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Wikipedia Distortion
Rawat's followers exposed

Prem Rawat:  Attenuation of a religious experience.


Prem Rawat inherited his ‘guruship’ from his father Hans Ram Singh Rawat,[1],[2],[3],[4] despite being just eight years old at the time of his father’s death Prem Rawat was hailed as the next Satguru and became the central object of bhaktism amongst his late father’s followers.[5]

Following Hans Rawat’s death effective control of the Rawat movement passed from Hans Rawat to Prem Rawat’s mother and eldest brother although this control was by no means absolute and a degree of tension existed between three distinct elements around which varying degrees of factionalism developed. Prem Rawat’s mother and eldest brother did not have direct control over the running of the Divine Light Mission which was legally an association of members and the officials of the Mission were an entity distinct from the Rawat family; additionally the Mahatmas appointed by Hans Rawat represented a further separate body of influence. There is no published evidence which demonstrates from which of the competing groups the young Prem Rawat took his lead after his father’s death.  

A family dispute in 1974 saw Prem Rawat lose the bulk of the Indian following that had previously been loyal to his father,[6],[7] with many devotees transferring their allegiance from Prem Rawat to his older brother Sat Pal, now known as Sat Pal Maharaj.[8],[9] While the Indian following was largely lost to Prem Rawat, those followers in Europe, the United States and Australasia who had been attracted to Prem Rawat in his role as the boy Guru “Maharaj Ji” between 1971 and 1974, in most cases maintained their allegiance to Prem Rawat in spite of the family split.  It was amongst this ‘western’ following that the beliefs and, to the extent that it can be said to exist, the teaching of Prem Rawat found sustained expression.


The beliefs and teaching presented to the first European and American travellers who encountered the Rawat family and the Divine Light Mission in India in the late 1960s, was the philosophy and teaching of Hans Rawat, who had died just a few years previously. Whilst the focus of adoration had moved from Hans Rawat to Prem Rawat, then called Balyogeshwar Shri Sant Ji Maharaj[10] in all other respects the character of the belief system of the Rawat movement had remained unchanged.

The transfer of the Rawat belief system to Europe, America and Australasia occurred wholesale with new followers encouraged into a deeply personal bhakti relationship with the Satguru Guru Maharaj Ji without whose divine grace the techniques of the Knowledge meditation alone would not provide the direct experience of god.[11] Those wanting initiation into the meditation were called aspirants and as in India were required to listen to Satsang to achieve a state of ‘readiness’, the test of which was a quality of expression of emotional desire by an individual aspirant as judged by one of the Mahatmas

The Satsangs given by Prem Rawat and the Mahatmas were heavily laden with Indian cultural and religious imagery as well as emphasizing the duplicity of the mind.[12],[13] Parables from Hinduism that had been favoured by Hans Rawat were regularly repeated within Satsangs and reproduced in printed media.[14]

From 1971 onwards critical media in the USA began to pose questions to Prem Rawat and his followers which the Rawat belief system had not previously had to contend with. The nature of the Satguru, his age and the worldly luxury he enjoyed were frequent targets.[15],[16],[17] Despite these widely posed questions, prior to the family dispute of 1974 there was no attempt either by the Rawat family or the Indian Mahatmas who had traveled  to Europe and North America to moderate the operative belief system that underscored the Divine Light Mission’s transfer to ‘the west’.  After the family split Prem Rawat began to entertain the possibility of changing the way in which his Satguruship was presented to the public, a key influence in the approach to change was Bob Mishler  who for a time became Rawat’s closest American adviser.[18] Mishler was the first insider to openly question the notion of Rawat’s implied divinity and to acknowledge that Divine Light Mission had a cultic character.[19] 

Despite Rawat’s apparent early agreement with Mishler, the scale of change that Mishler had envisaged caused Rawat concern: About half way through 1976, Maharaji got very insecure about what was going to happen to him if we continued with this. He realised that he was going to lose his automatic hold over the devotees that he had had up until that point.” Also according to Mishler, Rawat’s concerns did not arise from any philosophical or religious disquiet but from purely selfish materialistic motivations  “He had grown accustomed to a very luxurious lifestyle. A lot of the necessity of keeping the members believing that he was God was to ensure that they would continue to support him in this lifestyle. If it meant that he was going to have to make any sacrifices in this lifestyle (and it had become apparent by the middle of 1976 that this was going to be the case) then he didn't really want to have to do that.”[20]

Faced with Rawat’s refusal to change, Mishler resigned from the Divine Light Mission in early 1977 and the change in direction begun under Mishler's influence came to halt, and to a degree was even reversed.


The creation of the Divine Light Mission in North America, Europe and Australasia can be seen as what in Christianity would be termed an apostolic succession. The beliefs, the received wisdom, the expressed cultural norms and religious references required to be adopted by converts to the Rawat following outside of India were precisely the beliefs, the received wisdom, the expressed cultural norms and religious references which described the belief system which had been propounded by Hans Ram Singh Rawat.

The adoption of increasingly materialistic behaviour[21] by Prem Rawat in 1971 and 1972 could be considered as the point at which the ‘succession’ was broken,  however if taken, as it was by many followers, that Prem Rawat was the Perfect Master and that all behaviour by the Master was beyond reproach then no actual break occurred because the belief system which maintained Prem Rawat as Satguru in relation to his devotees, was the same unchanged system which had maintained Hans Rawat as Satguru in relation to his devotees.

Some scholars have identified the split between Prem Rawat and his mother as being motivated by Prem Rawat’s wish to shape his own ‘movement’[22], however no actual change of promulgated belief commenced until Mishler persuaded Rawat that change was necessary, some time after the family dispute. The split between the members of the Rawat family certainly caused a separation in the management of the Indian and non Indian Divine Light Mission’s but a divergence between the active belief systems which underwrote the Divine Light Missions did not occur on Indian and non Indian lines until after the family rift, and even then the European, American and Australasian followers of Prem Rawat continued to hold beliefs that were substantially those that had been promulgated by Hans Rawat.


Only after the departure of Bob Mishler did the Divine Light Mission outside of India become wholly the creature of Prem Rawat. Although there had been some denial of Prem Rawat’s divinity many followers continued to hold on to their beliefs about the Satguru and with Mishler no longer an influence for secularism Rawat began a restatement of the role of bhaktism. In 1977 the role of the ashrams was once again placed at the forefront of what was by then a distinct Prem Rawat – then still called Guru Maharaj Ji – movement.[23] Despite having no legal role in the national Divine Light Missions it was Rawat who was universally identified as being the ‘leader’ and while many of his followers adopted lives of poverty and chastity, Rawat cultivated an increasingly opulent lifestyle.

The disjuncture between the lifestyle of Guru and follower represented a fundamental presentational separation from the inheritance of Hans Rawat. In the transfer of the Rawat belief system out of India, the moral philosophy of Hans Rawat evident in the Hans Yog Prakash[24] had received little attention and from 1977 onward Prem Rawat’s presentation of ‘his message’ effectively suppressed a key aspect of Hans Rawat’s philosophy, the conception of ‘Benevolence’.

Benevolence was given a specific section in the Hans Yog Prakash and while this is largely concerned with the ‘benevolence’ of giving Knowledge, Hans Rawat was specific in writing :

“The next most important help we can offer people after giving them these two types of knowledge is physical. To help others by means of one's physical strength is truly a kind of charity.”

And within his exploration of what Benevolence meant, Hans Rawat addressed the role of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ thinking and the respective effect of each upon human behaviour.  

“If his impressions are good, he becomes someone of good character, and if his previous Impressions are bad, he becomes someone of bad character. If someone continues to listen to evil suggestions, invite bad thoughts and perform evil deeds, then the impressions in his mind will also be evil, and the character that is built on these will be evil too. If somehow the habits which these impressions lead to, get a strangle hold on the mind, then he will be unable to see the disadvantages of evil acts, they will become invisible to him and it will become a part of his nature to do evil unthinkingly.”

The suppression  by Prem Rawat of the notion of Benevolence was primarily achieved by redrawing the focus of the activities of Divine Light Mission and its associated businesses. While previously much had been made of the intention to provide services to communities - health care, education, food co-ops and humanitarian aid [25], [26], after 1977 such ideas were entirely abandoned and although some of the Divine Light Mission businesses prospered their role was solely income generation. Service, one of the three key ‘actions’ commended by Hans Rawat and which was functionally the expression of ‘Benevolence’ was, in Prem Rawat’s Divine Light Mission, structured as purely rendering devotion to the Guru and propagation of ‘the message’.


Between 1977 and 1982 the Divine Light Mission of Prem Rawat was characterised by its highly devotional focus on Prem Rawat. The belief system which operated in Prem Rawat’s Divine Light Mission, although shorn of any moral scope, was nevertheless unequivocally the belief system previously promulgated by Hans Rawat, albeit an abridgement in which a central precept had been amputated. Devotion to the master remained the overarching context and the actions of Service, Satsang and Meditation were the key definitions of a followers life. All initiates were expected to listen to and to give Satsang regularly and Meditation was supposed to be practiced one hour each morning and one hour each night, plus the practitioner was supposed to “constantly meditate” on the “Word” technique.

The defining activities of  Prem Rawat’s Divine Light Missions were the operation of the ashrams[27],[28],[29] in which a profound emotionalism was cultivated, and the organisation of festivals of ecstatic celebration.[30],[31]

The focus of Prem Rawat’s Satsangs remained much as it had been prior to 1977, on the need for devotion, the need to be without doubt (about the Guru) and the need to be without ‘concepts’. However when matched with the increase in intensity of emotional devotionalism, Rawat’s consistent attacks upon ‘doubt’ and ‘concepts’ took on both totalitarian and anti intellectual characteristics, and prompted by the People’s Temple tragedy, outside observers became increasingly polarized over the cultic status of Prem Rawat’s movement.[32]


Beginning in 1982 Prem Rawat prompted a series of changes in the way the Divine Light Missions operated and in the way he himself was presented. A number of commentators have described these changes in terms of Rawat seeking to make his ‘message’ more acceptable to a ‘western’ audience; an alternative view is that the changes were merely a pragmatic response to increased costs and falling revenues. The first and most dramatic change was the closure of the Divine Light Mission ashrams about which Michael Dettmers who was Rawat’s personal assistant at the time has said:  Yes, at first he thought it was a mistake to do away with them [the ashrams] but then finally they went away because they simply couldn’t be sustained financially and all the responsibility that was implied.”[33]

Other changes followed in the wake of the ashram closures, some were incidental to the closures, while others were made as Rawat gained confidence that his movement had the momentum to continue generating resources without his having to be explicitly a Satguru. However none of these management and presentational changes altered the inherent belief system adopted by the remaining loyal following.


Until the mid 1980s Rawat had no physical role in the teaching of the Knowledge’ meditation techniques and the role of the Guru in the Knowledge initiation sessions was merely implied in terms of a mystical transmission of ‘Grace’ from Guru to devotee. After 1974 stylistic changes had been made in the naming of the initiation officiates, firstly from Mahatma to Initiator and finally to Instructor but the officiate role remained largely unchanged as the hands on teacher of the Knowledge techniques. After the ashram closures, the role of  Instructor was incidentally elevated when Rawat decreed that ordinary followers were forbidden to give Satsang, and the entitlement of talking about the Knowledge meditation was restricted to Rawat, his appointed Instructors and a few privileged close followers.[34]

Remarkably until sometime after 1983 Prem Rawat had himself never given instruction in meditation and when he decided in the mid 1980s that this was a task he would take on, he had to be taken through the process by one of his Instructors. Subsequently Rawat decreed that only he would give initiation into the Knowledge techniques, and only he would give Satsang.  Mike Finch, the Instructor who helped Rawat rehearse his first Knowledge initiation session has commented on the inadequacy of the Rawat meditation teaching: “ Another viewpoint is that Maharaji probably does not himself practise the techniques, has no interest in them for himself or for anybody else, picked them up 'off the shelf' as it were from his father, and that there is nothing remotely meaningful that can be said about how to focus on the physical place each technique pinpoints, so it is best to keep a mysterious silence and hope that it is taken for something deep and wise.”[35]


With the notable exception of his preferred name/title “Maharaji”, in the 1980s Prem Rawat abandoned the use of Hindi and Sanskrit terms and reduced his range of reference to Indian writings. Rawat has never made any exposition of what if anything has actually changed in his teaching or in the belief system that underpins that teaching. Explanation of apparent contradictions between the content of his early Satsangs and his later speeches has extended only to Rawat’s catch all position about ‘concepts’. [36],[37]

Prem Rawat provides no explanation about why he is especially enabled to teach meditation, and while he has stated that he is human (and by implication not divine) he has never explicitly denied his ‘satguruship’[38]. Further there has been unwavering recourse by Rawat and his followers to the formula used as early as 1971, which involved consistent denial that there was any underpinning belief system to Rawat’s teaching because ‘what is taught is an experience[39].  

As of 2005 Prem Rawat ceased to give personal instruction in the Knowledge techniques, instead selected aspirants who have watched a series of DVDs, amounting to over 70 hours of Rawat’s recorded speeches, are admitted to a supervised showing of a recording of Rawat demonstrating the four techniques. The techniques are presented as being ‘secret’ and ‘unique’. Rawat presents the Knowledge experience as being an empirical sensation of an inner reality, he does not use terms such as spirit or God, but the implication is that the experience is transcendental.

Rawat uses a rhetorical formula to explain his relationship to religious belief, however the formula is contradictory because it requires validation by individual Religious authorities:

What Prem Rawat offers is independent of and compatible with any religion. Knowledge is a practical way of experiencing peace within. It is not related to any philosophy, belief system, or spiritual path.
Does this have something to do with religion, a spiritual path, or a philosophy?
What Prem Rawat offers is independent of and compatible with any religion. Knowledge is a practical way of experiencing peace within. It is not related to any philosophy, belief system, or spiritual path.

What Prem Rawat offers is independent of and compatible with any religion. Knowledge is a practical way of experiencing peace within. It is not related to any philosophy, belief system, or spiritual path.”[40]

The contradiction is to some extent mitigated if it is accepted that what Rawat propounds is unmoderated solipsism.  

The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF) was created in 2001 and the organisation states that it: “advances the efforts of Prem Rawat, known also as Maharaji, to bring dignity, peace, and prosperity to people around the world.”

Despite this statement by the organisation which bears his name, in his speeches Prem Rawat does not commend the bringing of dignity and prosperity, nor does he speak about how dignity and prosperity is to be brought to “people around the world.” TPRF places much emphasis upon how successful its ‘humanitarian’ activities are,[41] yet Rawat never speaks about the desirability or otherwise of supporting humanitarian efforts, so while TPRF is active in presenting Rawat as a ‘humanitarian’[42], humanitarianism has no role in what Rawat teaches.

Prem Rawat’s formulation for bringing peace is that everyone should practice his Knowledge meditation which will yield ‘peaceful’ individuals. By 2007 Rawat’s teaching of belief consisted of nine mutually supporting propositions:

  • That there is ‘true’ peace and happiness which is distinct from commonly experience peace and/or happiness.
  • That ‘true’ peace and happiness can not be achieved by any kind of social or co-operative action.
  • Conflict on a societal and global level will only be reduced when individuals have ‘true’ peace and happiness.
  • ‘True’ peace and happiness can only be achieved by an individual’s involvement with their self.
  • The self is present in all humans, but is particular to each human.
  • The only route to experience the particular self is via Rawat’s unique Knowledge meditation.
  • That the Knowledge meditation will only work if an aspirant is made to ‘thirst’ for the experience delivered by the Knowledge meditation.
  • That only by listening to Rawat’s speeches can an appropriate thirst be generated.
  • Only Rawat’s demonstration of the Knowledge techniques provides genuine instruction which allows practice of the techniques to actually provide access to the self.

While this teaching is complete in its own terms it leaves the believer in a position of inventing their own context in which the Prem Rawat system of belief can be consistent with an empirical experience of the outer world. Faced with the lack of any alternative explanation of why Rawat is uniquely positioned to teach commonly available techniques of meditation, many of Rawat’s remaining followers continue to demonstrate an emotional bhaktism toward their ‘teacher’.[43],[44],[45] Although the Élan Vital organisations and The Prem Rawat Foundation do not promote Prem Rawat as a Satguru, for the majority of Rawat’s followers, Rawat remains in effect their Satguru, without whose divine grace the techniques of the Knowledge meditation alone would not provide the direct experience of god.

Devoid as it is of any moral, philosophical or cultural compass, what Prem Rawat now teaches is merely a pale shadow of the rich and culturally charged philosophy formerly adopted and taught by Hans Rawat.


[1] Prem Rawat Bio:  Shri Hans Ji Maharaj - Prem Rawat's Father

[2] EPO: Satgurudev Shri Hans Ji Maharaj Published by Divine Light Mission, India, 1970    

[3] Shrihansa: Shri Hans Ji Maharaj The Great Spiritual Master of the 20th Century Reveals His Knowledge to the World

[4] Wikipedia: Hans Ji Maharaj

[5] Wikipedia: Teachings of Prem Rawat

[6] Subgroups in Divine Light Mission Membership:  Derks, Frans, and van der Lans Jan M. (1984), ISBN 0-86554-095-0  “However, in 1975 there was a schism within the movement. Guru Maharaj Ji’s mother did not approve of his marriage to his American secretary and dismissed him as the movement’s leader. The American and European adherents did not accept his dismissal and remained faithful to him. The movement split up into an Eastern and Western branch. The Western branch tried to smother its Hinduistic background and started to emphasize Guru Maharaj Ji as a personification of ideology.”

[7] Wikipedia: Prem Rawat - Coming of age

[8] Prem Rawat Bio: Prem Rawat Was Disowned and Disinherited by his Mother

[9] EPO: Facsimile and Transcript - Street Life Magazine April 17-30, 1976

[10] EPO: Satgurudev Shri Hans Ji Maharaj Published by Divine Light Mission, India, 1970  Yogiraj Shri Hans Ji Maharaj left His mortal frame on 19 July, 1966, transmitting His power potential of the secret Yoga to His Holiness Shri Sant Ji Maharaj.”

[11] EPO: Media File – Film of Prem Rawat 1978. “If you have a Perfect Master you can’t do anything but worship him every day of your life. You tell me, if you really have that Perfect Master in your life, what can you do except to worship him every day? Get up and worship him, pray, know, surrender. Every day of your life!"

[12] EPO: Extracts from Article - 'Divine Times' Volume 7, Number 4, June/July 1978  “And Knowledge is the same way. the experience that we want is the same way. Because as soon as that experience manifests in our life, we know. And of course, we're constantly backed up by mind, battled by mind. The mind keeps saying, 'No, this is not it. This is not it. This is not it. This is not it.' That, of course, doesn't change the fact.”

[13] EPO: Article Extract - Divine Times April/May 1978 Volume 7, Number 3 “And yet 24 hours a day we stay slaves of this mind, follow this mind. And I guess it's just a habit that we form. As soon as we can comprehend things, this mind starts to get looser and looser and looser and looser.”

[14] Prem Rawat Bio: Article - ‘And It Is Divine’, Volume 2, Issue 8, March 1975  “When Dropadi was being made naked and when she thought that she could not be saved from this insult, then she remembered that true Name and there was no end to her saree. Prahlad was thrown from hills, crushed by an elephant, and put to fire, but all these could not take him away from the right path.”

[15] EPO: Article – Transcript. Rolling Stone Magazine. Issue N°145 - October 11, 1973, page 8

16] EPO: Article – Transcript and Facsimile. Pageant magazine February 1974 Page 30-34  Kathleen Jeremy

[17] EPO: Article – Transcript and Facsimile. People Weekly Magazine , July 1, 1974

[18] EPO: Transcript of Radio Interview with Robert Mishler - Maharaji cries on Bob's shoulder.

[19] EPO: Transcript of Radio Interview with Robert Mishler - Bob convinces Maharaji to retract Messiah claim. “I had persuaded him to see that he was going to lose his popularity and ability to do any good at all in this country, if he became a cult leader. If he continued to allow his devotees to believe that he was God, that was inevitable. He agreed, and we started de-programming our own membership and telling them to see Maharaji as only a human being who had a great concern for humanity.”

[20] EPO: Transcript of Radio Interview with Robert Mishler - Maharaji changes mind about retiring in 1976

[21] Finch: Article - Maharaji's Start in the West Nov 02 2003  “I don't think there was any design or grand plan; it was all chaos and opportunism. The only real design occurred when Maharaji sniffed the West, and decided he wanted it. I even fancy I can pinpoint it to the second when this happened: I drove Maharaji in London in June and early July 71, and we often went to Harrods. Once I took him to the watches and jewellery section, and I distinctly remember his eyes light up, and a real change came over him. It was a little scary, he seemed to change right there.”

[22] Ron Geaves: in Christopher Partridge (Eds.), New Religions: A Guide. New Religious Movements, Sects and Alternative Spiritualities. pp.201-202, Oxford University Press, U.S.A. (2004) ISBN 978-0195220421. "As Maharaji began to grow older and establish his teachings worldwide he increasingly desired to manifest his own vision of development and growth. This conflict resulted in a split between Maharaji and his family, ostensibly caused by his mother's inability to accept Maharaji's marriage to an American follower rather than the planned traditional arranged marriage."

[23] EPO: The Ashram Manual

[24] Prem Rawat Bio: Hans Yog Prakash

[25] EPO: Excerpt - Soul Rush.  ‘The Odyssey of a Young Woman in the 70s. S. Collier. 1978  Chapter 15: Development of DUO. “Back in April 1973, before all the Mission's activities and plans were supplanted by the Millennium festival production, Guru Maharaj Ji had made a film about his vision for DLM. In it he proposed a new organization, to be called Divine United Organization, and outlined its humanitarian goals. DUO-the name is pronounced rather than the letters spelled out-would work in many areas: health care, education, food co-ops, the arts, as well as the traditional social service areas of emergency relief and visiting the sick and institutionalized.”

[26] EPO: Constitution of Divine Light Mission Australia  “OBJECTS:  c. The relief and prevention of suffering both mental and physical occasioned by poverty, ill-health and the abuse of drugs;

[27] EPO: Article - Maharaji's Ashrams J.Whalen 2001 “We also lived by a schedule, starting with Arti, along with prostration before a picture of Maharaji in the morning, and again in the evening, followed by meditation.”

[28] EPO: English Translation  - Arti. A devotional song

[29] EPO: Ashram Manual. Attributed to Prem Rawat

[30] EPO: Video Clips – Guru Puja Festival 1979

[31] EPO: Video Clips – Guru Puja Festival 1980

[32] PRMI: Web Page -  A Recurrent Anxiety

[33] EPO: Q & A - Michael Dettmers 02.12.2000

[34] EPO: Article - DLM/EV History: After 1983


[35] Finch: Article - The Knowledge Techniques 22.11.2005

[36] TPRF: Q & A - Prem Rawat Answers Questions About Peace. “People who are encased in concepts and ideas about how everything should be and how everything works have a much more difficult time understanding what I’m talking about.”

[37] PRC: Analysis - Prem Rawat: An examination of his philosophy and rhetorical technique.

[38] Finch: Article - Maharaji's Divinity Claims: Spurious Academic Denials and Wikipedia. Mar 14 2006

[39] EPO: Extracts – World Peace Tour Report. DLM 1971/1972 Indian. Copy of article Faithful flock to see boy Guru. County Times and Gazette.  Friday, October 22, 1971  “His teachings depend not on blind faith, or belief but on true knowledge of God, which his followers claim they are shown through practical revelations.”

[40] TPRF: Web Page – FAQs.

[41] TPRF: Web Page – Humanitarian Initiatives

[42] TPRF: Web Page – About Prem Rawat  Prem Rawatknown also by the honorary title Maharaji, has travelled the world for four decades, inspiring people to find peace within and spearheading significant humanitarian initiatives”

[43] WPS: Web Page -  Voices about Maharaji and Knowledge

[44] PWK India: Web Page – INNER  NOMADS

[45] Web Page - An Invitation to Dream