Jet Set God
By Kathleen Jeremy.
Pageant magazine (February, 1974 issue, Page 30-34)
Is 15-year-old Shri Guru Maharaj Ji the Perfect Master, as his followers claim - or is he just the elaborate creation of a slick, high powered publicity campaign?
FOR SIX MILLION worshippers spread around the world, 15-year-old Shri Guru Maharaj Ji represents the incarnation of God on earth. His movement is called the Divine Light Mission, and his slogan is "Give me your love and I will give you peace" - a message that does not differ greatly from that preached by many so-called "messiahs".
But the guru has a publicity campaign unparalleled in the history of prophets, true and false. Thousands of people follow him wherever he goes; posters of his round, cheerful face adorn the walls of buildings in every major Western city; newspaper reporters and TV cameras cover his every public appearance - particularly his mass rallies, which attract hundreds of thousands of followers each.
The adolescent god lives in considerable luxury, traveling around the world in Rolls-Royces and private planes. He has a personal cook who prepares his vegetarian diet and is on duty 24 hours a day - in case his plump, young master should require sustenance in the middle of the night. The guru's "Divine Residence" in London is worth $125,000 and is only one of his many homes around the world.
Most of the guru's followers are young people. The most devoted surrender all their money to the Divine Light Mission and receive a small allowance to buy necessities. But, as a spokesman for the guru says, these young followers have "the wages of happiness and peace".
The guru's father was the founder of the Divine Light Mission in India and the "Perfect Master" of his time. When he died in 1966, his eight-year-old son inherited his spiritual authority.
In August, 1969, the first Westerners were initiated into the doctrine of the Perfect Master in India. A disciple of the guru was then sent to England where the first Western Divine Light Mission was set up. Others followed.
In 1970, a 20-mile-long procession of people turned up outside New Delhi to hear an address by the Perfect One. He told over one million people at that time:
"I am the source of peace in this world. All I ask of you is your love. All l ask is your trust. And what I can give you is such a peace as will never die. I declare I will establish peace in this world. But what can I do unless men come to me with love in their hearts and a sincere desire to know the truth?"
As can be seen by the closing question, the guru has left himself an "out", should his perfect peace not arrive.
By November of 1972, the Divine Light Mission was rich enough to afford to charter six Boeing 747 jets (the first chartered jumbo jets in history) to transport 10,000 of his followers to New Delhi for a celebration in honor of his late father's birthday. Seats at the celebration cost $375 each.
1973 saw plans for a huge gathering at the Houston Astrodome. Thirty jumbo jets brought thousands upon thousands of followers of the guru from around the world to attend a monumental three-day celebration in which the guru was acclaimed as the Messiah and his program for world peace was unveiled.
The entire family of the guru are considered holy - but at the same time they are all servants of the chubby youth. They help spread the message of love and peace and are in constant demand for speaking engagements and meetings around the world.
The Divine Light Mission has a monthly magazine called "And It Is Divine" which features articles by the holy family, complete with full-color photography - and is, of course, devoted to preaching the message of world peace à la Guru Maharaj Ji.
The guru's followers profess to have found perfect peace and understanding through the teachings of their young master - although some of the people attending the mass rallies don't see eye to eye with him. A widely publicized incident at a gathering last autumn typifies some of the negative response to the "divine" message.
A young man in the crowd, angered at what he thought was pure phoniness on the guru's part, managed to get close to the teacher and hit him, full in the face with a shaving cream pie.
The guru's inaction to the assault was worthy of St. Stephen. "He must not be punished. He did not know what he was doing."
The message preached by the Perfect One and his disciples is laudable - certainly the world could do with more of the love and peace he promises. It is a message that is tantalizing in its simplicity. His followers point out that people today have become so sophisticated that they are foolish - they cannot conceive of a Living Master, a concept that was easily grasped by earlier societies.
The test of the Perfect Master, they say, is that he can give True Knowledge. And if you don't receive the knowledge, well, the guru is not to blame. The trouble lies with the mixed-up egos and doubts of modern man.
It may be so. Or it may be that Shri Guru Maharaj Ji is an elaborate fraud - a creation of an immense and expansive publicity campaign. That is something that seekers of truth must find out for themselves. Whatever the guru may be, he has certainly made a tremendous impact upon youth around the world.
But then, so did the Beatles.