|Journeys: Larry G.|
|Date: March 24, 2009|
I graduated from a high school in Alberta in 1972. To be perfectly honest I would describe myself then as shy, virginal, idealistic, adventurous, and na´ve - but nonetheless reasonably intelligent. I had studied hard to get good marks for University and I had therefore held back experimenting with drugs in high school. I was part of a large group of male friends, many of whom were party animals, casual drug users (both soft and hard) and outdoor aficionados. I got into that mindset, smoked marijuana for the first time, really enjoyed it, but decided against harder drugs. I also became involved in a lot of outdoor sports. However, I was still looking for a continuous high. In retrospect I was not ready for University - I should have travelled or worked and got more life experience. Despite that, I entered a general science program at University, but I did more partying and skiing than studying. I changed my major several times while at the same time looking for highs in any way other than chemicals.
In my second year at University I encountered the folks from Transcendental Meditation, was impressed by their charts and graphs and soon learned to meditate. I enjoyed it but it didn't give me the high I was seeking. At the same time a few of my old high school buddies started going to Satsang (spiritual discourse) and told me of the incredible stories about the meditation and "Knowledge" given by this young Indian Guru named Maharaji. I admit I was intrigued. I started attending satsang in early 1974. The premies seemed sincere, and were always talking about being blissed out and high on this meditation. They were overtly friendly, smiling all the time and were always talking about their wonderful experiences with the meditation techniques. Their enthusiasm was infectious. The only thing that put me off was the pranaming to Maharaji's altar and that the female premies all dressed like Mennonites.
At this point I digress into some speculation. The mid 1970's in Canada were marked by huge numbers of young people experimenting with drugs of any type. There is a certain cold-climate mentality to drug use. You sometimes use drugs for enjoyment and sociability but most of the time you use them to get high. There is a significantly higher proportion of substance abusers in northern countries such as Canada, Russia and Scandinavia. It is part of our psyche and I felt it. I wanted to get high just for the sake of getting high. I thought meditation could do that for me in a safer and healthier way than drugs. I thus really bought into this "get high from meditation" malarkey that all the Canadian premies were dishing out during the early-mid 70's. I admit I was being totally selfish.
In 1973 I gave up on Catholicism and began studying other religions. I had come to the conclusion that Jesus was just another prophet and that all religions were mostly preaching love and morality but with too much dogma for me. So by this time I was essentially a Deist. Maharaji's story fit in well with my beliefs at the time. Being very idealistic his promise of world peace meant something to me, despite not thinking about how an overweight short-ass East Indian teenager could accomplish such a feat. Although initially being a selfish experiment for me the spiritual and "world peace" side of Divine Light Mission did become more important to me over the months that followed my initial introduction to the teachings of Maharaji.
Within about four months of my first satsang I received knowledge in the summer of 1974, along with four other high school friends. The knowledge ceremony was honestly disappointing after the huge buildup and I remember distinctly lying to myself that I had experienced something wonderful. I had not. My experiences from then on in meditation were limited. Admittedly, I found the meditation calming and relaxing, but one hour morning and night meditating was too long for me and ended up being energy draining. I saw wisps of light but never tasted any sort of nectar nor heard any celestial harmonies. Meditating on the word only calmed me - nothing else. Despite the continuing disappointment over the next two years I bullshitted my way through having to give and attend satsang because I really had nothing to offer the premie community. It was torture sitting there feeling I should give satsang and not really having anything to say. Many other premies spouted off all about their wonderful meditation experiences. To be perfectly honest I think many of them were embellishing their experiences to a great extent, in fact a lot of what they said bordered on bullshit. They did not really think about what they were saying - much of it was inane platitudes or rote verbatim spouts from Maharaji's or Mahatma's satsangs or something they had read in the Divine Times.
However, those latter observations above are hindsight. I was still intrigued and so idealistic that I truly believed the whole "Knowledge" phenomenon could make a difference to the world. So I moved into the local ashram in late 1974. I lasted there for just less than a year and a half. Not long after I joined the ashram things within Divine Light Mission became incredibly weird. The premies were trying too hard to ignore it all and keep up the meditation, satsang and service. Some of them tried ignoring the strangeness by sweating the small stuff. Our ashram "house father" even told us how we should take a shit the Hindi way by crouching on the soles of our feet on top of the toilet seat, using only our left hand to wipe our bum. Things became even more insane with Maharaji's family. All the shenanigans were not what I had expected from a "Master of the Universe" as he was touted at the time. A couple of the visiting Mahatmas made passes at a couple of the Ashram sisters. Because I was not comfortable with satsang and meditation wasn't really doing it for me I threw myself into service, hoping that one of the three "requirements" (meditation, satsang and service) would get me closer to the truth. Even at all the festivals I performed many hours of service - and consequently became more isolated from what was really going on. The service I was assigned was for the "World Peace Corps", Guru Maharaji's equivalent of Mao's Red Guard. It was menial and brain damaging. I was also doing menial labour as a full time job and donating all earnings to the ashram. That too was brain stultifying for me after 2 years - the money side of it did not matter to me at the time. But the most insidious aspect of the cult was that any time a premie raised a good thought-provoking question about what was going on it was dismissed by all other premies that that person was "just in their mind" or Maharaji was playing a trick on us (this was called "lila") and they should shutup and do more meditation, satsang or service. In hindsight this is the classic maneouver used by every religion and cult: the hoodwink of "faith". This is the only card religions/cults play really well - and as we all know, faith kills reason and common sense. Faith also effectively stops mankind from asking the difficult questions.
The second most insidious aspect of the cult during the 1970's was the proselytization. This was the outrageous invasion of people's privacy and sensibilities by running around the streets proclaiming Maharaji as "perfect master" via shouting, leaflets, etc. There was also an attempt to do silly volunteer public service stunts at old people's homes, children's charity groups, jailhouses, etc. We were in fact encouraged to do this. Thankfully Elan Vital no longer uses those tactics, but nonetheless current premies should know that Maharaji did endorse such in the past.
I realized in early 1976 that I really did not fit in and was quite different to the majority of the premies. Many of them were on a spiritual quest and were essentially "granola children". I was not of that ilk, being a scientist at heart. There were other straws that broke the camel's back for me. I was on some service errand I noticed some beautiful mountaineering posters. I realized what I was missing in my life - a love of adventure and the outdoors had been pushed to the back burner for my misguided idealism. Later that week on another WPC errand I was waiting in some office and started reading Scientific American and began to realize I had not used my brain for over two years. What a terrible waste that was. The premies became weirder to me and their satsang began to sound repetative, forced, false and boring. All sorts of excuses were being made for the strange actions of Maharaji, his family, DUO finances and the inner circle premies. Reality hit me like a ton of bricks - I was beginning to think for myself rather than believe the words of others. I had never connected to any of the ashram premies. Consequently, I had no intentions of having to explain my reasons for leaving the ashram. I had made my decision and I certainly did not need to talk it out with brainwashed premies. It had become obvious to me that I had been deluded, and all the premies were also deluded. (I make no apologies with that statement: I still firmly believe all of the followers of Maharaji were or still are deluded). I left the ashram forever one evening in the early spring of 1976, when all the premies were at a meeting. Besides, I wasn't just leaving the ashram I was leaving Maharaji and his cult. I moved back home with my parents for just less than a year until I got on my feet and saved some money. During that time I also met a wonderful girl. We went travelling together for almost a year and are still happily married 32 years later. After the year of travel we both went back to University for four years in 1978, coming away with postgraduate degrees and have not looked back since. I have had a very charmed, successful, happy, internationally-based life since 1977.
I do not regret my two years involvement with the cult. It was a significant learning experience for me - I learned much about myself, mankind, religions, cults, dogma, human nature and delusions. I matured, became more worldly, learned a healthy scepticism for unsupportable beliefs and realized what was important in my life. It was a part of growing up and maturing. I have no hard feelings towards anyone, but I might feel differently had I dedicated more than those two years. However, I can admit now that I was deluded, and I still cringe with a tinge of embarassment about that time in my life - basically that I could have been so gullible! However, my ashram stories still remain good fodder at dinner parties, thus encouraging interesting discussions!
I sincerely suggest that anyone presently involved with the Elan Vital organisation (or any religion or cult for that matter) please seriously question everything you see and hear and also read the histories of these entities. Please don't waste your lives supporting gurus, charlatans, clergy, priests, pastors, churches and scriptures of any ilk - all of which attempt to control your life, tell you how you should live it, tell you what you should believe, take your money and have no basis in fact or reason. Yes, Prem Rawat teaches you those nice meditation techniques. But they are all explained in historic yogic texts from thousands of years ago. You do not need Maharaji nor Elan Vital to learn the meditation techniques. Nor do you need other religious beliefs or dogma. Please don't fall into the trap that you need to follow someone or some scripture written by primitive, uneducated, nomadic goatherders (e.g. The Talmud, The Bible or The Koran). That is just more control which people seem to need over one another, especially when it promotes money or power coming their way. There is a huge catalogue of information at this website to hopefully make you think about what you are involved in.
Also, please be aware of this fact: anything that comes out of the USA (Elan Vital for instance) is designed to make money. They want your money - end of story. Even if it is a spiritual enterprise it is still an enterprise. There is no such thing as a free beer in the USA and Knowledge is not free, by any means. Nonetheless, if you don't mind parting with your hard earned money to support the opulent lifestyle of Prem Rawat then fine, that is your perogative. Please do not be deceived by the Prem Rawat Foundation either - this is simply a cover for further proselytyzation.
Newcomers to Elan Vital and Prem Rawat should also be aware of the hoodwinking, historical whitewashing that has gone on since 1970. Prem Rawat now markets himself as a "motivational speaker". In the early seventies he was actually the "Lord of the Universe". In those early days many of his new devotees were young, idealistic misfits (such as myself ;-)) who weren't exactly god's gift to capitalism. It took a lot of devotees to get the Rolls Royces all lined up in a row. Nowadays Elan Vital is targetting the baby boomers and Generation X, many of whom are flush with lots of discretional spending power and quite happy to give lots of money to Maharaji - so it doesn't seem to matter that there are less devotees nowadays, because they are still able to maintain Maharaji's opulent lifestyle. Because he markets himself somewhat more slyly these days please do open your eyes to what is really going on. He truly is just another charlatan who will attempt to convince you that you need him to experience the Knowledge. Maharaji is one of the worst possible imaginary friends you could ever choose to have. And there are many "imaginary friends" out there!
Over the past 25 years I have reconsidered all spirituality and beliefs in the supernatural and their meaning (or lack thereof). Reason has replaced belief and faith. I no longer believe there is a god. It simply makes no sense to me. I consider all religions/cults/spiritual shenanigans to be dangerous to the survival of mankind as an evolved species. Mankind does not need spirituality, religions or dogma to be moral, ethical, happy or considerate of one another. When I came to this realization it felt so right and a weight was lifted from my shoulders. Please do yourself a really big favour and read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. Good health and happiness to all....