|Journeys: M. Moore|
|Date: May 23, 2004|
|How did I end up here? I feel like I’m waking up from a long nap
that started 30 years ago and can’t believe so much time has gone by…
I was 18 and in my first year of college when I heard about a young Indian prince to whom a lot of people gave a lot of material things. That was my introduction; my college roommates had heard a mahatma speak at the student union. They took me to the ashram to check it out. I had a few doubts, but within a few meetings I was definitely in. I finished my second quarter and moved into the ashram, abandoning a college scholarship and the chance to get an education, for which I had been preparing most of my life.
The main hook for me was that I wanted an explanation for what life was all about. Why did God not give us an operating manual? I had rejected the Christian religion, seeing the hypocrisy. The “perfect master is always here giving the true knowledge” somehow made sense to me. I saw the “blissed out” premies. Their eyes were dilated and they weren’t on drugs. I thought this is how it must been when Jesus was here.
I lived in the ashrams for about 7 years, till the phase-out started. Moved out in 74 for a year and a half to do propagation with a friend in W. Va. Lived at the City of Love and Light for about 6 months, then went to Detroit to be the housemother. Fell in love with a woman there, and we lived together for 6 months.
Then Atlantic City happened. I left the relationship and moved to a large East Coast city. I ended up moving back into the ashram. Was brought down to Miami in ‘79 and lived in the Broadripple for about 4 months. I was working opening the national donations to DLM and depositing them in the bank, and treasurer for the people living there. Was very surprised by the different culture there. How people would work all day, go to satsang at night, and then go do more service for a few hours before bed! It was also very “cliquey”. Seemed like junior high to me.
I was struggling with hypoglycemia around then a bit. Too much vegetarian life without nutrition knowledge. The long hours didn’t help.
They moved me to Gainesville where I was the assistant community coordinator for a year and a half. I really enjoyed this. The only problem was that I was very attracted to one of the premie guys. Every now and then we would sneak out and have sex, drink wine and smoke cigarettes, returning to the ashram about 3 a.m.! Then I would wake up the next day, feeling very guilty, and not speak to him for days.
I remember asking a visiting instructor, “Do you think I should get a diaphragm so I don’t get pregnant on these episodes?” Her reply was, “I think you should decide if you want to live in the ashram or not”. Anyway, an instructor came through and asked my boyfriend, me, the community coordinator and his girlfriend the housemother to move out. They did. I still was trying to make it work so he relented and said I could live in the “pre-ashram” and if I still wanted to, I could move back in 6 months.
Well, it was pretty tough. I was soon fired from my job because I had invited my boss to a program and she was alarmed by the pranaming. I had no car and now the satsang programs were on the other side of town. I remember crying and crying.
I lasted about a month. My boyfriend and I moved to Atlanta. I ended up moving to another East Coast city 2 months later to take a job and live in another pre-ashram. Boy was I stubborn!
We were definitely indoctrinated with the concept that living the ashram life was very important. It affected many decisions in my life, like even having children (I have no children – would I have? I’ll never know).
After moving to the city, I started focusing on career. I also started a 3-year relationship with a premie who was in the ashram. So no more ashram for me!
The company I worked for did very well and I got to do a lot of different things. I guess my innate smarts and people skills helped me succeed even though I hadn't gotten the college education. I was not in a career though that I would have chosen had I gone to college, for sure.
I had a nine-year relationship during this time with a “non-premie” who introduced me to the lesbian community. I made lots of friends, played competitive softball, soccer, rode motorcycles, did downhill skiing, and cross-country skiing. I had a pretty nice life with her, and we had a very good love relationship. We finally broke up because I got more involved with “service” and traveling to international programs and she felt abandoned.
I then got involved with another woman for five years. I learned to white-water kayak and did a lot bicycling. During this time I went part-time at work and got my pilot’s license, with instrument rating, thinking I would change careers and become a pilot. But after really considering it, I decided not to and went back to my company full-time.
During these years, the 80’s and 90’s, I still thought of Maharaji as my lord. I idolized him and loved him. I was a gopi, I guess. I was living a pretty normal life on the outside, even to my significant other, but with other devoted premies I could get pretty gushy and I would always cry at devotional programs and videos. I always meditated every morning and had good experiences with it. Mostly a good centered clear feeling, and a kind of universal love.
By about 1998, I was feeling like I wanted to do some real good. It wasn't enough to just send money so M could fly around and lecture. I started thinking about maybe volunteering at a soup kitchen or something. I admired my mother for her 30 years in AA and all the people she counseled over the years.
Anyway, I quit near the end of '98 to take a break and maybe start my own company. About a month later I received a call from M's personal secretary. She had received a card I'd sent offering my services and said she could use some help. My dreams had been answered! So I got my stuff together and headed out to California within a few days.
Once there, she put me to work opening and organizing M’s mail. This was before the website. It was pretty heady feeling the devotion flowing off these letters. The way the mail worked at that time was that M’s personal accountant looked through the mail for any checks and to see if any cards or letters were from people M knew personally. Those went to the residence. If any seemed really in trouble, they were sent to an instructor to contact the premie with counseling (or whatever they could provide). Others offering their services were put into folders by trade for future reference. Those unknown to M saying thank you, etc. were just put in boxes and shredded from time to time.
A few months later, the website where M can get mail went up. A very lovely person who was a very good friend to me while I was there takes the emails and organizes them for M by date. She also flags anything from a personal acquaintance or someone who is in trouble. It does bother me to think of someone with her potential, education, and personal skills is spending so much time doing such a tedious task, day in and day out. But she feels honored to be doing it, I’m sure.
My next project was to research and procure getting good fast internet access with good security (firewalls) for the residence and the office where his accountant, a few others, and I worked.
Around this time my girlfriend came out to CA and broke up with me. (This was a 5-year relationship where we owned a home together.) She said that she had contacted well-respected cult specialists and Maharaji was definitely a cult leader. I had been supporting her while she finished her MBA for the last 2 years. She was worried that I was not returning and had gotten a job to support herself. I continued to support the household expenses another 2 months then moved out permanently. Another relationship ruined because of putting Maharaji #1 in my life!
Then I got a very interesting project, to work on getting his Stemme motor-glider delivered from Germany. This is a $250,000 toy. I was there to receive it on the Baltimore docks and had it trucked to St. Louis where he received 2 days of flight training on it. He flew it around the pattern twice, once with Hans and once with Amar. He never flew it again. About a year later he decided he didn’t think it was safe enough and I ended up putting it up for sale.
Apparently he thought I did a good job with this so I was then offered another job, to manage his transportation, starting July 1999, which included all his aircraft (a G-IV, two helicopters, the Stemme) and his yacht. What I mainly did to accomplish this was be a glorified purchasing agent, haggling with manufacturers like Gulfstream and Bell to get upgrades that he wanted. Also to hire and deal with co-pilots and set up M’s flight training at Flight Safety.
About a month after accepting this new position, his personal secretary of 15 years was diagnosed with a very serious illness and went on leave for an indefinite period of time. We didn’t even know if she would live. But she did recover and was back on the job, albeit more carefully for her health, about a year later. So I had no one to train me in the duties that only she had done for so many years. Sink or swim, baby!
For the first six months I worked full-time with no pay. This was my choice. Once I had been offered an official position sanctioned by M, I was offered a salary of $45,000 a year. At that time this was the highest salary paid to any of his personal staff, shared only by his accountant and secretary, but only one-third what I was making previously in the business world. I understand now that finally his extremely dedicated mechanic is making a good salary, thank god. Most of the instructors made about $30,000 and a lot of the residence staff made about $20,000, if that.
During those six months I was floating on a cloud. As he brought me in closer, it was a true honeymoon. We had lots of phone conversations and emails, he really buttered me up. But it was always business for the most part.
During the next few months I worked a lot with his premie dispatcher, who worked tirelessly through all time zones to support his travels. She recently was relieved of these duties to let a “professional” do it instead. She was extremely good at this and he did a very bad job of firing her. But this happened after I left so I’ll leave it to her to describe when she leaves, hopefully some day.
Sometime about 4 months into the job, he was displeased with something I had been in charge of. It was some proposal I had sent for upgrades to the G-IV. Communication with him was very difficult sometimes; he wasn’t that great at telling you what he wanted. It was very unprofessional; I remember thinking that being a mind-reader should have been listed as a job requirement. There were a number of times I would send a proposal that he had asked for and then I would hear nothing back for a long period of time.
Then I had a good success with a Bell Helicopter upgrade. I was back in his good graces. Shortly thereafter, he brought me in closer to be involved on-site with the completion of the G-V. The G-V is a $40 million aircraft which he wanted, since it is bigger and has longer range than the G-IV.
With these aircraft, you buy it mostly finished, then have it outfitted with your particular avionics and furnishings. This completion process usually takes about 7 months. It’s very like building a house or a yacht.
So I went to the factory to be on-site for the duration. This was February 2000. Once he and his premie attorney, who specializes now in the aviation field, and the mechanic left, I was left alone there to work with the customer rep for Gulfstream. My job was to be the liaison between PR and Gulfstream.
The second day there, this rep took me aside and said that Mr. Rawat had a lot of people that didn’t like him. Apparently he had done a search on the internet to see who this high-rolling guy was and must have found EPO. I gave him the party line that he had a lot more people that liked him than didn’t.
So I would go on-site to the factory every day, observe, report, and interface. PR would call me or email me. Early on he was very demanding about the price of a certain enhancement. It seemed very unreasonable what he wanted, but I tried to accomplish it. It undermined his credibility to be so penny-pinching, I thought.
A month later there was a major donor conference in California and I asked him if I could go. He indicated through his new 21-year-old secretary, “But who’ll keep an eye on the G-V?” I was just going to go on the weekend and they didn’t work on it over the weekend at that point anyway. He didn’t seem to get that I might be lonely out there and want to come back to see some friends and maybe have a little inspiration.
About a month after that the G-IV was sold and the mechanic came and joined me there. At least I had a friend and someone knowledgeable to help out. I didn’t really have experience in building airplanes, just my pilot experience and business background. So the customer rep was not that nice to me; he only respected people with knowledge in his area of expertise it seemed. It made the job very difficult.
At one point before the mechanic got there, the rep got fed up with me and called the attorney. He wanted me banned from the factory. And this attorney then called me and indicated that it must be my fault. This really hurt. Here I’m doing my very best and he doesn’t even think that it might be the other guy’s fault. He didn’t support me when I needed it. Keep in mind that I was a very successful business person. But I was in over my head.
I learned much later, after I left, from a friend, that from that point on PR would say negative things about me, including incompetent, behind my back to others close in.
I sent a note to PR explaining that I didn’t think that I was the right person to be here, that the rep and I weren’t getting along. I proposed that the co-pilot (a non-premie) come and help out. A couple months later he agreed.
About 3 months in, say April-May 2000, PR came with entourage to do some inspections, his mistress included. I didn’t know at the time that she was the mistress. She was taking a lot of pictures. I learned this a month or two later from a friend who does security. I thought back to some of my instructions received from the secretary that the passenger manifests were never to be viewed by M’s family. Now I know why. He tries to keep it from his wife as much as possible, but I’m sure she knows. Once I became part of the aviation staff she was kind of cold to me; now I know why.
I arranged for a house for him to stay in while he took his 3-week flight training. Had it set up with computer access, furniture, etc. etc. And a second house for his cook and valets. He had 2 at the time. One stayed with him and the other with the cook. When reviewing the satellite bill for Maharaji’s house, I noticed a pay-per-view for a pornographic movie, something about Snow Bunnies. Well, a lot of guys watch porn, right?
During the flight training he would also visit the airplane everyday while it was being painted. I would be there, and his mechanic. One day the three of us were in the airplane and PR started talking to the mechanic about what various sexual positions he (the mechanic) was going to be using with his girlfriend upon his return to California. This offended me especially because I was friends with her, and I felt it was rude to be talking about this, especially in front of me. I left the airplane and waited outside. I have later learned that this actually qualifies as sexual harassment since he was my employer.
During the flight training we had a trailer set up outside the building so he could have his smoke breaks, not have to use the public restroom, and eat his lunch in private.
While the airplane was almost finished, PR was in town with nothing to do, staying on his yacht. He would fly the helicopter over to the factory every day to see how things were going. He had me look into seaplane training, but he didn’t end up doing it.
Once the airplane was finished, (August 2000) he flew off to Spain and then Amaroo. He talked to me on the phone the day before he left. That was the last he ever spoke to me. I was left to pack up the office at Gulfstream, close down the houses, and continue arranging for a co-pilot for the G-V. He had decided that the one that went through training with him wasn’t going to be good enough.
At this point I was quite exhausted, emotionally and physically. Over the last month, I had begun to feel like my stock with the boss was sinking. And when your whole world revolves around one person, and all the people you know and work with in your daily life have the same focus, this is a very queasy feeling.
I decided to go to Amaroo to try to reconnect with him as my master, instead of a very demanding boss. It worked a little bit. He was surprised to see me in the darshan line. Then I returned to California.
Once there, I continued to try to do my job but it just wasn’t the same. He wasn’t giving me any projects. He wasn’t really answering any proposals. His secretary had come back on board and she was treating me like I was an idiot. We had been good friends, I thought, during her illness. This hurt too.
I learned 3 months after returning to California that he had told her to fire me right after the airplane was finished. She didn’t tell me for 3 months because she was afraid that I would just quit and leave her to do all the work I was doing.
So during this time I was starting to feel like resigning. I had a mini-nervous breakdown about a week or two after returning to California and I remember being nauseous and looking at people in a park and thinking, will I ever have a regular life again, friends, time to socialize, time to do things I like to do? So about 3 months after returning to California I was out to lunch with M’s accountant and expressed this feeling. He said that made his job much easier. He had been planning to tell me over lunch that M didn’t think I was “the right person for the job”. No other job was offered. I was asked to find my replacement.
Like an idiot, I agreed. I even helped with the Christmas shopping for PR. Every year he gives gifts to business associates to ingratiate them to him, mostly aviation contacts. No gifts for the premies, though. His co-pilot makes over $100,000 a year. This is low by industry standards, but a lot of money compared to what he pays his premies.
Several months later when none of the people I suggested were being really considered, I decided to just let the secretary choose who she wanted herself. That’s what she was doing anyway. I was getting extremely depressed and needed to get out. So I gave notice, tidied up all my projects, let them witness my computer being wiped clean (this is required), and left.
Some anger and hurt started coming up. It felt like the biggest relationship of my life had just broken up. That Maharaji didn’t even have the professional courtesy to sit down with me himself and tell me thanks for my hard work, but it isn’t working out. That would have been fine. But no, he had someone else do it. He just gave me the silent treatment. I have learned since that he does this with everyone. When he’s done with you, that’s it.
So, in March 2001, I moved back to the same town where my family lives, to spend some time with my mother before she got too old. After all, I had been gone for 30 years. We had stayed in good contact after the first few ashram years, but it’s not the same as living in the same town. I licked my wounds and was grateful for her support.
About 2 weeks after I arrived home, my brother was unexpectedly diagnosed with terminal cancer. I spent the next 9 months helping out with his care, trying to find an alternative treatment that might save his life. Sadly, he died at the age of 45 leaving a wife of 5 years and a 1-year-old daughter. It was pretty devastating for me.
I was still “practicing Knowledge” at this time. I had gone to a big event a few months after leaving CA and had a good time. I was trying to make a go of it as a rank-and-file premie again. But my devotion was hard to drum up again.
I started massage school in March 2002, a 7-month program. I didn’t really want to go back into the corporate business scene.
About a month after my brother died, I started seeing a spiritual counselor/medium. I thought she could help me with my grieving process, and maybe help me get in contact with my brother (I believed in psychics at that time). I started seeing her once a week. She didn’t charge too much and lived humbly. She was very personable and unassuming. A very nice change from what I was used to in the student/teacher relationship.
She taught me another meditation that would help me develop my sensitivity so I could communicate with my spirit guides. After a few months I found that I liked that meditation better than the Knowledge meditation, so I stopped practicing Knowledge. Around this time I stopped being a devotee of Maharaji.
She was saying that he was spiritual when I first got involved, but that he had gradually become much less spiritual. That when he spoke at programs that his guides spoke through him. I bought this explanation. Gradually she had more and more influence over me. I found I was consulting her about every decision.
I learned later that this happens frequently when a person leaves a cult. They want someone else to give them the answers, to help them form their worldview. Well, I adopted her worldview and abandoned Maharaji’s. But at least, having been once burned, I would say, “This is what I believe now”, but not being really sure.
Two years into studying with her, April 2004, an ex-premie friend came to stay with me for a couple months in between jobs. We had great discussions. Then I read “Cults in Our Midst”, by Margaret Singer, Ph.D. The light bulbs went off.
I saw that I had been duped as had many others. I began to understand how coercive persuasion works. How perfectly intelligent people can be sucked into psychotherapy cults, Bible cults, Eastern religious cults, etc. How the meditation was really a way of making me more suggestible to the cult leader’s directives and suggestions. How you get more flies with honey. How smooth Maharaji is (now I see right through it, but I was fooled for a long time.)
I immediately stopped practicing the medium’s meditation. Did I really want to be letting “spirit guides” in to influence me? Maybe I should rethink that. :) And I stopped going to the medium’s classes.
I’ve decided to go back to college and take up where I left off at the age of 18. I have been practicing as a massage therapist for a year and a half and had just decided that I would go to acupuncture school. But I think now that I’d like to study psychology, history, and figure out what I really want to do when I grow up, like I should have when I was 18. If I really want to learn traditional chinese medicine, then I will.
I want to form my own worldview. I’ve begun some counseling with a cult exit counselor. I really recommend this for anyone leaving a cult. I am beginning to see how I was affected on many levels by my blind devotion. The elitist mentality, the easy answers. Like they say, If it sounds too good to be true…it probably is.
The moral to this very long story is that life is surely a process, isn’t it? I don’t want to lose my optimism or faith in people. I just want to be more discriminating going forward.
I don’t really want to hurt Maharaji or his family. For the most part he and his staff have been kind and considerate to me personally. My concern is for the thousands of people still in the cult, many of them my long-term friends.
I just want to provide another piece of the puzzle so people can make up their minds for themselves if this is who they want to dedicate themselves to.
Still on the path,
I just re-read this and decided it was time for an update. I did go back to school; in May I graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of social work degree and am entering the master's program in the fall. My goal is to work as a psychotherapist, either in private practice or within an organization. With a social work degree, I believe I will be able to channel my humanitarian instincts into something meaningful to me.
So Rawat just bought a new jet. I hope the person who was the customer rep during the completion had a better time of it than I did. But I look back and think that if I hadn't had that experience, I would probably still be in the mind-numbing cult. Sometimes it takes a lot of pain to break through all the psychological conditioning.
College has been enjoyable; I am glad to have learned the basics of what most educated people know. One of the first courses I took was Social Psychology, which helped me understand further how easily people can be influenced by groups and authoritarian leaders. There was a whole chapter on cults. Algebra, calculus, and statistics were great for retraining my mind to think logically. Astronomy was great - how the stars are born and die, how the universe was created. Anthropology, archeology, and biology filled in a few more blanks. Macroeconomics and American Government helped me understand the big picture from a political and economic perspective. Social work and sociology courses helped me understand why everyone does not have the same opportunities and what needs to be done to promote social and economic justice.
I am comfortable with my worldview, which does not include a "superior power". I feel no need to believe in the fairy tales used to explain the world by people who lived long ago or who make them up as they go along today. People don't need religion to be moral, ethical and treat each other with respect and dignity. Religion can be a tool for positive social activism and advocacy for the disadvantaged; it can also be used to promote discrimination and war. I would like to see religion gradually phase out of society, as more and more people learn to think for themselves and take responsibility for conducting themselves in an ethical manner.
These days, I don't think about Rawat very often; I have a few premie friends and a few ex-premie friends. Mostly I live in the world of everyone else, and happily so. I have become a much more pragmatic person and am grateful for simple pleasures: friends, family, a good day's work. I am grateful for the help the forum regulars gave me as I exited, and I hope that more and more people can see Rawat for what he is (a self-important boob) and what he is not (a humanitarian leader or someone worthy of devotion). I feel the satisfaction of knowing that my life is in my own hands and, as defined by me, on track.