Speaker Criticized by Ex-Devotees
April 30, 2003
A controversial religious leader will speak at
Zellerbach Hall tonight, despite objections from
former followers who claim he leads a
members allege Prem Rawat, head of Elan Vital,
Inc., hides a checkered past and is using the event
to recruit new members.
coming to Berkeley doing an introductory program,
which means he's trying to recruit more people,"
said former follower Joe Whalen, who lives in San
devotees asked people to ignore any allegations and
listen to Rawat with an open mind.
all got a past, man. Maybe we didn't do some of the
things he did, but he was able to do those things
because he is the 'Perfect Master,'" said devotee
Jai Satchianand. "And he loves me and would never
lie to me."
university staff agree that Rawat's event brings
controversy to the campus, they do not believe the
event poses a real problem.
people don't know much about it, I would encourage
them to do some research on their own," said
Student Affairs Advisor Hal Reynolds.
known as Guru Maharaj Ji, "Lord of the Universe"
and "Perfect Master"began Divine Light
Mission in the 1970s when he was 13 years
drew thousands of devotees in Europe, the Americas
and Australia, many from universities in the West.
During that time Rawat came to speak at UC
of the religious group lived together in secluded
religious communities, former members
1990, Rawat has reworked his image. Divine Light
Mission has been replaced by the charitable
organization Elan Vital, which professes to spread
peace and knowledge.
of Rawat's followers left after he changed his
message to "just teach people how to find
contentment," former members said.
devotees said Rawat fails to inform people
introduced to his ideas about this
they are not telling the public is that he used to
claim he was the living incarnation of God," Whalen
said. "He became fabulously wealthy off the backs
of his followers."
former followers allege he abused his power as a
leader to devotees and their children.
is scheduled to speak at several public programs
throughout the United States and Europe in the
Vital denied past devotees tickets to tonight's
lecture, former members said.
who requested a ticket to tonight's event, received
an e-mail from the organization barring him from
behavior "presents a legitimate threat to our right
to hold an orderly and peaceful gathering," the
it's true in cults, if you ever criticize the
leader you are banned from the event," Whalen
Vital could not be reached for comment.