Elan Vital – The organization and its beginnings
Elan Vital is the name designating several entities which promote and support the work of Prem Rawat, the current leader of a movement which promotes inner peace. Elan Vital was originally known as the Divine Light Mission which was founded by Hans Ram Singh Rawat. The Hindu name of the Divine Light Mission was Divya Sandesh Parishad. Elan Vital does not consider itself a religion; in fact, followers of Elan Vital insist that one can practice the truths expounded by Prem Rawat and still remain true to their own religion. While adherents to the dogmas of Elan Vital are encouraged to practice its principles in private, no race or religious group is excluded from its message of peace.
Elan Vital has divorced itself from its Hindu and Sikh origins and removed its Indian labels, in order to make it more acceptable to a wider audience, namely those of Western cultures. The organization was originally incorporated as The Divine Light Mission in 1971. It was subsequently accepted as a non-profit, charitable organization in 1974 and recognized as a church by the Internal Revenue Service in 1983.
Followers of Elan Vital who successfully train in the techniques for inner peace may receive a smart card which allows them access to the events sponsored by Prem Rawat. In its earlier stages, followers were trained on a face-to-face basis to learn the techniques of gaining inner peace. The modern devotees will most often receive these teachings via a sophisticated training video; this provides for a more extensive outreach.
Elan Vital – Who is the current leader?
Elan Vital is currently presided over by Prem Rawat. Prem Rawat began speaking publicly concerning inner peace at the very early age of three. Prem Rawat accepted the teaching of inner peace as his personal responsibility after the death of his father Hans Ram Singh Rawat. Hans Ram Singh Rawat was also known as Shri Hans Ji Maharaj and was founder of the Divine Light Mission. Affectionately known as the Maharaji to his students, Prem Rawat expounds a message that true happiness can only be found through self-knowledge. Self discovery leads to inner peace.
To quote him: "Peace needs to be in everyone's life. Of all the things we have tried in this world, there is one thing we have never given a chance. That one thing is peace. If we want to hope for something, maybe we could hope that peace will come into our life. The peace that we are looking for is within. It is in the heart, waiting to be felt, and I can help you get in touch with it. It is not the world that needs peace; it is people. When people in the world are at peace within, the world will be at peace."Prem Rawat currently receives no compensation from the sale of his writings or any of the Elan Vital presentation videos. He believes that everyone has the right to inner peace and offers his message free of charge.
Inner peace as taught by Prem Rawat is gained by practicing four techniques of knowledge. The first technique is “light” which involves careful pressure on the eyes to open up the “third eye.” The second technique is “sound” which involves cupping the hands to the ears and temples to hear the “heavenly music.” The third technique is “word” or “name” which is a meditation tool to regulate breathing. The fourth technique is “nectar” which involves a careful positioning of the tongue to taste the “nectar of life.” Each technique is practiced for 15 minutes during a 2 and ½ hour session. These methods, as taught by Prem Rawat, help to gain personal control over that which is “out of control” and chaotic in one’s life, thus achieving inner peace.
Elan Vital – How does it compare with the teachings of the Bible?
Elan Vital teaches its followers that inner peace can be obtained by the enlightenment which emanates from self-knowledge. Elan Vital is purportedly open to anyone. According to Elan Vital, if one carefully and regularly practices the four techniques of knowledge then that person can obtain true happiness. These followers believe that through methodology and training, inner peace may be cultivated. Others, however, believe that to really gain true peace, there must be divine intervention.
Elan Vital was originally steeped in Hindu and Sikh ideology. Hinduism is said to have no particular dogma but is merely a way of life. Sikh doctrine simply encourages its followers to meditate on the “holy name,” work diligently and honestly, and share the fruits of one’s labor. Though Elan Vital has sought to separate its current state from those beginnings, it still retains the simplistic belief that inner peace can be found by and in one’s own self.
These beliefs are in direct contradiction to the biblical beliefs of Christianity. Christianity teaches that peace must be granted to us; it is a gift from God. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27). Searching within oneself can never bring peace because inside each of us is chaos and turmoil; apart from God our hearts retain a deceitful darkness and is unknowable. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NKJV).
Only by receiving right standing with God can a person find peace. Through faith in the finished work of Christ we may have an intimate fellowship with God. This union is the source of true peace because the sins that separate us from God are washed away. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ...” (Romans 5:1).