On a translucent stage shaped like a diamond, with Durga Ji at his feet, sat Guru Maharaj Ji, his gaze focused, as it often seem to be, across the universe. Wearing royal robes and crown, he was majestically motionless while eight thousand voices joined in singing Arti and sixteen thousand arms linked in a spontaneous demonstration of the loving unity his presence created.
Hans Jayanti '74, Toronto: the festival that Guru Maharaj Ji casually threw together in thirty days. Every major gathering of our Lord's devotees has its distinctive character. This year the late scheduling of Hans Jayanti in Canada provided us with another learning experience, as we saw that Grace could perform a miracle of organisation where our minds could see only logistic impossibility.
To the participants the prime experience was our unity, but it was our organisational togetherness which most impressed the people of Toronto. How could a bunch of young guru freaks could get it together to stage a two day program for eight thousand people (including meals and accommodation for most of them), run the show with such fluid harmony, and do the whole trip from scratch in just thirty days?
The mind seeks concrete rationalisations. Of course the heart of the matter is the Grace of Guru Maharaj Ji, but for the festival site owners, the press, the police, that's hard to grasp, and even the obvious truth that the festival worked because of the individual peace and good nature of the participants went unrecorded. Instead they sought the answer in the supposed expertise of Divine Light Mission's organisers. So for the second time this year, a corporate octopus offered one brother a highly paid executive post on the strength of his festival direction, and another in charge of the WPC was invited to lecture on security to the local police who handled Queen Elizabeth's last state visit (the same local force is impressed by the fact that they unsuccessfully sent two agents to penetrate Maharaj Ji's security screen)!
But the festival was for premies, and they came from all over Canada and the eastern seaboard of the United States for the darshan of the Perfect Master and to celebrate Hans Jayanti, the birthday of the late Shri Hans Ji Maharaj.
The keynote was struck on the first afternoon. Everything was very relaxed and informal; this was not the mere putting together of strangers with a common interest, this was a gathering of the family. By three o'clock all the chairs were taken, and at least another thousand thronged the foyer and the aisles, or awaited admission.
The International Centre is a hundred feet wide and must be seven or eight times as long. More a vast corridor than a hall, the odd shape posed some sound problems to the technical crew. In order for the back row of premies to hear properly, the front rows' eardrums had to be unmercifully pounded. And when The Apostles, as well as the new premie band from L.A. called Jiva were unleashed, the decibels seemed to approach the level which dissolves human tissue: a sort of molecular samadhi. But that deterred no one from sitting as far forward as a badge pass or a plausible tongue would allow.
The stage was beautiful. Apart from the central diamond, which was mounted in front of rings of huge glass beads surrounding the portrait of Shri Maharaj Ji, lower platforms accommodated the Mahatmas on the left of Guru Maharaj Ji, and Shri Raja Ji and Claudia to his right. In front, a smaller stage was the setting for a shortened version of the perennial Krishna Lila.
At length, with the arrival of Maharaj Ji and Durga Ji, Raja Ji gave very powerful satsang, challenging the world to look deeper into Knowledge than the superficial nonsense the press delights in.
Then Durga Mata Ji, weeping from the love which flows through her, told a parable about a parade of pilgrims on their way to heaven who lost themselves in a labyrinthine hotel, a stage in their journey which became instead their destination and their prison.
And at last Guru Maharaj Ji himself gave satsang. He likened how our grip on agya must be the little child's whose hand is tightly clasped around his parent's finger, and who securely keeps that grip no matter what enticing sights or sounds may beckon.
The words flowed on, the parables and examples multiplied, but the import was clear: realise this Knowledge in surrender to the Perfect Master, for no other way leads out of the prison.
The second and final day began with a darshan line. Eight thousand people filed past the stage (temporarily screened off for the occasion), kissed the Lotus Feet and drifted into the ethers. Jiva appropriately brought us all back to earth, and Mahatma Padarthanand exhorted all who would understand the secrecy of life to stand under the living Lord. That was our only desire, and after some stirring satsang from Bob Mishler, the living Lord appeared, resplendent in red and gold.
The repeated roars of "Bhole Shri Satgurudev Maharaj Ki Jai" eventually gave way to an amazing rendition of "He's got the whole world in His hands" sung by eight thousand voices, with feeling.
When quiet was finally achieved, mainly through exhaustion, Durga Ji told the story of the genie (mind) who, after tormenting his owner, was subdued by the wise man who set him the task of climbing endlessly up and down a flag pole (Holy Name).
When Maharaj Ji spoke he played with us, looked at his watch, observed that he must be brief since the New York premies had to be on their bus by nine thirty (cries of no!) and then gave mind-devastating satsang on the purpose and fulfilment of this life. He announced that next year we will have another great international festival, not just for America, not just for Europe, not just for Australia, but a truly international gathering which all premies will be able to attend.
The finish of the festival was indescribable. Higher than perhaps ever before, Hans Jayanti '74 ended in a perfect deluge of bliss. And more than bliss: many people realised perhaps for the first time that Maharaj Ji has forged from the multiversal collection of his devotees a truly united family which can now work in harmony to spread peace in this world.