"The Six Million Dollar Man"
Roger Koch (click here for a short bio) who posts on the Ex-Premie Forum as "Swimming Free" is a former premie/devotee/student of Prem Rawat's (aka Maharaji the Ultimate Ruler) whose story is unusual to say the least. I mean Roger's story is unusual, Rawat's is well nigh unbelieveable. Roger followed the usual 1970's youthful route to Divine Light Mission - drugs, rock music, the "Hippie" zeitgeist, anti-war protesting and being in the wrong place at the right time. He was extremely fortunate when he joined Divine Light Mission as Mahatma Parlokanand told him to get married and return to school when most single premies were told to enter the ashram. He got a degree in engineering in 1977 and a divorce courtesy of his wife who gave him an ultimatum: wife and child or guru. Having a child and paying child support (not always the same thing with Divine Light Mission members) also meant he could not enter the ashram, another lucky break. In February 1979 he was called to Miami to work on one of Prem Rawat's favourite toys, his Holi water gun. There he found incompetence, layers of Byzantine bureaucracy and an absence of care for the premies being gathered for a secret project. Getting the world's largest water pistol to fire to Rawat's exacting standards was hampered by the bureaucracy which had to be circumvented through trickery and closeness-to-the-Perfect-Master-oneupmanship and Rawat's demand that only He could actually use the gun so that testing was difficult to organise. After the Holi gun came program stage design teams, program chair design teams, microphone design teams, microphone stand design teams, etc, all of which were extremely important in Maharaji's mind.
In 1979 Roger took the gun to India smuggling in the nozzle to avoid import duties. That was probably the least valuable smuggling ever done in DLM. Despite all the Indian craziness that seems amusing in retrospect, SF succeeded in doing the jobs the Master had requested and from then on he could drop his ambition to become an initiator as he had already got the near-front-row seats and access to the Perfect Master that epitomises success in DLM/EV/TPRF/WOPG*. He even became the only person I've ever heard of who ate real prasad, a box of Maharaji's left over candy and he was given a pair of His Holy Holi stained socks. The bureaucrats in Miami weren't anxious to bring someone back from India who'd got onto a higher rung of the fourth circle of Hell but Roger had initiative and a credit card and so he became part of the "A" team, working on the big secret: the Boeing 707. The guru had had one of his mind-farts, he must have a Boeing 707 with ebony trim, silver wings and a gold-plated toilet. A fully loaded 707 weighs 110 tons, takes 20,000 gallons of fuel and can carry nearly 200 passengers. Rawat is not a gregarious guy. What was he thinking or should I say smoking? What the Lord of the Universe wants, the Perfect Master must have, no questions asked by the premies.
Roger recounts a tale full of intrigue, backstabbing, incompetence, jealousy and all the nastiness usually encountered in a sultan's seraglio enlivened somewhat by a guy named Lem Lasher who didn't and at the end Rawat had a pretty but pretty well useless 707, DECA had collapsed and was purchased by a company unrelated to Maharaji madness and Roger was hired by the new owners. Ironically the 707 was sold to the Maharishi who could throw away $1 million on an unuseable 707 without a second thought. With hard work, initiative, invention, enterprise and luck Roger became successful in, of all things, the manufacture of seats for aircraft. I'm pretty sure no gypsy fortune-teller had ever predicted Roger would make tens of millions of dollars making aircraft seats and joining Divine Light Mission was not a Forbes' magazine recommended stairway to success. Quite the opposite. You can't make this stuff up. Roger reports from first hand experience that Donald Trump is more polite and generous than Prem Rawat though he hasn't publicly compared Rawat to another customer, Leona Helmsley, … yet.
Fast forward to 2008 and Roger becomes the Six Million Dollar Man for Maharaji with a donation to Words of Peace International - yes it was only $5.5 million but whoever heard of a $5.5 million man? What does $5.5 million get you from Prem Rawat? Well you get a Best Golfing Buddy Forever in the smarmy smiling shtickmeister Charanand who incredibly is not living on an extravagant pension from Rawat but living rent free in a Miami apartment belonging to someone who has rejected Rawat but has kept his youthful adoration of the former saintly Mahatma ("Great Soul") GuruCharanand. You also get to meet Rawat in his garage. You get front row seats to Rawat's speeches again after a 25 year hiatus. You get invited to many "Major Donor" conferences and asked for more money. You get asked for business advice from the Lord of the Universe who cannot understand why all but one of his businesses (the one he inherited from his father) have failed. You get to be fawned over by Rawat's children who obviously know where their bread and butter comes from. What you don't get is enlightenment, liberation or spiritual growth. Or do you? After all, Roger eventually saw the light. For further information I can highly recommend Roger's recounting of his Life Journey which I've plagiarised and satirised here.
Rawat's drunkeness and drug-taking, infidelities, etc have been revealed by many of Rawat's closest followers in the past beginning with Bob Mishler (President of Divine Light Mission) as early as 1978. Mishler's concerns were verified by John Hand Jr formerly vice-President Divine Light Mission. Michael Dettmers, who was Rawat's personal assistant for 15 or more years, discussed Rawt's drunkenness, dope smoking, sex with some of his followers (including his wife of course) and inability to accept counselling. Mike Donner who had too many titles in DLM and Élan Vital to list corroborated these accusations from another perspective. In 2004, Mike Finch published further information in his book "Without the Guru" discussing Maharaji's infidelities, drinking and Believe It Or Not! his cigarette smoking. Roger didn't have that sort of close-up view of Rawat but his journey as recorded day to day or month to month is both fascinating and instructive and his comments on Rawat the man are incisive.
Swimming Free was brought up as an Iowa farm-boy and Missouri Synod Lutheran and is excessively polite. I have omitted many of his "thank you" and "well-done" posts which are boring. However, he's got a backbone and takes no shit and has an earthy sense of humour though not into the toilet like Rawat's.
A collected and sorted series of Roger's posts are available at:
DLM/EV/TPRF/HDSK/WOPG is shorthand for Divine Light Mission, Élan Vital, The Prem Rawat Foundation, Human Development through Self Knowledge and Words Of Peace Global which are just a few of the organisations Rawat has spawned over the years. They are now too numerous to list.