THE DIVINE LIGHT MISSION IN AUSTRALIA
Derek Harper & Michael McDonald
The Divine Light Mission is a very unusual organisation and can best be understood if we divide it into three parts: the physical, the mental and the spiritual. The physical part of the DLM can be easily seen as people, places and programmes; the mental part is slightly harder to find, being the accumulated thoughts and opinions of the people who make up the Mission itself; and the hardest to find and the most important of all is the soul of DLM.
Every person you know, and yourself included, also exists on these three levels - you have a body on the physical level, thoughts and opinions on the mental level, and a hidden energy supply that keeps you alive called your soul. In the natural order of things your mind controls your body and your soul controls your mind but, in fact, most people are unaware of their true nature and have lost control of their minds in consequence.
In our most increasingly competitive, cold and alienating society, worry and depression build up in people's minds. In this society there is no real release for this except in aggression or, more positively, in the belief and hope for real social change. The DLM was brought into existence to offer the solution to the problem of taming that part of people's minds which is continually under stress, so they can work more constructively and with more strength towards a better world. Unlike the psychologists' drugs, meditation doesn't put people under sedation - it frees them to really use their full potential.
The spiritual core, or soul, of DLM is the meditation as shown to us by Guru Maharaj Ji. It is a means of controlling and centring the mind by connecting it with the soul, and it is this common experience that joins us together and which manifests as DLM on the physical and mental levels. As this is a personal experience, and cannot be described in words, it can only be appreciated by the person who is experiencing it. Without this meditation and the experiences that result, DLM would. not exist, and it is this basis of meditation which separates DLM from any other organisation. The sole aim of each 'premie' (as people who have been shown the meditation are called), individually or collectively, is to practise this meditation and to experience the beneficial changes it produces. This is the most important aspect of DLM.
DLM has a mental level as well, but as there are hundreds of people involved, each with millions of ideas and opinions, it is not possible nor desirable to try and formulate any group opinion, concept or theory. Rather the Missions' mental outlook is extremely fluid and changes as its members change. In fact the very function of meditation is to eliminate extraneous and unnecessary thoughts, so allowing the meditator to spend more time in the here-and-now. But it can be said that the ultimate effect of meditation is to replace thoughts of greed, anger, hate, depression and loneliness with a practical experience of peace, harmony and happiness, all of which can only be obtained through meditation. Naturally this permeates the entire consciousness, alters previously held opinions, and creates new ones. Once again this is entirely personal, and different people have different realisations at different times. But if any overall opinion can be attributed to DLM as a whole it would be that the world would be a lot better if people realised the benefits of meditation, and acted more as whole human beings.
The physical proportions of DLM can be seen and judged much more easily. DLM world-wide consists of about seven million people; of these, six million are in India and the rest are scattered in thirty-eight countries around the world. In Australia to the middle of July 1974, 1300 people have been shown this meditation (often called 'Knowledge of the Soul', or simply 'Knowledge'), but only seven hundred can be said to be actively involved in Mission activities. Peoples' involvement depends on their own desire or previous commitments; some people meditate a little and come along occasionally, other people meditate as much as possible and become as involved as possible. Each person is able to control his progress and involvement by the amount of effort he makes; the more effort you make the further and faster you go. The Knowledge is by no means instant enlightenment; in fact each person's self-evolution depends on quite a bit of hard work.
How Divine Light Mission is conceived by the society, is constantly changing and hopefully improving. General Secretary of Australia, David Lovejoy, comments: 'In the public eye, it seems that DLM is firmly anchored in the "devotional" image, along with Hare Krishnas and the Children of God, mainly because of our "Second Coming" campaign and the personality-conscious "Who is Guru Maharaj Ji?" theme. Needless to say, most people cannot handle devotion, never having seen anything worth devoting themselves to, and therefore this can be a barrier to their understanding that Knowledge is a definite experience and not a religious faith. A better "image", to use these terms, would be that of Zen or Yoga, so perhaps we should call mahatmas "Zen Masters" to get them a better hearing!'
The DLM community within society should be seen and understood in terms of the meditation, even though many premies will have different situations and different styles of living. Premies by no means attempt to withdraw from the world. In fact, after Knowledge, many of them do not change at all the outward physical characteristics of their lives. They continue to do most of the things they did in the world before they took Knowledge. However, their actions now have a much stronger basis in the inner serenity they find through meditation.
Many premies live with their families or friends and participate in the Mission's activities when possible. Some premies choose to live in communal houses together with other premies. Almost all households are non-smoking, non-drinking and vegetarian and, in some, the finances and energies are pooled for the good of all. This is the norm, not the rule, and each household, like communal households everywhere, makes its own decisions about life styles. Often households contain students and married couples and about three hundred people would follow this life style in Australia.
Within the framework of the Mission are a number of houses, called ashrams. Those who live in ashrams have devoted their lives to serve Guru Maharaj Ji and to spread spiritual Knowledge. They either work full-time for the Mission or have a variety of jobs, from which they donate all wages to the Mission. So you have some people earning money, and some not, but all the money is pooled to provide for all. Only a small percentage of premies live in this manner, as meditation can be practised in any environment. Some premies, choose to live in an ashram for a couple of months, to get into their meditation, and then move out into households or shared houses. The ashram life style is an interesting social phenomenon in a society which leans heavily on the pursuit of sensual pleasures. Ashram residents practise celibacy, they do not eat meat, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or take drugs. Married people, as well as single, live in ashrams and, in their case, the practice of celibacy means that they have sexual relations only with their marital partner. The ashram residents' day usually begins at 6 a.m. with an hour's meditation, then breakfast. The rest of the day is spent at work or in full-time service and the evening is often spent at satsang, the discourses about Knowledge, followed by an hour's meditation. So life revolves around a schedule of service, satsang and meditation.
It is interesting to note that although this Knowledge is practised by people of all ages, the majority of premies in Australia are between twenty and thirty years old, especially the ashram residents. (In overseas countries, there are premies of all different ages, from seven to seventy-eight). Some have come from a background of heavy drug-taking and involvement in counter culture activities. They see the radical change in their life style as attributable to the power of meditation which has given them the clarity to see all people equally as human beings rather than as part of a parent! child or establishment/alternative matrix.
Guru Maharaj Ji is the Head of the Divine Light Mission which was founded by his Father in India in 1961 and which was established here in Australia in 1972. In June 1972, two premies met accidentally in a vegetarian restaurant in Sydney. David Lovejoy and Faith Healey had gone to India independently of each other, received Knowledge, and had then come to Australia. With them were Faith's sister, Poppy, and David's wife, Wendy. Together they decided to renovate a terrace house in Riley Street, Surry Hills and begin an ashram, from which they could give satsang and propagate Knowledge. Shortly after, Carol Page and Susie Gardner-Brown returned from India to strengthen their numbers.
Within two months they had saved the exact amount of money needed to purchase an air ~ticket from Japan to Australia. Coincidentally, one of Guru Maharaj Ji's close disciples, Mahatma Gurucharnanand Ji, arrived in Japan and was invited to Australia on September 3 1972. During his ten day visit he initiated several people into the experience of Knowledge. He also visited an ashram in Cardigan Street, in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton, which had been founded by Julie Collett who had also recently returned from India.
Soon after, Guru Maharaj Ji himself arrived for a two day visit. After his brief visit the Mission ~ began to expand. A satsang hall and offices were opened in Fitzroy, Melbourne. Sydney's ashram was transferred to Balmain on December 10, Guru Maharaj Ji's birthday. New centres were opened in Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra. Owing to increasing numbers of people waiting for Knowledge, a new satsang hall and offices were opened in Wentworth Avenue, Sydney.
A Guru Puja festival was held in Adelaide on July 13, 14 and 15 1973, and it marked the arrival of Mahatma Padarthanand Ji, the mahatma permanently resident in Australia, who has initiated approximately thirteen hundred people into Knowledge up to the middle of July 1974.
In November 1973, a world-wide DLM Festival/ Conference called 'Millennium '73' was held in Houston, Texas. After Millennium, emphasis was shifted from publicising Guru Maharaj Ji to explaining the beneficial nature of the meditation he revealed as many people were having difficulty in understanding what was being offered. In Australia, the Mission slowed its pace and began to concentrate on financial stability and 'grass-roots propagation' - the presentation of spiritual Knowledge on a person-to-person basis rather than through massive media operations.
Finance is always a problem and the DLM in Australia is usually broke, but there's always just enough to keep on going. Each country in DLM is financially self-supporting, therefore the Australian Mission doesn't send or receive money from overseas. Much of the money comes from donations, and a little from second-hand shops. All money is spent in accordance with the rules set out by the Charities Commission, as DLM is registered as a charity. (It is individual premies who occasionally give Guru Maharaj Ji presents, and not DLM itself.)
Visits from Guru Maharaj Ji's brother, Bal Bhagwan Ji, and Mahatma Rajeshwar, in February 1974, inspired the premies to stabilise the Mission as an efficient tool to serve humanity on all levels through every area of society.
At the 1974 Guru Puja Festival, held in Melbourne on July 11, 12 and 13, premies from all over Australia came together. A feature of this Festival was a Day of Service when all the premies spread themselves throughout Melbourne, working on projects for various voluntary organisations. Another day was devoted to learning exchanges, where premies shared knowledge and skills in such fields as education, gardening and farming, kids, and health. At night there were free concerts. Throughout the Festival, a health centre, manned by osteopaths and doctors who had all taken Knowledge, was kept open twenty-four hours a day, offering its services to the local residents as well as premies.
We find that each capital city, by its very nature, influences what the Mission does, and the personality of that DLM centre. In Sydney most of the activity revolves around national duties. It is such a chaotic and alienating city it takes a lot of energy just to live there. Even though a lot of people in Sydney have the Knowledge, there isn't as yet a great deal of creative energy in the forms of community services. The Mission really needs to set up a place for homeless men and women, as there are so many of them, and some come to satsang. Sydney DLM puts out the newspaper, The Golden Age, distributed nationally, has a Saturday afternoon health clinic, and a large food co-op, but really the communal activities in Sydney could be stronger. There are also centres at Newcastle, Terrigal and Albury in New South Wales, and a small one in the Blue Mountains.
In Brisbane the communal activities of DLM are closer-knit. The Mission has good links with Wholefoods. Many premies live on communal farms north of Brisbane, and there are rural centres at Noosa, Cairns, and places in between. On the farms there is a lot of interest in alternative technology and organic farming, and some research and experiments are just beginning to take place. At Noosa Heads there is quite an explosion of creative work with cottage industries, and an art gallery.
In Tasmania, the Mission has a real extended family nature with its headquarters in Hobart. There is quite a good deal of interest in theatre. Also a pottery cooperative, where people can be taught, is being established about forty-eight kilo-metres out of Hobart on a farm, by a premie who is a world famous potter.
Adelaide, like Brisbane, is very conscious of healthy living and self-sufficiency, and many DLM communal houses have their own vegetable gardens. There is also a lot of charity work done in Adelaide, especially for pensioners. In a smaller city without so many stresses, it seems more possible to get it together as a community service.
Melbourne, as always, is where the music and politics strong. The Rhythm in Bliss Band (now called Band of Angels) and the Hot City Bump Band, both made up of premies, are becoming well known, with their kind of music and vibrations. For some time Melbourne DLM has had a health clinic staffed by a qualified doctor and osteopaths, a cheap bulk health-food shop (Soul Foods) open to all, a nursery and a handicraft scene.
There is also a fairly large centre in Perth and a small one in Darwin. A centre in Canberra had to close due to lack of interest in that city of intellectuals, but has recently re-opened.
In most capital cities now there are second-hand shops where recyclable goods and clothing are sold incredibly cheaply (Divine Sales), the prices charged often depending on the customer's needs and means.
The Mission does not see itself as a counter cultural movement, although its structure reaps the benefits of communal existence such as food co-ops, baby minding and transport pools. Material possessions such as clothes, money, kitchen utensils, herb plants, gardening equipment, typewriters, books circulate quite freely within the premie community. There are several sets of baby clothes and one particular pram which have been used by at least three different babies, and are still going strong.
Premies with skills, such as doctors, mechanics, plumbers, filmmakers, give their services free to other premies and sometimes to the local community. In 1975 DLM hopes to start a school for premie children using the skills of the qualified teachers who are premies, basing the teaching methods on the ideas of Rudolf Steiner.
Turning to a more formal level of organisation, the few full-time office holders which the Mission has, are elected annually by a general meeting. Six premies are elected to a National Committee, which is responsible for making the decisions for that year. They sort out the particular offices among them - often there's a good deal of flexibility even among the six. For some personal reason one person may become temporarily inactive in his service, so someone else who feels inclined, from the committee or outside, will step in and perform the duty. There's usually about three people capable of performing one of the offices, and sometimes it's difficult to work out who is the Treasurer, or Secretary, or whatever at the moment. This is an interesting concept which could be applied in the business and government worlds to liberate workers.
It's a really free and flexible administration, but it's never chaotic and always works. In a reversal of normal business administration roles, there is no particular social value attached to positions of authority; rather the office holder has the responsibility of serving other premies with love and affection. It is recognised that temporal 'positions' have no real influence on life's events and that real authority rests in complete spiritual realisation. Even the committee meetings are open to anyone who wants to attend, and there are frequently visitors at them. Everyone is encouraged to put forward ideas and criticisms, and the files and resources are open to all. It's quite common to have a lot of different people in the offices during day, night or weekend, doing their various individual things and using the resources there.
Basically the DLM community feels that it can do a better job in almost any field than is currently provided by society; education, health, community action, take on a new dimension through meditation and when the time, place and situation is correct, DLM endeavours to do just that. Obviously it makes many errors before the correct balance is attained but it is our intention to prove practically that meditation is the key. Slowly but surely a completely workable alternative to normal society is evolving with the Mission around the world, but it is still very much in the world.
It is our experience that the only workable alternative in today's society is one that is based on an unshakeable experiential reality rather than concepts or theories. It is our experience that the only unshakeable reality is pure energy, God, Cosmic Consciousness, Truth, or whatever else you want to call it. This can only be experienced through meditation. And it is our experience that the only meditation that can put you in constant touch with this reality is the meditation being revealed by Guru Maharaj Ji.