I really had very little idea what would happen the first time I saw Prem Rawat or Guru Maharaj Ji as he was then called (both as a name and a title) which turned out to be the only time I saw him reasonably close-up except in a darshan line. It was a smallish function room in a Sydney hotel in October 1974 and the Sydney premies had gathered for a surprise birthday party for Rawat's new wife. A section of the room was fenced off with a tasteful rope boundary and no-one was allowed to enter that hallowed area. By the time Rawat and his court finally arrived the feeling in the room (as far as I could tell) was flat and the party had not got off the ground. Mrs Rawat was charming and Rawat himself was odd, short, fat and poorly proportioned and definitely ill at ease. Now it was one thing for a "premie" such as myself to be nervous on such an occasion but as far as I was concerned it wasn't okay for the Perfect Master, Satguru, Lord of the Universe and the only person alive who had realised the "Knowledge of God" and was "permanently in God consciousness" to be nervous and it was here that I failed a, if not the, major test of being a guru's devotee. I accepted my own judgement of events instead of blaming myself for not seeing the Perfect Master's beauty, perfection and power and realising that this was a "divine lila" in which he was giving me an opportunity to let go of my concepts and "experience Knowledge."
I can't remember if he said anything there that night but I remember the first time I heard him speak in person.
The First Time I Heard Prem Rawat Speak In Person
Before he began speaking someone who might have been Bob Mishler, the President of Divine Light Mission, or John Miller, who was one of the guru's entourage, spoke and said something very similar to what was said a few days later in Melbourne "that we often become so blissed out that we miss everything profound and meaningful that he (Rawat) says for our own spiritual development. "Maharaj Ji puts things so simply," he said, "that sometimes it goes right by us; for instance, when he makes a point inside a joke." He then described how the public's reaction makes no difference to the devotee. "That's the way the world probably sees us, as people playing a long shot. Or maybe they think we're completely deluded, but actually we know this isn't a long shot, this is a sure thing. And we know it's a sure thing because he's given us an experience that proves it to us. Maharaj Ji lets us see all the cards before we have to place the bets." With hindsight we can see Mishler's public certainty was exaggerated and deluded and I was not certain about my experience of being initiated or meditating at all. Actually I was nervous and expectant but was mortified to hear that it was considered that the Perfect Master's incoherence and simplistic speeches needed explaining away. And that turned out to be the high point of the speeches that night. At the end I could clearly see why Mishler had made that comment.
His speech began with examples of flat tyres and overladen trucks which matched his delivery, flat and heavy unlike his voice which was high and squeaky. He continued talking about highways, illegal u-turns and cops - I had been arrested that afternoon for daring to tell a half drunk detective that it didn't matter if my mate had long hair, this was Australia in the 1970's, a free country and he had no right to accost us. I had then spent 8 hours in a cell waiting for my Dad to bail me out in time to get the the hall. I was an outdoorsy romantic who lived in the country growing bananas for a living and had spent most of the last 10 years surfing up and down the beaches of Australia. The guru and I obviously had no interests in common but despite this I sincerely tried to let go of my concepts and humbly listen as he continued with examples of full buckets of water being unable to accept drops of milk.
He bored on discussing a 9 to 5 life, something I had desperately and irresponsibly avoided but even I found his exposition of suburban life shallow and cartoonish which was appropriate as I later learnt he educated himself about life in the West by watching sitcoms and cartoons on TV. He spoke of some topics that he repeated time and time again over the years: the failure of religions to bring peace, the scriptures, the "thing that is keeping us alive", that approaching apocalypse, the meaningless of names, the impossibility of eating for someone else and the importance of going to satsang (Divine Light Mission meetings), doing meditation and service (voluntary labour for Divine Light Mission).
He reiterated how beautiful and amazing "Knowledge" is. Unfortunately this can only be conveyed to a certain extent by someone whose testimony is beautiful and amazing and Rawat was at best, boring and unimpressive. He claimed to be the only person, Guru Maharaj Ji, that can save mankind from drowning but paradoxically it was his followers that had to spread the Knowledge and there he was certainly correct. It is impossible for a boring, short, fat, ugly, greedy materialistic person to convince others of the beauty and bliss of being his devotee. Unfortunately it requires beautiful, blissful and amazing people to convince others of this hard to believe fact and though I tried I never became one and I finally decided that it wasn't working for anyone else either so I stopped. I observed that the young, enthusiastic followers of the early 1970's had been able to mimic "amazing and beautiful" to the point where, at least, they impressed me but this effect wore off as the years passed and by the early 1980's Divine Light Mission and it's renamed child, Élan Vital, were moribund and began a slow decline despite the hundreds of millions of dollars that its true believers donated over the decades following the young guru's arrival in the West in the cause of converting the world. By 2005 this raison d'etre seemed to be given only lip service while the main focus appears to be creating a public image of the former God Incarnate as a respected humanitarian leader striving for peace.