Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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Movement founded in India in 1960 by Sri Hans Ji Maharaj, who died shortly afterward and was succeeded by his 8-year-old son, Maharaj Ji. In 1971, Guru Maharaj Ji came to the United States to proclaim the dawning of a new era. He gained considerable attention and many followers after arriving in the United States, including Rennie Davis, one of the "Chicago Seven" political radicals who became a devotee. Initiates, called "premies," were shown how to obtain "the Knowledge" as a part of their initiation.

The DLM was said to have developed some 500 centers, or ashrams , in nearly 40 different countries for several million followers, although these figures are impossible to verify. In 1973, a disastrous rally at the Houston Astrodome left the movement in the United States in dire financial straits and bereft of credibility. Also, the guru married his Caucasian secretary in 1974 when he was 17, shocking many of his followers (he had championed celibacy until his marriage) and leading to many defections. The movement has faded into relative obscurity since then.

James T. Richardson


C. Cameron (ed.), Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji? (New York: Bantam, 1973)

J. Downton, Sacred Journeys (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979)

M. Galanter and P. Buckley, "Psychological Consequences of Charismatic Religious Experience and Meditation," in The Brainwashing/Deprogramming Controversy , ed. D. G. Bromley and J. T. Richardson (New York: Mellen, 1983): 194-199. J. Messer, "Guru Maharaj Ji and the Divine Light Mission," in The New Religious Consciousness , ed. C. Y. Glock and R. N. Bellah (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976): 52-72.

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