Derek Harper recently returned from a conference with Maharaj Ji in Frankfurt, Germany. Attended by some community coordinators and community representatives as well as by national coordinators, the conference took place just after Guru Maharaj Ji dissolved the international headquarters in Denver. Shortly after his arrival in Sydney on December 1st, The Golden Age asked Derek for his impressions of what went on.
When everyone first came together, the general feeling was that we didn't want to go through another conference like the one that happened in Orlando the previous year, or like the last one in Europe. At Orlando we sat down and essentially got told how things were and how things should be by the Denver headquarters of the mission, and a lot of people felt that this wasn't really in sync with what was happening in their countries. And so from our side we wanted to present to Guru Maharaj Ji what was happening in our countries from our point of view. And Maharaj Ji, from his side, wanted to get from us a better idea of what was going on, in order to make more explicit direction.
We felt that there was a lot of variation between countries and because of that, we didn't feel that at this stage you could give blanket-type direction. There is such a variation between a country like England, say, where you've got about 5,000 premies, and a place like Senegal, where there's 15 premies. So we tried to break the conference up into communities of like situation and size and culture, and develop it from there. And so Australia naturally tended towards England, Canada and Ireland. The larger European countries - like France, Italy. Germany and Spain - formed another group, the smaller European countries another.
and then there were the Asian and African countries - Senegal, Hong Kong, places like that.
Guru Maharaj Ji gave an initial introduction to everyone; that was a real help, because we had a lot of things that we wanted to present, and Maharaj Ji brought them back into perspective right from the start by establishing what was ideas and what was fact. Following that Maharaj Ji asked each community coordinator and national coordinator there what was going on in his country and got feedback directly from that person; in some cases he asked them what their own experience of Knowledge was. to better ascertain where that person was at. And again, this was really beneficial, because as he said, the information that he got from us was completely different to the information that had been getting from other sources, from Denver or from the initiators. I think was surprised in a sense to hear that what was happening was looked upon by the community coordinators as being optimistic and beneficial change, whereas I think to a certain extent had received the impression that what was happening was negative.
Like a first date
It was like a first date, actually, I felt. The situation had always been that Denver gave the orders. Maharaj Ji said to internationalise the mission, so the mission became internationalised. He said "Do what Denver says," and so when Denver told us to do things, then give and take minor variations on culture and suitability, we did pretty much what we were told - the whole of the aspirant program and everything that went with it, the ashrams, the dissolution of the ashrams, centralised finance, and the legal structure were all suggested by Denver.
And in most cases they were good ideas, so long as one kept in mind that the prime aim of all the things was to facilitate the practice of Knowledge. But if you lost that understanding and got into the organisational structure, then you completely lost it. In addition, Guru Maharaj Ji in the past always received information through Denver, and through the consciousness of the people who were there. If their consciousness wasn't high, then they weren't able to interpret what was going on in a correct manner - they would see everything through their own perspective, and it would go through that narrow funnel before it actually got to Guru Maharaj Ji. The only time the national directors had any communication with Guru Maharaj Ji would be when, after sitting down to days and days of discussion with the Denver IHQ about what we should be doing, Maharaj Ji would come at the end and kind of put his rubber stamp of approval on it all, and give us satsang. Which was extremely beneficial, but he was sort of divorced from what was happening, because of the middle man that IHQ had become.
So this time there was no agenda, there was no format and there was quite a bit of lobbying by various communities for the way they thought things should happen. It was a very free and open situation. Guru Maharaj Ji came in without anything specific to do or say and the conference was pretty much run according to the needs of the communities. And so it was interesting, and new, for Guru Maharaj Ji to be in that dialogue-type situation, and it was interesting for us too. And I think it was very successful. But as I said, it was like a first date in that we were a bit nervous about what was going to happen, and I think Guru Maharaj Ji was also a little bit unfamiliar with what was going on.
I think as we start to get more into this more open situation, everything will just get more and more incredible. Guru Maharaj Ji will be able to be right there in the community, he'll be able to personally know the coordinators and the national coordinators. And as such, he will be able to better evaluate what's going on, and I think there will be a much more personal communication with the members of the mission, so that everyone will feel it's not as if Guru Maharaj Ji is somewhere unreachable. One evening during the conference Maharaj Ji gave a program which was attended by the Frankfurt community premies, and afterwards he sat around for about half an hour and talked with everyone, just sitting around on the stage leaning forward in his chair. People were asking questions and he was chatting and talking about anything that people wanted to talk about. And that was really beautiful. You could see the difference it made to those premies, the Frankfurt premies, just to be right there and then with Guru Maharaj Ji. It closed a lot of gaps.
For me the whole thing was just a confirmation that what had gone before was okay. Actually they asked us when we arrived what we expected to get from the conference. And I didn't expect anything really, I was just interested to put in input where I could, and I was interested to get the general vibe. Because that really helps when you're stuck out in the mulga like we are, not knowing what's going on anywhere else. It's almost like you're running the mission by the seat of your pants, in a sense. And people may well wonder, "Is this right or is it not?" Believe me, being a national coordinator is not easy, in a sense, because it's a very fine line you're treading. People know how difficult it is in their own lives to get their scene together, to adjust, to understand, to surrender and whatever, and if you just multiply that on to a national level, you've got a lot of things to consider. And so it was nice to get confirmation that everything is okay. It's nice to know that the problems that have been happening in your community have also been happening elsewhere, not as a result of anything other than the natural evolution of consciousness.
So we'll keep on going pretty much the way we're going. There are three or four areas that aren't finalised yet. There's the ashrams: Maharaj Ji got some interesting input on that. Many community coordinators felt that although the ashram was a place of progress for many people whilst they were living there, it became in some ways a restriction on people's personal growth and a hideout for people who weren't doing anything at all. They felt that now the ashrams have dissolved, rather than it's being a bad thing that people are perhaps hanging out a little more than is necessary - maybe smoking and drinking and going to parties - that it has in fact got it's benefits. That if that was there within people, then you can't hide it. And that now that it has come out, people have a lot better understanding of the realities of Knowledge than perhaps they did when they were in the very contrived environment of the ashram. And some people have really progressed. So having got a picture of what the dissolution of the ashram has done in the various countries, Maharaj Ji is going to come back to us with what he thinks is a reasonable situation for us.
The Golden Age
Then there's the initiator development program: this is something Guru Maharaj Ji is having a look at. He wants the initiator to be his man-on-the-spot, his link with the community, someone whose judgement he can trust, someone that he knows, someone that he can very easily deal with. The idea is that this will avoid what happened in many countries, where whole communities went completely bananas without anyone having input to Maharaj Ji - he never even knew in some cases what was going on, because it never got through to him. So now he wants to have direct communication. Maybe the community coordinators and the national coordinators will have Guru Maharaj Ji's phone number, so they can ring him up if they feel the situation really warrants it. And he will have his roving initiators or representatives who will keep an eye on things directly for him in a spiritual sense - not so much in the organisational sense, because he feels that is the responsibility of the organisers, the people who are appointed for those jobs. He's just wanting to know the general tone of the community, and what their understanding is. So the initiator situation is still up in the air, and will have to be worked out more. And there's the question of communication with Guru Maharaj Ji, how is that going to take place?
Propagation again is something to be worked out by Guru Maharaj Ji: when he wants us to start, or what he wants us to do. I think more and more feedback will come to him about the readiness of the communities: are they together enough to start holding introductory programs, or will it be that half a dozen people are ready to give introductory satsang and then those same six people are going to have to do it night after night after night, simply because the large majority of the community isn't really clear? And so maybe we're going to have to wait some time before the majority of the community can be relied upon to give a clear, accurate, honest and sincere description of Knowledge in their lives. When that happens then maybe we can start again, till then maybe we won't. But again that's up to Guru Maharaj Ji.
Right there with the premies
Probably the most important thing that Guru Maharaj Ji expressed is that he is in charge, that he knows what's going on now, he's getting more input and he's taking a more active, more involved role in the mission. He's wanting to be right there with the premies. If he comes to Australia, as he's planning to in say, April, then he might well do three or four programs and actually sit down and talk with the communities as he did in Frankfurt, talk with the community coordinators and be right there. So in a sense, he will be like a national coordinator travelling around and talking to the various interest groups, trying to find out what's going on, what's real and what isn't. He's going to get into doing that as much as possible, bearing in mind that he's got a family and he doesn't want to have to spend months away every year. That may limit how close he can get. But he's wanting premies to understand that Knowledge is still the Knowledge that you wanted when you came to the mission, that it's still the only source of happiness that you'll be able to attain. And he's going to do what he can to ensure that that understanding takes place.
The conference was in a similar vein to what we're trying to adopt with the community. Instead of it being all a one-way street of direction coming down and you accepting it or not accepting it, the thing now is okay, be more responsible for your own situation - see what you need, what you feel would benefit you as a premie, and what would help in propagation. This is what happened at this conference: it was the community coordinators and national coordinators trying to express what they felt was needed at the particular time, and then Guru Maharaj Ji receiving that input and making his decision from that basis. And the idea is to develop a similar situation at the local level, where the community takes charge of its own life for itself and tries, with consciousness, to understand what is best for it, and what is best for the mission.
You can't have one small group of the community trying to enforce it's ideas on the rest of the community. Likewise you can't have the Ivory Coast with 15 premies trying to dictate policies for England, nor can you say to England, "Okay, take over the Ivory Coast." And so here in any community in Australia, no small interest group should be thinking that they have the solution for everyone, that you have to do it this way, or you have to do it that way. The mission provides the framework of satsang, service when it's available, and what the mission can do, and then it's up to each premie to try to fill out his own life as a particular individual himself. When you get a large group of people you do by necessity find that you have groups of similar consciousness, or similar aims, or similar situations, and those groups should try to help themselves but shouldn't impose their views on others. Let people choose for themselves whether they want to meditate an hour or two hours in the morning, whether they want to go to satsang six nights a week or two. Each person has got to establish their own level. And at first this might be externally unattractive: instead of having 50 people all in blue shirts and blue pants and black shoes walking into the satsang hall every night, you find when you take away that external structure that what you get is a whole lot of people coming in sandshoes and thongs and gum boots. It doesn't look as neat. But if that's where people are at. then that's where they have got to start from. And hopefully eventually we will arrive at the point where we will naturally get a million minds with one idea, as Guru Maharaj Ji said some time ago. Where people will naturally develop in an intuitively correct way. But no longer can we say, "Okay, do this," on an external level just because it's pleasing to the eye.
The lucky country
Australia is, undoubtedly, very good. From everything that you hear about what's going on in other places, you can't help but recognise that many of the problems that other people have had, we're just not into. Why? I think a lot has to do with Padarthanand, with the fact that he was not into doing a lot of the things that some of the other initiators got into. Some countries, like England and Germany, are still paying off debts that were caused by certain initiators who were so conceptual as to be completely out of tune with what was going on in the community, with what was real. So we've been very lucky with Padarthanand. And also just the general Australian easygoing attitude has stopped us from getting too far into some of the trips. If there have been any trips, they have been taken with a grain of salt all the organisational business- administration, ashrams, those things that have been set up by the mission - they've been done with a sense of humour in a way.
No. 35, January 1977
No one has taken things too seriously, and therefore when these things fell down or were dissolved or whatever, then no one was too badly effected. Whereas in some countries, things were taken to such extremes that you had to break out one way or another, you either got into it completely and lost yourself in the mechanics of how to live in the ashram or how to organise your community, or you completely rebelled the other way, said, "I'm not having anything to do with this," and completely went against the mission. Whereas here in Australia it's been fairly much down the middle. We're very lucky.
We don't really have any problems. Because when you look at the whole thing, everything is beautiful. And particularly, everything that happens is understandable. It is understandable that if a large change takes place, people may be a little bit knocked off balance for a while, if they have been involved or in some way dependent on the situation. For example when the ashrams change and people who have been living in a structured environment for three years are asked to go out and look after themselves, it's natural that they should be a little disorientated. And when a whole organisational structure has been going and all of a sudden it is dissolved it's natural that people should start to question the validity of that structure and their part in it, whether it be their actual involvement, or the contribution of funds. And the difference between Australia and some of the other countries is, because the consciousness here is basically pretty good and people are progressing with Knowledge, it doesn't take people very long to suss it out. All of a sudden they understand "Okay, I have been smoking and drinking for two weeks, I've now started to understand that that is not good for me," and they're out of it, they continue to practise Knowledge. Whereas in some countries, that's it - they're into it and they're into it, totally, all the time. Because whilst they were living in the ashram they never bothered to raise their level of consciousness.
And the same with the financial situation, or that lack of confidence in the mission. People put some trust into an organisation and all of a sudden the organisation falls down. So maybe at first people feel their trust has been betrayed in some sense, but really where they should have been putting their trust, and where most premies have been putting their trust, is in the experience of Knowledge. So they think about the organisation for a little while, and then all of a sudden they realise that that's not important anyway, they start to understand why a situation like that can happen, and then they don't feel like they have been betrayed because they realise that the organisation is just a manifestation that will come and go.
We don't really have any problems. They just seem to pass. If we do have any problems then the only people who are responsible are the individual people who are in some way dissatisfied. If someone is dissatisfied with the way things are on any level, then that person should look at himself, and just meditate more. Bezause there's no one to blame. And this is one of the good things about the organisation being removed: it's been the scapegoat, as has the administration, as has anyone you could poke a finger at. Well now this is disappearing fast, in fact it has disappeared. There is no one you can poke your finger at, and I think this is a tremendous advantage to the community. Because some people have been able to fool themselves in the past with thinking "If only I was in the ashram," or "If only I was out of the ashram," or "If only I was doing fulltime service," or "If only that person wasn't doing this or saying that." Now that that's gone, what can people say? All they can say is "If only I were meditating. If only I wasn't so into my head, everything would be okay." And as I said, it may not be as attractive externally to have a whole lot of people going through this situation, but they are going to arrive at a beautiful place as a result.
Australia is very lucky - it's had a very amazing time and will continue to do so. There's a lot of reasonable people here. They may not be saints and messiahs, but at least they are not nuts. There's a pretty good understanding of what's really going on. All that remains to be seen here, I guess, is that enough people raise their consciousness that something starts to happen. At the moment we are sitting still and we're just starting to wind up again. There seem to be people around the place who are starting to get it together to the point where they are prepared to stand up and say "Okay, why don't we try this?" without being attached to their ideas about it - accurately summing up the situation and putting forward good advice and good opinions. Whereas in the past it has always been left up to a few people, now we are hoping that everyone will start to contribute.
You can see that Guru Maharaj Ji's ideas for the future are pretty good. That if everything comes off the way Guru Maharaj Ji is sussing it out, things will be fantastic.