatma Ji entered the room. And there we were, face to face with one of the Holy Men, who was obviously enjoying all the attention he was getting. When Billy White told the honored guest that we were from the media, his eyes lit up and he looked as if he wanted us to ask him some questions. In the course of our short interview with Mahatma Ji, he told us that he had been a follower of Guru Maharaj Ji for four years, and that he had been an engineer in India before that.
Obviously, these mahatmas might be as ignorant and inexperienced in this "Knowledge" as the Western devotees who almost worshipped them. On July 17, 1974 Rawat explained:
And that is what Mahatmas are. Mahatmas are mikes (ie microphones) and they help, I mean more than help to convey this message of Knowledge, of peace, of Truth, of love, to so many people at one time. And this is a function, a role of Mahatmas. But the thing is you have to understand that for even them they need Grace, there is still development in their life, they still have to go somewhere. They've realised Knowledge and a lot of it, and it's like the thing is they are still trying to realise Knowledge more and more because now they have gone to such a point that they can see that the road is there, it's clear for them. I mean other people are just making the turns and twists and they don't even know if the road is there or not, but they have crossed their turns and twists now. They're there where they can see a big long road right down. All we can be to Mahatmas is thankful, because there could be a person singing a beautiful, beautiful song and maybe people at the back wouldn't be able to hear, all you can do is say thanks a lot for this microphone, because I can hear.
By far the most important mahatma was Mahatma Gurucharanand without whom the young Rawat would have missed the short window of opportunity during the early 1970's to gain enough devotees in the West to support him. By 1974 the pool of disenchanted counter-culture "hippies" had dried up and since then Rawat's constant push for new followers has proven mostly fruitless.
Prem Rawat preached that only mahatmas were able to "reveal Knowledge" ie Guru Maharaj Ji gave them the connection to Him that allowed the grace to initiate people. On a more mundane level, it was a reasonably time-consuming process and many mahatmas were required to indoctrinate and initiate the tens of thousands of Westerners that DLM claimed as members.
Many of the Western premies had their beliefs about mahatmas challenged when they learned that a mahatma, Mahatma Fakiranand, had nearly bludgeoned the journalist and merry prankster, Pat Halley, to death with a hammer for throwing a shaving cream pie into Maharaji's face in Detroit in 1973. Fakiranand, who was an important mahatma of Shri Hans, Prem Rawat's father and remained an extremely important mahatma under Satpal Maharaj after Prem Rawat was deposed by his Indian followers, was quickly hustled overseas and Halley accepted a substantial payment from Divine Light Mission as compensation. (click here for full details of this vicious crime) One of Fakiranand's satsangs was published and is available here, he certainly seems "blissed out" in the photo and in his speech:
"I am seeing that self-effulgent Light twenty-four hours a day. Guru Maharaj has opened my eye and has given everything to me. I am remembering that Word at all times. There is nothing more precious than Guru, nothing more lovely than Guru Maharaj in this whole universe for a human being."
He has continued as a mahatma until at least the present day (2013) preaching for Satpal Maharaj, Rawat's eldest brother and replacement Satguru. He presides at Prem Nagar ashram in Haridwar as the wise and enlightened elder statesman Mahatma and denies all knowledge of Halley's attempted murder. The Western premies had to change their beliefs about mahatmas when all but a handful of them returned to India and remained loyal to Rawat's mother after she disinherited Him for his playboy lifestyle. After all, Mahatmas couldn't have higher spiritual experience if they accepted that Prem Rawat, their former Perfect Master and Lord of the Universe had become just a naughty fat boy who'd got lost in maya of sex, drink, drugs and being a playboy, could they?
The mahatma who was probably closest to Prem Rawat and the most evil was Mahatma Jagdeo. He lived in the Malibu mansion and for many years had a special service overseeing the educational facilities of Divine Light Mission. It was later revealed he was a paedophile who took advantage of his position to sexually abuse some of the children in these schools. When the organisation was challenged about these events, they first tried to ignore the accusations. Jagdeo was returned to India where he was protected within the Raj Vidya Kender infrastructure. Jagdeo also supervised the training of the Western initiators for some years. In the photo below he is seen at the back of an early group of Western devotees "training" to become "initiators".
Some of the mahatmas were unable to remain celibate as Bob Mishler admitted: "Although it was true that a number of his Mahatmas did that, and we had a number of problems with some of the Mahatmas on that level, I am not aware of Maharaji taking advantage of women followers." Rawat did take advantage sexually of some of his devotees in later years as Mike Dettmers testified.
One of those supposedly unable to keep his penis in his pants was Mahatma Vedapravaktanand and on his return to India he went to work for Bal Bhagwan Ji who had by then become Satpal Maharaj, famous and rich Indian Godman and politician. Mahesh Kumar (his birth name) had that Yankee get-up-and-go so missing in Prem Rawat and whether he was fired by Satpal or fired by ambition he set himself up as Satguru Ashutosh Maharaj and within 30 years went on to greater (in)fame than his former Perfect Master, Prem Rawat in a Bollywood rags to riches story. Only in India.
Meanwhile, in Santa Monica, Mahatma Ji Satyanand, a leader loyal to the mother, told newsmen Friday that "it is a must" that Maharaj Ji "surrender" to the will of the mother and accept his oldest brother, Bal Bhagwanji, as "the perfect master." Mahatma Ji, speaking mostly through an interpreter, said that the mother had named the teen-ager the perfect master "temporarily" after the death of the father in 1966. The oldest brother, Mahatma Ji said, was really the perfect master all along. Speaking of the 17-year-old, who married a non-Hindu last year, Mahatma Ji said: "He is a saint, but not a guru." Joe Anctil, press spokesman for the Divine Light Mission headquarters, said the family quabble goes back quite a few years. The young spiritual master's taste for expensive cars and homes has been publicly known, but Anctil denied the mother's charges that the guru had also begun to eat meat and drink alcoholic beverages.
Those who remained loyal included Mahatmas Gurucharnanand and Sampurnanand who had both been heavily involved in the proclamation of Prem Rawat as the new Perfect Master on the death of his father. They are seen in this photo flanking the young Prem Rawat who pretends to play the flute and is dressed in the costume his father would wear when posing as Krishna. Sampuranand led the Rav Vidya Kender (DUO) in India after Rawat was unable to regain the Divine Light Mission properties in the Indian courts and was still testifying for Rawat in the Passages video. As of 2013 Gurucharnanand, or Abhay Charan - avid golfer and former tennis player, is still doing his shtick (wide toothy smiles, phony humility, simple Indian saintliness) for Rawat amongst the wealthy premies and major donors though he did not remain a celibate monk all those years.
Mahatma Padarthanand who had been instrumental in the growth of DLM in Australia remained loyal to Rawat and became a hirsute householder. There have since been many accusations made that he sexually assualted female premies. I heard Mahatma Rajeshwaranand, who was reputed to be a judge in Indian, give satsang explaining that Bal Bhawan Ji was somehow God and was the power that allowed Guru Maharaj Ji to do everything. At least I think he was saying something like that as it was a very hot Saturday afternoon and it didn't make a lot of sense and in retrospect it happened during the family-behind-the-scenes breakup so it sounded like he was working for Bal Bhagwan Ji at the time. However, he also remained loyal to Prem Rawat. Mahatma Gitanand, who had spent considerable time in Europe was known to have worked in a bakery in Frankfurt around 1980 (Ash, XPF, 30/8/9). Mahatma Gyanyoganand was disillusioned with both of the brothers and went back to India to teach hatha Yoga (Mike Finch, XPF, 30/8/9). Mohani Bai married a German premie and teaches Indian chant.
In Denver in 1975, Rawat held a conference with most of the mahatmas still left to him. He declared Mahatmas Trevinanand and Satyanand manmat in a letter of the 22nd June and Mahatmas Parlokanand, Adharanand and Gitanand left for India. Mahatma Vijayanand had already become disillusioned and left to set up on his own and a letter from Rawat was sent around to all the communities in the USA demanding he be spurned.
Female Mahatmas were call Bais. There were far fewer of these in the West than males. Mohani Bai was an influential 'mahatma' who served mainly in Germany. It was said, amongst followers of Prem Rawat at the time, that she was a widow, that she left Divine Light Mission at the time Prem Rawat's mother disowned him and removed him as the Perfect Master and that she married a German devotee who had been her chauffeur who also became an apostate. Mohani Heitel is an M.D. practising as a physican and psychotherapist and since 2001 she has a web site The Mantra Calls You. She remains a spiritual teacher who has released CDs of Indian mantras for meditation, performs concerts and has written a book. She does not wish to speak publicly of her time in Divine Light Mission.
The first and only Western Mahatma empowered in India, the spacey and charmingly cosmic Brian Pitt alias Mahatma Param Saphlanand, was the driving force behind the early attraction of young hippies to Rawat. He first convinced Sandy Collier, Ron Geaves (now Professor Ron Geaves), "Milky" Cole and David Beales, who became the first English premies apart from Pitt himself, to go to Dehra Dun and "receive Knowledge" and then was Mahatma Gurucharanand's offsider and translator in the beginning of his time in England. Saph was not easily fit into the Divine Light Mission mould that the young Rawat wanted - all straight, short-haired, brylcreemed, besuited and boringly obedient and anxious, willing and able to toe the celibate satsang, service and meditation line. He played the role of aircraft mechanic in the movie Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji? who finds all work a pleasure if you "have a completely calm mind which gives you complete concentration." It was a bit of an exaggeration as he later admitted after renouncing Rawat and apostasising.
Rawat also appointed four new mahatmas - the former Bill Patterson, now Mahatma Satchitanand; the former Arthur Brigham, now Mahatma Param Premanand; the former Ira Woods, now Mahatma Gurupujanand; and the former Kathy Sullivan, now Mahatma Pranam Bai. Their "mahatmahood" status did not last long and they were soon downgraded to "initiators." Rawat later downgraded them again to "instructors" and continued to harp on their lack of spiritual superiority and total reliance on his Grace.
On the 24th December 1975 Rawat issued a proclamation giving his new directive that "mahatmas" were to be called initiators, should grow their hair, should dress in Western clothes and could no longer sit on chairs on stage at satsang. Rawat claimed that 1975 has been a very succesful year for propagation (premie numbers had fallen by about 7 million) but that Knowledge has been presented falsely to the current premies who "didn't have the proper understanding." They "thought that Knowledge was a trippy thing or a mystical thing, but when it came right down to integrating Knowledge into their life in the daily practice of satsang, service and meditation" they didn't. Propagation never recovered from this decision despite the efforts of many of the intelligent, charismatic, dedicated devotees who were appointed. However, there were many stories and gossip about the unreasonable demands made by some of these instructors who were often seen as living on a higher plane than the normal devotees. Rawat tried on many occasions to puncture these ideas. He demanded to be the one and only source of authority within the cult.
During the late 1970's Rawat appointed at least 80 non-Indian initiators from 20 countries. (PIP p.209) Many if not most of the Western 'mahatmas' or 'initiators' or 'instructors' who were appointed have become 'apostates' ie they no longer believe in Rawat or his Knowledge. Some of the more prominent include Mahatma Saphlanand, Mike Finch and Jean Michel Kahn. Of the first four Westerners, Ira Woods has remained one of Rawat's most important devotees, Bill Patterson has been reported as apostasising and dying after an accident, Kathy Sullivan has apostasised and Arthur Brigham is still a follower.
During the 1980's and 1990's he appointed and fired instructors with gay abandon sometimes beginning overly ambitious initiator training programs and at other times firing them wholesale but always keeping them insecure.
Rawat has both depended upon and derided his mahatmas / initiators / instructors throughout his career and the only time there has been significant growth in the number of his followers has been when he had Indian mahatmas touring the West in the early 1970's. At the Hans Jayanti celebrations, November 9, 1990 in India he said:
So, we deal in such a commodity that we always earn a lot of profit. And what is that profit? The profit of true Knowledge. And in foreign countries when prachar work was in its initial stage, people used to wear saffron clothes, got their heads shaved, with the result that their heads shone like a runway. So the audience there did not understand what was being explained. Because there were so many people belonging to another movement who wore similar dresses with their heads shaven. So people thought about those mahatmas who were doing prachar work, that they too belonged to the same cult, because they were similar in looks. The same shining skull with a tilak mark on their forehead, wearing saffron clothes. So, I said: do you want to do prachar here, or want to wear these saffron clothes ? So all those who were doing prachar work there have now been made instructors. And what a love they have got in them! Some of them have come here also, but they get into tantrums occasionally - having the same sort of mannerisms like mahatmas.
In fact, most of the "mahatmas" who went to the West in the 1970's were either fired or resigned in disgust with Rawat's lifestyle or because they were loyal to his mother and the administration of Divya Sandesh Parishad (Divine Light Mission) in India which included all the older mahatmas who had been appointed by Rawat's father and predecessor.
During the Vaishakhi Celebrations in the evening Session of April 13 1991 at the Shri Sant Yogashram, New Delhi India he said:
So, you have just heard the questions put by the people, "What should we become? Should we become students, disciples or devotees?" When satsang was over, Padarthanand came back-stage, I asked him to come to me. I said "Why don't you explain to people the difference in becoming a student, a devotee and a disciple?" Just ask them. Enough of questions have already been asked. And I think in most of the cases some instructors might have given wild answers, quite off the mark as if fetched from far off places, which made neither head nor tail, which carried no meaning and might have confounded the audience: "Oh, what mahatmaji (the instructor) has said, I could not comprehend at all. But maybe it is true because it has been said by mahatamaji." So it is just like that. Because I have seen enough of this world.
But if you have trust within you and really the Master is there -- the Perfect Master -- to take care of you, and if you actually have trust and faith in your heart then there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Now, if somebody comes and says: "Well, how can you explain this thing to all the people?" I would say, "I don't know." But when the time comes, all the solutions automatically come in line before you. And they will wait outside for hours together to enter inside -- all those solutions. And you will find better and better ones. So, it happens very comfortably. And it did. Now just think about it. The first day approximately 900 aspirants were present in the Knowledge session. I asked someone, "Well, how many aspirants are left?" I was told that there were about 1200 aspirants more. So I said, "Okay, I will give Knowledge to all of them." That meant that they would be given Knowledge in one session. But if somebody could have asked me the first day, 'Could you give Knowledge to more people at a time?' I would have said: "No, I find it difficult with all these 900 people sitting here." Because I had involved some instructors also in that session. That's why there was difficulty. Even today morning I was greatly disturbed and it bothered me the whole day. But what could I do? You require understanding which was lacking. But the Master is so merciful that he saves us. I am unable to describe about his mercy. Maharaji by his infinite grace always protects us otherwise who knows what may happen. Anyway, the next day the whole session was conducted very smoothly and beautifully.
Now, it has become quite clear to me that if there is an opportunity, I have the confidence to give this Knowledge to the whole world at a time -- if there are no mahatmas or instructors. And everything can be done very easily, very smoothly. A few months earlier, if anybody would have asked me whether I would do without the instructors, I would have said, "I don't know, whether it will be possible or not." But now there is not an iota of doubt left in me about its possibility. It is the amazing grace of Maharaji indeed that he put this thought in me, otherwise I would have been in the same dilemma. Because it has been in the system for such a long time that only instructors were expected to do everything. Only they could give Knowledge. I mean, it has been a very old tradition. But people do not attempt to move the handle (of the grinder) towards them - to bring a change in the system. But the Master gave me such a prudence that I could bring about the desired change and was able to transform the whole system. And now this transformation has brought such a great joy to me, to the premies and to the aspirants which is beyond description.
The Mantra Calls You
Mohani Bai gave Satsang which was published in Divine Light Vol 1 No 3, Magazine of Divine Light Mission, December 1971. At that time she believed mantras were useless without the "Knowledge" of Prem Rawat: "By performing penances, austerities, fastings and other various techniques one can get a worldly and perishable reward, but not realization of Truth. The mystery of scriptures is only known by the practical Knowledge of the Sadguru of the time." She believed "My divine teacher Shri Balyogeshwar Sadguru Deva Shri Sant Ji Maharaj gave me the Knowledge of that life which is the Light of all living beings." She's learnt a lot since then.
In September 1971 the Newsweek Feature Service issued an article which reported that the Guru claimed to have 2,000 Mahatmas. By 1975 he had a handful or two once he was stripped of his title for alcohol and drug abuse, meat-eating and a general "playboy lifestyle".
Article About the Initiator Development Program Golden Age Magazine No 34 November 1976
Mahatma Guruchar(n)anand: now known as Mr Charan Anand
Mahatma Jagdeo: paedophile living in Rawat's Malibu mansion
Mahatma Sampurnanand: Rawat's main man in India (dead)
Mahatma Ashokanand: Ran the British DLM 1972-75
Mahatma Brahmanand: Senior mahatma of Shri Hans
Mahatma Fakiranand: attacked reporter with hammer, now mahatmaing for Satpal Maharaj
Mahatma Padarthanand: Spent 1973-75 in Australia
Mahatma Premanand: senior mahatma at Prem Nagar circa 1970
Mahatma Purnanand: Indian DLM letter to Vice-President of India - possibly Sampurnanand
Mahatma Rajeshwar(anand): formerly judge(?)
Mahatma Satyanand: said to have been a follower of Hans Rawat's guru, Swarupanand
Mahatma Tejeshwaranand (Tedjeswaranand)
Mahatma Vid Praktanand: Palace Of Peace
Mahatma Vijayanand; Vijay Kumar Sumar became disillusioned with Rawat, ordered to sweep floors, openly criticised in satsang
Mahatma Gyan Bairaganand (Gyanbaraganand): became president of Rawat's Indian DLM
Mahatma Ramanand: (big ears)
Mahatma Atmagyanand: mahatma of Swarupanand Mahatma Shivdayanand: initiated in 1938 by Mahatma Atmagyanand
Mahatma Harinivrittanand: formerly known as Pundit Vishnudutt
Mahatma Param Saphlanand: The only Western mahatma
Short Term Mahatmas
Mahatma Gurupujanand; Ira Woods, still crazy after all these years
Mahatma Pranam Bai: Kathy Sullivan, longterm housekeeper for Rawat apostate
Mahatma Satchitanand: Bill Patterson, longterm administrator died an apostate
Mahatma Param Premanand: Arthur Brigham, rumoured to have gone to gaol for drug smuggling in Australia in early 1980's