FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Maharaji?

Back in the mid '70s, Maharaji played a simple game to describe himself - the rules were understood but never mentioned: "You say I'm God... I don't say I'm God... But there again, I don't say I'm not God..." There's a clue to the official line on the back cover of his authorized biography 'Who is Guru Maharaj Ji?':

"Why do more than six million people around the world claim he is the greatest incarnation of God that ever trod the face of this planet? Why do Christian priests claim that he has taught them the way to love? Why do Hindus refer to him as the Swan Avatar? Why does revolutionary Rennie Davis claim that Guru Maharaj Ji is "already the brightest event in the history of the planet?" Why have more than 280 centers of Guru Maharaj Ji's Divine Light Mission sprung up in America in the last two years - all devoted to furthering his promise: "I will establish peace in the world!"

Guru Maharaj Ji has since dropped the prefix Guru and simplified his name to Maharaji but many of his followers still believe he is God come to lead us to the Promised Land.

How many followers does he have?

The number has fallen dramatically since the highpoint of Divine Light Mission during the mid '70s. The six million figure quoted above is very dubious - the total number was probably nearer a few hundred thousand - the vast majority of these being in India. The organisation came to a virtual standstill in the late '70s when M lost a court case in India against his mother and elder brother for control of DLM. The Ashrams were closed and it wasn't until 1984 that M restarted his mission under the new name of Elan Vital. The organisation today is shrouded in mystery and there's no real way of establishing an accurate figure, but his decision to stop anyone other than himself imparting the four meditation techniques, together with a minimum six month waiting period, must have reduced the number considerably.

Why do people follow him?

Maharaji is a very charismatic and effective speaker. He was brought up since the age of six to think he was something very special and although he probably no longer believes it himself, he is astute enough to play the guru game for all it's worth - and it's worth a great deal of money. He combines a simple message - that meditation will lead to spiritual salvation - with enough new-age doubletalk to mask the obvious contradictions. The meditation techniques are packaged in such a way that they are given a mystical power and people are always attracted to the idea that they are the Chosen Few who will be saved when the world falls into apocalyptic oblivion.

Does he charge money?

Maharaji says he doesn't charge for showing people the meditation techniques, but there is a fairly obvious undercurrent that donations are needed to spread the message and save the planet. Many of the people who followed him with any conviction ended up giving him all their savings and possessions.

Where's the harm?

Maharaji preaches a message of peace, love and understanding; so where's the harm? The best people to ask would be the relatives of those who follow him - the husbands, wives, children and parents. We've had a number of heart-felt cries for help from people who feel their loved ones have lost touch with reality. Many marriages have been destroyed when one partner decided to follow Maharaji. The greatest danger in believing M's message is that the follower gets sucked into an organization with a hidden agenda. Despite what anyone says, M is in it for one thing, and one thing only... the money. He has no interest in his followers beyond the amount of donations he can extract from them. He has a ridiculously expensive lifestyle and it needs a lot of money to keep him and his family in the style to which they have become accustomed.

Maharaji's potential for harm is enormous. He leads his followers to believe he is 'Divine' - just like the Rev Jones and many other cult leaders have done before him. Until Maharaji comes down from his ivory tower and says that he's just an average guy making a living selling meditation techniques, then he is a disaster waiting to happen.

Where does he live?

He lives in Malibu, California. Scott Perry has been there: "I would easily estimate it's worth at least $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. It is a palatial, gated estate sitting atop a mountain with a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean far below." We've also had a report from a local realtor who says the mansion has recently been rebuilt and expanded, and now includes such essentials as heated marble floors, electric windows and a $2,000,000 music studio. His estimate is that it's worth a minimum of $15,000,000.

What's he worth?

Once Maharaji's closest confidant, Bob Mishler said in his radio interview that Maharaji was a very wealthy man. He's certainly owned a collection of very expensive motor cars, including Rolls Royces, Maseratis and Ferraris plus a plane (currently a Gulf Stream 4 Jet worth some $25,000,000) and a yacht which is said to be valued at around $7,000,000. (More details on Maharaji's wealth and Who Owns What Around Maharaji ).

How did Maharaji become a guru?

His father started the line and seems to have declared eight-year-old Maharaji his successor shortly before his death in 1966. (Click here to read the details). But Bob Mishler tells a fascinating story in his radio interview of the circumstances surrounding Maharaji's election. Apparently Maharaji's mother demanded that she should succeed but when told that his Indian followers would not accept a woman guru she pushed forward her eldest son. But by the time she had got their agreement, Maharaji (the youngest son) had already been elected.

What's happened to the rest of his 'holy' family?

At one time, they were known as the holy family. His mother was known as Mata Ji and the three elder brothers were supposed to represent the divine Hindu triumvirate: Bal Bhagwan Ji, the eldest, was supposed to be the 'creator' (he was also said to be the reincarnation of Jesus). Raja Ji was said to be the 'sustainer' (he created his own little police force known as the World Peace Corps, complete with guns and sharp suits). And Bhole Ji - the second youngest - was said to be the 'destroyer'.

Mata ji died a few years ago from diabetes.

Bal Bagwan Ji set himself up as the perfect master with the help of his mother but his guru business never really succeeded, and he went into Indian politics. He became a high-level administrator in a recent government and there were some reports that he may even have been Transport Minister.

Raja ji was (and still is), an instructor and ambassador for M. He married Claudia in 73 and they have a daughter (although there are rumours that they are now separated and that Claudia is suing M). Raja Ji was always a sharp businessman and into making money. It's been said that he used his position as M's brother to receive shares in good premie businesses.

Bhole ji, who at one time ran quite a funky orchestra for M known as Blue Aquarius, was last heard of driving a taxi in New York, and he may now have his own taxi company.

During the early 80s, M's wife Marolyn dropped her 'Durga Ji' title, stepped down from her throne and stopped speaking at programs.

Maharaji's stepmother (his father's first wife) had a residence in the Indian ashram. She died a couple of years ago and M. attended her funeral.

Changes in a nutshell

Many ex-premies may not realise just how how far Maharaji has travelled since the Divine Light Mission of the early '70s. The most obvious change has been to the organisation's name - it's been known as Elan Vital for some time. (For a more detailed account of the changes, see DLM/EV History - After 1983) The Mahatmas who used to give Knowledge became 'Initiators', and are now called 'Instructors'. Only Maharaji is now allowed to give 'Knowledge'. (Click here to read the details).

Suggested reading

More Bibliography

The Guru Papers; Marks of Authoritarian Power, by Joel Kramer & Diana Alstad. Published by North Atlantic Books. ISBN 1-883319-00-5.

Radhasoami Reality; The Logic of a Modern Faith, by Mark Juergensmeyer. Published by Princeton. ISBN 0-691-01092-7.

Freud : Civilization and Discontents. This essay was written in answer to a question from one of his friends, Romain Rolland, who was a well-known disciple of Ramakrishna. He wrote "Ramakrishna's teaching" and also a book about his successor Vivekananda. Ramakrishna was also part of Radhasoami tradition. His question to Freud was related to the beautiful and blissful feeling you can discover through meditation. This is an 100 pages answer to people who are interested in psychology.

Sudhir Kakar : Shamans, Mystics and Doctors (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York). S. Kakar is an Indian psychoanalyst, practicing in Bombay. He studied in the US. He analyses several Indian mystic groups, including the branch of Radha Soami led by Charan Singh. This is very well documented study, and is interesting as it is analyzed by an Indian western minded psychoanalyst.

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