Jacques Sandoz, Divine Light Mission Film-Maker
Jacques Sandoz would probably be considered a colourful character in any place or time. He made the early Divine Light Mission films The Lord of The Universe, Satguru Has Come and Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji? They combine short, carefully selected parts of the young Rawat's speeches, much colourful footage of hundreds of thousands of Indian followers and hundreds of hippie followers, devotional music and some explanatory background voice-overs. Without these films the early success of Divine Light Mission may not have happened. Sandoz' contribution to early DLM can hardly be overstated, even by himself.
In 2010 he put together a Facebook Photo Album which gives a pretty good picture of some parts of early Divine Light Mission.
In 2023 Sandoz updated his album and added a more critical introduction, possibly because he had been contacted by Rawat's daughter-in-law. As best I can understand, Sandoz still claims that just by being initiated (taught the four techniques of the DLM methods of meditation):
"you have realized everything you can and you are a free bird for ever. From than on, your life becomes exclusively three definite actions 1) Tuning to your true self (meditation) 2) Express truth (satsang) 3) Act for the service of humanity (service). You understand that there is nothing else to do and you become very, very happy"
Prem Rawat had much more specific instructions about these three actions and I certainly can't believe Sandoz attained any sortof enlightenment, realisation or "freedom" then or ever but then he also didn't obey the rules and regulations for ashram life that Rawat had imposed: hours of meditation, obedience, celibacy, poverty and abstinence from drugs:
Another thing which was especially cool with ashram life, besides the fact we were somehow meant to live some sort of monk life in the beginning, was the fact we had on the contrary an intense social life with lots of parties and lots of beaches. The dayly satsang was in itself a social event with several performances.
It appears Sandoz just kept on doing what he wanted while being supported by all of the other ashram premies who, to a greater or lesser extent, were obeying the rules. Many, if not most, had been living the very life that Sandoz now was and who believed (incorrectly) that this "monk life" as taught by Rawat was the way to realisation, enlightenment, transcendence. Whether he was a happy-go-lucky fool or a self-serving user on the take for all it was worth or something in between, I don't know.
Despite his obvious liking for both Rawat brothers it also shows Prem Rawat as a mean-spirited, nasty young fellow who uses people and demands obedience though this is certainly not how Jacques remembers or interprets it. The text below is written by Jacques Sandoz and reflects his enigmatic, individual and probably unique viewpoint. All photos © Jacqes Sandoz. Web-master comments in italics.
Much that Sandoz writes is utter nonsense, then and now:
Prem Pal Singh Rawat, known as Balyogeschwar, is the Lord of the Universe, the Saviour of Humanity, the Living Reincarnation of his father Shri Hans, Satguru himself. What does he teaches : He reveals the knowledge of everlasting life within yourself. Be the word, see the light, hear the music, taste the nectar. Once done, you have realized everything you can and you are a free bird for ever. From than on, your life becomes exclusively three definite actions 1) Tuning to your true self (meditation) 2) Express truth (satsang) 3) Act for the service of humanity (service). You understand that there is nothing else to do and you become very, very happy, if you do not let doubts enter into you mind, the one key to stay tuned. But doubts are always looming around. Beware of these tricky bastards!
It is also revealing of both Rawat's and Sandoz' character:
At this time, with fourteen, Guru Maharaj-ji was at his best. The premies (followers) were mostly formed by the cool post hippie generation and everything was for celebration, music, lighthearth and joy. Later on, let say starting in the early eighties, when he began to take himself seriously and when his surrounding became deadly stiff, the whole story went a different and awfully boring way. Even the Lord of the Universe has his time of grace and his time of disgrace! Luckily for me, he kept me with himself during the graceful period.
Another time, we were riding around Bel Air in his Rolls, he cornered a Mini-Cooper and bought it straight away with hard cash. Back at the residence he went into tuning the engine, than invited us for a blind race down a nearby valley that freaked us out. He said "This engine needs some more tuning, don't you think ?" looking at us with a questioning smile, his hands full of grease. Than he invited us back for a deadlier blind run down the dangerous valley we all really enjoyed this time. It was a question of trust. You had to understand that he was going behind limits, but that he "knew", somehow.
Yes, he was joyously and extravagantly spending the money of his followers, even with a good portion of bad taste, but somehow it didn't disturb me and I could not judge him on this. Anyway I was profiting of it. He was cool with me, I was cool with him, final dot. But when I learn that in the past 30 years, he changed of jet (he flies himself) ten to twenty times on the back of his followers, I feel pity and I tell myself, poor master, can't you free yourself of the greed of this world ? One can be perfect on one side and a sort of a fool on the other. Especially when you want to give the impression of freing your devotees of a worldly burden by zapping the money out of their bank accounts! This, any second zone preacher does and it is not worth any respect. There are more clever ways to make money.
I do not know why this remarkable teacher had to be plagued with such a lack of taste for the worldly life! Maybe the key will be given to me once. And in fact, it doesn't interest me much. We all have the same inner potential and we all wear another outer appearance. But this doesn't justify the fact that anbody could choose to live without a sense of ethic!
Another thing which was especially cool, besides the fact we were somehow meant to live some sort of monk life in the beginning, was the fact we had on the contrary an intense social life with lots of parties and lots of beaches. The dayly satsang was in itself a social event with several performances. I was one of the beloved speaker and managed to introduce some sort of extatic musical communion known as "Fly Away". I performed this everywhere, as in a 1000 seats hall in Denver with a ten pieces professional band or in the mountains above Patna to at least ten laks of devotees (it means many, many). This didn't hinder the fact that we were actually true saints! Well, this was a wonderfull period of insouciance.
So Jacques was also a source of "ecstatic communion" … in his own mind.
But when I went back to Los Angeles in 1997 and attended one more fund-raising evening (there was some sort of urgency for a new jet plane!), I discovered many of my fellow premies from this time perform dully the same routine as 30 years before without having had any other experience in their life and exposed to the old age without any sort of social benefits. I felt very very sorry for them.
In November 1972, there was not one Jumbo jet with some 400 premies that flew into New Delhi for the Shri Hans festival, but 10 with some 4000 followers! In Prem Nagar ashram (Hardwar) the situation was not at all as harmonious as in 1971, because it was overcrowded and the installations were totally unsufficient. Followed a serious health problem and many illnesses due to lack of hygiene and malnutrition. Additionally the ashram security was searching luggages for hashish and stopping people to leave the precinct. And to top all, Maharaj-ji was not much there. I was personnally not affected as I lived on the roof of the ashram and had a privileged treatment, but we were far away from an Indian spiritual journey. For many it was more like a prisoner camp!
1973 was "The Great Year" for the movement, which culminated with the biggest extravaganza ever put together by Maharaj-ji : Millenium 1973 in the Houston Astrodome ! The network of DLM' ashrams in the Western World had never been that dense (and will never be). The film and the book "Who is Guru Mharaj-ji" were published conjointly, attracting mass press revues and world attention. During this period, Maharaj-ji was still one step ahead of his competitors and the big controversy on Eastern religious movements had not yet really started. But is was looming around and scandals dit not miss the movement shortly after Millenium. In this sense, we can say that Millenium 1973 was the peak of Maharaj-ji's popularity.
at the film production we befriended two very lovely airlines stewardess who were attending satsang and liked our company: Olivia who was flying on Mexican Airlines and Marilyn flying on Delta. Both were a bit fed up with their job and were looking for other opportunities. One day I pointed out an add in Variety to Olivia. "Dark Horse Records" was looking for a secretary. I knew it was George Harrison' new company. Olivia got the job, George fell in love with her, they married and she is now the widow of the Beatles and the mother of his children. As for Marilyn, she met the Lord of the Universe, they married …
October 1973, we were in the preparations for Millenium. Soul Rush (busses full of premies coming from every corners of the country to reach Houston, gathering momentum) was starting. Everything was ready to shoot our feature film that told the story of a lost guy lead by events from New-York to Houston and joining the festival. … The stage construction in the Houston Astrodome was giant. A base huge platform for performances, another band stage a bit higher, another "holy family" stage higher, and on top, at some 200 feet heigt, Maharaj-ji's throne. There were rumors that the astrodome would take off like a spaceship on the 9th of November, exactly three years after the peace bomb was launched. There also were rumors that Prem Pal (15 at this time) was dating a girlfriend, and that she was Marilyn, our airline stewardess !
On the 9th of November, we were hoping Mahara-ji would appear with his Krishna costume and crown, an habit in India, but quite new for the West. When evening came, I was still worried we would blow it and I took one of the most challenging decision of my life : I was going to take over the direction of the evening. So I climbed the 200 feet backstage ladder, positioned me exactly on the back of his throne, took my radio, switched it to general and told : "Now everybody shut up and listen to me !". Maharaj-ji appeared in his Krishna attire. I was actually less than 1 meter behind him watching him on big suspended mirrors that had been hooked to direct on him better reflected light. I was speaking softly so that he doesn't here me and there was not another sound in the radios, just total concentration, total peace. This was grace, absolute energy, prefect bliss. I can swear that the Houston Astrodome actually took off like a spaceship this evening within a nanoscopic and at the same time eternal time lapse. We all were one with our resplending Lord for ever. When he left, he had to turn right beside the throne and than walk down stairs, so I just moved two meters to my right and faced him. He was surprised, opened his arms, said "Jacques ?" and moved out. I was so engulfed in light, so stunned, that I was unable to say a word in my radio for a good while, faintly hearing far away voices calling me. Prem Pal, you were the best of all. One day after the festival, I was invited to his penthouse apartment where we met alone in a room. He told me "Jacques, I want to thank you for what you did".
If Jacques did somehow take over the direction of the big night, it had no effect. Prem Rawat on his big night failed miserably to inspire, Millenium '73 was a damp squib, a failure, a joke and the end of any real hope for Rawat to create a large, ongoing movement.
After Millenium, I went to Denver with Peter Lile where we established a 35 mm editing room to complete the film. The story of the movie was the one of a junkie of New York who wants to kick off his habit. He hitchhikes out of NYC in a truck, but at the first stop, he falls under the influence of a dealer and shoots again. He has the force to escape and from then on his journey will bring him thru the North American Indian Summer to Houston, being led there by a series of coincidences as the Premies procession around the White House, or the encounters with devotees who turn him to Maharaj-ji's message. Hitchhiking on a deserted road of Oklahoma, the Soul Rush procession of busses overtakes him, the last one stops, he enters and his surrounded by a flock of beaming premies who exhort him to join the Millenium 73 festival. He arrives one morning to the deserted Houston Astrodome, enters into the immense empty space and wonders. But soon trucks move in and the stages are starting to be built. He is given an hammer and joins. Progressively we loose him in the events and the film turns into a documentary on the festival, culminating with the stunning appearance of Guru Maharaj-ji in Krishna outfit on the 9th of November, and of course with all the performances. The story is very simple but it works perfectly and the movie was promising to be an exclusive and astounding testimony of the spirit of the Seventies. Toward the end of the year, we had completed a rough editing of 90 minutes, and Maharaj-ji asked us to present it in a public screening. We did not think it was a good idea as this rough editing was meant for professionals, with its appearing cuts, no transitions, no effects, no mixing, original music but no musical score, no dubbing, no foleys, no titles, but what could we do but agree ? So we rented a theatre and rigged the editing table to a projector. The theatre filled up with more than one thousand premies and we thought that the audience was receptive. After the show, it remained to have Prem Pal's opinion.
Maharaj-ji was touring the East Coast, not caring to really hide Marilyn anymore. However, I was not invited to join and film. This was the first time I was left out. I was feeling abandoned in L.A., maybe having choosen the wrong side. It was sometime in March 73. I took one more bold decision: simply fly over there and sort of impose myself! We were friends. I caught the tour somewhere like Georgia, went to the residence and established my camera to get a great shot : you would see the car coming from far away, watch it approach smoothly thru three elegant curves, stop in front of the camera and have a beaming Prem Pal come out saying "What's up, Mister Jack ?" Well it didn't happen rigorously that way!
The dark side : it is at this moment that my life turned upside down of 180 degrees. Maharaj-ji came to me and bluntly told me "Jacques, you can eat up your film !". It was not only gross, it was nasty. I had achieved what I wanted most, to produce and direct an American feature film, and in one sentence, he destroyed everything, including the film he had himself supported. "Jacques you can eat up your film !" : this is what I deserved to have served him for more than three years, to have promoted his career with my films, to have entertained with him a relationship that I thought was a friendship ! I felt betrayed, in one glimpse I had discovered his dark side, in fact I was furious. From this moment on I became an outcast, I was banned from the ashrams, Shri Hans Production office on Larchmont Boulevard was closed and became a pet clinic, the word that the DLM was letting out was "Jacques is crazy !". Luckily, George and myself owned our equipments, him his Nagra sound recorders, me my Eclair Coutand 16 mm camera, so we were still operative. My friend Billy Burkenroad supported me financially and we rented an apartment in Hollywood.
Early 1975, Maharaj-ji and Durga-Ji were established in the Malibu residence and had children. On my side, I went to live with a community of premie friends in Malcantone, in the Italian part of Switzerland. My life was taking a new turn. I still went to a few programmes until 1979, then I stopped. I have not been to a programme for the last forty years and I do not need it. In fact, when Prem Pal abruptly cut our relationship, I think he did me a service. My addiction to him stopped completely. I'm a free bird and still practice the meditation as well as the ways of life that he taught me. Of course I keep a very found memory of the extraordinary three years we spent together. He has been the most amazing person I ever met. Fly away
I'm living now since 38 years (more than the half of my life) with the teachings Maharaj-ji gave me and do practice knowledge very naturally. Not like a schoolkid but as a mature human being. This I will do until my last breath (that will propulse me at high speed into Heaven). However, I do not need to look again for what I have gained already. Once you have your driver licence you do not waste your time trying to pass it another time. We did not get this knowledge to be stuck with it. It would be pretentious of myself to wish to speak with him again after all he gave me and I'm not looking for it.
But if it would happen, I would ask him three questions:
- Why so many airplanes ?
- Why such a waste of unused film footage ?
- What provision did you take for the old age safety of your ashram premies ?
In fact I do not approve any wasting of anything by anyone. This world is to be fully respected and realization goes with moderation.
Divine Times Article: Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji? Divine Times, Millenium '73, Volume II, Number 19
Lord of the Universe Film
Stella da Falla
Satguru Has Come Film
A New Feature Film Divine Times December 11, 1973
Bulletin Board Divine Times December 11, 1973
A NEW FILM: Millennium '73 Divine Times December 11, 1973
Films For Sale Divine Times - June 1974 Volume 3, Issue 1