Focus on Melbourne
From Golden Age correspondent, Kari Kristiansen
"The commuter is leaving right now." That's the familiar call every morning as the commuter begins the journey through Kew, the heart of Melbourne's premie community. So here we go, weaving our way through the endless streams of traffic, past the parks and gardens, into the industrial areas. All the while the sun is trying to penetrate through the smog and cloud hanging over the city. This is Melbourne. It seems to be expanding more and more, devouring the surrounding countryside with suburbs of sprawling housing estates and factories. Everything is moving. But amid all this activity, something is actually taking place. Let's take a look behind the scenes …
Since Divine Light Mission first began in Melbourne almost four years ago, over 400 people have received Knowledge. So much has happened in that time. The Mission has attracted an assortment of people from everywhere. People from all walks of life have been drawn to our community, if only to enquire. In the early days our notoriety was so often due to the outlandish concepts and ideas we sprouted about the Knowledge. We became well-known for our overt propagational tactics ("The Lord of the Universe has come to us this day"), blue and white buildings, our jumble shop and general obviousness, particularly around Fitzroy and Carlton.
But all the time, we've been learning. As Guru Maharaj Ji said: "Once we receive Knowledge, things change. Because of Divine Light Mission, because of the organisation, because premies are premies, we help each other, we give satsang to each other. All the premies get together and there's a lot of power, a lot of energy generated, and it helps us.
The whole face of the Mission is continually taking a different form according to our level of understanding at the time. Gradually we're becoming more down to earth. Even although our main base has always been the satsang hall and offices in Fitzroy, a couple of years ago we began to look further afield. Before long, premie houses sprang up in the Kew/Hawthorn area.
Gradually the Indian spiritual concepts have faded away along with so many of the old ideas, attitudes, fears and whatever else has held us up in the past. The old rumour that we can actually feel close to every human being is becoming a practical reality. In other words, we're discovering the actual real living experience of Knowledge. That's enough to direct us into a balance of living as a real human being alongside everyone and everything else on the planet.
Over the years the Mission in Melbourne has certainly expanded. A recent landmark was the opening of the new Soul Food shop, a large, thriving complex, providing a focal point for a lot of service. From one small overcrowded ashram in Cardigan Street, Carlton, three spacious residences in the suburbs have emerged. But beyond the superficiality of numbers, events and trends, real development is taking place. The practical experience which Maharaj Ji talks about only comes when we capture that day by day, minute by minute awareness within inside of us. The Knowledge is within everyone. But, as premies, we can be consciously aware of it all the time. Only then is there positivity and real communication. For a community to be strong, for that love to be generating, there has to be an understanding. Beyond all the words, all the ideas and plans, if we can grasp one understanding and take it to heart - that this Knowledge is going on inside of us, motivating our very life and that we need to give it our maximum attention - then the community will really develop.
Each one of us responds to this Knowledge in our own way. There was a time when there was the ashram and then there was the rest of the community. If a premie wanted to commit himself in any meaningful, practical way, the ashram was the only available option. These days it's a completely different story. As we become more familiar and secure in Knowledge, we can understand for ourselves what environment we want to live in. Meditation is a very personal thing. But actually in order to even do meditation, we need all the help we can get. So for many of us, where we live has a great bearing on our progress in Knowledge.
As our Community Director, Nils Koren, said recently: "The various living situations, whether it be ashram, pre-ashram, community centre, family community centre or AMP household, are a means to an end. They are not the end in themselves. The end is to become natural, to become more and more connected with our very nature, that force which is called Holy Name. That's our sole aim and anything that can help us to individually connect with that natural force is worthwhile."
Here in Melbourne the whole gamut of living situations has been set up by the Mission to give everyone the chance to grow in the experience of Knowledge. Recently I set about to find out what is really happening within these living situations.
Bill Whittakers, Ashram Supervisor, put it in a nutshell: "It's only when I make a step inside myself that I really go anywhere. And in having a way set out for me, I've experienced something which has shown me where it is that life is really going on, not in any particular place, not in the ashram and a set of rules and regulations, but inside myself."
Everyone I meet has such a lot of positivity to express about their lifestyle. Stewart Kruger who has lived in the pre-ashram for about six months, had this to say: "When I first moved into the pre-ashram, I wasn't really able to take full advantage of
No. 31, July 1976
what was available. But gradually, because that real thing inside me is starting to grow, I'm beginning to realise what a gift this situation really is."
In the beginning, it's often necessary to embrace the complete external discipline strongly in order to find that inner experience more easily. But as Ross Nicol, who lives in an AMP household said: It always comes back to the old story of balance. I know that to truly understand what balance means in my life, I've got to meditate more and more. Living in an AMP house can help me do this and not build up a huge concept of where everyone would live."
And so the story goes on. All the time we're being reduced down to the one reality that Poppy Day, Family Community Centre Supervisor, put it - "Knowledge is Knowledge and is independent of all living situations. Therefore it's our choice where we live."
In Melbourne, the living situation which deserves unique attention is the Aspirant Shelter, home of five aspirants and two premies. The shelter is itself fairly structured, with a schedule and direction from houseparents where necessary. is proving to be a real focus for the aspirants in the community, as a venue for satsang. formally (at 6 a.m.) and informally. For the residents the benefit is enormous. They're learning to find their own strength and understanding. independent of any external structure. This is a very gradual process. in the past, living situations for aspirants have often taken the approach of, "make do with service and satsang until you get Knowledge." In contrast, the Aspirant Shelter encourages the realisation that there is much to be learnt in service and satsang alone.
The aspirants are gradually realising that the time of preparation can be so productive in getting clear about Knowledge and opening up to each other and to Guru Maharaj Ji. As one of the aspirants said, "My living situation at the Aspirant Shelter will not last forever. To use this time fully, I know that it's my own effort, my own determination, to grow in service and satsang on which everything depends."
In fact, everyone throughout the Melbourne community is gaining that understanding that practising Knowledge isn't a rat race. It's a simple undiluted experience which we can come to know more and more through meditation.
Everything that we do in our life needs to help us get to that basic experience.