Fund Raising is a necessary part of any cult or New Religious Movement and it has been especially important in Prem Rawat's organisations because of the opulent lifestyle he has demanded since arriving in the West. Once Divine Light Mission was operating successfully the young Rawat took over half the cash flow for his personal use. In the beginning fund raising was as unsophisticated as requesting his followers to give cash rather than their most valued and "spiritually meaningful" possessions in darshan lines. Below are scenes from a DLM film showing Rawat's bodyguard collecting valuables as they are presented to the young Maharaji. By 1973 Rawat was receiving $60,000 per month. In the early days in England wealthy followers were encouraged to accompany Rawat to Harrods to purchase whatever took his fancy.
Two years after arriving in London the young Rawat had collected a trove of technological toys, Click Here for Partial List
Rennie Davis explained that the Mission's success depended wholly on the "incidence of coincidence" and that so far fortuitous donations had arrived when necessary. He believed this was proof of divine grace. Jeanne Messer wrote in an article in The New Religious Consciousness that the Mission managed to stay solvent because the number of supporting members increased so rapidly but that this could continue only so long as it expanded. This expansion slowed or ceased in 1974
Michael Bergman was the executive accountant for the Divine Light Mission in 1973. He allowed Ken Kelley, a journalist for Ramparts magazine, to inspect the organization's books and interview donors. Most of the donations came from inheritances. In 1972 five premies together gave over $110,000, in early 1973 another three had given $60,000 and DLM was expecting another $200,000 each from 2 premies by July. Scores of new converts had donated gifts of $1,000 to $10,000 and the largest contribution had been $40,000. Sophia Collier also mentions a $350,000 inheritance donated to the Mission in 1974 that allowed (among other things) magazine publication to restart. Ted Patrick, the (in)famous "de-programmer," wrote in his book Let Our Children Go that donations of $50,000 were not uncommon and one woman he was deprogramming had signed over an inheritance of half a million dollars to the cult.
At the end of it's early, rapid growth period DLM had large debts following the Millenium 73 festival and Rawat's demand for luxurious living. While there were serious problems still to come the administrators, unaware of what the future held, settled down to try to organise and stabilise their large, unruly but dwindling band of ex-hippie premies (and themselves). They attempted to create "communities" of premies in major cities and organise a stable ongoing financial stream (AMP) and regularise ashram activities while paying off the Millenium debts, responding to questions about DLM's tax-exempt status and financially supporting Rawat and his entourage.
They also had to cope with the bad publicity about:
- Rawat's marriage which added to the demands from Rawat for money
- the Darby Mclean legal problems which threatened their cash stream from inheritances
- the questions about it's tax-exempt status as they paid no taxes
- the Indian Divine Light Mission denouncing him as a drug-taking, meat-eating playboy and replacing him as Perfect Master though on the bright side they no longer had to support the Holy Family or the Mahatmas
leaving Bob Mishler and Rick Berman to explain at Guru Puja '74 in Amherst that unless the other 12,000 active members of DLM at that festival began to make regular donations of 10% of their income the 800 ashram premies currently keeping it afloat would go crazy. This message was also the theme of the Divine Times of July 1974. However in an interview in the January 1976 issue of Divine Times magazine Michael Dettmers, then vice-president of Divine Light Mission, explained that only some extremely large donations from a handful of premies had made up the $500,000 shortfall in DLM's 1975 finances. DLM administrators attempted to increase funding through requesting all premies begin tithing, the Active Membership Program or AMP.
The evidence of Michael Garson, a former premie who worked in the Denver headquarters during the "Darby McLean case" revealed that a major method of financing DLM was peer pressure exerted on those young recruits with inheritances.
DLM spinmeister, Joe Anctil, in the Divine Times of April 30 1975
Mike Garson says that 60% of our income goes to upkeeping Maharaj Ji, now that is newsworthy, because it's seemingly bad news. Little does the general public or the newspapers know that the premies would be happier if 100% of our income went to support Guru Maharaj Ji. But the fact is, it's only 3 to 5 percent. Our income, right now, supports the Denver offices, the 24 regional offices, the 156 Divine Light Mission cars around the country, the computer, "And It Is Divine" and "Divine Times," all the propagation materials and the travel of all the mahatmas. There's no way. If Guru Maharaj Ji took up 60% of our income, we'd be $3 million in debt.
Mike Garson saw a computer form that showed 17,000 active premies, but he didn't see the other part of the form which showed all the centers and the ashram communities. He only saw the premies-at-large, which is only half the picture. But his seeing half the picture got us in the newspapers and gave me an opportunity to show the press that look, on our computer we have 41,000 names and that's only since we started counting in the middle of 1972.
Jos Lammers, who in 1976 was an administrator in DLM IHQ (International Headquarters in Denver) related how he saw Rawat touring European Jewellery stores being followed by local premies who were there to pay for his purchases.
Maharaji's Knowledge Fails to Keep "Premies" Donating
On March 31, 1975 a letter of thanks was sent to DLM contributors. It contained a very upbeat review of the Mission's activities in 1974 and Rawat's Proclamation For 1975. He told a meeting of DLM directors that premies "are spiritually ready and that they can communicate the message of Knowledge more effectively." He prophesised that 1975 will be a year of propagation.
He also demanded strong local communities which can serve as propagational centers in each region; a sound financial base within the Mission and satsang, service and meditation for every individual premie while feeding the world through DUO, WWA and Project Love.
- In November 1973, 15 to 20,000 premies attended Millenium '73 festival in Houston, Texas.
- In July 1974, 12,000 premies attended the Guru Puja festival in Amherst, Massachsetts
- By December 1975, only 9,000 premies attended Hans Jayanti in Orlando, Florida
- Only 2,500 premies were part of the Active Memebership Program.
None of Maharaji's plans for 1975 eventuated and by the end of 1975 there were only 572 ashram residents left in 24 cities but 1975 was a raging success compared to 1976.