South Africa - the Rainbow Nation,
In the 21 years between Maharaji's first visit to South Africa and the abolition of apartheid, it was not easy for black Africans to receive Knowledge. It was against the law to hold multiracial meetings, so Maharaji held events in nearby Swaziland and Bophutaswana. But since 1991, he has visited three times and there has been such an upsurge in interest that now both events and videos are being translated into Zulu and Sotho.
Anne Wolfson, who helps to organise these translations, had for a long time wanted Africans to listen to Maharaji in their own languages. In 1996, she commissioned the professional translation of the video, Your Agenda, into Zulu.
"The day I received it," Anne remembers, "I was so excited that I called my maid, Nogutula Mabaso, to come and listen with me. I switched on the TV and watched the magic happen. She was mesmerised, something inexplicable happened - a life was touched."
A few months later Nogutula received Knowledge from Maharaji in Durban. She was able to thank him personally and shake his hand. During her next Christmas vacation at her home in the Ciskei, Nogatula was inundated with requests from friends and relatives to hear the one Zulu cassette she had with her. Eight videos have now been translated into Zulu and four into Sotho. The professional Zulu translator in Johannesburg, Mandla Malinga, has become an aspirant.
The Sotho translator, Rebecca Ngoatje, lives in England. During visits to South Africa she began to translate at local events. "My heart had been burning to be involved in propagation in my home country," she says. During apartheid, it was also unthinkable for a person of another race to enter the townships to do an event. But recently instructor Francis Ahore from West Africa has attended events in Johannesburg,
In 1992, there were two people with Knowledge living in Angola. They watched videos at home twice a week. Little by little, people they knew came to the video events. There are now six people with Knowledge and six aspirants. The videos come from Portugal, with simultaneous translation. From time to time, an introductory event is held in a hotel.
Kenya - surprised by the Magic
A small core of people who received Knowledge in the '70s managed to keep a flame alive in Kenya and now 1998 has seen some exciting new developments. Videos are watched in six towns. In Nairobi alone there are six events a week, five in English and one in Hindi. Five introductory events happen each month. Countrywide there are nine events a week in addition to people watching in their homes. There are 130 aspirants, and videos are watched by
Ismaelis, Christians, Luyha tribespeople, Swahili tribespeople, Hindus, Luo tribespeople, Kikuyu tribespeople, East Indians, and wazungu (white people).
In a crowded Nairobi suburb, a couple hold events twice a week in their small home. The next house is only two feet away from theirs. But the event happens beautifully. The six children are sent out to play and the, only interruption is a persistent cockerel. There's a scuffling and flapping and indignant cockerel noises as someone deals with the bird and then the event continues. Recently a long wooden bench was added to the furniture in this couple's small sitting room and now an audience of up to 19 people can watch.
As a precaution against constant power cuts, a small portable generator was recently purchased which travels in the back of local organiser Caroline Millard's car during the dry season when blackouts are at their worst. Within a few minutes the TV and VCR can be hooked up to the generator and the event restarts. "The magic continues in spite of everything the mad world throws our way," laughs Caroline. Sometimes a whole village turns out to watch an event, crowded in and around a small hut, with the precious generator perched on an anthill outside. Most aspirants and people in Kenya have never seen Maharaji in person. Long distances and expensive air fares make their only hope of seeing him a visit to their homeland.
Lenasia, Soweto, and other towns, with translation into Zulu or Sotho. During his latest visit 293 Africans attended introductory events.
14 Connect 1998
Maharaji first visited Ghana in 1985 and spoke at a public event at the Great Hall, University of Ghana, in Accra. Since 1993, he has held three Knowledge sessions. Hall facilities in Ghana are limited. Even in Accra the venues are becoming too small. There are about 50 introductory events a month attended by up to 1,200 people. Videos are translated into Akan.
Where there is no supply of electricity, audio-cassette events take place. On one occasion, recalled by instructor Francis Ahore, in a tiny village called Bepesso Dunkua in the western region of Ghana, a long cable was used to connect a schoolroom with electricity from a neighboring house. The classroom was basic: no floor, no door, but it had been carefully prepared the previous night to stage an introductory event. One person kept watch over the empty room all day so that it would remain clean. By the time Maharaji started to talk on the video, the room was full to overflowing, with people listening in from the windows. Two other newcomers listened for five minutes, then disappeared, only to return with eight others.
Benin - propagation has its own rhythm
It was in neighboring Abidjan in 1984 that people from Benin first received Knowledge. By 1992, there were three centers in Benin - Cotonou, Porto-Novo, and Calavi. Currently, there are seven centers for video events in six towns. The most recent is Parakou, in the north, which was set up last year and now holds weekly introductory events. New centers are being opened in other inland areas.
Maharaji first attended an event in Benin in 1994 and gave Knowledge to 106 people. He also accepted invitations to events in 1995 and 1996, the latter taking place in a newly built conference center. A total of 950 people with Knowledge and aspirants attended.
At present there are 70 events a month, with a total attendance of about 700. Simultaneous translation into one of the national languages, Fon, is done by FM receiver. A major challenge is to acquire more equipment to provide for the ever-increasing numbers of new people coming to listen. During 1997, about 1,800 people in Benin heard about Maharaji for the first time.
There are now 2,000 people with Knowledge in the Ivory Coast, with 230 events a month in 19 towns and cities. Last year's event with Maharaji took place in the largest hall in the country, which could barely contain everyone. Knowledge sessions over the years have also grown larger and larger. Local organiser Norbert Toh says: "We want our dream to become true - to have Maharaji visit this area more than once a year and give Knowledge to people more than once a year."
The geographical isolation of the world's fourth largest island and its changing political stage have made it difficult for people to see Maharaji and to receive Knowledge. In the mid-seventies, public propagation of Knowledge was prohibited. People with Knowledge did their best to keep in touch. Later, videos translated into French and the local language, Malagasy, were watched in the privacy of individual's homes. As a result, there are people on the island who have practiced Knowledge for over 17 years, yet have never seen Maharaji. Fares abroad are expensive, so one aspirant has started breeding rabbits to raise money. "Through the videos I understand something and my life becomes marvelous," he says. "I am longing for the day Maharaji will give me the gift of Knowledge." Patience and perseverance do pay off. Two aspirants traveled to the 1997 Mauritius event and received Knowledge after waiting 10 years.
Mauritius - Star of the Indian Ocean
God made Mauritius first, then paradise," was American writer Mark Twain's first impression of this magical tropical island which today embraces people and cultures from every continent.
Ootum Bundhoo was the first person from Mauritius to receive Knowledge when he was a student on Reunion Island. He continued his studies in France and returned to Mauritius in 1981, the only person in the country with Knowledge. In 1983, the first instructor arrived and in 1985 Maharaji visited the island. About 1,500 people filled the largest hall in Mauritius to hear him speak.
Interest continued to grow and he gave Knowledge for the first time on the island in November 1993. To date, 381 people have received Knowledge from Maharaji. Interest is so keen, that two events, one in Hindi and one in English, had to be scheduled for his 1997 visit.
There are 1,100 people with Knowledge in a population of 1.2 million. There are 63 events a month in 25 locations. Translation is provided in Creole, the national dialect, and Bhojpuri.
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