The Seed, Volume 9, issue 7, Sept 1973 — Page 3




The question "Who is Maharaj Ji?" has been plastered over nearly every lamp post and boarded-up building in Chicago. It's a popular publicity technique; street gangs and political organizations have been using it for years.

The difference is, where most small organizations can afford little more than wall-scrawlers and handbills, the Divine Light Mission people purchased subway advertising and rented the Auditorium Theater August 17 for what amounts to be the biggest religious gathering since Billy Graham.

The crowd started arriving pver two hours before the 8 PM opening. By 7:15, the two orderly lines each ran well over a city block in length.

The obvious followers of the Guru generally arrived early. Of this group, most were young — say 15 to 25 years old — and were dressed in hippie-type clothing.

The later arrivals professed a higher degree of skepticism — they didn't have the "blissed out" acid-trippy look of your general premie. These people tended to look older — several folks in their forties and fifties, men wearing suits and ties and so on. They were, for the most part, orderly and inquisitive, desiring to understand the phenomenon. One will note that Devotees constantly admonish potential followers against "intellectualizing" the wisdom of the Guru. Several nuns were noted in this group.

The political folk were the last group to arrive; they tended to butt into line ahead of people who had been waiting forty-five minutes to an hour to get in. There didn't seem to be as many rads at the Auditorjum Theater as there were at Rennie Davis' speech a few months back.

Inside, it quickly became evident that at least one-fourth of the 4,000 people who attended the speech were already followers of the Guru. They had that mellowed out look - they greeted the generally trite and insubstantial musical "entertainment" with thurxferous applause;-they also stayed awake through the four lengthy warm-up speakers who preceeded Maharaj Ji.

There were also an incredible number of security personnel working the affair. They searched back-packs and purses and asked people to remove their coats in a check for weapons. They guarded each aisle, all the staircases, the various exits and entrances and all points of access to tne stage. A half-dozen young men, many sporting binoculars, guarded each of the eight major points of scrutiny located in the Auditorium. These people looked very serious, as opposed to blissed out.

There were perhaps a half dozen uniformed police outside — a small number for such a large crowd of young people. In addition, there were at least a half dozen plainclothes police scattered through the lines, possibly checking for dope. If so, they were disappointed.

There were also several police and fire marshals behind the stage.

Guru Maharaj Ji walks onto the stage of thq Auditorium Theater. Dressed entirely in white, he has a distinctive look and an arrogant gait as he strolls to his throne. A song by a Divine Light Mission band ends abruptly, dying amidst incredulous gasps from some of those assembled to hear the young watar speak. There is little applause or screaming as would be expected upon the arrival of the Lord of the Universe. There is merely an eerie silence laden with anticipation from all those in the audience. He takes his flower bedecked seat which has, prior to his arrival, been a point of worship.

Before us sits the leader of the Divine Light Movement, the newest and fastest growing religious sect to hit North America in a long while. In a period of two years, the following of Guru Maharaj Ji has gone from a handful to nearly a quarter million and it is still growing. Maharaj Ji has a reported worldwide following of nearly six million. During this time, the movement has become the major contender for the minds of humans against the established Christian churches.

There are over fifty ashrams, branches, in 30 cities in the United States and Canada; all are linked together through a telex system. Later this year thirty Jumbo Jets will land in Houston with thousands of his followers for Millenium '73, a three-day celebration which will take place November 8-10 in the Astrodome. Sometime next year the Divine City will be built in California. The organization and projects of the Divine Light Mission are almost as overwhelming as the phenomena which produced them.

The first thing which becomes apparent to the non-believer is that Shri Sant Ji Maharaj (another name the Guru uses) has absolutely no charisma. None whatsoever. He speaks disjointedly; his use of words is startlingly different from what most of us are accustomed to hearing and speaking. They seem to have another, more private meaning. They make very little sense. His analogies seem absurd and off the wall.

His followers, however, seem to hang on every syllable. They laugh at his trite anecdotes. They believe him when he talks in dualities. For example, premies (devotees of the Guru) refer to their Master as "King of Kings" or "Lord of the Universe" — sometimes followed by "at whose supremest lotus feet we sit" — and yet Mr. Ji will proclaim before all that he is not God.

Major contradictions and faulty logic abound without any noticeable reactions from believers. The religious mind will assimilate practically anything, will believe almost anything. It is said among premies that Maharaj Ji has strange and wonderful supernatural powers which he will fully manifest at Millenium '73. Guru Maharaj Ji, it is said, might appear at the gathering from a flash of light right before everyone's eyes.

It is more difficult to believe that this one person — or any one person — could lead a movement to bring peace to this world. It would seem, given a peripheral knowledge of history, anthropology and psychology, that nothing less than an immediate spectacular leap in human evolution would do the job of eliminating aggressiveness. Pacifists and civilization to the contrary, we are all hunters. The human consciousness and organism is geared toward the hunt. It is hard to believe that a flash of light and the taste of honey can stop wars and violence. The killer instinct is inherent and no amount of socialization or wishing-away will eliminate it.

The question "Who is Guru Maharaj Ji?" is not as important as "Why are all these people following him?" It is hard to imagine a large group of formerly intelligent people would have their brains turned into putty — the Guru movement is attracting people like flies to honey and there must be some reason for it. Unfortunately, Mr. Ji's August 17th performance failed to shed any light.

Bill Martin and Mike Gold