Divine Light Mission
For the first 10 years of Prem Rawat's career in the West his public life was administered by officers of Divine Light Mission that he or his family members had appointed. This was not the most efficient organisation in world history but in less than 5 years it became self-sufficient enough to continue to exist in various forms and under various names for the next 50 years, at least, while retaining a core of committed "premies."
The Divine Light Mission (Divya Sandesh Parishad; DLM) was an organization founded in 1960 by guru Shri Hans Ji Maharaj for his following in northern India. During the 1970s, the DLM gained prominence in the West under the leadership of his fourth and youngest son, Guru Maharaj Ji (Prem Rawat). Some scholars noted the influence of the Bhagavad Gita and the Sant Mat tradition, but the western movement was widely seen as a new religious movement, a cult, a charismatic religious sect or an alternative religion. DLM officials said the movement represented a church rather than a religion.
The organization was originally incorporated in the U.S. in 1971 as the Divine Light Mission, a non-profit corporation and in 1974 was recognized as a religious organization by the United States Internal Revenue Service under section 501(c)(3). The organization changed its name to Élan Vital in 1983, by filing an entity name change in Colorado though the records for these no longer exist on Colorado state websites. Élan Vital stated in its website that the name was changed to remove Indian labels and to present Maharaji's message in a manner more congruent with Western culture and this is partially true.
Since 1983 followers of Prem Rawat have done their best to pretend that the first 2 decades of his career never happened and that like Venus, he arose fully formed from the ocean in 1983.
During the early 1970s there were at least three different Divine Light Missions:
- The PR/Media Divine Light Mission which was much richer, slicker, more successful and uniform than the actual DLM.
- The mythic Divine Light Mission which existed in the minds of the true believers and the hopes of the Rawat family.
- The actual Divine Light Mission made up of a diverse group of human beings with a range of day-to-day experience and a range of beliefs in
the guru/God embodied in Prem Rawat/Guru Maharaj Ji and the DLM doctrine that tied it together. Despite assurances from Maharaji that their experience of life would
always become more blissful while they continued to practice His "Knowledge" their emotions and their faith would rise and fall and the
majority of them would sooner or later leave Divine LIght Mission and drop their beliefs in Prem Rawat and the
Knowledge. The actual DLM was
poorer and the members less dedicated than the other two versions. There were not
only differences in premie dedication and belief but also there were premies who were mainly interested in meditation and those who were mostly
devoted to Guru Maharaj Ji and the social involvement even to the extent of avoiding meditation which could be terribly boring for certain
- A loose collection of crazies, misfits, dopers, spongers and the depressed who hung around Divine Light Mission ashrams and satsangs because they had no where better to go. It could be difficult to differentiate these from the actual premies.