Prem Rawat at University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Prem Rawat Maharaji at University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Prem Rawat responded to an invitation to speak at an event in the Knoxville Convention Center. More than 1200 people from Knoxville and the surrounding area attended the event. This was the first time Prem Rawat had given an address in Tennessee.

“There is a peace, without which we would lose the very fabric of who we are,” he said. “A peace that dances in the heart of everyone. That’s the peace I am talking about. The reality. The beauty. The joy. The true peace—not an absence of something, but the very presence of something. That is what is possible, even in the middle of war.”

Melissa Mann of nearby Maryville, Tennessee organized the event. The daughter of a former U.S. foreign service diplomat who served in several countries, Ms. Mann teaches English at a local college. "Knoxville responded very positively," Ms. Mann said. "People were very excited to hear that Prem Rawat had accepted our invitation, and a lot of people came to see him, not just from Knoxville, but Atlanta, Memphis, Birmingham - all over."

“The freedom I talk about is not the kind of freedom that people think is freedom. People think freedom is when you get away from your house for the weekend. ‘Free—I’m free.’ To teenagers, freedom is when they leave their parents’ house. Freedom to parents is when their teenagers actually leave. Not just threaten to leave, but actually leave. ‘Now we are free.’ Is that freedom?

“Freedom from my troubles. Is that freedom? Freedom from my concerns. Is that freedom? Freedom from my responsibilities. Is that freedom? I talk about a freedom that can be felt in a prison. That’s the freedom that no one on the face of this earth can take away from me. No one. That’s freedom.

“Peace—a peace that cannot be disturbed. That is real peace. And one that cannot be taken away—that is real freedom.

“Often, people think they’re free. And sometimes they’re trying to free themselves from their concepts of freedom. ‘Am I really free? If I think differently, I’ll be free. If I am open to everything, I will be free.’ This is our time to make that understanding happen. To begin to understand. And here is the concrete thing: To start to realize that all that we ever want, we have. We have that freedom inside of us.

“I go around giving people a mirror. A mirror that shows something that is real, that is true. Something that by its very existence is the most beautiful play ever written. You are the actor, and the most incredible script has been written for you. There is love, a little bit of action, a little bit of clarity, and a little bit of confusion. How well do we know this play? How well are we playing it?”

People leaving the hall were clearly enthusiastic about Prem Rawat and his message. For Russell G. from Oakridge, “I really enjoyed this opportunity to learn more about myself. I came at the invitation of a good friend. My faith is Christian based, but I am always eager to hear and listen to new ideas. I quickly realized that what this man had to say did not contradict my faith, but rather served to strengthen the ultimate message of love and happiness.”

For Adriana T. from Asheville, “I recently had surgery for cancer and have asked what difference my life has made. The answer came in his address. I am unique. There is no other that brings the gifts I can to make a difference in life.”

Mary W. from Asheville said, “This is the first time to see and hear him in person. Magnificent human being. Gives me much thought to proceed from this moment. I am a Christian, and I think I want what he is offering. His message is universal, and I see the possibility of connecting to me.”

Debbie S., a Knoxville resident and physical therapist at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, has been familiar with Prem Rawat’s message for years. She helped organize the Knoxville event. “It’s the most exciting thing to invite Prem Rawat and to have him accept our invitation. It’s a wonderful opportunity, not just for me, but for the people in the area to hear him speak and to hear his message, which is unique and very applicable to everyone regardless of background, education, or occupation.”