How do you explain to Miami Beach officials that you want one of their parks in order to spray water over 7,000 people? This was one of the "obstacles" faced by the coordinators of the 1977 Holi Festival at the Miami Beach Convention Centre and Flamingo Park on March 18, 19 and 20.
"Ah, it's like a baptism," one of the coordinators explained. An old-fashioned theological term perhaps, but somehow appropriate to all the premies who, despite the limpet-like tendencies of the mind to grab at the nearest straw, found themselves falling heart over heels into Guru Maharaj Ji's world through a series of programs that changed forever the mundane associations with three U.S. cities: Atlantic City, Portland, Denver. Now the baptism of Holi: born again into love for the Perfect Master, baptised in the one true name at Miami Beach.
Holi, the festival celebrating the unbroken connection with Guru Maharaj Ji sustained through an amazing series of tribulations (fire, mad elephants, etc.) by a devotee called Prahlad, is held traditionally on the March full moon, March 6 this year. But Maharaj Ji said that was a matter of opinion anyway, and staged his celebration with just enough time for everyone to sell their cars and stereos to scrape up the plane fare to Miami.
Not to say that consciousness wasn't already elevating on the traditional date. Still reveling in the beauty of the Denver program from February 20, premies celebrated the traditional Holi in preparation for what promised to be a festival of unconventional joy. In Denver on March 6, the community was treated to rousing bhajans by a mad band of initiators - Gurucharnanand and Padarthanand on voice and cymbals, Arthur Brigham on sitar, Jagdeo on tablas, Bill Patterson on bongo drums.
By the time preparations for the festival had been completed, charter flights set off for Miami from all over America, with individual premies arriving from as far afield as Venezuela, Australia, and Hong Kong. Miami's ritzy hotels opened their doors at reasonable prices to this sudden migration, and although they were a little bemused by people with blankets over their heads in their museum-size lobbies and bedraggled but grinning premies tracking coloured water from soaked clothes into their lifts, their overall impression was positive: we were "different but cooperative." In fact, the Mayor of Miami was so impressed that he came with his wife on Sunday afternoon to hear Guru Maharaj Ji speak.
To try to describe the festival in words renders both journalese and high-flown poetry useless. It was so much bound up in the personal, intimate joy that a devotee feels at play with Guru Maharaj Ji that sentences only circle vainly like seagulls above palm trees. It's definitely a thing you have to experience for yourself. But for the benefit of those who weren't there, a few paltry details follow.
On Friday night the first program was held in the Miami Beach Convention Centre. Although Maharaj Ji didn't come that night, he listened to the program over a telephone line to his hotel, and at the evening's end broadcast a message back for everyone welcoming them to Holi, telling them to enjoy themselves and to be on time for the darshan line in the morning, so that the "painting in the park" could be squeezed in in the afternoon. On Saturday morning the darshan line went a little faster than at recent programs but there was still a beautiful sense of entering Guru Maharaj Ji's world and resting in his presence.
A few blocks down from the convention centre, Flamingo Park boasted a strange new structure rising out of the grass. A circular platform covered in plastic, and upon that a smaller tower like the top tier of a wedding cake at least twenty feet from the ground. Barrels of coloured water sat at the ready near the guard rail around the tower's perimeter, sprinklers were wired to scaffolding, and Maharaj Ji's four high pressure spray guns, resembling devices from a science fiction fire engine, were tested to find the wind's direction. Then the premies assembled, and waited.
Maharaj Ji arrived to a tumultuous welcome, sketched out a battle plan with his initiators, then climbed the steps of the turret to his weaponry of joy. He opened fire in long, sweeping bursts of water, now purple, now green, now crystal clear, drenching to the skin, piercing to the heart. In a world where water has at least once changed to wine, it was time for it now to turn into love, and shower 7,000 souls who could hardly forget what Guru Maharaj Ji meant to them after such a day.
In sunny Miami weather, premies returned to their hotels cold and dripping wet, with only enough time to get ready for the night's program. The hall was set up so that, behind enormous brown curtains, Guru Maharaj Ji could drive in in his motor home and park beside the stage. His satsang that night was incredibly powerful, describing how by Guru Maharaj Ji's grace, once again we could know devotion. He went on to impress upon everyone how really fortunate we are by saying that if he were not Guru Maharaj Ji, but simply a devotee of his Lord, that he
No. 37, April 1977
would not even dare to hope to be in a program such as this, but could only wish to be a speck of dust for Guru Maharaj Ji to trample upon. He said that the barriers had fallen down between Maharaj Ji and his devotees, and that we had to keep that openness going, keep that love growing moment to moment.
The next day brought another feast of satsang, a six-hour program that culminated in Maharaj Ji's final satsang of the festival, again expressing how much he loves us. And then that love was yielded up to him through arti, with a sea of candle flames accompanying this song of love to the Perfect Master.
For me, Holi was an experience that I could never really tell or even want to describe on a piece of paper. It was a sense of being taken somewhere by Guru Maharaj Ji to see that there's nowhere to go except within his Knowledge. Of leaving all commitments to feel the one true commitment to Guru Maharaj Ji's love. Of realising the boundless opportunity before all of us to know him, to love him and to serve him.
- Michael McDonald