First, what do I mean by the phrase Maharaji's divinity? What I claim as true are these three statements:
1) Throughout the 1970's and early 80's the vast majority of premies thought Maharaji was the Lord of the Universe, the Perfect Master, the Guru who was greater than God, He who had come with more power than Jesus, Buddha etc;
2) Maharaji's organizations, such as Divine Light Mission, actively promoted this belief, whether through influential speakers (mahatmas) or in their publications;
3) Maharaji himself actively supported this belief by (a) seldom denying it, and then only in a specific context, (b) making innuendos and implying on many occasions that he was, (c) using elementary logic about his 'perfect gift' of the 'perfect Knowledge' that could only be given by himself, and (d) talking about himself in the third person such as 'Guru Maharaji is all-powerful' and the like.
A quick skim through the Gallery, an online archive of scans of publications put out by Maharaji's organizations during the 1970's and 1980's, will quickly convince any neutral observer of the truth of my three claims. A new addition to the Gallery is Maharaji speaking as late as 1980 about what it means to be a Perfect Master - and no premie revisionist is denying he was the 'Perfect Master'. In addition, read extracts from the book Who Is Guru Maharaji published in 1973 and copyrighted by his own organization Shri Hans Productions. Or how about this: Everything depends on me. Not even a leaf moves a millimetre without my wish. (Maharaji - March 13, 1971). A choice selection of Maharaji's claims and quotes is also online here.
Let me unpack my statement (3) above: Maharaji himself actively supported this belief by (a) seldom denying it, and then only in a specific context....
For example, on Wikipedia is the quote:
- Guru Maharaj Ji, are you God?
- No. My Knowledge is God.
First, isn't it an odd question to be asked? Doesn't it presume in the questioner the notion that Maharaji may well be God, certainly that the questioner has heard that Maharaji is God and is now asking for clarification?
I remember this actual exchange being discussed. Maharaji was asked privately why he denied being God. He did not answer, but Sampurnanand (now dead, but then one of the top mahatmas) answered (in Maharaji's hearing) 'that is correct, he is not God but is greater than God, because Guru leads you to God'. In any case, the fact that Maharaji as Guru was 'greater than God' was a favorite line for several years, and was often quoted in satsang.
So the issue is not whether Maharaji claimed specifically 'to be God'; but whether he claimed to be a very special person, above and beyond an ordinary human being, God in a bod, the embodiment of God come to save us all, he whose name Bible, Gita, the Koran Sing the glory of Your Name as we sang to him daily in arti (see below), the savior Many past forms you have taken Now we have come in your control Again You have come to save the soul. We summed this up by calling him Lord of the Universe - and he accepted this title.
Question: Guru Maharaj Ji, what does it feel like to be Lord of the universe?
Maharaji: What should I tell you about it?
Question: Just what it's like.
Maharaji: What it's like? Nothing. Because you are not in yourself; somewhere else; one with someone else.
Question: How is it to be like a puppet?
Maharaji: You don't know.... Do you? When you become Lord of the Universe, you become a puppet, really! Nothing else; not 'you'. Not 'I', not 'you' no egos, no pride, nothing else. One with humbleness; servant. Very, very beautiful. Always in divine bliss. Creating your own environment - wherever you go, doesn't matter. Like my friends used to play and I used to sit right in the corner of my ground and meditate (laughter).
She wants to change places with me! I wish I could change places with everyone, and give one hour of experience to everyone! But it's not possible.
(extract from a question and answer session given by Guru Maharaj Ji in Portland, Oregon, June 29, 1972 - see this and other similar quotes documented online.)
If someone is asked 'What is it like to be X?', and they did not deny that they were X, but answered like Maharaji above 'Well, being like X is hard to describe...', isn't it fair to assume that they thought of themselves as X, or at least accepted the description of being X? Well, here X = Lord of the Universe. You can quibble about what exactly that means, but it certainly includes 'divine' by any definition.
He was certainly given many many gifts (often money) from devotees who were giving to him AS Lord of the Universe, their Savior, their incarnation of God - and he accepted them. What sort of person accepts a young person's college fund as a gift? What sort of person accepts the family home, inheritance, takes everything the person owns until the person is in poverty? Either a complete crook and con-artist, or someone who thinks they are a worthy recipient of such giving, like for instance being Lord of the Universe.
Another point I make is that Maharaji often talked about himself in the third person. His apologists deny of course that he is talking about himself, but it was very clear to anyone who was actually there at the time that he meant himself. This leads me on to another point: most of those who deny Maharaji ever encouraged the belief in his own divinity were not actually there at the time! It is like deniers of the Holocaust only accepting written documention, and not accepting eye-witness accounts as evidence. I write about this below as part of the postmodern academic game.
If, in spite of being called 'Guru Maharaji', you think that his statements like 'Guru Maharaji - the Lord - all powerful' were referring to another Guru Maharaji, then consider that we used to sing 'arti' to him, both to his picture in all the ashrams, and to him personally at many festivals - read the words if you were not there at that time. And this singing of arti was orchestrated by him personally, not forced on him by western wanna-be Hindus, as current followers now claim. One premie of that time has written:
Let us not forget the festivals, the constant festivals where he sat on that throne with Arti sung to him, and songs about the Lord sung after that, encouraging him (begging, pleading, more like, encouraging is too weak a word) to dance like Krishna in the crown and mala. I used to work with the song lists at those programs. A leather-bound copy of exactly what was going to be sung after his speech for each night of the program was personally presented to him by his closest attendants, such as Marino. I typed them myself and saw them delivered to Marino or Mike Wood who then gave them to Maharaji. He would make changes from that list, phoning it to the men at the sound board, who wore headsets and sat off at the side of the stage, directing the music. HE (not the publications, DLM or the mahatmas) directed the singing of Arti at those programs, and all the subsequent songs to "the Lord" after them.
I did that service from approx. 1977-1980, when I was at SHIP (Shri Hans Int'l. Productions), both in Denver and Malibu. It was a fun service to do because it netted me a seat usually in the first three rows (albeit off to the far side so I could slip in and out as needed, but who was complaining?) There were times when his Lordship wanted that list revised at the last minute and I had to run off to a typewriter rented for the express purpose and redo it, as One Foundation thundered and expectations mounted in the hall.
If there is anyone reading this essay who has not already made up their minds one way or the other, I would encourage you to skim some of the links above and get a flavor of what was printed in Maharaji's 'official' publications of the time.
Two posters, one Indian and one American, created by devoted followers (left column); top right Maharaji at Caracas I believe; bottom right, from Maharaji's talk "The Final Step" at the Shower of Grace, Malibu, California, June 11, 1978, as printed in the Divine Times June/July 1978, Volume 7, Number 4, Guru Puja Special, Page 36.
Why The Denial By Maharaji's Followers?
As I started this essay, Maharaji was accepted as being divine by all serious premies of that time, and he himself actively encouraged that belief, while trying not to leave too many direct quotes to posterity.
Given that the facts are so obvious to anyone with any claims to being objective, and are indisputable to anyone who was a follower at that time, then why do present-day followers deny them?
I cannot really answer that, except to say that a cult is a cult, and this is what cults do! The followers live by the dictates of an artificial belief-system that is patently absurd to any objective observer, and when that is challenged they behave irrationally or dishonestly. A devoted follower will find it very difficult to be both rational and honest at the same time in regards to their guru or cult leader (an ex-follower has written this witty but accurate vignette The Impossible Triangle). The belief-system of the cult must be held together at all costs, even though that means swearing that black is white - the 'bigger the lie the more people will believe it' syndrome.
For myself, I believe that if Maharaji and his public relation people just admitted it: 'yes, that was the vibe at the time, but it was the 70's you know when all kind of stuff like that was happening, and I am sorry for laying such a trip on you but I have left all that behind now...' then he would have a much more easy time.
From the emails I get and the people I talk with, it is the deception, the revisionism, which turns them off most. Why does Maharaji and his close followers put themselves into this weird position? It is such a public relations mistake.
Having asked the question, here is my own answer: It is because he is still viewed as the Lord!! As the Lord, he cannot make any mistakes of course, so to admit his whole spiel throughout the 70's and early 80's was mistaken is impossible.
Now for a real live genuine inspirational speaker, who is that and only that, it would be no problem: 'Yes, I made a mistake, but I was as trapped by the whole Indian guru thing as you guys were...' would buy him a whole lot of credibility. But as the Lord still, he can't admit that he ever said he was the Lord.
Anyway, that is just my theory and I don't claim to be able to prove it, anymore than I can prove that many current followers, and certainly the close and committed ones, mostly still believe it. Although it happens that they do. As I say, the answer is simply that it is cult.
The Postmodern Fallacy
A much more interesting question is: Why does much of the New Religion Movement type of academia deny it? And in particular, why does Wikipedia, the popular online 'free encyclopedia that anyone can edit', deny it, or support its denial?
I am about to wade into contentious territory, but here goes.
First, what is 'postmodernism'? Originally applied to an artistic form, the term is now used to describe a whole culture and way of thinking. For my take on what it is, compare it with 'modernism' - the belief that science, experts and the modern materialist way of life will lead to ever increasing happiness.
'Modernism' first became a recognized term following Charlie Chaplin's 1936 film 'Modern Times', where he brilliantly parodies working and living in modern Industrial Age America. Modernism's heyday was in the 1950's, when mother knew best, policemen were wonderful, doctors cured you, politicians were honorable, experts knew what they were talking about, and science and technology were set to continue building a better world for us all for evermore.
'Postmodernism' is best defined as the rejection of modernism, and was of course born in the counter-culture of the 1960's. Much of our thinking can be thought of in this way, and at its best it means thinking for yourself, and knowing when to be skeptical and when to just accept what others tell you.
In philosophical and academic circles, postmodernism is linked to the idea of relativity, the fact that there is no objective Truth and Reality (note the upper case letters!), and that knowledge and justified beliefs are relative to your point of view, your culture and the background in which you exist and from where you are looking. There is much that is refreshing and insightful about postmodernist relativity, and clearly many opinions and social norms are relative to one's culture.
However, if unchecked this attitude spins out of control to the idea that everything is relative, and pretty much everything and anything makes sense. Of course, the proposition 'everything is relative' cannot be true by postmodernist relative thinking (because everything is relative, remember?), and so the paradoxical attempt to live and think by the universal and non-relative thought 'all is relative' can lead to dissonance and intellectual arrogance - rather like a cult, in fact.
There are many examples of this, one of the best being an essay by Richard Dawkins in Nature Postmodernism Disrobed, which begins:
Suppose you are an intellectual impostor with nothing to say, but with strong ambitions to succeed in academic life, collect a coterie of reverent disciples and have students around the world anoint your pages with respectful yellow highlighter. What kind of literary style would you cultivate? Not a lucid one, surely, for clarity would expose your lack of content. The chances are that you would produce something like the following:
We can clearly see that there is no bi-univocal correspondence between linear signifying links or archi-writing, depending on the author, and this multireferential, multi-dimensional machinic catalysis. The symmetry of scale, the transversality, the pathic non-discursive character of their expansion: all these dimensions remove us from the logic of the excluded middle and reinforce us in our dismissal of the ontological binarism we criticised previously.|
This is a quotation from the psychoanalyst Felix Guattari, one of many fashionable French ‘intellectuals’ outed by Alan Sokal...
And so it goes on. Dawkin's essay is a review of a brilliant spoof by Alan Sokal, a working physicist, who in 1996 sent an article to the 'Social Text', an extreme postmodernist journal. His spoof article was titled 'Transgressing the Boundaries: towards a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity' which was nonsense from start to finish, but had all the postmodernist's favorite words in it, and was accepted for publication! You can read Sokal's own discussion of it online, and also a fascinating interview with him.
What has all this to do with Maharaji's current followers denying that he ever encouraged the belief in himself as God or God-like? Perhaps not much, but I think it has a lot to do with the collusion by Wikipedia in the lie.
Wikipedia lives by the rule of the 'neutral point of view'. But what does that mean? It sounds both good and objective, but 'neutral' is not necessarily good, and is certainly not objective. In fact, 'neutral' is the postmodern relativistist version of 'objective', the idea that there is no real objectivity, only what people see and agree on as being 'objective', as if we should all vote on scientific theories, and the ones that get the most votes are accepted. Actually, a view or theory that everbody believes is false (definitely not 'neutral') can still be objectively true, and in fact often is.
The difference between 'neutral' and 'objective' is particularly crucial when it comes to reporting history. It is common sense that those people who live through an historical event, or an historical era, will see it through different eyes, and have different interpretations of it. This plays into the postmodernist 'all is relative' viewpoint, and leads to the common idea that there is no such thing as objective reporting.
It may well be the case that there is no objective reporting or 'true' reporting in the ultimate sense, a 'view from nowhere' as Nagel called it, a disembodied bird's eye view of everything all at once 'as it really was'. However, that there may be no ultimate objectivity does not mean that reporting cannot strive to be more objective, cannot strive to be more true, in the sense of being both honest and not tied to any one person's point of view, as much as is humanly possible.
For topics that do not arouse much passion, I think Wikipedia articles are in general fairly good. Unfortunately, by placing emphasis on the 'neutral' as opposed to the 'objective', for topics that do arouse passionate and opposing beliefs, Wikipedia's process is clearly flawed.
This is compounded by the fact that only fanatics, or those employed to do so by fanatics, have the time and energy to play this Wikipedia game of relentlessly 'reverting' edits made by their opponents, so that their stance can appear the more normal and 'neutral' in the eyes of the Wikipedia editors. You can see some of the sorry story on the Wikipedia discussion page about the Prem Rawat article there.
As it happens, on the very day that I wrote this essay (March 12 2006), I read a small article in the British newspaper the Sunday Times called Who's a little tinker?:
A political image war is being fought in Wikipedia, the web’s write-it-yourself encyclopaedia. Entries on MPs have been tinkered with to show them in a better light, and Wikipedia has now traced that tinkering to — surprise, surprise — parliament.
An entry about Labour minister Hazel Blears once complained she had “more in common with goats than homo sapiens”. That now reads: “She has proved to be an effective performer and is tipped to rise to the top of the Labour party.” Somebody has also edited Virginia Bottomley’s entry to hide the fact that the former Tory minister studied at — oh, the shame — Essex University. Wikipedia cannot track the 400-odd revisions to individual computers, so who’s going to own up first, then?
In other words, everyone is at it. Objectivity, and dare I say it, truth, comes second place to the sheer muscle power of the more fanatical, and to the political correctness of postmodern relativism.
Similar to what I have written above, but a much wider subject, is the cult apologism of the New Religious academics, with their assumption that 'apostates' (meaning someone who has the good sense to get out of a cult) are less reliable than those still in the cult. This is a huge area which I will only mention in passing, but I believe such cult-apologist academics are worthy bedfellows to the 'Social Text' journal which uncritically accepted Sokal's spoof article.
The common-sense way of evaluating a claim about the past would be to look at *all* the available evidence, including eye-witness accounts. Of course you would need to sift it, give weight to the eye-witness accounts in various ways, and balance conflicting accounts.
But Wikipedia and the New Religions movement do not do that - and the intellectual underpinning of their rationale is the postmodern thinking that all personal account is suspect as it is all relative, and the academic games that support this.
Personal account can of course be suspect, but you can apply the criterion of converging evidence to it and accept that some personal account is more objective and truthful than others. A strict postmodernist cannot do that, because there is no true objectivity, period.
Instead you are left with 'majoritarianism' - the principle that an idea is true because it is accepted by the majority - as what Wikipedia's 'neutral point of view' boils down to. As applied to facts that stand up to experiment and falsifiablility, and are thus within the domain of science proper, then 'majoritarianism' should of course have no credibility at all compared to the objective scrutiny of the scientific method.
However, trying to apply experiment and falsifiability to social phenomena is likely to fail, so there is simply no way to make a comparable judgement between an article on social phenomena and an article on an experimentally proved, falsifiable scientific theory - so I can see why postmodernism in general and Wikipedia in particular offer majoritarianism as a substitute for neutrality. But it is still an error.
How can any sensible article on anything be written through the lens of Did the media report the opinions of ex-premies? Is this a new Cartesian test? If a tree falls in the forest it didn't happen unless a reporter was there, or an academic has written about it? The Maharaji articles on Wikipedia simply show Wikipedia's philosphy and editing process as being completely inadequate to provide an objective account of a contentious social phenomenon.
And even if you accept 'majoritarianism', how can you say who is in the majority? Maharaji offered himself to the world in at least one long, protracted campaign ("Who is Guru Maharaj Ji?" - the "most significant event in human history"). The world passed. There are very few premies currently practising compared to those who have left. There is no question that those who have been premies, but are no longer, are the huge majority. So even if Wikipedia is trying to apply the majority viewpoint, why don't they do precisely that, and give more weight to the majority?
Wikipeida is being dishonest and extremely biased; its own rules are deeply flawed, and they are ignored anyway by prejudiced 'editors' when it suits them. If Wikipedia can't be trusted to produce a simple article about a guru based on material that would be obviously relevant to any reasonable person, then why should anyone trust Wikipedia 'neutrality' on any topic which causes strong polarized opinions?
Clearly my interest in Wikipedia here is personal, in that they are an influential enterprise which colludes in the revisionism and lies about Maharaji that I am trying to resist. I have no real interest in analyzing why Wikipedia is so flawed in general. However, a colleague who has worked with Wikipedia has just jotted down for me a few problems he sees with it:
(1) It discourages the participation of academics and experts. (2) It encourages the participation of fanatics and amateurs. (3) It has little control or review mechanisms. (4) Those that it has aren't enforced. (5) It has a largely alternative, anti-establishment culture behind it. (6) It makes the assumption that its "algorithm" for editing is self-correcting and automatically leads to a NPOV (neutral point of view). In that sense it is utopian. (7) It doesn't seem to account for market forces.
These are really bad qualities for developing an encyclopedia. Obviously the first point, that it discourages the participation of academics and genuine experts, is a really bad idea for an encyclopedia. The potentially best contributors quickly walk away in disgust. That is a fact that wiki editors largely ignore or are even happy about.
I have written this essay because I resent reading how it was all a mistake that we thought Maharaji was God or God-like, and that this was forced upon Maharaji by us premies of the time. I also resent being considered a less reliable witness, because I am an 'apostate', than so-called academics.
I can accept much of the blame for giving thirty years of my life to the Lord of the Universe, but I will not accept all of it. That is why it is important for me to counter the current revisionism. For Maharaji and his current followers to deny that he was Lord of the Universe to us all for so long, and certainly to deny that he encouraged that belief, is to lay the whole reason for myself and countless others trying to surrender our lives to the 'Lotus Feet' on ourselves alone - on our own naivety and on our projecting our own ideas onto Maharaji, and that only. It is this claim - that Maharaji had no part in propagating his own divinity and demanding our total surrender to him as the Lord - that is what I will not accept.
For the record, I am (or was) an academic. I did real 'hard science' research, so I know what academic rigor is, or should be. I did the kind of research where one's theories were proved or disproved by the real world 'out there'. The best science works by scientists trying to be more objective, and relying on convergent evidence, and ultimately their ideas being accepted or rejected by nature itself, objective reality, and not by intellectual imposters writing references to each other's work in a big academic game.
What is reality? It is what you must assume exists in order to live realistically. I want to live realistically - meaning sanely, healthily and with integrity. This means reporting what I saw and lived through, as Maharaji's close devotee for 30 years, as best as I can - as objectively as I can, and with as much honesty as I can. My articles and essays on this site attempt to do this.
Maharaji was always held, and is even now still held, to be someone very special with divine powers. It was claimed that his Knowledge can show you God and it will only work by the Grace of Maharaji. This is not a figurative way of speaking, but Maharaji has repeatedly said, and devotees believe, that only through Maharaji can the devotee get the Grace to find the ultimate. The understanding is that no, he is not God, but he is greater than God because he can show you what he claims to be God.
In conclusion, I can only repeat my closing words to my previous article - and I do so deliberately for emphasis:
For the record, let me say this, absolutely and unequivocally from my own witnessing: Whatever Maharaji is recorded as saying or not saying, his whole mission and work in the West from the beginning (1971) was based on the fact that he was, if not God, then God-like, was Lord of the Universe, was the one and only unique and special being by whose grace, and only by whose grace, could anyone be saved from their own mind and realise what had to be realised. It was completely as a result of this attitude, that he himself propagated (as well as all of us his followers), that premies surrendered, or tried to, everything to him - their energy, money, time, hopes, love, dreams, everything - whether they were in the ashram (itself evidence of this attitude) or not.
To deny that this ever happened, or that he was trapped into condoning it, is an affront and an insult to all those sincere and courageous premies who gave up so much because we believed in the promise made to us.