Teachings of Prem Rawat - Reception - Scholars


George D. Chryssides writes that the Knowledge according to Prem Rawat was based on self-understanding, providing the practitioner with calmness, peace, and contentment, as the inner-self is identical with the divine. Rawat emphasizes that this Knowledge is universal, not Indian, in nature.

Ron Geaves, who specializes in studies in comparative religion at Liverpool Hope University in England and who is one of the Western students of Prem Rawat, writes that Prem Rawat himself has stated that he does not consider himself to be a charismatic figure, preferring to refer to his teachings and the efficacy of the practice of the four techniques on the individual as the basis of his authority. The showing of the four techniques replaces the traditional diksha, and although it marks the sealing of master/disciple relationship, that is not emphasized in the session itself. Rather, the focus is on correct practice and staying in touch through participation or listening. Prem Rawat’s teachings make no reference to any traditional authority, neither person nor text.

Stephen J. Hunt describes Rawat's major focus as being on stillness, peace and contentment within the individual, and his 'Knowledge' consists of the techniques to obtain them. Knowledge, roughly translated, means the happiness of the true self-understanding. Each individual should seek to comprehend his or her true self. In turn, this brings a sense of well-being, joy, and harmony as one comes in contact with one's "own nature." The Knowledge includes four secret meditation procedures and the process of reaching the true self within can only be achieved by the individual, but with the guidance and help of a teacher. Hence, the movement seems to embrace aspects of world-rejection and world-affirmation. The tens of thousands of followers in the West do not see themselves as members of a religion, but the adherents of a system of teachings that extol the goal of enjoying life to the full. They claim that Rawat's authority comes from the nature of his teachings and their benefit to the individual.

In Sacred Journeys sociologist James V. Downton writes

Aside from all the psychological and social explanations one could offer to explain their conversions, the fact is that, during the Knowledge session or afterward in meditation, these young people had a spiritual experience which deeply affected them and changed the course of their lives. It was an experience which moved many to tears and joy, for they had found the answer they had been seeking. It was an experience which gave their lives more positive direction, meaning, and purpose. It was an experience which brought them into a new relationship to life and removed many blocks to growth. It was an experience-which sages have spoken about throughout history-of the oneness of life.

Marc Galanter (MD), professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse at the New York University Medical Center, writes that "over the long term of membership, meditation also played an important role in supporting a convert's continuing involvement. An analysis of the relationship between the time members spent in meditation and the decline in their level of neurotic distress revealed that greater meditation time was associated with diminished neurotic distress. This association suggests that the emotional response to meditation acts as a reinforcement for its continued practice." That is, the more a member meditated, in general, the better the person was likely to feel. Members apparently used meditation to relieve distress, both at scheduled times and on an ad hoc basis.

Paul Schnabel a sociologist, references Van der Lans, a religious psychologist employed at the Catholic University of Nijmegen. Van der Lans says that among his Western students, Rawat appeared to stimulate an uncritical attitude, giving them an opportunity to project their fantasies of divinity onto his person. According to these authors, the divine nature of the guru is a standard element of Eastern religion, but removed from its cultural context, and confounded with the Western understanding of God as a father, what is lost is the difference between the guru's person and that which the guru symbolizes—resulting in what they refer to as limitless personality worship. Schnabel writes that this kind of understanding of the master-disciple relationship, alien to the original Eastern guru-disciple context, often ends in disillusionment for the disciple, who finds that the teacher in the end fails to live up to his or her expectations.

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