The Times Diary

Pilgrims jet to see Divine Light

Times of London Early next month two jumbo jets will leave London for Delhi packed with British devotees of Guru Maharaj Ji, a 14-year-old boy whom many regard as "the perfect master" and "the prince of peace". A further five jumbos will be flying in from America and altogether some three thousand Westerners will join the million or so Indians who will be flocking to Delhi to take part in the three-day birthday celebrations of the guru's late father. There they will sit at the boy's feet, listen to his spiritual discourses (satsangs) or just enjoy his physical presence (dashang).

The disciples are members of the Divine Light Mission which was founded in India 12 years ago by the Guru's father Satgurudev Shri Hans Maharaj. Like his father Guru Maharaj Ji is " the perfectly enlightened soul of our time" who, say the divinely lit missionaries, can give "the knowledge of God" to over five million people, just like Christ or Krishna.

Guru Maharaj began to deliver spiritual discourses on God realization at the age of two and a half and at six gave his first satsang in English with such strength and authority that his audience was moved to tears of joy. Now, as be approaches his fifteenth birthday he speaks for hours, often before audiences of hundreds of thousands.

Last year the boy guru - a distinctly portly figure in western dress - paid two visits to Britain since when the number of his adherents here has risen from a mere handful to over six thousand. There is an efficiently-run organization based in North London which produces a weekly newspaper, The Divine Times, and distributes lots of glossy publications carrying pictures of Him (they always use a capital "h") and transcripts of His discourses. His picture is widely fly-posted about London.