Paris was the host city to Maharaj Ji's program on 8 June. The "Festival D'Amour" was the first time that the French premie community had gathered together for a national program, and many people, out of the eight hundred who volunteered for service, gained a rich experience from the initial preparations.
Francois Duclos, a twenty-five year old musician who worked with the sound team, recalled how they shared a lot of satsang and tried to plan according to what they were feeling in anticipation of Maharaj Ji's visit and from their experience of Knowledge. He learned "how beautiful it is to work together as a team.' For Jacqueline Levasseur, the preparation for the festival was also an "extraordinary experience." A Parisian craftswoman in handweaving and the mother of seven children, Jacqueline was responsible for the design and assembling of the program stage. She felt that it was a valuable experience to work with premies she would not have contact with normally, and it "allowed me to go beyond myself."
"Often service is a hobby, routine or a habit," observed Dimitri Basiliou, the National Director of DLM in France, "and the festival was revealing in this sense." It allowed premies to ask themselves, "What am I ready to do?"
And what of the workshops that took place before the program? "Really fantastic," remarked Idrist Vappou, a twenty-five year old student who helped with security during the festival. He was pleased with the specific nature of the questions through which "people were able to get to the point and really ex-
"Whatever you put into Knowledge is what you're going to get out of it. And if you put the true and right effort into it, then you're going to get the truth and the right experience from it." - Guru Maharaj Ji, Paris, France, 8 June 1976
press themselves." Personally, Idrist had many questions about service and found the workshops beneficial in clarifying them for him. What affected him the most was the spirit in which the workshops were conducted, which he felt "really brought the premies together."
Many of those who were involved in the festival preparations experienced fatigue during Maharaj Ji's program, but nevertheless, as Patrick Ryf noted, appreciated Guru Maharaj Ji's satsang as a "simple, direct communication of what the premies needed to hear and what Guru Maharaj Ji wanted to share." Patrick, a thirty year old postal employee who worked on festival security, saw the premies' approach to the program as serious and concentrated, without the previous notions of a "the sky is going to fall" event.
"Now we know that we are alive, that there is grace and that we are here, and that we can do satsang, service, and meditation. So let's do it now. Not temporarily, not for a three-month trial basis. I tell you, I wouldn't want peace for just three months. If I would want peace, I would want it forever."
- Guru Maharaj Ji, Paris, France, 8 June 1976
Chantal de Montfumat, a psychologist who worked on food preparation, noticed that in the past she had expected to be "spoon-fed by Knowledge and festivals." This time, however, she felt that she began to understand that "I have to take care of myself." Jacqueline Levasseur felt that the audience of twelve hundred was "incredibly calm and concentrated," and despite her own fatigue she felt a lot of energy from Guru Maharaj Ji. She experienced that we're here to experience this Knowledge and share with our brothers and sisters.
For Idrist Vappou, the program was a vision of stairwells which he "secured" as part of his service. However, darshan was the first time he had met Guru Maharaj Ji eye-to-eye and felt love, and Idrist "usually doesn't like to talk about love." As to the effect of Maharaj Ji's visit: "That I can tell you next year."
Patrick Pryf was seeing Guru Maharaj Ji for the fourth time and "each time it's different." On this occasion he felt a more direct communication and much more concentration on his part, "very calm, very much at ease, really at peace inside." Francois Duclos finds that seeing Maharaj Ji is always a surprise. Afterwards all he wanted to do "was just get home and be alone. I went back with two other people. We didn't say anything to each other in the subway. No one wanted to make a commentary on the program. When I see Maharaj Ji, something happens on a level where I'm absorbed in it and can't describe it."
To gauge some of the after-effect of the "Festival D'Amour," a survey was sent to the different French communities for their feedback. The overview was that the festival had manifested a profound transformation in the premies, a greater maturity. The communities were unanimous that the workshops had been very positive and brought a lot of understanding. They were happy that "calm and concentration had reigned during the festival. For the first time Guru Maharaj Ji's satsang was heard and understood, and not just regarded as an exciting phenomenon. A greater clarity and determination in the practice of Knowledge were manifested as soon as people came back from the festival." Of the growing sense of commitment in the community, Francois Duclos cautioned that efforts to make a unified community can turn out "to be too much of an exclusive movement. We have to be careful that unity comes from each one's experience and each one expressing where he's at. When this happens, there's a real beauty. It doesn't have to be a sacrifice to build an environment where we can feel well but it just should come from feeling well." 'For Chantal de Montfumat, the community seemed much more realistic, and her involvement was much more appropriate to her skills and her life: "Everyone seems more practical. Premies are learning that everyone makes mistakes, and they are learning patience."