Jacques Sandoz, Divine Light Mission Film-Maker

Jacques Sandoz would probably be considered a colourful character in any place or time. He made the early Divine Light Mission films The Lord of The Universe, Satguru Has Come and Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji? They combine short, carefully selected parts of the young Rawat's speeches, much colourful footage of hundreds of thousands of Indian followers and hundreds of hippie followers, devotional music and some explanatory background voice-overs. Without these films the early success of Divine Light Mission may not have happened. Sandoz' contribution to early DLM can hardly be overstated, even by himself. He put together a Facebook Photo Album (sections of it are reproduced below) in 2010 and it gives a pretty good picture of some parts of early Divine Light Mission. Despite his obvious liking for both Rawat brothers it also shows Prem Rawat as a mean-spirited, nasty young fellow who uses people and demands obedience though this is certainly not how Jacques remembers or interprets it.
The text below is written by Jacques Sandoz and reflects his enigmatic, individual and probably unique viewpoint. All photos © Jacqes Sandoz. Web-master comments in italics.


Jacques Sandoz photos

Maharaj-ji at Ram Lila Grounds, on the 9th of November 1971
Prem Pal Singh Rawat, known as Balyogeschwar, adresses his laks of devotees in Ram Lila Grounds, New Delhi, India, at the age of seven. He is the Lord of the Universe, the Saviour of Humanity, the Living Reincarnation of his father Shri Hans, Satguru himself.

Jacques Sandoz photos

Maharaj-ji giving Pranam, Delhi, India, 10th November 1971
What does he teaches : He reveals the knowledge of everlasting life within yourself. Be the word, see the light, hear the music, taste the nectar. Once done, you have realized everything you can and you are a free bird for ever. From than on, your life becomes exclusively three definite actions 1) Tuning to your true self (meditation) 2) Express truth (satsang) 3) Act for the service of humanity (service). You understand that there is nothing else to do and you become very, very happy, if you do not let doubts enter into you mind, the one key to stay tuned. But doubts are always looming around. Beware of these tricky bastards!


Jacques Sandoz photos

Prem Nagar Ashram, Hardwar, Utar Pradesh, India, dec 1971
We went on from Delhi to Hardwar on the Ganges and spent some memorable weeks at Prem Nagar Ashram. People were great, a big loving party. I was invited to his house in Dehradun, uper up in the Himalayas, where I met his family (mum + 3 bros), played all sort of games he was calling the sweet word of lilas. Quite crazy sometimes. We organized his memorable 14th birthday on the 10th of December and went on to Patna for another festival that could make a full novel in itself. We flew back to Europe in January 1972, impregnated with knowledge and bang lassis. (note: that's bhang lassis, bhang is a liquid derivative of cannabis, lassi is a yogurt drink)

Jacques Sandoz photos

Switzerland, February 1972
In February 1972, his mother (Mata-Ji), two brothers (Raja-ji and Bole-ji) and their substantial court landed in Germany and came straight over to Switzerland. They were sort of counting on me to organize everything, which I assumed quite well as a producer now empowered with the ultimate knowledge of life. It does make things quite easy, if you stay tuned and do not let doubts enter into you mind, the one key. But doubts are always looming around. Beware of these tricky bastards (second warning).

Jacques Sandoz photos

Neuchâtel, Panespo, February 1972
Prem Pal himself joined us late February and we had quite a hectic festival meeting in my hometown of Neuchâtel. The young wonder guru was making news and the "religious" world is not the friendliest, we all know this by now. And I was in charge of all that fuzz! My god!


Jacques Sandoz photos

With Ron Geaves, London, 1972

Maharaj-ji went on to London and I followed, establishing a production to edit the film I had shot in India and that became the 45 min largely known documentary "The Lord of the Universe"

Jacques Sandoz photos

New-York, Juny 1972

The next 10 days (my first time in the US) I took the airplane 14 times with Joan Apter to present the film "The Lord of the Universe" in 12 universities around the country and address the students to convince them to join Maharaj-ji at Montrose, a week long festival in the Rockies of Colorado that took place in July 1972. I must have brought there some thousands of people! The rest of the time in New York, I spent at the residence pushing Maharaj-ji back and forth when he exercised with a boat in the swimming pool! He always had the weirdest ideas.

Jacques Sandoz photos

Prem Pal in Denver, July 1972, 14 years old.

At this time, with fourteen, Guru Maharaj-ji was at his best. The premies (followers) were mostly formed by the cool post hippie generation and everything was for celebration, music, lighthearth and joy. Later on, let say starting in the early eighties, when he began to take himself seriously and when his surrounding became deadly stiff, the whole story went a different and awfully boring way. Even the Lord of the Universe has his time of grace and his time of disgrace! Luckily for me, he kept me with himself during the graceful period.


We had equipped the production with the best Kem editing tables. We produced there "Satguru has come" (16mm, 26 min), "Who is Guru Maharaj-ji" (16mm, 85 min, Special Jury Award Atlanta Film Festival) "Duo" (16mm, 18 min). We also delivered material on the Eastern religions to several outside productions and televisions.

Another time, we were riding around Bel Air in his Rolls, he cornered a Mini-Cooper and bought it straight away with hard cash. Back at the residence he went into tuning the engine, than invited us for a blind race down a nearby valley that freaked us out. He said "This engine needs some more tuning, don't you think ?" looking at us with a questioning smile, his hands full of grease. Than he invited us back for a deadlier blind run down the dangerous valley we all really enjoyed this time. It was a question of trust. You had to understand that he was going behind limits, but that he "knew", somehow.

Jacques Sandoz photos

Ron Clearfield, premie musician USA 
Yes, he was joyously and extravagantly spending the money of his followers, even with a good portion of bad taste, but somehow it didn't disturb me and I could not judge him on this. Anyway I was profiting of it. He was cool with me, I was cool with him, final dot. But when I learn that in the past 30 years, he changed of jet (he flies himself) ten to twenty times on the back of his followers, I feel pity and I tell myself, poor master, can't you free yourself of the greed of this world ? One can be perfect on one side and a sort of a fool on the other. Especially when you want to give the impression of freing your devotees of a worldly burden by zapping the money out of their bank accounts! This, any second zone preacher does and it is not worth any respect. There are more clever ways to make money.

I do not know why this remarkable teacher had to be plagued with such a lack of taste for the worldly life! Maybe the key will be given to me once. And in fact, it doesn't interest me much. We all have the same inner potential and we all wear another outer appearance. But this doesn't justify the fact that anbody could choose to live without a sense of ethic!

Our life was punctuated by the festivals Maharaj-ji was holding around America and the world several times a year: April Holy, July Guru Puja, November Shri Hans, aso. I do not know how this great group of spiritual gypsies managed to get the energy and the money to move there, but they were present everytime and everywehre. These lasted during the seventies and went up to the Circus Maximus of Millenium 73 in the Houston Astrodome, but also a memorable three days Holy Festival in a Marbella's bullring, Spain, in March 1978 and a 10 days extravaganza camp in Kissimee, Florida, in November, same year. Very festive, very free, very spiritual : the great years.

Another thing which was especially cool, besides the fact we were somehow meant to live some sort of monk life in the beginning, was the fact we had on the contrary an intense social life with lots of parties and lots of beaches. The dayly satsang was in itself a social event with several performances. I was one of the beloved speaker and managed to introduce some sort of extatic musical communion known as "Fly Away". I performed this everywhere, as in a 1000 seats hall in Denver with a ten pieces professional band or in the mountains above Patna to at least ten laks of devotees (it means many, many). This didn't hinder the fact that we were actually true saints!

Well, this was a wonderfull period of insouciance. But when I went back to Los Angeles in 1997 and attended one more fund-raising evening (there was some sort of urgency for a new jet plane!), I discovered many of my fellow premies from this time perform dully the same routine as 30 years before without having had any other experience in their life and exposed to the old age without any sort of social benefits. I felt very very sorry for them.


Jacques Sandoz photos

Prem Nagar Ashram, Hardwar, November 1972

In November 1972, there was not one Jumbo jet with some 400 premies that flew into New Delhi for the Shri Hans festival, but 10 with some 4000 followers! I was flying with Balyogeschwar and at arrival, Bihari Singh (let us call him his personal assistant), forgot an attaché case in the jet and was stopped at border for trying to smuggle in watches, jewels, cash and more. I was implicated for a Swiss bank statement and a reel of my film "Satguru has Come". I could solve the bank statement problem by endorsing it to my name, but we were interrogated by Indian secret police and a small world scandal errupted in the press. In Prem Nagar ashram (Hardwar) the situation was not at all as harmonious as in 1971, because it was overcrowded and the installations were totally unsufficient. Followed a serious health problem and many illnesses due to lack of hygiene and malnutrition. Additionally the ashram security was searching luggages for hashish and stopping people to leave the precinct. And to top all, Maharaj-ji was not much there. I was personnally not affected as I lived on the roof of the ashram and had a privileged treatment, but we were far away from an Indian spiritual journey. For many it was more like a prisoner camp!


Jacques Sandoz photos

Three Indian mahatmas of Divine Light Mission, Sampuranand (actually Rajeshwaranand) in centre, Adharanand on right


Jacques Sandoz photos

Young Bal Bhagwan-ji

When I landed back in Los Angeles early 1973, there was a new visitor at Pacific Palissades residence : Bal Bagwan-ji, the oldest and most clever brother of Maharaj-ji. I had met him in India where he trusted me with some valuable historical 16mm footage that did constituate the core of the film "Satguru has come". But this needs some explication : Shri Hans-ji Maharaj, the founder of DLM in India, had four sons : Bal Bhagwan embodying the Light (the Reason), Bole being the Music (the Devotion), Raja the Breath (the Word, the Force) and Prem Pal the divine Nectar (the Will). But who of these four brothers would become the Raja (the King, the embodyment of the four elements), the Balyogeshwar (born awake), the Satguru? At Shri Hans' death, everybody expected Bal Bhagwan to be the new incarnation, but to the astonishment of the family and of the followers, Shri Hans had designated Prem Pal, his youngest son! It is clear that this provoked a disturbance in the family and a resentment from the part of Bal-Bhagwan. This explains largely the schism that broke the family in two early 1974, Bal Bhagwan taking over the essential grounds of his father in India with Mata-ji and the submitted Bole, on the other side Prem Pal keeping the new territories he had gained and some Indian scarce ashrams with Raja.

Jacques Sandoz photos

Bal Bhagwan with John Berzner and myself in Disneyland, 1973
Well, I started to hang around a lot with Bal Bhagwan. He did not have the rough power of Prem Pal, but he had a very refined mind, was sensible and open to anything new. And he liked me a lot. It is during this period that Millenium and the Soul Rush were conceived, and he was definitely one of the architects of these projects. He was also the one who instilled in me the idea to film Millenium in 35mm cinemascope, and he also was the one who supported my idea to include the festival into a fiction feature. He worked on the script with Mickey Cottrell and myself. This might be the reason the film was never finished nor released, but it is not the true motive in my opinion. What would Maharaj-ji have done in 1974 with a commercial feature film, when the mood of the time was to keep a low profile ? I know that the material was kept (but in which state is it?). I even heard rumors that there were intentions to work on it. It would in effect be an unique testimony on the spirit of the Seventies. But, luckily enough, nothing can be done without me! The mission owns the film, but I own the copyright, and in the USA you cannot fool around with copyright!


What was one of the greatest disasters (there were quite a few) of the movement in this time was censorship and I believe it is still so today (or maybe it is not necessary because there is no attempt at expression anymore). It was totally ridiculous. I saw my films progressively chopped, because this or that scene was not anymore proper, with a total deny of artistic identity. God being more paranoid and demagogue than the Soviet Union, frankly ? I do not know a film of the Russian communist period that started with 85 minutes and finished with 22! This was the case with "Who is Guru Maharaj-ji?". A shame.

There were also quite a few wealthy premies, and this leads me to Larry Canada' story. He had married an inheritor of Lillies Chemicals and did not know what to do with his money. One morning in April we received a phone call at the L.A. production : George and myself had to be at JFK airport the same evening fully equipped. Once there we met with Charles Cameron, as reporter, and with another premie as photographer. Larry Canada gave us each a round-the-world Panam airline ticket and some cash. We were to go to Hanoi with Rennie Davis, a leftist activist, one of the Chicago Seven, to report the victory of North Vietnam on the South and the Americans. Quite a programm! During the flight to Paris, I convinced Rennie to fly straight away to India, where Maharaj-ji had recently returned, to receive knowledge, what he did. We stayed in Paris around ten days at the Georges V, joining Larry Canada at night at his table at the Lido, but also representing Rennie at the Tet festival where I informed Mme Bingh, minister of foreign affairs of Northern Vietnam, of our intentions. We were waiting for our visas to Hanoi but no visas were manifesting.

Jacques Sandoz photos

Maharaj-ji, myself and a blissed out Rennie Davis, Prem Nagar ashram, Hardwar, May 1973

Once in India, we learned that Rennie was at Prem Nagar ashram with Maharaj-ji, so we rejoined them in Hardwar and discovered a blissed out Rennie Davis. We spent than some memorable days alone with our Sweet Lord. After some three weeks, still no visa, and the Americans were barely holding their embassy in Saigon. We decided to move nearer and fly to Thailand, but Larry Canada gave up and flew back to the States, leaving us with just enough cash to complete our round-the-world trip! Once in Bangkok, we obtained immediately an authorization to fly in a broken down airplane to Vientiane, Laos, that was already in communist hands. We were the only Westerners in an empty hotel, but could not get the authorization to reach Hanoi, some 200 miles away. We watched on the TV the helicopters hauling the last Americans out of the Saigon Embassy but we never reached Hanoi. We concluded our tour with stays in Hong-Kong, Tokyo and Hawaii, and filmed a lot of material on several subjects. We returned to Los Angeles three months after our departure and Rennie Davis became one of the leading figure of the mission of that time.


Jacques Sandoz photos

Prem Pal and Marilyn touring the East Coast, 1974
Maharaj-ji was touring the East Coast, not caring to really hide Marilyn anymore. However, I was not invited to join and film. This was the first time I was left out. I was feeling abandoned in L.A., maybe having choosen the wrong side. It was sometime in March 73. I took one more bold decision: simply fly over there and sort of impose myself! We were friends. I caught the tour somewhere like Georgia, went to the residence and established my camera to get a great shot : you would see the car coming from far away, watch it approach smoothly thru three elegant curves, stop in front of the camera and have a beaming Prem Pal come out saying "What's up, Mister Jack ?" Well it didn't happen rigorously that way!


Jacques Sandoz photos

"Holi Festival", Miami, april 1974, I climb the ladder to establish myself on top of the trailer, Maharaj-ji sprays my $25,000 camera with paint.

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Jacques Sandoz photos

Maharaj-ji and Durga-ji in Montreal, 9th of November 1974.

I managed, I do not know how, to get from the mission the production to film in 16th mm the "Shri Hans Festival" in Montreal, on the 8th, 9th and 10th of November 1974. Jacques Sandoz photos


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I'm living now since 38 years (more than the half of my life) with the teachings Maharaj-ji gave me and do practice knowledge very naturally. Not like a schoolkid but as a mature human being. This I will do until my last breath (that will propulse me at high speed into Heaven). However, I do not need to look again for what I have gained already. Once you have your driver licence you do not waste your time trying to pass it another time. We did not get this knowledge to be stuck with it. It would be pretentious of myself to wish to speak with him again after all he gave me and I'm not looking for it.

But if it would happen, I would ask him three questions:

  • Why so many airplanes ?
  • Why such a waste of unused film footage ?
  • What provision did you take for the old age safety of your ashram premies ?
In fact I do not approve any wasting of anything by anyone. This world is to be fully respected and realization goes with moderation.