Divine Light Mission

A mystical path promoting meditation and inner peace, founded in India and gaining popularity in the West during the 1970s.

History and Development

The Divine Light Mission (Divya Sandesh Parishad) was established in 1960 by guru Hans Ji Maharaj in northern India. It gained significant prominence in the West during the 1970s, especially under the leadership of Maharaj Ji’s youngest son, Prem Rawat. The Mission was part of the Sant Mat tradition, which is a syncretic Hindu-Sikh tradition emphasizing a mystical path to God through meditation.

Core Beliefs and Practices

The central practice of the Divine Light Mission was the imparting of ‘Knowledge’ – four secret meditation techniques taught to devoted followers, known as ‘premies’. These techniques were:

  1. Meditation on Divine Light: Focusing closed eyes towards a point in the middle of the eyebrows.
  2. Listening to the Divine Sound: Closing ears with hands and listening to an inner sound.
  3. Breath Meditation: A simple meditation technique focused on breathing.
  4. Tasting the Divine Nectar: A practice involving rolling the tongue backward into the cavity of the cranium.

Community and Organization

During the early to mid-1970s, the Divine Light Mission saw thousands of Westerners receiving ‘Knowledge’ and setting up ashrams, or intentional spiritual communities, in major cities. The Mission was incorporated in the United States in Denver in 1972. It organized large festivals in both the United States and India, which attracted thousands of seekers. Prominent figures such as the former student radical Rennie Davis became spokespeople for the mission.

Transformation and Legacy

The Mission experienced major upheavals during the 1970s, particularly after Maharaji’s marriage in 1974 to a Californian airline stewardess. This event led to a schism with his mother and significant changes in the organization. Eventually, Maharaji closed the Mission’s ashrams in 1983, transforming the movement into Elan Vital. Elan Vital focused on organizing Maharaji’s teaching tours and distributing related materials.

The Divine Light Mission is remembered for its unique blend of Eastern mystical practices with Western new religious movement characteristics. Its emphasis on personal meditation practices and spiritual enlightenment had a notable impact during its peak in the 1970s.