You are known now to the public as Prem Rawat, but for the 30 or so years that I gave my life to you, I knew you as Maharaji, or Guru Maharaji, so that is how I will continue to refer to you.
I have had a long and involved relationship with you, ranging from sublime moments of incredible beauty, good times, mediocre times, through boredom and frustration, to pain, abuse and feelings of desertion.
I have withdrawn from you in stages.
For the 20 years up to 1990, you were my Lord - someone who could reach into my heart whatever my situation, and rescue me. I practiced Knowledge almost everyday, and begged and prayed for your grace to make the Knowledge work, in full confidence that you could and would do this if I were open to it. And if it didn't happen, well then I was obviously not open enough, and needed to surrender to you more.
In the early 90's, I had my first doubts that you were the Lord; perhaps you did not control this amazing grace that could enlighten me. But that was OK, because the Knowledge was internal, between me and God, and could still take me to the deepest place; even if your role was just to give the Knowledge, and remind me of the importance of it periodically, that was enough.
In the mid 90's I met you briefly backstage at the Atlantic City event, and that was the last time I spoke to you. Since then, the accumulation of 30 years pursuing an impossible goal - or to be precise, pursuing two goals which are mutually impossible to fulfill - had become an overbearing weight from which I had to escape.
The two goals I refer to that a premie has to fulfill are these: The inner goal of finding their heart or center, and the outer goal of being connected with you. The essence of your message for 30 years has been that you need to pursue both goals, and that you cannot get one without the other.
I see now that achieving these two goals together is an impossible task. It is quite possible to achieve either goal on its own. I believe that the first goal, the human search for ultimate meaning and freedom within the human consciousness, is both possible and a worthwhile endeavour; in doing this, other people can be teachers, but no other person can become the master to whom you dedicate your life.
It is also of course possible to attain the second goal - a connection with you as a person, devotion to you as the Master. For most premies this meant being near you physically, or at least having access to you; selling family and career to be with you at an event on the other side of the world, selling anything to be seated near you, and so on. A particularly virulent form of this devotion was the urge to be in the inner circle around you. During my 30 years as a premie I have observed this phenomenon closely and intimately - sometimes from the inside, as someone in the inner circle, but usually from the outside, as someone who was trying desperately to climb up the ladder to the inner circle.
The interesting thing about this phenomenon, is that I really did not want to be near you, or rub shoulders with other inner circle players - I only did so because I thought it was the passport to the first goal of inner contentment. I now see that it actually prevented inner contentment. Ironic.
So that in a nutshell is why I no longer consider you my master, nor practice your Knowledge. The first goal of inner discovery I have always wanted, and still want. I took you as my master to help me fulfill that goal, which you promised to do; but you introduced another goal, centered around yourself, which in fact made it impossible to fulfill the first goal. Unfortunately, for 30 years I accepted your message that the second goal of a connection or devotion to you was necessary to attain the first goal.
To see and logically understand the dynamics of the last 30 years is one thing, but of course there is a lot of emotion and feeling too. As I have said, there were good times and profound experiences. At the time, I thought the deep experiences I had were due to your grace; now I think they were due to my grace, meaning that I had them independently of you. I did of course learn much from you; the problem is that I had to invest so much - way too much - to learn what I did.
So my predominant feeling now is one of grief and anger. I grieve for the last 30 years: for the careers given up to be ready to go anywhere anytime to do your bidding; for the relationships given up to be in the ashram or 'available for service'; for the money given up in order to be free of ego (I gave you a house, inheritances, wages and enough spare cash over 30 years that would have left me financially comfortable for the rest of my life had I not given it all to you.)
I grieve for a book I wrote that was suppressed after writing it, because the initial suggestion for writing it came from your brother SatPal. I grieve for the lost thoughts and dreams, my own thoughts, lost because they were not allowed to exist in a premie, otherwise he was 'in his mind'. I grieve for what might have been, had I not been marching up a dead-end alley, all the time proclaiming to myself and the world that I was marching along the golden highway to liberation. I grieve for all the people that I tried so earnestly to convince that this dead-end alley was the glorious road that they should be marching on too.
I am not sure how you see yourself these days. Do you see yourself still as the Perfect Master, needing of course to tone it down for public consumption, but still the living embodiment of that grace, without which no one can really benefit from the Knowledge techniques? Or do you privately think of that as a Hindu myth, and you are content to live off it - and live very well off it, like a family business, as your detractors maintain? Or was it a gradual change over the years from one to the other?
To be honest, I don't really care - my grief is felt and expressed, and now I intend to move on. As the English expression says, there is no point in crying over spilt milk. Although I left you 18 months ago (I first publicly posted on the ex-premie Forum in January 2001) it has taken me these 18 months to fully extricate myself from your influence.
So I thank you for the good times; for all the rest, and the grief I have expressed in this letter, I drop them from my shoulders - thus! The dream I had before I met you, I still have; and I am going for it, unencumbered and feeling very much lighter.