But His New Work Even More Baffling
Rennie Davis Was Hard To Accept As Raving Revolutionary
Associated Press Writer
DENVER (AP) - It was always somewhat difficult to accept the image of Rennie Davis as a raving revolutionary.
After all, he was so affable, articulate and politically astute, and his background suggested something more respectable.
But as incongruous as that role may have seemed, Davis' current work is plain baffling to those who knew him well during his antiwar years.
Rennard C. Davis was a coordinator of numerous antiwar marches between 1967 and 1972 and one of the Chicago Seven defendants as a result of his alleged role in the disruption of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Now he is a devotee of 17-year-old Guru Maharaj whom some believe is the embodiment of God on earth.
Davis, who in 1968 talked of "declaring war on the system," now speaks of "consciousness raising" and of meditation as a means of eradicating war, injustice, hunger and poverty.
He admits to being constantly on a "high," but says it differs drastically from any drug-induced euphoria.
"There's no aftertaste and it doesn't let you down afterward," he says. "This is the most beautiful place I've ever been in my life - it's called meditation. Through meditation we can control our minds, and thus melt ego and pride, putting to rest the suffering of the world."
Davis says that "all across the country there's a break-through in consciousness. It's the most profound event in the history of the world."
He says the "time has come to reunite the generations," and he sees the year of the bicentennial as the year to begin. "The United States is going to be the leader in this movement," he says. "This country first had to be humbled, and that was achieved by Vietnam. Now America is ready to lead humanity to its great turning point."
It's pretty heavy stuff and, to the uninitiated, it may smack of eccentricity. But then, so did the anti-Vietnam war movement eight years ago when fellows like Rennie Davis first challenged established beliefs.
Davis still remains outside the mainstream of American life. Other radicals of the late 1960's and early 1970s have opted for the establishment.
Sam Brown, another antiwar leader, is the state treasurer of Colorado. Tom Hayden, one of Davis' Chicago Seven colleagues, has announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate from California
Davis, now a mellow 35 years old, has instead become a fervent follower of Maharaj Ji, the spiritual leader of the Divine Light Mission, which claims six million followers worldwide. The guru's reputation has suffered in recent months. His mother rebuked him for becoming a "playboy," accusing the Most Perfect Master of living a life of luxury, of eating meat and consuming alcohol - habits that are eschewed by most Indian holy men. His mother also disapproved of Maharaj Ji's marriage to his American secretary, and she ultimately declared the guru's older brother as head of the mission in India.
"Maharaj Ji is a reflection of the world around us," he says. "He is spreading knowledge of self. He has a way to show us who we are."
Davis says that he was skeptical of Maharaj Ji when he first met the guru in India in February 1973.
"Initially, I couldn't see it," he recalls. "I had a preconception of how a great saint would be. But this boy seemed too modern in his suit and tie. But I finally realized that I should see what he had to offer before judging him. He didn't preach. He just showed you what was within you."
Now, Davis has an office at the mission's Denver headquarters, where he directs the mission's social-service arm, the World Welfare Association, which does such things as working in and visiting nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and detention centers.
He also goes on frequent speaking tours. and is in the process of writing a book to help explain the guru's presence.
Born in Michigan, Davis grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. His father, a former professor, served the government as a labor economist in the 1940s. The family soon moved to a farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and Davis at one time considered spending the remainder of his life there. His main activity as a youth was 4-H, and he was the Eastern United States chicken judging champion.
But he says his high school senior trip to New York City, including Harlem, opened his eyes. His budding interest in racial injustice continued at Oberlin College, and he eventually went to work with Martin Luther King in organizing open-housing marches.
"Vietnam wasn't a cause for me then," Davis says of a trip to Hanoi in the fall of 1967 as part of a fact-finding group. "The military claimed it was hitting only military targets - steel and concrete. But we saw thatched huts that had been bombed, as well as downtown sections of Hanoi.
"When I returned, I felt unequivocally that this war was wrong in every way, and I saw my task as that of bringing an end to the war."
While at the May 1970 demonstration at the White House that attracted 150,000 persons, Davis said he saw "we were a very powerful force in the United States." But he said he also saw that something was missing. "There was no real consciousness of where it was going, no sense of the long term. We hadn't discovered the basis of our unity."
It was on a plane to Paris in early 1973, en route to meet with North Vietnamese officials, that Davis said he learned of this Indian youth who had discovered a way to control the mind. Over a period of months with Maharaj Ji in India, Davis became a convert.
Davis explains Maharaj Ji's attraction this way:
The Western world has been trained that the mind is to be master of the person, but that is an incorrect understanding. The proper master of both body and mind is the energy field known as consciousness or soul that is currently embodied in Guru Maharaj Ji.
"Love is consciousness - you need to tune into consciousness directly," Davis says.