GURUS TOLD TO SETTLE DISPUTE OUT OF COURT
By MYRON BELKIND
NEW DELHI, India (AP) - An Indian judge scolded rival gurus Maharaj Ji and his oldest brother today and told them to settle their dispute over who is "perfect master" of their sect outside of court. The gurus accepted the judge's suggestion although there was no immediate indication that they would sit down and discuss their competing claims to leadership of the Divine Light Mission, founded by their late father in 1961.
"Courts should not be utilized for washing this dirty linen," Judge Prithan Singh Safeer declared in a small courtroom jammed with more than 100 spectators.
Maharaj Ji, 17, and Bal Bhagwan Ji, 24, stood before the red-turbaned judge without looking at each other. Instead of a verdict, the judge told them:
"You say you are men of religion. Well, there is going to be bloodshed in your family unless you settle your disputes."
"If you want bloodshed, continue with this litigation. But why not come to terms? There is the same blood in both of you. And if you are injured, the whole of Mother India is injured and maligned abroad."
"Both of you say you are interested in maintaining the dignity of your late father and in propagating his ideals for the benefit of mankind. Then why shouldn't you settle your dispute?"
When the judge concluded, Maharaj Ji stepped forward and announced he was unconditionally withdrawing his defamation suit against his brother.
The judge complimented him. Bhagwan Ji then withdrew his defamation suit after some coaxing from the Judge.
"There are certain people around Maharaj Ji who wouldn't let us see him," said Bhagwan Ji, pointing to some of the guru's American disciples, including Robert Mishler, the president of the mission in the United States.
Maharaj Ji said: "We'll do our best. We thank the court for its decision."
Both sides claimed victory, although it appeared that the outcome of the hour-long hearing was more favorable to Maharaj Ji.
His lawyers said he filed his suit against his brother only as a counter measure after Bhagwan Ji and their mother brought a series of suits against Maharaj Ji.