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Prem Rawat

One of several born-in-India gurus who came to the United States in order to make it big. He was pronounced the head of his father's organization (known then as the Divine Light Mission) in 1966 when he was only nine years old, though he was an ambitious kid and he moved to the group to America in the early 1970s. The Divine Light Mission officially disbanded and re-organized as "Elan Vital," though in the United States it uses the more official-sounding name "Visions International." However, Rawat's disciples have used his name rather than "Elan Vital" to promote his cause in the United States. If you look through your local cable TV listings, you're likely to come across infomercials that say "Prem Rawat" or "Maharaji" (especially on local community-access cable channels).

Much like Transcendental Meditation, Rawat's organization preaches a search for inner meaning and "knowledge" based upon meditation and the promotion of his teachings as gospel. There was an incident in the early 1970s involving a reporter hitting Rawat in the face with a shaving-cream pie, which resulted in his followers attacking the reporter with a hammer and injuring him. Apparently, having a "sense of humor" is alien to Indian gurus (darn those decadent Western teachings!); and Rawat's group has taken a dim view of critics right up until the present day. ( Regular followers of the goings-on at Wikipedia will remember the concerted efforts by Rawat disciples to use the online encyclopedia to define critics of Rawat as a "hate group." ) If you want to get on the good side of one of Rawat's followers, it's a good idea not to mention the Web site in his presence.