In The Beginning … How Many Premies * Did Prem Rawat Have?
It is important in evaluating the success of Prem Rawat's efforts at recruitment to understand the base from which he began and the culture in which he was born. He inherited his position of Satguru when his father died. His father had recruited hundreds of thousands of devotees, had significant property and thousands of "Mahatmas," men and women living lives devoted to preaching and teaching the "Knowledge."
As Khushwant Singh explained in a 1973 New York Times interview:
MOST successful gurus maintain large establishments with boarding and lodging facilities for hundreds-in some places, thousands-of visitors. In Northern India many have their headquarters somewhere along the holy Ganges and other residences in the cities. Thus Balyogeshwar has his Prem Nagar ashram at Hardwar where the river enters the plains, another at Delhi and smaller centers scattered over the country and abroad. The Delhi ashram can accommodate more than 100 men and women; its kitchen can on special occasions feed up to 50,000 visitors a day. The lavish use of marble, wall-to-wall carpets, chandeliers and modern furnishings are clear evidence of affluence. Balyogeshwar lives well. Some other gurus live even better.
After his father's death in 1966 and the announcement of his incarnation as Perfect Master the young Rawat was at school and relatively quiet until the Hans Jayanti festival in November 1970 when he gave his "Peace Bomb" speech in front of a million people.
In 1971 100,00 people waited overnight at Palam airport to greet the young Prem back inton India. A Hans Jayanti festival was held in Patna, Bihar. It began with a procession:
Eight abreast, the procession of 750,000 people walked through the streets of Patna to the Gandhi Grounds. One hundred floats supporting paintings of past Perfect Masters two times life size were drawn by water buffalo. A line of fifty elephants, with their babies clinging to their tails, and twenty camels followed. Next in line was a marching band which announced the swan chariot of Guru Maharaj Ji. It was some parade.
It is also importan to understand that Rawat obtained nearly all of his true believers in the first few years of preaching in the West when he preached a pretty stock standard version of his father's North Indian Sant Mat style teachings though he did it in poor English and noticeable lack of gravitas. It was the Indian trappings that caught the attention of the counter-culture youth looking for a religion that was experiential rather than theological. For myself, one of the most important factors in becoming involved in Divine Light Mission was the obviously large number of Indian members. My involvement in Indian religion before this was through the Westernised teachings of the Ramakrishna Order and books about famous ascetic gurus like Ramana Maharshi. The Divine Light Mission films showed a comletely different picture.
In the early 1980s when Rawat decided to divest himself of the Indian trappings he halved his consumer base. The true believers that remained have bankrolled the unsuccessful attempts to regain market share in India and the West and public legitimacy in the new culture where Indian religion and its Western offshoots are numerous if not ubiquitous.
Even a reasonable retention rate would have filled the world with Rawat's devotees in the past 50 years. In the beginning Rawat publicly boasted of how easy it was going to be to bring peace to the world. Once initiated into the divine secret meditation each new premie would quickly bring another person to Rawat and etc, etc. Exponential Equation.
How many premies has Prem Rawat claimed to have had?
- July 1971: Three million. Source Prem Rawat in the LA Times
- 15 June 1972: Five million completely satisied people. Source Prem Rawat
- December 1972: an average of about a thousand new people daily. Source Prem Rawat
- August 4, 1973: six million people have realized this inner Peace. Source Prem Rawat
- November, 1973: eight million people. Source Prem Rawat
- May 3, 1975: more than three million people. Source Prem Rawat
- November 9th, 1975: over a million people. Source Prem Rawat
- 1989: More people are, are receiving this experience than they ever have, ever! Source: Prem Rawat
There aren't too many leaders who have lost 7 million followers in 2 years from November 1973 to November 1975. He is unique. Because of his alcohol and drug abuse, the young Rawat alienated his family and the Indian DLM organisation and lost virtually all his Indian followers in 1975. After 30 years' recruitment, bank-rolled by his Western followers, he now has a significant number of Indian premies though these numbers are relatively small compared to those of his eldest brother, Satpal Maharaj, or some of the very successful Godmen of India such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar or Baba Ramdev. While his Indian followers and curious onlookers are numerous enough to look impressive, he will never again inspire scenes like those in 1971 when he was resting on his father's laurels.
*When Prem Rawat first came to the West his followers were called 'premies.' This was because it was said to be the Hindi word for 'lover.' At that time the name "Prem Rawat" was never mentioned. After 1980 Rawat told his followers to cease and dsist using the word 'premie' and all other Hindi words they had been using. He has settled on the word 'student' but I find this a ridiculous and inappropriate word so I use whatever word spings to mind: premie, student, devotee, follower, true believer,