The Millenium '73 Festival - A Prem Rawat Video Fiasco
Rennie Davis gave an introductory public speech at the event.
"It is not possible to understand the Middle East, or Watergate, or UFOs, or the super comet in the sky unless you understand the central event on this planet around which all other events now spin. Guru Maharaj Ji says: 'Life is like a chess game and very soon now the whole world will be checkmated' and if America wants to know what is happening it must first understand the main thing that is happening, the Lord is on the planet, he's in a human body and he's about to usher in the greatest change in the history of human civilisation."
To drum up public interest in Millenium a convoy of buses filled with premies toured US cities in a publicity campaign called "Soul Rush". At the time this lady premie's age would have made her very unusual, now nearly all the premies are this age but nowhere near as enthusiastic.
Older Lady Premie: "Because He gives that true experience of God, He gives a true experience of God, you see Light, you'll hear Music, you'll taste Nectar, and you'll feel the Word. He uplifts us, He is baptizing us in the Holy Spirit, this is the day that we've been waiting for, the day we've been waiting for. He's come, He's here."
Onlooker: "We had a man up in New York, Father Divine too. It didn't last long."
One of the Rawatism religion concepts that has remained unchanged is the belief that premies have an "experience" on which they base their worship and adoration of Prem Rawat. They do not base their life on ideas, concepts or philosophy but on an "experience of life" only available to those who practise Maharaji's Gift of Knowledge." These premies certainly cast doubt on that dogma.
"I'd crawl across three continents on my hands and knees to eat the dust off Guru Maharaj Ji's feet if necessary."
"I don't do anything. You know, I as a human being don't do anything, you know Guru Maharaj Ji does everything. I don't do anything, what do I do? You know. Guru Maharaj Ji, really from my own experience, this is not a philosophy, from my own experience, Guru Maharaj Ji is doing everything. He is the Doer of everything in this world."
Fed by rumors before the festival that something earth-shattering might happen there, premies lost no time imagining that the teenage guru was going to let out all the stops and turn the earth on its axis. Then there were the sometimes frivolous but often serious predictions that beings from outer space would descend on the Astrodome. As one premie close to the Denver organization told me later, even premies who were normally quite realistic in their views were taken in by. these collective fantasies.
"I would like to bet anyone who wishes to try and make some green energy that by November 15th, the Houston Astrodome will physically separate itself from the planet which we call Earth and will fly."
These beliefs spawned serious hopes that during the Millennium festival in 1973 a new age would dawn in Houston. Manifestations of this hope were to be found in the many speculations and prophesies about what would happen under the Astrodome. Premies expected thousands to descend on the festival itself, and many millions watching the proceedings on television to see for the first time how spiritually pure their guru was and how compelling his message.
"People are going to come here with incredible negative pre-determined notions and they're going to go away spaced out and blissed out and really turned on. Anybody who's exposed to this vibration cannot fight it because it's stronger than anything, you know, the vibration of Guru Maharaj Ji is stronger than anything that has ever, that has ever been known. There's a rumour going around that NASA is tracing and following him around the country because his energy level is stronger than anything they've ever seen before."
Premies who have come to Houston airport to greet Maharaji clamber for bits of the garlands he briefly wore after he leaves and they
bliss-out with their 'prasad' that he has touched.
"You know who touched this flower, the Lord of the Universe.
Touch it. A flower."
Maharaji gave this satsang on his arrival at the Houston airport. When he left, the garlands that had been laid around his neck were ripped apart and distributed to the adoring premies as prasad.
"This is just about the time that everybody comes together and understands who is God because I guess there have been too many of these phony things going around these world. Ah, messes like Watergate and things like that but it's just not America, it's right around the world, you can't just blame just one country for it. And I guess this is just about time that everybody gets together and understands who is God because it's important that people know God by now, at least." (knowing laughter in crowd)
At this time the young Prem Rawat and his close followers hadn't yet completely realised that their ideas and enthusiasm were not about to sweep everybody off their feet and at Millenium they held the last open and free press conference Maharaji has ever held. However, they angered the real reporters by packing the press conference with phony reporters asking questions that only people who were premies would ask and closing the conference when they began to ask difficult questions.
"The purpose of this mission, the aim of this mission is to establish peace in this earth and we want that we should be helped by all brothers and sisters because if we are humans, if we are real humans, we would very much like that peace should be on this earth. And thus we would like to help somebody who can establish peace. Well, here I am and I can I say I can establish peace in this world."
Q: "It's hard for some people to understand how you personally can live so luxuriously in your several homes and your Rolls Royce and stuff and why don't you spend
that money on feeding people?"
A: "And that's a really good question. Let me tell you this that life you call luxurious ain't luxurious at all because any other person gets the same life I get, he is going to blow apart in a million pieces in a split of a second."
Q: "Guru, are you the Perfect Body?"
A: "Oh no." (Sustained laughter)
"I'm trying to accomplish peace in this world. That's what I'm trying to do."
A constant part of Rawat's teachings has been 'Vitalism', the belief that life requires a vital principle distinct from medically recognised biochemical reactions.
"Because whatever Jesus taught to his disciples has not disappeared, it's still there. Because that time if those people staying alive is because of the same Knowledge and if this time people are going to stay alive it's because of the same Knowledge. You're alive because of that same Knowledge."
"There is this man who comes into Houston and he is looking for a Superman comic. And he goes searching right around Houston and he searches all Astrodome and he searches all stationery book and every just bookstores and every place. He can't get a Superman comic. And then he's sitting with his eyes closed and suddenly a little guy, 4 years old, 5 years old comes up to him with something under his shirt and he shakes him up and says "Excuse me" and you go like that "What's up? What do you want?" "Oh. I'm sorry but I thought you wanted a Superman comic, I can give it to you." It's just like he's really cool boy, he's just smiling, he's cool and you're all screwed up and just ready to burst open. You just don't like guys fooling around you, you want them hot so they can really boost up that thing inside you. And then he opens the first button of his shirt and you look "Hey man I don't believe it. What's going on?" And then he takes out this superman comic up and he gives it to you and your mouth is open and then just like that."
Everything was dark at first
Things had gone from bad to worse
The Lord of all the universe
Came down to show the way
So rock me Maharaji and roll me tonight
Rock me Maharaji and say it's all right
It's all right
Guru Maharaj Ji, or Prem Rawat as he now calls himself, looks over His shoulder at one of the giant Astrodome images declaring Himself to be the Incarnation of God, here and now. As Rennie Davis, his most high profile devotee, kept repeating:
" … the Lord is on the planet, he's in a human body and he's about to usher in the greatest change in the history of human civilisation"
and "I would cross the planet on my hands and knees to touch his toe."
and "The thing we've got here is not only a movement that is incredibly efficient and incredibly together and built really on an incredible self-understanding but you see it's led by the Lord, heh heh heh."
His first real media bath, a press conference at the Astroworld Hotel, was not a success. Here are some excerpts as reported in the New York Times:
Q. There's a war in the Middle East; why aren't you there?
A. When a war begins, a general doesn't have to be on the spot.
Q. Why don't you sell your Rolls-Royce and buy food for the people?
A. What good would it do? I could sell it and people would still be hungry. I only have one Rolls-Royce.
Q. Are you the son of God?
A. Everybody's the son of God. You ain't the uncle or aunt of God, are you?
Q. Why do you think you can succeed when other perfect masters failed?
A. Listen, man, I'm not saying they have failed; I just say I can bring peace to this world. I'm not asking who passed and who failed.
Maharaj Ji, who is clearly accustomed to more respectful attention than he has been getting from the press, appears tense and hostile throughout the questioning (one is not surprised to learn from his personal physician that he still takes Tums to soothe his stomach). He comes out dressed in yoga whites and sits on an armchair in the front of the room, his expression deadly serious and his arms folded in a manner that makes him resemble the crown prince of some puppet Himalayan kingdom. His eyes dart about the room like a squirrel in traffic as the photographers, who have not been allowed this close to him before, click away furiously. Only when they are through does he allow himself to smile, forcing them to begin shooting again. It seems a deliberately taunting gesture, as do his opening remarks: "The thing is, if you write an article, maybe the credit goes to you or not; but if peace is established in the world, definitely there will be a credit for you. And this is the most important point that press reporters usually look for, 'Will we get credit out of this or not?'" Then the Guru calls for questions:
Reporter: Maharaj Ji, are you the Messiah foretold in the Bible?
Maharaj Ji: Please do not presume me as that. Respect me as a humble servant of God trying to establish peace in this world.
Reporter: Why is there such a great contradiction between what you say about yourself and what your followers say about you?
Maharaj Ji: Well, why don't you do me a favor … why don't you go to the devotees and ask their explanation about it?
Reporter: Guru, is it possible to have two Perfect Masters living on the earth at the same time?
Maharaj Ji: Well, I think the best thing for us to do right now is to find out one Perfect Master and be satisfied with that.
Reporter: Do you think that the comet that is coming has any relationship to the Millennium?
Maharaj Ji: Oh, I guess you just better wait and watch.
Reporter: It's hard for some people to understand how you personally can live so luxuriously in your several homes and your Rolls Royces.
Maharaj Ji: That life that you call luxurious ain't luxurious at all, because if any other person gets the same life I get, he's gonna blow apart in a million pieces in a split of a second. … People have made Rolls Royce a heck of a car, only it's a piece of tin with a V-8 engine which probably a Chevelle Concourse has.
Reporter: Why don't you sell it and give food to people?
Maharaj Ji: What good would it do. All that's gonna happen is they will need more and I don't have other Rolls Royces. I will sell everything and I'll walk and still they will be hungry.
Reporter: Would you respond to those who say you cannot be a Perfect Master if you have an ulcer?
Maharaj Ji: If an ulcer is the only imperfectness, then people who don't have ulcers are perfect. … Perfectness has got nothing to do with an ulcer and a broken leg and things like that. Perfectness is perfectness. When Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross, He bleeded. People could have said, He's not a Perfect Master.
Reporter: Guru, what happened to the reporter in Detroit who was badly beaten by your followers?
Maharaj Ji (after a brief hassle in which Richard Profumo, doing an imitation of Ron Ziegler, accuses the questioner of hogging the floor): I think you ought to find out what happened to everything.
As abruptly as he entered, the Guru suddenly gets up from his chair and heads for the door along a path cleared by a few WPC guards moving before him like a snowplow.
Press Reports of Millenium '73:
- You're a Perfect Master - Newsweek Magazine Article, November 19, 1973
- Blissing Out in Houston - New York Review of Books, December 13, 1973
- God in Houston: The Cult of Guru Maharaj Ji Ji - The New Republic November 17, 1973
- What's Behind the 15-Year-Old Guru Maharaj Ji? - The Realist Magazine, December 1973, No 97-C
- An Expressway over Bliss Mountain - EastWest Magazine, page 29
"the most holy and significant event in human history:"
- 'Special Millenium '73 Edition' of the Divine Times, page 2, under the heading 'A Festival for the Whole World'
- It was quoted in the Golden Age magazine Number 4, Thursday, April 25, 1974: Guru Maharaj Ji declared that Millennium was "the most holy and significant event in human history".
- It was quoted in the Canadian Divine Times magazine October 15, 1974 Volume 3, Issue 4 in an article titled "Hans Jayanti In Canada": Maharaj Ji said that Millennium '73 was "the most holy and significant event in human history."
- It was quoted in the Newsweek magazine of November 17, 1973
Click here to see a selection of newspaper reports of Millenium '73