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United States
Prem Rawat AKA Maharaji

Promotion of Prem Rawat in the United States

The founding of the US Divine Light Mission Incorporated provided the material base upon which all of Prem Rawat's subsequent success was built. The combination of a large cash rich group of followers and the felicitous legal arrangements for US charitable religious organisations made the US DLM Inc. the ideal vehicle for the rapid development of a programme of promotion suited to the authoritarian but still adolescent Prem Rawat. Re-named Elan Vital Incorporated, the organisation served Prem Rawat's purposes for nearly 40 years until it was announced in 2010 that Elan Vital Inc. was to be replaced by Words Of Peace International Incorporated which is described as an educational organisation.

In December 1971, just four months after Prem Rawat first arrived in the US, the Internal Revenue Service granted Divine Light Mission Incorporated exemption from Federal Income Tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code, this exemption remains in effect. The incorporation was registered in Colorado and the terms of the IRS classification recognised DLM Incorporated as a 'church', this recognition released DLM Incorporated from any requirement to publicly disclose its financial affairs. The role of Prem Rawat in this 'church' was, that of 'Chief Minister'.

With Prem Rawat's adoption of the US as his preferred base from the end of 1972 onwards, DLM Incorporated became the effective controlling entity of the global 'Mission'. Although no formal legal arrangements were put in place defining the relationships of the various national Divine Light Missions, the US organisation became Prem Rawat's primary promotional machine, the source of communication both to his wider hoped for audience and to the other Divine Light Missions.

The pre eminence of the US organisation provided for a number of its officials to become key contributors to the development of the promotion of Prem Rawat both within the US and world-wide. The first of these was Bob Mishler who held the position of President of DLM Incorporated from its inception until 1977. Mishler became the first vocal critic of Prem Rawat, famously speaking out in a Radio broadcast in 1979.  It is indicative of the nature of the organisation that Mishler's primary role was to provide personal support to Prem Rawat and to add organisational authority to Prem Rawat by travelling with him on his various promotional tours.

The infamous 1973 Millennium event (see also placed DLM Incorporated in severe financial crisis, made even more acute by an unfortunately timed appraisal of the organisation by the IRS. It was at this point that Bob Mishler brought Michael Dettmers into the heart of the then Denver based organisation, Dettmers taking effective day to day control while Mishler was on tour with Prem Rawat. It is probable that without Michael Dettmers' interventions the organisation would have collapsed under debt and poor administration at some point during 1975 or 76. While Mishler continued as President until 1977, it is clear that under the patronage firstly of Mishler and then of Prem Rawat, that Michael Dettmers was primarily responsible for the reshaping of Divine Light Mission in the US into an entity that could sustain both the demands of Prem Rawat and the expectations of his followers. The US model ultimately informed the structure of the various other national DLM's developing around the world.

In 1976 Prem Rawat, without any obvious legal or constitutional power removed Michael Dettmers from his position within DLM Incorporated and immediately instructed Dettmers that he (Dettmers) was to be his, (Rawat's) 'personal manager'. This appointment effectively demoted Bob Mishler and Michael Dettmers became in effect the organisational voice of Prem Rawat both within the US DLM Incorporated and in his dealings with the other Divine Light Missions, Dettmers even being described on occasion as 'international director' although no such position existed.

Like Bob Mishler before him Michael Dettmers eventually became a critic of Prem Rawat and it is due to his candour that details of the otherwise closed world of the DLM 'church' and Prem Rawat's role in it, have been made public. In addition to turning DLM Incorporated into a viable organisation able to sustain its charitable status in the eyes of the IRS, Michael Dettmers was instrumental in three other major developments:

1. The personal acquisition by Prem Rawat of assets that would otherwise be the possession of Divine Light Mission Incorporated.

2. The separation of Prem Rawat from having responsibility for or to Divine Light Mission Incorporated while maintaining Prem Rawat's controlling influence over the organisation.

3. The creation of the Elan Vital Foundation as a 'no supervision' hub for the transfers of monies between the Prem Rawat supporting organisations.

In October 2000 Michael Dettmers provided the following explanation of how Prem Rawat came to take personal possession of assets that might reasonably be considered to have been the property of DLM Incorporated.

This splitting of personal assets from the assets of the Divine Light Mission 'church' remains a point of significant discontent among many now former followers of Prem Rawat. That payments were indeed made directly to 'Guru Maharaj Ji' is undoubtedly true however that such payments were made with the intention of enriching the individual 'Prem Rawat' is far more debatable. It is also clear that very few of those who were followers of Prem Rawat understood the ramifications of this split of personal and 'church' resources and this action remains a source of puzzlement to many even now.

The 'ecclesiastical' nature of the early US Divine Light Mission is demonstrable in that from its creation in 1971 until the 1976 IRS audit, residents of its ashrams were considered to be legally monastics and therefore not required pay income taxes. Those who held jobs completed IRS W4 forms to provide for no income tax withholding by their employers. Following the 1976 changes, the IRS reassessed the position of ashram residents and many who been resident but who had subsequently moved out, found themselves personally liable for the costs of back taxes on salaries which had been contributed in full to Divine Light Mission Incorporated.

At a point prior to 1985 the name Divine Light Mission Incorporated was changed to Elan Vital Incorporated, in all other respects the organisation remained unchanged. In 1985 an application was lodged with the IRS for Elan Vital Incorporated to become re-registered as a Private Foundation and the organisation seems to have been treated by the IRS as a Private Foundation until the application fell in 1989 due to a failure on the part of Elan Vital Incorporated to file the relevant paperwork.  Elan Vital Incorporated remained registered with the IRS as a tax exempt church until announcing that it would cease operations in 2010. As a church Elan Vital Inc. was not required to make its financial activities public and no firm information is available regarding income, the application of expenditure or the ownership of assets. In 2001 Elan Vital Incorporated did publish some unsupported information on its web site; percentage figures were given for income sources, 33.33% from sales and 66.67% from voluntary contributions, and expenditure percentages of 59.67% on promotion, tours and events, 33.33% on production and 7% on administration. In the financial year ending March 2002, Elan Vital[UK] Dunrite Group a company with which several of Prem Rawat's children have been associated. Production now covers both satellite television and net radio broadcasting, European distribution and funding of satellite services has been handled through a Spanish subsidiary of Visions International operating under the name Eurcommunications.

More than any other of the 'national' DLMs, the US organisation was subject to the greatest stress of meeting the competing demands of providing for Prem Rawat's personal requirements as well as acting as a promotional organisation. This split, testing many of the individuals involved to near destruction is well illustrated by the DECA project which set out to provide Prem Rawat with a Boeing 707 for his personal use. The financial basis of this project remains unclear however it is certainly the case that the organisational resources of the Divine Light Mission Inc. were dedicated to the project. The acquisitions of further aircraft were also achieved with the organisational assistance of DLM/EV Inc. through ad hoc creations such as the Jets Acquisitions Committee which appear to have piggybacked on the 'church' organisation.

In 2001 an entity called The Prem Rawat Foundation was created, primarily having an Internet presence and providing for the sale of downloadable excerpts of Prem Rawat's speeches, musical compositions and other 'art' works. The Foundation is registered in California as a charitable Trust and as such is required to publish details of its finances. The Foundation claimed income of US$ 2,754,210 in 2007.

TPRF was a departure in style and its board membership reflects an intention to set the Foundation in the context of US tax deductible philanthropy. The 2001 directors were Linda Pascotto (President), Stephen Sordoni (Vice President) and Scott Mazo, Karen Pearse and Brad Griffin. Linda Haldan Pascotto and her husband Alvaro Pascotto, who are both long time followers of Prem Rawat, have their own charitable foundation through which they have donated significant sums to TPRF. Alvaro Pascotto has held directorships in private corporations involved in managing Prem Rawat's aircraft. In 2009 changes were made to the TPRF board, Linda Pascotto remained as President while Stephen Sordoni stood down as Vice President but remained a Director while the other 2001 directors were replaced. Prem Rawat's younger daughter, Premlata Rawat Hudson became the new Vice President. Kenneth Delaski was assigned the role of Treasurer, Delaski was the founder of the Deltek Corporation, shares in which were beneficially gifted to Prem Rawat via the Onae Trust. The TPRF Secretary is listed as Edward Hanzelik, Dr Edward Hanzelik is the clinical partner of Dr John Horton who has served as Prem Rawat's personal physician.  

The closed world of the organisations that promote Prem Rawat is by its very nature, not readily open to examination although the roles of certain individuals and their inter relationships do provide some insight into the functioning and objectives of the business structures that surround Prem Rawat. The personal ownerships that Michael Dettmers was able to establish for Prem Rawat in 1976 have largely been vested with a company called SEVA Corporation of America, President of SEVA is Mary E. Holle and its registered agent is John K. Bale, both are long time followers of Prem Rawat. Holle and Bale are directors of a SEVA subsidiary called Premo Marine which until 2004 held the legal ownership of the 33 meter long yacht Serenity, President of Premo Marine is Kathleen Gliebe while another director is Robert A. Jacobs. Jacobs was Prem Rawat's personal lawyer and who acted for Prem Rawat in the 1976 financial arrangements initiated by Michael Dettmers. Another SEVA subsidiary, Prime Resources owned the Gulfstream IV jet previously used by Prem Rawat. Listed as managers or members of Prime Resources were Stephen Sordoni, Kenneth Delaski and Alvaro Pascotto. Stephen Sordoni is a Director of TPRF while Alvaro Pascotto is the husband of Linda Pascotto, President of TPRF. Alvaro Pascotto has a brother, Valerio Pascotto who has acted in a variety of management support roles in Rawat promoting organisations, not least having involvement in the IRCC project in Australia. Also having had a substantial role in the IRCC project is Brad Griffin, also previously a TPRF director. Kenneth Delaski is now Treasurer of TPRF. Robert Jacobs introduction to Prem Rawat was apparently facilitated by his then colleague, Linda Gross who was and still is a follower of Prem Rawat. Gross, who is also a lawyer has represented Prem Rawat personally, she has also been president of Elan Vital and was acting as its spokesperson at least until 2001. The Pascotto brothers were followers of Prem Rawat in Rome before coming to the US, Alvaro is a lawyer and Valerio a psychologist, who now has a partnership with motivational speaker and long time follower of Prem Rawat Tim Gallwey.

It should not be assumed that these personal links preface anything untoward, however charitable, philanthropic and religious organisations are expected to take especial care to ensure objectivity where either intentional or incidental benefit may be conferred. The situation where individuals who have a personal deferential attitude to Prem Rawat as well as having responsibilities which place their philanthropic position in potential conflict with Prem Rawat's personal financial interests, might be considered to be organisationally 'unfortunate'.

To top


Perfect Master on the Ropes?

In the fast-moving and highly competitive world of spiritual enlightenment and true knowledge, Guru Maharaj Ji, the 15-year-old Indian Lord of Creation and Perfect Master, was generally credited as being a bright up-and-coming Holyman. As early as 1971, this publication marked the young guru, then 13, as a major contender. We were particularly impressed with a press release that read, in part: "[The Perfect Master] has returned from his World Peace Mission deeply moved by the incredible hopelessness and suffering experienced by great masses of human individuals. He will be spending some time in seclusion." Then and there we decided that the kid had class and style. "Let's hear it for the little guy," we wrote, expecting him to have a clean shot at the title.

Some insiders who have been around the game for years liked to compare the youngster's quick punching parables to those of the Sufistic welterweight Mulla Nasruddin. Others thought the boy should take to the corners and telegraph his best shots in the manner of the late great Meher Baba. Critics of the young Indian's style concede the boy may indeed be a heavyweight contender; but say that unlike the legendary Chinese bruiser, Buddha, whom he outwardly resembles, the boy bas a glass psyche and can't take a truly damaging punch.

The guru, however, has taken some good shots in the past two years. First came the reports that the plump and apparently pubescent Master was closer to 19 or even 28 than to his announced age. Then Indian customs officials seized some $35,000 worth of jewelry, watches and foreign currency when the guru and some disciples, arriving in chartered jumbo jets, failed to properly declare the items. He was charged with smuggling, is currently under investigation and was forced to post a $13,300 bond before being allowed to leave lndia for an English-American tour to spread Perfect Knowledge.

Even before he reached America, reports from England suggested the boy was out of shape, that he was riding around in a silver Rolls Royce and was seen wearing a cowboy hat. Then, in a highly publicized match in Detroit last month, Pat Halley, a religious unknown and a reporter for the Fifth Estate scored a TKO by lobbing a shaving cream pie in the over-confident guru's face. Slightly dazed, the Perfect Master told the assembled press that, "this is nothing compared to the nails driven into the hands of Jesus." He was apparently referring to a catastrophic near-defeat, suffered by one of the great Jewish heavyweights nearly 2000 years ago. The Jerusalem Slugger, however, came back off the canvas and not only went the distance, but, according to some who know the Game, sewed up the title in perpetuity.

After the Detroit bout, the weary Perfect Master went into a seclusion similar to the one that followed his recognition of the incredible hopelessness and suffering experienced by the great masses of human individuals. He canceled an Atlanta appearance and refused to appear on The Dick Cavett Show. Six days after the cream-pie incident, two Detroit heavies from the Motor City Divine Light Mission, posing as disaffected followers of the guru, arrived at Pat Halley's apartment and offered to demonstrate a secret training exercise designed to produce a blinding inner flash of light accompanied by overwhelming illumination. In point of fact, the two allegedly sat Halley in a chair, asked him to close his eyes and meditate, whereupon they cracked him brutally over the head with a hammer. He was critically injured and has since undergone brain surgery. The two believers are charged with "assault to do great bodily damage." One bas been apprehended. The other is still at large.

Two weeks after the incident, the Perfect Master showed up at St. Luke's hospital in Denver suffering from fatigue, a liver disorder and an ulcer.

So the Perfect Master is down and the Scorekeeper is counting, but no one in the Game figures the little guy is down for the count. Just last week a true believer arrived in our offices to remind us of the most significant event in history: the Perfect Master's return bout with the world to be held at the Houston Astrodome on the eighth through the tenth of November. Seven 747s, full of the gurus fans and supporters, will be flying in to watch the little guy try to take the title in a flurry of parables. Our informant told us that the teenaged Holy Person may, in fact, finally reveal to the world who he actually is. Some of us have speculated on the possibility that he may announce flat-out that he is God. Others feel that this may be presumptuous in a 15-year-old and point out that Jesus didn't announce until he was 30. A consensus opinion is that the guru will opt for an interim status such as Son of God, or Chosen Speaker. A viable alternative involves various reincarnations: Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha or some cosmic combination.

In this big comeback bout, the smartest money, in our opinion, is on the cosmic combo. And though we probably won't make it to Houston for the most significant event in history, we feel that if the Perfect Master just closes his eyes for a moment and concentrates on San Francisco, he will be able to pick up a hopeful message from this office.

"Let's hear it for the little guy!"

- Tim Cahill