Already in the United Kingdom, Utopian ideals are beginning to manifest practically within Divine Light Mission. From overseas a report:
The Palace of Peace is the centre of a hive of activity in the East Dulwich area of London. It is a reconditioned cinema which only a few months ago needed chain gangs working with buckets under the holes in the roof, during the nightly Satsang meetings. Now it is carpeted, gleaming white, has a new stage design featuring a picture of Guru Maharaj Ji which ??? a swan, and is to have heating and a closed-circuit video system installed. All the work is done by devotees of Guru Maharaj Ji, working through Divine United Organisation, a company run for the benefit of Divine Light Mission.
The Palace is the nightly meeting place for all premies in London. They come between 7.30 and ten o'clock though it usually stretches to eleven), to hear satsang, interspersed with devotional music from the band, which is about twelve strong, most of the members having played with Blue Aquarius. Somewhere around nine o'clock, one, two or three Mahatmas come on to the stage, and give Satsang, explaining lucidly just what Divine Light Mission is all about and why Guru Maharaj Ji's Knowledge is so important today. Mahatma Ashokanand who is Manager of DLM in the U.K. and Mahatma Ved Praktanand who always tells stories to illustrate his satsang are permanent residents of the Palace of Peace ashram, and are at the meetings every night. After the Mahatmas' Satsang, Arti, a traditional devotional song, is sung, sometimes accompanied by the entire band, or else by a quiet guitar. Up to a thousand people attend, some of whom are from France, Switzerland, Ireland, and other European countries, hoping either to receive Knowledge or to see Maharaj Ji or one of his family. The premie visitors find accommodation in the nearby households.
The Palace contains, as well as the hall and balcony (capacity about 3,000), and the DLM and DUO offices, a nursery for children whose parents are either attending Satsang or engaged in service, a refreshment bar serving cheap vegetarian meals (cooked on the premises) between 10 am and 3 pm, and also evening meals from 6 pm. There is also the eating area, which used as an international Satsang Room for visitors, a Knowledge Room, where Knowledge is revealed to about twenty at a time, usually twice a week; a publications stand in the entrance foyer selling the Mission's publications, the Divine Times newspaper and Divine Light magazine, and pictures of Guru Maharaj Ji; the DUO information desk; the Medical Service room; a Tender Loving Care bench, stocking products of TLC (another DUO activity), incense, jewellery, and a herbal tonic called "Nature's Grace", made in Prem Nagar ashram by Mahatmas.
The estimates of how many premies there are in England range from 7,000 to 20,000. Certainly there are several thousands of active premies: those who are practising and propagating Guru Maharaj Ji's Knowledge. However, what confuses the estimates is the number (quite a large proportion) of people who, although they have received Knowledge of the Soul, often two or three years ago, are not currently practising it, or who are meditating, but do not attend many of the DLM meetings or activities. Also, the number of premies is rising steadily, both from regular Knowledge Sessions at the Palace, and from those held in provincial ashrams by touring Mahatmas (less frequently). The majority of devotees are (as in Australia) the "disillusioned younger generation" who have been searching for truth through drugs, and are mainly in their teens and twenties. But as is becoming increasingly evident from the growing number of older devotees, age doesn't make any difference to the experience of Truth. Many of the onetime drop-outs, now come good, have impressed their parents by their reform, and consequently they too are now following Guru Maharaj Ji. So, the older generation is also represented in DLM.
The Medical Corps is still in the early stages, as are most DUO branches, and consists of a midwife, doctors, nurses, and interested medical students.
The Medical ashram, less than 1/4 mile from the Palace of Peace, has about seven residents and is opened on some nights as a clinic for the general public. The premies involved also have outside jobs. There is always someone available for service at the nightly Satsangs in the Palace, usually for basic first aid. Patients are also treated with homeopathic methods which include herbal medicines and massage. Each person receives serious individual care and treatment. Free service is provided for ashram premies and at Satsang, and a minimal fee is asked from patients at the clinic. The East Dulwich residents are becoming interested.
Other ashram residents are involved in running Plain Grain which distributes bulk whole foods to the general public and to ashrams throughout the country. The ashrams receive food free, and some of them act as distribution centre for a particular area.Plain Grain has its main service in the London shop, and the warehouse which is now near the Palace, in the new factory recently acquired by the Mission. Also there is a shop in Leeds. Some of their produce is grown at Paradise Farm in Cornwall, another special ashram, which swells at harvest time as more premies come to do service there. Plain Grain also caters at DLM festivals such as the imminent Guru Puja '74.
The Education ashram is one of the few along with Paradise Farm where children live. A small school is just starting in a South London suburb, and the Divine Educationists are planning to open a larger Divine School, to be run along the lines of Rudoplf Steiner's philosophies on education. This one is to be on 16 acres of farmland near Plymouth, if the present level of interest by parents is maintained. The teachers are all unpaid, and also manage the nursery facilities.
All building, decorating, and maintenance of DLM premises is done by Millennium Constructions which consists of premies with talents ranging from architecture to bricklaying, window-cleaning to interior design. Millennium Constructions designed both the new stage in the Palace of Peace, and the -stage to be used at Guru Puja '74. Electrical work is done for the Mission and outside people by Pax Electronics, who also deal in custom built HiFi and P.A. systems.
The Divine Travel Service, which is handling all travel and accommodation arrangements for Guru Puja '74 is situated in the same building, about ½ mile from the Palace, as are the Photographic Department, Shri Hans Productions and Shri Hans Publications, all aspects of DUO. Divine Travel Service acts as a travel agent for the premie community and the general public, who are beginning to show interest, as the service offers cheap tickets to most places in the world, and can also arrange visas and work permits. The Photographic Department is collecting a Holy library of photos for the publications, and also does outside advertising work. Shri Hans Publications produces the weekly newspaper the Divine Times and the monthly Divine Light magazine.
One of the most well known and successful so far of the DUO enterprises is Mother Nature Fashions which recently featured on British T.V., impressing the producers. This is a clothes factory supplying an increasing demand for simple skirts and smock tops. The clothes are straightforward, and not made for glamour, yet, because of the quality of the workmanship, and the effect that love seems to have upon clothes when they are being made, they are becoming increasingly popular. Mother Nature also provides ashrams with clothes when they are needed.
Divine Sales, the old mainstay of Divine Light Mission, is becoming less important as other DUO activities are established. There are two secondhand shops in London, and many others throughout the country. In London they are dealing in furniture which is stripped and sanded before sale as well as the usual old clothes, books, records, appliances etc. Huge (by
alian standards) jumbling expeditions set off from the Palace of Peace. Often people waiting for Knowledge do this service.
The Premie Community
As well as East Dulwich, the rest of the U.K. is also scattered with devotees and ashrams. Provincial ashrams are established throughout England, Scotland and Wales, and managed from the London headquarters. In all major towns, and most with a population above 50,000 there is an ashram, usually within twenty or thirty miles of one another. Where there is not an ashram, there is often a premie centre, a community of premies who hold Satsang meetings once or twice weekly. Although not all British people are aware of it, DLM has a basic network established throughout the country. A large proportion of the people are aware, however, due to the efforts of the ashramers who sell Divine Times door to door, and on the streets, and go jumbling to collect goods for jumble sales.
Some of the ashrams have additional specific functions, like Rugby, which is a Plain Grain distribution centre, serving the 4 or 5 ashrams in the area, plus numerous other premies and a few non-premies. However, in contrast to the London ashrams where a lot of premies are involved in full time direct service in DLM or DUO, most provincial ashramers have ordinary outside jobs, thus providing finance for DLM. All management is controlled from London, with weekly or monthly allowances being sent to the local secretary, who is in turn responsible for specific arrangements, such as hall-hire for programs.
About every one or two months a Mahatma visits the ashrams, on an ashram tour, staying one or two nights in each town, depending upon the need or love of the particular premies. Often two or three ashrams will hold a joint program, sharing responsibilities and all helping with propagation. Otherwise, if the Mahatma's schedule is very busy, as is the case with Mahatma Gyan Yoganand's current tour, each ashram must make its own arrangements. The propagation is through leaflets and posters sent from London, street theatre, parades and so on.
Whenever a member of the Holy Family comes to the U.K., all the ashram residents who can leave without interrupting their employment, head for London, where they stay in ashrams while receiving darshan. It has now been many months since the U.K. saw a member of the Holy Family, and everyone is trying to get to Guru Puja in Copenhagen to see Guru Maharaj Ji.
Many of the ashrams and premie houses in London
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are near to the Palace of Peace. There are over 600 premies in fifty ashrams in the U.K., fifteen of which are in London, and somewhere around twenty London premie houses. The number of ashram premies is steadily rising. The Mission and the DUO headquarters are in the Palace. All ashram business for ashrams throughout England, Scotland and Wales is conducted from there, as well as arrangements for programs and festivals such as Guru Puja '74.
So, DUO and DLM are well established and growing in Great Britain. Actually no one person seems to know about all the different activities which are taking place, and increasing in number all the time. Every week the Divine Times brings news of some new development in the premie community, and ita is hard to keep up! Also facts and figures are not easily come by, as they are in a state of flux.
The person who knows most of what is happening is Mahatma Ashokanand Ji, the General Manager of the Mission, whose word of consent is sought on all issues. Mahatma Ji is always around the Palace quietly directing affairs and giving lucid explanations where any confusion appears. Everyone loves him. And he of course is Guru Maharaj Ji's representative, for it is only by the Grace of Guru Maharaj Ji that all these Divine activities are growing. It is only because of the Knowledge he is revealing that people are coming together to work for world peace through Divine Light Mission and Divine United Organisation. And it is his Grace that is manifesting in all branches of DUO in London, and showing what a peaceful world can arise when everyone has found the source of perfect peace within them, and begins to act selflessly, out of love.