The poster for Hans Jayanti hinted at an exotic, jungle-like setting: 'Guru Maharaj Ji' written in flowing, turquoise lettering above his colourful, laughing face, bordered by a rich tropical web of palm trees, parrots, pelicans, pink flamingoes and lush foliage. An idyllic backdrop for the first pan-American festival since the Amherst Guru Puja in 1974.
And idyllic it was. The grounds lay on the outskirts of the sprawling mid-Florida city of Orlando. On one side of the wide highway, the International Drive, stood the hotels, tall, white and modern, or long, low and traditional, surrounded by lawns, palm trees and their own pools - each of them, it seemed, packed tight with premies. On the other side of the road a huge stretch of green field - cleared especially by the premies - led down to a small lake.
This was the festival site. On it stood a geodesic dome with sound proof earphones for meditation, publications tents, food tents, a playground and childcare centre. The stage itself, built on a barge, floated white and elegant on the water. Gangplanks led to the shore at either side - gangplanks fitted with railings to ease the constant traffic of Mahatmas, musicians and speakers. But for Maharaj Ji, access was by water. Every night the lights of his boat would appear from a jetty on the other side of the lake with Raja Ji's boat behind.
As always at festivals, there was plenty going on. Music, skits, Krishna Lila, satsangs and the swimming pool vied with each other for premies' attention during the day. But most popular were the two non-stop cinemas, showing both divine films and semi-divine ones, notably the incredible, 'Doctor Lao' prefaced, after the lights went down, with Maharaj Ji's satsang about the film.
The festival proper: and the first night Mike Nouri is there to rouse the atmosphere - as he had done in Essen - to an incredible climax. Guru Maharaj Ji arrives beaming. Durga Ji is in white, Premlata wears her Krishna costume. Maharaj Ji launches straight into his satsang. It is strong, beautiful and loving satsang about how close the Knowledge is to us. It seems he's been there every night for a year.
The second day - the Satur-
day - was darshan day. To make sure the 11000 premies would get through, Maharaj Ji had designed an elaborate pyramid-type structure, on - or should we say, in - which he sat. His feet rested at eye level astride a board; this allowed two lines to go under, him at once - those who had not had Holy Breath, and one for those had. Durga Ji sat beside her smiling Lord, her hair blowing in the slight breeze. Darshan was more beautiful and blissful than ever. Maharaj Ji's special invention allowed everyone to take a long, cool look as they approached him head-on.
He was not expected to attend the program that night after five hours darshan. Raja Ji and Claudia were to hold the fort instead. Claudia gave beautiful, honest satsang, and then Durga Ji's father, who received Knowledge earlier this year, spoke. As Raja Ji gave satsang, the stage moved a little and there was a rustling in the ferns. Bob Mishler came on stage a little later to announce a special guest speaker who had just arrived and would like to say a few words. And from behind the throne, out came Maharaj Ji in Krishna costume, beaming at his little joke on the premies. "I just went home and had dinner, and after dinner I found myself getting dressed and coming here," he said. "Sometimes it's so strong it just pulls you." Then he talked about when he received Knowledge and what had led him to ask his Guru Maharaj Ji for Knowledge. It was a beautiful story to hear.
Sunday morning saw an ashram residents' meeting with Durga Ji and Premlata. But Sunday afternoon was the big event of the day - the public program. The first public satsang of Maharaj Ji in the U.S. since Millennium '73. A huge crowd turned up in response to state-wide advertising. The premies had been instructed the night before: no pranams, no Bhole Shri's. The stage was clear: no seats for Raja Ji and Claudia; no mahatmas. Just a formal introduction and there was Maharaj Ji, alone on the stage, confident and smart in a shirt and tie.
If the Lord wants to manifest on this planet, he said, He can do it in any way, in any form, in any body, that He desires. If people are expecting Him to raise His right arm, He will raise His left; He can do anything. With that, he threw his arms wide and tilted his head back. Everyone looked up and in the middle of the sky, running right over the stage, hung a rainbow in the cloudless sky.
And he said it again: 'You give me your love and I will give you peace.'
Sunday was the day of power: the evening program was the biggest and most dynamic of them all. Even before Maharaj Ji and Durga Ji arrived, Jiva had worked the premies up to a tremendous pitch. It was as if everyone was wrapped in an unseen cloud of love, anticipation and euphoria. Durga Ji holding Premlata to the audience came onstage first. Immediately she started bopping to the infectious Jiva rhythm, a big smile on her face. But loud as the roar was, it suddenly doubled when Maharaj Ji himself appeared in his red and gold costume, looking unbelievably happy. His satsang was stern and powerful. Yet when he finished there was such a smile on his face everyone knew that that power was love.
Jiva take the stage again; everyone is dancing, Maharaj Ji is crowned and the premies sing Arti. He dances with Durga Ji for nearly a minute before leaving the stage.
As his boat reaches the far side of the lake the most incredible fireworks display ever opens up the sky above the heads of the dancing premies - an aerial light show that would have put even Gandalf to shame. It is an unsurpassable climax to the happiest festival yet. Immediately after the festival, administrators of Divine Light Mission from around the world gathered for a week to participate in a conference. The week's events were designed so the leaders of the Mission could come to a point of common understanding, and learn together the direction Guru Maharaj Ji has in mind for his Mission and for our lives.
During the conference, Maharaj Ji made a point of giving satsang separately to each of the three groups attending the conference; the national administrators, the North American DUO Directors, and the mahatmas. For each group he had the same message, though prepared especially for them: grow, mature in your service, so that you can be my tools and bring this Knowledge to the world.
Maharaj Ji really wanted to make sure that all the premies understood his Agya, he wanted them to know he was serious about his service and the opportunity Guru Maharaj Ji had given him,and that he expected them, that is us, to be serious about ours. When he spoke to the national administrators, he stopped his satsang several times to pull any of the remaining questions out of his premies, to get at those doubts they might still have. He answered each question completely.
The amount of energy Maharaj Ji was obviously putting into this gathering to make his point and help us understand it completely inspired everyone attending to throw themselves into it. The conference became a twenty-four hour Knowledge seminar. Cloistered together in the Hotel Solage, with nothing but more hotels as far as the eye could see, the group of one hundred and thirty premies just started to understand the message Guru Maharaj Ji has been telling us for years. French, Austrian, Malaysian, Venezuelan, American, or whatever, they began to scratch at the surface of the opportunity Maharaj Ji was providing for them, as human beings, to serve him
After he held the meetings with the different Directors, Maharaj Ji left it up to Bob Mishler, Lou Schwartz, and Michael Dettmers to get down to specifics.
The first four days of the conference were full of presentations on subjects ranging from the purpose of the Ashram Novitiate Training Program to the mechanics of balancing a financial statement.
One of the main points of satsang was about this thing we call 'community' and its role in propagation and in our lives as premies. Presentations focused a lot on the nitty-gritty of what it takes to organise a community which can support the growth of consciousness in premies. Community is a very basic tool that Maharaj Ji has chosen to use. He is depending on us to develop independ-
ently strong communities to support his work. That is communities of premies who really know why they're together and who are willing and capable of fulfilling Maharaj Ji's Agya.
"Maharaj Ji loves unity," said one premie. Like he said on the third night of the festival, only when a car's parts are all together are they worth anything. He loves it when premies come together and cooperate when they do service together, because then the power of the Knowledge becomes really obvious to everyone.
It's up to us not only to have that experience within ourselves, but to manifest it, to make it real in the external and practical sense.
When Guru Maharaj Ji was speaking to the North American group, he talked of community as friendship between premies who are dedicated to Guru Maharaj Ji. And he emphasised that community happens when premies agree to focus their energy to one point in their to serve Maharaj Ji, because they know they will serve him much better that way than trying to go about it seperately.
"This is the context that all our organisational detail has to happen in," Michael Dettmers explained after the conference. "The different cities and countries have to be legally and financially strong for sure; they have to be run in a practical and responsible way. But what that really means is that as well as sharing information about organisational procedures and tools, the leaders of the Mission have to develop a consciousness of what we're doing and why we're doing it, in the broadest sense. If a person is conscious, and this applies to all of us, then they will know how to act in every situation. They will be using their brain and meditation together. They can be a channel of consciousness for the Agya of Guru Maharaj Ji to work through."
In describing his experience the last few days of the conference, one premie said, "I took part in the workshops that dealt with the development of the premie community in the U.S. I saw an amazing thing happen there. We were having real satsang with
each other and we all felt such a sense of unity. But what was most exciting was that we had real, down to earth things that we were going to do to manifest this unity, love and devotion in the world.
"When we left Orlando, we had a good feeling that in order to help Maharaj Ji we had to be together and since we were together, we could go ahead."
"Does the growth of consciousness and understanding that you saw in the Orlando conferences affect the Mission's plans in the coming year?" Michael Dettmers was asked. "Affect our plans?" he said. "The growth of consciousness is the plan."