The Rice Hotel, Houston, Texas, 1973
A man named Subramaniam is initiated into Knowledge and returns to his home country of Malaysia to begin a life of solitary propagation among Hindu temples, while earning eighty dollars a month as a technical assistant in the construction of concrete irrigation channels for paddy fields. With notes from Subramaniam himself and after travelling through the back files on South-East Asia, we piece together this story of Malaysia's growth as a premie community.
Subramaniam finally set up his headquarters in Telak Anson, over 50 miles from Malaysia's capital city, Kuala Lumpur. As an independent constitutional monarchy of islands grouped together in South-East Asia, Malaysia is made up of diverse races, languages, and religions. Out of a population of over ten million (estimated in 1966), 46% are indigenous natives, 42% Chinese, 10% Indians and Pakistanis, and 2% Europeans and other Asians. The main languages are Malay, declared the national language, Chinese and English, with the principal religion being Islam. This country was established on September 16, 1963, with eleven states from the old Federation of Malaya, united with Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah (formerly North Borneo). In 1965 Singapore withdrew from Malaysia to become a separate state.
For nine months, Subramaniam worked alone, with occasional visits from globetrotting premies, encouraging aspirants and giving satsang throughout the Malaysian provinces. Then, on October 25, 1974, good news: A telegram arrived from Denver saying that initiator Rajeshwar would be arriving tomorrow. Despite such short notice, everything came together Well. A premie managed to get the loan of his uncle's newly-built bungalow for Rajeshwar's stay, and repaid him in kind by having the electricity connected. With this visit, 90 people were initiated and 150 gathered for a public program in a local temple.
Jhumri Taliaya, India, 1975
Then it was time for another long wait, a time to stabilize the young premie community. Subramaniam had the good fortune to travel to Jhumri Taliaya ashram, India, in April 1975, and witness Guru Maharaj Ji's Hindi wedding ceremony. Maharaj Ji also gave him direction to do more outreach work among Malaysia's Chinese population. In September of the same year Padarthanand arrived in Malaysia from Australia and initiated 32 aspirants.
The initiators began to arrive with greater frequency. On May 18, 1976, Ira Woods flew in from Fiji at midnight. He spent the first night in Kuala Lumpur, then left the next morning for Telak Anson. The following two evenings Ira attended public programs of over 200 people, and on the third evening two films were shown to an audience of 400. After these programs, Ira spent most of his time with the fifty aspirants and finally initiated eight people - five Chinese and three Indians. The visit's impact was barely lessened by the need for a Hindi-speaking interpreter and some of the Indian community's problems with the word "initiator," leading to Ira being called an "indicator" from time to time. On May 28, Ira departed for Hong Kong.
Kuala Lumpur, 1976
This then leads us to the most recent visit by an initiator, Krishnasukhanand, in May of this year, to a growing community with centers in the provinces of Johore and Perak, and a new community center and national headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. It all began during Subramaniam's lunchtime game of caroms (played with 24 round counters on a large, square board with corner pockets), which was interrupted by a phone call from Denver, informing him of Krishnasukhanand's imminent arrival from Sri Lanka.
Apart from staff meetings and evening satsang "which changed the whole concept and idea of premies, to work towards the goal of our life without religious and traditional ways of thinking," Kris inspired the small beginnings of a national newsletter, christened Millennium. Kris also initiated eight people from Telak Anson and eleven from Kuala Lumpur. Because the Malaysia community was unable to celebrate Guru Puja on the full moon, Kris was able to join in Post Guru Puja '76 on the 14th and 15th of August, in the Che Fong Khur building.
The program began at 1 pm with devotional songs, and the evening featured potluck dinner, a drama on the life of Christ, satsang from Kris, and an all-night meditation with a break for a short play on the life of a Moslem guru. The next morning everyone participated in games, "including the initiator and Mr. M. Subramaniam, the national director. Guess what? We were the champions of the double caroms competition."
10 Divine Times, December 1976
A Celebration in Film
Among aficionados of divine cinema, the Australian film crew's new movie, Keep On Truckin', has been waited for with as much prolonged anticipation as Stevie Wonder's latest album. The work they began in October 1975 at the Pacific Guru Puja in the Sydney Opera House, Australia, is at last bearing fruit. As we go to press, an answer print of the new film is expected on November 18th and will be flown to the United States a few days later.
Some of you less fanatical film buffs may now be asking, "What is this film about? What film crew? Where is Australia anyhow?" Australia, a lesser-known continent anchored in the southern portions of this planet, has bred three young artists, Greg Dee, Chris Day and Kevin Andrianakis, who comprise, along with family and friends, the premie film company known as Celebration Films. Their headquarters is in the city of Melbourne, where they have just completed Keep On Truckin', featuring soundtrack by Geoff Bridgford of Blue Aquarius and Bee Gees fame, footage from the 1975 Guru Puja festivals in Sydney, Caracas, and Essen, and an animated cartoon character.
Perhaps the most time-consuming task in the construction of the movie was the title sequence, which includes falling children, trucks, a steam train, and hand-drawn colored titles that dance on and off to the music. At the end of all this activity, a cartoon character christened Frank trucks on to the celluloid stage, introduces Maharaj Ji's satsang, and disappears off screen a la Snagglepuss with the parting words, "So don't forget, ya gotta keep on truckin'!"
To get Frank moving, premie cartoonist John Puckridge joined the staff of Celebration Films and helped them build an animation studio on the top floor of the Melbourne Divine Sales shop. In animation, even a short sequence requires a lot of planning and drawing to make it look good. John works to twelve drawings per second, so that even twenty seconds of film takes well over two hundred drawings. In addition, the voice track has to be analyzed frame by frame to synchronize the character's lip movements.
Completed pencil drawings are traced in ink onto separate pieces of clear celluloid. These "cels" are painted in the appropriate colors and are then photographed sequentially onto movie film, while a stationary background underneath each "cel"creates, a landscape for Frank to truck across. The director of Celebration Films, Greg Dee, saw the animation sequence as an innovative gamble on their part. By completion date, however, he felt that it "turned out nicely. Our 'trucker' Frank really moves along well."
The crew of Celebration Films are no raw newcomers to the movie business. Greg, Kevin, and Chris have been working together for almost four years. Greg and Kevin went to film school together, and in 1972 Greg earned his final diploma with footage of Gurucharnanand, the first initiator to visit Australia. Chris and Kevin joined Greg on his next venture, a weird and wonderful documentary of the first Australian Guru Puja in the city of Adelaide in 1973, featuring initiator Padarthanand, costumed parades, massed balloons, and the appropriate title, Peculiar People.
These early efforts won them a government grant of $3,000, which Greg, Kevin, and Malcolm Davey (now of Allied Film Artists), utilized to film the 1973 Millennium festival at the Houston Astrodome. After waiting in vain for Guru Maharaj Ji to come to Australia that year, they eventually incorporated this footage into a movie called Metamorphosis, chronicling humanity's rise from despair to the stars, and immortalizing for posterity the innocent words of a circus dog trainer, "I think I've achieved the ultimate."
Metamorphosis became part of a "consciousness-raising" film package, Godflicks, destined to tour the more avant-garde theaters and gain a small following among the cinematic elite. The following year saw their greatest international hit to date, Power Of Love, which covered Guru Maharaj Ji's 1974 tour of Australia and New Zealand, underlined by Geoff Bridgford's soundtrack and the amazing lead guitar of Ross "Hanna" Hannaford, former star of the past Australian rock group, Daddy Cool.
With this film they gained the financial support of DLM Australia and a greater chance to explore one of the arts' most flexible media. Kevin Andrianakis sees this flexibility in film's diverse uses: "You can cram so much into film. You can take a person to the moon or you can draw from microscopic footage. You can hit on notes that warm people's hearts and really open them up."
Further delights of Keep On Truckin' include some guest artistry from Dale Johnson, Durga Ji's father. In two minutes and forty-four seconds he filmed his daughter, Premlata, and Maharaj Ji, on the inevitable drive to one of the world's many airports.
Greg sees the new film in terms of hard yet successful work. He says that they all feel "tired, bedraggled and slightly run down, but all the same confident that the film will be able to 'get up and stand up' behind what Maharaj Ji is trying to do."
Divine Times, November 1976 11