The Secret Life of Maharaji aka Prem Rawat as told by Close Disciples
Virtually all of the newspaper stories and magazine articles about Prem Rawat were critical of him, sometimes extremely so. Rawat's fraudulent claims, extravagance and opulent lifestyle were obvious even to the journalists for whom he was a very minor story. It was only his family and close disciples who knew the truth about his life and a number of them have become disillusioned enough to go public.
There is one result of becoming a "premie" or "student" of Prem Rawat that has overridden all others. The great majority of people who practise the meditation Rawat "reveals" cease meditating and stop being "premies", People With Knowledge ("pwks") or "students" after a longer or shorter time. The majority of these quietly go on with their lives and their feelings are open to conjecture. However a significant minority realise that this is not just a case of "it just wasn't right for me" or something similar but that they were deceived by the false claims of Rawat and his organisations and attempt to atone for their involvement by alerting others by public criticism of Prem Rawat and by presenting a realistic picture of his life and "teachings". A remarkable number of close personal followers of Prem Rawat's have publicly condemned and criticised him for hypocrisy, sleaze, deceit and even unethical, immoral and illegal activities. From the earliest public revelations about Rawat's greed and secret life by Michael Garson in 1974 to those of Bob Mishler in 1979 through to that of Michael Dettmers, Mike Donner and Mike Finch circa 2000 and that of Mary Moore in 2004 and "Jasper" and Roger Koch in 2010 a consistent picture of Prem Rawat emerges. It isn't pretty but then neither is he.
Michael Garson became a devotee in May 1974 and took over as Financial Director in August, 1974. He resigned in February, 1975, "because I could not tolerate the contradictions." Using photocopied DLM documentation Garson revealed Rawat's rampant greed and spending of 60% of Mission funds in testimony in a court case in Vancouver over the inherited estate of Darby McNeal, a premie who had been pressured by Bob Mishler and other Divine Light Mission administrators to donate her $400,00 inheritance to Rawat. In an affidavit presented in a British Columbia court he said, "My analysis of the accounts of the Divine Light Mission indicated that approximately 60 percent of the gross receipts are directed to maintain the lifestyle of the Maharaj Ji"
Before the creation of the internet it was difficult for any publicity to be generated about Prem Rawat after 1975 when he was already considered a "washed-up has-been" by the press and hardly worth even playing for laughs. These two high-ranking ex-followers were able to get some of the truth out there once the "Jonestown massacre" produced a flurry of interest in cults and "brain-washing".
Bob Mishler, ex-President of Divine Light Mission for 5 ½ years During those years, he acted in the capacity of Maharaji's number one right-hand man and confidant.
From a transcript of a 1979 radio interview: "He is a pathetic person in this respect. Earlier in the show, I made reference to his own psychological degeneration. The anxiety that is caused to him by the role that he is in is tremendous. … Unlike what he advocates, he is not capable of dealing with it by means of meditation. He ends up drinking excessively in order to cope with the stress. It was very sad to see him drinking himself into a stupor day after day."
John Hand Jr, ex vice-President, Divine Light Mission
Michael Donner, ex vice-President, Divine Light Mission; ex-President, Divine Light Mission; ex-National Executive Director, Divine Light Mission; ex-co-ordinator, Prem Rawat's personal staff; ex-instructor for the "techniques of Knowledge"; ex-"brother in His love"
"my personal experience is that m has been drinking since I began in denver in 1973…told then by bob mishler that he was drinking daily…that is daily…since he arrived in america. I know that it was daily…that his daily routine was created around his evening drinking."
Michael Dettmers, ex Personal Assistant, Prem Rawat for 15 years
In early 2000 Jim Heller (real Name) a lawyer from Vancouver, and a person prominent in on-line criticism of Prem Rawat and his so-called "Knowledge" contacted Michael Dettmers, former longtime personal assistant to Prem Rawat, and thereby began a process of debate that eventually had Dettmers publicly revealing much about Prem Rawat's life that was unknown to people who weren't/hadn't been part of Rawat's inner circle of devotees.
Mike Finch was one of the early British premies and a long term follower and sometime close associate of Prem Rawat's. His site may be tad philosophical for most though the introduction to Prem Rawat aka Maharaji and his articles about Prem Rawat are of more general interest. In October, 2009 he published a book Without the Guru: How I took my life back after thirty years
Jos Lammers, ex-President Divine Light Mission, Holland and Director International Operations (Europe and Australia), International Headquarters, Divine Light Mission
Lammers has written a short but interesting memoire, in Dutch and English and available from Amazon in which he recounts his life as a university drop-out in 1970 taking too many drugs (he may disagree it was too many :-) and looking for the "meaning of life" who becomes a "premie" of Guru Maharaj Ji. He moves into the ashram where he discovers a talent for business and organisation that makes the Dutch DLM financially successful. So successful that he is called to Denver to join the international executive staff of DLM as Director International Operations (Europe and Australia). This was a position that was all "pretty unreal", involved in such vapourware as "International Program Development" but he recounts the travails and some of the humorous hypocrisies that the executives of DLM indulged in, the warmth and kindness of the premies and the cloistered opulent lifestyle and relentless shopping of Prem Rawat entertainingly. However the flight of followers from the ashrams and the financial hole that developed decided the executive staff that the only way for the organisation to survive was to cut Rawat's daily allowance from 500 US 1974 dollars a day ($185,00 pa worth far more now) in half. Rawat fired them all and told them "You know, it is not up to you to interfere with the life of the Perfect Master." Lammers had realised by then that his years of dedication had certainly not given him the peace he had sought and was promised and that he preferred "being fired." He returned to Holland penniless and shunned by premies and found that his family and society were far kinder than DLM and life was more rewarding without practising the meditation techniques and listening to and serving Prem Rawat.
David Lovejoy, ex-President Divine Light Mission, Australia and Great Britain
Lovejoy maintains an ambivalent attitude to Prem Rawat. While no longer considering him worthy of worship or devotion he publicly promotes a near-magical view of Rawat's past and personal powers in his book, Between Dark and Dark (available from the Byron Bay Echo). However, he does confirm the allegations about Rawat's secret lifestyle of alcohol, dope and illicit sex, though he considers them to be perfectly acceptable. He also writes of admiring Mike Donner's principles and his stoicism in "Between Dark and Dark". He has been closely associated with Michael McDonald and John MacGregor and wrote this letter purporting to refute MacGregor's and MacDonald's (current editor, Byron Bay Echo, 2007) criticism of Prem Rawat and his "Knowledge" in 2001 though it actually refuted a "straw man" argument of Lovejoy's in a rather nasty manner which seems to be his default attitude.
Michael McDonald is the ex-Editor, The Golden Age the official magazine of Divine Light Mission, Australia and current (2007) editor of the Byron Bay Echo a regional Australian newspaper.
He remained a committed devotee of Rawat's though he had little connection with service in Élan Vital, apart from donating money, until 1999 when he was asked to join the Élan Vital Public Relations team as a writer. In early 2001 he re-examined his beliefs after prompting from friends, who included John MacGregor, and in "a triumph of logic and common sense over instilled belief" he repudiated Rawat and his so-called "Knowledge". He is the editor of the Byron Bay Echo. Michael McDonald was quite active for a time on the internet after becoming disillusioned with Prem Rawat. He posted five statements of the many possible valid criticisms of the Rawat religion which he believed deserve examination by anyone with "Knowledge" or aspiring to its acquisition.