It has always been Prem Rawat's strategy to withdraw from the challenge of facing incisive questioning, this strategy is followed by the organisations that promote Prem Rawat. Subjects that appear to cause Prem Rawat particular discomfort include the issue of his supposed divinity, his uniqueness as a 'master', his personal role in the 'gifting' of the meditational experience of 'Knowledge' to the individual meditator, and the sources of misapprehension and misunderstanding about Prem Rawat.
Is/Was Prem Rawat Divine ?
Much of Prem Rawat's message has been consistent for 30 years. He preached inner peace in the early 1970s, and that remains central to what he preaches today.
However inner peace was only ever one half of his message. The other half was himself - the importance of 'devotion to the master'.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Prem Rawat demanded 'devotion' and 'worship': indeed he stated that those who did not obey him "should die of shame". He suggested that premies pray to him. He described himself not only as God, but as "bigger than God": saying that he had "come with more power than ever before".
These days - in the West at least - Prem Rawat promotes himself as an inspirational speaker, and denies that he is a divinity. Prem Rawat has never addressed his 'remake' from God to mortal speaker, nor explained why he ordered the destruction of the old style 'devotional' publications.
Is Prem Rawat the only master?
In respect of the 'exclusivity' that Prem Rawat holds over the techniques of 'Knowledge', he states that it is hard to follow two masters - and that people considering trying should not follow him. In the West, he does not claim to be the 'only' master - however he does insist that people who follow him follow him alone.
This issue of two masters certainly raises many questions because the Elan Vital and TPRF publicity has stated:
"Maharaji's Knowledge is compatible with and independent of any lifestyle, culture, religion, or belief system."
So while on the one hand people are invited to accept what Rawat has to offer, without inhibitions being placed on what they may believe - and on the other they are told this is not available unless they accept Prem Rawat as their only teacher.
Why is Prem Rawat necessary to the experience of 'Knowledge'?
Rawat claims it is not possible to gain what he calls 'Knowledge' without him. He teaches the techniques, and he provides the subsequent (and essential) inspiration to practise them.
However the four techniques of 'Knowledge' - light, music, breath and nectar - have been in existence for centuries (possibly millennia). They have long been available in books, from websites, and from hundreds of other teachers world-wide.
Prem Rawat's claim that 'the master' (himself) is an integral part of the premie's path - and an irreplaceable source of inspiration - also warrants examination. Rawat actually offers very little guidance in the art of meditation. His talks are of a general nature, although premies certainly find them inspiring.
Prem Rawat's remaining followers believe him to be a profoundly inspiring 'guide' - and one who leaves them alone to pursue other aspects of their lives as they wish.
Nevertheless, it remains a perpetual and unresolved question "why is Prem Rawat necessary to the process of practising what Prem Rawat calls 'Knowledge' ?"
Who is/was responsible for misapprehensions about Prem Rawat ?
Prem Rawat states that 'misunderstandings' about his divinity were promulgated by the Mahatmas in the 1970s, not by him; the Elan Vital website also stated that Rawat had never claimed to be God. While it is undoubtedly the case that the Mahatmas did indeed proclaim Prem Rawat's divinity, it is incontrovertibly the case that Prem Rawat himself frequently presented himself as a spiritually elevated being.
It would be quite reasonable for Prem Rawat - as other 'child gurus' have done- to simply say that they had been taken up with the fantasy and that they have since resiled from that unreasoned view. Prem Rawat however has never done that. Some observers see this inability to take personal responsibility reflected in other aspects of Prem Rawat's life - notably the fatal driving accident in Delhi.
Why is Prem Rawat's character and behaviour not relevant to his role as a teacher ?
It is the position of Prem Rawat's followers that his personal life, his morality, the way he behaves towards others, has no bearing on his role as a teacher, this is of course at odds with most peoples' conception of what the responsibilities of a teacher entail.
The philosophical problem that concerns former followers, and sceptical observers in general, pertains to Prem Rawat's personal behaviours. He no longer prescribes a particular lifestyle for premies, so the fact that that he smokes cigarettes, and appears to have problems with alcohol, do not affect premies' feelings towards him - as these things probably would have had they been known in the 1970s.
But other things have come to light, which have caused considerable distress to premies. Strong evidence has recently arisen that Prem Rawat sexually exploited female devotees, that he failed to deal with the many paedophilia complaints laid against Mahatma Jagdeo (and indeed that he covered them up), and that he ran down and killed a cyclist in Delhi in the mid-1980s, and had the manslaughter blamed on an Indian follower.
In 1974 another of Rawat's Mahatmas, Fakiranand, nearly killed a critic of Rawat's with an iron bar. At the time Rawat announced that he was co-operating with authorities in trying to find Fakiranand, who had disappeared. But former US Divine Light Mission President Michael Donner in a 2004 interview said that Rawat knew where Fakiranand was at that time, and instructed Donner to "get him out of the country". (Which Donner did.) The victim was disabled for life.
Whilst Rawat has never commented on these claims, many of his premie defenders do not dispute them. However they say that whilst Rawat acknowledges himself to be flawed like all other human beings, this does not negate his special ability to give people 'Knowledge'. 'Knowledge', it is claimed, has nothing to do with morality or behaviour. Thus the sceptical enquirer is brought back to questions about Rawat's specialness and the endless circularity of the unanswered questions about Rawat the teacher.