Promotion of Prem Rawat in Australia
Australia's significance to the promotion of Prem Rawat dates from the early 1990s when the 'Amaroo' development was begun. The huge commitment of funds and human resources involved has seen Amaroo become the greatest controversy for Prem Rawat since the exploitational DECA project, and it is certainly the longest running and most damaging controversy that Rawat has had to face. The Australian Elan Vital Incorporated and it's commercial subsidiary Ivory's Rock Conference Centre Pty Ltd have become notable as an aggressive agency of 'defensive promotion' of Prem Rawat in the face of sustained criticism.
The cult compound/conference centre is built in an unremarkable area called Peak Crossing and is of major significance because here Rawat's minions can prevent anyone but devotees carrying a Smart Card, proving their credentials as card-carrying followers of Rawat's, entering the property and so it is here that they can carry out the central, clandestine, religious ritual of the organisation: darshan: the kissing of Rawat's feet by his devotees. To maintain this secrecy the ritual is called the Greeting Line and occurs in a purpose built sacred space within the Amaroo compound that is cunningly disguised as a small, unremarkable building so that no photos of the foot-kissing can be taken.
Australia was not initially a focus for Prem Rawat and the creation of Divine Light Mission Incorporated in January 1974 was a largely ad hoc initiative by Australian followers. DLM Inc[Aus.] was created as a 'members association' and as such was granted tax exempt status by the Victoria State Government. This status is common amongst voluntary organisations such as sports clubs, it does not denote charitable status or any acknowledgement by the Australian state of the organisation having cultural, educational or religious importance. Registration was moved to South Australia in 1977.
The original stated Objects of DLM Inc. [Aus.] were:
- To advance religion in accordance with the principles of Shri Hans Guru Maharaj and Shri Sant Ji Guru Maharaj by promoting the knowledge that God is the supreme creator of the Universe.
- The realisation of God without denominational bias.
- The relief and prevention of suffering both mental and physical occasioned by poverty, ill-health and the abuse of drugs.
- To establish, train and maintain workers to dedicate their lives to carrying out the objects of the Mission.
- To establish and maintain schools, colleges, reading rooms, hostels, scholarships and to provide books and pamphlets, films and tapes to further the aims and objects of the Mission.
These objects were wildly idealistic and unrealistic and even the one success it had - to provide books and pamphlets, films and tapes - was ill-fated. In the early 1980's Maharaji demanded that all these films, pamphlets, tapes, etc should be destroyed. DLM Inc.[Aus] did not have the significance to the global promotion of Prem Rawat that DLM Inc.[US] , DLM [UK] and DUO [India] had in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1993 along with the majority of other DLM designated organisations outside of India, DLM Inc.[Aus.] adopted the Elan Vital designation. At the same time the Constitution was changed, replacing the original Objects and including a set of Aims:
The Fundamental Object of Elan Vital shall be to promote the principles and teachings of Prem Pal Singh Rawat and to advance public education in the understanding and realization of human potential through self-knowledge based upon the teachings of Prem Pal Singh Rawat.
Further to Elan Vital's Fundamental Object, it shall, at the direction of the Board of Directors:
- Provide the facilities and an environment conducive to learning and personal development;
- Promote and encourage activities and projects that will benefit the community;
- Provide facilities for and organize meetings, conferences and conventions;
- Support benevolent and charitable activities and organisations;
- Sponsor tours by speakers or lecturers;
- Publish and distribute literature and audio-visual materials;
In 1991, at the behest of Prem Rawat, land was purchased in south east Queensland, the source of funds for this purchase is unclear, however the title is now (2005) with a company called Myrine Investments Limited. Incorporated in Jersey (Channel Islands) in 1981 and registered as a foreign company in Queensland in 1986, its Australian registration has been moved to New South Wales. Following the initial land acquisition, followers of Prem Rawat in Australia and elsewhere were approached for funds with which adjacent holdings could be acquired. This fund raising was facilitated by DLM (subsequently Elan Vital) Inc. [Aus.], it would seem though that with only limited exception all of the land purchased by donation is now held in the title of Myrine Investments Ltd. A local government statement of valuation gives a figure of $Au550,000 unimproved value for approximately half of the total holding.
The purpose of the Australian land acquisition was to accommodate a global centre to which followers of Prem Rawat would be attracted from around the world. As funds came in the project location came to be known as Amaroo and its basic concept was that of a conference centre. In March 1995 a company was registered as Ivory's Rock Conference Centre Pty Ltd, this company leases the Amaroo site from Myrine Investments and has been the main conduit for the development of the site. IRCC is owned at arms length via Jeeps Nominees Pty Ltd, by Elan Vital Inc.[Aus.] Substantial development has taken place with expenditure in the order of $20 million; the building development includes private luxury apartments for Prem Rawat. Australia does not seem the most appropriate place for such a centre as the cost of travel from the USA and Europe is high. Possibly Rawat prefers only to have wealthier premies around him.
In mid 2005, Elan Vital Inc. [Australia] published a series of statements on its web site addressing the role of Myrine Investments. The chronology presented in these statements is somewhat opaque but the central claim seems to be that at some point after 2002 the share holding of Myrine Investments was vested with The Prem Rawat Foundation. The nature of the share holding prior to the vestment with TPRF is not specified nor does Elan Vital state whether any mortgage or other claim to beneficial ownership existed nor how these may have been settled. TPRF makes no public acknowledgement that it is the owner of Myrine Investments.
Facilities at Amaroo, Australia
The Kanguru Hop
Millionaire cult leader Maharaj Ji is holding a secret session west of Brisbane this weekend.
MILLIONAIRE cult leader Maharaj Ji, (known to his followers as the "Exploding Peace Bomb" and the "Lord of the Universe"), has returned to Australia to recruit new followers. The guru is holding a secret brainstorming session on a former cattle property in remote bushland 60 km west of Brisbane all weekend.
Thousands of followers have set up a tent city on the property at the base of Ivory Rock, (a monolithic egg-shaped mountain), for the four-day session, which ends on Sunday. Maharaj Ji, (or Maharaji, as he is now known), is due to appear at a 4000 seat open-air auditorium at the meeting to enlighten devotees in the "getting of Knowledge".
In the early 1970's the guru became an international household name as the teen leader of the Divine Light Mission cult. When the cult was at its height, many of the followers or "premies" lived in DLM houses or Ashrams and paid their entire salaries to the cult.
One former DLM member, Stephen Faulds, this week told the Courier-Mail that cult members would take out home loans and then all the occupants would pay off the mortgage. Former DLM president Robert Mishler, who has since left the cult, said that in the early 1970's DLM took more than $5 million from missions around the world.
The guru's latest gathering appears to be another money-spinner but under a different guise. Organizers expect up to 4000 "students" to attend the "Elan Vital 1997 Conference" and a spokeswoman for Elan Vital claimed the guru was no longer associated with DLM. "That is all in the past now," said Ros Sutton, who claimed to have found "Knowledge" with the guru 25 years ago.
Ms. Sutton said Maharaji had "completely disassociated himself" from DLM. "He (Maharaji) was very young at that time. It was when he was 13. He was promoted as being involved with the organization (DLM)," she said. "But since then, because of the strong Indian connotations, he has completely disassociated himself from that organization. What he teaches is not religion."
Australian Securities Commission records show the registered company Divine Light Mission Inc. changed its name to Elan Vital in the late 1980's. In 1992, Elan Vital registered the name Ivory Rock Convention Centre, where the meeting is being held, and is currently marketing it as a conference venue. Security officers at the front gate this week were stopping cars, and followers manned checkpoints on roads inside the property.
Ms. Sutton declined to say the source of Maharaji's income. "That is private," she said, as was Maharaji's location and time of arrival, according to Ms. Sutton. But according to Hawker Pacific's Brisbane office, which services corporate jets, the guru jetted into Australia on the weekend in his Gulf Stream jet, valued at between $20 to $30 million. A Hawker Pacific employee said Maharaji arrived under the name of Captain Rowatt and his family flew in on a commercial flight.
The luxury twin-engine jet is just part of the incredible life of luxury of the cult leader. Locals living around the conference centre were baffled at the activity. Vegetable farmer Lucien Stelet said: "They don't do any harm but there's been a few rumors about what they're doing. One theory was that they were digging tunnels."
In 1974 the 16 year old Maharaji caused a split in the cult when he married a 24 year old air hostess. The marriage sparked a massive internecine feud, with Maharaji's mother trying to sack him as leader. But his worldwide status enabled him to remain a dominant force. During his reign, he was hailed by his followers as a living god and acquired the title of the "Exploding Peace Bomb".
In one bizarre festival, he sprayed swooning devotees with pink colored water from a giant water pistol. It is believed he now lives in a Malibu mansion with his wife and children. The cult boasts a website titled "Premie" and lists a series of worldwide events where devotees can catch up with Maharaji as well as messages of love from followers to their revered guru. But on an "ex-premie" web page, The Courier-Mail found numerous allegations that the cult had shattered people's lives.
Sept. 20, 1997
Brisbane Courier-Mail Newspaper
By Rory Callinan