If there were a Guinness Book world record for long-distance travel to satsang programs, Guru Maharaj Ji must have shattered it convincingly with his latest overseas tour. From November 17 to December 1, Maharaj Ji visited three continents and six countries in two weeks. He travelled from Los Angeles to Lima, Peru, and then on to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; from Rio to Johannesburg, South Africa, and on to Manzini, Swaziland; from Swaziland to Nairobi, Kenya, and Frankfurt, Germany; from Frankfurt to New York, and then home again to Los Angeles. He covered 23,120 miles in the air (only 1,782 less than our planet's equatorial circumference), spent 45 3/4 hours (almost two days) on board plane, and waited at least eight hours in airports.
In Lima, his first port of call, Maharaj Ji spent six hours answering questions and giving satsang in conference with the national coordinators from Latin America, as well as interviewing the Initiator Development Program candidates personally and selecting five of them for the upcoming program. Francisco Arce, the regional coordinator for Latin America, likened the conference to a "feast" of satsang, meditation, and music. Maharaj Ji explained how we all embarked on the path of Knowledge with the right spirit, but that in the course of creating an organization we became more involved in the structure than in our real purpose. Now he feels that a positive change is under way, and that we are regaining a proper focus on our original goal. Maharaj Ji also held a satsang program with the local Lima community, in which he reminded everyone that "the food for premies" is still satsang, service, and meditation, and "without that, we are no longer premies, we are no longer the people who have tied into the true love which is sincere and real."
After stopovers in Rio and Johannesburg, Guru Maharaj Ji flew to Manzini, Swaziland, and on to the Somhlolo National Stadium for a Hans Jayanti festival with 750 premies from South Africa and nearby countries. He later described the festival as a beautiful blend of old and new, spontaneity and sensible coordination. At the same time as everyone's hearts were open, they had also organized the event in a together way. It even turned out to be fortunate that Maharaj Ji could not make it to the last night's program, a night programmed for unusual incidents. From Maharaj Ji's bungalow near Mhlambanyati to the stadium, it is an hour's drive over bumpy dirt road. That night, fog and rain had made driving treacherous.
Marino Amico, security coordinator, and Michael Wood, photographer, set out as an advance party in a Peugot, only to roll over on the way, with Marino sustaining a cut and subsequently three stitches in his head. Later on, Maharaj Ji's car set out, only to turn back finally from dangerous conditions. Meanwhile, at the stadium, the police arrived in numbers, anxious to arrest the "top person" of Divine Light Mission and throw him in jail for sixty days. Although permission for the festival had been obtained from government authorities, it seemed that the local permit to assemble had been overlooked. However, Maharaj Ji managed to leave Swaziland without difficulties.
He then flew to Frankfurt via Nairobi. Before his arrival, a conference had been underway at a hotel on the outskirts of Frankfurt with 100 delegates from different countries, Michael Dettmers, from the Office of Guru Maharaj Ji, and initiator
Arthur Brigham. Most of the delegates felt that they needed direct, personal input from Guru Maharaj Ji, and wanted him to deal with their individual country's difficulties in context; that is, with the issues properly related to their environment. The main areas of concern that they defined were the ashram, the Initiator Development Program (IDP), the role of I HQ and the national headquarters, communication with Maharaj Ji himself, and methods of organization. The delegates wanted to meet with Maharaj Ji in small groups of countries with similar interests, such as Canada, Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom (referred to by one jokester as "the regrouping of the Commonwealth"), so that they could return to their communities with precise answers to specific questions.
On the third day of the conference. Maharaj Ji talked with all the delegates from noon until 5:30 p.m. He told them to forget about their positions for the moment and to understand that they were just premies. He talked to each of them about their countries, and asked them individually about their experiences of Knowledge. When asked about the selection of national and community coordinators, he remarked that holding elections for posts was ridiculous. If they are serving each other, he said, it might have a purpose, but they are all equally serving Guru Maharaj Ji. If elections took place, joked Maharaj Ji, soon everybody would be making promises in return for support. He proposed that national coordinators would be assigned for two years and community coordinators for one year, with their services coming under review after that time. All these positions would be coordinated through the Office of Guru Maharaj Ji.
The following day he met with the individual "blocs" of countries, and everyone received personal inspiration and attention from Maharaj Ji. He dealt with many issues and said that he would investigate other issues in more depth on his return to Denver. Maharaj Ji stressed very strongly that the main purpose of the conference was to remind everyone that their main purpose is to do service, satsang, and meditation, and that the key to organization is simplicity.
That evening, Maharaj Ji held a satsang program with the local Frankfurt community in the ballroom of the Intercontinental Hotel. The audience of 220 included representatives from communities throughout Germany. In his satsang Maharaj Ji pointed out that we have to know who we are and to be sure not to associate our nature with the superficial identity imposed upon us by conditioning and society. After the program there was a darshan line and Maharaj Ji asked everyone to sing Arti. Unexpectedly, he did not leave straight after Arti. He pulled his chair to the edge of the low stage, while premies gathered near him on the ballroom floor. "Gee," said Maharaj Ji, "it's been a long time since we've done something like this," and he then talked with everyone for about fifteen to twenty minutes. Later that night in his hotel he reviewed IDP applications until two in the morning.
The next day, before completing his tour and returning to the United States, Maharaj Ji met with the IDP candidates. He determined that each applicant should have been in the ashram for a minimum of two years, and asked everyone about their experiences of Knowledge. One premie felt that he was not quite strong enough to be an initiator but thought that he could "ease myself into it." Maharaj Ji likened the applicant's perspective to wanting to jump off a cliff but not wanting to "go down too fast." Maharaj Ji finally decided to put the IDP on hold until he could take a closer look at it. He felt very positive about his tour overall, and concluded from his experiences in Latin America, Africa, and Europe, that he had a lot to do, in and with the United States of America.
12 Divine Times, December 1976