I really love your lotus feet
Jonathan Cainer, the Daily Mail's resident stargazer, has taken umbrage at my suggestion that he is a devotee of Maharaji, the tubby preacher who used to call himself the Guru Maharaj Ji. Why, then, does he maintain a large website devoted to the old boy? "I'm a keen aficionado of Maharaji's work and his message," Cainer explains, in a "very personal statement" posted on the website replying to my article last week. "But I really have to reject that devotion notion. It implies some kind of religious faith and if this is a religion or faith, that's the first I have heard of it in my 20-odd years of involvement."
Tut tut: Cainer clearly hasn't been paying attention. Maharaji himself dealt with the "devotion notion" when addressing more than 50,000 followers in New Delhi on April 13 1991: "What has a devotee to become? A devotee has to become a receptacle. And what has a disciple to become? A disciple too has to become a receptacle. Whatever you name him, he is meant to be a vessel, meant to be empty... You have to turn to the Master and pray to him to give you prudence - 'Maharaji, please give me wisdom... If my attention is diverted somewhere else, O my Lord, please call me back to you... I do not know what is good for me. But you know best.'" Cainer says Maharaji has never claimed to be "some kind of divinity". In fact, he has often done just that. Interviewed by the Divine Times newspaper in February 1973, he described himself as "the Supremest Lord in person". In February 1982 he advised aficionados that "by yourself you cannot do anything, but I can do everything... I am the law, in which rests the movement of the stars and the growth of each living cell".
At another New Delhi rally, on November 9 1990, he announced that "the guru is such a personality about whom it is said: 'I bow down to the lotus-feet of my Guru Maharaji, who is the ocean of mercy and is actually Hari (God) himself in human form.'"
Since then, Maharaji has been more cautious, presenting himself merely as a Master of Meditation. But I have it on the best possible authority that he hasn't changed his views: only last Saturday, the Maharaji assured a crowd in Barcelona that his message "is always the same".
How could Cainer fail to notice? I can only assume that he has been too busy admiring the fragrant lotus-feet of the editor of the Daily Mail.