Without the Guru: How I took my life back after thirty years Kindle Edition
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There was this part of me that said OMG Mike, it took you 30 years to finally wise up to this little scamster. But then I have no right to be judgemental. As I was also sucked in by an Indian guru for 8 years - Mata Amritanandamayi, the Hugging Saint. Was a devotee from 2004 until 2012, when I also finally woke up and walked.
You see Maharaj-Ji was actually the first guru I was ever exposed to. I will stick with this name because that is how I remember him. Like Mike I was a starry eyed young thing in my 20s, a bit of a hippy chick who was also going to art college. I first saw a film presentation about him at the Aquarius Festival in Nimbin, but the dope I had been smoking must have had an inbuilt bulls*** detector, because I remember I was almost rolling around the floor that all these suckers would actually hand over their money to this fat teenage boy who one pic actually showed gorging on ice cream. Let alone line up to grope his feet. I nicknamed him "Butter Boy" because he looked like a little round tub of lard sitting on his throne. Then when I got back to Sydney I found his Divine Light Mission org (that is what they called it back then) had claimed a few victims and a couple of my fellow art students had got sucked into his cult. Some of us then cruelly and mercilessly teased one particular woman about "Butter Boy". Especially when she actually told us the part about the special meditation technique where you press on your closed eyeballs with your fingers and you seen the "Divine Light"!! We all started doing it and OMG, we all saw the light flashes - because hullo, this is what happens when you press on your eyeballs. It doesn't need a guru to make this happen. Just a natural bodily phenomenon!
Fast forward to the early 80s and once again I come across Maharaj-Ji devotees. This time an artist guy in my city who was sharing a studio with me and who appeared to be some sort of organiser for this guru and is spending all his money going over to the USA to see him and do stuff. A bit like what Mike describes in his book. This guy actually ditched a stunning looking woman I was friends with to chase his guru and basically chose him over the woman. Breaking her heart at the time. I just thought he was an idiot and his behaviour quite bizarre.
Then another fast forward to about five years ago and I myself have been sucked in by a guru, the Hugging Saint, after a marriage break up and a messy divorce. (It is interesting how so often you getting sucked in by these people at the lowest point in your life!) One night one of my fellow devotees asks me to go to a presentation in my city for Elan Vital. What is that I think? It sounds like the name for some mineral water. Well, not quite, but it was definitely being marketed as a new age feel good, self-development group. And we got a very convincing spiel and to watch a video presentation in a lovely private house in a bushland setting suburb via a very friendly and articulate woman. At a certain point in the film I saw it was......Butter Boy......OMG!! I said, that is the Guru Maharaj-Ji. Embarrassed silence! He is not called that any more. We prefer to call him Prem Rawat now. But he is still the same guy from the 70s, right? The one with all the houses, the cars, the private jets, the gold plated bathroom stuff.....
So I then kind of ruined the night by saying how I came across him in the 70s and did not like him then. I thought he was a scamster and just after your money.
But the re-marketing sleight of hand obviously must pull in a lot of new victims to his cult in the now 21st century. Especially when I see on that current affairs program that they are paying $3,000 just to camp out in some bushland centre to listen to him.
So good on you Mike Finch for writing this book and telling the history of this cult. And sharing your experiences. There was much I found in it that was confrontational. But I think none more so than how the ashrams were all closed down and so many of those who had handed over their lives, all their money, their hard labour and basically everything they had in the world, giving up family, friends, education, careers, were then abandoned. What a freaking little scumbag this guru is I thought. He cared nothing about these people other than to suck them dry for their money and their labour and treated them like disposable items to be thrown away on the scrap heap when he had no further use for them. How many lives did he thus destroy?
This sort of thing should be shouted to the world. How anyone can believe that someone who treats others like this is some "perfect master" or "enlightened" is beyond my understanding. But as I said, this is the schtick of all the gurus. This will also be the fate of the ageing renunciates who currently populate the mega ashram of the Hugging Saint in Kerala. As so many of them have also handed over their inheritances, their properties and totally burnt their bridges in service to this woman.
This is the modus operandi from what I can see of almost ALL the Indian gurus. Sai Baba was a pedophile who was finally well and truly outed in his later years and after his death. A Royal Commission has just been held in Australia to expose the child sexual abuse of the Guru Satyananda Yoga Ashrams. Rajneesh tried to poison a whole town in Oregon USA after he fled there from India. However HE has now been re-marketed, like Maharaj-Ji as OSHO and his Poona ashram still doing a roaring trade in selling meditation retreats to new agers. Maharishi Mahesh, the Beatles guru, another sex abuser. Sri Chinmoy - lies about his "powers" and abuse of devotees! But for all of them it is always impoverishing and exploiting others and gaining huge wealth for themselves. I have now read a number of books about these various gurus. And it is always the same thing happening.
I think people like Mike Finch who write books exposing gurus are doing a great service to the world. Theirs is a very meritorious action that is ALL about good karma. If writing such a book saves others from destroying their lives then indeed a great service.
The other reason I was so keen to read his book was because that TV program showed Maharaj-Ji having a major centre just 25km from my home town - at a place they called Amaroo. OMG!!! I thought, that is just SO wrong. I am totally on the side of the neighbours to that centre. The farmers who have finally spoken up and said... enough! We don't want scamming gurus in my country expanding their power bases. Ones that claim to be "charitable" and thus fall under the radar and get out of even paying taxes. Whilst they go about their business of recruiting cult victims in private homes and under the guise of self-development workshops and them being motivational speakers. Accumulating great wealth for themselves.
At least my former guru, the Hugging Saint was more honest about what she was, if not about her so-called "charitable" status and what happens to all her money - the US $342 million her former devotees have discovered socked away in foreign bank accounts. She has her punters still lining up in public to get a grope and a blessing from her and even sells dolls made in her image at her public programs which you can worship her with.
But Guru Maharaj-Ji calling himself Prem Rawat and the Divine Light Mission becoming Elan Vital! That is just plain sneaky!!
Yes, I am a premie. And have been for 38 years. My own psychological make up is fraught with foibles that I have to address daily. However, I am not compliant. I have neither the talent nor the temperament to be in close proximity to Prem Rawat, but I have friends that thrive on the hectic pace of life close to the fire and many that would gladly volunteer for the very same conditions that have so affronted Mr. Finch.
I probably fall into Mr. Finch's category of the meditator. I once walked out on a Knowledge refresher run by Prem Rawat because the air conditioner in the hall was broken and I was so cold that I could not concentrate. This was a scandal. To premies, not Maharaji.
But I love my Guru Maharaji. I am no model premie. My devotion comes into question with other premies, but I never had the feeling I was rejected by the Guru. The Knowledge, in one word, is breathtaking. When my only goal was to not suffer intensely, he gave me joy.
It certainly sounds as if Mr. Finch's life with the Guru was a living hell. That being the case he was right to leave and rebuild his life in a satisfying way. Since I don't have to concern myself with the private business of the Guru, I am blessed with the practice of Knowledge unscathed.
My children (who are not premies) have incorporated his wisdom into their lives and they rely upon it to guide them today. They were probably too young, but I remember the Christmas presents and parties and the wonderful attention he gave them. He didn't have to, and that is why it was so touching. This from the ordinary teenager who just happened to have the power to rob men of their discretion
Once again, kudos to Michael Finch. But one must keep in mind that he was not a victim. He was a volunteer who could have left at anytime. As a full grown adult he willingly turned his life over to a 12 year old boy. Obviously that was no ordinary 12 year old boy.