After the closing of the ashrams and the renaming of Divine Light Mission to Élan Vital and the retitling of Guru Maharaj Ji to Maharaji (downgraded to just the Ultimate Ruler), there was another fall in donations and most of the offices were closed and only a skeleton staff remained in most countries running Élan Vital mail/information programs and arranging Rawat's tours. Only a handful of initiators remained and this may have been when they were renamed again to instructors. At first some satsang continued in premies' homes but Rawat ordered that only instructors were allowed to "give satsang" and talk about Knowledge, which was a major change in the dynamic of the premie community. Formerly, anyone had been able to give satsang and talk about their experiences with Knowledge, but only a few premies were now considered reliable enough to talk publicly. This meant that growth was nearly impossible and in fact in August 1985 only 3,000 people bothered to hear him speak in Wembley, England a third of those who had gathered there before the ashrams were closed. Despite this he was upbeat and gave Blessings in a September 1985 letter published in the US In View newsletter .
Rawat's speeches had changed considerably. He had pruned his vocabulary as well as his hair. He still screeched and shouted at times and his English, though poor, had improved considerably but he no longer harangued his followers for their shortcomings and failure to surrender to Guru Maharaj Ji. These words among others had been removed from his public vocabulary along with his longish hair. He seems to have made a decision to drop negative statements and accentuate the positive promising his Knowledge was the most wonderful thing possible but merely stating that it had to be practiced to be enjoyed. There was little difference between his "public speeches" and those he only allowed his followers to hear. He seemed to believe he was now a charming and interesting inspirational raconteur. There were not too many ranting Lords of the Universe around in the 1970's with which to compare him but as a raconteur he could be compared to people like Garrison Keillor, Billy Connolly, Robin Williamson or Stephen Fry and he was terrible.
He returned to Malibu from Miami in 1984 though not to the ordinary mansion he had left but to a mansion extraordinary even by Malibu standards. A Learjet 35 - one of the world's finest business jets - was leased to facilitate his travel and fulfil one of his deepest desires. In August 1985 there was a Getting Together" meeting in Miami where despite their 15 years' involvement in serving him, he felt the need to remind them:
you are loved, you are valuable, and, yes, you are very capable of participating in this wonderful cause in this world
In March 1986 he had led the remnant of his dedicated ex-hippie followers further away from their youth in his most bizarre function since his Peoples' Congress dinner. He appeared at a gala black tie champagne dinner in New York the highlight of which was the telling of dirty jokes at his command, something that a zombie follower like Mitch Ditkoff was able to turn into a lesson in ecstatic enlightenment:
After years of trying oh so hard -- in oh so many futile ways -- to have my special, timeless, sacred, holy, cosmic, blissful, meaningful moment with Maharaji, I finally have one -- and it's for heckling an aspiring yogi at a dirty joke contest.
There wasn't enough money left over to support full time initiators so in early 1986 Rawat reversed his previous stand and selected and 'trained' some of his most devoted followers, even married ones, to become part-time 'instructors' and by year's end he had appointed 320 of them. In July 1986 there was a Guru Puja festival renamed the North American Convention in which he told his followers to sing the praises of that power rather than himself. Raising funds to buy a Learjet 55 was a priority and this was bought in 1987 thereby incurring significant ongoing costs. On July 5 he gave instructions and lessons in "How To Talk About Knowledge" which were actually orders not to:
Basically, the instructors are trained to handle the situation. If you turn the ball over to them, it works a lot better. I know you want to talk about it. I don't blame you. But there is a right way to do it, an almost-right way to do it, and there's the wrong way to do it.
In July there was a North American Organizers Conference in Miami. While his speeches contained unrealistic hype about "unanimous synchronization" he admitted that committment was still lacking and that the early succcess of Divine Light Mission (during which his current followers had been recruited) was based on pretence:
In the 70's we weren't so sure. We were trying to be impressive and impressive we were. That came from not having confidence in Knowledge. When people don't have confidence in Knowledge, amazing things happen. They put up a front and try to look slick.
In August 1986 in Birmingham he explained how he was meeting challenges no other human being ever had to face:
One of the things you have to appreciate is that the challenges I have to meet nobody else has had to meet. I am in totally unexplored territory. The frontier. The final frontier …
In 1987 he made another extraordinary decision in his career as a guru and Master. He altered the techniques of meditation that his father had instigated in India despite his Western devotees having had innumerable "Knowledge Reviews" in the last 15 years to ensure they were doing the techniques 'correctly'. These reviews which continued for a few years were usually led by Rawat himself in a series of "Rejoice meetings" around the world with various part-time instructors scurrying around the halls ensuring premies had their fingers in the correct place on their eyelids, their thumbs correctly pushed into their ears though no-one could tell if they were thinking about their breathing correctly or curling their tongues backwards towards their uvula. He also halved the daily required meditation time to 15 minutes a technique, once a day and discouraged attempts to constantly meditate during the day which had been one of his major rules. The authorised meditation experience also changed. You were not supposed to have brilliant flashes of divine light and ecstatic highs of wondrous bliss hearing celestial music and tasting the divine nectar of the Gods anymore or if ever but only a quiet calmness.
In 1988, he began to conduct the Knowledge sessions personally and to oversee the entire process. This personal involvement meant he introduced the techniques and then went off to his luxurious waiting room smoking Marlboros while his instructors kept watch on the people attempting to meditate. This was a method that meant either very few people would ever be initiated or he would spend every day initiating people in gigantic "Knowledge Sessions" around the world should his supposed goal of bringing peace to the world through his Knowledge ever get off the ground. There was and is little chance of that happening as Rawat has too little to offer in the competitive and crowded religious and spiritual marketplace of the modern world of global communication. At the beginning of 1988 a national mailing from Elan Vital seeking regular donations was done followed by letters from three regional sponsorship representatives and Rawat's brother Raja Ji toured North American cities pushing the Sponsorship Program. By the end of 1988 there were around 2,500 pledges (3,600 people) of monthly donations covering 80 percent of the operating expenses for the Lear 55 and the basic costs of supporting "Maharaji's work" in North America even though only 2/3 of the pledges were actually paid.
From this time on Rawat's speeches became even more boring and content free as did his career. Trying to discern the truth beneath the barrage of PR and revisionist history became ever more difficult. There were some fleeting moments of interest and one day after I've got over the boredom of collecting this information I might try to put together some true facts about Prem Rawat post 1990.