Divine Light Mission Apocalypse
In 1982/3 Prem Rawat did an about face. He ordered all DLM media to be destroyed and some time later at the end of 1983 * he ordered the ashrams closed and the nightly satsang meetings to cease. Rawat's minions say they'd cleared the ashrams out by 1984. He changed his name, his titles, his organisation, his public persona, his public teachings and even his hairstyle. He had ordered his followers destroy all records of his career before the ashram closures. He was pretty well forgotten by the general media then anyway so he apparently thought he would start again with a clean slate after an appropriate hiatus. Divine Light Mission was now an empty shell called Élan Vital.
The decision to make these radical changes was not a spur-of-the-moment thing. Some months previously he had sent out a word-of-mouth agya that premies should destroy all Divine Light materials magazines, tapes, videos, whatever. I had been disenchanted with Rawat for some years but lived with a devoted premie and meditated and occasionally went to satsang. She came home from a "satsang weekend" in Brisbane with the startling news. We had to destroy all the Divine Light Mission publications and tapes and pictures of Guru Maharaj Ji. I went "No way!" I collected everything and packed them in a tea chest, nailed down the lid and said this will be a wonderful historical resource in 20 years and took the kids for a swim. When I got back I found the tea chest broken open in the backyard and the contents burned. I was not happy but what can you do? Some roast potatoes in the coals were cooling down nicely.
The total amount of DLM publications destroyed all over the world must have been enormous. All DLM English language publications were mostly by and about Prem Rawat but from 1977 this became total. When Divine Light Mission became Élan Vital and Guru Maharaj Ji became Prem Rawat or Maharaji this didn't change. He remained the 100% focus and content provider. Only the clothes and the words and the media altered.
When the young Prem Rawat arrived in the West he brought a story with him, a story with a history across cultures, a story similar to many others used by other people claiming spiritual authority. His was individually tailored for his circumstances and background and included the important and controversial part that all others claiming this authority in the world at that time were false. Rawat was the only true guru. He gave reasons why he was unique and even more powerful than all the true bona fide Perfect Masters who had come before him and why he alone could teach the only Knowledge that provided real Truth, Peace and Worship. He jettisoned this story and then continued on as if he just happened to have that power and Knowledge and used the existence of his devoted following as his validating authority.
This definitely occurred though there is no documentary evidence for Rawat's astonishing volte-face. Academics of Religion have published the exculpatory story Élan Vital later provided. This "agya" and the prior order to destroy all the DLM materials and media were passed down the chain from Rawat to each group of premies. I can date this reasonably accurately though I have never seen any documentation referring to it. I innocently went to satsang in Brisbane one night not knowing there were any changes occurring in Divine Light Mission. The building, which was owned by a rather unusual, hyper and well-liked ashram premie known to his friends as "Ronnie The Rat", was closed and locked. There was a sign on the door. I cannot remember exactly what it said but it stated there would be no satsang there that night and there never was again. There had been no mention of this the previous night. I'd caught the train into town so I thought "Why don't I see a movie?" This was something I had very rarely done in the previous 10 years. I saw a movie titled "The Secret Policeman's Other Ball" which was released in Australia on September 23, 1982. Its unlikely that it was released in Brisbane on the same day as in Sydney and it was a pretty warm so I put the date early 1983. It was very funny. Peter Cook and Alexei Sayle were amazing. I hve never had a good grasp of the sequence of time and dates.
In his memoire, "Without the Guru" (pp163-164) Mike Finch a long-time inner-circle premie writes:
"As it turned out, the ashrams as an institution were in their death throes, and were formally abandoned by Maharaji a year later in 1983. In those final two years, the ashrams went through a roller coaster ride, with every now and then a purge where the initiators came through and screened out those who weere not dedicated to that lifestyle. But many people could see the writing on the wall, and the ashrams were inhabited by a strange mixture of diehards who clung to the letter of the Ashram Manual, freewheelers who saw through it as a corrupt charade and acted accordingly, and those like myself, who still thought, however chaotic everything was, that Maharaji was still in charge, and that all would come out right if we just surrendered to him. … Finally, in late 1983 the ashrams closed. For those still in the ashram at the time, there were two predominant feelings - release and betrayal.
Élan Vital's explained the Ashram closures in "Peace Is Possible" by Andrea Cagan on p237:
"Back in the 70s while most Westerners who received the gift of Knowledge, simply continued with their normal daily life, some had chosen to move into ashrams, but by 1984, the Western ashrams were all but gone. Maharaji believed that having an experience of the inner peace did not depend on embracing any specific lifestyle or culture. And now he was making it clear that the time had come to leave the ashram behind.
The only Westerners who received the gift of Knowledge and simply continued with their normal daily lives were those who rejected Guru Maharaj Ji and the Knowledge immediately, the sensible ones. For the fools, their lives became enmeshed in Satsang, Service, Meditation and Darshan as ordered (agya) by the guru himself, publicly.
Terry Yingling, Ron Geaves and Linda Pascotto are among his long term worshipful sycophants who he has used to downplay the shock and horror that having the ashrams closed caused after a decade of working 24/7 for the Guru's wellbeing and having nothing to show for it but gratitude and devotion to Him.