In recent weeks DUO Directors from all states have been visiting Sydney to acquire that "national consciousness". While the Perth team was here, we took the opportunity to ask them about premie life in the City of Light.
Out of 83 premies, between 50-60 attend satsang regularly, and a large portion of the community is made up of teachers. The ashram serves as a social centre for DUO Perth, with an entertainment area capable of holding 60 people. Another asset to togetherness is their 40-seater bus, which provides transport on outings, meditation retreats, and for the long trek across Australia to the east coast festivals and darshan programs. Pre-Knowledge satsang happens once a week, with aspirants being interviewed personally by the DUO Director. Perhaps the unique event on Perth's calendar is the ancient art of jumbling, which, on one night a week, plucks its task force from the meditators who assemble at the satsang hall from 7 to 8 pm. Every Monday evening a community meeting is held, which acts mainly as an information service on the guiding committee meetings which happen every Friday night.
Soul Foods is really flourishing now that fresh fruit and vegetables can be obtained directly from the growers. All sorting and distributing is done from a partitioned area below the satsang hall, where twelve households pick up their orders. Magic Carpet Taxi Truck has also begun in an old green Bedford, and three orders have already been fulfilled without advertising. Peace Goods is a premie venture newly undertaken to provide secondhand clothes, restored furniture and they also have plans for a range of jewellery.
World Welfare Association arm in arm with The Players carries out varied activities with Task Force, St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen, Samaritans, Telephone Answering Service, Melting Pot coffee house, an alcoholic rehabilitation centre and the Rowethorpe
Home for Old Age. The WWA Co-ordinator, Brendan O'Hara described some of the welfare activities: "Samaritans is a world-wide telephone answering agency for the prevention of suicide. It's a valuable service to us in that it teaches the ability to listen and in provides good personal contact with the Samaritans staff. Two premies work there regularly and four others are waiting to start the training course.
Task Force is a Christian organisation dealing mainly with gardening and household chores for the aged and indisposed. Since there is no time limit to these projects, it provides a flexible service outlet for premies who cannot commit themselves to regular welfare work. And every Saturday morning at the soup kitchen, a brother dishes up meals to alcoholics and derelicts while chatting to the nuns.
A really interesting welfare outlet is the Melting Pot, run by an American psychiatrist who holds encounter and gestalt groups on the weekends. This coffee shop serves as an emotional crash-pad for the disturbed and lonely.
As well as serving toast and coffee, the staff may be called on to do counselling. Four premies work there and occasionally the musicians go there after satsang to turn out some entertainment.
The latest WWA development is gardening, cleaning and cooking at a centre for alcoholics. It's run by a very dedicaated couple who, until a premie and two sisters waiting for Knowledge started helping out, couldn't leave the centre for more than five minutes.
Welfare work is something premies can relate to very easily and is an effective means of service within the community. However, it is of real importance to see welfare service within the dimensions of spreading Knowledge. We have to he careful of our individual spiritual development and of pouring too much energy into a situation where Knowledge may not be propagated."
So Perth is forming and growing like every part of Maharaj Ji's family, and the new attitude of growth was summed up the DUO Director, Neil Hunt:
Guru Maharaj Ji has opened more venues for prachar than we have personnel for. You can notice a real differnce in the way both premies and nonpremies respond to the call for service. Knowledge is not regarded as a "heavy" trip - by his Grace we're discovering the sheer enjoyment of selfless, natural living.
As with all the DUO communities, most of Sydney's energy is being channelled into knitting the family together and propagating through WWA.
Sustaining us all on the physical level is the ever-growing Soul Foods, coordinated by David Johnston. He gave us a rundown on the food co-op history and hopes:
"We've been operating for several months with the ashrams and two households, and now there are 31 households involved, three of which are not directly connected with the Mission, such as Muktananada's devotees.
Each Tuesday we supply fruit and vegetables, a small percentage of this is organic. And every fortnight we provide dry goods such as honey, grains, shampoos, detergents and household cleaning utensils. We're aiming eventually to cater for most needs of the vegetarian household. We're also trying to get back to the product's source as much as possible, to the growers instead of the markets.
At the moment progress is slow due to a small storage and work area, but this problem should be solved when Sydney's new regional headquarters is found.
A few obstacles have come our way, but now things are flowing pretty smoothly with a regular, reliable team of sorters and a brother taking care of compiling and calculating orders. We've done a small amount of catering - both the local meditation retreat and a recent premie wedding. Catering and stalls provide good service for the households, but we've found that stalls aren't worth the effort yet, on a financial level. So we've learnt a lot in a short time and laid good foundations for some slow but steady progress."
Some of the monuments of the DUO community, such as Magic Carpet Taxi Trucks and Divine Sales forge ahead as
usual, but perhaps the most notable growth rate is in WWA service, which evokes such response as this letter to a premie from a prisoner:
"… it has been quite an amazing weekend for me; one that I'll remember for a long time to come and to who/what do I thank for this enjoyable/revealing two days? What do you say when all you feel is happiness and love for every creature? Truly, cause and effect is an amazing process. I mean, if I hadn't come to gaol I would in all probability still be dwelling in subterranean land and, as such, I wouldn't have felt Maharaj Ji's love through the medium of yourself."
With the assistance of several project directors, WWA service is co-ordinated by Peter Murphy. Peter described some of the activities:
"Every fortnight, three premies go to Parramatta Gaol to teach guitar, creative writing and art. A real bond of friendship and service is developing there. With only 24 hours' notice, a concert came together at the gaol, I don't know how.. Both prisoners and premies had a good time enjoying heavy rock and roll and gentle acoustic music. And while the concert was raging away, a children's entertainment afternoon happened at the Quaker Hall. About 40 children from the inner suburbs of Surry Hills, Paddington and Glebe watched a pantomime, ate Easter eggs and had a good time. There are a lot of underprivileged children in the Sydney area and alongside the Robin Hood Committee we hope to bring a glimpse of love into prisons and broken homes.
From the early formative years, the patterns of development and personality arrange themselves and their effects govern our capacity to cope later on in life. At the Wayside Chapel's crisis centre, four premies now do telephone counselling for the grown-up children whose capacity to cope has run dry. You see through WWA that so many people are looking for peace of mind and that crisis centre has become a focal point for those seekers of peace. We're also working with the Chapel's Outreach program which is designed to give love to the adults of passing generations neglected in the mad rush to mechanise society.
We ask all people interested in WWA work to participate in this Outreach program as it provides a good foundation from which we learn to relate to people and situations we may not have come up against before. There's quite a lot being done in different areas, and the main stipulation for volunteers is that they serve with constant dedication and commitment."
Alongside WWA, we have the faithful and ofttimes hilarious service of The Players, who produce mammoth pantomimes and brief skits guaranteed to throw anyone into fits of laughter. Sydney also has a wealth of music at the moment, with Radius, acoustic music from Kim and Lindsay Field, and a WWA band known as Ajax Music.
Still in its infancy, a Shri Hans Educational ashram has been set up to serve as a basis for the planned day care nursery. Teachers and parents hold regular meetings to discuss education methods and the care of premie children.
In a large DUO community, transport becomes a major factor and at last the valuable service of a Mechanics Workshop has been established.
And under the wing of the national Hansagraphics team, the newsletter Highlights is published, along with other local newsletters from around the state centres.