In May 1981 Close Up, a New Zealand Television Daily News and Current Affairs program, produced a segment on Prem Rawat, then still calling himself Guru Maharaj Ji, when he visited New Zealand on the 7th and 8th May for the first time since 1975. They could not resist the chance to use the title The Second Coming which the Australian Divine Light Mission had also used back in 1973. Rawat arrived with his family and servants in his private Boeing 707 and did his utmost to prevent publicity which, naturally enough, piqued the curiosity of New Zealand TV journalists, especially as the behaviour of his followers acting as "security" was quite bizarre.
The Perfect Master is in New Zealand. He's the Guru Maharaj Ji who was last here in 1975. I'm Martin Bates and tonight close-up looks at The Second Coming.
The moment every disciple treasures most is the moment he comes face to face with his Master. For members of Divine Light Mission in New Zealand that moment is just minutes away. Their Perfect Master, the man they see as an Incarnation of God, the ultimate source of truth and light is due to step off a plane here at Auckland airport. He is the Guru Maharaja Ji and here He is accompanied by his wife and children the 24 year old Indian leader of the Divine Light Mission arrived in a private Boeing 707 jet and was whisked into the New Zealand version of a waiting limousine.
The Guru Maharaj Ji has successfully packaged Eastern philosophy for Western minds and New Zealanders are among the millions around the world who derive from him and him only, inner peace. To see and hear the guru is for the devotee everything.
Johnny Young: Sometimes when I look at Guru Maharaj Ji and I see him talking I see him how simple he is and how simple his message is I sometimes think "God you know, how come someone like you and he's only five foot two tall and he comes from India and he's cute, you know, he's …"
Johnny Young, well known Australian television personality, was one of the hundreds that flew to New Zealand just to hear him speak.
Johnny Young: Because I know that he's the one who showed me something so special, it must make him special.
So special that when the guru came to the West with his message in the early '70's he captured the hearts and minds of millions and New Zealanders were no exception. Communities of devotees, ashrams, were set up in Auckland and Wellington.
Waiting the word of the Master
Watching the hidden light
(A scene of about 15 people at satsang in New Zealand, 1975 singing a very poor version of "At The Feet of the Master")
The guru teaches 4 basic meditative techniques to help believers find the Divine Light inside themselves. Inside a spiritually bankrupt society they believe the way out of the dark ages is through the guru, the successor to Buddha, Mohammed and Christ.
Johnny Young: I wasn't around at the time when Jesus was around. I've read the Bible and it's really beautiful and since I've experienced what it is that Guru Maharaj Ji has taught me I have a great love for Jesus and for Buddha and I love reading the scriptures, it excites me because I can really see that that the disciples of Jesus when he was around was really, really did experience something really beautiful and the same with with the Buddha and the same with Mohammed but you look, for instance, Mohammed who is the basis of the Muslim faith was a soldier, he fought you know. When Jesus came, they were expecting a King, all the, all the religious leaders said this can't couldn't possibly be the Messiah, couldn't possibly be the one because he's supposed to come as a king and here he comes as a carpenter, right? So I guess, you know, if you were a Christian waiting for Jesus to come, you'd be looking for a carpenter. You know the one who comes to enlighten people, the one who comes to reveal peace, does he necessarily have to come in any shape, does he have to come as a carpenter or does he have to come as a king, it doesn't really matter because the message that he delivers is an internal message of peace which is not dependant on external things.
That's how Johnny Young explains this unlikely looking guru. If you think you've seen this shot before, you have. Sightings of the guru these days are a rarity. For a man with a message the guru was surprisingly publicity shy. From the moment he left the airport, security surrounded him. A silent cordon marshalled him and his entourage. The word had gone out, no publicity on this visit and the young men surrounding him went to remarkable lengths to follow that instruction.
(Silent movie suspense music) It was definitely a case of "no speaks." These young men had earlier denied they'd even heard of the Divine Light Mission. Thus it seemed a little curious that when the guru emerged the all who minutes before didn't even know of his existence were suddenly in charge of his baggage. Who were these young men? Eager devotees or hired minders? We made another attempt to find out. "Excuse me, you're probably wondering who we are?" "No" "Oh you do know, do you? I have introduced myself because I thought that possibly you might be able to explain that we would like to I see you don't you don't wish to even have a conversation with us at all?" "No, my, I'm just a driver here, I don't know anything about the guru." "Aren't you, aren't you connected with this urgh organisation at all?" "No I just work uh as a driver." Such modesty, this man later confessed to being the boss, Graham Swift, head of a Sydney based security organisation. Others told us later they were just willing followers. It was all most mysterious but certainly effective.
The publicity blackout is perhaps more understandable when you look back on the guru's early career. The first time he visited New Zealand back in 1974 was in the wake of the most unfavourable publicity. He'd inherited, at 8, the title of Perfect Master from hid Dad. That attracted the cynicism of the world's press from the start. By the age of 14 he'd acquired a Rolls-Royce, a Mercedes, 2 private aeroplanes and a cluster of mansions, gifts from the grateful faithful. Devotees like Johnny Young are used to charges that the guru's ritzy Western lifestyle ill befits a man of God and he's got an answer for that, too.
Johnny Young: It's funny because often I get asked that, that very same question and I can, I can answer it with very strong convictions that before I met Guru Maharaj Ji, if somebody had come to me and said, "There's a psychiatrist who lives in San Francisco who is guaranteed, here is the testimonial or her is the, you know, here is his list of credentials and the people that he's, that he's helped. He is guaranteed to give you peace, this psychiatrist but he's very expensive because he has a very special drug that's gonna cost you a million dollars. I reckon I would have been one of those people who would have gone tot this guy and probably a lotta people would have, you know, because people spend fortunes just trying to find peace, peace of mind. To me, Guru Maharaj Ji gave me that for nothing and if I can do anything to make Guru Maharaj Ji's life comfortable in this world because all he's doing is helping people like me, all he's doing is spreading peace to people like me and he travels the world doing it and he doesn't do it on his own he has his wife and eh ahs his three kids and constantly they're moving from one place to the next so that Guru Maharaj Ji can see his followers and can, can spread his message and his you know ooh ah the thing that he has to give. He gives it to people and he has to travel to do that and me for one as his follower, foe what he's given me, would want him to be as comfortable as possible and I don't think a Rolls-Royce is good enough for him.
The Logan Campbell Centre in Auckland, venue for the Guru Maharaj Ji's one and only meeting in New Zealand. Perhaps 2,000 people were there, all types from the committed to the merely curious, "He reveals an experience and it's completely individual."
"Can't you get this from the established religions?" "No, I've had three religions. I've had the Catholic religion, the Anglican religion, the Jehovah's Witnesses religion and I think to be quite honest and truthful, I think the religions are only a money-making concern." "What's to make you think that this is not just the same?" "No, no, it's something entirely different here."
"Well I'm just here to check him out. I just want to see what a real live guru looks like, (sniggers) you know?"
"I've come cause my daughter's asked me to come with her. I don't know what ???, I don't really know what the meeting's about." "Have you heard of this gentleman before?" "No, I haven't."
"Um, I've just read things of, by Maharaji and I just find them to be a positive person. I thought I'd just come and sort of sunbathe in um in his presence."
"Oh you don't want us to film in here." We were not permitted to film the meeting. The guru's message has apparently been misinterpreted by television once too often. So with just the muffled sounds of the Divine Light band our cameras waited outside, along with the same men we'd met at the airport, for the guru to leave. Without cameras I was allowed to sit in on the meeting and hear the guru. He was still dressed in the same conservative suit and tie and spoke to the faithful from an armchair on a bare stage. His message was colourfully worded but extremely simple. Peace, if only we knew it, is inside in every one of us. Even though we weren't allowed to film the guru's address, at least we thought we could film his departure but we hadn't reckoned with the elaborate deception of his minders. While pondering which was the guru's real car, we'd bee given three separate vehicles as definitely his, the fourth and real one, took us completely by surprise. The getaway car had been waiting behind these steel doors all the time but why the deception? Down came the security blanket again.
Johnny Young: The thing about Guru Maharaj Ji is that he sh he he he shows he has shown me and still continues to show me an experience inside which I have when I'm not with him and when I am with him.
Mmmm. While it all seems a bit hard to pin down, perhaps it's just because spiritual experiences are hard to explain (We'll talk with you tomorrow) Originally the guru's message was thought to be just a haven for hippies but 10 years in it's obvious its appeal is much broader. (Oh that's very good, yeah) Johnny Young, wealthy, successful, top Australian television personality was hardly, I think, in need of a guru. What made him a devotee?
Johnny Young: I used to think "Well, when I get my first gold record then I'll be really happy." I got my first gold record and it was the most miserable night of my life. I remember it very, very clearly, had a fight with a guy from the record company and similarly with my television show. "When I get my own television show, then I'll be fine, then I'll be secure" and I and I sort of thought the feeling of security was what I was after and yet I got my television show and I became more insecure because then got involved in the battle of ratings and I'm sure you're aware of all those things one week you popularity's up and then the next, the next minute your popularity's own and it was like "Oh God, when am I, when am I ever going to find this, this thing and I didn't know a word to describe it but I knew what I was looking for. And it got to a point when after having achieved all this success that I still felt so unfulfilled that I went to my doctor cause I thought there was something wrong about me, you know I I said "Well, what's what's the problem? Maybe I need a psychiatrist or something? Maybe I'm just not the right way?" and he said "Look, you're like many other people. Why don't you try a meditation? You know and so I tried different kinds of meditation and that that didn't fulfil me as such then I happened to stumble along to one of Guru Maharaj Ji's programs, like the one you guys attended last night, and I heard what Guru Maharaj Ji had to say and it made sense. He talked about an experience internally that wasn't dependant on things that happen externally.
Seeing their guru, reinforced, for members of the Divine Light Mission, faith in his message and we were told the visit would probably boost membership. Perhaps it's understandable in the world of today that many are turning to this man and his beliefs.
Johnny Young: The last thing that's apparent in this world everywhere you look either in the name of religion or in the name of culture or whatever it is there is war, aggravation, heaviness going on and Guru Maharaj Ji has come to the West to bring peace.
Peace is the hope but in an age of darkness even a guru doesn't feel safe without his minders. The shadowy Graham Swift Organisation was at it again. "Excuse me, umm, you know we were here yesterday, there was filming and we spoke to you and asked you umm about the Guru Maharaj Ji whether you were with him. You indicated you weren't and yet here you are I wonder what the problem is, why there appears to be quite a lot of security and secrecy about it? "We don't know anything about, we just work for Mike, umm, Graham Swift." "Who is Graham Swift?" "He's the chap who employs us to do this." "Oh I see."
As efficient as they seem, the mysterious Mr Swift and his organisation was unable to be located either here or in Sydney. There were many unanswered questions. Were they really professionals or just devotees playing the game? And where was the guru? "You don't think it's possible you could just give us a few words about" A last desperate attempt to persuade one of the guru's aides to arrange an interview for us "Just literally a few sentences cause we " "I don't think he can personally give you anything on this particular visit but I I'm very confident that on the next visit possibly within the year that that time will be arranged." "Okay, now he's coming shortly is he? Er." "Well from what I understand he's probably, you may have missed him already because we're trying to uh leave very quickly" We missed him alright. The guru had been ushered in through a security entrance away from prying eyes." "Fine." "Okay, Very interesting. Thank you very much indeed" "Thank you very much." No interview. No film of his meeting but one has to be grateful for small mercies. At last someone in his entourage had been prepared to talk to us. Twenty four hours to the minute after he had arrived in New Zealand, the guru's private jet was off again, bound for Tahiti.
The guru and his Divine Light Mission aren't a threat to the established religions in New Zealand but neither can they be written off as just a passing fad. After years of a near total publicity black out, the guru is about to embark on a new, more sophisticated public campaign. Gone will be the jargon of the sixties where followers were urged to plug into energy channels and were "blissed out" but old style or new style the feeling engendered will still be the same.
And by the time the guru next comes to New Zealand perhaps everyone will feel able to go public, even his followers.
"What sorry" "Are you, are you part of the uh you the Guru Maharajjjj? Were you watching the, his plane?" "Yeah, I was watching the plane." "Are you, are you a follower of his or are you one of the security people? We We've." "I'm just a driver. I was just sort of brought along to move, that's all."