Mike Donner's Letter to Maharaji

Mike Donner was National Coordinator of Divine Light Mission in the USA in the mid 70s. He then became an initiator and after touring for a year was called into Maharaji's inner circle to 'coordinate' his personal staff. At the same time he was the contact for the initiators worldwide until 1984 when he left and got married. After a leter spell as a part-time married instructor he left Maharaji in 1987.

On Mar 09, 2001, Mike posted this on the ex-premie forum:-

(Note Mike's entreaty for Maharaji to respect his body in the last sentence).

In addition to this letter, Donner confirmed much of Dettmers' testimony about Maharaji's worldly behavior in many posts on the forum. One such exchange where Mike answers questions put to him on the ex-premie forum follows the letter.

This is a letter that I wrote to m in 1987. I copied it to about 50 others at the time, ex-instructors, then current instructors, mainly my circle of 'friends and those I wanted to influence at the time. so...fyi

Dec. 19, 1987

Dear Maharaji,

This is a hard letter to write. We have 'shared' so much over the many years together. I have been faithful to you and 'your' work through many ups and downs. I imagine that you will take what is written here as a betrayal, as I have seen you react that way so many times in the past with others. In taking this that way, however, you will miss what I am saying and what is in my heart.

I do not write as a devotee. There was a time when that is all that I wanted and tried to be. I see now that devotion to another human being is destructive to me and to you. I write instead as a simple human to another with a deep and growing experience of life, due in part to the practice of meditation and the opportunities that the work of spreading knowledge has provided me. That part of me that was a devotee needed a guru and you were it. I see now that that codependent relationship is unhealthy and it is time to move from that to some more mature relationship, if that is possible.

As things have changed and evolved over these past 15 years, I've seen you try to deal with some of the CONTRADICTIONS as they became more obvious. Yet, these contradictions (go inside and know yourself/trust only in me, etc) continue and you, who can do something about it, choose not to. Hence, I am no longer able to continue in 'service to you'.

You speak of feeling valuable and capable yet the set up of serving you, not doing this work TOGETHER makes that impossible...implicitly impossible. You want me (us) to do it 'for you', at 'your command'. I guess you mean then 'valuable and capable' within the context of knowing my place, staying in my place at your feet, not at your side.

You view Knowledge as if it were yours. Ownership of a technology so to speak. You assume the sole responsibility of spreading Knowledge as if you owned it. You have often spoke to us about 'your work', 'your mission'; never us, ours etc. Mutual respect has been lacking from the beginning. I use to accept that as my calling (good fortune even) to be a devotee.

This type of relationship makes feeling 'valuable and capable' impossible.

For a while it seemed that you were moving away from these attitudes but I see that, fundamentally, you are not. This is a very heavy load for you to carry. You say that you do not want us to put you on a pedestal but you yourself will not come down from it. I have at times seen your dedication to spreading Knowledge but you seem dependent upon some role that was given to you when you were very young... and inappropriately given no doubt. This role, the roles we have both played.. the matching book ends of devotee/guru is not healthy for you and the world does not need another personality cult, no matter how benevolent.

These must seem like strong words, especially when filtered through the old view of devotee/master. I have wanted many many times to have an honest and open conversation but fear has always stopped me. That has been part my own lack of courage, but you have created a system of fear that has kept us all in box for far too long. I am still feeling fear as I write this, but mostly fear that you will simply blow this off and discount the love that we once shared.

Recently, when we shock hands at your birthday party, it was quite significant for me. I came around a corner and there you were. I had not seen you for some time, and when our eyes met I felt joy and I know you did too. spontaneously, I offered you my hand (married and living in Oregon, that is what we do first with old dear friends... perhaps before an embrace). You took it but it was the 'cold fish' hand shake and you immediately proceeded to joke about it... 'gotta wash my hand now...what if everyone wanted to shake my hand', etc. I was hurt and disappointed because my simple spontaneous gesture could not be accepted and reciprocated (I was not accepted).

Upon reflection, I should not have been surprised. Such a reaction I have seen countless times and it flows from who you see yourself as and how you perceive others in relationship to that view. I stongly believe that perceptions such as that must change if you ever hope to be successful in actually spreading Knowledge to more then a few... really to only those 'devotees' looking for a place for their devotion.

Even now, I hope that perhaps one day you might want to know why so many of us (caring, intelligent, dynamic people) have chosen recently to leave. Could be fun even, a working retreat... brainstorming together to identify the blocks that exist within ourselves that are keeping us from doing this important work TOGETHER.

More personally, I hope you can find a way to get healthy and to respect your bodily temple.

In at least memory of love,

Michael Donner

Here Mike answers questions about his first hand experience of Prem Rawat's behavior:-

Date: Fri, Mar 16, 2001 at 18:31:00 (GMT)
From: La-ex
Email: None
To: Everyone
Subject: Questions for 'Salty Mike'....(Donner)...
Hi Mike-

Maybe we can call you 'Salty Mike', so we don't get you confused with the other guy, 'Cerebral Mike'...

Thanks for taking the questions.
Some of these have been asked of Mike Dettmers, but I think it is valuable to continue to ask them of others, to see if their experiences were the same, or if they have anything else to add...
Here's a few for starters...

Did you say that Maharaji was drinking EVERY DAY, from 1972 on?
Was he drinking regularly from the age of about 14 or 15 on?
Did you see him drinking at the Millenium Festival, as Sophia Collier reported in Soul Rush?

When you say he has a drinking problem, can you be specific?
(The reason I ask this is because a 'drinking problem' means many different things to many people. If you state specifically what you saw, I think it helps so much more for people to get an accurate picture of M in his personal life.)

I have the same questions about drug use.
How much?
What drugs?
How often? (recreational, or habitual, in your opinion)
Any outrageous party stories?

Did any of the PAMS ever talk about how strange and hypocritical M's off stage behavior seemed, in contrast to his stern,and at times 'fire and brimstone' presence on stage?
Was it hard to go out into the communities and present the 'staight, SS&M premie' approach, when you knew that life at the Rez was far different?

Ashram premies, for the most part, would have been appalled to learn of these things at that time. Was it hard to keep the secret?(not judging you, just wondering how I could have done it...guess it was AGYA, and kind of clandestine fun in a way..)

Was Maharaji having affairs since 1977, as Mark has suggested?
Are you comfortable commenting on the procurement of women for M, as Mike Dettmers has?
When. How many, how were they treated afterwards?
Have any of them spoken up? Or been given special treats, to NOT speak?
Were you ever in touch with Claudia after the break up?
Was it true that she wanted to write a book called 'From Riches to Rags'?

3)Hit and Run in India:
Can you confirm and or elaborate more on this issue?
Was it ever talked about further?
Did M ever talk to you about it?

Do you have anything to add to the Jagdeo/sexual abuse accusations?

5)Maharaji's moral sense:
Did you, or anyone ever talk to Maharaji about his seeming lack of ethics and hypocritical actions?
I heard that someone at the residence questioned M about this and that M responded 'I'm not here to follow your middle class morality trip'.(Kind of like when he told the wood shop teacher he wasn't here to 'chop wood'....)
Does that sound about right?
The sense I am getting is that when someone was around Maharaji, they just followed orders and tried not to think too much about ethics.Morality was just doing what the 'boss' wanted...he has his own special code...(or lack of one)....

6)Did anyone ever tell Maharaji off?
Do you know of anyone who ever really just levelled him? Really just confronted him about all of his bullshit?
Mike Dettmers is the only one I ever heard of, but I'm wondering if anyone ever really got in his face, and told him he was full of shit, and that he was a hypocrite.(I respect Mike Dettmers for his actions...just wondering if you or anyone else ever did anything similar..)

7)Special Powers/Miracles:
Although we were told of M's supposed spiritual powers,we certainly never saw any. Did you ever witness any?

For instance, there used to be this story about someone (I think it was John Miller) who was driving M around the hills of Malibu. M said: drive off the cliff, and he did. They drove off the cliff in Malibu, and landed in an alleyway in NYC.(M said he could turn the universe around for a premie if he only believed) Ever hear that one? Did you ever witness anything resembling miraculous or spiritual powers around him?
Did he ever talk about them?

8)Your personal friendship with Maharaji:
I know this is personal, but anything you might share about any of your personal interactions with him, would be helpful.
Good, bad or ugly....

9)The Future:
Where do you think this thing is going?
In your opinion, what do you think is the best thing that could happen right now, or in the near future?
You suggested in 1987, in your letter, that maybe everybody could get together and talk.
M obviously isn't big on this.
Do you think he will ever really open up and put all the cards on the table?
I know that sounds idealistic, but I think at this point, the dam is ready to burst, and honesty may become the only policy left for him to salvage the sinking ship.
Would you suggest something, or agree to become part of something between exes and M?
Where do you see him going from here? Just curious...

10)M's personal power/appeal:
In retrospect, and with your personal experiences with him, how would you describe his abilities or talents?
Some people look at him like a god, others as a complete fraud, who came here as the figurehead of a hindu cult.

Even after the family split, he did continue to 'cast a spell' for years over many smart, talented and well intentioned people.
How would you describe that?
Were we all so needy for some sort of spiritual authority in our lives?
Was the experience so powerful?
Group dynamics, group highs?
We were all still tripping, after all those years doing drugs?

I'm just curious for your opinion.
I've got mine,as we all do, but people who were around him in his private life definitely have something unique to share.

It's for that reason I'm asking these questions.
Thanks for reading them.
Anything you can add helps many people in many ways.

Thanks, La-ex
Have a nice weekend...

Date: Sat, Mar 17, 2001 at 18:21:18 (GMT)
From: donner
Email: None
To: La-ex
Subject: Questions for 'Salty Mike'....(Donner)...
hi la ex sat. am and beginning to work on your 20 questions...big later

Date: Sat, Mar 17, 2001 at 20:11:27 (GMT)
From: donner
Email: None
To: la ex
Subject: Questions for 'Salty Mike'....(Donner)...
yes, some or most of what you have asked has been addressed by dettmers and myself to some extend earlier...preface to say that i concur completely with dettmers' accounts, their accuracy and the tone of his replies.

1. drinking? my personal experience is that m has been drinking since i began in denver in 1973...told then by bob mishler that he was drinking daily...that is daily...since he arrived in america.
i know that it was daily...that his daily routine was created around his evening drinking...usually always began about 5pm...minimum 4 or 5 very large shots (probably 2-3 oz per drink) each evening, before dinner...usually later in evening about 9pm
interesting by the way that he never or extremely rarely if ever eat with his children. they were feed earlier.
so he drank cognac every evening til dinner, sometimes after dinner.
often he would drink more, never less.

2. at the millenium program? yes, in houston at the residence he drank daily. i never saw him in all the years drink at any program until after he spoke...then always after. michael Dettmers might know otherwise and i would believe him.
i never experienced m give 'satsang' while drunk or drinking.
dettmers talked about his personality change with more then the usual drink and i certainly witnessed that often enough.
the scene was comical/pathetic (in retrospect). alvaro or john miller would bring a crystal glass out to the dinning room, m at the end of the table, perhaps a couple people sitting against the walls of the dinning room...sometimes 5 or 6. the glass would be on a smallish tray with the glass covered (all the way from the kitchen to the dining room). the serving premie would have the other hand over the heart...the glass placed on the table in front of m and the server bowing with eyes closed....backing out of the room. i witnesed this ritual countless times.

2. drinking problem? you be the judge...my experience was that his whole schedule was set up...covertly around his drinking time.

3. drug use? i witnesed m smoking pot beginning 1973 (my witnessing began then). how often...not sure really, lots more then i saw i know for sure. most likely often weekly during most of the time i was around (1984...then i left and got married, returned as part time instructor til 87 and saw little during those years except it was the same when i was around sometimes as an x-rated premie til 1987).
i personally doubt that m ever tried acid or stronger then hash drugs. not his style to be that out of control. anyways, i have no personal knowledge of anything except pot and hashish nor did i ever hear of more between 1973-87.
hashish was added to a yogart drink at holi festivals, at all holi festivals, india, n. america, spain etc. part of the indian tradition as i was told. very strong. somethimes just pot was ground up with the drink...both were referred to as bong i think.
i never saw m give satsang while stoned.
most often my experience with m and pot was (always) at the residence, late in the evening, maybe 20 x-rated staff around the living room...m would start a large joint, maybe two...to his own lips making it of course more special to us!) he would have as much as he wanted and then pass it to marolyn (usually) and from there to the rest of us til it was gone.
he would play music for awhile and go upstairs to bedroom after 30-60 minutes. we would mill araound and begin to clean up the house and kitchen til quite late on most of those occasions.
for me, this was maybe 2-3 times a month. i found it generally part of what was so boring. Dettmers expressed somewhere on epo that he enjoyed the music...more then me i guess...i prefer to engage with those around me when smoking, laugh and connect with others...none of that ever happened...silence, some whispering perhaps, fairly loud music, some folks sleeping from fatigue until m said goodnite.
( i really liked the community aspect of the k/service experience and that was not the vib around the residence...all single pointed focus of course...very boring)

4. did PAMs ever talk about how strange and hypocritical...?
never with me or to my knowledge. this was the last group of people that i nor anyone would speak with honestly, share any concerns with etc. i had my own network of others who i would speak with about my doubts and concerns...many still my friends and most who left around the same time ...
this is interesting perhaps as it points to the fear or at minimum the lack of ease that existed around m. mostly everyone was 'happy to be there' and would do nothing if possible to risk losing tha place at his feet. everyone knew there was a mile long line of others wanting to be there in our place. so we were all individuals in our own closed systems walking round never really connecting with each other. reminds me of lots of painful feeling of how isolated i felt during...especially...1980-84...bored to.
god, what took me so long to make the break?

5. was it hard to keep the x-rated secrets? yes and no. there were those who i did speak with about it, close friends (which i remember m trying to break me from). i guess having a few that i could speak to was enough to 'take the edge off' the potential conflicts.
plus, clearly m used the x-rated status as a means of coopting us into increased loyalty....playing on that part of us (me) that liked to be special...probably power related also....at least i noticed how others felt more powerful once inside the circle, so it must have been something in me too.

6. was m having affairs since 1977 as mark a. suggested? i really don't know, but it seems like if he were i might have known about it and did not. monica lewis came on the scene in what? 1982? and seemed to be the first to me...or whatever that was about. honestly not even sure personally about that affair and what it was really about.

7/ did i procure women for m? i arranged to have a premie woman at decca to be standing in the 'right place at the right time' at m's request...to 'check he out'. he had me arrange on follow up to that 'darshan' with a meeting at the residence with her, daytime and in the dining room, meeting lasted 15 minutes, not sexual then...and i 'saw' m with her twice after that ..and not sure what or how far that went.

the only other situation was speaking with one resident premie who had sex with m and was devastated afterwards when m would not communicate with her, avoided her etc. the sexual experience was not very satisfying for her...and worse was the avoidence afterwards.

the other names that mark mentioned i do not know about nor have i heard about...grace m i personally doubt, but...
one point here to understand clearly...there were lots of women who would have loved to have sex with m. who shared their fantasies with him via letters, conversations, actions, innuendo etc. he had no shortage of willing companions...but when the power is so imbalanced, even willing takes on significance. of course, all the hindu stories of masters and mistresses go way back and told and retold.

8. have any of those women spoken up? i guess not really.
re: claudia...no, i never spoke with claudia after her break up with raja ji...never heard of the book...i know she was very angry and blamed both m and raja ji for fooling around etc. surely there were threats (felt or implied)during the settlement. i know of no other 'settlements'

9. hit and run i was not aware of that story but believe dettmers about it. sounds like the m that i knew, sounds like the willingness of prouty and others around m that i remember.

10. jagdeo...strangely i never heard of this trip. since reading this forum i have been told of another situation on the east coast in the 70's. i do not feel at liberty to discuss this but will continue to encourage those involved to speak out. i very reliable story to add to the mix.
as i have mentioned elsewhere, m always had the back door channels that he would use...usually the residence staff or those few like randy prouty who were in and out and conduits of info and tasks..leaving those of us on the more 'official side' in the dark. his style of secrecy and divide and conquer.

11/ challenging m? calling him on his immorality? no, i never did except once to wonder (cautiously) about his responsibility towards the instructors he was letting go of so callously. there was a presumption that he was above any standards of course...doubts of that = mind= disloyalty=grounds to be put outside the circle etc.
his general response to the gentle questioning of his dismissal of the instructors , most of whom thought it was for life literally as was the agreement...was (paraphase) 'i made them instructors i can unmake them, that is what their surrender is all about'.

12. did i witness any mircles? no, never. i did see lots of wonderful, talented people working hard together...often inspite of m's disorganization and secrcy and blaming, do great things together. lots of that seemed miraculous to me then and now.
re; the miller story of driving off a cliff, i do vaguly remember that story and never believed it...miller was quite the story teller.

13. my personal relationship with m? cannot really say that i had a personal relationship with him...certainly not the kind that was warm, friendly, conversational, sharing mutual stories, questions, doubts. in retrospect, the feelings that he care about me were based upon the cosmology at the time...all that he did for me...like keep me hanging around endless in a waiting mode because i was the active type...he did for my own good out of his love for me. that he had some special, personal plan for my life to help me become a 'better person' (read better devotee). this is the mantra i chanted most of the time that both provided a context to explain all the uncomfotable feeling i was having as well as provide a foundational understanding of some personal relationship.
did i ever feel i could speak openly with him? no never.
did i ever see anyon else speak openly or honestly with him, no never. i believe michael dettmers (small question about what happened after that one time with michael and m left the room without saying anything...how long before michael left his service and bow did m change towards michael after that??)

14. what about the future...what is the best thing that could happen now? something between the ex s and m?
at this point i have zero interest in trying to arrange anything with m and us or others. i have no reason to believe that he will or could change and become a serious world leader using his charisma or something to affect change. his credibility is completely shot, and unsalvageable in my small opinion. i have too many things in my life that i enjoy and am doing to on a smaller local scale to be at all interested. my co housing community here, raising my daughter, on the board of the local waldorf school, learning about myself via my close relationships etc.
ironically and in some very strange way apparently there are those still working thru that part of themselves that is a devotee and it often takes a guru to have that. so long as there are devotees, there will be those willing to be gurus.
our most important work is to grow that devotee up within ourselves into more wholeness and personal power and self love.
i can't imagine what m will do. certainly he could leave it all and retire as he has often threatened to do...unless he is stillhooked on the 'love' and adoration of others...probably.
honestly, i care very little what will happen, except to be willing to reach out and spend some time with those who might benefit from someone on the outside who has been there.

bye for now...what do you think la ex.?

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