A-2 INDEPENDENT (AM) PRESS-TELEGRAM (PM) Long Beach, Calif., Sun., March 23, 1975
Spends 60% of donations on self
Guru keeps “mission” deep in debt
DENVER (UPI) - Beneath the spiritual bliss of the Guru Maharaj Ji's Denver-based Divine Light Mission lie more than $300,000 in unpaid bills and a never ending fund drive, according to the guru's former financial analyst.
"The material wishes of the guru, which take out 60 per cent of the income, are the most important thing in the Mission," said Michael D. Garson, 35. "And nobody much worries about the unpaid bills."
Garson became a devotee in May 1974 and took over as financial director in August. He resigned in February "because I could not tolerate the contradictions."
Garson said there is a continuing $300,000 debt caused by declining revenues and the demands of the recently married 17 year old Divine Master.
"When the Guru wants something, be it a $30,000 car or a new house, he gets it," according to Garson. So far it includes eight sports cars, mansions in Denver and Los Angeles, an assortment of stereo gear and expensive watches and clothes.
Meanwhile, other mission bills go unpaid. For example, Millenium '73, the mission's huge festival at the Astrodome, was paid for only after mission equipment and files were repossessed.
Garson said many fiscal problems are due to a lack of business understanding,
"They say they are a spiritual group and not a business organization." he said. "They just don't understand that it is the law of the land that you have to pay for things by the date promised."
Another part of the problem, according to Garson, is the economic status of the followers.
"Most of them cannot hold a job that pays more than $2 an hour and then there are those in the Ashrams - those who work for the guru alone - who total 572 and are totally supported by the mission," he said.
It is understandable that a recent tithing program proved fruitless.
Garson said one method used to balance the budget is asking rich premies-those who have recently become devotees-for donations, preferably their entire savings.
He said one woman, Darby McNeal of Canada and her $400,000 trust fund, is a good example of that.
"Bob Mishler, the mission's executive director, talked Darby into signing over power of attorney shortly after she joined," said Garson, who says he was instructed to collect the money for the mission.
According to Garson, the mission has been given several trust funds, and several families, including Miss McNeal's, are contesting the action.
He said donations, averaging $100,000 a month at the height of the guru's 1973 recruitment, now struggle to reach $40,000. The deficit, according to Garson, has resulted in a form of check kiting where checks are written on funds not necessarily available at the time.
Garson said he plans to write a book on the inside workings of the mission, and he said he hopes the organization manages to avoid bankruptcy.
"There are some people that are trying to get the mission on the right track," he said. "But it takes a lot of money to keep a guru."