The Lord of the Dance: Prem Rawat Dancing Like a Flabby Hippopotamus
One of the strangest quirks in the career of Prem Rawat has been his public dancing, often dressed in the costume of Krishna (nod nod wink wink) to the screaming adoration of his premies. Charisma? Flabisma! Boobsismia! Ron Geaves, an academic of religion and a dedicated devotee of Rawat wrote:
"The period from 1977 to 1982 was marked by a re-opening of the ashrams and a series of international events in which Prem Rawat inspired personal loyalty and devotion from the already committed through a number of highly charismatic appearances in which he would dance on stage."
The key words here are "already committed." Even a brief look at the videos on this page shows Rawat (Maharaji) looking ridiculous, ugly, obese with man boobs and quivering fat, devoid of rhythm, ungainly, etc. Acceptance of Rawat's dancing as charismatic and inspiring can best be explained by using Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance. Rawat is the Perfect Master and his followers continually describe him as gorgeous, beautiful, perfect. But by normal standards he is the opposite. Accepting his ugly and ungainly arm waving as beautiful is just one of the many hurdles that those premies who had remained committed throughout the 1970's had to cross over and which cemented their belief and faith in him that much more. For myself, that was a hurdle I could not cross and the dancing was one of the 2 major reasons for my apostasy.
During the period 1974-76 the Divine Light Mission administrators tried to remove the most controversial Indian trappings that came with the young Rawat. This was not a direction he wanted to go down. There been a few times circa 1974/75 when he had dressed up as Krishna and briefly "danced." In the Keep on Truckin' film there was a brief scene where his new, and much cooler though older wife, Marolyn Johnson specially renamed by him Durga Mata Ji cajoles him into a few lively steps though he's probably worried about choking on the paan he's chewing.
In 1975 in Essen, Germany a brief scene was recorded where he bopped around for a while as shown in the Keep on Truckin' film. A friend told me there was also a similar moment in the Sydney Opera House that year but I might have been looking at the floor in disgust at the time.
At the end of 1976, Prem Rawat found himself in trouble. The majority of his management group had decided that Divine Light Mission and his followers could not afford to maintain him at the level of luxury he considered was essential and the foot soldiers and officers of his Mission that provided the free labour and most of the funds had deserted the ashram in great numbers and donations had plummetted. Such ingratitude! Such dis-understanding! Prem was not the brightest divine spark in the pack of Eastern gurus scrambling for a piece of the youthful Western market but he was smart enough to go back and imitate his father and role model. His father had single-handedly created the following that bestowed divinity and luxury on the young Rawat and he had done it through dressing up, dancing and boasting about being God and the source of infinite love and mercy and so Prem faithfully followed this route for the next 5 years or so until he felt comfortable and safe and rich enough to try his own ideas again.
1978 to 1981 were the peak years in which Prem Rawat cut loose with public dancing usually dressed in some bizarre costume as Krishna showing quite a lot of skin but having his floppy boy boobs covered. It was common in the West after 1978 after Rawat took control of DLM in 1977 and has continued through much of his career. To an outsider it looks quite ridiculous. Prem Rawat is an extremely short and obese person and when dressed as Krishna his rolls of fat are only partially covered. His movement is poor and lacking in rhythm which initiators excused in the 1970's by saying he had told them that universes were created and destroyed when his arms rose and fell.
He danced his way into being accepted as the current Perfect Master but he was much younger and thinner then. Undoubtedly many people interested in the Knowledge and some of his followers (myself included back in 1978) were nonplussed, appalled and disenchanted by this behaviour but the response from the majority of his followers was enthusiastic if not orgiastic. Grown men screamed and fainted (well a few) at his first appearance in his mala in 1978. Scenes of him dancing were included in the Divine Light Mission videos produced at the time and we have scenes from Hans Jayanti 10th November 1979, You Are My Savior - 1980 on this website.
Below are some video clips of these astonishing moments which have continued to, at least, the year 2000. I do not have any official video of Rawat dancing at Hans Jayanti at Kissimmee in November 1978 but recently (2015) I got a copy of a brief video filmed by an enthusastic devotee from the crowd. I suspect some tweaking has been done to the film as he has a fluidity and rhythm in this clip (though it is taken from a distance) that is certainly not evident in the better quality video filmed from close-up. There was a tremendous build-up throughout the premie communities before this festival with word that Guru Maharaj Ji was saying something incredible would happen there being repeated. An astonishing percentage of premies from Australia attended despite the distance and the cost.
Hans Jayanti festival, November 1978 Vic Marsh, initator from Australia, expressed himself in a rather un-Australian manner on Rawat dancing in 1978 in The Secret and Open Pictures of God:
The Love affair which grew hour by hour climaxed when Guru Maharaj Ji danced with us. After dancing in the Krishna suit on Saturday night, blowing our hearts with little touches like Hansi handing him the Krishna flute, Maharaj Ji pushed the festival into an extra day and took us absolutely flying with him by dancing again on Sunday night, this time in a beautiful flower mala. The measured, full majesty of his dance, the power and authority in his every movement, lifted us higher and held us there as he continued to dance. Now from the chair, he invited us all with gestures, motioning us to rise up to him, to keep going, to dance on, to go beyond ourselves and join him.
To me Rawat's dancing in those nights was ridiculous, unrhythmic, out-of-time, embarrassing and ponderous. Thankfully, while my mind fought on for a while trying to keep me doing satsang, service and meditation my heart had seen the light and I gave up the practice of Rawat's "Knowledge" shortly thereafter and began to enjoy life in all it's richness.
Guru Puja Festival, 1979
Dance, Dance, Dance
by Rich Neel with One Foundation
Maharaj Ji you are the Lord
You've shown us by your Word
You've taken us from darkness to Light
Your wish is our delight
Cheering - Bolie Shri Satgurudev Maharaj Ki Jai! Bolie Shri Satgurudev Maharaj Ki Jai!
All Night Long - One Foundation
The only thing that I can feel within my heart to play
As long as there is air that I may breathe
Is the praises of my Lord, my everything to me
And the joy of merging in his feet
All night long, Let us stay with you Lord, All night long, Let us play with you Lord
All night long, Let us worship you Lord, All night long, Let us gaze at your Form
All night long, Let us sing to you Lord, All night long, Let us dance with you Lord
All night long, Till we're totally gone
Holi festival, Miami Florida, 11th April 1980
Whatever It Is That's Between Us
Whatever it is that's between us
Take it all away
For the loneliness and the longing for You
Is growing more every day
Like the waves of an ocean
I feel Your love washing over me
Whispering Your Holy Name to purify me
It seems very unlikely that practising the techniques of meditation revealed in Maharaji's Knowledge could directly alter the artistic or aesthetic sense of Prem Rawat's devotees. It appears that their extremely enthusastic, orgiastic reaction to his dancing and public singing is conditioned by their religious faith and concepts about the supernatural qualities of his person.
Prem Rawat does not only dance in Indian clothing or dressed as Krishna. In 1996 he ends his 25th Anniversary of Coming to the West celebration dancing in a suit. The 'premies' are now mature age 'students' but they think they can still get down and boogie
Below is the dancing scene from the 1997 World of Knowledge video of Maharaji dancing in India and at the 25th Anniversary of Maharaji Coming To The West Celebration in 1996. You remember it don't you? It was bigger than the Olympics, the World Cup and The Orange Bowl all put together.
"You're dancing and you're only dancing for your Guru Maharaj Ji. You're not dancing for the guy right next to you or behind you or anything. And it's truly dancing for Guru Maharaj Ji. And Guru Maharaj Ji is dancing for his devotees. There is nobody involved and devotees can see, which makes their hearts dance. Then Guru Maharaj Ji dances, and it's an endless saga. I guess that's what you call satisfaction, in one sense."
Guru Maharaj Ji Hans Jayanti, Kissimmee, Florida Friday, November 9, 1979, evening