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Prem Rawat

Prem Rawat

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Prem Pal Singh Rawat (Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

: प्रेम पाल सिंह रावत; born 10 December 1957), also known as Maharaji and formerly known as Guru Maharaj Ji and Balyogeshwar, teaches a meditation practice he calls Knowledge
Techniques of Knowledge
Knowledge was a term used by Shri Hans Ji Maharaj to denote a formulation of four specific meditation techniques that were imparted in a process of initiation...


At the age of eight, he succeeded his father Hans Ji Maharaj
Hans Ji Maharaj
Hans Ram Singh Rawat, known as Shri Hans Ji Maharaj was born in Gadh-ki-Sedhia, north-east of Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India. His parents were Ranjit Singh Rawat and Kalindi Devi...

 as leader of the Divine Light Mission
Divine Light Mission
The Divine Light Mission was an organization founded in 1960 by guru Shri Hans Ji Maharaj for his following in northern India. During the 1970s, the DLM gained prominence in the West under the leadership of his fourth and youngest son, Guru Maharaj Ji...

 (Divya Sandesh Parishad) and as the new Satguru
Satguru does not merely mean true guru. The term is distinguished from other forms of gurus, such as musical instructors, scriptural teachers, parents, and so on...

(English: Perfect Master
Perfect Master
The term Perfect Master may refer to:*the 5th of 33 degrees in Scottish Rite Freemasonry *a title of Jesus in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.*a translation of Satguru used in modern Hindu movements and Sant Mat...

) to millions of Indian followers. Rawat gained further prominence when he traveled to the West at age 13 to spread his message. His claimed ability to impart direct knowledge of God attracted a great deal of interest from young adults, and many saw him as an incarnation of the divine. Under his charismatic leadership, the Divine Light Mission (DLM) became the fastest growing new religious movement in the West, though it was sometimes described as a cult
The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices...

. Rawat also attracted media attention, being ridiculed in the US for his youth and his supposed divine status, with journalists noting luxury automobiles and multiple residences made available to him by his followers.

When Rawat turned sixteen in 1973 he took administrative control of the American organisation and became more active in guiding the movement. The following May, against his mother's wishes, he married an American. His mother disowned him and appointed his eldest brother as head of the Indian DLM. Rawat retained control of the movement outside India and later abandoned the Indian aspects of his teachings to make his message more widely acceptable. The Divine Light Mission was disbanded in the West in the early 1980s, succeeded by the organizations Elan Vital
Elan Vital (organization)
Elan Vital is the name of several organizations that support the work of Prem Rawat, also known by the honorary title "Maharaji". Prem Rawat speaks of the possibility of knowing inner peace through four techniques of Knowledge. Elan Vital organizations exist in several countries with the purpose of...

 (1983) and The Prem Rawat Foundation (2001).

The core of Prem Rawat's teaching is that the individual’s need for fulfillment can be satisfied by turning within to contact a constant source of peace and joy. Rather than a body of dogma, he emphasizes a direct experience of transcendence, which he claims is accessible through the techniques of meditation which he teaches. Prem Rawat has been criticized for a lack of intellectual content in his public discourses.


Prem Rawat was born in Haridwar
Haridwar is an important pilgrimage city and municipality in the Haridwar district of Uttarakhand, India...

, northern India, on 10 December 1957. The fourth and youngest son of guru
A guru is one who is regarded as having great knowledge, wisdom, and authority in a certain area, and who uses it to guide others . Other forms of manifestation of this principle can include parents, school teachers, non-human objects and even one's own intellectual discipline, if the...

 Shri Hans Ji Maharaj and his second wife, Jagat Janani Mata Shri Rajeshwari Devi, Rawat attended St. Joseph's Academy
St. Joseph's Academy, Dehradun
St. Joseph's Academy, Dehradun is a co-educational Indian Certificate of Secondary Education school in Dehradun, the capital of the state of Uttarakhand in India. Founded in 1934, the school is governed by the members of the Patrician Brothers' Institute. It celebrated the bicentenary of the...

 elementary school in his hometown of Dehra Dun. At the age of three he began speaking at his father's meetings, and at six his father taught him the "techniques of Knowledge
Techniques of Knowledge
Knowledge was a term used by Shri Hans Ji Maharaj to denote a formulation of four specific meditation techniques that were imparted in a process of initiation...

." He was given the title Balyogeshwar Param Hans Satgurudev Shri Sant Ji Maharaj, or just "Balyogeshwar" (roughly "born saint" or "born lord of Yogis") on account of his youth and spiritual precociousness. His father died in 1966, and during the customary 13 days of mourning his mother and senior officials of the organization discussed the succession. Both his mother, Mata Ji, and eldest brother, Satpal Maharaj
Satpal Maharaj
Satpal Maharaj is a member of the lower house of the Parliament of India for the Indian National Congress party....

, were suggested as potential successors, but before either could be nominated, Prem addressed the crowd of mourners, reminding them that their master was immortal and was still among them. In response, his mother, brother and the senior disciples accepted Prem as their "Perfect Master
Perfect Master
The term Perfect Master may refer to:*the 5th of 33 degrees in Scottish Rite Freemasonry *a title of Jesus in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.*a translation of Satguru used in modern Hindu movements and Sant Mat...

", bowed to his feet and received his blessing. Previously known to his father's followers as Sant Ji, Prem now assumed the title "Guru Maharaj Ji". From that time, Rawat spent his weekends and school holidays travelling as his father had, addressing audiences on the subject of Knowledge and inner peace. Because of his youth, effective control of the DLM was shared by the whole family.

During the 1960s, Westerners in India searching for spiritual guidance met members of his father's Divine Light Mission and a few became initiates or premies (from the Hindi prem, meaning "love".) British initiates invited him to visit the West, and in 1969 he sent one of his closest Indian students (known as Mahatmas) to London to teach on his behalf. In 1970, many of his new Western followers flew to India to see him, and were present at India Gate, Delhi, when, still only twelve years old, he delivered an address known as the "Peace Bomb," which marked the start of his international work.


In 1971, Prem Rawat travelled to the West against his mother’s wishes. His three-month tour included planned stops in Hollywood, New York, Washington, Canada and South Africa. His arrival in the United States was met with some ridicule, as the teenaged Rawat was seen as immature and hence unfit to be a religious leader. But he also created an extraordinary amount of interest among young adults who were willing to examine his claimed ability to give a direct experience of God. His first western address was given in June 1971 at the first Glastonbury Fayre
Glastonbury Festival
The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, commonly abbreviated to Glastonbury or even Glasto, is a performing arts festival that takes place near Pilton, Somerset, England, best known for its contemporary music, but also for dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret and other arts.The...

, and in September he spoke to a large gathering in Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

. A US based Divine Light Mission was established in Denver, Colorado
Denver, Colorado
The City and County of Denver is the capital and the most populous city of the U.S. state of Colorado. Denver is a consolidated city-county, located in the South Platte River Valley on the western edge of the High Plains just east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains...

 by Bob Mishler.
Many were attracted by the sense of joy, peace and commitment shown by Rawat's followers. One witness said that Rawat "played the whole time he was there ... he played with squirt guns, flashed pictures of himself for all to see, and took movies of everybody ... Love flowed back and forth between him and his devotees." Enthusiastic new members spread the message that the 13-year-old Rawat could reveal God. He returned to India later that year with 300 westerners who chartered an Air India Boeing 747 to accompany him and stayed in the mission's ashram
Traditionally, an ashram is a spiritual hermitage. Additionally, today the term ashram often denotes a locus of Indian cultural activity such as yoga, music study or religious instruction, the moral equivalent of a studio or dojo....


Rawat took flying lessons beginning when he was 13, and had begun training in a jet by age 15. In 1972 two Cessna airplanes were obtained for his use. Travelling almost constantly, he was reported to have residences in London, New York, Colorado, California, India, and Australia.

The 1972 Hans Jayanti, an annual festival celebrating Rawat's father's birthday, was attended by over 500,000 people. Six Jumbo jets
Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

 were chartered by American followers who paid extra so that South Americans could fly from New York to India for free. Other countries made similar arrangements to help the less financially able. On arrival, Indian customs impounded a suitcase containing cash, jewelry and wristwatches worth between US$27,000 and $80,000 which they said had not been properly declared. Rawat said, "It has nothing to do with me, it is an attempt to harm the Divine Light Mission. When someone grows, others get jealous of him, and the Divine Light Mission has just blasted like an atomic bomb all over the world.” A DLM spokesman said that the money had been pooled by 3,000 followers to cover expenses, and that the valuables were gifts. The finances of Rawat and the DLM in India and overseas were investigated by the Indian government. In June 1973 the investigation was still under way, and Rawat had to post a $13,300 bond in order to leave the country. Charges were never filed, and the Indian government later issued an apology.

A reporter who attended an event in Boston in August 1973 which drew 9,000 attendees wrote that Rawat appeared humble and human, and seemed to intentionally undercut the claims of divinity made by followers. Sociologist James Downton said that from his beginnings Rawat appealed to his followers to give up concepts and beliefs that might impede them from fully experiencing the Knowledge (or life force), but this did not prevent them from adopting a fairly rigid set of ideas about his divinity, and to project millennial preconceptions onto him and the movement. Followers stressed "love, peace and happiness" in their lives, but public attitudes were often unsympathetic. Sociologist Stephen A. Kent
Stephen A. Kent
Stephen A. Kent, is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He researches new and alternative religions, and has published research on several such groups including the Children of God , the Church of Scientology, and newer faiths...

 wrote that as a 22-year-old hippie, he found Rawat's message to be banal and poorly delivered, though his companions spoke about it glowingly.

In August 1973, Rawat was hit by a pie
Pieing is the act of throwing a pie at a person or persons. This can be a political action when the target is an authority figure, politician, or celebrity and can be used as a means of protesting against the target's political beliefs, or against perceived arrogance or vanity. Perpetrators...

 thrown by a person who was later attacked by followers. Rawat expressed shock and regret at the beating and concern for the victim's welfare.

Rawat's publicity campaign was unparalleled. One journalist reported,

"Thousands of people follow him wherever he goes; posters of his round, cheerful face adorn the walls of buildings in every major Western city; newspaper reporters and TV cameras cover his every public appearance – particularly his mass rallies, which attract hundreds of thousands of followers each."

A tour of US cities was cut short in early September 1973, when Rawat was hospitalized with an intestinal ulcer. His personal physician said that his body, weakened by the pace of continual travel, showed the stresses of a middle-aged executive.

The Hans Jayanti of 1973, which was named "Millennium '73
Millennium '73
Millennium '73 was a three-day festival held on November 8–10, 1973 at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, United States, by the Divine Light Mission . It featured Prem Rawat, then known as Guru Maharaj Ji, a 15-year-old guru and the leader of a fast-growing new religious movement...

", was held in the Houston Astrodome. Press releases said that the event would mark the beginning of "a thousand years of peace for people who want peace." The main organizers were Rawat's eldest brother Satpal Rawat
Satpal Maharaj
Satpal Maharaj is a member of the lower house of the Parliament of India for the Indian National Congress party....

 (then known as Bal Bhagwan Ji) and activist Rennie Davis
Rennie Davis
Rennard Cordon “Rennie” Davis is a former, prominent American anti-Vietnam War protest leader of the 1960s. He was one of the Chicago Seven....

, who predicted an attendance of 100,000 or more. The event attracted only about 20,000. It was not covered by the national television news, although it received extensive coverage in the print media and was depicted in the award-winning US documentary "Lord of the Universe". The premies were described as "cheerful, friendly and unruffled" and seeming "nourished by their faith". To the 400 premie parents who attended, Rawat was "a rehabilitator of prodigal sons and daughters", though some reporters found "a confused jumble of inarticulately expressed ideas." The event was called the "youth culture event of the year".

The failure of the event to meet expectations hurt the Divine Light Mission and left it heavily in debt, forcing changes within the movement. By 1976, the DLM was able to reduce the debt to $80,000. According to Thomas Pilarzyk, the Millennium economic deficit was partly the result of poor management by the "holy family" (Rawat's mother and three older brothers), and partly the much lower than anticipated attendance.

Because of Prem Rawat's youth, his mother, Mata Ji, and eldest brother, Satpal, managed the affairs of the worldwide DLM. When Rawat reached sixteen years of age he wanted to take a more active part in guiding the movement. According to the sociologist James V. Downton
James V. Downton
James Victor Downton, Jr. is a sociologist known for his research on charismatic leadership, activism, and new religious movements. He received his PhD...

, this meant he "had to encroach on his mother's territory and, given the fact that she was accustomed to having control, a fight was inevitable". In December 1973, Rawat took administrative control of the Mission's US branch, and his mother and Satpal returned to India.

By the end of 1973, the DLM was active in 55 countries. Tens of thousands had been initiated, and several hundred centers and dozens of ashrams formed. 1973 has been called the "peak of the Mission's success".

Rawat's affluent lifestyle was a source of controversy in the early 1970s. Some media reports said that Rawat "lived more like a king than a Messiah". Critics said that his lifestyle was supported by the donations of followers and that the movement appeared to exist only to support Rawat's "opulent existence". Supporters said there is no conflict between worldly and spiritual riches. That Rawat did not advise anyone to "abandon the material world", but said it is our attachment to it that is wrong. Press reports listed expensive automobiles such as Rolls-Royces, Mercedes-Benz limousines and sports cars, some of them gifts. Rawat said, "I have something far more precious to give them than money and material things – I give peace". "Maharaj Ji's luxuries are gifts from a Western culture whose fruits are watches and Cadillacs," a spokesman said. Some premies said that he did not want the gifts, but that people gave them out of their love for him. They saw Rawat's lifestyle as an example of a lila, or divine play, which held a mirror to the "money-crazed and contraption-collecting society" of the West.


In May 1974, a judge gave Rawat his consent to marry without parental permission. His marriage to Marolyn Johnson, a 24-year old follower from San Diego, California
San Diego, California
San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the United States and second-largest city in California. The city is located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, immediately adjacent to the Mexican border. The birthplace of California, San Diego is known for its mild year-round...

, was celebrated at a non-denominational church in Golden, Colorado
Golden, Colorado
The City of Golden is a home rule municipality that is the county seat of Jefferson County, Colorado, United States. Golden lies along Clear Creek at the edge of the foothills of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Founded during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush on 16 June 1859, the mining camp was...

. Rawat's mother, Mata Ji, had not been invited.

Rawat's marriage to a non-Indian finally severed his relationship with his mother. She retained control of the Indian DLM and appointed her eldest son, Satpal, as its leader. Mata Ji said she was removing Rawat as Perfect Master because of his "unspiritual" lifestyle and lack of respect for her wishes. Rawat retained the support of the Western disciples. Most of the mahatmas either returned to India or were dismissed. Rawat had become wealthy as a result of contributions from his Western devotees, and led the life of an American millionaire. He ran a household for his wife, his brother (Raja Ji) and his sister-in-law (Claudia), and financed travel for the close officials and mahatmas who accompanied him on his frequent trips around the globe to attend the Mission's festivals. By early 1974 the number of full-time DLM staff had increased from six to over one thousand.

In November 1974, seeking more privacy for himself, his wife and his entourage following security concerns, Rawat moved to a 4 acres (16,187.4 m²) property in Malibu, California. Purchased by the DLM for $400,000, the property served as the DLM's West Coast headquarters. Controversy around a helipad on the property was resolved by installing emergency water storage for the Los Angeles County Fire Department
Los Angeles County Fire Department
The Los Angeles County Fire Department , serves unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County, as well as 58 cities and towns that choose to have the county provide fire and EMS services, including La Habra. It should not be confused with the Los Angeles City Fire Department, which serves the city of...

 and by limiting the number of permitted flights.

By 1976, most students viewed Rawat primarily as a spiritual teacher, guide and inspiration. In January 1976 Rawat encouraged them to leave the ashram
Traditionally, an ashram is a spiritual hermitage. Additionally, today the term ashram often denotes a locus of Indian cultural activity such as yoga, music study or religious instruction, the moral equivalent of a studio or dojo....

s and discard Indian customs and terminology. Rawat said that the organization had come between his devotees and himself. He dismissed Bob Mishler, co-founder of DLM, as International President. According to one source, he "resented the advice given to him by his chief subordinate" and dismissed him "when a clash of wills occurred". Rawat decentralized some decision making to local premie communities, while he maintained his status as the ultimate authority over spiritual and secular matters. The staff at the Denver headquarters were reduced from 250 to 80. He described the managerial mentality that had grown in the Mission as "only cosmetic and totally unnecessary. It's like trying to take a cow and put lipstick on it. You can do it, but it's unnecessary in practical terms".

His appearance on 20 December 1976 in Atlantic City, New Jersey
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Atlantic City is a city in Atlantic County, New Jersey, United States, and a nationally renowned resort city for gambling, shopping and fine dining. The city also served as the inspiration for the American version of the board game Monopoly. Atlantic City is located on Absecon Island on the coast...

, wearing a traditional Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

 costume for the first time since 1975, signaled a resurgence of Indian influence and devotion. During 1977, many returned to ashram life, and there was a shift back from secular tendencies towards ritual and messianic beliefs. In 1977 Rawat became a US citizen.

In October 1978, the hillsides surrounding Rawat's Malibu estate were burned by a brushfire. His family and the DLM headquarters subsequently moved to Miami Beach, Florida
Miami Beach, Florida
Miami Beach is a coastal resort city in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States, incorporated on March 26, 1915. The municipality is located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay, the latter which separates the Beach from Miami city proper...

. The family, which grew to four children, returned to Malibu in 1984.

In January 1979 the Los Angeles Times reported that Rawat was maintaining his Malibu following despite a rising mistrust of cults. Bob Mishler and Robert Hand, a former vice president of the movement, complained that money was increasingly diverted to Rawat's personal use, warning that a situation like the recent Jonestown
Jonestown was the informal name for the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, an intentional community in northwestern Guyana formed by the Peoples Temple led by Jim Jones. It became internationally notorious when, on November 18, 1978, 918 people died in the settlement as well as in a nearby...

 incident could occur with the followers of Rawat. Mishler complained that the ideals of the group had become impossible to fulfill, but his charges found little support and did not affect the progress of the Mission.

In 1980, Rawat removed all the "religious" aspects of the movement and declared he now wanted "no movement whatsoever". The Hindu references and religious parables that had been prominent in his teachings
Teachings of Prem Rawat
The core of Prem Rawat's teaching is that the individual’s need for fulfillment can be satisfied by turning within to contact a constant source of peace and joy. Rather than a body of dogma, he emphasizes a direct experience of transcendence, which he claims is accessible through the four...

 gave way to a focus on the meditation techniques. Once called "Perfect Master", Prem Rawat abandoned his "almost divine status as guru" but affirmed his status as a master. Scholars such as Kranenborg
Reender Kranenborg
Reender Kranenborg was an editor of the magazine Religious Movement in the Netherlands published by the institute of religious studies of the Free University in Amsterdam....

 and Chryssides
George D. Chryssides
Dr George D. Chryssides was a senior lecturer and Head of Religious Studies at the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences of the University of Wolverhampton now working for Birmingham University....

 describe the departure from divine connotations.


In 1983 the Divine Light Mission was renamed Elan Vital
Elan Vital (organization)
Elan Vital is the name of several organizations that support the work of Prem Rawat, also known by the honorary title "Maharaji". Prem Rawat speaks of the possibility of knowing inner peace through four techniques of Knowledge. Elan Vital organizations exist in several countries with the purpose of...

 and Rawat closed the last western ashrams, marking the end of his use of Indian methods for international objectives.

According to a 1983 article, Rawat continued to "energetically serve his followers", flying to speaking engagements in major cities around the world almost continually. In two years he spoke at over 100 programs in 37 international cities, including New York, London, Paris, Kuala Lumpur, Rome, Delhi, Sydney, Tokyo, Caracas and Los Angeles.

The number of Rawat's students grew in the 1980s and 1990s as Rawat toured extensively, speaking in over 40 countries, including Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

, the Ivory Coast, Slovenia
Slovenia , officially the Republic of Slovenia , is a country in Central and Southeastern Europe touching the Alps and bordering the Mediterranean. Slovenia borders Italy to the west, Croatia to the south and east, Hungary to the northeast, and Austria to the north, and also has a small portion of...

 and Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

. In 1990 there were said to be 1.2 million followers worldwide, with 50,000 in the United States. 1999 saw the commencement of regular satellite broadcasts to North America and other countries.

In 2001, Rawat founded The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF), a Public Charitable Organization for the production and distribution of materials promoting his message, and also for funding worldwide humanitarian efforts. TPRF has provided food, water and medical help to war-torn and impoverished areas.

Between January 2004 and June 2005, Rawat delivered 117 addresses in Asia, Europe, and North America focusing on a universal message of peace and self-fulfillment. His message is currently distributed in eighty-eight countries in print and on video, and his program "Words of Peace" is broadcast on TV channels such as Canal Infinito in South America, Channel 31 in Australia, and Dish Network in the USA.

Elan Vital states that the only effective way of reaching out to the over 80 countries where his message is now promoted is by leased private jet, which Rawat self-pilots, flying around a quarter million miles a year. In 2007 during a two-month tour of India, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 and Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

, Rawat spoke at 36 events, addressing over 800,000 people, and by live satellite broadcasts reached an additional 2.25 million.

A biography of Rawat, Peace is Possible, by Andrea Cagan
Andrea Cagan
Andrea Cagan is an American writer and biographer. She has edited, and collaborated on more than fifteen books, including biographies of Diana Ross, Grace Slick, Joan Lunden, and Prem Rawat...

, was published in 2006 with a foreword by Emilio Colombo
Emilio Colombo
Emilio Colombo is an Italian politician who was Prime Minister of Italy from 1970 to 1972. In addition to having held top positions in Italian governments, he was also active in European politics.-Biography:...

, a former President of the European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

 and former Prime Minister of Italy
Prime minister of Italy
The Prime Minister of Italy is the head of government of the Italian Republic...

. In 2009, Rawat was made "Ambassador of Peace" for the Basilicata region
Basilicata , also known as Lucania, is a region in the south of Italy, bordering on Campania to the west, Apulia to the north and east, and Calabria to the south, having one short southwestern coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea between Campania in the northwest and Calabria in the southwest, and a...

 of Italy; in 2010, he spoke at the "Words of Peace for Europe" conference in Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

, at the invitation of European Parliament Vice-President Gianni Pittella.


A number of scholars have said that Rawat's teachings began in the North Indian Sant Mat
Sant Mat
Sant Mat was a loosely associated group of teachers that became prominent in the northern part of the Indian sub-continent from about the 13th century...

 or Radhasoami tradition, which dismisses ritual and claims that true religion is a matter of loving and surrendering to God who dwells in the heart. Geaves argues that this is not quite correct; referring to Rawat's own statements about his lineage, he places Rawat and his father within the tradition established by Totapuri
Ishwar Totapuri affectionately known as "Nangta Baba" , born likely in Punjab, India, was a parivrajaka who is said to have followed the path of the Advaita Vedanta, which is often disputed due to the meager information that exists on Totapuri.By the time he arrived at Dakshineswar Temple in...

, which also gave rise to the Advait Mat
Advait Mat
Advait Mat was a cluster of movements in northern India which perceive themselves to be originating from Totapuri in the 18th century.- See also :* Totapuri* Anandpuri Ji* Advaitanand Ji* Swarupanand* Hans Ji Maharaj* Prem Rawat* Divine Light Mission...

 movement. Geaves argues that while the teachings within Totapuri's lineage have similarities with those of the Radhasoami tradition and developed in the same geographical area they are nevertheless distinct. He adds that Rawat "is unusual in that he does not consider his lineage to be significant and does not perceive his authority as resting in a tradition."

Prem Rawat claims that light, love, wisdom and clarity exist within each individual, and that the meditation techniques which he teaches, and which he learned from his father, are a way of accessing them. These techniques are known as the ‘Knowledge’. In his public talks he quotes from Hindu, Muslim and Christian scriptures, but he relies on this inner experience for his inspiration and guidance.

Before they receive the Knowledge, Rawat asks practitioners to promise to give it a fair chance and to stay in touch with him. He also asks that they not reveal the techniques to anyone else, but allow others to prepare to receive the experience for themselves.
Rawat has been criticized for a lack of intellectual content in his public discourses.

Practitioners describe Knowledge as internal and highly individual, with no associated social structure, liturgy, ethical practices or articles of faith. According to sociologist Alan E. Aldridge, Rawat says he offers practical ways to achieve spiritual tranquillity that can be used by anyone. Aldridge writes that Rawat originally aspired to bring about world peace, but now he places his attention on helping individuals rather than society.


From Rawat's first travels in the West, he and his followers attracted media attention. In an interview in Der Spiegel
Der Spiegel
Der Spiegel is a German weekly news magazine published in Hamburg. It is one of Europe's largest publications of its kind, with a weekly circulation of more than one million.-Overview:...

in 1973, Rawat said, "I have lost confidence in newspapers. I talk with them [about this] and the next day something completely different is printed." In 1973, the Divine Light Mission's 50-member public relations team concluded that Rawat's credibility had been compromised by his youth, his physical appearance, and the Rolls Royce, as well as the Detroit "pieing" incident and an allegation of smuggling (which was never prosecuted). The head of the team said that they needed to get the public to look past these factors to judge Rawat's credibility. Rawat's last known press conferences was in 1973. Rawat has often been termed a cult leader in popular press reports, as well as anti-cult writings.

Charisma and leadership

Melton says Rawat's personal charisma was one of the reasons for the rapid spread of his message among members of the 1960s counterculture
Counterculture is a sociological term used to describe the values and norms of behavior of a cultural group, or subculture, that run counter to those of the social mainstream of the day, the cultural equivalent of political opposition. Counterculture can also be described as a group whose behavior...

Several scholars refer to Max Weber
Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...

's classification of authority
Tripartite classification of authority
Max Weber distinguished three ideal types of legitimate political leadership, domination and authority:# charismatic authority ,# traditional authority and...

 when describing Rawat as a charismatic leader.

Dutch sociologist Paul Schnabel
Paul Schnabel
Paul Schnabel is a Dutch sociologist and the director of an agency of the Dutch government called Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau , usually abbreviated as SCP . He is also professor at Utrecht University.- Biography :Schnabel grew up in Breda. He studied sociology at Utrecht University...

 described Rawat as a pure example of a charismatic leader. He characterized Rawat as materialistic, pampered and intellectually unremarkable compared to Osho
Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh)
Osho , born Chandra Mohan Jain , and also known as Acharya Rajneesh from the 1960s onwards, as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh during the 1970s and 1980s and as Osho from 1989, was an Indian mystic, guru, and spiritual teacher who garnered an international following.A professor of philosophy, he travelled...

, but no less charismatic.

Meredith McGuire sees formalization resulting from Rawat's desire to consolidate his power and authority over the movement in the United States.

Lucy DuPertuis, a sociologist and one-time follower who assisted James V. Downton
James V. Downton
James Victor Downton, Jr. is a sociologist known for his research on charismatic leadership, activism, and new religious movements. He received his PhD...

 with his book about the Divine Light Mission
Sacred Journeys (book)
Sacred Journeys: The Conversion of Young Americans to Divine Light Mission is a sociological book about the adherents of the Divine Light Mission in the 1970s. In the work, author James V. Downton, Jr...

, described Rawat's role as a Master as emerging from three interrelated phenomena: traditional or theological definitions of Satguru, adherents' first-hand experiences of the Master, and communal accounts and discussions of the Master among devotees.

David G. Bromley
David G. Bromley
David G. Bromley is a professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. He has written extensively about "cults", new religious movements, apostasy, and the anti-cult movement.- Education and career :Bromley received his...

 described the difficulty of a charismatic leader in proving to be above normal human failings such as not to suffer ill health or indulge in worldly pursuits. He presents Rawat's marriage as such a situation. Bromley described Prem Rawat and other founders of new religions as being held in awe by their early followers, who ascribe extraordinary powers to them that set them apart from other human beings.

Thomas Pilarzyk, a sociologist, wrote in a 1978 paper that the distribution of power and authority in the DLM was officially based on the charismatic appeal of Maharaj Ji, which he described as being somewhat ambiguous, and that many followers were not certain about his position in the organizational scheme of the movement, or the claim that he was the only true spiritual master.

Stephen J. Hunt
Stephen J. Hunt
Stephen John Hunt is a British professor of sociology at the University of the West of England. Prior to his appointment at the University of West England in 2001, Hunt had taught at the Sociology Department at the University of Reading for thirteen years, as well as in the Religious Studies...

 said that in Rawat's case the notion of spiritual growth is not derived — as is traditionally the case with other gurus — from his personal charisma, but from the nature of his teachings and the benefits to the individuals applying them.

Ron Geaves
Ron Geaves
Ron Geaves is a professor of religion at Liverpool Hope University in England. He was formerly Programme Leader and Chair in religious studies at the University of Chester in England and Head of Department at the University of Chichester. He is currently Chair of the Muslims in Britain Research...

, a professor of religion and an early Western student of Prem Rawat, states that Rawat is not a renunciate
Sannyasa is the order of life of the renouncer within the Hindu scheme of āśramas, or life stages. It is considered the topmost and final stage of the ashram systems and is traditionally taken by men or women at or beyond the age of fifty years old or by young monks who wish to renounce worldly...

, and he has made great efforts to assert his humanity and take apart the hagiography
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

 that has developed around him.


Estimates of the number of Rawat's adherents have varied widely over time. Petersen states that Rawat claimed 7 million disciples worldwide in 1973, with 60,000 in the US. Rudin & Rudin give a worldwide following of 6 million in 1974, of which 50,000 were in the US. According to these authors, the adherents had fallen to 1.2 million for Prem Rawat's personal worldwide following in 1980, with 15,000 in the US. Spencer J. Palmer
Spencer J. Palmer
Spencer John Palmer was a chronicler of the development of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Asia as well as a major player in these developments. He was a historian of Korea as well, but did not live long enough to ever be able to create a true history of the LDS Church in Korea...

 and Roger R. Keller
Roger R. Keller
Roger R. Keller is a professor of religion at Brigham Young University . Keller is a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints having been at times both a Presbyterian and a Methodist Minister prior to joining the LDS Church....

 published a general DLM membership of 1.2 million worldwide, with 50,000 in the US., in 1990 and 1997.

Downton said by 1976 the vast majority of students viewed Rawat "as their spiritual teacher, guide and inspiration". Quoting a student he had studied, Downton said a typical view was that "the only thing he (Rawat) wants is to see people living happily and harmoniously together". Downton concluded that the students had changed in a positive way, "more peaceful, loving, confident and appreciative of life".

Former followers became known as "ex-premies", and Elan Vital has characterised the vocal critics among them as disgruntled former employees. Based on an analysis of Sophia Collier
Sophia Collier
Sophia Collier is an American author and entrepreneur. In 1977, at 21, Sophia Collier developed Soho Natural Soda in her kitchen in Brooklyn, New York and co-founded the American Natural Beverage Corp to distribute the product. The company grew to $25 million dollars in soft drink sales before the...

's Soul Rush, John Barbour, a professor of religion, concludes that Collier's deconversion from DLM was uncharacteristic compared to other deconversions from other movements, in that her deconversion brought her no emotional suffering.

Stephen Hunt writes that Western followers do not see themselves as members of a religion, but rather as adherents of a system of teachings focused on the goal of enjoying life to the full.

According to Prem Rawat's official website, in the eight years prior to May 2008, Key Six sessions were attended by 365,237 people in 67 countries. These are the video sessions where the techniques of Knowledge are taught by Rawat.

See also

  • Bibliography of Prem Rawat and related organizations
    Bibliography of Prem Rawat and related organizations
    Bibliography of Prem Rawat and related organizations lists bibliographical material regarding Prem Rawat and organizations like Divine Light Mission, Elan Vital and The Prem Rawat Foundation.Legenda...

External links