It is not surprising that someone such as Prem Rawat who was treated as 'divine' in his formative years, would develop inconstancies of character that cause contradictions in both public and private life. The difficulty for Prem Rawat and his followers is that Rawat is so closely identified with his mission and message, that his personal contradictions seem to colour the whole of his public presentation. The question that arises is: If the teaching is unique to the teacher, and the teacher is terribly flawed, then how sound is the teaching?
During the 1970s, Prem Rawat regularly described his 'Knowledge' as 'divine' or 'holy'. Today his wording is more secular, and his phrasing centres on 'fulfilment', 'happiness' and 'joy'. Rawat has nevertheless, been consistent throughout his career in emphasising the importance of individual experience.
What has changed quite markedly is Rawat's description of himself. Whereas in the 1970s he frequently claimed to be a divine incarnation, from the mid-1980s he was often adamant that he was not.
Prem Rawat's critics consider this unexplained volte face to be disingenuous, particularly when linked with his frequent blaming of others for the misapprehensions about his supposed divinity. Similarly, Rawat's 1970s claim that he was "always in divine bliss" (that is, enlightened) is sharply at odds with his statements of more recent years to the effect that he has problems, makes mistakes and experiences pain like other human beings. Again, others are identified by Rawat as having been responsible for promulgating the myth of his 'enlightenment', he never refers to his own earlier statements about "bliss" or "realisation of Knowledge".
Prem Rawat's self belief appears unshakeable despite what seem to be very clear contradictions in his role as 'teacher'. Prem Rawat has never presented any doubt that he was entitled to the position to which he was elevated at age eight, yet to a dispassionate observer it is unclear, why it was Prem Rawat that became 'Master', when other devotees at that time had practised the 'Knowledge' for decades. What did Prem Rawat understand then that other followers of Hans Rawat did not understand - and which Prem Rawat's present devotees still, apparently, have failed to comprehend?
These contradictions have yet to be addressed by Prem Rawat and his supporting organisations.
The Teacher's Behaviour:
In 1977, following his resignation as President of the US Divine Light Mission, Bob Mishler, said: "Most of the members...have only seen Maharaj Ji under very well-staged and planned conditions."
Rawat's right-hand men in the sixteen years between 1971 and 1987 were Bob Mishler and Michael Dettmers both have described him as an 'alcoholic' giving descriptions of carrying him up the stairs unconscious, after a night's heavy drinking at his home. Both detailed Rawat's abusive rages when under the influence of alcohol.
Michael Dettmers, has underlined the obvious point that this is hardly the behaviour of a fulfilled man.
A third senior aide from the early days, Divine Light Mission's former US national director, Michael Donner, supports the view that Rawat is often abusive to those close to him. Donner has written of Rawat: "It was his style to humiliate and put one down."
Michael Dettmers has stated that Rawat smoked cannabis "four or five nights a week" when in residence at Malibu. And, though Rawat regularly championed 'the breath' in his discourses (indeed the third technique of 'Knowledge' is upon the breath) he was an habitual smoker.
The conflict between Prem Rawat‘s message and his own behaviour has continued to be a source of criticism. In his premie 'trainings' of the late 1990s, Rawat strongly emphasised the ethic of personal responsibility; Rawat‘s own commitment to this ethic was thrown into sharp relief by the report of Michael Dettmers, given on a public Internet forum in December 2000. Dettmers was witness to an incident that took place in the early 1980s as Prem Rawat‘s cavalcade was on its way to Delhi airport; Dettmers described a collision between a cyclist and a car being driven by Prem Rawat, the cyclist was killed instantly. By Dettmers account, Prem Rawat left the scene without submitting himself to the normal police enquires that ensued. Sampuranand, a senior follower of Prem Rawat, stayed behind to deal with the situation which he did by having his houseboy take the blame for the death.
The revelation which has caused the most harm to Rawat's image among his devotees is that of the paedophilia of Mahatma Jagdeo. Jagdeo. It came to light in the late 1990s that Jagdeo had sexually abused the children of Prem Rawat's followers, during the 1970s and 1980s when Jagdeo had been particularly close to Rawat. The claims, although publicly denied, sent shock waves through Rawat's organisations.
Victims and their parents stepped forward to describe having sent word of Jagdeo's depredations to Rawat (verbally and in writing), via senior aides, on three occasions. No action was taken, and thus Jagdeo remained free to prey on further children. To many premies, this did not sit well with Rawat's frequent description of himself as 'caring'.
Eventually, a leaked Elan Vital document acknowledged that the claims were true - though Rawat denies he was ever told of Jagdeo's paedophilia.
After concluding that he had protected a paedophile, several high-profile premies left Rawat in disgust. Some of those who remained were left with the discomfiting suspicion that Michael Dettmers may have been right, when he said of Rawat: "He doesn't really care that much about people, in my view."
Prem Rawat's wealth:
Rawat's access to substantial wealth has been the subject of much criticism from the media, public and former followers. However Rawat has never sought to portray himself as one who lives simply. He has frequently stated over the years that 'Knowledge' is for both rich and poor, and has made it plain enough that he himself lives very well.
One objection sometimes raised by Rawat's critics is that so many of the world-wide financial resources of premies are dedicated to him personally, rather than to his work in bringing people inner peace.
The visible assets that are available for the exclusive use of Prem Rawat and his family are valued at in excess of US$85 million, whilst in most countries the charities and non profit organisations which support Rawat own no assets whatever and have almost no paid staff. Elan Vital documents have revealed that even the Amaroo project, the major commitment of time and finances of Rawat's followers for the last two decades, has been virtually insolvent on at least one occasion and activity there remains well below that expected for such a massive financial investment.
Prem Rawat promotes his 'Knowledge' as 'central' to the human psyche, and fundamental to the fulfilment of Man's deepest yearnings. If this is the case, it is unclear (and has not been explained by him) why only a small percentage of those who have received Prem Rawat's 'Knowledge' continue to practise it. Prem Rawat's only attempt at an explanation to date has been to say ( in September 2002) that those who left are "unlit matches" - matches that did not strike - and that they "came for something else".
Rhetoric aside, very little effort has been put into the propagation of the 'Knowledge' over the past quarter-century. No large-scale programs have been devised to further tell the world of Prem Rawat's message. On the other hand, enormous efforts have been made by Rawat's supporting organisations to raise funds for Prem Rawat's succession of executive jets. Former followers point out that this suggests a set of priorities more in line with enriching Prem Rawat than with spreading his message.
A subject that has been pressed several times by Rawat's media critics surrounds his early-1980s 'remake' - from God incarnate to 'humanitarian leader'. It has often been asked why he ordered the old 'devotional' publications destroyed and then assumed the role of 'ordinary person' without acknowledging the profound change that had taken place. To this day Rawat has never addressed the change, other than to deny that it took place.
East - West Split
A confusing dichotomy has arisen which Prem Rawat has yet to address. Prem Rawat eats meat, smokes cigarettes and drinks alcohol, behaviours which are kept from his Indian devotees, nearly all of whom are Hindus who would be grievously offended that any Guru should seek to preach a message derived from 'yoga' without pursing personal purity. And while in the West Prem Rawat publicly states he is not God incarnate, the implication that he is a 'Satguru' is left unaddressed in India.