Rennie Davis issues conciliatory response to attacks from hate speech web site


Rennie Davis
Rennie Davis

A conciliatory response by Davis, excerpts of which are included below, was received with vitriolic rhetoric and accusations by the leaders of a fringe group accused of being a hate group that actively promotes an agenda of religious intolerance and anti-Indian bigotry

Rennie Davis a prominent U.S. anti-war protest leader in the 1960s, and the son of President Truman's chief of staff of the Council of Economic Advisers, was an early opponent of the Vietnam War and was a poster-child for the anti-war movement in the USA. He became national director of the community organizing program of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and was one of the "Chicago Seven".

In the early 1970s, he became a follower Maharaji, as Prem Rawat is known nowadays. Davis acted as Maharaji's spokesperson for a while.

On March 2006, Davis was contacted by John Braun and Mike Finch, co-leaders of an obscure internet hate site, requesting that Davis comments and apologizes about his past as a spokesperson of Prem Rawat.

John Brauns and Mike Finch are the leaders of a group that call themselves the "ex-premies." The group is known for their hateful activism against Prem Rawat and his students. In affidavits filed with the Supreme Court of Queensland by award-winning journalist John Macgregor, they were exposed for "maintaining a series of internet web pages and chat rooms a goal of which is to create an atmosphere of ill-will and malice toward Rawat and his students" and that they are motivated "by hatred, ill will and spite". The affidavits list a series of activities by this group, designed to "interfere with the rights of people to experience their own spiritual discovery and for the purpose of harassing individuals who are students of Rawat's." This group goals are described in these affidavits as being "obsessive, malicious and destructive in nature." This group has been also accused of being a hate group that actively promotes an agenda of religious intolerance and anti-Indian bigotry.

The conciliatory response by Davis, excerpts of which are included below, was received with vitriolic rhetoric and accusations by the leaders of the ex-premies. These are excerpts of a response by Jim Heller, a Vancouver-based lawyer who is also a leader of this hate site: "If you're reading this, shame on you for tossing this stinky, new age tripe at us under the guise of an apology. Like your friend, Deepak Chopra, you're a snake. And a liar, by the way. The last thing I want to bore myself with is your sugary story of how you came to the light. God, I did read it and now I wish I could micro- lobotomize those brain cells. I feel tricked. Oh no, I just listened to bullshit-artist extraordinaire, Rennie Davis!" [. . .] You're a pompous windbag who's lost the ability to tell right from wrong, truth from lies and real feelings from new age posturing and artifice. Your apology means nothing when all you're doing is slighting us for not traipsing down your own smug path of juvenile spirituality. You're stunted, dude. You have insulated your silly little mind against responsibility such that you've lost your moral compass. Which is rather ironic, as you bleat on and on like a boring preacher. Yes, I despise people like you. And thank God I turned out different. " -- Jim Heller

The hate campaign by this fringe group continues unabated despite numerous responses by people like Davis and others, demonstrating once more that the fight against hate, bigotry and religious intolerance is an on-going struggle that requires the commitment of all those that care for and are willing to speak up for freedom. Prem Rawat has been speaking to people about inner peace for the last 40 years. His message puts the responsibility of world peace in the hands of each individual, "only by individuals finding peace for themselves can the world be at peace", he says. He has been invited to present his message to leading forums around the world and millions of people have come to listen to him in gatherings small and large both in the East and in the West. More than 1.5 million people came to hear him speak in a tour of Indian villages last year.

Jeremiah Itzhaki
March 22 2006


Letter from Rennie Davis

To John Brauns
Via email. Feb 17, 2006

Hello John

Thank you for your invitation to speak about a subject I know you and others feel deeply about. For me, Guru Maharaj Ji was an experience that happened more than 30 years ago. Ever since you wrote me with such passion about this history, I have wanted to understand what motivates and inspires you. More than anything, I have wanted to walk in your shoes and feel what this hurt and injustice you must experience is about. I know you have deep reasons and I hope to feel and understand what they are.

While my own life has moved on from the days of Guru Maharaji Ji, I realize many people have continued a strong relation with him: most of them having a relation based on respect for his teaching; other having a relation that feels injured or misled by statements about him.

[. . . ]

In my case, I visited India in 1973 with a political activist friend and we spent a week in a northern Indian ashram filled with Americans, many of them people that had participated in anti-war demonstrations I had organized. I felt right at home with these Americans. When I first met Guru Maharaj Ji at his ashram, I felt some judgments come up in me. I felt skeptical—maybe closer to what you feel today. I was drawn to his message, however: “Don’t form opinions about me until you experience what I can show you. I will show you a peace inside yourself.”

For me, the ‘knowledge’ of Guru Maharaj Ji turned into an extraordinary ‘light experience,’ that started in my brow and then filled me from head to toe with light. After that, there was only light. It is hard to explain although many poets and mystics have written about such light experiences through the ages. Pascal had a light experience and wrote a short poem about it that he carried in his pocket everywhere he went his entire life. That’s how much it meant to him. His poem was discovered after he died.

At the time of my light experience, I didn’t really understand what had happened to me except that, like Pascal, it was the most extraordinary moment of my life. Today, I would say I have a physical body, a thought body, a light body and a dream body and that Guru Maharaj Ji was able to create an energetic bridge to my light body.

I wasn’t the only one to have a profound experience either. I don’t know if you have received knowledge meditation from Maharaj Ji and if you did, what your experience was. What I know is that thousands of Americans were dramatically affected by the Maharaji Ji experience in the early 1970s when he first came to this country. Some of the readers of your web site may not realize this experience was quite impressive and beautiful for many people, to say the least.

There was also a strong Indian ‘culture’ around Maharaj Ji. His father was called by millions of people in India the ‘perfect master’ of his time and when his father died, six year old Guru Maharaji Ji seemed to have some internal guidance himself about his role. Certainly he believed he was the person to continue his father’s work. You can take a look at the films of Guru Maharaj Ji at that time. They are also remarkable—showing this six year old Indian child filled with such authority and suddenly (to the amazement of even his own mother) directing one of the largest religions in his country. By age 12, he was speaking to audiences of a million people.

The historic Maharaj Ji ‘culture’ was steeped in a strong religious tradition that believed there was one ‘perfect master’ for any generation and that the perfect master was divine in the tradition of Christ, Buddha, Mohammed and Maharji Ji’s father.

This is the world Guru Maharaj Ji came from. When I came along in 1973, he was 15 and already the leader of a national religion drawing the largest crowds of any speaker in his country.

After my inexplicable light experience, I embraced the entire religion as an article of faith, not unlike my high school Christian leap of faith. I might say today I was naïve but that was my best understanding at the time.

I mean no criticism or disrespect of any religion in saying I would not embrace an entire historical tradition today simply because I had a profound religious experience even though that leap of faith is often the response of people throughout the world. A person has their spiritual experience and then they embrace the religion from which the experience seemed to originate.

Today, I don’t believe Guru Maharaj Ji is the ‘lord of the universe’ as the faithful that surrounded him in India once claimed. From what I can understand--watching Maharaj Ji speaking today--it doesn’t seem he believes that either. I haven’t spoken to Maharaj Ji directly since the 1970s so I don’t know what he believes exactly but I did see him speak not too long ago in Colorado. At that talk, he had left his Indian crown and traditions for a western style suit and tie and he delivered a rather straight forward talk that might just as easily have been given by Deepak Chopra. I thought he was charming and positive.

[. . .]

Probably no one knows better than me the need to feel my own righteousness through judgments and blame. Blaming others for what happens in one’s life is a stage of awareness and there’s nothing wrong with any stage of awareness. Perhaps a part of humanity is getting ready to move on, however, into a new understanding--blaming no one, taking responsibility for their own creation and seeing the perfection rather than the ‘bad person’ in others.

I personally have a life filled with ‘mistakes.’ If someone feels hurt by something I have said or done, I offer my respect and love. If an apology helps, I give that freely and sincerely too. I just choose not to turn all my mistakes and learning experiences of my life into guilt and shame.

That’s why I appreciate your coaching me in this regard when you said in a recent email: “I do hope that you find the time to contribute (to this web site), and especially I hope that you are not overly embarrassed or ashamed about that period of your life.”

Thank you for that. I don’t feel embarrassed about what I have done at any stage of my life because each step has taken me to this moment now. What could be more beautiful than that? Nor do I find it appropriate to judge others for what they do or fail to do as they create their growing and maturing experiences.

I suppose if all the readers of this web site agreed with this point of view, your site would have to change its direction or go out of business. I am not suggesting that. I appreciate that you have your own reasons for this forum. I don’t mean to suggest they are wrong either.

Perhaps this apology and somewhat long explanation can lend a hand to all the ex-devotees of Guru Maharaji Ji who search for truth, understanding and their own light and empowerment inside.

Best wishes

Rennie Davis

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