Bristol Evening Post Articles About Prem Rawat (Maharaji)

Several articles appeared in the local press before and after Prem Rawat's events in Bristol (June 14-15, 2003)


Bristol Evening Post Article About Prem Rawat (Maharaji)

CONTROVERSY OVER COLSTON HALL DATES BY EX-GURU

© Northcliffe Electronic Publishing Ltd

06 June 2003

A Controversial organisation has booked Bristol's Colston Hall for a weekend of events when they will attempt to recruit new members. Elan Vital is charging people £16 per day to attend its events at the Bristol City Council-owned venue on Saturday and Sunday, June 14 and 15.

The audience will be addressed by Prem Rawat, who is billed as a motivational speaker.

Mr Rawat used to be known as the Guru Maharaj Ji, and Elan Vital as the Divine Light Mission.

Founded in India, the Divine Light Mission established itself in the US and Europe in the 1970s. At the time, the media dubbed Mr Rawat 'The Boy Guru' and his organisation attracted widespread publicity and controversy.Mr Rawat has been accused of using money gained through the organisation to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Ian Haworth, from educational charity Cult Information Centre, said: "We remain very concerned about this group and their activities.

"I have received complaints about this group for most of the 24 years that I've been working full-time in this field.

"I can understand why the council would rent the venue out to them, but I think it would be better if they did say no."

An Elan Vital representative said: "We would like to counter the suggestion that this is a religious movement. Prem Rawat teaches no code, creed or dogma. He merely teaches a practical path to inner happiness.

"Prem Rawat receives no fee or remuneration from his speaking engagements other than reimbursed travel expenses.

"As a successful private investor he supports himself and his family through independent means. He lives a comfortable life and makes no secrets about it."

The spokesperson said: "The event has sold out rapidly. There has been an overwhelmingly positive response from the Bristol area."

A City Council spokesman said: "It's a private letting and we're not advertising or promoting it. As long as they pay the bill and they're not doing anything criminal or in breach of the letting conditions we don't mind what they get up to."


Bristol Evening Post Article About Prem Rawat (Maharaji)

A LOT OF CASH FOR "EXPENSES"

© Northcliffe Electronic Publishing Ltd

13 June 2003

Prem Pal Singh Rawat, who has been invited as reported in the Post recently, to address invited guests at this weekend is none other than the self proclaimed 'Lord of the Universe' aka Guru Maharaj Ji. A blast from the past you might say. What the sponsoring organisation, Elan Vital, fails to point out, probably out of embarrassment, is that the expenses which the former boy god claims as the only remuneration for his attendance, includes the cost of flying him in a 40 million executive jet from his home in Malibu, California.

In fact he flies this plane himself.

Elan Vital is a registered Charity in the UK.

Patrick Dorrity


Bristol Evening Post Article About Prem Rawat (Maharaji)

MANY THINGS ARE KEPT SECRET

© Northcliffe Electronic Publishing Ltd

13 June 2003

Prem Rawat's organisation Elan Vital has leased Colston Hall in Bristol for public events on June 14 and 15. Elan Vital's spokesperson was quoted in the Post (June 6, 2003) article: "We would like to counter the suggestion that this is a religious movement. Prem Rawat teaches no code, creed or dogma. He merely teaches a practical path to inner happiness." It is a fact that Elan Vital, formerly Divine Light Mission enjoys nonprofit, tax-exempt status in the United States by its claim to be a religion.

The Elan Vital Foundation also enjoys status as a charity in the United Kingdom.

It appears that Mr Rawat and his followers would like to have their cake and eat it too.

What Prem Rawat does is lure or recruit people to become his followers by talking about the source of life itself.

That only he is able to "reveal" through meditation techniques formerly called light, music, nectar and holy name.

Many of his followers continue to believe he is the Lord Incarnate.

Mr Rawat's message includes demonizing the use of one's mind.

He is hardly a motivational speaker.

I know all this because I am a former devotee of Guru Maharaj Ji in the United States and I also worked closely with him in 19791980.

One reason that Prem Rawat enjoys an independently wealthy lifestyle, including his Gulfstream V jet is because of the massive donations that he has received from his devotees over the past 30 years.

It's laughable that he claims to be a successful businessman.

When Mr Rawat first arrived to the West from India as a child of 13 years old he openly advertised himself as the Lord of the Universe and had little money of his own.

The language in Prem Rawat's "message" is now watered down and the history of his former claims to be the Messiah is kept secret to newcomers. Also kept secret is that his followers continue to practice a ritual called "darshan" where devotees line up, pass by Mr Rawat, and kiss his feet.

Cynthia J Gracie, Waitsfield, Vermont, USA.


Bristol Evening Post Article About Prem Rawat (Maharaji)

Bristol Evening Post - June 16, 2003

Bristol Evening Post Article About Prem Rawat (Maharaji)

DON'T WASTE YOUR LIVES

© Northcliffe Electronic Publishing Ltd

16 June 2003

A Senior church leader in Bristol has issued a stark warning after a speaker on spiritual enlightenment packed the Colston Hall with two recruitment conferences at the weekend. Canon Peter Bailey, a close advisor to the Bishop of Bristol, said people should be free to make their own minds up about the controversial organisation Elan Vital and its leader Prem Rawat, once called Lord of the Universe by followers.

Despite the warning, Elan Vital denies it is a sect or religious movement.

Father Bailey warned that those who did not question the movement's promises of 'inner peace' risked being deceived and 'wasting years of their lives'.

About 1,000 people from across the country packed the Colston Hall in Bristol's city centre on Saturday and Sunday to listen to Mr Rawat.

He was billed as a motivational speaker, but until just a few years ago was known as the Guru Maharaj Ji, head of the Divine Light Mission, a movement founded in India which attracted thousands of followers.

Elan Vital is a registered charity, set up to support the work of Mr Rawat. He has been accused of using the organisation to fund a lavish lifestyle.

In a carefully worded warning, Father Bailey urged people not to get involved with Elan Vital.

He said: "Of course the Church rejects entirely the claims of Divine Light Mission. But the Church cannot tell people what to do. They must make up their own minds.

"But we would warn people to be careful to ensure that they are not being deceived. They must question what they are told, and ask 'what evidence is there to support this?' We believe the aim of such groups is to make money off their followers." Father Bailey, rector of St Andrew's and Bishopston, said some religious organisations were notorious.

He said: "Typically such groups preach a lesson which is not too far from the truth, but they twist the meaning to suit their own ends. It is a type of financial manipultion." Tickets for the sell-out events at Colston Hall were priced £16 each.

Many people bought tickets for both days.

Protesting outside the talks was Karen Ringrose who became a Divine Light Mission follower when she met Mr Rawat at the Glastonbury Festival in 1971. He was just 13 at the time.

The 55-year-old said that although his present talks might seem innocuous, they were 'world's apart' from the words spoken by the then Guru in the 1970s and 1980s.

In protest, Mrs Ringrose, from Pembrokeshire, handed out dozens of leaflets to people queuing for the event, but was forced to leave after 30 minutes.

"People were tearing up the leaflets and telling me to leave. They did not want to hear what I had to say, " she said.

Elan Vital denies it is a religious movement.

A spokesman said: "We would like to counter the suggestion that this is a religious movement.

"Prem Rawat teaches no code, creed or dogma.

He merely teaches a practical path to inner happiness. " The spokesman said Mr Rawat got no fee from his speaking engagements other than travel expenses.


Bristol Evening Post Article About Prem Rawat (Maharaji)

Bristol Evening Post - June 17, 2003

Bristol Evening Post Article About Prem Rawat (Maharaji)

SOAPBOX: VISIONARY LEADER BRINGS PEACE TO FOLLOWERS

© Northcliffe Electronic Publishing Ltd

17 June 2003

It is a mite unfair that the Post chose to publish two letters from denigrators of Prem Rawat (Maharaji) without any response from the thousands of people who feel he has brought real meaning and fulfilment into their lives. One of the denigrators was even from the United States, indicating some kind of co-ordinated campaign.

It is certainly true that when Prem Rawat first brought his "knowledge" to the West, as a 13-year-old, as far back as 1971, he was surrounded with Indian mystique, concepts and terminology.

But it is to his credit that as he grew to adulthood he abandoned these in an effort to bring his means of finding peace within oneself to everyone regardless of their beliefs, nationality, race or culture: peace is for everyone.

It is also unfair to allow to go unchallenged the suggestion that he has become rich from his many supporters.

The private plane mentioned is not his, but is provided to allow him to complete his busy schedule, touring the world non-stop every year to present his message of peace to people who want to hear it.

Anyone who wants to make an informed decision about Prem Rawat should tune into his presentations every Tuesday at 8pm on Sky channel 687.

They will see there is nothing sinister about a simple message of peace put forward by a likeable but charismatic person who evidently knows what he is talking about.

Give the man a chance!

Glen Whittaker,
Davigdor Road,
Brighton.


Bristol Evening Post Article About Prem Rawat (Maharaji)

POTENT PROMISE OF INNER PEACE

© Northcliffe Electronic Publishing Ltd

17 June 2003

Prem Rawat is a truly charismatic speaker. If more politicians had his public speaking prowess and sense of comic timing then voter apathy would be a thing of the past.

I was genuinely endeared by the Indian-born tycoon, who has made it his life's work spreading a message of love and spiritual enlightenment.

Warmth, humour and sophistication - all at the Colston Hall on Sunday.

But beneath the soflty spoken words, the smiles and the jokes, was a much more potent message - a promised pathway to inner peace.

It was not a concept I believed in before Sunday, and despite his obvious charms, it was not a concept I believed in afterwards. But then why would I?

As a journalist I am naturally cynical.

And I did not go to the Colston Hall in search of enlightenment. I went looking for a story. A lot of the people who turn to Elan Vital are looking for a spiritual focus in their lives. I was not.

Some people have suffered a trauma, such as the loss of a loved one, and are looking for a way back to "inner-happiness". But I was not.

So maybe it is not surprising that Mr Rawat's words had little impact on me.

Central to his message was that inner peace can be achieved through the receipt of "Knowledge" - an understanding of your potential and the beauty in life.

He said: "I offer inspiration, reminding people of the beauty of existence. I remind people that life itself is a gift.

"I see each human being as complete. Within each one shines a sun so bright that it can make any darkness go away."

But this tells me nothing new. It amounts to little more than a lesson in the power of positive thinking.

And I don't need to shell out £16 a ticket to be told about that.


Bristol Evening Post Article About Prem Rawat (Maharaji)

FORMER FOLLOWERS HAVE NEW MESSAGE

© Northcliffe Electronic Publishing Ltd

17 June 2003

Karen Ringrose will not forget the day she first laid eyes on Prem Rawat, a young Indian boy a promise for peace and happiness. He had taken to the stage at Glastonbury, and without fear or trepidation, invited the massing crowds to join him in his quest for a better world.

More than 30 years later, the same figure caused controversy at the weekend when he packed out two recruitment events at Bristol's Colston Hall, and led to words of warning from the Rector of Bishopston and St Andrews, Canon Peter Bailey, who urged people to question the movement's promises.

Elan Vital, the UK-registered charity set up to support his work, denies it is a religious movement.

But now former followers have come forward to share their experiences in the 1970s and 80s, when Mr Rawat was known as the Guru Maharaj Ji, spiritual leader of the Divine Light Mission.

They recall a time when he preached a mixture of Hindu and Sikh spiritualism, and followers travelled all over the world to hear him speak.

Karen is a typical example. She was a young artist when she first came into contact with him at Glastonbury, shortly after his arrival in the UK.

At 23-years-old she was 10 years his senior. But she was intrigued by his confidence and promises of spiritual enlightenment.

"He was so young but seemed to have a natural gift and I was fascinated, " she said.

"But it was just a fleeting moment, and after Glastonbury I thought not much of it again."

Later that year, Karen decided she would travel to India. She had been studying eastern philosophy and reading Hindu scriptures, and it had awoken a thirst for knowledge within her.

"I went to India with the specific aim of finding someone who could show me the way to spiritual enlightenment, " she said.

It was while she was staying at a Buddhist hostel near Delhi that she met a crowd of "beautiful, smiling" followers of the young guru Maharaj Ji.

"This is it, I thought. This is what I have been searching for, " she said. For three months Karen stayed in India, living her dream of inner happiness and feeling completely satisfied with her life.

He promised her peace, and she gave him her undivided worship.

Daily rituals included kissing the young man's feet, and singing songs of praise as he sat before them, enthroned and wearing the crown of Krishna.

It was a happy time for Karen and she later returned to the UK.

Within months she had moved into an ashram in Forest Hill, London, a dedicated home for followers of the guru.

Working by day and meditating in the evenings, Karen and her new-found friends led a communal existence, pooling all their money and making regular contributions to the Divine Light Mission.

Mornings started early, typically at 5am, with a song of love for the young guru, sung in front of a portrait of him. And at every opportunity, Karen and her friends would fly all over the world to hear him speak at conferences.

This was Karen's life for four years until 1976 when she started to "drift away". She said: "I was beginning to experience nagging doubts about my life. I was fed up with being poor, and wanted to return to the real world."

And so she did, breaking almost all contact with the Divine Light Mission. In 1980 she married a British Airways manager and built a successful career creating props for TV and stage.

But in 1994, her life was again changed. Tragedy struck when her 23-year-old stepson Casper died from a drugs overdose at the Glastonbury Festival. It was an event which would lead her back to the Guru Maharaj Ji.

"It was a real tragedy for us, and it left me feeling that I needed a spiritual focus in my life again, " she said.

So Karen returned to meetings, but it was not the same.

Her doubts persisted until 2000, when she found an internet site which published former members' views about Elan Vital, the new name for Divine Light Mission since 1997.

Looking back, Karen feels mixed emotions of anger and relief.

She said: "I left the movement but there were a lot of people who didn't - people who felt they had wasted some of the best years of their lives. In that respect I felt extremely lucky."

Karen is not alone. Her story is typical of scores posted on the website Ex-Premies.org.

It is full of stories, pictures and extracts from the pages of Divine Times, the official newspaper of Divine Light Mission in the 1970s.

Among its pages are extracts, which refer to Maharaj Ji as the "Supremest Lord in Person".

Anne Thorpe is another ex-follower who has come forward to share her experiences with the Evening Post.

Anne, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, was just 16-years-old when she joined the movement in 1971.

An art college student, she dropped out of her course and spent a whole term's grant on an air ticket to Texas to hear the teenager speak.

She was immediately transfixed.

"There were a lot of people saying he was the second coming of the Messiah. And he was a beautiful child.

The whole thing was very enchanting, " she said.

In the years that followed, Anne spent thousands of pounds flying all around the world following the guru.

Destinations included Miami, Kansas, Rome, Stockholm, Paris, Spain, India, Africa and Australia.

Like Karen, she spent many years living in various ashrams, only to become disillusioned at the end of the 1990s. And like Karen, it was the Ex-Premies website which changed her mind forever.

Now aged 48, Anne regrets her involvement for so many years.

"When I first met Maharaj Ji I was a 16-year-old idealist with my life ahead of me. I could have had a career, but I gave it up because he promised me he would bring peace to the world.

"He said he would change the planet. I spent my life believing he was the Lord of the Universe.

"I am not full of hate and I am not out for revenge. I have some great memories.

"But had I known what I know now I would not have chosen it."

Andrew Carpenter has channelled his own regrets into action, spending the past three months investigating Elan Vital. Earlier this month he submitted a report to the Charities Commission, asking it to investigate the movement.

Andrew, who has also asked for his name to be changed, joined at 16.

Two years later he was living in an ashram in Belmont Road, St Andrews.

He said: "There were 10 of us. It was very friendly and unpressured. We were living like monks and nuns, but with day jobs." Andrew, who is now 48 and lives in South Bristol, left the ashram after 18 months, but continued to meditate and focus on Maharaj Ji's teachings.

It was only when he became a father that he turned his back on the guru for good.

"When the children were born I realised that there was nothing in Divine Light Mission which would help me be a better parent.

It made me aware of a lot of inadequacies in what I had been taught, and that was not what I had signed up for."

The Charities Commission has confirmed it is investigating Elan Vital. A spokesman for Elan Vital was unavailable for comment.

However in an interview with Venue magazine earlier this month, a representative said: "We would like to counter the suggestion that this is a religious movement.

"Prem Rawat teaches no code, creed or dogma. He merely teaches a practical path to inner happiness.

"Prem Rawat receives no fee or remuneration from his speaking engagements other then reimbursed travel expenses.

"As a successful private investor he supports himself and his family through independent means. He lives a comfortable life and makes no secrets about it."

"Historically, almost all persons with a message of peace are the target of attacks, and Prem Rawat is no exception.

"In Mr Rawat's case these attacks come from a tiny minority as compared to the far greater numbers, both here and abroad, who recognise the value of that message in their own lives and respect the authority and integrity with which Mr Rawat presents his message at these events."


Bristol Evening Post Article About Prem Rawat (Maharaji)

SPIRITUAL BODY FACES INQUIRY

© Northcliffe Electronic Publishing Ltd

June 17, 2003

BY CHARLIE MORTON

17 June 2003

An inquiry has been launched into the organisation linked with controversial speaker Prem Rawat, who led The Charity Commission has confirmed that it is investigating Elan Vital, the UK-registered charity which was set up in 1997.

The Indian-born icon Mr Rawat was billed as a motivational speaker when he addressed two sell-out crowds at the Colston Hall on Saturday and Sunday.

But up until just a few years ago, Mr Rawat was known as the Guru Maharaj Ji, head of the Divine Light Mission and who was once called Lord of the Universe by followers who lined up to kiss his feet.

Andrew Carpenter, a former follower of Mr Rawat, spent three months investigating Elan Vital before making a submission to the Charity Commission this month.

Mr Carpenter claims that between 1996 and 2002, Elan Vital gifted more than £4.5 million in grant aid to organisations in Switzerland, America and Australia, all exempt from providing public statements on their activities and spending.

Mr Carpenter, whose name has been changed at his request, also claims that Elan Vital fails to meet its stated objectives as an educational charity.

The 48-year-old, from South Bristol, said: "I find it difficult to understand how initial registration was granted."

Yesterday the Evening Post revealed that Canon Peter Bailey, a close advisor to the Bishop of Bristol, had urged people to question the movement's promises.

He said people should make up their own minds about what the group claims.

A Charity Commission spokesman confirmed that an investigation was underway.

He said: "We have received a complaint about the administration and status of the charity which will be given our full consideration."

Elan Vital was unavailable for comment but, in an interview with Venue magazine earlier this month, a representative said: "We would like to counter the suggestion that this is a religious movement. Prem Rawat teaches no code, creed or dogma."


Bristol Evening Post Article About Prem Rawat (Maharaji)

WE ARE HONOURED TO HEAR PREM SPEAK

© Northcliffe Electronic Publishing Ltd

18 June 2003

I Feel I must write in protest at the Post's one-sided portrayal of Prem Rawat. The truth is that we are very honoured to have him speak in Bristol - he has recently been aw arded the keys to the City of Miami by the Mayor of Miami for his work on peace, he spoke at the United Nations conference centre on peace in Bangkok during the Iraq War, and he is known internationally as a leading voice on peace and fulfilment. Last year he spoke to several thousands of people around the world, averaging one event every four days - events for which he does not get paid a penny for.

I personally feel that listening to his message has enriched my appreciation and understanding of my existence no end.

I am not a brainless cult member nor a sinister cult recruiter, just one of many who has been touched by the wisdom and sincerity of Prem Raw at and his message.

While the people that you have been quoting have every right to their opinion, please also listen to the far greater number of people who have had positive and enriching experiences through listening to Prem Raw at and his message.

C Lloyd, St Andrews.