To see premie life as the re-enactment of the "Krishna Lila" myth of union, separation, and union with the divine is to see in religious life regular oscillations between the sacred and profane. In this interpretation premies seek "experience" of sacredness away from ordinary group life - alone in meditation or in the "darshan" line or in the "communitas" of special rituals like festivals, festival rituals, and "formal satsang." Ordinary life becomes in contrast a time of mourning for the return of the divine in "experience" or in person.
But the Krishna myth has another level. Only in the illusory world of "maya" does Krishna play at coming and going; in the "reality" glimpsed through realized perception he never leaves for he is everywhere, within and without:
By nightfall, He [Krishna] has not come. Still Radha proves her love and wisdom. She has another way to reach Him.
"How quickly, dear Sakhi,
How quickly will my heart and mind,
All that is "I,"
Run swiftly to that hidden place
Where nothing exists
But endless union with Hari."
And this is the incomprehensible play of Radha and Krishna; that they weep, longing for the joy of each other's company even while being completely united internally, where there can be no parting. ("And It Is Divine," 3/73. p. 43)
Following this example, premies seek unbreakable union with the divine while playing along with the alternations between long periods of drab, ordinary life and exciting meditations and rituals. "Formal"
practices are necessary, they say, not only because Guru Maharaj Ji's "play" demands them but also because premies, as beginners, cannot sustain their "connection" at other times without concentrated doses of "experience."
Between "formal" practices, "informal" practices - like "informal meditation," service to the Guru, and "informal satsang" play an ambiguous role. On the one hand they can function, like "formal" practices, as experiential islands of the sacred where one can escape from profane ordinary life. The oscillations between sacred and profane may occur from hour to hour or even moment to moment, but they still occur and one can distinguish between them. On the other hand one can use "informal" practices to sacralize all of mundane life; to underlie all apparent ups and downs with a steady sense of divine presence.
Among "informal" practices, "informal satsang" is the most potent because it involves social interaction. Like romantic love in conventional life, it stands idealized and pursued, central to social life but curiously outside it as well for when it actually emerges no comfortable expectable social niche can contain it. Always out of place, the "informal satsang" "experience," like romantic love, breaks free forgetting the restraints of its origins until anything goes in the ecstatic merging of disagreeing minds, of disparate social ranks.
On the other hand premies also establish "informal satsang" as the basis of all premie social life, using it to sacralize mundane as well as ritual activity so that they might always realize Radha's perception of the Guru's eternal omnipresence. In this case "informal satsang" becomes a rule and a duty as well as an ideal, like love in conventional married life. Premies come to require "satsang" of their
society always and finally to define all interaction between premies as "informal satsang."
THE PRACTICE AND "EXPERIENCE" OF "INFORMAL SATSANG"
When a premie has lost the "experience" and feels down, when he hasn't the inspiration nor the discipline to practice "informal meditation" nor the time and place to sit in "formal meditation," and when no "formal satsang" is available, then he can seek out "informal satsang" with any other premie. Premies come to crave and to pursue "satsang." Caught in the outside "world" at work they phone one another frequently, write endless "satsang" letters, or wander about until they run into another premie. At home with other premies they desperately beg one another for "satsang" any time of day or night, drop every thing, haunt a seemingly "closed" fellow premie until he will "come off his trip" and "surrender to satsang." They will stop in the middle of any task until "satsang" sets the "vibe" right, for once it does the "energy" flows, they can drive all night, type all day for a nasty boss, rehearse a song so it finally sounds right, agree for once on the premie house dishwashing schedule. Everything seems to fall right into place.
"Satsang" between even two willing premies develops slowly. When they meet, fresh from encounters with "mind" or with a "world" which has never heard of "satsang," their eyes may dart anxiously about, or pain dulls them, or care pulls their gaze ground-ward. They cannot look clearly at one another and, perhaps forgetting that they ever could. they continue to stare past one another, bickering and gossiping and planning as if the world of "maya" were their only home. But sooner or later guilt or longing reminds them of the possibility of "satsang."
As with the first subtle moments, of flirtation, "satsang" begins not with words, but with the eyes. For "satsang," like romantic love, flows best through an open, steady gaze. And premies are meeting as Guru Maharaj Ji's lovers, delving within one anothers' eyes for his "look that is no look." One lets the new mood flood through oneself until it widens the eye, mellows the voice, deepens the breath. Then, as in flirting, one waits for a response before going too far. The other, instantly attuned, can easily parry these first gestural hints. For the direct gaze requires "surrender." One must abandon distractions and attend fully to the other, receiving, as in "formal satsang," his eyes, voice, mind, everything he offers without fear of being overwhelmed. And -unlike "formal satsang" - one must reveal oneself as well to the other all-penetrating gaze, oneself in all one's hesitation, pain, distractedness, and wilfulness. One must be "open to satsang," as the premies say, open to receive and open to be seen through. So one waits, weighing one's desire for "satsang experience" against the nakedness of surrender, knowing the other is weighing these as well. If finally the other eyes one more fully, sighs deeply, or drops an oblique premie cli che, one responds with warm interest and a steadier look. Thus luring one another, the gazes and words became more direct. Perhaps, like a nervous lover suggesting a first kiss, one may say "let's have some satsang," but usually the first move emerges within the general flow, the eyes gazing steadily, the words leading direcly into the praise of Guru Maharaj Ji.
Once minimal "surrender" allows a mutual steady gaze, premies begin the process of concentration learned in meditation and "formal satsang" - catching one's attention as it strays to other thoughts, and
bringing it back to the immediacy of the breath, the other's eyes and words. But now the process is shared. Two attentions tend to wander, while two awarenesses try to recapture those attentions: one monitors the other's as well as one's own attention, and one's own focus is monitored by the other as well as by oneself.
At first each knows they want to "feel the experience," but both have forgotten the sensation and actually how to activate it. The concentrated sorting-through of thoughts and responses must proceed with no sense-able object, and any excitement or soothingness may be mistaken for the "experience" and amplified until it obscures the original intention. This often happens, for example, when the two start indulging in self-righteous guilt about their weaknesses as practitioners. Guilt- excitement inspires many "satsang"-like phrases but also generates experiences of tension or depression. Alternatively, the two may begin to indulge in a joint fantasy - "wouldn't it be great if Guru Maharaj Ji came to our community;" or "what would the world be like if everyone were premies?" The pleasant, fanciful image relaxes them at the cost of diverting attention entirely away from the present moment where the "satsang experience" lies.
The most insidious distraction from "satsang," however, is the solace of simply agreeing with one another - agreeing generally that Guru Maharaj Ji is the Lord and premies are right, or specifically that one's own theological camp, alone among premie views, has finally figured out what Guru Maharaj Ji is really trying to teach.1 A view thus solidified by mutual agreement is unlikely to appear as yet one more facet of "illusory thought;" yet the "experience" will emerge only when this agreed-upon view, the comfort it brings, and the whole notion of having views at
all is left behind.
To "experience satsang" premies must push beyond obstacles like the comfort of agreement. They must actually generate the "experience" through the means of 1) joint concentration and 2) properly used "satsang" words; both guided by an unswerving longing.
1) Joint Concentration: The mutual stare of joint concentration itself produces a certain sensation, a feeling of great, quiet stillness. As concentration increases, straying words stand out ever more obviously. So too do straying glances and moments of flagging attention. Ever more subtly, one's attention detects minute changes in the eyes and face of the other, the tone and tenor of the words. Eventually the point comes when a distracting thought appearing in one's ow mind and a corresponding disturbance on the face of the other appear simultaneous, and one feels them to be linked. Or one reacts with a slight jolt knowing the other has just witnessed a distracting thought within himself. One begins to feel that the distracting "thoughts" are more like impulses which burst in both minds simultaneously and can be stopped even before they take on interpretive reactions. Together the two awarenesses watch as the attentions stray together momentarily and are refocused toward the center of one another.
Such stillness, such attunement, captivates the two with wonder and delight. But unless carefully directed by "satsang" words and longing for the "experience," intense mutual concentration can lead instead to other experiences, like what I shall call "trance," or to sexuality.
By "trance,"2 I mean simply a concentrated absorption into something which can break off further awareness of the actuality at hand an eventually communication with one another. When the mind is intensely
concentrated, nearly anything can fascinate. Even if both attentions together switch to an object near them, or an intriguing idea, or background music, each may delve alone into it and soon lose contact with the other's mind or even forget his presence. Or the sensation of super concentration itself can fascinate, until each becomes so busy with his own experience that he forgets to keep reengaging the other. The two may even still gaze at one another, they may even imagine they still feel in common, but they no longer communicate. Communication only continues when the minds remain concentrated but not absorbed, moving the attention on from one moment to the next, to keep together in the instant at hand.3
If "trance" is avoided, the means of mutual concentration - like direct gazes and mutual cuing - can induce sexuality instead of "satsang." These end experiences are not identical. The sexual mood floods one's being with wild excitement, tensing the muscles, charging up the heart, breath, and emotions, absorbing the attention with trance-like fixity.4 For "satsang" to prevail, both together must choose it. For if both choose sexuality the exciting emotions and powerful sensations (even if neither overtly acknowledges it) will disturb the "satsang" stillness of mind. A liberal, unofficial school of premie thought contends that the "love" of sexuality can sometimes lead to "divine love," for when the excitement has died down communication born of mutual experience and giving remains and can easily be shifted into the "satsang" mode.5 But more conservative premies warn that sexuality usually cuts off communication because the volatile emotions can switch so quickly from love to hate, from excitement to boredom and exhaustion. Further, sexuality can so easily involve "ego" games of
conquest and control and "surrender" to one another rather than to "satsang" and Guru Maharaj Ji. Close communication with one's partner is gained at the expense of close communication with others. And finally, as with trance, the excitement of the sensations may cut communication even between the two, for while one loses the self in ecstacy, the other may lose it in frustration.6
At the same time, premies see that the mutual avoidance of sexuality can cut off satsang communication as decisively as can indulgence:
Before taking a nap I had a little satsang with the premie I was sharing a hotel room with … The communication was deep, and we were both feeling grateful for Knowledge and for this chance to share.
Between one moment and the next, a wall shot up between us. It was hard and impenetrable, and made any further attempts at satsang impossible. … The fear cut off the love we were feeling completely, and left no alternative but for both of us to try to ignore each other … I had told him I was gay. ("Light Reading," 11/15/76, p. 8)
(Between heterosexuals, rejected sexuality is nearly as cold.) Moral scruples, embarassment, fear, repulsion, the wish to avoid entanglement can all tempt a premie not to risk the mutual concentration which leads to "satsang" but might lead to sexuality. When both are struggling so hard to avoid the issue - or when one struggles while the other remains oblivious - the open, trusting, sharing, mutual gaze of "satsang" is nearly impossible.
The course premies must choose, therefore, is to acknowledge together, if ever so subtly, the possibility of the sexual choice, the presence of desire - but then to continue concentrated communication. They must let it pass as they let everything else pass, agree to let it pass, watch each other let it pass. Then they must watch together and also let pass the disappointments, humiliations, frustrations and everything else that accompanies sexuality foregone. They can only do
this when they trust that further, more satisfying communication is possible, and when, in the light of that trust, the wild urges and intense self-involvement of sexuality can be witnessed at a bit of a distance, when the one desiring can be seen as not one's ultimate, permanent self. As they let sexuality gradually pass by they lose not only the excitement but also the encumbrances that sexual encounter can impose - the obligations, the roles, the feelings. But they keep the "love," ever-radiant, warm and giving but now "purified;' impersonal, beyond the kind of love that they could have controlled and given back and forth just to one another. The encounter thus opens beyond themselves eager to welcome others, eager to welcome the ungraspable presence of the Guru.7
2) "Satsang" Words: Premies keep their "satsang" intention on course - past trance and sexuality - with "satsang" words. But again, words must go beyond merely generating agreement; they must evoke the "experience." One must speak the words "peace," "truth," "love," "darshan," "Holy Name," not as if one possessed them and their meaning, but as if they were hollow like windows, as if through them could shine the mystery and beauty, the wonderful, awesome, humbling powers of the "reality" one cannot quite yet perceive. The spoken words knock urgently on the door of "experience," so to speak, calling on it again and again until insistent faith and longing dissolve the door, the separation. So goes the premie cliche, that "experience" of Knowledge is one of the few things in this world you can get just by talking about it
When words generate the first whiffs of "experience," the two, closely concentrated together, start pointing it out to one another. "Connecting" suddenly with "Holy Name," one gazes as if from the breath,
leading the other through one's eyes into the source of that breath.
Or one lets an exaggeratedly delighted smile rest in the features a moment longer than normal to show the presence of the extraordinary, or smooths the air with one's hands as if all had just settled into ultimate peace. And by a myriad of even subtler gestures premies tell one another, "it's here!"
And, as we each surrender more to the superior power, what we see in each other's eyes increasingly twinkles us back to the place where nothing is going on save the quiet celebration of two people discovering they are actually one in the first place. ("Light Reading," 12/17/76, p.3)
The words too begin to point it out - not blatantly, announcing "here's Holy Name," or "I feel Guru Maharaj Ji's presence all of a sudden" - but in the reverence or lightness with which they are spoken, so that somehow "that feeling" of the festival one is talking about becomes "that feeling" here and now, and "Guru Maharaj Ji's look" becomes the other's look.
At first the "whiff" of "experience" may come and go, but seeing it in the other and seeing the other see it in oneself, and seeing it together directly in another's gaze which melts into one experience -all this fans its fire. Both delve spontaneously into long, deep, meditative breaths, and now words begin to follow the breaths. Intensified listening inspires more carefully pronounced words pinpointed in clarity and sincerity of tone more precisely to the developing feeling. Words become simpler, each meaning more, the shared perception expanding, the need for explanation and refinement dropping away when "oh," or "wow" or "you know" or a giggle or just the mention of "his love" reverberates with an orchestra of felt meaning. Sometimes pauses lengthen, the eyes speaking as they forget to talk, an occasional word just checking to make doubly sure that both, at the same time, are with each other in
that electrified stillness. The unbroken gaze searches and penetrates, trusts and receives. When the eye can reveal everything speech drops away. Conversation lulls, the eyes which meet rivet, fathoming untold meanings from one another, touching the breath. The esence of each floods into the other and the breath-looks outshine all else which might be seen.
If they continue to talk a lot, telling one another long stories (in "satsang" premies often only take turns speaking at long intervals) the chatter or words flows like a stream, literally meaning nothing very new but carrying by their tone the fullness of "experience." One may be repeating the story of one's Knowledge initiation for the tenth time to this person, but with the retelling both witness as if for the first time the essence of that moment, the wonder of new vision. Like people gazing in awe at a sunset or a new-born baby they feel they are witnessing a supreme wonder. - But now the source of this wonder is within each other - within yet somehow not of them. Their faces fascinate each other, but they are no longer ordinary faces, ordinary eyes. Light plays strangely on them; nearby objects radiate with hidden significance. The radiance, the bare thereness of a cup, a flower, a hand, the other's face, the feeling of free, awesome delight - all fascinate with equal intensity, bespeaking the Guru's infinite presence. They marvel at it all, and marvel also at the marvel of marvelling together. And each further contact, each finer meaning of understanding, increases that awe until one feels so light one can hardly keep from laughing.
The exchange becomes both extremely intimate and extremely impersonal. One is not basking in pride at the other's admiring gaze; the other is not overcome by awe of the first. Through one another's eyes
something else is witnessed before which the usual habits of self drop away. They feel freed from all that, free to say anything and have it understood. Free to play, as one premie described playing with children
You don't worry about rules and regulations and what's going to happen but you are just free sharing that love with that child … to just really explore what's happening at the moment with that child and to really get into that vibration of love that's going back and forth between you and just flow with that. (O'Brien interview notes)
Having forgotten the "world" of obligations, claims, ceremony, distancing, they forget to defend themselves. Though they stand naked stripped of the importance of personality they also stand fearless, invulnerable because through the personality shines not the private self but the Guru, gazing at himself through one another's eyes. And Guru-essence loving Guru-essence can afford to be warm and intimate, need not bother to hurt, compete, need lay no plans to control and to keep. And because his presence sweeps through the air as well, through the room, the chairs, the sky, the world, through all the other others, one has no particular need for this one special other. If a third should come, they will both embrace him too, and if parting should come they would not fuss and emote beyond a knowing twinkle in the eyes.8
When "non-satsang" words must be spoken to carry on some ultimately illusory business, they proceed quietly and efficiently without breaking the flow of the eyes' unspeaking communion. If premies are not careful the pull of the eyes into extra-ordinary vision may obscure everyday necessity altogether, and they forget what they were about. Minutes and hours may go by, the two passionately absorbed by "satsang" into Guru Maharaj Ji's divine world, while the meal stands uncooked, the tire unchanged, organizational arrangements unattended to, the night unslept. For when their goal has been reached, of what use are preparations?
"INFORMAL SATSANG" AS ESCAPE FROM EVERYDAY LIFE
"Informal satsang," then, can easily provide an escape from everyday life. But in practice it is difficult. To achieve it premie must watch together and let pass the claims and urges of status, power, opinion, rule, obligation, just as they must watch together the claims and urges of sexuality so that their communication may proceed beyond it. They must trust that both share the aim of "getting beyond" anything impeding the free circulation of "energy" and awareness between them.
"Satsang," then, erupts easily among strangers, who may never have to deal with one another again, who haven't adopted habitual stances toward one another, who have little motivation to stab one another's opened "hearts." Premies eager for "satsang" intimacy catch one another's eye waiting in a festival restroom line, stuck in an Omaha bus terminal halfway to a festival, or drudging through some tedious festival service, at occasions when urgency and responsibility won't impinge on the feeling of ecstatic timelessness. Even premie strangers not seeking the "experience" will use "satsang" words because that is their lingua franca, the thing they know they have in common. Thus despite themselves premies just trying to pass the time in a friendly way may find the words' associative power bringing them twinges of "experience," inspiring them to concentrate towards the realization of "true satsang."
Most of the time non-festival premie life proceeds in small tightly knit communities where people know one another altogether too well and premie strangers rarely appear. Really ecstatic "informal satsang" may then fit more uneasily into premie life. An intense,
intimate "satsang" between a "community coordinator" and a "space-case" premie may undercut the coordinator's sense of authority for good. "Satsang" can also undermine the taken-for-granted trusts and distancing of friendships:
Close friends or a married couple - the other one is the hardest person to have satsang with. The hardest person to inspire or to pull out of a rut is your closest friend. It's easy for two people to get in a rut together - you're both there you just put up a bigger wall between each other … We don't have that much satsang with each other because we're just comfortable with each other. (interview notes)
What is revealed at the height of "satsang" intimacy, when both feel quite apart from their usual selves and singularly undefensive, may be remembered in a dimmer light later on when both are quite their social selves again.
Crisis, however, can temporarily estrange premies from one another in the sense that it trivializes everyday relationships, habits, and obligations and renders people equally vulnerable to the occasion. Suspended outside of routine life, they fall back like real strangers on the one thing they still have in common which seems to have endured despite one crisis after another, the ongoing and never-ending "sat- sang" stream of the Guru's praise which can sweep one along with it into his presence.
Nightly "satsang," festivals, and the disruptions their preparations entail provide one sort of crisis in premie life, and another emerges when the outside "world" crowds in on premies or when they venture out into it.9 Then too premies must face pan-human crises like birth and death, which they also celebrate with "satsang."
Three times I was invited to small "satsangs" with mothers of infants just a few hours old. They were not particularly close friends
of mine, but the feeling was that any premies would do because a beautiful "satsang" was bound to "happen." To premies, newborns exhibit the perfect peace of one united with the divine and utterly unaware of separateness, even the distinction of having one's own name.10 We told one another that the baby was still "experiencing" "Holy Name," nectar, music and light as he did in the womb. We remembered the way Guru Maharaj Ji described over and over the supremely knowing simplicity of his own infants, and Durga Ji's comment that Guru Maharaj Ji's own sleeping face had the purity of a baby's. We marvelled especially at the infant's breathing and related to one another stories of babies' first breaths, that moment when the power of "Holy Name" is said to rush into the body and vitalize it for the first time:
When my son was born, he was perfectly still; a small, wet doll resting in silence. I thought he was dead. …
There are medical explanations for those first moments of silence that frightened me so. The baby was still receiving oxygen through the umbilical cord; … That's what Science says.
But I knew there was something else that would push my child's first breath and that's what I was waiting for. I knew there could be plenty of oxygen in the umbilical cord - as it is in a hospital respirator that can push the chest of a dead patient up and down, up and down, in a hollow imitation of life - and I knew it wouldn't mean a thing. I was waiting for a power that would breathe my son right then and throughout his life, from the inside, (Yudell, 1980, p. 8)
The attention of everyone would turn to the "power breathing us," to the baby's silent face, to the room's silent glow until we hardly remembered who or where we were and, as they had predicted, "satsang" was "satsang" and it didn't matter which individuals were there.
Again with death attention turns to the breath. One premie described the death of his father as "so still and peaceful." He had just watched as the breath came more and more slowly, with longer inter, vals between until finally, after one exhalation, it never returned.
Premies have no theology of death other than the general belief that Guru Maharaj Ji's essence somehow gathers up those who focus on him:
One night on the camping trip Guru Maharaj Ji was talking and he usually never talks like this … He was expressing that nobody else can understand what he knows. He was saying, "I know everything … I know where John Miller's father [who had just died] is; he's in heaven because he brought a devotee of Guru Maharaj Ji into this world … I know what's going to happen in every one of your lives. In about half an hour there's a premie in New Jersey that's going to be killed in an auto accident. But it's O.K. That premie's remembering me and I'm going to take him."
And a little later someone called back east, and sure enough, right on time, a premie was killed in a car accident. (SF Community Newsletter, 5/77)
So when premies feel they may be dying they put their attention on Guru Maharaj Ji. When alone, they meditate. A premie who had a stroke recounts,
I woke up and there was death sitting on my chest like a tiger staring me in the face. And at that point it's all so simple, you have two choices which is to panic or to meditate … it's just like, you've got this thing up on the shelf and you just grab it, and I mean I was really scared, because I really felt maybe I'm gonna die, … and if it had happened to me without Knowledge, I would have completely panicked … There wasn't anything else to do, except just clutch Maharaj Ji, talk to Maharaj Ji, meditate, you know … I went in this hospital, and I just had such a sense of peace about that thing. I was still very much afraind, but I felt like there was one priority at that moment for me as a human being, was to really try to reconcile myself to OK, if I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die. It's not like I succeeded one hundred per cent, but I succeeded maybe half way, and that was enough to make it all right. (Interview notes)
When premies in the face of death find themselves with other premies they not only meditate individually but have "satsang" together even with premies they've never met before. The stroke victim compared his near-death experience with that of another premie who he took to the hospital after a bad accident:
I can't even tell you his name, because I haven't known him well before or since but that night he and I were like completely one. … The sister that hit him was not a premie, and she had a look of real terror and shock on her face … And here was this brother, he was the one that was hurt, and that guy was as blissed out as anybody I've ever seen in my life, and all he did all the way to the hospital as just have this high satsang about how beautiful it is
to have an experience like that that makes you really see what you've got, because the second he was hit, he just went into Holy Name. (Interview notes)
When the stroke victim had recovered enough to receive visitors in the hospital his immediate reaction to them was "satsang," not just speaking the words but perceiving their states and desiring to comfort and lighten them:
When you're in a hospital bed, like, everybody who walks in there is looking right at you, and you look in their eyes and really read exactly where they're at. And people were walking in there, even premies, with a look of real fear, tremendous fear. And my reaction to all those people coming in was to say, what's the matter, it's cool, please don't look like that, you don't have to be afraid, because I'm not afraid anymore, 'cause I have this Holy Name, and it's all Maharaj Ji's doing and it's all okay. (interview notes)
Premies facing death together hold to "satsang" even more intensely. Once a fire in the Malibu hills trapped some premies in Guru Maharaj Ji's house there (though Guru Maharaj Ji was not there at the time). One person later related that suddenly it was too late to run and even the swimming pool would provide no escape because the fire's heat would boil its water. So everyone retreated inside where, coughing and wheezing from smoke, they riveted themselves, fear and all, on an initiator giving the "heaviest, most intense satsang you can imagine." Noone panicked, and finally the danger passed.11
"SATSANG" AS SACRALIZATION OF EVERYDAY LIFE
"Informal satsang" arises easily among strangers and at crises in premie life, but not only then. All social life harbors the possibility of "satsang." Any unexpected or vexing event can warrant "satsang" and many such events following one after the other obscure "ordinary life" altogether. When premies no longer conceive their life as split into "satsang" and "non-satsang" zones, then "satsang" becomes
not an escape but an active, powerful force of sacralization.
A premie then approaches daily-life situations with the deliberate intention of using "satsang" consciously and accurately to influence others. Parents, for example, speak of
That place of peace that will calm a child and make him happy. You find that as you get more centered the child relaxes, will stop crying and fall asleep … There's always going to be a meeting point where the child and you can come together and understand because you have that meditation. (O'Brien, interview notes)
In the same way, premies center themselves to bring "scattered" house-mates or fellow premie workers into the "experience" and smooth out the interaction.
Intentioned "satsang" involves intuitive, sometimes uncanny perception. According to a premie doctor,
At times I would just become transported. People would come in to see me and somehow I would just know what was wrong with them. I found that I could see exactly what it was in the person's mind that was causing the illness. (Cameron, 1973, p. 131)
Ordinary premies, too, feel that from the "place" of meditation they need only glance at another to see if he is "in his mind" or not. But this perceptive glance is not just a private intuition; it is also the beginning of communication. Through the meditative glance the intentioned flow of influence begins:
There is a heightened awareness I come to in meditation where I just kind of know the person I am treating almost as if I have known them all their life - and they experience that too. It's such a rare and powerful moment - it's a feeling that the patients immediately comment on - that it relieves them of tremendous anxieties and even symptoms of serious illnesses.
At one point we were invited to speak before the psychiatrists at the hospital. They weren't interested in our meditation, but just with the power, or as they called it the "positive transfers" going on between us and our patients. (Cameron, interview notes)
To achieve this communication one watches the other's attention as it shifts from focus to focus, the other's eyes as they dart about
or fixate into brooding stares. When one understands what influences the other's attention, one can begin to attract it into one's own mood. One simply takes command, not allowing any gesture or comment by the other to distract from "satsang" intention, not reacting to any stray ideas, concentrating intently and knowing just the precise moment to speak, look, touch in such a way that the person relaxes or changes his mind or suddenly knows something has affected him. That precise moment comes when the other's attention lapses for just a moment, disoriented between trains of thought, when it is waiting to be caught by another thought-train and is caught instead by a "satsang" gesture, which must intrigue and captivate him so that he will not bother to notice the next thought-train arising in his mind.
The one being converted into the "satsang" mood, who is receiving this "satsang" intention, starts to relax perhaps even before he realizes the other is intending "satsang." He feels thawed by what seems like a glowing warmth coming from the other, and that glowing warmth, centered in wide, interested eyes, seems to invite and welcome until one is thoroughly curious to explore for oneself into that mood:
J's eyes are clear and receptive. When you talk to her she gazes gently and steadily, but not piercingly. Something unfathomable in her look intrigues you, begging to draw you in, until you start to get bored with what you were saying because you want to feel where she's at, be where she's at. So you just start to talk about certain things, talk in a certain way that brings you more and more in tune with that unfathomable feeling in her eyes, until you know that your eyes say the same thing hers do. (Personal notes)
Premies use intentioned "satsang" not just to convert each other individually back into the "experience," but to change the "vibration" of a whole group. When some of us were rehearsing a play, for example, and everyone got too rowdy and "scattered," we would spontaneously sit in a circle for "satsang" until concentration, patience, and coopera-
tiveness returned. A problem arising in a premie dwelling or business would similarly be approached with "satsang," sometimes such intense "satsang" that hours would pass without anyone so much as mentioning the problem itself. The new sense of a loving and cooperative "vibration," it was felt, would in itself solve the problem. Or the new outlook generated by "experience" would reveal solutions previously overlooked.
And often enough such would be the case. Premies began to view "satsang" as a practical tool in intergroup and interpersonal relations. Frequent "centering" in "satsang" would reduce friction and furstrations, taking the pressure off everyday relationships because "it allows us to still be in relationships and yet know we're in relationship to something that is beyond relationships itself:" (O'Brien interview notes)
Our family with Knowledge is such a tight-knit, happy, close unit, but also not nearly so attached to each other either … Knowledge just puts you in the place where you can see it that way. (interview notes)
In addition, premies felt that "satsang" provided a tool for actually confronting family and interpersonal problems. Detachment provided protection, while the hope of "satsang" communication provided a goal; premies felt they were airing problems for some purpose beyond personal triumph:
In many ways marriage is a good deal like meditation. The deeper you get into it the more you become aware of just how much junk there is to get past before you experience the joy that lies waiting … Your choices are three. 1) Put yourself/wife/husband on terminal hold and avoid any confrontation. 2) Split. Run. … 3) Go deeper into your conflict, rooting out the sources of separation. ("Light Reading," 12/17/76, p. 3)
As in the family so also in the premie community at large premies began, to feel that "satsang" could break down limiting structures
while sustaining people in a more joyous mode of communication:
Gradually our individual and collective habit patterns are being undone … As we become more secure in ourselves the need for community diminishes, yet paradoxically the joyous experience of it thrives. ("Light Reading," 12/17/76, p, 3)
Where else, premies began to muse, could you find a deli worker serving sandwiches with "so much love," or a supervisor who approaches a janitor, instructs him, and sighs, "I'm so blown away by His Love," and for a moment both gaze into one another's eyes oblivious to the task at hand. Where else would one find a community like Denver in the mid-70's, "The incredible phenomenon of 1,000 lovers of God living within a stoned throw of each other"? (p. 3)
"Satsang" as an Ideal: The sacralizing power of "satsang" was real, its impact did liberate and intoxicate so that one would float through days and months of happy smiles loving everyone, letting things "flow" so somehow the work got done but the caring never ceased. Everyone felt it at one time or another and most had never felt anything like it before.
But whether they felt it often or seldom, everyone began to believe in it. No matter what the state of their conventional families, here was one's true family, finally found: "I looked around at all the brothers and sisters with a depth that I had never experienced." (Divine Times, 10/15/74, p. 1) Guru Maharaj Ji became "Dad," especially honored every year on Fathers' Day, and Durga Ji became "Mom." And the family stood ever ready with warm, open arms:
The door is always open
Why don't you let yourself inside?
Coffee's boiling on the stove,
We want to hear you harmonize, …
You're in the family when you'r here
You're in the family when you're gone.
And if this place really ain't your home
You are still where you belong. 12
This family-like premie community came to have in premie minds certain consistent, Guru-given qualities. Wherever premies gathered to live, to work, to be together, they came to believe in their own magic, their own power, their own chosenness:
We have satsang. We have service. We have meditation and the Perfect Master. We have each other … Conscious businesses, divine marriages, whirling dervish dances, schools, celebrations for no reason, group meditation and propagation will spontaneously abound. Joyfully the family reunion will spread until there is no one left on this earth who does not understand the power and glory of community. ("Light Reading," 12/17/76, p. 3)
So constant "satsang," a permanently sacralized society, became the premie ideal. Then the ideal became a standard, and finally the standard became a rule.
"Satsang" as a Rule: At the Mission's organizational height "satsang" would preceed every premie business meeting of the directors, the carpenters, the clinic staff, the premie laundry employees, the cooks, even us writers. Often "satsang" turned out to be the meeting's only "business." Premie community life during such phases turned into an endless round of "satsang meetings" for people wanting to organize the local Mission office, play music, publish the newsletter, fund- raise, propagate to outsiders, and "meetings" for "satsang" among mothers, older premies, gays, third world premies, premies wanting to move into the ashram, and so on. Active premies might attend five or six such "satsang meetings" a week in addition to regular nightly "sat- sang." Then at festivals one could spy little rings of "satsang" here and there in and out of the hall. Leaders were preparing their little groups for a myriad of services.
The rule of "satsang" came to dominate one-to-one interaction as
well, not only between Mission official negotiating business and managing subordinates, but between any two premies at any time. All ordinary talk became "satsang" and every mundane communication had to be clothed in "satsang" words. Just to talk would feel a little uncomfortable because each would think and each would know the other was thinking that "were spacing out, we ought to be having satsang." So "satsang" words would appear, the talk would start to conform to premie beliefs and guilt would subside even though "experience" would not arise. "Satsang" thus forced tended to make ordinary communication awkward:
We're riding in the car to the program, talking about forgetting things, joking about things we've forgotten at times, relaxed, having a good time. … Suddenly Pat stops it all, "Just so we don't forget Holy Name." Someone echoes a weak "Right on, you just said it all," And no more can be said, it's against the ethic. It stops the conversation dead and everyone feels just a little embarrassed. (personal notes)13
The rule of "satsang" invaded every corner of premie society, at times wholly preventing ordinary talk, setting up "satsang" as the only acceptable means of communication so that others would turn away from ordinary talk from fear of disobeying their Guru or being tempted by the "mind" to "leave Knowledge." For fear of others' disapproval premies would thinly disguise their challenges, arguments, orders, complaints, manipulations, defiances in honeyed phrases of the Guru's praise. The recipients of such "satsang," finding the speaker impossible to penetrate and insensitive to pain and loneliness, occasionally cried out from the hurt:
Can't help wishing somebody had been able to ask what was wrong instead of so many judgements about me being made. ("AFO," Atlanta Community newsletter, 1976, p. 11)
But at such times in premie life there was no place to go for ordinary communication, to joke, to talk about problems. Premies seek-
ing advice from initiators always received "satsang," whether they wanted it or not, whether the "satsang" was "real" or not. Once when I went to a psychological counselor in the Denver premie clinic I was met with the remark, "I could do Gestalt with you, or some other methods, but I really think that satsang is the best therapy."14 Even someone in serious trouble had nowhere to turn. An ashram resident who had become pregnant complained that,
I wanted to be able just to go to the DUO director … But I didn't because I felt I couldn't be honest without getting the "satsang" that would make me feel guilty and feel that I had done something wrong. ("Light Reading," 11/28/76, p. 5)
"Fake Satsang": Even when the "satsang" rule pervaded informal premie communication so completely still there was always an undercurrent of non-acceptance. "I don't go for these pep talks, this locker-room satsang," I heard once at an evening "satsang." Words sprung up which designated hypocritical "satsang," words like "fake satsang," "laying a trip," "the party line," "the rap," "preaching," "ego trip," "mind-sang." Premies developed criteria for distinguishing "mind-sang" from "real satsang," calling "mind-sang" rigid, forced, unloving, seeing in it the desire for power and getting one's way and the absence of the desire to listen to and accept the other. In notes for an article about "satsang" (which I was trying to write while still an insider), I contrasted the "satsang" listener with the "mind-sang" listener. Both appeared to gaze at one with attentive "satsang" listening, but the "mind-sang" listener seemed to impose, coerce, and to thrust aside all one had to offer:
But with N. it was a little different. We used to gossip about everything together, with no thought or intention of satsang. But then she would suddenly switch to "listening to satsang" right in the middle, no matter what we were talking about, and maybe she wasn't even aware herself that she was doing it. But her eye - I
could only notice it in one eye at a time - seemed suddenly to pierce or to penetrate, almost in a cold way, almost like an animal's eye when it stares at you and you don't have any idea what is staring at you through that eye. I felt unnerved whenever this happened and a couple of times I even sort of glanced behind me to see what she could be staring at. Maybe once or twice I even said, "what are you looking at," or "what do you want?" I said that right in the middle of my sentence, or at least imagined I said it. A couple of times this piercing eye brought me into speaking satsang right away. Other times I was so unnerved I just ended the conversation.
Here the listening eye of the other was not gentle and clearly good, for it would suddenly and coldly begin to challenge. But for premies the distinction between "real" and "fake" "satsang" is difficult to make because one must first know whether or not one is coming from one's own "mind." The "mind," after all, will see "fake satsang" and hypocrisy even in Guru Maharaj Ji's "satsang." And the "mind" altogether deserves to be challenged, swished aside, haughtily rejected:
Sometimes it is very hard to tell the difference. Is it you or them? I was surprised, when talking with a friend recently about a period a couple of years ago when I was feeling very alienated from the premie community, to discover that while I felt that the reason for my feelings was just a heavy-duty paranoia, she confided that the premies very much had ostracized me. (SF Community newsletter, winter, 1977)
Premies uncertain whether the other intends "real" or "fake satsang" also become uncertain about their own experience. Imposed, coercive "fake satsang" demands in response the feigning of "experience" and will not relent until that feigning appears. A premie convinced that his own "mind" rather than the other's coercion is causing discomfort will relieve the tension by feigning "experience" and come to believe that this relief of tension is real "satsang experience."
Given the difficulty of distinguishing "real" "from "fake satsang," premies begin not to trust one another. Why risk "satsang," they feel, when one never knows if the other will truly abandon his claims and prestige and views and fling himself headlong beyond everything
toward the "experience?" The other may only fake, even fake truly believing he is not faking, and one will have opened oneself to his mercy. What if at the sight of all one's own pitiful weaknesses he hides his while gleefully preaching that long ago he surpassed one's feeble attempts at "surrender?" Then if one is not careful, if one is at all confused, one will lower one's eyes before his self-righteousness come to see one's own true "surrender" as false and his false "surrende as true. Utterly cowed by the other's moralistic force, one will accep as "truth" the pain of contradicting one's original intuition.
So premies find themselves "resisting satsang:"
Man, really humbling myself to someone and asking for satsang is a teeth-gritter. I'd rather go up to someone and spit on them than do that - it's much easier. (interview notes)
They provide a whole gamut of reasons for "resisting satsang," for not conforming to the ideal and the standard of premie society in which they fervently believe. This particular person blamed himself for "resisting satsang,"
I was walking through the hallway the other day saying Guru Maharaj Ji I am so sick of being beaten, so sick of fighting and as soon as I said that, I heard a voice inside me saying, "then why don't you give up? Huh? You're not so tired, you say you're tired, but you're putting up a hell of a fight, if you're so tired, why don't you just surrender and go to someone and humbly ask for satsang?" But I say, "No, no, never, I'll never do that." And it says, "Why don't you just go and tell someone you love someone," but no I'm not tell ing anyone I love someone - let them come and tell me. (interview notes)
The premie who had found that others had been ostracizing her blamed the group's immaturity for the fact that "opening up" to another for "satsang" was so difficult:
I know, ideally if you are having problems, you should be able to sit there and your vibe will attract the loving attention of those around you. This does happen occasionally, but I wouldn't take any bets on it. We as a group of people are not at that place just yet, Perhaps we will be someday, but in the meantime, we still have the
lessons of opening up to learn.
But she still urged the individual to perservere, knowing it is difficult but necessary:
When you feel like the last thing you want to do is open up to people, that's exactly what you have to do … Scary? You bet your sweet a*s it is. Let me say this, also; it won't always work. So what do you do? Keep trying. Keep trying. (SF Community Newsletter, winter, 1977)
Still others blamed the problem of "resisting satsang" entirely on the group and never on themselves. The official premie world appears to them as nothing but a grim organization full of fake poses and "power trips,"15 where the urge for "satsang experience" cannot find any outlet at all. These premies can feel "true satsang" only in rebellion against the words, the tone, the posture of the "fake satsang trip."
In the desperate attempt to be "real" these premies, like their nonpremie counterparts, flagrantly defy every pious premie custom with sex, drugs, rock and roll and profanity. They haunt premie communities, appear in "satsang" occasionally with sullen faces, hold their own version of "satsang" at the bar or late into the night tearing down the Mission and its hypocrisy, trying to skirt the "satsang" words which are blockading the "experience." One hears rumors of marathon meditations, exotic experiments with drugs and sex, visionary visitations by Guru Maharaj Ji.
Guru Maharaj Ji emerges in premie rebels' lore as "the ultimate rebel. He doesn't care about anything, anything that's unreal." (satsang notes) Their rumors have it that he has given his initiators hashish, that he went underground shortly before his marriage to try out every hippy vice in hopes of understanding his hippy followers, that even still he smokes dope with premies, puffing first on the pipe and then passing it around for premies to sniff from the bowl.16
Breaking the "Satsang Rule: This rebel life always rumbles
menacingly under premie society, occasionally enticing a leader or two away from his pious life, producing the most alluring of premie devotional singers, providing ambiguous food for thought for conventional premies:
We think they're spaced-out premies, but actually there's this unshakable, uncrushable thing inside, when you see it you know it's there and you know they're premies. (satsang notes)
But every so often this underground erupts to devour larger portions of the leadership until suddenly it has nearly everyone. Once again everyone gathers themselves into groups and meetings, this time not to repeat the "satsang" words but to attack them.
The 1976 era saw premies gathered not in "satsang" but in "workshops" - part of a plan Guru Maharaj Ji proposed as "a program for the premies that facilitates their understanding so that they can become helpful instruments in spreading Knowledge."17 The "workshops," like "satsang," aimed at communication but their primary goals seemed directed to realms of communication which "satsang" had been missing:
Our goals for the groups are:
1) To get to know each other a little more; (have contact with premies you don't ordinarily have contact with).
2) Allow each of us to express where we're at and collectively discuss issues and aspects of our lives with Knowledge.17
The first consisted of encounter-style communication games, one-to-one mirroring of gestures and words, listening, touching hands, and group circles touching and cooperating at various tasks. Some premies took it all as a great lark while others adapted only uncomfortably, bemoaning the absence of structured "satsang." Still others took the games as "satsang" and saw the sorts of spontaneity and warmth they required as the requisites of "real" spirituality and communication. Armed with this new standard, they bustled about hugging one another and judging others for being "so uptight." Thus the criteria for
interpersonal conduct became officially blurred, opening the way for any number of standards and many new ways to ostracize. For the first time the premie underworld could legitimately criticize the leaders' "ego trips."
The second workshop goal, "allow each of us to express 'where we're at,'" quickly broke beyond the limit of pious mouthings about Guru Maharaj Ji and ultimate bliss. Some discovered for the first time in these workshops that many others were dissatisfied or unhappy, that doubts ran rampant, that some did not even see Guru Maharaj Ji as "Lord."
If the first round of encounters centered on interaction styles and beliefs, the second attacked "satsang" words:18
In the past, we have misused language; instead of finding ways to communicate the essence and spirit of the Knowledge, we have chosen words which reinforce a conceptual framework of what we felt Knowledge "should be."19
Attack on the words brought attack on the theological "concepts:"
Take a look at our concept of surrender. Depending on which paradigm you're coming from, surrender is either passive or active, dynamic. ("Times Two," summer 1976, p. 24)
Eventually this attack on "concepts" reaped a questioning of the mode of spiritual life and organization they implied:
If, to you, surrender is a passive thing, then you are acted through. You do what you are told; you trust in the channels of Divine Light Mission implicitly, and you wait for direction … the organization looks upon you as an object: to be used. ("Times Two,"p.24)
What is this impulse we all have to be controlled, to be like puppets on some perfect master's string? … We shouldn't kid ourselves into believing that we are at all different from the fanatical followers of Moon, Moses David or Manson when we repeatedly foist our lives onto our guru and abandon all personal responsibility in some misguided pursuit of "surrender." ("Times Two," p. 7)
And finally the very role and nature of Guru Maharaj Ji - even the "Krishna Lila" myth was questioned:
Seeing Guru Maharaj Ji as Lord allows people to be seen and treated
as objects … If you see life passively, then the future is pre-recorded, your lines are already scripted, and Guru Maharaj Ji … knows this path so well it bores him, and he is only - with the detachment of a loving patriarch - coming down this one last time, because this is the play …
So long as Guru Maharaj Ji stands above the world, we also, "serving him" take liberties that infringe upon people's need to be free and creative and real. And we have a thoroughly authoritarian organization for this very reason. Authoritarianism is at the very base of our thought - of our paradigm. ("Times Two," p. 25)
Under the pressure of such intense doubts and questionings the national organization soon fell to pieces, the Denver International Headquarters crumbled, the ashrams emptied, and many premies embarked on marriage or careers. In the meantime instead of "satsang" they held parties and dances where more conventional means of intoxication competed with "his love."
But even during this time, before the organization and ashrams coalesced again through the 1977-78 series of festivals, still premies believed in Guru Maharaj Ji and in "surrender:"
Guru Maharaj Ji, as I hear him, is calling for a deeper surrender, a more personal, profound, and lasting attitude of unity with our deepest selves. ("Times Two," p. 7)
They still longed for "satsang," but now had to skirt around words and "concepts" to find it. Adherence to former taken-for-granted attitudes now reaped derision, as at one "workshop" I attended where a woman was roundly hooted for saying that all she wanted was to surrender to Guru Maharaj Ji and live in his ashram the rest of her life.
Premies knew that in their newly-found anti-authoritarianism they were still "judging" one another, but still they struggled to "get beyond" even these new conventions, standards, and beliefs. Once in "satsang" a leader got up and said, "What's wrong with this song?"
A world humanitarian leader has come to us this day.
A world humanitarian leader has come to us this day.
And he's come to show us the light
And he's come to show us the love
And he's come to show us the way …
It was a takeoff on the old premie favorite which began, "The Lord of the Universe has come to us this day," and the speaker was trying to say that to fixate on the new label for Guru Maharaj Ji was as bad as fixating on the old one. They still wanted to see Guru Maharaj Ji as their leader, but now less regally, more reachably:
Maybe Maharaj Ji isn't bored after all; maybe this adventure is as much a surprise to him as anyone … Maybe we have something to share with Maharaj Ji, rather than just receive things from him in a prepackaged way. ("Times Two," p. 25)
Even with such conscientious struggles against the words and spiritual categories, "real satsang" during this time remained as elusive as it had been at the height of the authoritarian organization. To flaunt the former Mission conventions at all times and revel in anti-organizational freedoms succeeded no better in sacralizing daily life than had the rule of "satsang." In their frustration premies became reflective, glimpsing for themselves the parade of devotional styles which had come and gone in DLM:
When I received Knowledge, it was what people would call an Indian trip … I was ready to wear yoga whites and beads and go barefoot. Premies were leading this nomadic life and nobody was worried about money. It was really groovy. But that didn't last long. From that it went to the extreme of everybody cutting their hair. Then, within just a few months, these total freaks had become, like, these walking rummage sales, wearin' all these old suits with pants halfway up to their knees - the other extreme. And it got to the point of a real austere, rigid form of life … Those extremes that we experience really help us. Because you can't lose those kinds of ideas until you've played that role right to the hilt. And then you say, "Oh, that isn't me." (Atlanta Newsletter, 1976, p. 4-5
Some even sensed dimly that the 1976 rebellion was just one more in this series of group styles, but such a view demanded that one buck the tide of joyful release from former rigidity which everyone was enjoying. Critique of the rebellion smacked of reversion to the past; and those
who insisted on it, along with those who really did cherish the past, has to insulate themselves in small counter-counter-groups who banded together aloof from the current trend.
Officially, questioning and sarcasm held the day. The Atlanta Community Newsletter, "All For One," typically published a takeoff on the popular premie song "Who is Guru Maharaj Ji?"
What is Divine Light Mission?
What is its current disposition?
That's the question you must ask,
Don't hold your breath til you get an answer.
What is the purpose of our changing
And all this talk of rearranging?
I know it's to serve, but why all these curves
As we trek on to our destination?
What keeps our corporate growth in motion?
Can problems be solved by commotion?
What's happened to the International Division format plan?
There's just so much to understand.
But the song only caricatured the Mission organization, and Maharaj Ji emerged unscathed:
Since DLM began,
There has only been one man
Who has always remained the same,
And we all know his Holy Name.
And the solution lurked, as always, beyond confusion in the meditative recesses of the breath:
What is Divine Light Mission?
Is Maharaj Ji pleased with our condition?
That's the question you must ask
Within your breath you'll find the answer. (1976, pp. 4-5
True "experience," true "satsang" and meditation, still hovered just beyond the reach of "concepts" and anti-"concepts." One had to wait as long as ever, beyond the fun and noise, and beyond the exaggeratedly "liberated" hugs and the new "real" ways of being, for those subtle moments when the eyes would begin to search in one another for the clear
1) Analyses by some apostates and commentators on DLM suggest that agreement is all that "satsang" ever achieves; that it sometimes reaches another level is suggested when one finds premies critiquing mere agreement. One woman who moved to the DLM headquarters in Denver wrote to her friends back home, "There is so much external support here with satsang three times a day … lots of premies who you can find to support your particular way of practising Knowledge … I can see the tendency in myself to get lazy …" (SF Community Newsletter, 9/77
2) "Trance" is my own, not a premie term. It suggests phenomena bordering on hypnotic fascination with an object or state, or perhaps the super-absorption of yogic "dhyana," either of which can obscure awareness of the other and willingness to continue communication.
3) This does not mean that the goal of "informal satsang" communication is not a trance state in itself, only that the two must avoid absorption into the other trance states or fixated attentions in order to arrive at the "satsang experience."
4) Sexuality is a good example of the kind of fixated attention into an object and/or sensation which I am calling "trance."
5) One premie told me about an extraordinary experience of satsang communication which came when her lover made love to her with eye eyes and they gazed continually at the "Guru Maharaj Ji within each other" during the whole experience. The premie gay community holds that gender identity is the earliest ingrained, most basic form of "ego," so the aim of gay sexuality was to transcend gender identity and arrive at the purest, most ego-less form of communication between just human beings, not male, not female. And from time to time other theories of the "satsang" possibilities of sexuality would abound.
6) These views do not necessarily imply summary acceptance or rejection of sexuality per se, but mainly concern the prudence of trying to mix sexuality with "satsang" and retain the maximum "satsang experience." Premie sexual activity ranges from celibate monastics and faithful married folk to every degree of sexual involvement and experimentation, with many premies taking for granted the view of their permissive countercultural milieu which sees in sexual retraint outdated Christian moralities or blatant neurosis. The only premie view on sexuality consistent over time and between factions is the view that, compared with God-intoxication, it is blase. One initiator, for example, continually quotes Guru Maharaj Ji as telling a premie who had fallen in love that Guru Maharaj Ji could bestow on him a thousand times more pleasure. Attitudes are practical and not absolute. Sexuality per se is not thought to be intrinsically evil, and might possibly even help occasionally, but at the same time it is potentially one of the most deluding obstacles of "maya."
7) This is something like the process through which premies privately deal with sexuality. The gay premie quoted above went on to describe his five years of ashram celibacy:
"To me, true celibacy doesn't mean repressing the sex drive. It means dealing with it in a particular way that doesn't include acting it out. (This opinion may be controversial.) During my years in the ashram I experienced this kind of celibacy rarely, but when I did it was beautiful. Those were the times when I was able to accept the existence of my sexual energy, and consciously decide to divert it into satsang, meditation, and service. It can be done but it ain't always easy. Especially in the springtime!" ("Light Reading," 11/15/76, p. 8) This account, published in the counter-organization "Light Reading" paper at the height of the 1976 questioning of premie life, pictures celibacy and the struggle to deal with sexuality in far more realistic terms than does a discussion published several years earlier in the official DLM "Tivine Dimes," by a premie doctor: "The goal of the premie who is celibate is not repression, denial, or control - rather, it is transcendence. Transcendence of sexual desires occurs when sexual desires are simply not occurring. In doing meditation, instinctual sexual energy can be completely transmuted. Energy becomes concentrated and expressed in selfless love, joy, peace, and service. The ecstacy of bodily union is clearly known to be of small moment and quality when compared to the state of true consciousness of bliss. Then desire for sexual contact just drops away. … Physiologically speaking, when a person meditates regularly, his endocrine system is profoundly affected, and the sexual hormones are not produced at previous levels. The pineal gland then acts as a bind of the master gland to tune the person to experience true consciousness of bliss." ("Divine Times," 5/15/73, p.4) For premies who accepted this, the presence of sexual desire was then clear evidence of the failure of their meditational efforts.
8) Premies often meet, have intense "satsang" for awhile, and part sometimes without bothering to learn one another's name. At festivals they may exchange deep, meaningful "satsang" looks for long minutes without knowing each other's language. Once a gay male premie announced that he had a long "satsang" with a person (who turned out to be a gay female) and suddenly realized in the middle of the conversation that he had no idea whether she was male or female. And they parted before he found out.
9) The crisis of festivals was discussed in the previous chapter; the crisis of encounters with the "world" will be discussed below.
10) Guru Maharaj Ji gave several "satsangs" about the fact that his son Hansi was born and breathed comfortably for several hours without yet having a name, with everyone witnessing him as just a human being. One's name and all that goes with it, he was trying to say, is not the same thing as one's true self. After this many premie couples also did not name their newborns right away, and some waited for weeks and even months, regularly trying to contact Guru Maharaj Ji to bestow an appropriate name.
11) I never witnessed a premie funeral, and only vaguely heard
of one, at which the premies among other things sang "Arati." Death seems not to fill them with intense fear that needs to be allayed with powerful rituals, as much sociological theory suggests. Rather, death reminds them to prepare for death by orienting toward that which they believe endures beyond it. They seem almost to welcome death and other crisis or boundary situations for their power to provide that orientation and to trivialize daily-life distractions. Some try in one way or another to render day-to-day situations more death-like, somewhat in the manner of Don Juan suggesting to Carlos Castaneda that he "let death be an adviser." (1972, ch. 4)
12) From "Welcome Song," by Doug McGinnis, written for a musical with a definite story to it. Though using the metaphor of family, the song is probably really about meditation: "let yourself inside" (instead of the conventional expression "come in") suggests letting oneself "go inside" to meditate. "You are still where you belong" implies doubly that one is still and also that one belongs in "this place" (the premie term for "inside") of meditation perhaps more than in one's normal "home" of "mind" and conventional identity.
13) This was written during the period when I was in the process of disillusionment and defection.
14) During this same period outside of the Denver premie clinic dozens of other premies were busying themselves experimenting with EST, "Science of Mind," and a number of other therapy and mind-training systems, some of which were considered heretical and eventually officially condemned by Guru Maharaj Ji.
15) The organization acknowledged this attitude in a communique distributed to the Mission leaders which aimed at changing the Mission's "image" in the minds of recalcitrant premies as well as the public: "In its worst light, premies view DLM as authoritarian and hypocritical, serving some cause, but not a basically joyful one." (Communique sent from DLM Headquarters to DLM centers around the country. Summer, 1976)
16) These are premie rumors, which I am not trying to present as true facts. Premies who enjoy this sort of rumor are never bothered by newspaper allegations that Guru Maharaj Ji eats meat, drinks, and involves himself in one scandal or another. To them, this is only further evidence that Guru Maharaj Ji lives indifferent to all convention, acting continually to "break concepts" people have about holy men. This sort of rumor abounded most during the 1976-97 era.
17) Letter from Denver Community Coordinator to Denver Community, 3/7/76.
18) For a discussion of "satsang words" attacked during this period, see chapter V, "Satsang." This same sort of attack on the words emerged again in the early 1980's. "Divine Light Mission" was abolished as the group's official name, the nationwide organizational structure broke apart, and each local community adopted an innocuous name of their own choosing. I was told they were even trying not to use the word "premie."
19) Communique from DLM headquarters to centers. Summer, 1976,