Maharaj Ji, Guru (1957-)

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Maharaj Ji, Guru (1957-)

Teacher in the Sant Mat tradition and head of Elan Vital (formerly known as the Divine Light Mission). Guru Maharaj Ji, a title rather than a name, was born Prem Pal Singh on December 10, 1957. He moved to the United States as a spiritual teacher in 1971, at the age of 14. He was the son of Sri Hans Maharaj Ji, a spiritual teacher in the Sant Mat Radha Soami tradition and the founder of the Divine Light Mission in India. When Sri Hans died in 1966, his youngest son, only eight but recognized as something of a spiritual prodigy, assumed control of the movement as Guru Maharaj Ji.

On a visit to the United States he was met by a public skeptical of one so young assuming any role in religious leadership, but was welcomed by many young adults as a contemporary spiritual leader. Ten of thousands of "premies," as his followers were called, were initiated, and within a few years hundreds of centers were established in the West.

Through the mid-1970s the rapidly developing movement ran into trouble, beginning with its inability to fill the Houston Astrodome in a highly publicized event, Millennium 73. Then in 1974, Maharaj married his 24-year-old secretary, whom he described as an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Durga. The marriage further disrupted his relationship with his mother and older brothers. A lawsuit in India gave control of the Indian branch of the Divine Light Mission to Maharaj's mother and led to a complete break with her son, who maintained the complete support of the Western disciples.

In the late 1970s the Divine Light Mission had also become the target of the anticult movement, and members were subjected to deprogramming in an attempt to break their allegiance to Maharaj and the group. In the early 1980s Maharaj responded to the problem by disbanding the mission, closing all of the ashrams, and reorganizing his following as merely informal students of his teachings. He has assumed a low profile and largely dropped out of public sight. He spends most of his time traveling the world speaking to his followers.

Sources:

Cameron, Charles. Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji? New York: Bantam Books, 1973.

Mahararj Ji, Guru. The Living Master. Denver, Colo.: Divine Light Mission, 1978.