1973 was a year in which anything seemed possible to Rawat, his family and the administrators of Divine Light Mission. Hundreds of premies worked in the Denver headquarters, thousands of people were being initiated in North America and Europe and major publicity was being generated by the new "star convert", Rennie Davis. Rawat even made a feature article in the New York Times. However, there were underlying problems. Most of the people being initiated did not become committed followers. Knowledge was, after all, only squeezing your eyeballs with index finger and thumb, poking your thumbs into your ears and listening, thinking about your breathing while not thinking about anything else and trying to curl your tongue backwards and up behind the uvula. The nightly confessional satsang meetings could be intense and exciting or longwinded and boring. Many of the premies committed enough to attend regularly had no money to donate and the young Rawat was spending so much money and was so lazy and irresponsible that it was obvious even to the press.
In February, not content with getting everyone in the world high, the 14 year old Rawat decided he'd have to feed them as well and so he created the Divine United Organisation (DUO) as his vehicle for achieving that modest goal. He already had his World Peace Corps which provided bodyguards, ushers and something for his brother Raja to do. He had the concept of a Divine City and he intended to feed and clothe the poor, entertain the sick and old through his World Welfare Association which he "described as a snowplough, clearing the way for Divine Light Mission, showing the world that love can be given without thought of reward, that Knowledge grows the ability to give as well as the capacity for personal peace." In reality these dreams just frittered away the premies' time and energy.
Confidence was sky-high, there were no limits in Rennie Davis' mind "The thing we've got here is not only a movement that is incredibly efficient and incredibly together and built really on an incredible self-understanding but you see it's led by the Lord." Zero out of four ain't good. Davis told the New York Times, "I would cross the planet on my hands and knees to touch his toe" and to the world "the Lord is on the planet, he's in a human body and he's about to usher in the greatest change in the history of human civilisation." There were some devotees with a clearer understanding. Jeanne Messer wrote
The simplest economic explanation of how the Mission manages to stay solvent is that, because the number of supporting members increases so rapidly, it is always possible to pay yesterday's debts, even though it seems impossible that tomorrow's will be paid. Like an inflating economy, the Mission is protected only so long as it expands.
There was no realistic understanding of the Mission's situation and then Rawat approved a hubristic Hans Jayanti festival in the Houston Astrodome: Millenium '73. Rawat invited the public to attend to hear him announce his plans to bring peace to the world and possibly Venus at what he announced would be "the most holy and significant event in human history." The stress of being the Perfect Master put the 15 year old into hospital with a bleeding ulcer. A guru spreading peace and love with an ulcer? Much media laughter followed. 144,000 people were projected to attend the festival and 10 to 20,000 did.
The greatest amount of publicity ever generated by Prem Rawat's activites eventuated. The reports were unanimous in declaring the event a boring disaster, Rawat a ridiculous, sulky child completely out of his depth and that there was no future for Divine Light Mission. The aftermath included a $600,000 debt which froze the Mission's activities until some more inheritances were donated and a lack of enthusiasm amongst the premies, especially the headquarters staff. Their magical, millenial dreams were shattered and Rawat had egg on his face. He also had alcohol on his breath as Prem had practically discovered that drugs made him feel better than the Knowledge did and he'd got sloshed at Millenium '73.
And he wasn't alone, his elder brother Raja Ji who was the member of the Holy Family without a well defined divine power, had added drunkeness to his avid interest in fire-arms.
he began expanding his existing fascination for guns and violence. Like Maharaj Ji, Raja Ji had started to drink. Though I love to drink from time to time, I never do so before the end of the afternoon. Raja Ji sometimes started much earlier than that. One evening I sat with him and Claudia as they drank. Slowly the conversation turned from an interesting discussion to a series of slurred comments about where do the bubbles come from in champagne. This is spirituality? I thought to myself.
James V. Downton in his sympathetic study of Divine Light Mission, Sacred Journeys, wrote:
With the crowd smaller than expected and an alienated press corps, premies waited for something miraculous to happen. Yet, by the end of the festival, even that expectation was unfulfilled. No beings from outer space had come and no dramatic display of cosmic energy had lit up the Astrodome. Although premies tried hard to find good things to say about the festival, it seemed to me that ruined dreams were hidden under their exuberance. Before the festival, the Mission's goals and activities had been quite extravagant, reflecting the community's confidence that the movement would succeed. Afterwards, the organization was left with a $600,000 debt, and worse, the loss of its millennial dream of world peace. Immediately, the production and distribution of its publications were curtailed to meet financial obligations. Programs were cut back as the premie community began to realize that the mass of humanity was not going to flock to Guru Maharaj Ji to receive the Knowledge, as they had so fervently believed. Their enthusiasm for propagating the Knowledge collapsed under the weight of reality.