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Wikipedia Distortion
Rawat's followers exposed

Relevant  academic writings excluded from or only partially referenced in Wikipedia about Prem Rawat.


World-rejection, world-affirmation, and goal displacement: some aspects of change in three new religions movements of Hindu origin  Encounter with India: studies in neohinduism  N. Holm (ed.), (pp. 79-99) - Turku, Finland. Åbo Akademi University Press.[1]


The present paper will attempt to examine change in three religious or quasi-religious movements of Hindu origin: Transcendental Meditation (TM), the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), and the Divine Light Mission (DLM). Although other important aspects of change (such as organizational ones) should be recognized, only two will be considered here:

1) change in the degree of deliberate divergence from the norms of the mainstream society, i.e. - in the terminology of Wallis (1984) - world-rejection, and
2) change of goals.

In the present paper, Wallis's (1984) conceptual framework will be analysed in some detail . Goal displacement, a concept utilized by Gross and Etzioni (1985, pp. 9-27) for describing change within non-religious organizations, economical as well as political, will also be introduced and adopted in this particular context.

Björkqvist provides a useful analysis of change over time within Rawat’s movement and the role of the ‘leader’ within that change, Björkqvist concludes:


“DLM (which is not called DLM anymore, although the name is retained here for the sake of comprehensibility) has changed enormously during the 80's from what it was during the late 70's. It has still retained many of its old hard core members, but these now tend to live a "normal" life. Since there are no meetings, or special communal activities, old members do not meet very much. New people are still being initiated into the meditation techniques - according to what by the present author considers a reliable source of information, 7,000 in the West and 14,000 in India (within the fraction loyal to Maharaj Ji) were initiated during 1986. This sounds large, but since there is no formal organization, it is impossible to estimate how many of these actually practise meditation regularly. DLM has, as a matter of fact, almost changed into what Bainbridge & Stark (1978) calls a client cult, with clients or customers rather than followers. The new people it attracts are predominantly middle-aged, and not young, as was the case in the 70's.”

Björkqvist does introduce a number of factual errors. The claim that in 1974 “He [Rawat] disposed of many Hindu traditions” is contradicted by the author elsewhere in the article, and as suggested by Price writing in 1978, a ritualised approach to a followers life was still at the heart of organisational effort, the rituals being the same fundamentals as introduced in 1971[2]. Björkqvist overstates the case when stating: “In 1976, Maharaj Ji declared that he felt that the organization had come between his devotees and himself, and he disposed of the headquarters altogether.” While there was some reduction in staffing the Denver headquarters was maintained, further Rawat simply did not have the power to act alone and it is misleading to not acknowledge the role of officials such as Mishler  (who Björkqvist identifies elsewhere) and Dettmers[3].  Björkqvist gives a date of 1980 for closure of the ashrams and associated changes, and also claims the Divine Light Mission as an organisation was abolished; in fact the ashram closures occurred in 1982 and 1983 while with the exception of the UK Divine Light Mission which was closed in 1995[4], all other DLM organisations were simply renamed Élan Vital, over a period of ten years.[5]

Derks, Frans, and Jan M. van der Lans.

Subgroups in Divine Light Mission Membership: A Comment on Downton in the book Of Gods and Men: New Religious Movements in the West. Macon edited by Eileen Barker, GA: Mercer University Press, (1984), ISBN 0-86554-095-0 pages 303-308 [6]

IN AN ARTICLE in the 1980 winter issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Downton presents an "evolutionary theory of spiritual conversion and commitment." He differentiates twenty seven steps in the conversion process and in the growth of commitment to Divine Light Mission ideology. In this article we do not criticize Downton's theory, although we think it problematic to identify as many stages as he did. We only want to point out that Downton's group of respondents differs in at least one important way from Divine Light Mission members we have interviewed, and that this difference has some important theoretical implications.

Dupertuis, Lucy Gwyn

Company of truth : meditation and sacralized interaction among Western followers of an Indian Guru                 Thesis (Ph.D. in Sociology) -- University of California, Berkeley, Dec. 1983 . Bibliography: leaves 335-342

How people recognize charisma: the case of darshan in Radhasoami and Divine Light
Sociological Analysis, 47, Page 111-124. (1986): University of Guam [7]

Introductory paragraph:

This paper examines the recognition of charisma as an active conscious social process involving the confirmation of belief through non cognitive methods of altering perception. In the illustrative case of Sant Mat / Radhasoami / Divine Light Mission tradition the Hindu concept and ritual of darshan is examined. Devotees use meditative means to recognize charisma in the guru considered as the formless Absolute, as himself, and as a "presence" generated within the community of followers. The aim on all three levels is ecstatic merging of a separate sense of self with the Absolute . It is conjectured that once Westerners learned this they no longer felt need of the guru. The discussion calls for further research on social components of mystical practices.

Dupertuis provides a clear analysis of the basis of Rawat’s charismatic leadership of his followers. A notable point is the proposition that Rawat made a distinctive modification to the Radhasoami belief system that he had inherited from his father:


Guru Maharaj Ji modified Radhasoami theology by identifying himself with great masters of all religions. Thus not only did he hint that he had been Krishna and Ram and Buddha, but among others, Christ and Mohammed as well. (In this he followed a common neo-Hindu practice of trying to universalize Hindu theology). He did not object when his followers persisted further by identifying him with all these saviors as they had been predicted to return: Kalki the tenth incarnation of Vishnu; Jesus Christ's second coming; the Buddha Matreiya; and the tenth Imam of Shiite Islam.

Daniel A. Foss; Ralph W. Larkin

Worshiping the Absurd: The Negation of Social Causality among the Followers of Guru Maharaj Ji Sociological Analysis, Vol. 39, No. 2. (Summer, 1978), pp. 157-164.

Foss and Larkin spent thirty months observing and participating in the activities of Divine Light Mission between 1973 and 1975, their study is the only sustained academic investigation of Prem Rawat’s following and as such stands as a key reference work.

Introductory paragraph:

This paper is the result of a two-and-a-half year participant-observation study in which the authors

analyse the basis of Guru Maharaj Ji's appeal to ex-movement [movement is used by Foss and Larkin to mean the 1960s Youth Movement] participants in the early 1970s. The youth movement of the 1960s had generated a reinterpretation of reality that called into question conventional reality. When the movement declined, the movement reinterpretation had no possibility for implementation. Left between a reality they rejected and one that could not be implemented, ex-movement participants experienced life as arbitrary and senseless. Guru Maharaj Ji was deified as the mirror of an incomprehensible, meaningless universe. The Divine Light Mission stripped its followers of all notions of causality while simultaneously subsuming and repudiating both conventional and movement interpretations of reality.

Galanter, Marc.

CULTS: Faith, Healing, and Coercion Oxford University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-195-12370-0 [8]

Study Description

“The study was conducted on the outskirts of Orlando, Florida, at a national festival held by the Divine Light Mission, one of the conclaves regularly organized to allow members the opportunity for personal contact, or darshan, with the guru. A field had been rented for the weeklong event. Events there showed how the group's cohesiveness could be mobilized as a potent social force and how nonmembers could be excluded. The atmosphere of belonging was pervasive, as some 5,000 young adults gathered to make preparations. They interacted in a congenial and open manner, even when they had struck up acquaintance only moments before. To say the least, this was not an impersonal work site. It represented a network of people who hastened to assist each other and sought ways to further their common cause of making the festival a shared experience, something valuable to all.”

Galanter’s study was predicated on testing the hypothesis that: “a relationship existed between the perceived emotional relief and fidelity to the group [Divine Light Mission] Galanter did not consider Rawat as a specific source of relief, nor as an agent separate from the Divine Light Mission. Galanter did give consideration the Knowledge meditation, however only in the sense that it was a practice common to the group, and that it was correlated to altered consciousness which Galanter describes as  a ‘religious experience’.


“This episode of altered consciousness was not very different from many in the literature on religious conversion, but was nonetheless difficult to explain from a psychiatric perspective. Raymond's vision of the halo might be construed as a hallucinatory experience in conventional psychiatric terms, and thereby ascribed to causes of perceptual change such as a dissociative reaction, transient psychosis, or even mass hysteria. But his history, his behavior, and his demeanor as we spoke gave no hint of such a diagnosis. This "vision" also fit in nicely with his later experiences in meditation, and could not be dismissed as an isolated phenomenon.

I was left with a tale told by a perceptive and lucid observer who described a phenomenon that did not fit into my handbook of diagnoses. Nonetheless, the experience had clearly served as a basis for the attribution of a new meaning to his life. It set him off balance and he turned to the philosophy of the sect to explain the puzzling event. From that point, Raymond's relationship with the Divine Light Mission followed with seeming inevitability, and served as a basis for his understanding of his own role in life. This experience had many counterparts in my interviews with other members of the Divine Light Mission, as it became clear that altered consciousness in the form of inexplicable perceptions and transcendent emotional states was common in their conversion and subsequent religious experience.”

The history of the Rawat movement given by Galanter is based on the work of other authors and reproduces their errors, notably Downton and Melton Galanter’s own research into the social and psychological characteristics of Rawat’s followers is insightful and unique.

Galanter M, Buckley P, Deutsch A, Rabkin R, Rabkin J.

Large Group Influence for Decreased Drug Use: Findings from Two Contemporary Religious Sects American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Vol 7. 1980

Introductory paragraph:

This paper reports on studies designed to clarify the role of large cohesive groups in effecting diminished drug use among their members. Subjects were drawn from two contemporary religious sects and data were obtained by administering self-report questionnaires under controlled conditions, in cooperation with the sects' leadership. Data which bear directly on changes in drug use are reported here. Members of the Divine Light Mission (DLM), many of whom had been involved in the "counterculture" of the early 1970s, reported incidence of drug use prior to joining which was much above that of a nonmember comparison group.

Reported levels were considerably lower after joining, and the decline was maintained over an average membership of 2 years. Unification Church (UC) members showed a similar pattern but their drug use began at a somewhat lower level and declined further still; this reflects a stricter stance toward illicit intoxicants in the UC, and relatively less openness to transcendental altered consciousness, which is an integral part of DLM meditation. Data from persons registered for UC recruitment workshops corroborated retrospective reports of the long-standing members. Changes in the consumption of tranquilizers were also considered. Data on caffeine consumption reflected less strict commitment to controls over this agent. The decline in drug use was considered in relation to feelings of social cohesiveness toward fellow group members, which was a significant predictor of change in drug use in multiple regression analysis. The findings are examined in relation to the interplay between behavioral norms in a close-knit subculture and the role of its beliefs and values in determining levels of drug use
. [9]

As with Galanter’s 1989 publication the focus of this work from 1980 is concerned with the role of a Group, not upon the Group leader as a separate agent nor upon the Knowledge meditation as an ameliorative or otherwise beneficial practice.

Haan, Wim

De missie van het Goddelijk licht van goeroe Maharaj Ji: een subjektieve duiding from the series Religieuze bewegingen in Nederland: Feiten en Visies nr. 3, autumn 1981. (Dutch language)  ISBN 90-242-2341-5

page 55 note 2

"Bij Divine Light Mission is nauwelijks sprake van een filosofische achtergrond. De centrale 'geloofspunten zijn allen weergegeven in dit lied.”

English translation:

Divine Light Mission hardly had a philosophical background. The central beliefs  were all summarized in this song.” – The words of arti[10],[11] are then given in both Dutch and English

Haan’s contention that the central beliefs are all to be found within the ‘arti’ song is undoubtedly correct, though it is important to note that neither Prem Rawat nor his supporting organisations have ever produced a comprehensive codification of those beliefs separate to the song. When after 1983, the practical liturgy of the singing of arti became a rare event, Rawat and his followers took the position that arti had never represented any expression of belief, but had merely been a meaningless ritual inherited from the Indian organisation. This revisionist position is called into question not only by Haan but respectively by the work of Dupertuis, Juergensmeyer and Rife who all note the relationship between Rawat’s teaching and the Radhasoami and Sant Mat philosophies, which involve emotional attachment to a guru.

Hummel, Reinhart

Indische Mission und neue Frömmigkeit im Westen. Religiöse Bewegungen in westlichen Kulturen Stuttgart 1980, ISBN 3-170-05609-3


Eine systematisch entwickelte Lehre hat die Divine Light Mission weder zur Zeit des Vaters Śhrī Hans noch des Sohnes besessen. Beide haben darin eher einen Vorzug als einen Mangel gesehen. Hatte der Vater sich vornehmlich als >>Guru der Armen<< verstanden und sich in einer bilderreichen Sprache mehr um praktische Anwendbarkeit als um theoretische Durchdringung bemüht, so blieb doch der Inhalt seiner Satsangs auf dem Hintergrund der Hinduistischen Tradition klar verständlich. Die Satsangs jedoch, die der Sohn im Westen gehalten hat und die mit einem Minimum hinduistischer Terminologie und Konzepte auskommen, müssen für den nichthinduistischen Hörer vage bleiben. Der junge Guru erklärt das konzeptionelle Denken, das auch in deutschen Übersetzungen mit dem englischen Wort >>mind<< bezeichnet wird, als Hauptfeind der unmittelbaren religösen Erfahrung. So ist es nicht verwunderlich, daβ von seinen Anhängern nur wenig Handfestes über die DLM-lehre zu erfahren ist. Andererseits eröffent ihnen der Mangel an vorgegebenen Konzepten einen Freiraum für Äuβerungen einer spontanen Subjektivität, die wohltuend vom unselbständigen Reproduzieren autoritativ verkündenter Lehren absticht, wie man es vor allem dei den Anhängern der ISKCON antrifft. Wie auch immer die Bewertung ausfallen mag - die geistige Konturlosigkeit der Bewegung fällt allen Beobachtern auf.

Neither in the time of the father, Shri Hans, nor in that of the son, did the Divine Light Mission possess a systematically developed set of teachings. Both saw [doctrines] as presenting more problems than advantages. Although the father saw himself primarily as the Guru of the Poor, and his discourses that were rich in metaphors were more concerned with practical applications than with penetrating theory, yet his satsangs could always be understood against a background of Hindu tradition. But the satsangs that his son held in the west, which he managed with a minimum of Hindu terms and concepts, still remain vague for the non-Hindu listener. The young Guru explains that conceptual thinking, translated with the English word “mind” in German translations also, is the main enemy of direct religious experience. It is therefore hardly surprising that little firm information about DLM teachings can be obtained from his followers. On the other hand, the lack of professed concepts allows them a freedom of expression which is spontaneous and personal, and which makes an agreeable contrast with the unexamined reproduction of received teachings which one especially finds in the devotees of Iskcon. Whatever judgment one may have about the movement, its intellectual lack of contours is clear to all observers."

Hummel’s assertion that Hans Rawat saw himself as “the Guru of the Poor” appears unsupported although it could reasonably be concluded as being the case based on the Satgurudev Shri Hans Ji Maharaj.[12] Certainly Hummel if correct, is identifying a fundamental difference in philosophy between father and son.

Juergensmeyer, Mark

'Radhasoami Reality', Princeton Paperbacks ISBN 0-691-01092-7


Radhasoami teachings were also introduced to Westerners indirectly, through groups that utilized Radhasoami ideas but presented them under their own banner. The Eckankar movement, for example, borrowed directly from the writings of Radhasoami teachers, and its founder, Paul Twitchell, was an initiate of Kirpal Singh. Kirpal Singh had followed his own master, Sawan Singh, in linking the first phrase in Guru Nanak's morning prayer, "eckankar," to the highest level of spiritual consciousness. Twitchell followed suit and made it the name of his movement. The teachings of the Divine Light Mission, led by the boy guru Maharaj-ji, are essentially those of Radhasoami as well, and other spiritual leaders of the time were also influenced by Radhasoami teachings .pp 206-207

Radhasoami as a Trans-National Movement unpublished,  quoted in Shabdism in North America, Rife,D: American Academy of Religion's Western Region Conference at Stanford University on March 26, 1982


“It is reported that the "Divine Light Mission" of the boy guru, Shri Sant Ji Maharaji , is derived from Radhasoami teachings and the Radhasoami community. According to some accounts, the father of the present boy guru had been a follower of one of the Radhasoami branches, but split off from them to start his own following.


With the emergence of Balyogeshwar (alias Guru Maharaji), the mission came to the attention of the general public in India and North America. The movement had its biggest impact in the early 1970's when it attracted thousands of devotees. The initial growth, however, has since subsided, and the group is currently enjoying a relative stability, with neither a significant influx of new members or a substantial exodus.


The most striking parallel between the Divine Light Mission and the Radhasoami Tradition concerns their teachings on the "Divine Word," the inner-spiritual melody. Both groups employ meditational techniques for initiates to concentrate their attention on this current of "light and sound" which is believed to free the soul from its attachment with the physical body. Though both groups have similar theological teachings concerning the nature of this "Divine Word," each differ in their own way on how exactly to approach the Supreme Abode.”

Messer, Jeanne

Guru Maharaj, Ji and the Divine Light Mission. The New Religious Consciousness, Bellah, Robert and Glock, Charles (Eds.) pp. 52-72 University of California Press (1976)

Messer’s work, although published in an academic journal, is not itself a formally written academic document although it can be understood as a Qualitative study. An interesting observation comes in the contrast of practical financial concern with a movement belief in ‘Grace’:


Divine Light Mission operates almost entirely without capital, and this is the source of great numbers of "grace" stories. In 1972, for example, the Mission wanted to buy a small plane to transport Guru Maharaj Ji and his family around the United States. They had negotiated a price and secured a loan from the bank. The down payment was nearly $18,000, with no serious chance of generating it even in donations. The owner of the plane eventually put up the money himself, to satisfy the bank, because he "liked Guru Maharaj Ji." That is not a common reason for such unbusinesslike behavior. The owner of DLM's national headquarters building has repeatedly paid for extensive alterations to the building as activities burgeoned, though he ostensibly has no relation to the Mission other than landlord. To devotees these are miracle stories, and there are hundreds of them.

Grace operates at all levels. Devotees are agreed that anyone who decides to go to India, for instance, will come up with the money to go; and devotees report finding hundreds of dollars in kitchen drawers, being approached by strangers and offered unsolicited motley, and other bizarre tales of money being generated by devotion.

Despite such evidence on which to base her own scepticism, Messer went on to write:

It was stated earlier that the impact of this movement on Western social order rests entirely on the nature of the religious experience and on the consequences of that experience, not on the nature of any beliefs. Devotees consistently claim that it is the experience that moves them, not Divine Light Mission and not conviction,  which is sometimes quite unstable. Guru Maharaj Ji's devotees have met God in the flesh, as many understand their experience, and their gratitude and enthusiasm dominate their lives and activity.

Price, Maeve

The Divine Light Mission as a social organization. Sociological Review, 27, Page 279-296 1979 [13]

Introductory paragraphs:

It is the thesis of this paper that the Divine Light Mission as a social organization is a product of a number of analytically distinct sets of forces which impinge on any 'ideal' structure which the leader might devise. It cannot be stated, as Wallis claimed of the Children of God, that 'the development of the movement as a social structure has been altogether defined and directed by the leader's specification. . .' (7) Judging from what the leader of DLM has declared to his followers it is clear that he would like the mission to function without any formal organisation at all.

Nevertheless it does not follow that the leader has either a clear definition of the type of organization he desires or that he possesses the requisite skills to achieve his goals. In particular, the leader has to take into account the social characteristics of his following who will also have attitudes concerning the existence of end form of organization. Nevertheless it does not follow that the leader has determine events and is frequently having to respond to situations which he could not have deliberately planned. This is particularly the case where the mission's financial problems are concerned.

Price suggests in contrast to the unsupported claims given by Chryssides, Downton, Geaves and Melton, that the leader (Prem Rawat) was not in a position to make the autocratic changes in the Divine Light Mission/Élan Vital organisation that are so frequently accorded to him, not least in the Wikipedia articles.

Price states that: “Factual data have been obtained either from the mission's records or have been supplied verbally by mission officials.”  And also


“Data on membership have been obtained from the total sample of active premies on the mission's records which were compiled in the years 1975 and 1976. Out of the 2,050 who declared that they were prepared to donate 10% of their incomes to the mission, 642 filled the mission's questionnaire on education, occupational skills, age, year of receiving knowledge and other items. My own questionnaire, put out to premies at a London programme in January 1978 elicited 177 replies from the 500 forms issued, but the results tally very well with the mission's data and the information from each source corroborates the other. In addition personal observation and over thirty tape recorded interviews over the past three years have provided further evidence for the statements which are made.”

Unlike writers such as Geaves and Melton, Price investigated what actually occurred within the Divine Light Mission, recording views of participants in the DLM:


'For over two and a half years until they had the Alexandra Palace programme it was a very strong movement. In that time I imagine 5,000 to have joined and there must have been nearly a thousand full-time workers for the mission. It was completely incredible; it had a staff of a medium to large size company and was doing amazing things. Everyone was completely inexperienced and then after that [Alexandra Palace] there was nothing to do. Everyone was saying: well, what are we doing? Why are we here? We've got all this set up; we could build a bridge across the Thames; we could do anything - I mean there was just nothing to do. It was just literally - there were all these people with nothing to do, all set up, all geared up to, you know, spread the knowledge, to build this, to build that, but there was nothing to do. It has grown too quickly and the expansion didn't really have a foundation."


Festivals often reach a peak of mindless fervour some might associate with a Nazi rally. At the festival held in Wembley in 1977 a 'seeker' drawn towards the idea of receiving 'knowledge' told me she was completely put off by the way in which Maharaj Ji could manipulate his audience. She saw him to be as dangerous as a Hitler with the potential of leading his followers to violence and acts of destruction.

Price also identifies a number of significant organisational matters:


Once Maharaj Ji became the de facto head of the mission, various factors, which must include his own inexperience and lack of long-term policy and his anxiety not to become a puppet of his officials, led to a gradual slowing down of recruitment, a falling away of active support and an almost complete cessation of organized proselytizing activities.


At the conference in Frankfurt in November I976, Maharaj Ji had announced that the International Headquarters were dissolved and that henceforth he would guide the mission, with his brother, Raja Ji, as his ambassador. In fact what had occurred was the removal from power of his closest adviser, who had been the International President since the headquarters were set up in the United States. It is apparent that Maharaj Ji resented the advice given to him by his chief subordinate and dismissed him when a clash of wills occurred.


The dismantling of the International Headquarters did not in fact take place, although staff numbers were greatly reduced, at the national level as well, and officials are very cautious now, afraid to take initiative while they try to guess what it is their Guru really intends.


At the same time the stress on the community premie, which had led to what was now viewed as excessive democratization, which was strongly repudiated by Maharaj Ji at Frankfurt, has now been controlled by the simple device of blocking public communication channels upwards to the head office. For more than twelve months now, the national publication which carried letters from premies, often extremely critical of other premies and the head office, (but never of Maharaj Ji), has not been printed. Instead premies receive an exclusive diet of full transcripts of Maharaj Ji's satsang at various festivals across the world.


In the case of DLM, confusion over organizational goals and lack of firm leadership control at the intermediate and grass root levels, combined with a following who are being pulled in one direction after another without structural channels of two-way communication, all lead to confusion and lack of desire to recruit new members. What is surprising is not that the mission is no longer expanding significantly, but that it manages to survive at all. This answer to the second issue must lie in the mission's continued ability to satisfy fundamental psychological and social needs of its adherents.

Price does introduce certain errors some of which have been repeated uncorrected elsewhere. The date of formation of the Divine Light Mission in India is given as 1930, in fact it was 1960, and rather than being the sole creation of Hans Rawat as Price suggests, it was an initiative of a number of his followers. Price’s description of the Indian DLM as being a ‘Hindu sect’ is at odds with evidence of Galanter and others that Hans Rawat was associated with Rhadosami and Sant Mat, movements which are equally close to Sikhism as to Hinduism. Price also appears to be the original source for the statement repeated by later authors that “In 1969 the new leader, Guru Maharaj Ji, sent one of his mahatmas, or a 'realised soul', to Britain as a missionary to win converts for his master.” Price later undermines this statement by acknowledging that at the time Prem Rawat’s mother was“in fact was the organizing force”. Price is also wrong in two respects regarding the legal status of the UK Divine Light Mission where it is suggested that Rawat’s mother held a position on the Registered Charity as ‘regent for her son’, Charity trustees have always held the position in their own right and if Rawat’s mother was indeed a trustee there was no question of her exercising that role in anything other than her own right. Price also refers to DUO as an alternative organisation to DLM, in fact no legal structure called DUO existed in Britain although various Rawat connected businesses carried the name. In all other respects Price’s work stands with Foss & Larkin as the sole body of contemporary in depth research into the Rawat movement.

Thomas Pilarzyk

The Origin, Development, and Decline of a Youth Culture Religion: An Application of Sectarianization Theory  Review of Religious Research, Vol. 20, No. 1. (Autumn, 1978), pp. 23-43.[14]

American pluralism has different implications for different types of youth culture movements. Environmental responses to the emergence of religious movements are the result of the prevailing mood in the dominant religious and political institutions as well as of the ideological battles between competing sub-cultural systems of meaning. Religious movements, in turn, react to a pluralist situation in different ways, even though they may share certain orientations toward directly experiencing the sacred and are critical of certain trends of modernity. Cultic movements, as pluralistically legitimate, are more comfortable in a secularized environment than are the more dogmatic sects. Sectarian movements, as epistemologically authoritarian, find it harder to live in a society with competing religious and secular meaning systems which are neither "pure" nor "true."

Pilarzyk is as much concerned with organisational change and development as religious or philosophical change in the Divine Light Mission:


Like some of its youth culture counterparts, the Divine Light Mission movement experienced rapid growth from its inception in the United States in 1971. By the summer of 1974, the American movement had grown to a total of 27 ashrams which housed over 1200 of an estimated 50,000 members or "premies." However, its development was not as simple, gradual, consistent, nor as longlasting as changes within other "Eastern imports" such as the Hare Krsna movement (see Pilarzyk 1975).


The DLM's early development was characterized, then, by the organization of numerous local cults in various U.S. cities. Meditative practices and discussions concerning the mystical knowledge were individualized. The movement lacked both centralized control of its ideology and a standard interpretation of the religious experience. Rather, the emerging belief system consisted of a loosely-bound set of precarious cultic beliefs and practices which only later were formalized into a simplified version of Vedanta closely approximating the classical hindu non-dualist philosophical position.


By July of 1972, the first national conference of DLM leaders took place, and guidelines were laid down which specified certain rules and regulations for U.S. ashrams. DLM officials note that this led to an initial departure of followers who viewed ashram life more as an economic convenience than as a step toward the enhancement of the spiritual path to God-realization. The "Guru Puja Festival," also held in July of that year, marked the first public meeting for the American membership. This initial stage of organizational development involved a growing definition of membership, esprit de corps, and lifestyles for ashram premies.


The distribution of power and authority in the movement in the early 1970s was officially and symbolically based upon the somewhat ambiguous charismatic appeal of guru Maharaj Ji. Many "rank and file" followers were uncertain about his position in the whole organizational scheme of the movement as well as the claim that he was the only true spiritual master. Devotion to him allegedly was based in his ability to inspire a connection between himself and the "spiritual energy" or "divine light" experienced in meditation.


In summary, the development of the DLM in America has largely substantiated Wallis' contention that cults are inherently fragile social institutions which are constrained from effective institutionalization by internal factors. Developing within a pluralist social environment, the Divine Light Mission has been constrained by continued doctrinal precariousness, the unique locus of its leadership authority, and continued problems of generating and sustaining consistent commitment among its membership. These characteristics are identical to those which reportedly have constrained Spiritualism, Dianetics, New Thought, and other religious movements. And like those movements, the Divine Light Mission presently remains caught in the tenuous position between cultism and sectarianism in its development and decline as a youth culture religion.

David Rife

Shabdism in North America  Paper presented at the American Academy of Religion's Western Region Conference, Stanford University, March 26, 1982[15]


“In confirmation with Juergensmeyer's contention that Guru Maharaji's father was associated with one of the Radhasoami sects, I was informed personally in July of 1978 at Sawan Ashram, Old Delhi, India, by Bhagwan Gyaniji (who was a disciple of Sawan Singh and personal secretary to Kirpal Singh) that Balyogeshwar's father was indeed initiated by Sawan Singh of the Radhasoami Satsang Beas and later branched off to start his own movement. It also appears that Balyogeshwar's father was a disciple of another Sant mat guru named Sarupanand, who worked in the tradition of Sri Paramahans Advait Mat --a surat shabd yoga lineage apparently connected to Shiv Dayal Singh which was founded in the latter part of the 19th century and is now centered in Guna.

[1] EPO: Article Reproduced in full - World-rejection, world-affirmation, and goal displacement

[2] EPO: Article Reproduced in full  - The Divine Light Mission as a social organization  “At the time of writing, the whole organization has been reduced to a very simple framework, consistent with the limited goals of keeping premies actively participating in satsang, service and meditation and gathering together to reinforce their commitment at larger programmes and festivals from time to time.”

[3] EPO: Statement by Michael Dettmers  Oct 30, 2000  “………. through me, instructed Maharaji’s lawyer and accountant to re-classify all of the checks that had been made out to Maharaji, but deposited into DLM’s bank account, as Maharaji’s personal funds that were simply being held in trust for his personal use by DLM. When the financial records were re-categorized in this manner, the records clearly showed that Maharaji had more than enough funds to personally pay for the Malibu residence, the cars, and his personal expenses with his own money..”

[4] Register of Charities: Divine Light Mission

[5] EPO: Constitution of Divine Light Mission Australia

[6] Prem Rawat Bio: Article Reproduced in full - SUBGROUPS IN DIVINE LIGHT MISSION MEMBERSHIP

[7] EPO: Article Reproduced in full -  How People Recognize Charisma

[8] Prem Rawat Bio: Book - Pages 5-7 Reproduced

[9] Informa Healthcare: Abstract - Large Group Influence for Decreased Drug Use: Findings from Two Contemporary Religious Sects

[10]  Wim Haan: Article - De missie van het Goddelijk licht van goeroe Maharaj Ji

[11] EPO: Article - Arti

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

[13] EPO: Article Reproduced in full  - The Divine Light Mission as a social organization

[14] EPO: Article Excerpts - The Origin, Development, and Decline of a Youth Culture Religion

[15] EPO: Article reproduced in full – “Shabdism in North America”  American Academy of Religion's Western Region Conference, Stanford University, March 26, 1982


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