Jos Lammers, ex-International Co-ordinator DLM (1976) Reminiscences
Jos Lammers is the ex-'General Secretary' of Divine Light Mission, Holland and past Director International Operations (Europe and Australia), International Headquarters, Divine Light Mission. He has written a short memoire, in Dutch and English that was available at www.verlatenwegen.info and available as a duo-language book from Amazon in which he recounts his life as a university drop-out in 1970, working as a nurses' aide, taking too many drugs (he may disagree it was too many) and looking for the "meaning of life" who becomes a "premie" of Guru Maharaj Ji.
"Back then the Divine Light Mission was a big organization, with hundreds of followers in the Netherlands and tens of thousands worldwide. Why all these people followed guru Maharaj ji, I obviously can't judge. What set him apart from the many other wise men from the East that received a lot of attention back then, is that he aimed for the highest. He didn't present himself as a teacher of gymnastic exercises from yoga books or diets of soy and seaweed, but as the living 'perfect master'. The one (the only!) that could show the real seeker the way to god. Being his follower meant, especially if you wanted to live in one of his ashrams like I did, total devotion and abandoning all social ties and earthly pleasures. In that respect too, he aimed for the first prize. And so did I. Until I finally saw what everybody else knew all along, of course."
He intersperses reminiscences of his 5 years in DLM as a devotee of Prem Rawat with vignettes of a recent trip he and his wife take in the USA, his first return there in 30 years.
"Because the visible world around us is nothing but 'maya', Maharaj ji taught. Illusion. False temptation for the seeker of enlightenment. Only the truly enlightened one could handle it and was allowed to play with it. That's why guru Maharaj ji could enjoy himself in his mansion on the hills of Malibu Beach, with a Maserati Convertible, a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, a Cadillac Seville and a Mercedes SEL all sitting in the garage. And could dream about his own Grumman Gulfstream 12-person jet, his biggest desire then. I knew the brochures that were passed around within the Divine Light Mission with a whispered explanation of the divine play of the guru. After all, as 'Jesus returned', the earth and everything on it was his. It was the true devotees' honor to be able to deliver it to him. Sometimes literally, like when the German 'general secretary', head of the national branch of the Divine Light Mission, flew to London with a hundred thousand German marks taped to his body, to complete the deal of the guru's new Rolls Royce."
He has an interesting perspective on the selection and initiation process, the difficulties of Westerners receiving first hand experience of life in India, even when it is cushioned to some extent by being "Western" devotees, who provide high status for Indian Godmen and the interpersonal problems involved when immature people receive great personal power over others in an hierarchical spiritual cult like Rawat's Divine Light Mission.
He moves into the ashram where he discovers a talent for business and organisation that makes the Dutch DLM financially successful. So successful that he is called to Denver to join the international executive staff of DLM as Director International Operations (Europe and Australia).
"In the more than three years before I got the phone call to come to Denver, I established junk collecting services in four Dutch cities, along with sorting businesses, wholesale to processors of rags and used metals and retailing the usable stuff in our own shops. Where in the previous, normal life I found my job as a nurse's aid utterly overpaid, as a follower of Maharaj ji I generated cash flow that supported the divine play of the guru in such a way that his 'international president' called me to his IHQ."
He was appointed the Director International Operations (Europe and Australia). Like much else in Rawat's religion, it was a position that was all "pretty unreal", involved in such vapourware as "International Program Development" and "Communication". The young Rawat didn't yet understand that his organisation had reached it's peak and that there would be no more increase in followers. With the soul of a technocrat, Rawat preached and seemed to sincerely believe, that all that was required was an "internationalisation" of DLM and an updating of the language used to attract new "true believers" and he would restart his divine journey to bring "peace to the world" and to rule it as he had declared in his "Peace Bomb" speech to a million people in India in 1970.
Jos did his best to make those ideas comprehensible and in December 1975, he wrote: "
The main trend that he's trying to describe is that we're not a religious sect anymore, not a religious cult trying to hold onto this strange behaviour that doesn't relate to people, but actually a group of people who are very concerned with this dilemma that humanity is in. And this means that we have to become very aware of what the dilemma is, and we can only become aware of it if we become more of a human being ourselves, and just see what the limitations of a human being are, and how we can cross these limitations by our connection with Guru Maharaj Ji and our practice of Knowledge. And if we're capable of relating to this world in a more real way - and I don't know exactly what type of things Guru Maharaj Ji is wanting to change - the most important thing is that we try to grasp what message he is trying to get across when he tells us that we're going to change the name from mahatma to initiator. And what he wants to tell us when he makes these kind of changes, and what it means in our own life, is that we have to investigate our own life and see how much it is based on just habit, on ideas of 'Oh, this means Knowledge; oh, this means following the Perfect Master.' Because things completely lock us into a box and even make us very frustrated because it doesn't feel real at all. So how inspiring it should be to begin to understand that this Knowledge is our own life and that a very real relationship, a very real awareness of what this life is all about will give us a greater understanding of this Knowledge and Guru Maharaj Ji's task in it."
Lammers entertainingly recounts the travails of the executives of DLM, the warmth and kindness of the premies and the cloistered opulent lifestyle and relentless shopping of the reclusive Prem Rawat.
"He didn't have contact with the premies that welcomed him to their country, but if he went to see the city, which he liked to do, they had to come along. To pay. The watches in Switzerland, I still remember well. One shop after another. Together with the national general secretary I followed the small group that hung around Maharaj ji like a cloud on his tour of the shiny showcases. We didn't see much of him at all. We heard his voice though when he asked a shop assistant to get a watch from behind the bullet-proof glass. When he liked what he saw, Bob "Denton" signaled in our direction. Pay. While we were still finishing up doing that, the cloud had already drifted into the next jewelry shop."
Poking your fingers in your eyes, your thumbs in your ears, your tongue backwards and concentrating on your breath doesn't provide perfect peace and happiness and so even the dedicated executives of DLM indulged in some secret, hypocritical fun:
"Exactly there, right in the centre of the Divine Light Mission, other matters too were, to a growing extent, just like the rest of the world. Nobody except his security people, his personal aids and 'president' Bob "Denton" ever got to see Maharaj ji himself. But his lifestyle did affect the people that had to arrange it all for him. The job of my ashram mate Joe Schwartz for instance, was to rent films for Maharaj ji whenever he exchanged his 'divine residence' in Malibu California for Denver to discuss business with Bob. As soon as he left for Malibu again, Joe dragged projector, screen and rented films into our ashram, where we in all secrecy and taunted by the strangling question of whether we had now definitely fallen of the path watched Little Big Man and the Godfather. Two favorites of Maharaj ji, Joe assured."
The flight of followers from the ashrams and the financial hole that developed decided the executive staff that the only way for the organisation to survive was to cut Rawat's daily allowance from 500 US 1975 dollars a day ($185,00 pa worth more than $750,000 today) in half. Rawat fired them all and told them "You know, it is not up to you to interfere with the life of the Perfect Master."
Lammers had realised by then that his years of dedication had certainly not given him the peace he had sought and was promised and that he preferred "being fired." In September 1976 he returned to Holland penniless and shunned by premies and found that his family and society were far kinder than DLM and life was more rewarding without practising the meditation techniques and listening to and serving Prem Rawat. Divine Light Mission in their usual manner explained away his return to Holland with half-truths: he left Denver so that he could attend university with no mention that he was also apostasising and leaving the Lotus Feet of Prem Rawat.
Jos Lammers has been a successful businessman, raised a family without servants and millions of donated dollars and is fit and healthy unlike his one-time guru and "Perfect Master". They say by the age of 40 we've created our own faces (and bodies for that matter). Look at this photo of Mr Rawat. Do you think he has taken a healthy path?