Premie history in the West reveals beneath wide fluctuations in organizational complexity and institution-building a consistent pattern of huge "festivals." 1971-1973 saw winter festivals in India, summer festivals in Colorado, the Alps, and London, and "millennium '73" in Houston. Succeeding years saw at least a "Guru Puja" festival every July, a "Hans Jayanti" in November, a "Holi" in April,' often on two or even three continents, and other impromptu festivals as well. 1978 and 1979 nine-day campout "Hans Jayantis" in Florida each attracted some fifteen to twenty thousand premies from Europe and North and South America. "Holi" festivals in the Miami Orange Bowl have persisted through 1982, along with the numerous smaller programs of GMJ's many international tours.
Festivals not only absorb tremendous amounts of premie resources and energy; they also mold a premie's life around periodic interactions with GMJ and the crowd of other premies he inevitably attracts.
BEFORE THE FESTIVAL: PREMIES AND GMJ
GMJ's play of "Krishna Lila" is said to begin with premie longings. At a retreat in the Pennsylvania Pocono mountains late in the summer of 1977, one speaker began his "satsang" only after weeping into the microphone for several minutes:
I just feel completely helpless, and I want him to come and help me … I just want GMJ to come so much … I really do. So much
Then he wondered about the longings' effectiveness:
This is so serious. It's just really serious, because if he could have come, and he doesn't come because we just don't go deep enough, I'm going to feel terrible. And I don't know how to bring him. I just don't know how to bring him. But I really want him here. ("Divine Times," 9-10/77, p.5)
GMJ was in Denver that very same night, where another large gathering of premies were also longing for him to appear:
The [Denver] satsang was beautiful, and so was the music. Everyone seemed to be reaching together for deeper answers to old questions: Do we have a right to demand that GMJ come to us, ever? Is it wrong to acknowledge that we want to see him so badly we can't stand it? If our hearts are breaking to see you, Lord, will you come? (p.4)
GMJ played "lila" with both the Denver and the Pennsylvania premies. In Denver, the "satsang" monitor kept trying to phone GMJ at his "residence" a few minutes' drive away:
One voice answered with the mysterious words, "Temperature Control." By the time Jim realized whose voice that was, GMJ had clicked off …
In another conversation, a premie told Jim the answer was an "absolute negative." But GMJ, from across the room, yelled out: No it WASN'T negative. There was still hope … (p. 4)
… Not long after that, we learned that GMJ was in the air - presumably heading to Malibu. (p. 5)
Actually, GMJ was flying to the East Coast, where after fog and bungled plans gave even him a little "lila," he chartered a helicopter the next afternoon for the Poconos retreat. Finally Guru and devotees came together in ecstacy:
Why are those helicopters heading this way? Of course it can't be happening. GMJ's in Denver right now. Or Malibu. Or somewhere. Isn't he?
[The speaker] continues, but the sound gets louder and louder until everyone's eyes are drawn to the choppers …
"Maharaj Ji is here!" He has swooped down out of the sky, answering the call of hearts that were gathered for the "Court of Love"2Retreat. "Lord of all the universe, come down to show the way."
There are tears and gasps and roaring cries … at intervals [the speaker] blurts her feelings into the microphone. "Goddd!" she cries. "Oh, Goddddd!" (p. 4)
GMJ often called impromptu programs himself, giving the impression of artless spontaneity. He later described the time in January, 1977 when he called a national program in Portland, Oregon with three days' notice:
I was just across the border from California into Oregon … there wasn't any intention, really, to do any program at that point, I just wanted to have a nice camping trip …
But anyway, it was like, it 'happened,' and all of a sudden, I said, "How about a program in Portland! … and this program was really what you would say, whipped together real fast. ("Divine Times," 3/77 pp. 6-7)
Premies interpret this apparent playful spontaneity not only as "GMJ's lila," not only as his divinely intuitive "perfect" response to their innermost longings, but more specifically as a teaching device:
Saturday afternoon before Father's Day [1975, at GMJ's Malibu residence] we were all sitting around and GMJ said, "How about if we have the premies come up here?"
We all got into it immediately, saying, "Oh really GMJ, that would be incredible …" And just as we got into it, GMJ sat down and said, "No, this is my residence." Of course we all sat down and agreed. It's funny you know, because GMJ knows what he wants to do, but he plays with us and even his seeming indecision is a beautiful part of the play between Lord and devotee.
So we continued making dinner and tried to take our minds off the affair. Suddenly GMJ walked into the kitchen and said, "Call the ashram and tell the premies we are having a party up here tomorrow at 6 P.M." We exploded with joy. ("Divine Times," 7/75, p. 10)
This call, this teaching touched all California premies and even that evening me and the other premies of the Phoenix ashram. Like the gopis who would abandon their husbands and cattle at the first tooting of Krishna's flute, we quickly ironed our "darshan" outfits, grabbed some sandwiches and the forty of us, squeezed into vans and VW's, fled through the night toward Los Angeles.
If response to GMJ's call is impossible premies still learn, still "experience GMJ playing with their hearts," increasing their longing. If they stay away but could have gone they witness their own
lack of zeal and perhaps deluge themselves in uninspired guilt. But if they can possibly go they go, perhaps impoverished and jobless from the last one, but trusting in "grace" all the way.
To go to a festival, then, is to step into the reality of "GMJ's world." Care for the everyday future is thrown to the winds:
In going to [the surprise program in] Los Angeles, many premies had unhesitatingly used up what little they'd already saved for the charter fare to Europe [for the "Hans Jayanti" festival planned two months later in Rome, Italy]. It could only be called an act of surrender and faith.
Yet, when GMJ stepped out on that carpet there were no regrets, no doubts about whether they might get to Rome, or any other place GMJ wanted them to be.
Once again, the pull of the Perfect Master had been stronger than anyone's logic. ("Divine Times,"9-10/77, p. 6-7)
Festival-going "grace" often appears only after "lila," "lilas" which work out in the difficult context of angry airline ticket agents, broken-down vehicles, bewildered bosses and parents, overdrawn checking accounts. But GMJ so often speaks of "Beat the System" and "Mission Impossible." In his world such obstacles are "maya" which disappears when longing and meditative determination persist until "grace" peeks out through an unexpected loophole. Someone finds hundreds of dollars in an unused drawer at home; a hitchhiker abandoned in Kansas who has just prostrated himself to GMJ there on the roadside gets picked up by a driver who responds to his "satsang" by driving to Miami and attending the festival himself. A stranger approaches a destitute premie meditating in a quiet corner of the airport and hands her a ticket to the very city where GMJ is to speak that evening. A premie with no passport succeeds several times in walking unnoticed through immigration as if he had the power to become invisible. 3 And on and on, in life and in satsang, the stories suggest a hidden miraculous reality which proves its strength by defying the expected limitations of the everyday world.
The essence of "illusion" is to deny that limitations can crack just enough for that sacred reality to seep through.
Even when things don't work out as one wishes, premies still "flow with it," still perceive the hand of "grace." A blizzard hit New York on the eve of a January festival in Kansas City:
It seems right, in the divine logic of GMJ's world. …
At Kennedy Airport conditions are bedlam. Passengers scream for tickets and flights. "What can we do?" the airlines say. "It's an act of God!" The premies laugh and share satsang. They see GMJ's control. ("Divine Times," 1-2/78, p. 7)
BEFORE THE FESTIVAL: PREMIES WITH EACH OTHER
The "lila" of getting to a festival challenges premies toward disentanglement from the obstacles and obligations, habits and thought-patterns of the "world." Festival-going demands promote such disentanglement by throwing premies together into airplanes and vans, together into unemployment lines, fund-raising projects and ever more crowded premie-houses, into an increasingly shared experience of the everyday "world's" strangeness, its withering power, significance, and relevance.
But mere premie togetherness does not insure the emergence of "GMJ's world:" "lila" insinuates itself into the premie community as well. For every time "grace" "manifests" through a ticket agent's mistake, twenty times it "manifests" through another premie's gift or loan. The 1977 series of festivals, for example, generated an intricate network of loans among Bay Area premies, many of which defaulted as debtors lost jobs to yet more festivals, moved into ashrams or to other communities. As wellfare mothers and the unemployed increasingly pressured more wealthy premies for festival funds, some of the wealthy became poor, others left the movement, others cut off the destitute
until they too left the movement. Meanwhile the ashrams and central Mission headquarters were also crying for funds, instigating further debts and resentments among their following, and among the leadership increasing criticism of premie spending for ice creams, movies, new clothes, and other frivolities. Thus the premies' common plight both drew them together and set them against one another.
In the Bay area and most other communities, efforts toward socialization of premie funds and festival efforts failed (except within the ashrams, which were nationally budgeted), throwing premies finally back onto individual solutions. But just as mere togetherness did not insure the "experience" of transcendent community, this failure did not undermine the possibility of it. Only if one left did one lose that but if one managed to stay despite all the divisiveness, struggle, and imperfection, sooner or later those moments of divine togetherness would come.
* * * * *
If getting to festivals generates some "lila," preparation of festivals brings much, much more. Premies have to rent huge halls, convention centers and hotel rooms, coordinate transport from airports, arrange lighting and PA systems to amplify GMJ and one or two bands, design and build an elaborate stage, 4 food concessions and childcare facilites, and above all prepare GMJ's regal accommodations, transportation and food for his entourage 5 and the myriad associated details.
Like travel to the festival, many of these preparations involve "grace" and "lila" interactions with the outside world, nip and tuck financial escapades or scheduling dilemmas like the time rental of one huge arena depended on the quick elimination of the host city's pro
basketball team from the playoffs. In overcoming obstacles the "world's" ways set in front of often bizarre Mission demands, premies draw together; but then again, even more than with travel to festivals, the most challenging "lilas" emerge not from without, but from within their separate premie world.
The Mission hierarchical organization dominates festival preparations. Important and influential premies generally get important and influential festival "services" which carry with them the prizes of special reserved seating, intimate contact with GMJ's entourage, and the chance for extra behind-the-scenes "darshan" of GMJ. Over time a core of experts develops for each "service," through whose nationwide networks new helpers are gathered before each festival. Those not recruited by these networks, however, get assigned at the festival itself to tedious, menial posts in "security" or "childcare" which demand long hours of standing, missing sleep or GMJ's "satsang" and offer little hope of special reserved seating or extra "darshan."
This lowest but necessary level of "service" workers tend toward "spaciness." To keep them in line organizers stress "internal" experiential rewards: "what GMJ is looking for is devotion and sincerity, not whether you are an initiator or a janitor. He'll give you that experience with any service if you're in Holy Name. It doesn't matter where you sit in the hall, darshan is darshan." And so premies learn to "surrender" in service:
"At first, I just resisted," says Jenny, a seamstress who has been up for the last two nights. "I hate sewing. But I broke through and surrendered myself." (Divine Times, 1-2/78, p. 8)
But since premies so often covet the "external" rewards of "darshan," special seating, and prestige, organizers alternatively suggest
that, as with any job, consistency and dependability will reap a better post next festival. DLM "rags to riches" tales relate how GMJ's chauffeur used to be stuck guarding the parking lot during GMJ's "satsang," and how diligence in festival clean-up earned the supervisor of GMJ's residence her post.
This argument convinces only those with the means or the will for the official route to upward mobility of hard work and official promotions within the hierarchy. For the rest, only the logic of "grace" and "lila" keeps them at their posts.
The "grace/lila" interpretation, however, raises festival "service" to the level of GMJ's divine "play." It implies that, like the outside world, the Mission organization too is ultimately "maya," an illusory dream, a movie which enlightened consciousness can penetrate at any moment.
Festivals may seem to symbolize and reinforce the organizational hierarchy, for usually the same leaders give "satsang" while the rest listen, the same important people sit in front with the others behind, the powerful enjoy GMJ's "darshan" offstage while the powerless settle for "darshan dreams." But only to a point, for to premies GMJ has created the structure to be collapsed, the rules to be broken. Inviting anarchy and chaos, he promotes "nobodies" to high ranks, mothers otherwise ridiculed "bongoes," and sneaks around official "channels" contacting random premies all over the globe for secret projects. In 1976 GMJ fired his top executives and, Mao-like, himself attended the first self-questioning "workshop" which mushroomed into a Mission-wide critique of dogma and entrenched priviledge and led to the collapse of most ashrams and the substitution of democratic for authoritarian decision-making at the local community level. GMJ "plays" with the organization,
especially with festivals; once he encouraged 10,000-odd premies to come to a Miami festival despite hurricane warnings. They arrived just as Miami was beginning to evacuate and had somehow to scrounge their individual ways to Orlando where, as "grace" would have it, the Mission had just rented land for a subsequent festival. Established ranks shattered, the relocated festival wallowed about in chaos and mud, finally enjoying a "darshan" line at 3:00 A.M. amid eerie pre-hurricane winds.
Even at ordinary festivals GMJ gives obscure and contradictory directions to an exhausted staff called from far-flung communities on short notice. No wonder then that "grace" seekers suspect the phalanx of Mission organizers and security guards teems with hidden loopholes which will yield readily to their intrigue, alertness, or just plain good luck. Everything is possible. A lowly "security" premie guarding some unused door is whisked suddenly to GMJ's private backstage area because a "bongo" gone berserk has just tied up other security personnel. Or a kitchen worker who drops the right name at the right time finds himself feeding "initiators" - and then sharing their front row seats. Or GMJ suddenly appears at midnight to the ecstatic surprise of a hanger-on drafted at the last moment to haul lumber for the stage.
The less opportunistic also see the Mission social structure as provisionary, unstable, and illusory. They know they must obey and conform, this is made clear. But whom they must obey and to what they must conform, this is not always so clear. To disagree with the organization is to follow one's own "mind," but contradictory instructions, unexpected confusions, clearly non-meditating superiors so often force one to intuit "what GMJ really wants." One comes to rely on
the guess, the hunch, the "flash," and what Rennie Davis used to call the DLM "incidence of coincidence," incidents like this:
As Jenny works on the darshan curtain, Alfie, the carpet layer, is taking measurements. He would like to lay carpet, but his tools have been locked in a room and nobody has a key.
"I'm having fun," he says. "It's just a nice element of surrender." But how will they lay the carpet?
"I'm going to bend like a reed in the wind," 6 says architect Ed D'Andrea. "Just go with the flow and see if the door gets open, and if it doesn't, kick it down!"
The last measure proves unnecessary when someone shows up with a key half an hour later. Service was experienced … (Divine Times, 1-2/78, p. 8)
Going with the hunch and the "flow," identifying with GMJ who appears to manipulate and rise above the organization, for many in the crowd the "illusion" of DLM becomes a "mind"-made obstacle which justifies disrespect and unruliness. This forces those who must manage them into harshness and regimentation, which only reinforces a critical view. But the leaders must manage and control if only for safety of life and limb. Premie mobs crazed by "divine love" have torn clothing from GMJ's body. Twice I was knocked down by crowds rushing for "darshan." 7
The leaders then find themselves caught between necessarily harsh control measures and the gentle philosophies of "grace" and "flow." If the latter course more readily generates "experience" and lets them feel comfortable with themselves, the former, dealing more effectively with problems in the short run, may lead more quickly to promotions. But then again a leader who waxes too authoritarian begins to look "attached" to his post, over-zealous and obnoxious; yet "detachment" may yield the very lackadaisical incompetence which insures demotion.
Beset with unpleasant tasks, chronically insecure, transferred frequently and rewarded erratically. Mission leaders must also interpret
their organization as illusory, a play of "lila" and "grace." In the Mission, we "play out our trips," they say, and "GMJ tests our devotion by pitting ego against ego." A "service change" should be taken as a learning experience, a subtle manifestation of GMJ's "grace." The San Francisco "community coordinator" was transferred to Denver and assigned to menial tasks:
When I found this out I saw my mind in its corner go "You mean you were replaced as community coordinator to become a janitor?" …
Then I looked a little deeper and noticed that without fanfare GMJ had accomplished something by His grace that I had been begging for … The ashrams that exist throughout the country just this week stopped being the monastic order of Divine Light Mission, except in Denver which will be the only place where the monastic order exists. … Secretly I had prayed that I could be in the monastic order. …
I tell you when I saw what He had done all I could do is feel so fortunate to have that opportunity to do any service for Guru GMJ. (SF Community Newsletter, 11/77)
To see it otherwise is to take the "illusion," the "movie" too seriously, and ultimately to question GMJ, the only "real" authority in the DLM. Once this happens, the insubordinate do not have to be fired; they leave. 8
* * * * *
Festivals put the inherently unstable organization to the supreme test. The leaders' responsibilities multiply, they sleep little, rivals appear who compete and disagree, and at any moment GMJ may appear to "bliss them out" or shoot them down, further disintegrating their cohesiveness. Perhaps this inherent brittleness helps protect GMJ's charismatic authority from the encroaching limitations of routinization. As premies see it, festivals are supposed to jar people out of ruts and "attachments." Indeed, in the Western Mission's earlier years so many premies typically quit the organization after festivals that afterwards communities often had to restructure from the ground up.
But only a limited understanding of "maya" or "illusion" demands
as evidence material impermanence, unreliability and abrupt changes. Practically, continual upheaval in DLM proved too cumbersome, costly and exhausting. Things eventually settled into a balance which allowed for smoother running of Mission communications, finances, and ashrams, yet still gave GMJ a high degree of control and flexibility. As for festivals, the pandemonium which reigned at "Millennium '73" may have yielded hundreds of pounds of leftover peanut butter, lost rental cars, and a million dollar debt, but later festivals ran more and more smoothly and incurred no debts.
A subtler understanding of "maya" needs only smaller fallings-apart. With only minor bunglings at an otherwise well-planned festival in Rome,
Soon it becomes apparent that things are coming unglued at the physical level just so it will be undeniable to us all that the harmony of this festival is coming from another level. And all from one source. (Divine Times, 11-12/77, p. 11)
To perceive this divinely-inspired "harmony," social reality and organization must crumble, but only subtly, toppling only in a certain direction. The illusion to be dispelled is not the bare fact of collectivity, even the facts of ranking and privilege, role and habit. The social actors need not try to disappear or destroy their parts, but only to see themselves as actors, to play in "GMJ's play" as if it were "real," but knowing it to be an "illusion."
GMJ and premies use a variety of methods to make this attitude "real." The abrupt, violent dissolution of social structuring is called for only when structures rigidify quickly and uncontrollably. Festivals, as Turner (1969) suggests, provide a periodic, controlled collapse of structure. But the oscillation from ordinary life to festival to ordinary life, from "structure" to "communitas" to "structure," is only
very broad and very general. Within both the festival and ordinary life much more radical and complex oscillations occur. For the lived "experience" of transcending "maya" lasts only a short time and needs ever more subtle and effective mechanisms to renew it.
At the festival physical upheavals like uncomfortable seats and accommodations, strange food, hours, and climate, and social upheavals like long lines, mobs, thwarted plans, loophole-seeking and post-juggling - these only set the stage for ritual upheavals. And ritual upheavals in turn only provide tools or chances for the person who understands how to use them in his effort to transcend the "maya" of social reality. The rituals provide nothing automatically; on the stubborn, the untrusting, the unwilling, the hostile, they rarely work.
To premies, festivals above all mean "darshan," the physical beholding of GMJ. "Darshan" is the Indian belief that a holy person's special purity, wisdom, energies or powers can infuse into the beholder. 9 Even Gandhi could not escape this custom:
I was followed even to the bathing "ghat" by these "darshan" seekers, nor did they leave me alone whilst I was having my meals … I was the victim of their craze for "darshan," … [Their] blind love has often made me angry, and more often sore at heart. (Gandhi, 1957, p. 389)
To premies, GMJ "is our everything, he is the most beautiful thing that these eyes could ever see in this world:" (Divine Times, 1-2/78, p. 33)
and I saw him standing there,
and he was just so glorious.
He was so beautiful.
He was just so powerful; broad shoulders
and his black, shiny hair was just blowing
in the wind
and - OH! He was incredible! …
But so beautiful (Divine Times, 4-5/78, p. 25)
They behold in their Guru every manner of wonder:
There was just wisdom oozing out of every pore in his body. Such wisdom … There was a confidence, a power, an energy, that really touched me, that commanded and demanded my respect. (satsang recorded 9/77)
He is standing there calm and poised and relaxed and noble and sure and proud and humble and gorgeous and regal and real and divine and perfect and so present and personal and he speaks to us. (Divine Times 11-12/77, p.8)
There was Maharaj Ji, radiating so much that you felt you almost needed sunglasses to look at him! (p. 29)
"Darshan" radiance inspires the ultimate "experience:"
Guru Maharaj Ji opened his door and was standing in front of us, all aglow like the noonday sun. I stood there and shook with a feeling I had never known before. (Cameron, 1973, p. 141)
So much different kinds of light was coming … from the toenails of his Supremest Lotus Feet … just like all the red, blue, and shining. And I looked toward GMJ's face and then more and more cried. (Cameron, interview notes)
"Darshan" is both an internal experience and a social occasion. When GMJ gives formal "satsang" to the crowd that is "darshan;" when they sing to him in person and when he dances before them, when he sprays colored water on them at "Holi," these are also "darshan." Even when premies spy him driving by in a car or peeking out of a window they get "darshan." But the ultimate "darshan," the occasion specifically called "darshan," is that most sacred time of the festival when the throng comes to meet GMJ as single individuals, filing past him one by one to "pranam," to bow and kiss his feet.
The "Darshan" Line
Films of "darshan" lines in India with either GMJ or his father show a crowd of devotees pushing and shoving, ducking down to touch the holy feet as best they can. 10 Western premies organized the ritual by
lining up the premies beforehand, seating GMJ higher up so his feet, now at chest level, would be quicker to kiss. They even experimented: once they had two lines, one passing by each foot; and once they set GMJ and his throne on a jeep which drove slowly by two miles of lined-up premies. They finally settled on a long, cloth-draped blue tunnel through which premies could file silently, leaving the world's mentality, stepping into the divine route to their Guru's feet. Once for a fall festival premies wanted to drape the "darshan" tunnel with orange cloth. GMJ insisted that it be blue, saying that the darshan tunnel prepared premies for the after-death experience which, according to him, involves the sensation of traveling down a blue tunnel. He rarely speculates on after-death experience, so premies took this as particularly significant.
Premies have occasionally expressed a typical Western reluctance when first exposed to the "darshan" ritual:
I had never seen any human being bow down before another, and I was revolted. (Yudell, 1980, p. 10)
[The Mahatma] bows and shows me this is how you pranam, and I say, "Now listen, you know, we don't do that. (Cameron satsang notes)
But this reluctance only lasts until one begins to see the "Lotus Feet of the Satguru" as a symbol for liberation:
His feet are just above it all. If we cling to those lotus feet then we, too, are able to just be out of the heaviness of this world. … It's beyond any experience that the world has to offer. (Divine Times, 11-12/77, p. 31)
In the Indian devotional song called "Arati" which premies sing after "formal satsang," the "feet" are said to purify:
Nectar from Satguru's feet
Is so holy and it cleans us
of our sins
One offers oneself to the Lotus Feet:
Mine, thine, wealth, health
Give them to the Lotus Feet of love,
And there finds one's peace:
Please let me come home,
Find my rest at your Feet. 11
Since the Guru's "lotus feet" are the gateway to ultimate reality, the center of the universe, "The whole stage design starts with Guru GMJ's feet." (Divine Times, 4-5/78, p. 15-6) And "darshan" is its ultimate moment:
There is something about waking up on darshan day which nobody but a premie can ever hope to understand. Unlike Christmas morning, it's not us opening presents. But the presence opening us. Today is the day. The peak of Puja. The day when the human race finally stops and catches its breath. (Divine Times, 8/78, p 4-5)
One prepares by meditating, praying, dressing one's best, selecting a gift, but anticipation and anxiety mingle with eager joy: "And yet, just a few minutes more, Lord. Let me just really get into Holy Name." (Divine Times, 8/78, p 5) The "mind" refuses to silence itself: "What's it going to be like this time? Oh, I wonder if I'm going to really be empty. Oh, I wonder if I'm really going to get filled up." (Divine Times, 4-5/78, p. 21) For his presence is said to purity and purification can burn, glare into one's private darknesses.
Going toward the blue tunnel, the "darshan" line files past silent guards posted to keep order and protect the Guru. 12 But then again, it seems that those guards are guarding that other world, attracting one into the mood of GMJ's presence with their stillness, their huge, knowing eyes which gaze equally on friend and stranger, at the innocent sameness in everyone. With measured steps one reaches
closer to the dream, the being, the mystery which has captivated one's life.
Gliding silently now through corridors, down stairs, around corners, prodded to move ahead because we forgot where we were, floating somewhere, floating, waiting patiently, slipping ahead. (Divine Times, 9-10/78, p. 5-6)
Up a little hill, and into Guru GMJ's world. (Divine Times, 4-5/78, p. 4)
The last turn in the tunnel reveals GMJ's throne at the end:
I came around a curtain in the darshan line - crying and trembling, I don't know why - and there he was. (Divine Times, 3/79, p. 20)
And so he should always appear, at the end of all their questing, their longing, their hope. "Now in the Magic Tunnel, getting a first glimpse of his immense and loving presence." (Divine Times, 9-10/78, pp. 5-6) "He was so completely beyond human - beyond anything I've ever seen, experienced, felt. He was just golden, shiny, beautiful." (Divine Times, 4-5/78, p. 24)
He looked enormous. I thought he was the largest person I have ever seen. I have a dim memory of trying to walk and figure out how he could be so big at the same time. I couldn't do either. I floated. (Divine Times, 3/79, p. 20)
Randomly, eagerly, one drinks in the color of his suit, the taped song playing loudly which GMJ has selected, to be played in that room only, whose tinniness somehow deepens the vital, charged stillness.
Then comes the dilemma of seeing and being seen, the beginning of encounter:
Closer now, closer, at last looking at him almost fearful to look yet even more fearful to miss a bit of the experience of seeing him up close. (Divine Times, 9-10/78, p. 5-6)
And if I go through the Darshan line just loving, and not looking that desperately for GMJ to look at me, that's when GMJ can really look at me, can really smile at me, because where my Master is, I am not, and where I am, my Master is not. This self image, this conception, just has to be erased, just has to be merged, cause it's not real. (SF community Newsletter, 9/77)
In a language of glances, neither Guru nor devotee speaks a word.
Only a moment elapses 13 but so much happens:
In the span of a few seconds of being near Him, I'd see Him as infinite light and infinite vibration and the next minute He'd be my best friend. (Cameron, interview notes)
Maharaj Ji is at once lion and friend and brother and teacher and dove and eagle and savior and ocean and sky and breath and mirror and gentle lover and ruthless truth unmasking my every weakness. (Divine Times, 11-12/77, p. 8)
One feels that he challenges, teaches, purifies, that before his gaze no lie can be hidden. An initiator who saved a little money for a tape recorder (which he needed for his "service") instead of donating it to GMJ felt that when GMJ looked at him it was painfully obvious; he emerged from "darshan" full of guilt and remorse. Yet GMJ is said never to judge: "He doesn't care about those aspects but it's the pure section in us that He is paying attention to." (Cameron, interview notes) GMJ is said to know each devotee intimately, to recognize everyone, to have described to one overwhelmed premie the outfits she had worn through the last several "darshan" lines, when she had thought he didn't even know her name. Hour after hour, through all this, he never fidgets:
He sat majestically without a break for ten hours, … without stretching, without stepping away, without so much as a glass of water … Simply giving of himself. … Giving. And giving. Endlessly. (Divine Times, 11-12/77, pp. 11-12)
Only his eyes move, sliding slowly from premie to premie, alert, passive, watching from the inside of some fathomless ocean, suggesting, hinting, knowing, so that one both longs and fears to meet them:
When you look into his eyes, it's like looking down a long long corridor. Time and distance disappear. (Cameron, interview notes)
He looks with a look that is no look.
I cannot explain it.
It has no recognizable attribute
It is blank,
a sky with no clouds
No definition no shape
I cannot tell when it starts
and cannot tell when it stops
If infinity had an eye
maybe that would explain it. …
Yet so undramatic.
Simple as a child's gaze who, when turning away,
need not explain it …
The look of the Lord. (Divine Times, 8/78, p. 5)
To some, he even grants a smile.
Having had his glance or not, one is "wafted into that eternal millisecond at his feet, touching him now," (DT, 9-10/78, p. 5-6) to enjoy "that connection which is so precious to us, which is beyond precious, which is our everything." (Divine Times, 4-5/78, p. 24)
I just really loved kissing Maharaj Ji's feet so much. I used to have a lot of darshan dreams where I would always say, "Pranam, Guru GMJ, pranam, Guru GMJ, pranam, Guru GMJ," over and over. I was completely into that, just kissing Guru GMJ's feet. I just loved that experience more than anything. (Divine Times, 1-2/78, p. 28)
The opening of a fresh window suddenly surprises one, or an electric jolt, or the agonized stab of a self unbanished, or a "rush" of love, or a giggle, a dance, a dirge, or breathless eternity, a burst of hot light, or nothing at all, or perfect clarity.
Lifted along. Floating away, away but not really away, just floating. Silently. Only Breath inside of us, exploding silently, eternally, floating us into a room with spotless altar and giant picture.
And tears come forth as we pranam before that altar for a long, long time. Somewhere inside of us there is music. (Divine Times, 9-10/78, p. 5-6)
Then they staggered or floated or wobbled or danced or flew or sailed or were carried down the other side. (Divine Times, 4-5/78, p. 4)
A "darshan recovery area" awaits those who faint, staffed with nurses
and doctors who watch them, perhaps for hours, until normal wakefulness returns. From them one later hears of a bodiless, perfect realm:
Not meditating, … being meditated … Not breathing … being breathed … not celebrating Guru Puja, … being celebrated … (Divine Times, 8/78, p. 5)
Guru Maharaj Ji's Satsang
"Darshan" is the most extremely individualized of festival rituals where, beyond the distractions and comforts of the social realm, one confronts the inner and outer Guru alone. Though premies endlessly swap "darshan" stories, these moments can never truly be shared. They stand beyond the limits of collective life, like the death for which they seek to prepare one. Like death, then, "darshan" is alien to ordinary collective life even among premies. An abrupt transition back disorients a premie, leaving him with no link between the divine and everyday realms of experience.
But "darshan," unlike death or individual meditation, does involve interaction - the extremely formal, extremely symbolic encounter between a premie and GMJ. This encounter, serving as model for all social interaction, generates an extra-ordinary mode of collective life. The other festival rituals involve the collectivity enjoying GMJ's presence together, together transcending the social life of every day. In particular GMJ's satsang allows for a simultaneous sense of both individual and collective transcendent awareness.
Even when GMJ gives "satsang" to a huge crowd premies often re-experience the sense they have in the "darshan" line of being beyond the crowd, alone with him, as he has himself suggested:
There might be 8,500 people in this hall, and yet the ratio is one-to-one. One premie to one Guru Maharaj Ji … the whole world disappears when we merge in that river of satsang, of
service, of meditation. (Divine Times, 3/79, p. 9)
Premies play out individual dramas while he speaks. Sometimes someone in the back of a large hall, even someone looking through binoculars, will feel GMJ is looking right at him and will even experience eye contact. Those with urgent questions feel he answers them personally; others feel he ferrets out their particular weaknesses. Once when a premie was so upset during GMJ's satsang that she thought of walking out, someone happened to hand her some binoculars. She looked at GMJ and saw he was wearing a tie she had given him. She was so surprised she fell onto the people sitting in the row in front. "What is it," said the person who told me this story, "that so touches a premie that they would actually fall onto the people in front of them?"
Other times premies have "cosmic" experiences:
Then Guru GMJ gave satsang and I was crying and crying, all this garbage that had been inside of me for months and months, GMJ was just pulling it out of me. I started hallucinating, everything started moving. I felt like I was on a psychedelic, … and then the whole stage just became white light - I just couldn't see anything, I was completely disoriented, but I just felt so much love that it was almost too intense, and I just couldn't take it. … The whole stage was melting, and I couldn't even see Guru GMJ, and then he was gone, and I was completely disoriented for about two hours after that. (interview notes)
One's entire wish and struggle during a festival is to feel a "connection" with GMJ, to feel "his love," to feel "the perfect kingdom forming within." (Divine Times, 11-12/77. p. 8) Nothing confers it automatically. Some don't "feel it" until the "darshan" line, others not until the final evening of "satsang," others leave the festival forlorn, wondering if their Guru still loves them, because they did not "feel it" at all:
To be before GMJ, listening intently, and not to feel it, not to brush that curtain aside and enter his kingdom. … To be in his presence, and still feel a separation … that is almost too much to bear. (Divine Times, 11-12/77, p. 8)
Some "feel it" best not when they try psychologically to transcend the collectivity but when they merge into its mood. They use the crowd's presence to achieve the inner state they desire.
Perhaps hours of others' "satsang" proceeds GMJ's appearance, perhaps loud rock music and stamping and calling, perhaps longing, devotional music, perhaps just a simple announcement. "And then, quite simply, he appears. Sits. And bows his head." (Divine Times, 8/78, p. 5) Everyone stands, shouts "Bolie Shri Satgurudev Maharaj Ki Jai," 14 then they quickly sit and hush to hear his first words, "Dear premies …" Finally the festival hubub has subsided, the aisles have cleared, and everyone sits stock still.
This sudden, intense silence, the rapt attentiveness on every face - one can use this collective quiet to inspire quiet in one's own mind, to relax, to concentrate, "surrender," "open" one's "heart," tune the mind to meditative awareness. For sometimes one knows that relaxation, the stilling of the "mind," is just what one needs:
I do not feel that amazing, that other love, that only comes when my efforts to contact him come to rest. The love that comes when I am stilled.
It is a matter of the water settling, before the face of the moon can be seen. It is a question of the heart being pure, before the unicorn can appear. It is simply that the mind must be still, if the silence is to be heard.
And there is a threshold, a transition I go through when my own attempt to reach GMJ fails. … And I glide to rest.
… it is the curtain lifting, the body consenting, worries evaporating, the heart arising, the waters stilling, and the perfect kingdom forming within me again. (Divine Times, 11-12/77, p 8)
Indeed, the crowd's sudden silence during GMJ's "satsang" is many premies' first respite from travel and exhausting festival "service," and they fall promptly asleep: 15
Almost on cue I begin to nod out … No, this can't be! I bite my lip. I pull the hairs on my wrist. I pinch my own cheeks. Please GMJ, don't let me fall asleep now. (Divine Times, 8/78, p. 5)
One calms inner struggles other times by attending to the whole occasion of "satsang," to GMJ and listeners alike, drawing inspiration from others' response, as this premie once tried to do:
I felt an actual pain in my heart because I realized just how many layers of anger and depression I had built up there.
This premie then became fascinated by GMJ's ability to respond to the group:
In a sense, he gave everyone a shot of love and understanding with such precision that it seemed impossible for him to be doing it consciously. It was like feeding and nourishing a whole roomful of people.
The premie himself felt nourished and began to attune to the Guru:
Now there were moments in the room when everything was very quiet, when GMJ had nourished and taken care of everyone and he would be free to manifest something. Those were really the high moments.
And that attunement set him up not only to pay special attention to a remark which responded to his personal problem; but to identify the problem and the remark with everyone else there:
And in one of [those high moments] he looked around and said, "All of you have many layers around your heart." Right then I felt that he knew, that he really knows us, because what he said penetrated so deeply into the essence of what I was feeling. (Cameron, 1973, p. 129-130)
* * * * *
But mental agitation does not always subside so easily; one can quite readily continue to fret despite the calm of others, despite their touching response to GMJ. Sometimes the solution lies in "tuning into" or "surrendering to" the crowd's "energy," the intangible, immeasurable "vibration" which premies say they "feel." 16
Unlike the "vibration" of "Holy Name," this "energy" is attributed to sources external to oneself, most notably GMJ. In one premie's "darshan" dream,
GMJ started to give satsang and the room just started vibrating really heavy, really heavy and the altar was rumbling … (Divine Times, 3/15/73, p. 7)
Premies believe that GMJ's consciousness is especially high when he gives "satsang:"
Last night after the program … [GMJ] said, "You know, something really funny happened to me. I looked at my watch and I had started like on a full hour." I guess it was nine or something, I forget. And then when he looked back on the watch it was five past the hour. And so he said, "You know, I really didn't know; had I been giving satsang for an hour and five minutes, or had I been giving satsang for five minutes?" … Later when GMJ had gone upstairs we were saying, "Just imagine. I mean, how can we imagine in what a place GMJ is? It's just completely outrageous, I mean, it's beyond time, it's beyond any, any, anything." (Divine Times, 4-5/78, p. 27)
GMJ has described "satsang" as the transmission of energy, and to the premies, his "satsang" is a chance to "experience" the inconceivably marvelous, to get a feel for "the place he is in." Some say GMJ has a powerful "aura," specifically, according to one premie, a brilliant, eight-foot aura of intense white light shimmering all around him. 17 Others simply remark, "Around him was a hurricane of energy that I'd never experienced before." (Cameron, 1973, p. 129) Sometimes the "energy" is attributed solely to the presence of many premies together:
The hall begins to fill, and the energy begins to pick up, as the program progresses. There is satsang and music. (Divine Times, 1-2/78, p. 7)
By late afternoon on Saturday 5,000 premies had filled the hall and I lost all my previous feelings about the convention center. Where it was once barren and desolate, it now echoed with the sounds of joyful love. (Divine Times, 12/10/74, p. 1)
In yet another understanding the presence of premies around GMJ is thought to compound his "energy." Not long before the "Millennium '73" festival one leader said that just one premie in the Astrodome would reflect and thus magnify GMJ's "energy," and thousands more
would reflect it thousand-fold, or very, very intensely.
But if one is not in the proper "place," the right frame of mind, powerful negative "energies" might take one over:
Then Maharaj Ji was talking about what it's like to be at [his] residence: that the two energies, the energy of the Knowledge and the energy of the mind, are so intense because the vibration is so pure. So the mind just becomes that much more intense. He said a person can become like a battlefield. (Divine Times, 1-2/78, p. 30)
For this reason, "the people around Guru GMJ were having all kinds of intense personal experiences." (Cameron, 1973, p. 129)
Occasional outbursts of classic mob behavior, when the throng rushes across a field out of all control at the sight of GMJ or storms into a hall to fight for good seats - these are attributed to the influence of negative "crazy mind energy," and contrasted sharply with celebratory dancing, singing, clapping, even fainting in the "darshan" line, which GMJ's presence inspires. One must discriminate between these "energies" of group situations, but the task can be very subtle. Shortly before the 1976 period of general doubt and questioning GMJ had instructed some premies to "attend all satsangs scheduled by DLM." Premies later reflecting on that period said that "satsang" had been crazy, mostly expressions of "mind," but that, if one could somehow ignore that and go for the "grace," the "energy" of GMJ could also be felt.
Whether GMJ or the crowd of premies or both of them together are responsible for generating the "energy," premies feel it through every kind of mood, during the intense silence which accompanies GMJ's "satsang," during the tearful longing of melodic lovesongs played to his occupied or empty chair, as well as during exciting rock songs when the crowd yells and jumps. 18 In any case it has been
called in one popular premie song "The Power of Love."
Even if premies cannot precisely define or explain the "energy," the "power of love," they are intensely aware of its quality and of their own response to it. Despite the excitement of others, sometimes one simply cannot "feel it" for oneself. With everyone else singing or clapping or crying or adoring, one just looks around miserably, unable to "let go" and "loosen up," like someone at a disco who just cannot bring themselves to start dancing. One may be just tired, or feel some sort of undeservingness, or perhaps the crowd, the band, even GMJ has suddenly "turned" one "off." But whatever the problem, one cannot count on "catching" the "vibration," by contagion; 19 one must make the special sorts of efforts to "surrender" that one has practiced in "formal satsang." While the others are dancing all around, one may just have to sit trying to meditate, for to join the excitement from an "uncentered place" might "wierd you out," or open one to the wrong "energies."
"Surrendering to the energy" means accepting it, but before one can accept it one must recognize it, and to recognize it one must attune to it. And attuning to it really means searching in oneself for that same "vibration" so that one may feel it as oneself, obliterating other "vibrations." Then, when one has become the "vibration" one may easily merge with the same "vibration" from others. The external "energy," like a tuning fork, suggests a certain pitch, but one must oneself make the effort to adjust one's being into resonance with it.
Even when one has attuned to the "vibration," one does not necessarily respond like the others. Sometimes clapping or singing
might ruin one's "focus" and "bring one down" from a "connection" one feels with GMJ which pulls one beyond such excitement into an attitude of hands folded in reverent prayer. One might even sit in meditation, utterly oblivious to the jumping throng all around one because, as a friend swore repeatedly to me, "You can go really deep, the vibe is so pure." Often one switches from loud singing and clapping to silent meditation and back again, depending on the feeling of the "energy." Ever aware of one's inner state, one uses the crowd's excited "vibe" as one uses the meditative techniques, as tools to help one "feel the love" and "be with GMJ."
The collective experience of GMJ's "satsang," then, is ambiguous. The premies feel that they, together as a crowd lovingly focused on their Guru, somehow help generate the "energy." Together they "feel" it but separately they perceive and react to it. They witness GMJ speaking to "us" as one conscious entity in itself, yet they leave with private interpretations. Memory of the collective "experience" returns only when premies, even in twos and threes, can gather again and, by remembering together, recreate the "energy" and witness it together once again.
Only when GMJ dances and he "plays Holi" does the "energy" flow powerfully enough to utterly wash away private determinations and individual sensation in torrents of delight. And this is not even at every festival; GMJ has performed his dance only since 1978 and only unpredictably at festivals when "it feels right;" and "Holi" comes only once every year or two.
When GMJ has finished speaking, noone quite knows what will happen next. Through an intercom from backstage or by means of a control panel built into his chair, he tells the band to play "a mellow song, or 'to really rock it out.' He's really feeling it all the time," (Divine Times, 11-12/77, p. 24-5) responding to the premies' "energy," the writer of this article implies, rather than directing it. According to a musician from one band,
"The whole vibe that [GMJ] wanted to create was a really natural one. No hyped up music or anything out of balance. … We had our song list and he told us what songs he especially wanted us to play."
GMJ told them that all the premies want to sing to their GMJ, and that the band should play mostly songs that everyone knew and could sing along with. (Divine Times, 11-12/77, p. 24-5)
The band was instructed on the one hand "to carry all the premies along with it. But," on the other hand, "not to try to direct them in any way." For the "vibe" is also pictured as developing independently of the band, "Because it's such a changeable thing. One program can be a certain vibe,and another can be another way. Things can be so different." Rather than directing the "vibe," the band's task is to "be in tune with what's happening in that moment." Instead of leading the crowd, they feel they are responding to its "energy" which arises spontaneously, independently:
And you can sort of feel that when you're on stage. You can really feel, "Wow, the premies really want to sing." Or "The premies want to stamp the floor and clap their hands." (Divine Times, 11-12/77, p. 24-5)
Sometimes GMJ sits quietly while the band plays, after a few minutes the crowd rises to sing "Arati," their traditional devotional prayer, and then he leaves. Other times his little children come running out to clown with him. Then again, usually on the festival's
final evening, he sometimes retires to change either to his red and gold "Lord Krishna" costume or to his "mala" outfit with flowing pants, garlands of huge flowers his only shirt. The first time he wore it, in 1978,
"Oh my God," shouted one premie into the international phone hookup. "Oh my God! He doesn't have a shirt on!" In Denver two premies listening to this passed out and disconnected the line. (Divine Times, 10/78, p. 39)
Excitement mounts, anticipation begins to sweep away "resistance" for now he is Lord Krishna for sure, and perhaps he will dance. After all,
Krishna stopped time for ten thousand years so that he could dance with his gopis … (Divine Times, 1-2/79, p. 3)
In 1972 GMJ watched a performance of "Krishna Lila," and commented that the Lord of the Universe would not dance exactly like the performer was dancing.
"How would he dance?" the premie asked.
GMJ tried to explain that he would move slowly and carefully. But it soon became clear that words would be inadequate. "Why don't you show us?" someone asked.
"When it's perfect," GMJ replied, "I'll dance!" (Divine Times, 1-2/79, p. 3)
The band breaks out with slow, waltz-tempoed songs written especially for GMJ to dance to - "Dance, Dance, Dance," and "I Love You." Still sitting, GMJ smiles, and the crowd cheers. He lifts a hand, they scream, moves forward in his chair, and they bellow. He relaxes back, and they sigh. Once more he flirts, once more they scream in the agony of anticipation, the agony which has been building with his "satsangs," the "darshan line," the ups and downs of the whole festival. Suddenly there is no question of who is directing the "vibe." The "energy" simply explodes, "The Love affair which grew hour by hour climaxed when GMJ danced with us." (Divine Times, 1-2/79, p. 3)
Now from the chair, he invited us all with gestures, motioning us to rise up to him, to keep going, to dance on, to go beyond ourselves and to join him.
The Guru dances slowly, swinging both arms upward from side to side.
"The measured, full majesty of his dance, the power and authority in his every movement, lifted us higher and held us there." Everyone's arms are swinging now, just like his, the crowd a vast sea of dancing arms magnifying his every movement. Now one hardly has to try to "surrender," make an effort to "open the heart;" one simply melts one's "separation" into the crowd's loving uproar, a drop drowned in the crowd's vast sea:
He danced on and on, destroying our reserve, blowing our hope, embracing us in ecstacy … an experience so out of this world; … our hearts so open in Love, the most natural moment in our lives. Our hearts chanting, shouting, dancing freely with their liberator and Lord! (Divine Times, 1-2/79, p. 3)
This is the experience of merging, of "losing it," of utterly forgetting the self, of stepping into cosmic pageantry, the dance of reality, dancing with God. GMJ's wife Durga Ji said, "Guru GMJ is the most beautiful dancer. He wrote the dance. He wrote the music. He wrote the whole script. He made the dance floor." But somehow, she implies, even in the midst of this collective ecstacy, one still feels oneself alone with the Guru, "… and he's asked each one of us personally, individually, to dance with him." (Divine Times, 1-2/78, p. 31)
But this is different from the aloneness of individually meeting him in the "darshan" line or individually listening to him in "satsang" oblivious to everyone else. This feeling of dancing alone with the Guru is the individuality of oneself feeling so merged, so at one with the ecstatic throng that one becomes in a sense everyone, and with oneself as part of everyone he is dancing alone. Oneself the individual no longer man or woman, bigshot or "bongo," front row or back row, but oneself the everyself, dancing alone with him as he dances with all. So when GMJ dances, the paradox of "Krishna Lila," Lord manifested at once for each and for all, is finally understood. And rumor has it that
even GMJ can hardly contain the ecstacy of those moments:
When Maharaj Ji left the stage, seeming so God-intoxicated, so full of love, that he could barely walk, moving so slowly, his bronze shoulders and bare back there for all to see, the premies in the audience could only sit back stunned, full of the love of GMJ. (Divine Times, 9-10/78, p. 39)
"Holi" festivals also arouse this sort of ecstacy:
Holi is one of the most sacred festivals of India. Celebrated on the full moon of March, Holi recalls the divine Lila of Lord Krishna, Perfect Master of His time … Lord Krishna threw colored powders and paints over His Gopis, who ran to receive this blessing.
The meaning of the symbolism is perhaps best expressed in the verse of Saint Mira-Bai:
I am dyed in the color of my Lord,
Only His color do I know.
It is the Grace of the Perfect Master which entirely transforms our lives, coloring us with His Mercy and Compassion. Our lives take on a completely new hue as we are drowned in devotion and service to our Lord. (Divine Times, 4/15/73, p. 1)
GMJ has "played Holi" from a huge two-story platform mounted with fire-hose fueled guns, three times in the Miami Orange Bowl, twice in fields in southern Spain:
Slowly, smilingly, he strolled down the long catwalk, allowing premies to be with him for a long, delicious moment of eternity. (Divine Times, 4-5/78, p. 15-16)
Again, as with his dance, the arms all reach upward, ready to receive the Guru's colors. No chairs for the audience this time, no rows, no saved seats, no special people up front, no structure at all, just an open field with everyone pushing, just white clad bodies pressing as close to that platform as possible. 20 One may stay toward the edge or sit in the stands if one has a small child or can't feel the mood, but once caught in the middle there is no way to sit down or even stand in meditative silence, for one is pushed and shoved by the crowd and besides one is soon sopping wet:
Water. Pouring at a rate of up to 500 gallons a minute. With such pressure - an average of 80 pounds per square inch - that the premies in front not only are covered with Holi colors but with carnation petals as well, the stream tearing them away from the flowers which line the stage. (Divine Times, 4-5/78, p. 15-16)
The spray comes, the arms and the shouts rise, everyone jumps.
As the white clothes are dyed purplish and greenish, the mind is intoxicated with jumping, with shouting, with shivering, with the play of rainbows in the arcing water, with straining every moment to gorge on another eyeful of "darshan" close up, GMJ with his Holi guns, GMJ playing. Others' faces drip red and blue water, drenched beyond recognition. And, as with the dance, one loses oneself in the crowd's vast scream of delight:
More than two hours go by as we barely notice time is passing. Almost 35,000 gallons of water fly through the air - three and a half gallons per drenched devotee … (Divine Times, 4-5/78, p. 15-16)
And the water was cold, but surrender was warm. But really there's no way to describe that experience that happened inside each premie. (p. 4-5)
Every devotee's experience the same, the writer implies, nothing solemn but a cleansing, a purification of joyfulness which obliterates all regrets, an outrageous happiness, an overwhelming fun, one's ultimate intoxication reflected in every other face. And finally, when it is over,
Premies close to the stage immerse their faces in puddles, doing pranam, after GMJ abruptly shuts off the water cannon and strides back down the catwalk. (p. 16)
"After Holi, what could satisfy the heart of a premie?" (Divine Times, 4-5/78, p. 16) And after "darshan,"
The challenge is clear. Can I stay in this place and move at the
same time? Babies, old friends, announcements, yogurt, and a bhajan 21 sung in a key unfamiliar to the Western world greet me back at the hall. (Divine Times, 8/78, p. 5)
GMJ's dance or "Holi" only last for an hour or two of the festival, and many festivals have neither. The intense excitement which compels one to "merge" during "Holi" quickly dissipates as premies prosaically converge on the stadium's bathrooms to change their motley- colored wet clothing. After GMJ's dance, someone begins to announce about bus and charter flight schedules over the PA. Premies become quite sensible, gathering up their things to leave, no longer dancing in the ecstacy of just five minutes before.
The rituals of GMJ's "satsang," his dance, and "Holi" provide a collective context through which the realm encountered in individual meditation and "darshan" can be understood together. But afterwards, premies must somehow integrate extra-ordinary experiences of festival rituals with ordinary social life. They achieve this not so much by assigning complementary meanings and uses to the ordinary and the extraordinary, but by trying to deny or avoid the ordinary altogether. When an old friend appears one is happy, but somehow the encounter is extremely impersonal. Suddenly the past is gone, being with that old friend is no different than not being with him:
Two premies running toward each other, shouting "Jai Satchitanand!" and hugging, swirling each other around, smiling into each other's eyes. Then the odd, curious, wonderful "festival conversation" begins.
You tell each other where you're living now and what service you're doing, ask about mutual lovers on the endless path. Then suddenly, those famous words - "Well, really, there's nothing to say." They go unspoken, like the Word itself, and you part. You haven't seen this brother or sister in a great long while, but you part after five minutes in each other's arms. … It's called family realization: in your time apart, you've each come closer to the love of our Lord, so you're closer together. What's there to say? (Divine Times, 10/15/74, p. 3)
On the level of practice, premies try to avoid the cycles of
"maya" by trying to stay always "in tune with GMJ," to prolong the "experience" in hopes that sufficient practice will establish it for good. At the festival, between the special rituals, they try to keep "connected" with the "energy." For to them the "energy" has a life of its own, arising from the crowd's devotion and the Guru's "divine love" but then hovering unconfined by a specific occasion as a sacred, unpredictable manifestation of Grace which transforms the whole festival site. At a festival held in a bullfighting ring in Spain,
It was like this bullring stood for something. And when that sat- sang started to happen there, … something happened to this bullring which made it completely different. (Divine Times, 4-5/78, p 5)
One feels intoxicated simply to be there.22 Once transformed by the "energy," the festival site stands out in sharp experiential contrast to the drab cheerlessness of the surrounding mundane world:
We are in a place called Philadelphia. Or are we? … In the hazy gray of a sunless day … we wander across a funky university campus. … We step through a door queue up … Whoosh! We're safe again, in His World. Wrapped snug in a Love which never had a beginning and never, never knows an end … swallowed up again in that world that's so-much-more-than-real. (Divine Times, 9-10/78. p. 5)
Everyone radiates beautiful smiles. One glides through necessities of body and service as if on well-oiled wheels. Everything slides into place according to the "perfect" laws of a preternatural harmony. And even without the Guru's immediate presence the dance can continue:
When the stage was bare, we looked at a vision of his presence, took it within, and danced … each of us, every one of the thousands, was dancing away his mind. … No one chose a partner who could be seen; this was a dance divine, personal movement between devotee and Lord … Dancing loose, dancing free, touching the energy and letting it move us, our hands, our feet, our heads, our bodies; our souls danced until it hurt to breathe and still we danced. (Divine Times, 10/15/74, p. 3)
For many, the intoxication of the festival "energy" tides them over between specific rituals easily enough, but one must guard it
carefully. For "illusion" lurks in every moment, ready to tear one out of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is not even the gathering, then, not even the ritual, not even the place and the time but a certain twitch of consciousness which allows one to glimpse, in a Spanish bullring, in the Miami Orange Bowl, among rows of dusty tents in northern India, that
This is the Garden of Eden finally found. Here we walk with God not in metaphor or fantasy but in the manifest reality. ("And It Is Divine," 1/73, p. 21)
On the one hand, "Reality is what's happening now, here, in this hall." But one can't count on it, for in another sense, "even the hall, even the stage is an illusion. The Truth goes so much deeper …" (Divine Times, 9-10/78, p. 5) For if one begins to "get caught up in" what's happening in the hall, taking only the appearance of a festival as one's reality then, as with most sorts of intoxication, nightmares hover ready to engulf the hapless premie who falls into his "mind" when he loses his wallet, gets sick, confronts an unpleasant "service" or an ex-lover or finds that a stranger has stolen his seat. Then he can glimpse no "reality" beyond long lines for food and toilets, bossy types striding about in slick suits, grungy types panhandling, the whole hassle of mundane society solidified tightly around him once again.
In such desperate straits one needs instant help. Few can muster up the determination to "connect" again through prayer and "informal meditation." With no quiet corner for "formal meditation," GMJ not due to give "formal satsang" again for hours, one clings to snatches of "informal satsang," which, like stepping stones, keep one above the dangerous currents of "maya," until the next ritual. Through "informal satsang" they regenerate the "energy," reorient one another back into the "experience" again and again.
NOTES TO CHAPTER VII
1) These are all festivals traditionally held in India. "Guru Puja" means "Guru worship" and can generally label many sorts of gatherings honoring living or legendary gurus. At "Holi" the lowly spray colored water, mud, oil, buffalo urine on their superiors as a dramatization of what Turner (1969) calls "status reversal." "Hans Jayanti" is specifically an Indian Divine Light Mission tradition honoring the birth of GMJ's father, Shri Hans Ji Maharaj.
2) Quote from the popular premie song, "Lord of the Universe," written in 1971.
3) This sort of story lends itself easily to exaggeration and fabrication, but people I knew swore these particular incidents had actually happened to them.
4) The elaborateness of stages changed over time. After a stage-set with huge foil sails which resembled a huge ship, in Kansas City, January, 1978, GMJ apparently asked for more modest sets. Eventually the stage, especially for public programs, featured just a simple chair for GMJ.
5) Often an elaborate waiting room underneath the stage was built. For one festival someone requested that the Bay Area premies make beds for GMJ's wife and children and sister-in-law and her child to wait in during the hours GMJ spent in the "Darshan" line. We constructed five beds from scratch, and made bedding as well. Some of the beds were very elaborate, one resembling a helicopter for GMJ's son, another a playhouse for his daughter. Volunteer crews worked day and night for weeks, and generous funds were constantly needed. I, at least, never heard how the family liked the beds or even if they were ever used or saved for future occasions.
6) Premies were fond of picking up not only drug jargon, but also jargon from other "spiritual paths." "Bending like a reed in the wind" is a typical American Zen or American Taoist expression.
7) Premies have often wreaked havoc on non-Mission property as well. A communique from the Mission PR department to all premies said certain hotels "would not accept DLM at any cost because of the amount of damage and theft reported by the hotels premies used in the past." Damage included theft of "hotel towels, pillows, pillow cases, blankets, sheets, … Vandalism is common … In many hotels, rooms were left so dirty that they had to be completely re-done." The communique went on to list specific damage done at specific hotels, including plumbing problems due to diapers flushed down toilets which required $5000 of repairs at one hotel. (Circa 1979, undated letter to the premies entitled: "Re: "Consciousness about Hotel Use at Programs.")
8) A particularly striking example of defection following a demotion occurred when an Indian Mahatma quit the Mission when GMJ put him to work, in a premie grocery store. The Mahatma set himself up as a
rival guru saying he came to America to be a saint, not a clerk.
9) The "darshan" custom is a response to "charisma" which corresponds well with Weber's original use of the term. People in the West also turn out en masse to view politicians, saints and celebreties in person, but they have no term for the custom nor any theological rationale for their behavior. If one questions Westerners closely, however, one finds them describing their internal responses to meeting the great, sometimes in great detail.
10) Among New Religous Movements this custom is not unique to the DLM. A film about Bhagawan Shri Raj Neesh shows a "darshan" line complete with devotees falling away into a faint. Followers of Muktananda used to line up so he could touch each head with a peacock feather.
11) In the early days in the West premies still sang "Arati" in Hindi, like their fellow premies in India. Gradually various portions were translated until the entire hymn, fifteen minutes in length, was sung in English. It was said to have been written by a "Swami Brahmananda." For the text of Arati, see appendix II.
12) I have heard about half a dozen rumors about alleged attempts on GMJ's life during "darshan" lines. Guards also remove anyone obviously hysterical, calming them so they can return to the line more quietly.
13) "Divine Times" reports on this instance as highly unusual: "In Toronto the premies had at least 60 seconds just to watch GMJ before they touched his feet." (12/10/74, p. 1) Usually one has only a few seconds to look at him while waiting, and two or three seconds to bend and kiss his feet. GMJ actually calculates the number of seconds each premie should be allotted in order to get the line over in a reasonable time, and instructs the people who usher the premies through just how long to allow each premie actually touch his feet.
14) Loosely translated as "Hooray for the Perfect Master!" Premies go through phases of feeling embarrassed to shout it and phases of shouting it self-righteously, as if to defy all Western conventions. At public programs, they try not to shout it.
15) Current "anti-cult" literature is fond of charging mass occasions like DLM festivals with "hypnotizing" the followers. That a sizeable proportion do snooze during GMj's "satsang" would perhaps add fuel to their argument, but then on the other hand most stay wide awake, fascinated by the Guru and their own responses to him. The variety of responses described below seem to counter any argument for a blanket, uniform, hypnotized reaction. If one observes the listeners carefully and talks with them afterwards, one is astonished to discover their varying sorts of reactions.
16) The "energy" or "vibration" which premies feel in crowd situations seems in some ways analogous to what Durkheim calls "collective effervescence," the almost electric feeling which arises during the intensity of aboriginal collective frenzies. But for premies, experience of the "energy" is not confined to collective frenzy, for they
feel it in the collective quiet of GMJ's satsang. Neither is it confined to those times when the collectivity is all assembled together. Premies feel the "energy" intensely in the "darshan" line when they file by the Guru one by one; they also feel it at non-ritual, random moments during the festival, perhaps not even at the festival site -- and further, they are still able to "feel it" after the festival ends, if they learn how and try hard enough. Perhaps the "energy" is more obvious at collective occasions, but once one learns to recognize and help generate it, one can find and use it at many other times.
17) Spiritualism, clairvoyance, the "occult milieu" provide the only language in American culture for describing "charisma" in any technical sort of way. Everyone is thought to have an "aura," but saints' are much more vivid than others'. Premies borrowed from this language, as they borrowed from the drug culture language, but never developed a consistent and uniform theology about the "energy" or its sources. GMJ never discussed "auras," though he frequently discussed "energies" and "vibrations".
18) The singing, yelling and jumping can last for hours, though the only time I felt it was getting really out of control was once in a Los Angeles hotel when the floor sagged with each beat as the crowd jumped. Instead of recognizing any danger, the band played louder and faster, but luckily the floor never gave way.
19) This description argues against the assumption prevalent in "contagion" theories of collective behavior that the participant, passive and unaware, "catches" the crowd's mood much as one catches cold germs. The "contagion" theory cannot explain why individuals react differently in a collective situation, nor the active steps they take either to reject or to absorb the crowd's mood.
20) Premies simply wear white clothes to Holi so that the colored-water dyes to be sprayed on them by GMJ will show up more readily.
21) Indian-style "bhajans" are played infrequently. Most bands play Western pop-style music, Latin American bands Latin music.
22) At two or three festivals I felt such a sense of intoxication that I idly wondered if the anti-cultists' claims were true, that the Mission somehow sneaked drugs into the food or water. But I would still feel intoxicated at the festivals when I drank or ate nothing at the site itself, and the Mission could hardly have doctored the food and water at every hotel and restaurant in Montreal or Miami.