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Frequently Asked Questions - Opposing Views

Is Elan Vital aware of criticisms of its activities that have appeared on the Internet?
Has Elan Vital taken action to protect its reputation?
What were some of the criticisms of Elan Vital and Maharaji?
Is Elan Vital a cult?
Does Maharaji have an affluent lifestyle?
Did Maharaji ever say he was God?
Has Maharaji changed what he is teaching?
 


 
   

 

 

Is Elan Vital aware of criticisms of its activities that have appeared on the internet?
Yes. We are aware that criticisms, including unsubstantiated rumors and allegations, have appeared on the web, most often placed by anonymous posters. Whereas some people might be initially disturbed by these, we believe in and endorse everyone's right to free speech. We have been advised by counsel, however, that some of the posted materials infringe on copyrights belonging to us. Obviously we do not enjoy being on the receiving end of ungrounded criticism. At the same time we welcome criticism that can help us do what we do in a better way.


 

Has Elan Vital taken action to protect its reputation?
Yes. Elan Vital, to protect its copyrights, has written letters to the ISPs involved where it believes there have been infringements of its copyrights. As a not-for-profit organization, we were reluctant to use the donations of our contributors for this activity. However we wanted you to know that we felt it appropriate to use our resources on this occasion to protect our rights. Failure to do so could jeopardize our ability to do so in the future.


 

What were some of the criticisms of Elan Vital and Maharaji?

Is Elan Vital a cult?

Elan Vital is not a cult of any kind. However actions speak louder than words, so we have examined commonly held opinions on what constitutes a cult and compared them with the actual activities of Elan Vital in the table below. You can form your own conclusions.

Cults maintain a system of shared belief markedly at variance with that of the surrounding culture, and members need to be isolated from consensual information from the general society that would unsettle the belief system. Elan Vital is a non-profit organization, composed largely of volunteers, whose aim is to help make Maharaji's teaching available to those who want it. Neither his teachings nor the process of communicating them lend themselves to becoming belief systems and he vigorously discourages attempts to make them so. Volunteers come from all backgrounds and live a wide variety of lifestyles.
Cults do not allow the right to free and independent thought. Practicing the techniques of Knowledge is an individual experience. Independent thinking is strongly encouraged by Maharaji and nowhere is it restricted.
Cults close their borders and display a defensive behavior towards others in society.  Personal life choices and circumstances are not the concern of Maharaji or Elan Vital and have nothing to do with the practice of Knowledge.
Cults discourage contact with family members and non-member friendship circles. People with Knowledge live within society and are active members of society and the community. There are no boundaries between the people that practice Knowledge and the society at large. People come from a wide range of religious, social and cultural backgrounds.
Cults are usually led by charismatic leaders who demand exclusive and individual loyalty maintained through reducing the social roles available to members. Maharaji is seen as charismatic by many, however he does not use this attribute in the exercise of leadership in anyone’s personal life. Furthermore, Elan Vital is not led by Maharaji, nor is he involved with the management of any of the organization’s activities.
Cults recruit people through brainwashing or mind-control techniques and it is very difficult to break free once recruited. Elan Vital does not actively engage in the recruiting of members, and no attempt is made by Elan Vital or Maharaji to influence or manipulate anyone’s thinking. On the contrary, free choice is  essential to every step of the learning process. People come freely, participate freely, and leave freely.
Members support cults by giving over all their wealth and possessions. Elan Vital certainly relies on voluntary donations for a part of its operational costs. However Elan Vital has no membership system and no mandatory donation system.

 

 

 

Does Maharaji have an affluent lifestyle?
Maharaji is sometimes criticized for his openly successful lifestyle. Elan Vital does not recognize the validity of criticizing his or anyone else’s lifestyle. It could be argued that such criticism is based on an assumption that it is not OK for a religious or spiritual leader to be wealthy. But Maharaji is neither a spiritual nor a religious leader. He is a master who teaches about life and is adamant that any person’s lifestyle has no relevance to her or his ability to be fulfilled. He has often stated that whether you are the richest person or the poorest person, the possibility to be at peace within yourself and to be fulfilled is available. He has said: "Some people make the assumption that success or wealth makes inner peace unobtainable. True peace has nothing to do with external substance. The heart of the richest man and the poorest man can be equally fulfilled. When we separate from the place of the heart we suffer even if we have everything, and knowing that place we can be happy even if we have nothing."

Elan Vital does not compensate Maharaji financially or in any other way for any services he provides, including the right to disseminate his teachings in various media formats. Maharaji has granted Elan Vital a royalty free license to use, publish and distribute his teachings in all media and to use his name and likeness in connection with his teachings. Elan Vital, and the affiliated organizations, pay for documented expenses when Maharaji presents his message at conferences around the world. He does not own the private plane which he usually pilots himself to the many remote destinations to which he travels worldwide. This is leased from a private company and Maharaji does not charge a fee for piloting the plane. Because he is asked to speak at so many engagements worldwide, it would be impossible to schedule his itinerary in a timely or cost efficient manner on scheduled airlines. In his private life, as a means of maintaining his independence, he has business interests which have been very successful. He sometimes receives, but does not solicit, gifts of appreciation from people who have benefited from his teachings. As a private individual Maharaji makes no apology for the fact that he is fortunate to have a very good quality of life. We have observed he works very hard, contributes great value, and deserves, as the rest of us, what he has earned. We think any person’s lifestyle is and should be a matter of personal choice and ability.



Did Maharaji ever say he was God?

No, Maharaji never at any time claimed to be God. As an Indian national, when Maharaji first started teaching in the west when he was 13 years old, he used many examples from eastern traditions which demonstrated that a student seeking fulfillment could do so by choosing to follow the teachings of a guru or master. As he matured he realized that western traditions put a very different emphasis on the idea of guru and wrongly attributed messianic labels in this process. He changed his language to use the term master only and gradually removed all Indian associations from his teaching, as this is not a path just for Indians but is something that is available for anyone regardless of color, religion or race. It is acknowledged that many people at the time were already looking for a messianic type figure. That Maharaji was not such a figure disappointed some people.

He recollects: “I remember coming to the West and talking to people. Some had the idea that once you attained this ‘high’ state of being, you would become super-human. You would be in a perpetual state of peace with no confusion in your life, ever. Even at my very young age, I understood that this was not the way it was supposed to be.”

“Knowledge is about having a passion for life, falling in love with life. It is about making a continuous effort to learn and grow. It is not meant to take you away from all the experiences of living, it is about accepting and enjoying what it really means to be alive. It's true that I can help people feel something that is beautiful, something that exists inside them. I consider it a gift. But, to become above it all - I have never pursued that, nor do I want to. This is one of those bizarre things. When people saw me at that time, they really didn't understand what it was all about.”


 

Has Maharaji changed what he is teaching?
Maharaji has been teaching since he was eight years old. Naturally, over the years his appearance has changed, how he expresses himself has changed and his methods of presenting his message have changed. However the message itself has never changed. What he is saying now is no different from what he has always said:

“In essence, the message is the same as taught by many others before me - that which you are looking for lies within you. To me, the divine lives in my heart as the divine lives in everyone’s heart. That's how simple it is.”


 

We hope that this question and answer page has been helpful and informative. We would appreciate your comments. Please email us at info@elanvital.org.