Guru Followers' Bus Breaks Down, Premies Enjoy Town, read the headlines of the article in the March 29th Jennings Daily News. While Holi festival came to a close in Miami on March 20th, more was in store for the 35 premier aboard the Green Tortoise bus heading back to California. Nearly 1,000 miles past Miami, the old converted Diesel bus broke down on the outskirts of Jennings, Louisiana. What turned out to be a major overhaul of the engine provided us with a four-day interlude in a lovely, quiet Southern town.
The first day of our stay was delightful - sunny and warm. We all laid out in the sun in the meadow next to the truck repair garage soaking up the rays, which most of us hadn't had a chance to do in Miami. After some rousing games of volleyball, we prepared a sumptuous dinner and gathered around the campfire at night for satsang. The next day dawned on us with showers, and none of the drought-worn Californians had brought any raingear. Trekking through the mud- filled parking lot, we smiled at one another under towels draped over our heads. As we all proceeded to get wet and muddy, the inevitable sniffles and coughs emerged and we began to sense the seriousness of our situation. In the face of an extended delay, of appointments and jobs to he missed and of evaporating money and food, we realized that all we could do was to surrender all those things that were troubling the mind and become aware that His Grace would take care of us.
A local minister came to visit the bus, talked with us a bit ("Are you people anything like the Hare Krishnas?"), and helped to maneuver use of the, local drug and alcohol counseling center for us to cook and sleep in. The community action center, with its cold, dirty linoleum floors and resident cockroaches, became our home for the next three days. We received some emergency funds from the Santa Cruz community and as true devotees of the appetite, prepared vegetarian feasts which served to distract or relieve us from all the external discomforts.
With food and shelter and showers in the one motel room we had rented, our basic needs were gracefully met, enabling us to immerse ourselves in meditation, satsang and service. The hardiest among us rolled up their sleeves, greased their elbows and helped the mechanics and bus drivers to completely disassemble and reassemble the engine. We realized what an opportunity this was to practice what Maharaj Ji teaches and to experience the power of satsang, service and meditation to unite us and keep each of us centered.
The townsfolk began to recognize us and would often wave from their cars, stop and offer us rides, or ask how the bus was coming along. At the nearby grocery store, the cashiers would often not charge us for food; one even handed me $5, "so the children won't go hungry." It was beautiful to see these generous folks experience the love which comes from giving, from being of service.
The counselors at the community action center were especially receptive to hearing about meditation and about Guru Maharaj Ji, and they responded to the love they felt. One lady invited all the mothers and children to spend the day at her house, playing with her kids and sharing their toys. Another lady came to satsang our last night, and after we had sung Arti, she asked to say a few words and went on to talk about her life and her experiences of God. She said that she had experienced so much love being with us that, "When the bus leaves, it will be taking a part of me with you."
On our last day in town, several of us composed a letter of thanks to the town and brought it to the local radio station and newspaper. We spent over an hour talking to the editor of the newspaper! The reporter later wrote an article and drove over to the bus to check it out and take some photos. By that time, those who had stayed on the bus had built a series of planks for walking over the still muddy parking lot, and made a beautiful altar out of some scrap metal, complete with flowers and a picture of our Lord. It was a perfect reflection of the beauty of our experience.
The engine finally started on the morning of our fourth day. Although we'd grown accustomed to Jennings and had made some nice connections there, we were glad to get back on the bus heading for home. Amid the waves and the good-byes, we all realized inside that we can be anywhere and still live in Guru Maharaj Ji's world. What looked like a misfortune was, as Gardner (the satsangbarraged non-premie busdriver) said, "the most positive thing I've seen about Maharaj Ji yet."
By His Grace, the bus rolled us home in a few short days. We left our pictures of Maharaj Ji on the bus ("This bus needs a Guru," said Loya, the other bus driver), knowing it would only be a few short weeks before the Green Tortoise would once again bring us to His Feet in Montreal.
8 Divine Times, August 1977
People may have been wondering who the unusual group of people in town were during the last part of the past week.
They were premies.
Premies are followers of the Guru Maharaj Ji and members of the Divine Light Mission.
The word premie means lover of God. Two well-known premies are Marisa Berenson and Johnny Rogers, Heisman -Trophy winner from Nebraska.
These people did not make a special trip to Jennings just to .we the sights. They were returning from Miami where the Guru was holding a conference when the bus they were traveling on broke down here.
The group of 37 people were from California near the San Francisco area.
The Guru is a 19-year-old from India who has swept the world with this movement. It has gone to 55 countries and there are 50,000 U.S. citizens involved in the movement, according to Joe Anctil, press secretary for the Divine Light Mission.
According to Anctil, a former TV talk show host and newsman, the experience is both a physical and spiritual one, a "quieting of the thoughts," so to speak.
The movement came to the country about five years ago, and should not he confused with Rev. Moon's Unification Church, which has been in the local news lately.
"Moonies are very strict," says Anctil. "The Maharaj Ji does not tell anyone that they must live in a monastic condition," says Anctil, adding that the Guru does not tell members of the mission how to live their lives.
The average ages of the members of the mission are from 19-28, but the age does vary. Anctil is in his early 40's.
The meditation differs from Transcendental Meditation in that one meditates on the energy within his or her body rather than a mantra which is common to TM, according to
The conference is like a festival with music and, of course, the Guru speaking. One of the events at the festival was getting sprayed with colored water, an Indian custom.
Members of the Mission come from all walks of life and various religious affiliations, says Anctil. The premies do not have to give up their former religious convictions.
Is the Divine Light Mission a religion? Anctil, as well as the premies, say that it is what one makes it.
The premies found Jennings to he pretty friendly. They didn't think it was as conservative as they had expected. But it was different from their homes in California, they said.
Divine Times, August 1977 9