By RANGASWAMY SATAKOPAN
Associated Press Writer
LUCKNOW, India (AP) - The 17-year-old Guru Maharaj Ji said Sunday he is still a "perfect master" worthy of worship by his devotees even if his mother thinks he is a playboy in the United States.
But he backed off from a personal confrontation with his mother, and police barred him from addressing thousands of Indian devotees who had come to this northern city for the Maharaj Ji's first visit to his homeland in two years.
Wanting to avoid a possible riot, local authorities withdrew permission for the guru's Divine Light Mission to hold a planned festival that was to become a test of strength between his supporters and those of his mother, Mataji.
At one stage, a senior Lucknow magistrate responsible for law and order in this city of one million announced that Maharaj Ji had left for an unknown destination with his retinue of about 10 persons, including his 26-year-old American wife, the Former Marolyn Johnson of San Diego, and their month-old daughter.
But Maharaj Ji surfaced in the evening, to hold a news conference on the lawn of a luxury hotel - his first meeting with the press since his mother renounced him two weeks ago and accused him of leading "a despicable, nonspiritual way of life in the United Stales."
While Maharaj J1 was in Lucknow, his mother was reported 300 miles away at Hardwar in the Himalayan Foothills, formally installing her eldest son, 24-year-old Bal Bhagwan Ji, as the new recognized leader of the spiritual movement founded by her late husband in 1961.
"It is funny and ridiculous to say they have removed me from office as if it is is a public office to which I was elected or appointed," Maharaj Ji said.
"Nobody creates a guru. He is self existent. Nobody can make a guru except the Guru Maharaj Ji himself."
However, he declined to answer his mother's charges that he had started drinking alcoholic beverages, had begun eating meat instead of remaining a vegetarian, and had shown too much interest in sex.
The guru, who flew into Lucknow on Saturday after a journey from the United States, showed visible dismay when he talked about his mother.
"Mothering means caring and loving," be said "If my mother denies that to me, then my goal becomes supreme and takes over.
" I am not leaving my job. These accusations have not changed me. These will result in only further perfecting of the perfect master.
The guru said he planned to return to the United States soon without going to see his mother. The Divine Light Mission, which has its U.S. headquarters at Denver, Colo., claims 500,000 American followers and eight million in India.
"But I will come back again and again to India and many other countries to spread my message," Maharaj Ji said. "This time I came to set right wrong notions, ideas and feelings among my devotees. My duty is to save people and to spread happiness and peace."
One senior police official said after the news conference: "We will be happiest if Guru Maharaj Ji just leaves Lucknow."
In Denver, Joe Anctil, press secretary for the guru, said he was unaware of any defections by followers of Maharaj Ji as a result of the recent family squabble.
"It really doesn't matter to us whether Maharaj Ji is having a disagreement with his mother or not," Anctil said Sunday, "We've heard from devotees all over the world, from Germany, Holland, Tokyo, and from followers in this country in San Antonio, Minneapolis, Miami and New York. Not in one single case does anyone seem concerned about the reports of the family disagreement
"His mother has been saying these things for two years, only now she's saying them to the press. If anything, her comments have made everybody stand more firmly behind Maharaj Ji. This is not unusual, by the way. All perfect masters have run into situations like this within their own families."
Anctil said the only breaks in the ranks involve a handful of persons who surround the guru's mother and elder brother. The fact that thousands came to Lucknow on little notice indicates the guru's wide following, Anctil added.
The mission spokesman agreed that Maharaj Ji's mother cannot remove him, "You just cannot remove a perfect master," Anctil said, "His father willed and decreed that Maharaj Ji would be the new spiritual head of the mission."
According to Anctil, Maharaj Ji acknowledged last July that he was being opposed in his work. Much of the opposition apparently concerned his life style, although Anctil emphatically denied the guru is living the life of a playboy.
"When Maharaj Ji assumed, responsibility for the mission, he adopted new approaches of spreading his knowledge and broke with some of the old traditions of his family, such as in marrying and in adopting a western life style.
"Although his life style is delightful to his devotees, it is, of course, unliked by traditionalists like his mother."
Anctil quoted the guru as saying that "I must continue and propagate my message. My family just doesn't understand what my work is."