Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, and World Religions

Revised and Updated Edition
Larry A. Nichols, George A. Mather, Alvin I. Schmidt, Kurt Van Gorden
Consulting Editor
Alvin J. Schmidt
Formerly published as Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions, and the Occult


Elan Vital, as it is now called, is one of the numerous Eastern religions derived from HINDUISM that proliferated in the United States in the years following the turbulent 1960s.


The Divine Light Mission was founded in 1971 by Guru Maharaj Ji, born in 1957 in Hardwar, India, as Balyogeshwar Param Hans Satgurudev Shri Sant Ji Maharaj. Inheriting a substantial amount of wealth, Maharaj Ji was only thirteen years old when he received the revelation that he was to become the savior of humanity. Arriving in Los Angeles in 1971, he was greeted by only a few devoted followers. However, 1972 was a watershed in the career of this wonder child from India when he reached two thousand converts, called 'premies', in Montrose, Colorado. From there on, the movement began to grow substantially. At the Houston Astrodome in the following year came the event called Millennium '73, attended by some twenty thousand devotees who worshiped Maharaj Ji as he sat on a throne suspended high above them.

The popularity did not last, not even with the guru's mother, Mata Ji. Besides mounting debts and accusations of smuggling, Maharaj Ji married an airline stewardess in 1974, pronouncing her a goddess. When Mata Ji arrived in Malibu to see her son, his new bride did not allow her to visit his estate. Enraged, Mata Ji publicly denounced her son as being a "drunken, carousing, meat eater." She then appointed Maharaj Ji's older brother, Shri Satyapal Ji, as the new 'avatar' of the movement, which she renamed the Spiritual Life Society.

Though his following continued for some months, gradually the numbers lessened because of the extravagant lifestyle that many observed the "incarnate" youthful god to be living in the United States. A passion for automobiles, real estate, and the best of foods convinced many that they had been duped. Followers in the United States dropped from an estimated fifty-two thousand to about seven thousand.

Maharaj Ji chose his most faithful followers to be his personal 'mahatmas', later called 'initiators'. It was their assignment to recruit additional followers.

Nightly Satsang Meeting

In 1979 the DLM moved its headquarters to Miami, but returned to Malibu in the early 1980s. Additionally, Maharaj Ji changed the name of the movement to Elan Vital. Maharaj has attempted to better adapt the DLM/EV to the ways of the West. He no longer wore traditional Indian clothing. In its place he wore Western styled suits. Many of the cultural trappings have been eliminated to accommodate Western tastes.

In 1973 the Divine Light Mission held "Millennium '73" in the Astrodome, where Maharaj Ji announced that he was Savior of the world. He is seated on his throne. Courtesy spiritual counterfeit Project


Many of the original followers of Maharaj Ji were hippies and were inimical to organizational infrastructure. Formality and rules were eschewed. Life for a premie basically revolved around the spontaneous activities associated with "hanging around" an ashram, namely, participating in satsang services, meditating, and the like.

The organization today basically exists to promote the message of Maharaj Ji. Material sent around the world are provided by Visions International.


The theology of the Divine Light Mission/Elan Vital derives from Hinduism, as was the case with many of the personality cults of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Devotees "receive knowledge" directly from Maharaj Ji, who instructs them to reach into themselves in order to discover the "divine self " that every human being possesses. Devotees use a form of 'yoga' called siddha and sometimes use a T -shaped baragon to aid in meditation.

Followers must observe Maharaj Ji's five commandments: Refrain from postponing till tomorrow what can be done today; always meditate on the holy name; never doubt; never avoid attending 'satsang'; always have faith in God.

As to the basic doctrines of DLM/EV, God is pantheistic (see 'pantheism') and Hindu in orientation. God is an all-pervasive divine energy. Maharaj Ji is the 'incarnation' of the divine. The Holy Spirit is knowledge that flows from Maharaj Ji. Humanity is inherently divine. The key is to be given the proper knowledge to discover the "goodness within." One must relinquish one's rational capacities to allow the guru to provide knowledge that leads to 'enlightenment'.

Salvation is knowledge/enlightenment. Knowledge comes through the 'fourfold path': 'third eye', 'third ear', 'divine nectar', and 'primordial vibration.' When the premie has achieved these four states, he or she is ready to feel a sense of oneness and unity with the deity.

The Hindu scriptures serve as the basis for the DLM/EV's teaching canons, though the main source of authority for the movement is the teachings and revelations of guru Maharaj Ji.

Hinduism and CHRISTIANITY have little in common with each other. It cannot be expected, therefore, that the Divine Light Mission will have close parallels to Christianity. For Christianity, the fount of all wisdom and knowledge is Jesus Christ (Col. 2:3). For the DLM/EV, Maharaj Ji is the key personality. According to the Bible and the ancient creeds, the heart and soul of Christianity is in the concept of the incarnate 'Logos', or "Word of God," crucified and resurrected on the third day in vicarious atonement for the sins of the world. The DLM/EV speaks of the incarnation of the Guru Maharaj Ji, who is himself the savior of the world.

As to the doctrine of humankind, Christianity teaches that human beings are conceived and born in sin and are, therefore, in a state of active rebellion against God. God, in mercy, love, and grace, extended an offer of forgiveness to the world by sending his Son to die for sin (see the second article of the Apostles' Creed, Appendix 1). DLM/EV, however, has no concept of sin or active rebellion against God and therefore, no concept of a separation between God and humankind. Salvation is not a matter of repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ; rather, it becomes a matter of personal enlightenment. One's salvation takes place when the divinity within is discovered. The guru serves to initiate this process and enable the premie to put aside that which impedes progress the most, that is, the mind. Total surrender of the mind to the guru results in an inner dynamic referred to by followers as being "blissed-out" This occurs during meditation and concentration on the fourfold path.

Finally, the five commandments of the Maharaj Ji are in reality a series of moralistic precepts. The Ten Commandments of JUDAISM and Christianity were summarized by Jesus Christ when he reduced the essence of the law to love - that is, love of God and love of neighbor (Matt. 22:36-40).


Maharaj Ji continues to speak and travel extensively. A quick look at the "enjoying life" website lists such trips.


Headquarters Elan Vital, E0. Box 2220, Agoura Hills, CA, 91376


www.enjoyinglife.org (a website of Maharaji's followers);
www.expremie.org (a website of Maharaji's ex-followers).

Sacred Text

"Knowledge," expounded by Maharaj Ji himself.


The title of the DLM/EV's periodical is Divine Times. There are numerous pamphlets and books available.


Maharaj Ji's messages have reached 80 countries and in 60 languages. He currently has only several hundred followers and approximately four thousand periodical supporters.