The Heart of the Matter
September 12, 2010
What's in a Name?

Questions scratching head.gif

Whenever a person who has received Knowledge from Maharaji (aka Prem Rawat) tries to describe their relationship to him, they usually end up using one of the following words: student, devotee, follower, friend, or premie.

I'm sure you've heard at least a few of these before in one context or another.

Each of these words describes an aspect of my relationship to Maharaji, but only an aspect.

None of them describes the whole shebang. In fact, each of these words has been known to confuse, distract, or repel since each one carries a kind of cultural baggage.

Allow me to explain...

If I tell you that I am the son of Barney and Sylvia, you will instantly know what I mean. If I tell you I am the husband of Evelyne, I need not explain further. If I tell you that I'm the brother of Phyllis, the friend of Scott, and the father of Jesse and Mimi, you catch my drift. But when it comes to describing my relationship to Maharaji, language comes up short...

Which brings us back to the five words noted above: student, follower, devotee, friend, and premie.

It's clear to me, that if you're reading this blog, it's only a matter of time before you hear one of Maharaji's _____________ (fill in the blank, folks) use one of the above-mentioned words to describe their relationship to him. And when they do, I want to make sure you don't run for the hills just because the word they use doesn't quite make it for you.


"Student" is perhaps the most politically correct way to describe my relationship to Maharaji. Simply put, he's my teacher and I learn from him. All of us understand the concept of teacher. It's embedded in our culture.


But this is where some Knowledge-sniffing people might decide to bail out.

Yes, we've all had teachers, but some of our teachers have disappointed. Some, in fact, were awful -- manipulative, fear-mongering, narrow-minded, and boring. Plus they gave us homework. Ouch!

The word "student" also conjures up, for some of us, images of school. School? Does anyone really want to go to school? To my kids, school often feels like prison. They'd rather be playing.

"Student" also conjures up images of big books with small print that have to be read by Thursday when it's Springtime outside and all you really want to do is roller blade. Study? Give me a break. Who wants to study?

Here's the paradox. I'm a student of Maharaji, but I'm not in school. I'm a student of Maharaji, but I don't study. I'm a student of Maharaji, but I follow no curriculum. I'm a student of Maharaji, but he never tests me. I'm a student of Maharaji, but I pay no tuition.

And yet, believe it or not, I've learned more from him than anyone else on planet Earth. By at least a few light years.

In the 1970's when Maharaji's arrival on the scene was being carefully tracked by the media, journalists referred to people attracted to his teachings as "followers" -- as in "the followers of the boy Guru from India."

No wonder why so many Time and Newsweek readers (my mother included) got turned off.


"Followers" conjures up images of sheep walking off cliffs... of weak-willed people... of glassy-eyed, hopelessly uncool wanabees. Hey, who wants to be a "follower?" Isn't that a sign of nerdhood? It's leaders we want! Take charge people! Alpha men and women! Superheroes!

Here's a slightly different way of looking it.

When you're trying to get somewhere you've never been before, it's not uncommon to follow directions. (Are you giving away your power because you follow a map or the instructions of the gas station attendant?)

I'm guessing you've followed your instincts from time to time. Yes? And if you're a sports fan, you've undoubtedly followed a team or two -- fascinated and uplifted by what they did and how they did it. And if you've ever been in love, I'd venture to say that somewhere along the line, you told your Beloved you'd follow them to the ends of the Earth.

Following is not a sign of weakness -- not if what you're following is worthy of your pursuit. Maharaji, by the way, doesn't ask people to follow him. People follow him for the same reason they follow their instinct, their team, a map, or their significant other. For love. For results. For enjoyment.

This is not a blind following. This is an informed following. This is not a following that disempowers. This is a following that strengthens, empowers, and delights.

There are two ways of saying the word "devotee" -- the first one rhymes with "clay," the second rhymes with "tea." I prefer the second. Devotee. The first one reminds me of an upwardly mobile fashionista in LA or NY who calls everyone "dahling." They are, on Mondays, at least, a "devotay" of this or that. But what they're devoted to this week will invariably change into something else next week and so on ad infinitum.


Their devotion, if you will, is really just a thinly veiled emotion -- their circumstantial focus on something or other for a limited period of time until they either get bored, distracted, or convinced by a much hipper and better-dressed friend to be a "devotay" of something else.

I'm not talking about that.

I'm talking about the second word -- the one that rhymes with "tea." Devotee -- whose root is "devote."

We're all devoted to something. Some of us are devoted to family. Some of us are devoted to country. Some of us are devoted to work. Still others are devoted to skin care products.

And so it goes...

Why is it that some people refer to themselves as "devotees" of Maharaji? Because he's shown them something worth being devoted to. He's shown them what devotion really is. Not blind devotion. No herd devotion. Not trendy devotion. Something very different -- the unconditional, soulful commitment to the core of life.

Many people who practice Knowledge, refer to Maharaji as their "friend." And yet, they may see him only once a year. They may never have even said a single word to him. They never go bowling with him or share a pizza or double date, but still they use the word "friend" to describe him.

How can this be? How can you call someone a friend who you rarely ever see?

It's simple. 13friend-600.jpg

A friend knows you. A friend is there when needed. A friend is non-judgmental. A friend has your best interests in mind. A friend is someone you can rely on. A friend surprises you with love when you least expect it.

All of these describe my relationship to Maharaji. And when I look into his eyes -- or he looks into mine -- I feel, in a heartbeat, that he is a Friend with a capital "F."

"F" for fearless. "F" for fun. "F" for fabuloso.

For some of us, however, the word "friend" is troubling. Friends have sometimes let us down. Friends sometimes take more than they give. Friends have borrowed tools and not returned them. And so, it's not at all surprising that calling Maharaji my "friend" may not work for you.

OK. Maybe the next word will work better for you...

I'm guessing you've heard the word "premie" before. It's Hindi for "lover" and was the most popular way that students/followers/devotees/friends of Maharaji referred to themselves in the 1970's and '80's.

One of the great things about this word, to Westerners, is that no one had any concepts about it -- no previous associations. And it's translation was cool. Lover. Who could argue with that -- especially since one of the outcomes of practicing Knowledge and being around Maharaji was a steady infusion of love.


At least that's the way it was -- and is -- for me.

Looking back, it felt right to use the word "premie" to describe my relationship to Maharaji. After all, the word came from the same country he did -- India -- and it translated as "love." And his first name is "Prem."

Seems kind of like a no brainer, eh?

Of course, there's an equal and opposite way of looking at this, too. After all, as Paul Simon once said, "One man's ceiling is another man's floor."

I'm sure for some people, it's a turn off to hear the word "premie." It seems so foreign -- so not "made in the USA." And, as if that wasn't enough, it sounds a lot like "preemie," every mother's worse nightmare -- someone not quite fully formed.

Well, then, maybe "premie" isn't the best word to describe someone who practices Knowledge and loves Maharaji. Maybe the word should be "Bubeleh," or "Tootsie" or "Fred." You tell me.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter what word I use to describe my relationship to Maharaji. What matters is this: Maharaji is the real deal. My life has majorly flourished since I met him. His message is ancient and timeless and real. His gift of Knowledge is a treasure.

Shakespeare had it right, methinks:

"What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

What follows are comments from seven of my friends who saw Maharaji, in Woodstock, NY, on August 25th. Please note that none of these people are students of his...

1. Barbara Schacker

2. Mary Jane Fahey

3. Mary Ann and Richard Erickson

4. Deborah Cohen

5. Ron Brent

6. Ilfra Halley

7. Evelyne Pouget


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at September 12, 2010 12:41 AM


Mitch, on one point I do not agree, I think we are all students and we are all here to learn more about love, learn better to be more happy and learn to love others more and make others more happy. That is my definition of a human being is: "a human being wants to be happy and make others happy". As a Health Scientist, I know that stress is our biggest health problem today. Relaxation can help us a lot, we need it much more, than we realise, but often, we do not take the time, to reflect on this, we do not have the time to stand still, we think, we have to keep on running and we do not know, where this ratrace will end (most of the time in our grave, but maybe we have learned something beautiful before ...) . So we are all students and lovers and friends and human beings, once we decide to be happy and make others happy. Maharaji has specialised in this topic and gave me the best advice on the topic of loving myself and others and that is why I would call Maharaji my best adviser. He advised me "to receive Knowledge, to do the Keys", to go inside, to look inside, because he told me that all the love, wisdom, compassion, beauty, gratitude, appreciation for life, I could ever need, is already inside of me. Of course I did not believe this at first, but I received knowledge, the 4 technics to go inside and guess what, it was even much more beautiful and there was (and is) much more love inside, than I expected. I could not stop crying of gratitude (and I did never cry before, because "a man does not cry"). The happiness and love in my heart was exploding, it felt like my heart was too small to contain all this love, it was thousands times stronger, than when I was in love with my first girfriend and believe me, that was the strongest feeling I ever felt, until that day. The strange thing is that exactly the same thing happenend to my son, Amar. The first time he say Maharaji, in Den Hague, in the Netherlands, when he was 13 years old, I asked him, at home , how it was for him. Amar told me: "from all the moments of happiness, that I had in my life untill now, all combined and added, this one hour with Maharaji was more, I felt much more love and happiness, than I ever felt before". How is this possible? Well I see it this way, if I am sitting in the sun, it is nice and warm and it will have an effect on me, in a nice and positive way, if I am receptive and open to it. My great friend Said (with his big family from Marokko, and his wife Mina, and his children Mohammed, Sanae, Laila and Ptiheh, all very happy eating lovely sweets, after after the ramadan tonight) just said tonight to me, "Jos, everytime you come into our house, you breath the sun into our house". I had to laugh out very loud and I said, I am doing nothing at all, I am just very happy and very happy to see you guys. So that is what happens, if you are open and if you see Maharaji, he is breathing the sunshine into your heart. There is a secret behind the breath, the love, inside the love, the breath inside the breath and more and more, I am learning more about this incredible secret. So I am a lover, a student, a friend of this incredible love inside of me and also I feel so much more love, for all other people, if I feel that. Am I grateful to Maharaji, who adviced me to go inside? One breath is much more precious than all the money, gold and diamonds in the whole world. Being able to feel and know the secret behind the breath, the love inside the love, the breath inside the breath is even better , than just receiving that next breath. So yes, I am grateful. Words could never describe what I feel. I think we are all students of life and we are all here to be happy and make others happy. I do not see any differences and I do not want to see any differences, we are all the same, we all need food, love, safety and a good quality of life, we are all human beings and if we all do, what (my favorite writer) Kabir advises us, to go deep inside and feel all that beauty and love, inside us, we will be more happy and we will make other people (our family, partner, children, friends and collegues) so much more happy. How can you stop the sun from shining, if it shines? It is impossible, not to get warm, if the sun is shining on you and if you open up to it and if you do not hide your face from it. So "keep the sun shining, in your heart, always" or as Kabir says: "there is more joy as we know of", and "a millions of suns come forward with light" . I bow in deep respect, for how beautiful Kabir could say this, when he was alive:

The Boat

The Guest is inside you, and also inside me;
You know the sprout is hidden inside the seed.
We are all struggling; none of us has gone far.
Let your arrogance go, and look around inside.

The blue sky opens farther and farther,
The daily sense of failure goes away,
The damage I have done to myself fades,
A million suns come forward with light,
When I sit firmly in that world.

I hear bells ringing that no one has shaken;
Inside "love", there is more joy than we know of;
Rain pours down, although the sky is clear of clouds,
There are whole rivers of light.

The universe is permeated by a single sword of love.
How hard it is to feel that joy in all our four bodies!
Those who hope to be reasonable about it fail.
The arrogance of reason has separated us from that love.
With the world "reason" you already feel miles away.

How lucky Kabir is, that surrounded by all this joy
He sings inside his own little boat.
His poems amount to one soul meeting another.
These songs are about forgetting dying and loss.
They rise above both coming in and going out.

- Kabir

Thank you very much, Mitch, I love your writing and inspiration very much,

from my little flower paradise in The Netherlands,

Jos van Laar

Posted by: Jjvmvanlaar1 [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2010 07:41 PM

"Ultimately, it doesn't matter what word I use to describe my relationship to Maharaji. What matters is this: Maharaji is the real deal. My life has majorly flourished since I met him. His message is ancient and timeless and real. His gift of Knowledge is a treasure."

I have a teacher, too. The relationship is a mystery. Words can not describe or define it. But it has to do with love. That is all that can be said. What a beautiful mystery we get to live.

Posted by: Atmara Rebecca Cloe [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2010 07:43 PM

hmm lets keep it simple Mitch
Im a fred

Posted by: jim hickey [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2010 09:05 PM

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