The term 'preparation' when used in relation to Prem Rawat's 'Knowledge' defines an active process by which the 'aspirant' is made 'receptive'. In the regime followed in the early part of Prem Rawat's western mission preparation was achieved by listening to satsang - sermons and speeches given by Mahatmas and sometimes by the Guru himself. Today, preparation is achieved by watching a succession of DVD recordings of Prem Rawat speaking.
Before one is allowed to 'receive Knowledge', a process of preparation is demanded. Through the last three decades this process has varied widely and undergone systematic change however the essential purpose has remained unaltered, that the aspirant must have achieved a state where they no longer have questions about Prem Rawat or 'Knowledge', in other words have no doubts and be fully committed to practising the meditation once it is revealed. This state of being without questions is described as being 'ready' for Knowledge, what constitutes readiness is ambiguous and decisions on qualification frequently seem arbitrary.
In the system developed by Hans Rawat, Prem Rawat's father, senior devotees called mahatmas ( a word meaning 'great soul') were appointed to act as channels for the Guru's power and would hold large programs where 100 or more people might be initiated at a time. Challenging questions such as, "are you willing to chop off your head to receive this Knowledge ?" were used to determine an aspirant's preparedness.
The Aspirant Programme
Under Prem Rawat's leadership the older style preparation process gave way to the 'aspirant programme' which was much more formalised with teams of people assisting trained instructors in getting people ready for 'Knowledge'. It often took a year or longer to finally be accepted for initiation. The 'Aspirant Programme' consisted of special 'Satsangs', (a word meaning 'truth speech') which were meetings where instructors and others would speak about various aspects of 'Knowledge' and often a video of Guru Maharaj Ji (Prem Rawat) would be shown.
The aspirant programme which replaced the openly religious style of the Hans Rawat era was an intense social indoctrination process. One of the instructors at the time, Sulakshna Bai, was known to say, "the aspirants are so open to receiving 'Knowledge' these days that if I told them to stand on their head and gargle peanut butter, they would do it." Being ready for initiation meant having already reached the point of accepting Prem Rawat as the Perfect Master.
For many participants in the aspirant programme the 'Knowledge' became a means of connecting to the Perfect Master rather than a goal in itself and Guru Maharaj Ji was intrinsically associated with the experience of 'Knowledge'. It was believed by virtually all his followers that it was only through Guru Maharaj Ji's 'Grace' that one experienced something in meditation and that experience was in itself an experience of Guru Maharaj Ji's presence. It was common practice for people to pray to Guru Maharaj Ji for help before meditating.
A Subtler Approach
Following changes in the early 1980s, outside of India overt worship of Prem Rawat is no longer practised and Prem Rawat is no longer referred to as a Perfect Master, he has however involved himself directly with the entire process of 'preparing for Knowledge' so that the emotional association between Prem Rawat and the meditation is inescapable.
Prem Rawat latest 'preparation' scheme is called The Keys which consists of a stepped programme of DVD recordings of Rawat speaking, in all amounting to over fifty hours running time. On completion of watching the whole series the aspirant is considered able to decide if they feel ready to receive the techniques of meditation, at which point they are invited to attend a supervised screening of a DVD in which Rawat explains the techniques.
While the indoctrination of the current process is less intense than that previously employed, a subtle yet strong psychological process is being exploited. Two questions often asked by aspirants are, "if the Knowledge is so wonderful, then why do I have to prepare? Why can't the 'Knowledge' just stand on its own merits".
These questions were easier to answer when Prem Rawat was still treated as the 'Perfect Master'. The perspective in those days was that 'Knowledge' was the revelation of one's true self - the divinity inside you - the spark of Guru Maharaj Ji that allowed you to breathe. Such a miracle could only take place through the "Divine Grace of Guru Maharaj Ji". One needed to open their "Heart" to this "Grace" and this took some preparation.
Today this mystical language has been substituted with an openly emotive approach. Prem Rawat was previously quoted on The Prem Rawat Foundation Website as saying in response to the question, "When a person says, 'I'm ready to receive Knowledge', how do you know that person is truly ready?":
"No one can know if a person is truly ready. I have to trust them. A lot of people come to me and say, 'Give it to me now.' And I say, No. Go and think about it. Don't jump into this. Feel the thirst and live with the thirst for a little while. See what it's like. When you feel from your heart - not out of curiosity, but from your heart - that the thirst is very real, then ask to receive this gift. At that point, I just have to trust the person. They have to trust me and I have to trust them. From my side, I am really hoping that the person is going to take full advantage of this gift and practice it, appreciate their life and appreciate every breath. I am hoping that they will let the potential of being alive - all of it - come true in this existence, in this lifetime."
So it would seem that a person is required to feel a profound existential thirst for 'Knowledge' in their lives, before Prem Rawat will show them the techniques. Also on the TPRF website, Prem Rawat compares the process of preparing for 'Knowledge' to a ripening fruit:
"Everyone has their own journey. It is in your time that, like a fruit, you will ripen. It is in your time, like a seed, you will sprout. It is about you. This is your journey. ..."
In these words Prem Rawat is implying that the entire process of preparing for 'Knowledge' and what happens after, are all part of life's plan - the human ripening to his or her intended purpose. Rawat often makes reference to the 'heart'. Yet he seems to be alluding not to one's emotional centre but to some other sensibility that needs to be awakened for 'Knowledge' to take root. Beyond the revelatory implications of such a characterisation, many ex-followers of Prem Rawat feel that this process of becoming 'thirsty' is really about setting up a deep dependency upon Prem Rawat.
Other metaphors that are employed to describe 'Knowledge' make comparisons to a great 'gift' or 'message', with Prem Rawat as the gift-giver or messenger. There is clearly a potential for the processes used by Prem Rawat to create a chronic sense of gratitude and subservience in the new initiate which stands outside of what would generally be considered a normal and healthy human relationship. Indeed the 'prepared' individual is no longer capable of objectively evaluating the 'Knowledge' techniques when she or he is finally taught them. They have already learnt not to have any expectations, but just to accept whatever happens.