Astrodome Loses Beer Odor to Mystic Incense
Los Angeles Times (1886-Current File); Nov 9, 1973; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Los Angeles Times (1881 - 1986)  pg. A4

Astrodome Loses Beer Odor to Mystic Incense

20,000 Devotees of 15-Year-Old Guru Assemble in Houston for 3-Day Festival
Times Staff Writer

HOUSTON - "This place smells like hot dogs and beer," complained one of the "divine salesmen" who set up shop Thursday morning in the concourse of the Houston Astrodome. "Let's burn a lot of incense and get a really nice smell."

An hour later, the atmosphere was as redolent of Eastern mysticism as a Hollywood Blvd. head shop, although, instead of water pipes, black lights and posters of Jimi Hendrix, the only goods on sale were T-shirts, bumper stickers, magazines, records and books bearing the benignly smiling countenance of 15-year-old Guru Maharaj Ji, the self-proclaimed Perfect Master who has drawn 20,000 of his devotees to Houston to participate in the launching of a thousand years of peace.

Flanked by his mother, Shri Mata Ji, and his three brothers - Bal Bhagwan Ji, the intellectual head of the family, Bhole Ji, director of Blue Aquarius, the official band, and Raja Ji, commander of the World Peace Corps, their ever-present security force, Maharaj Ji entered the Astrodome Thursday night while electronic fireworks and the giant Texaco signs flashed on and off.

The Indian mystic spoke for more than an hour, emphasizing that only those he initiated into his knowledge of God would understand his words. He did not outline the plan for world peace he has promised to reveal during the course of the three-day festival, Millennium 73.

Although bumper stickers promising "Peace for those Who Want It" suggested that not even Maharaj Ji is about to come up with a foolproof formula for world peace, his devotees, who pride themselves on their cultivated calm and serenity, have organized an elaborate program of inspirational music punctuated by spiritual addresses they call satsangs.

"People are just blissed out of their heads," giggled Rennie Davis, the former antiwar activist who is Maharaj Ji's star convert and general coordinator of Millennium 73. He said the gathering would "purr like a well-oiled machine."

Injuries -- most commonly heat prostration and hysteria - are treated in the Shri Hans Humanitarian Services.

Second-degree burns like those suffered by one woman whose car radiator boiled over are treated with a salve made from wheat germ oil, "five flowers rescue remedy ointment" and chlorophyll.

Members of Divine Light Mission, the group under whose auspices Millennium 73 has been organized, refused to estimate expenses, but rental of the Astrodome alone cost $80,000.

Although the "premies," those who have received knowledge of eternal peace through the guru, will not admit to having heard a discouraging word, there have been minor incidents.

A troupe of Hare Krishna dancers was reportedly led from the Astrodome when they entered to distribute literature and their own brand of incense.

But the vast majorities of devotees from around the world who have assembled on the Astrodome floor, dominated by a huge, multi-tiered stage looking like a giant birthday cake, are insensible to such minor annoyances. As the Astrodome's computerized scoreboard spells out such uplifting messages as "God is Love," Hindi chants sweep through the mass. "Bolie shri satguru dev Maharaj ki jai," the followers shout, throwing their arms into the air. "All praise to the Perfect Master, giver of life."

"It is a holy hip-hip hooray," explained one smiling premie.