An Indian Perspective
on Maharaji's teachings
Here is a
reproduction of Jean-Michel's e-mail conversation with
'Sitaram'. Sitaram used to be a follower (and
'mahatma') of Prempal Rawat in the early 70s. Sitaram
is presently teaching the 'Sanatan Dharma'
(=Hinduism) in the order of Adi Shankara, and
thus quite knowledgeable on this
Read also Sitaram's further comments (Setting History Straight) in the Best of Forum section of the website.
An old friend, R. H., emailed me a link to the ex-premie site.
As the founder of the American organization, and the person who brought the kid to America, I found it all very curious. I sent off an email, making myself available.
I did all the original satsang, speeches at functions, as well as the first initiations in America.
I was assisted by an Indian 'mahatma.' I believe Saphalananda, an English chap, may have also been doing initiations in UK at that time. I was only briefly in the UK, where there was already schisms forming. I had been trying to avoid the Christianity-like approach of the Brits.
What was this schism about? I remember I heard a few things about it in the 70s, but never quite understood the whole thing.
Well we tried to do something with some spectacular energy that was very quickly shot down by people, Americans, with very little vision and consciousness (I can certainly name names), and as such I rejected the movement and encouraged those whom I brought in to do so as well.
I'm all ears (and hundreds of other persons also I guess) for details.
There is a very curious 'secret history' of this movement.
I walked out despite the threats and enticements from the kid's mother, and a touch of violence from the kid's direction itself.
Really? We've heard rumors about other stories of that sort, but never had direct testimonies. Will you tell us exactly what happened? Do you recall other stories of that sort?
That must have been early 1972. It was her who sent me to America from an India I had never wanted to leave, in 1971. Having returned to India, the end of 1971, I have been there ever since, practicing my sadhana, my austerities, and my research. I am in the Puri lineages of the ancient order of Adi Shankara, and teach traditionally the Sanatana Dharma. My name was changed by Prem Pal Singh Rawat and his mother to "Sitaram." Many people, premies, etc, have known me by that name. But it has reverted back many years ago to my original name.
I'm also very interested in your background. As you may have seen, we've discovered that Shri Hans (M's father) was in fact a disciple of Radhasoami.
Shri Hans created a group on his own behalf, and set himself as his guru's heir in spite of his guru's chosen successor.
How come that you've been attracted to m at that time, and that you left your own tradition? Is this a common thing in India?
I was very interested in Indian traditions and philosophy in the beginning, I did study Hindi and sanskrit in French university for 1 year before meeting with m.
The greatest tragedy of movements like that of DLM is that it has distracted so many fine curious minds away from the 'authentic' yogic and shamanic traditions, obscure as they may be.
M's and DLM's simplistic show was very attractive for me (and for quite some westerners).
I guess you're one of the rare persons present at the very beginning of M's 'mission' to the west, still around and wanting to establish the truth about it.
You're very likely aware of what we (old premies, and exes - I've received k in 1972) know about the very beginning of his 'work', and his 1st coming to the west with mahatma gurucharananand.
I guess lots of persons would be interested in YOUR version of the facts and history.
It took me so long to understand the sort of person Prempal Rawat really is, that any facts and witnessing is invaluable to help other people out of this trap.
I'm one of the persons who've believed everything that was said through the 'official' channels of DLM, the mahatmas and all the literature of that time. I've reproduced a lot of it on my website.
I would be curious to know what is the myth of the origins in America. Can you tell it to me? I will be happy to comment.
I'm not American (I live in France), and I'm not too familiar with what happened in the US and in UK in the very beginning. I've made a lot of research on EV & DLM's past, and this is what you can read on my website.
The basic myth for me is was what's been conveyed by DLM in the early 70s. I guess this is what I've tried to reproduce on my website:
- That booklet published in 1970 in India (Satgurudev Shri Hans Ji Maharaj)
- the most famous of m's early satsangs (as published in the DLM magazine - and obviously edited as there are different versions of them, specially the famous 'peace bomb' satsang)
- the DLM version of Shri Hans Ji's successorship: it looks like his brother actually had been chosen as Shri Hans' heir, but some mahatmas had decided otherwise.
This is unknown to most premies and I guess lots of people would be interested in details about this, specially if you've been there!
- the fact that Shri Hans was the successor of his own guru, when his existence is not even mentioned by officials in Radhasoami.
For the rest, I've always believed M was the Lord, as it's been his message for years.
I now understand that was merely a belief that maybe makes some sense in the Indian culture. Likewise reg k, that's always been for me the unique way to be in touch with 'god' inside of me. Of course I've now understood this is also a matter of belief, and all the 'experience' I had in m's group is very much related to a group phenomenon. I still practice the 4 techniques (I heard there were more than 4 techniques in the beginning and that DLM simplified the whole package for westerners) at times, and whatever I can feel inside is still present, without m's 'grace'!
Then there are the stories he told about his coming to the west:
- the 1st westerners who got knowledge in India, and then invited him in UK and in the US.
- And the 1st time he came, of course he never mentioned the people accompanying him, except for Gurucharananand who came and did some propagation before his coming.
Your 'journey' with k & m would be much appreciated, as well as YOUR version of m's revised history!
I've never heard anything about the schism, and even what happened with bbj and mataji is not known in details.
A brief comment that I believe is somewhat central. You wrote:
"I've always believed m was the Lord, as it's been his message for years. I know understand that was merely a belief that maybe makes some sense in the Indian culture."
Actually, it makes little sense in Indian culture, which is polytheistic and therefore inclusive, respects multiplicity and variety, and is certainly non-apostlistic.
Your belief makes a great deal of sense in Western Christian culture, and in fact what M's movement is all about is attaching an Indian vocabulary to a monotheistic messianic structure.
So to add to the concept of exclusivity of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions manifested in expressions such as: 'the one true God', 'the one true path,' my God is better than your God,' 'The chosen people,' etc., now we also have shades of Christ and Muhammad in satgurus who become 'a synthesis of all faiths,' and the 'highest manifestation of the Divine in human history!'
The quote, 'guru is greater than God' when taken totally OUT of the context of the Sanatan Dharma (=Hinduism), and stealthily put into the context of monotheism, is not only meaningless but serves to support a linear hierarchical thinking which is foreign to Indian culture.
One of the great deceptions of M's movement is that it is indeed traditional Indian, which it is not!
My understanding is that the Sikh gurus, and the Radhasoami/Sant Mat gurus say the same thing.
I've read some of their scriptures and books, and I find their teaching (their words anyway) very similar to maharaji's! I would say they almost plagiarize each other.
What's maybe very different is the attitude of the gurus or leaders of those groups towards their devotees.
From what I've read in some studies, these groups (Radhasoami/Sant Mat) have millions of followers in India these days. M looks very marginal compared to them.
How do you place these groups in the religious Indian picture? Sects, cults?
Or is there still something I don't understand?
First let me say that I haven't read any of 'M's' literature in probably 28-29 years, and have probably never read Radhasoami's literature. So, as far as specifics go, I am definitely out of my league.
I will point out that M's movement, Radhasoami, and modern 'progressive' Sikh sects are all Punjabi, have very similar followings, and all arise out of the reform movements of the 19th century. Your question is a very important one, for it requires an understanding of the colonial discourse taking place in 19th century India. Hindu reform movements began in the early 19th century to combat the encroachment of Christianity, the conversions, and therefore the political inroads deep into Hindu (read Indian) society that were being made.
The Muslims had never really threatened Indian society by burrowing inside. Their attack was strictly external.
Many of the reformers were nationalists but apologists for what was described by the colonial masters as a brutal primitive religion, such as polytheism resulting in abominations like idol worship. Starting with Ram Mohan Roy in Calcutta in the 1820's, the Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj and other such movements were heavily influenced by Christianity (read monotheism). They attracted especially those 'elite' that had 'benefited' from British education that emphasized a linear view of the world, where they saw both the theology of Christianity as a socio-political organizing factor AND the decline of Christianity in Europe due to the rise of modern science, rationalism, and secularism. They started ransacking their own scriptures to find the One True God who could stand shoulder to shoulder with the God of Christianity.
They eventually disowned the multiplicity of the gods, denounced image worship, and sought to surgically remove those elements of Hindu tradition that didn't fit the new model of the European world. It wasn't a terrible idea for the moment. It certainly stopped dead the conversions of the Indian elite, and forced the Christian missionaries to concentrate on the lowest rungs of Hindu society. But because this was rooted in a reaction to Christianity rather than in a resurgence of the Hindu spiritual vision, it not only failed in the end, but misfired. Instead of making their own weapon of defense, they borrowed from the armoury of their adversary.
In this way, the structure of thinking was altered. With the agenda of winning converts, the concept of the One True God versus the many false gods, the concepts of exclusivity, linearity, unity, and humanism gradually replaced the traditional values intrinsic to the ancient 'Sanatan Dharma' such as inclusivity, non-linearity, multiplicity, and a very insignificant place for man in an enormous universe. The now mono culture driven sects, with their exclusive priesthood hierarchy, placed all their emphasis on reaching the One Nirgun (God without qualities) through the One Sagun (God with qualities) as a human being, the Guru Maharaj. Since, there can't be multiples of Guru Maharaj, then all people can be unified and march together (to victory - whatever that means), lead by the One True God.
Not very different from the approach of the People of the Book, the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions. This requires missionary work, to 'spread the good news'. The traditional approach certainly does not denigrate the person and role of the guru in any way.
It does not see him as a Single Path for the whole world any more than one sees one's father as everyone's father. It does not see his satsang as the universal satsang, any more than one sees his father's stories and advice applying to everyone. It does not see his 'rules' as applying to everyone. It does place the guru in the highest most exalted position as it does one's father. In my tradition, my Guru while afforded the highest, utmost respect and worship (again like one's father in the best of all possible worlds), is also thought of as a 'witness' guru, standing in for the originator of the tradition, the three headed Dattatreya of the Treta Yuga. A pipeline to another world, but not the ONLY pipeline. A small pipeline. Simple pipeline. One of countless streams flowing backwards from the ocean to the source. Unlike the reform sects, the Tradition does NOT recognize equality. It sees ALL things as unequal, and all of man's categories and rules as being impermanent and subject to violation. There is NO hierarchy in the Sanatan Dharma.
The Sanatan Dharma is not conducive to political and social movements. The apparent anarchy of the tradition like nature makes it impossible to control. But mono-culture IS based on control.
The result of all of this has been to give a certain identity to sections of Indian society, a certain self confidence, but the logic of what has been set in motion has been remorseless.
The wheel turned full cycle in Punjab, where Neo-Sikhism forced the lives and the sayings of the (Sikh) Gurus into the framework of monotheism, borrowing heavily from Islam and Christianity. This succeeded because by this time a very large and vocal section of the Hindu intelligentsia had become votaries of monotheism. This section applauded when the Akalis drove out the Brahmin priests from the Gurudwaras, throwing out the images of the Many, the false gods and goddesses who distracted worshippers from finding peace and solace in the One True God.
To answer your question, yes, these are modern sects that have rejected the traditional thinking and values of the Sanatan Dharma, and have adopted a western structure even if their vocabulary has remained Indian. Many of their adherents come from this sort of civil servant type 'class' evolving into this sort of middle class type of thing, having completely rejected the caste system. This was also the focus of MacCauley in famous minutes from 1835, when he sought to create a 'class' of Indians, brown in color, but British in intellect and taste, that would be agents and middlemen for colonial rule in India, and when India would attain its independence, would be the allies of Mother England in the new Indian nation.
A huge sect, the Ramakrishna Mission, has recently gone to court seeking the court to declare them 'Non-Hindu!' Curious, no?
Anyway, I hope that what I am saying is somewhat thought provoking.
One question that seems obvious for me now is why have you been YOURSELF attracted by DLM at that time. Have you been one of Shri Hans' disciples? If that's been the case, what did attract you in him? Was his 'teaching' more Hindu? I understand that he himself used to mock Hindu priests and religious people (M did the same). Then what happened? Was M's teaching different from Shri Hans'? And if it was, what do you think influenced M to 'change'? And what do you think of the meditation techniques as they were taught to westerners? Is this a common thing in India to teach that kind of techniques?
There is so much to know!
About my connection to M. Have you ever heard of Mouni Baba?
He got me into it. I was walking from Varanasi to Prayag (Allahabad) for the Ardh Kumbh Mela without a care in the world (nor a penny in my pocket). I had taken a vow of only walking and not touching money. In a small village, a wise looking man who had taken a vow of silence (he actually claimed that he would only speak to a true human being), wrote with his stick in the earth: 'I am above the languages. Come above the languages if you wish to meet me.'
So I came above the languages, and after a few weeks, he told me this story, about this baby to whom he had presented a set of the Vedas and other sacred texts, some sort of very special human. He communicated to me how things had gone terribly wrong, how the child had become a virtual prisoner of his evil mother. He communicated to me how he had gone to Mirzapur, to get a message to the child who was now 12 years old, and how the workers of an organization called the Divine Light Mission beat him up and held him in a dark room for a week. He showed me the scars, somewhat fresh. He thought that I should help save the world, and being young idealistic and always one for a cosmic adventure, I fell for it. The first time I met M and his mother, I walked into Prem Nagar covered in holy ashes, wearing only a gamsha, carrying a trident. I don't believe I wore shoes in those days. They liked me a lot right away, M gave me his diksha that night or so, the initiation, and within days, mother asked me to go to America to 'spread the knowledge' or whatever. I told her that I never wanted to leave India. But I did leave Haridwar as soon as mother and son went up to Dehra Dun, back to St Josephs you know, and I, down to Rajasthan, near Jaipur to see my guru, Hari Puri Maharaj. I tell him the whole story, he thinks it's great, says to go to America if the woman wants to pay you a ticket, make some money and we'll build a bigger Hanuman temple! Mouni Baba told me to have the mother make me a 'mahatma' and go lead the West, and 'capture' the boy, take him away from those devils.
I was a student of Advaita Vedanta, Yogachara, and Sannyasa Marga. I was at an extremely low level of knowledge in these areas, but I had an ardent interest. Tantra as well. So, with my background there was no issue of training me, the mahatmas of the DLM were basically illiterates anyway, who knew nothing of Indian tradition, but filled their discourses with Christian like stories of miracles performed by the Master, and how all religions proclaim him, and how, like the Bhakti school, it's all so blissfull. So they sent me off as I was, with what little I knew, but I was on a mission!
I'll continue at another time with the story.
I really don't think either the father nor the son really had any teachings of substance. Nothing that either a yogi or a scholar, nor any serious participant in intellectual intercourse could take seriously. Nothing compared with the culture tradition and learning of the Brahmin across the alleyway. The father and the son were fundamentalist Christians sounding off against the Catholic Church in a southern drawl. The meditation techniques were bastardized yoga teachings, sort of the lowest level of understanding of such. At least I tried to give my initiates the benefit of mantra with the breathing. I couldn't believe what the 'mahatmas' wanted to teach the westerners.
Anyway, I'm happy to take your questions.
This is completely fascinating. I don't know if I understand you properly, and I'm now trying to imagine what this means!
You say: "the child had become a virtual prisoner of his evil mother."
Does this mean his mother was hold the little Maharaji a prisonner? I which way? Why?
You also say:
"about this baby to whom he had presented a set of the Vedas and other sacred texts, some sort of very special human"
Does this mean that some disciples were at that time (when M was a baby) considering him as some "God-Child", and that he wasn't publicly available as he 'should be' because of his mother's attitude?
Then Mouni Baba had been sort of witnessing this, he told you the story (or his understanding of it), and you've decided to accomplish the mission of presenting 'the kid' in front of everybody, in spite of his mother (and the rest of his family).
Was it Mouni Baba's idea to 'save the world' and not Maharaji's?????
Then if my understanding is right, how did you (and Mouni Baba) manage to convince the kid to travel to UK and US?
Was it also the influence of the dozen of Americans and British guys who had already received knowledge in Prem Nagar in 1970-1971?
Some of these guys are still with Maharaji, and their version of the story is that THEY invited him to come to west. Historically I know that mahatma Gurucharanananand came to UK BEFORE M.
Then you say:
"Mouni Baba told me to have the mother make me a "mahatma" and go lead the West, and "capture" the boy, take him away from those devils"
I'm completely hooked to this story and I'm starving for the next episode!
As for the 'illiterate' mahatmas etc, I'm still laughing. I can't help but thinking of the Indian mahatmas and the western instructors/initiators I know: it's still the same! Not that I'm laughing at their ignorance, there is nothing wrong with this, but the harm these guys did to so many innocent people (not speaking of the abuses perpatrated by quite some of them, which is nothing surprising given their ignorance and lack of ethics - due to their lack of real spiritual experience). It's sad indeed.
There are a few levels of looking at this. I believe that m's father and mother decided not long after their marriage (or maybe even long before that) that Hans' son would be some avatar or something, and he began to prepare his devotees for this. So when the eldest son was born, he was the avatar. But this just didn't work out. They changed their mind and decided on m as the avatar shortly after m's birth. So despite the fact that the eldest had already been announced as the avatar, they managed to weasel out of that by saying that the eldest was ALSO an avatar, but m was a sort of higher category of avatar. For whatever reason Mouni Baba came in contact with the baby m, he believed the child to be divine, and because of this attributed holiness to the entire family, but divinity only to the child.
The thinking at the time by Mouni Baba was that the mother was holding the child's divinity prisoner in the sense of controlling access to the child and controlling the child's access to the world of people and ideas. She was designing the empire with herself at the helm, at the control panel. As the power behind the power. The real power. Like in Indian politics (or really just about any country's politics).
Have you read Foucault? Consistent with his theory of discourse I would say that you would discover more about the origins of the DLM in the Indian politics of the 60's and 70's than in all the history of Indian religious movements. The connections are horizontal rather than vertical.
She controlled every aspect of his life. What he said what he wore what he even thought. But even worse than this, from the time of her husband's death, she surrounded herself with a group of very ambitious low level men through whom she excerted further control and manipulation of not only the boy, but the poor souls who thought of themselves as fortunate to join a "charmed" exclusive circle of devotees (and as Christian theology slipped into Hindu reform movements - these fools could think of themselves as apostles of the messiah). Mouni Baba wasn't the only one who had problems. There were several others whose realtionship with the mother wasn't to her liking, and their access to m was eliminated.
I believe Mouni Baba saw himself as having a very special "cosmic" role. He, being a Brahmin in the almost anti-Brahmin environment around m, saw himself as a rishi like Vashisht and relationship with m not completely unlike that between Vashisht and Ram. The Brahmins are the teachers and priests in India, and as such, Mouni Baba was bent on serving Truth rather than saving the world.
The mother planned an international empire. She planned for him to go overseas. This was the role of the foreign devotees. She wanted the foreign devotees to go back to their countries, make DLMs, collect money, and then invite m to come, having arranged programs. I had not planned to participate in that as I wanted to stay in India. I was, however, very intrigued by this feeling of something big, something "cosmic" in it. At this time Mouni Baba was by no means clear in terms of what was happening, only something very much not right was happening. I started to grasp the infrastructure only when I lived with several of the "mahatmas" before I went to the States. These men were very different from the mahatmas I knew in the Sannyasi orders as well as various other orders around India. They had neither the training nor the experience of real yogis and sadhus, they were driven by a mission. I did have a problem with this from the very beginning. Mouni Baba wrote in my diary: "Isa [Jesus] say go up. World say go down. So they kill him. Mission is world."
Neither Mouni Baba nor I had any idea or desire that m go to the west, and in fact, if asked, both of us would have opposed the idea. The significant Englishman at the time, Saphalananda, was also not happy about returning to UK. He did, but was not able to really get anything going because he was an authentic spiritual guy, and not a salesman, like a few of the Cockneys and others who could hype and sell.
The reason I was sent to the States was to bring M there. When I was in the States I coordinated his first trip with London. London paid for Delhi - London, I paid for London - LA. Yes, we did invite him. But we were just "following orders" - the mother told us to invite him. In the case of UK, Gurucharananand was sent there because they weren't making any progress there. As far as Delhi was concerned, Saphalananda was a complete failure, they thought of him as a useless hippy drug addict, and spoke openly of him as such. I used to argue with the "mahatmas" about him, as he was infinitely more tuned in than they were. I understand they eventually got to him and lobotomized him in one way or another. But Gurucharananand was sent there to get them to invite m.