During 2002, reports surfaced
of exclusive unpublicised events, attended by Maharaji,
where only those supporters of Maharaji who could pay the
large entrance fee were invited. The cost to attend these
events ran to thousands of dollars. Darshan took place
(that's where the attendees kiss Maharaji's feet), and the
attendees were exhorted to donate and pledge more. Until
now, no one who had attended such an event had spoken out.
This is not surprising, as the greater the investment,
emotionally, financially, and in time dedicated, the harder
it must be to entertain the idea that maybe trusting
Maharaji is a mistake. Many thanks then to Nya for
submitting this account of the conference she attended in
2001. Those who weren't invited, and never knew that such
events happened, should ask themselves if this is about love
and devotion, or hard cash.
Big Money - Big Joke
I'd been drip feeding money by direct debit to Elan Vital Australia, a non profit organization that works for Prem Rawat, a religious cult leader, for many years - a monthly sum averaging about $80 Australian, with occasional bigger sums when a heartfelt plea came round from EV management for more funds along the lines of - 'we desperately need money, because (awed hushed tone) the Boss (Rawat) says so'.
I really thought Amaroo, or Ivorys Rock Conference Centre, near Brisbane, Australia, a centre funded by the premies (followers) in Rawat's name, and the target of my donations, was going to be a facility to promote world peace. This was to be the place where people who had a sincere heart, could come and practise the gift of inner knowledge, connection with the infinite, the true prayer, the true way to spread peace on this planet.
At least this is what Prem Rawat, also known as Guru Maharaj Ji, also known as Maharaji, had been preaching for many years, and I had been listening.
When I first heard him, my reaction was that he was a fake, a charlatan, but after repeated urgings from various musicians of my acquaintance that he was the real thing, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, and believe that his message was true.
At the time, 1976, in Melbourne Australia it was being propagated that the Lord, incarnate on the planet as Guru Maharaj J, had come to save the world, by giving this gift of perfect Knowledge, a way to connect with universal love and the divine, to anyone who asked for it, for free. And this in fact was what I heard him say himself, on tape and in person, at public speaking events.
Let's face it, it was a great line as sales pitches go in the God business, and I fell for it hook, line and sinker.
I was finally shown the four techniques in 1984, and diligently practiced them for 18 odd years. I did experience peace and bliss and harmony, and still do, though I no longer practise the techniques. And so I should have, as they are quite a high form of Yoga, practiced widely in India, although Rawat claims he is the sole custodian appointed by divine succession, as he claims on a former version of the website www.maharaji.org, viewable on the internet archives.
But another message came to me via his premie followers, and that was I should be infinitely grateful to the person who showed me the techniques, and that it was my deepest privilege to show my thanks in any way I could, to help this very very special person to stop the insanity and madness that exists on this planet, by exercising his divinity.
I had seen over the years how money donated to charities was more often than not misappropriated, and had been so pleased that I could channel spare cash into something that really did work, and that was guaranteed 100% to go to making this world a better place to live . or so I thought.
And I could show my appreciation in a tangible way. I could give money to help him do his work around the planet, and give more people this gift. When enough people had this gift, when critical mass had been reached, surely then there would be world peace.
Hence the direct debits to the bank account.
I was not happy with many practices I saw at Amaroo, the Australian land parcel that had been transformed into Prem Rawat's international conference centre by mainly volunteer labour, such as exploitation of workers, insensitive building practices and lack of accountability, and made a number of attempts to ascertain whether my money was being misused by followers of Maharaji, as he was then known.
I could not believe that the living incarnation of the universal principle of love was misguided. His will was obviously being subverted by less conscious individuals who ran the place for him. After all, they were either volunteers or badly paid, because this was all that could be afforded, in the need to stretch the money a long way amongst many worthy projects, so no wonder there seemed to be a marked lack of professionalism about the place, almost as though it were a typical badly managed small business with illegitimate labour practices.
In this way, I suspended disbelief for a number of years.
My father once taught me a rule of business - never gamble more than you can afford to lose.
The stakes got higher when, out of the blue, I received a call about a year ago, from an Elan Vital finance coordinator, asking me did I want to have a very special opportunity to be close to the Master. That he wanted more cash to spread his Knowledge further, faster and better. And that a team of people from round the world were going to have the privilege to attend a private conference with Him. The minimum donation required was USD $5,000. A very small price for attendance with the greatest CEO (sic) on earth.
I thought about it and realized I could just and barely afford to lose about half this sum. The dot.com bust and subsequent tech wreck was affecting my income, but how could I refuse a plea from the Teacher to whom I owed an eternal debt of gratitude for the gift of the Knowledge of all Knowledges?
So I offered half. It was accepted, as long as I guaranteed the other half with my credit card details.
I suppose I was to a small degree flattered to be asked. But really I thought this was my opportunity to really get close enough to find some answers. Was my money to be well spent, how did the chain of command work? Was there some way I could get the message across that Amaroo was not, in my opinion, working as a centre for world peace because it was being badly managed as a despotic small business instead of an well-oiled international corporation accountable to its shareholders. Would I at last be able to tell someone that nepotism and cronyism were rife?
The event was to be held at Amaroo, an hour's drive from my home in Queensland.
Then at the last minute there was a change of venue to the Scottsdale Fairmont Resort, Phoenix Arizona.
I still felt committed, so I booked a return ticket to the US, a long journey from Australia, about 20 hours with 14 hours flying time. And reasonably expensive.
I'm not impressed by money, wealth and resorts. I've grown up in a very beautiful resort town with pristine beaches and white sand, rainforest and tropical gardens.
I had arrived a day early at the Princess Fairmont Scottsdale resort. It was an oasis in the middle of the Arizona desert, ancestral lands of the Navajo people, who arrived in the area from the northern regions of the Americas somewhere between 1000AD and 1500AD. The landscape is stark and sculpturesque, as dramatic outcrops push up out of the sparsely vegetated desert plain.
The hotel is a veritable oasis in the desert, well appointed and with some interesting neo-hacienda style architecture.
The Elan Vital convention participants started to arrive in drips and drabs, as I watched from my sequestered spot under a shady tree by the rock pool shaped swimming lagoon.
By that evening, there were about four hundred people ($5,000.00 USD x 400= $2,000,000.00 USD) who turned up to attend this special event for major donors. The idea being sold was that giving money was a team effort too, and this was to be a conference for money givers to get a chance to team up.
On the evening before the event started, all these people were mingling and socializing in a convention foyer in a way that I am personally never comfortable with. The 'who do you know' session, a chance to see and be seen, to impress with dress, catch up with old friends, make new contacts. After a few turns it was apparent that I knew very few people, and wasn't about to meet any more.
Starting the next morning, there came was a few stage managed conference sessions, over two and a half days, where we were captive audience to a person renowned in the cult for his service of soliciting money, Yoram Weiss.
He and Prem Rawat gave some rather embarrassing presentations from the point of view of contemporary good corporate practice. That is, statistics with no real context, graphs with little explanation or definition, and a relentless hard sell message, that we were here on sufferance really, as someone had to provide the money.
It was barely a week from the tragedy of September 11th, so Prem Rawat played the role of divine comforter, noting that there were always going to be tragedies.
To an outsider, the Americans at the conference seemed very naive about the horrifying tragedy, and were looking for answers as though there were an explanation for the ignorance and stupidity of the war mongering that is all too prevalent on this planet. And of course Rawat was perceived as having answers to September 11th.
Meanwhile there was no mention of an agenda for the participants, it was as usual, a one way communication, from Rawat to his audience.
At dinner, I was surprised by the number of my dining companions who expressed an intent on revenge for the awful twin towers tragedy. This was supposed to be a conference of people focused on inner peace and inner knowledge. Didn't they know that violence begets violence? And that it is all too easy for a retaliatory action to perpetuate as splinters of violence for centuries to come?
I told the story at dinner of the East Timorese people who had to decide what to do to the traitors in their midst who had hacked their own people to death with machetes at the behest of the Indonesian military. They decided to forgive them, and attempt reconciliation, as the only practical way to advance out of a past fraught with such a depth of despair, sorrow, torture and deprivation. It didn't cut much ice.
Over the life of the conference, which comprised sessions by Yoram Weiss on how much money was needed and which program it was needed in, expression sessions by Rawat, with vague allusions to money making activities and the importance of his work, a question session where the stern Master could chide the questioner or the benevolent master could bask in the embarrassingly sickly gratitude of the gushy devotee, there were two really interesting events.
Firstly, the foot kissing ritual, where the devotee goes through security checks and has the opportunity to surrender their will to that of their Master, meanwhile showing practical gratitude in the form of gifts of money laid at the 'Lotus Feet', a sectarian Hindu religious practice, surely a little of out of place in the 21st century Western society.
Secondly, during the conference there was a very strange session. It purported to be a training session to build the money team.
No input was requested from team members. No formal method was applied to form into teams.
However, an exercise was set by some person who was called a team trainer, for team building, everyone was asked to gather themselves in functional units to carry out some simple task.
Now I don't like group activities, so I just sat and watched. The people at the event were so efficient that within a couple of minutes, they had formed themselves into coherent teams and were well on the way to completing their tasks.
But then subsequently, there was a session where they were told by Rawat that they were complete failures, and that they were hopeless and they just were totally terrible at the training.
What? I'd seen excellent responses with my own eyes!
But what happened next was even more puzzling in terms of the well ordered and organized conferences I am accustomed to attending in my professional capacity as an IT architect.
The money collector proceeded to harangue the audience about the desperate and crying need to give the Boss money, money and more money so he could do his work properly. All in all, this cowed crowd, who had just been told they were abject failures, had a chance to make amends, and pledge money for the next year.
The kinds of sums cited made me feel that the least I could do was to pledge the absolute minimum of $10,000 USD for the next year. And I'm ashamed to say that in all conscience I fell for this hard sell and pledged.
Obviously the event was then over, and everyone could go home, after another lunch of indifferent food served in a marquee, (No Fairmont catering for the likes of us - we breakfasted out in the open courtyard in the hot desert sun that reached 100 by 9am, and ate lunch and dinner in a marquee.)
On reflection, this was much more like a pyramid sales conference than a serious agenda to build a team ready to take up the challenge of funding the propagation of the inner knowledge that held the key to world peace.
It was only a few months later that I spoke to somebody who had seen where the money went at Amaroo. To a sumptuously appointed residence with lavish décor and the latest electronic gadgets and fittings for Prem Rawat. Somebody who had seen it with their own eyes, despite it being a closely guarded secret with a top security rating. They also told me about the dozen empty cognac bottles that they'd cleaned up after Prem Rawat's night of fun with his mistress. Now those behaviours I might be able to rationalize. But the final clincher for me was when my confidant told me about Prem Rawat's very nasty temper tantrums, irrational verbal abuse, and primitive psychological tactics on volunteers if he thought he wasn't getting his own way at Amaroo.
Lord of the universe, as he once claimed? Urbane provider of peaceful meditation techniques, as he now claims? Or complete charlatan and fake?
Dear reader, I'll let you be the judge.
So here is my challenge to Prem Rawat.
I've donated around $30,000 Australian over the years because you told me you and your inner knowledge were going to spread peace in this world. I recently came across a group of young Europeans who are doing a splendid job in working to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa. If you care to contact me through this site, I will give you the name of this charity to write on your refund cheque to me. They are doing something for world peace.
As you, and all your charities and non-profit organizations around the world, with tax exemptions, and your offshore tax haven companies have not, and never will, with your fraudulent use of money given in good faith to promote peace in our time.
I believe it is high time your personal finances were audited to see exactly how these multi millions of US dollars raised annually, are actually spent.
Nya Alison Murray