Thursday, November 23, 1972

Was The Young Guru Smuggling?

NEW DELHI (UPI)- Customs officials still are meditating the case of a 14-year-old guru his young American devotees call Lord of the Universe. Critics of Maharaj Ji say he should be charged with smuggling contraband, but followers of the pudgy yogi maintain he is clean as a whistle.

Customs and government officials have stopped talking for the record about the case, which according to some press reports has interested Prune Minister Indira Gandhi.

The followers of Maharaj Ji are at Hardwar, about 100 miles northeast of here, acquiring what they describe as their guru's perfect knowledge.

Maharaj Ji's many Indian critics demand that customs officials take action against him for allegedly attempting to bring into the country on Nov. 7 about 80,000 U.S. dollars worth of undeclared currency, precious stones and watches.

His followers maintain the contents of the controversial briefcase seized at the airport when the young yogi arrived were part of his Divine Bank and belonged to his devotees, not him.

Why should Maharaj Ji smuggle anything? said Arthur Brigham, 22, the guru's public relations man from Denver, Colo. He is a saint who needs nothing.

Before leaving for Hardwar, headquarters of the guru's Divine Light Mission, Brigham claimed customs officials had cleared Maharaj Ji, but the officials still have not announced the results of their investigation of the case. Some 3,000 Western youngsters, mostly Americans, bought tickets on chartered jumbo jets to come to India to celebrate the Hans Jayanti festival in honor of the late Hans Ji Maharaj, father of the child yogi and founder of the mission.

The mission claims three million followers in India and about 100,000 abroad, 50,000 of them in the United States.

The American devotees are beaming, freshly-scrubbed youngsters who disclaim interest in liquor and drugs. Some claimed it was the guru who got them off drug trips.

The guru was born in Hardwar where at the age of two, according to his press releases, he began to deliver spiritual discourses on God realization.