ADDRESS: Box 6130, Malibu, CA 90264
OTHER NAMES BY WHICH KNOWN: Formerly known as the Divine Light Mission
LEADERSHIP: The spiritual master of Elan Vital is Maharaji.
MEMBERSHIP: Not reported.
HISTORICAL ORIGIN: The Divine Light Mission (the original name of Elan Vital) was founded in India in 1960. Since that time, Maharaji (formerly known as Guru Maharaj Ji) has inspired a worldwide movement that is active in approximately 55 countries.
The Divine Light Mission was formally established in the United States in 1971 as a nonprofit religious organization and in 1974 was recognized as a church by the United States Internal Revenue Service under IRS Section 501 (C)(B) . Elan Vital was established as a successor organization to the Divine Light Mission in the early 1980s.
BASIC BELIEFS: Although Elan Vital has dropped many of its Indian cultural trappings, the group's world view is rooted in the Sant Mat. Maharaji reveals an experience called "Knowledge," which itself cannot be adequately described in words but which can be experienced through satsang, service and meditation, the fundamental practices of this worship. Maharaji's teachings given in satsang programs have special authority and meaning to all members and are circulated and read throughout the membership. Other brochures and pamphlets are printed from time to time.
PRACTICES AND BEHAVIORAL STANDARDS: There are no ethical practices in terms of rules and regulations. Members believe that involvement in satsang, service and meditation results in an inner code of conduct which guides behavior. The central practice is meditation.
There are three special religious holidays which are observed by all members and last up to seven days. These are in March or April (Holi Festival), in July (Guru Puja), and in November (Hans Jayanti).
ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE: Elan Vital has an Informal organization build around the personal relationships between Maharaji and his followers.
ROLE OF MINISTERS: The Ministers of Elan Vital (Initiators or Mahatmas) travel continuously around the world. Ministers teach and initiate interested persons into the practice of meditation as a means of self-realization. Any member of Elan Vital while serving in the Armed Forces may receive special permission from National Headquarters or the nearest community coordinator to conduct and coordinate church meetings on military installations.
WORSHIP: Members meditate formally twice daily and attend spiritual discourse when possible.
DIETARY LAWS OR RESTRICTIONS: Most members are encouraged to be vegetarians, but this is a personal choice.
FUNERAL AND BURIAL REQUIREMENTS: None. No restrictions with respect to autopsy or cremation. A minister is not required at death.
MEDICAL TREATMENT: No restrictions.
OTHER: Elan Vital does not take a position with respect to service in the Armed Forces.
Elan Vital holds introductory programs to attract new members, but most persons come to the group through acquaintances with other members.
There is no conflict between Elan Vital and other faiths. The teachings of Maharaji involve the member in an experience, not a belief, according to the organization.
GENERAL SOURCE BOOKS:
Since changing names and transforming the organization, no written material of any substance has appeared either by the organization or descriptive of it.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
[Editor's note: Possibly because attacks upon it in the 1970s, the Divine Light Mission adopted a very low profile and as Elan Vital Maharaj Ji has continued a policy of not relating to outside information gathering efforts. Recent attempts to gain status reports on the organization by researchers have been completely ignored by the leadership.]
Last updated: 30 May 2000 / E-Mail: CH(MAJ) Conway
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