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.
Cameron, Charles. Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji New York Bantam
Books, 1973.
Mahararj Ji, Guru. The Living Master. Denver, Colo. Divine
Light Mission, 1978.