The details of getting prepared to receive Knowledge have differed over the years, but in essence it means that the aspirant must have all their questions answered, in other words have no doubts, and be fully committed to practising the meditation once it is revealed.
To accomplish this, the aspirant must wait some months between first deciding that they want this meditation and the actual initiation (the minimum waiting period is five months usually). During this waiting period the aspirant must watch a minimum number of videos or broadcasts of Maharaji speaking, and attend a number of smaller meetings that are specifically designed for aspirants going through this process. They are also expected to read some materials, and to introspect generally on the value that Maharaji's meditation will bring them.
The obvious question most people have is this: If Maharaji's meditation (the 'Knowledge') is so good, why not let it stand or fall on its own merits? What is the preparation actually for?
Establishing the 'Connection'
Throughout the 1970's and 80's, the answer to this was easy: the meditation was not nearly so important as the 'connection' to Maharaji. The aspirant was not going to be merely shown some meditation techniques, they were going to become devotees or followers of the Perfect Master. It was Maharaji that was important as the power-house who in some mysterious and unspecified way could reach into a devotee from afar and take them beyond the mundane in themselves to their very center - their 'heart'.
In order for this to happen, there had to be a 'connection', so that Maharaji could do this. The belief was that this 'connection' was first established in the initiation ceremony, which was why it was important that it was an initiation that had Maharaji's blessing, meaning that either he himself was conducting it, or someone to whom he had given his express permission to do so on his behalf.
But getting into a 'Knowledge session', the initiation ceremony, was not enough. Although the 'connection' might be established by virtue of merely being present in the session, it was the newly created follower's responsibility to keep that 'connection' clear and unblocked thereafter. This they did by practising the meditation daily in the approved manner, and also by keeping 'in touch' with Maharaji, which meant going to see him occasionally, and by considering him their master.
So the preparation was in fact to accept this belief that Maharaji was the true and Perfect Master, and to accept all the baggage that went along with this, so that when the aspirant finally did receive the Knowledge (the meditation) they would practise not so much for the immediate experience that the meditation gave, but more to keep the connection open to Maharaji.
For many people, the meditation techniques did not in themselves deliver much of an experience anyway, certainly not what they were led to believe. And on top of this, other followers would extol the blissful experience (real or imagined) that they had in the meditation, so that those who were not having a 'blissful experience' would feel disappointment, and guilt even that they were not keeping the connection open enough for Maharaji to come into their lives and raise their consciousness and feeling of peace and bliss.
For such followers, if they had been well 'prepared', so that the belief and faith in Maharaji was strong, then the only avenue left open for them was to practise Knowledge even harder, to keep the 'connection' clear, and to pray and beg Maharaji even more fervently to send his mysterious power, his 'grace', through that connection and save them.
The Self-Reinforcing Cycle
And this is the self-perpetuating and self-reinforcing cycle that a follower of Maharaji is caught up in, as long as they hold to their faith that he is the true master of this process, who only has their best interests at heart, and who has the power to truly help them if only they allow him into their lives.
So this was the importance of the 'preparation' before receiving the Knowledge (meditation techniques). For without it, an aspirant would think that they were getting a set of meditation techniques only. They would practise, and either find them worthless and discard them, or find they engendered some peace and calm; but in either case, Maharaji as the giver of the techniques would not be that important. And since the essence of the whole thing is a personality cult, worshipping Maharaji, then that would never do.
The Embarrassing question
However, as the 1990's progressed, and as we moved into the 2000's, Maharaji constantly reinvented himself to the public, and less and less stress was given publicly to his role as the Perfect Master. And yet the 'preparation' that an aspirant has to go through in order to receive the Knowledge still continues. Why?
This question is, I believe, the single most embarrassing question for a committed and intelligent present-day follower of Maharaji. Maharaji now states in his public talks that a person needs the meditation he gives (the Knowledge) in order to know themselves, and that he (Maharaji) merely provides the inspiration and motivation to help a meditator with their meditation practice. So why the preparation, and why even the need to learn the techniques from Maharaji or within the system he has set up?
One answer is that the meditation techniques need to be taught very precisely and correctly, and that only Maharaji, or someone he has trained, can do this. However, this answer will not stand, since many people can teach the techniques well, in many cases probably much clearer than Maharaji himself, who tends to be very vague about some important aspects of how to practise. (See next article about Maharaji as a meditation teacher).
The real answer is that underneath it is still a personality cult, that Maharaji is still worshipped as the Perfect Master by the cognescenti, he is still the one true master whose 'grace' is necessary for the devotee with a clear connection to him to find true happiness.
And it is still important for the aspirant to understand this message, although it is probably never stated so straight and clear; but it is something the aspirant still needs to pick up. And the test of whether an aspirant is truly prepared, is 'ready' to receive the Knowledge, is, I believe, that they have understood this message in some sense, subliminally even perhaps, so that the cult will continue to ingest new members.