PAGE 12 BERKELEY BARB FEB 8-14. 1974
"He's Not Santa Claus, He's The Lord."
An informal debate between Paul Krassner, editor of the Realist, and Rennie Davis, disciple of Guru Maharaj 1i and coordinator of Millennium '73.
On the afternoon of Saturday. November 10, the following colloquy took place between Rennie Davis and Paul Krassner. In an informal sort of "debate", Paul, Rennie and moderator Ken Kelly sat at a table in the Astrohall, surrounded by about 50 reporters from such publications as Rolling Stone, Newsweek, the Berkeley Barb, and The Village Voice. The atmosphere was both relaxed many of the reporters and participants were old friends from the Peace Movement days — and expectant — many felt that if anyone could "expose" Divine Light Mission and Guru Maharaj Ji, it would be Paul Krassner, well-known for his open cynicism and cutting wit. Ken Kelly, who writes for The Berkeley Barb, Rolling Stone and Ramparts magazine, acted as moderator.
O Ken Kelly: On my left is Paul Krassner. At six years of age, he gave a concert in Carnegie Hall he is what you might call a perfect prodigy. He is editor and publisher of The Realist, and an undecided co-conspirator at the Chicago 8 demonstrations in 1968. A radio host in San Francisco and journalist of the underground press, he edited Lennie Bruce's autobiography, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People.
On my right, Rennie Davis. He. too, is somewhat of a musical prodigy, being an excellent banjo player. Known for his involvement in SUS, he went to Viet Nam, in 1967, for the first time. Upon his return, he was one of the organizers to end the war in Viet Nam. He was indicted for his activities, and appeared in the convention trial for the Chicago 8. He was subsequently one of the organizers for the May Day demonstrations in Washington, D.C., one of the biggest militant anti-war demonstrations in the history of the movement. He helped to organize protests at both Republican and Democratic conventions last year. Since January of 1973, Rennie has been a devotee of Guru Maharaj Ji and was the General Coordinator of Millennium '73, the festival we have been witnessing for the past few days. So, I think it appropriate that this debate take place on the 100th anniversary of the Shootout at OK Corral.
Paul, why did you feel inspired to challenge Rennie to this debate?
Paul: Well, as an individual, and coming from Berkeley, I feel that I'm representing a point of view and the questions of a lot of people. The resolution of the debate revolved around the questions of many people. So, when I challenged Rennie to a debate, the question was, "Resolved: that Guru Maharaj Ji and Divine.Light Mission serve to divert young people from social responsibility to personal escape." I felt I had a personal responsibility to raise that question in this kind of atmosphere, because I felt press conferences, unfortunately, turn into satsang very quickly. There has been no chance for follow-up or for extended discussion of certain issues, so I felt this would be a good vehicle for that kind of discussion.
Ken: How would you respond to that, Rennie?
Rennie: I thought it would be a good opportunity. Since I came back from India, I've traveled around the country and tried to tell people what had happened to me and how I was feeling, and that wasn't really the best environment to have a discussion. Not that this is easier, but since that tour in the Spring, I've been working here in Houston and I've really had very little opportunity to get out and talk to the people I've worked with for the last fifteen years. A lot of the people are wondering what direction the movement is going in, where we all are. Some people feel that the growth of something like Divine Light Mission is just one more diversion among many away from the basic thing that we have to do to deal with all the causes that lead to an Indochina, a Watergate, depression of an economic system, that oppress people in this country and around the world.
I don't see that pessimism at all. I think we're on the eve of one of the most glorious times in human history. Not only that, but I believe the vision of peace and justice that was proclaimed from the streets of this country in the decade of the '60's is now going to be realized in the decade of the 70's and 80's. I'm convinced that the generation of the 50's, and all of its stirring around a common kind of vision, led us into lots of different trips, into politics, organizations, some of us into community, some into drugs, some into withdrawing completely, some trying to create a new culture, a new lifestyle, or whatever. I believe we are going to come to see that that decade of the 50's had a meaning perhaps more profound than any of us now could imagine. Because I believe that it is a generation of peace, as the press would like to call it. It is actually going to be that generation that in the next few decades is going to carry out what we said were the goals of the peace movement. It's just going to come in a way that no one is going to quite expect.
What we are going to talk about now is really in the realm of the unthinkable. The reason I'm doing it is because the unthinkable has happened: the Lord is on the planet, he is in Houston, right now; he is speaking in the Houston Astrodome; he's about to usher in the greatest change in the history of human civilization. More than that —1 say that anyone who wants to come and find out who he is, can come and watch the whole thing just come down; or you can sit it out; you don't have to come and receive this Knowledge. Whichever way you come to find dut, it doesn't really matter. I'm convinced that everyone in this room, everyone who is listening, everyone in the world, will receive this Knowledge and will know that what I'm saying is true.
Ken: Do you believe what he is saying is true?
Paul: Well, it's true for Rennie. We all see things from different perspectives. For the past year and a half I've been working with a researcher named, Nate Russell, from Carmel, California, who has been researching political assassinations in this country for ten years, and who has in her research made many connections between the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and hundreds of lesser-knowns, like union leaders and minority leaders. Just in the past week or so the head of a board of education, a black leader, was killed in Oakland; someone from the bureau of Indian Affairs was killed. She said many of her connections reveal a pattern and methodology that are the same conditions under which Hitler came to power in Nazi Germany. I think the Divine Light Mission must be seen in that context as a diversion from that particular reality.
Ken: I think what Paul in effect is saying is this is a nee-Nazi organization.
Rennie: I don't know if he is saying that or not. I think that most of us in this room grew up at a time when we had really seen the havoc that ideologies and religions can bring; we'd seen that concepts and theories don't necessarily flow from reality. The thing that always inspired me about the new left was its commitment in not starting with a blue print, a philosophy or a doctrine. "This is the way, the only way, that change can be brought about." The thing that we rejected early on as we began to wake up to the time and country we were living in was any commitment to an absolute. And any commitment that we did make was essentially a commitment to direct experience. We said that the strategy that we would put together to change America had to be a strategy based on our own experience. In order to talk about how we would deal with the welfare mothers of Chicago, Newark or Cleveland. or the
8-14 1974 BERKELEY BARB PAGE 13
"Resolved: that Guru Maharaj Ji and Divine Light Mission serve to divert young people from social responsibility to personal escape."
problems of any community, we ourselves had to be there, we had to be a part of that community, we had to put together a strategy out of the people who had faced the problems in the most direct way.
What really is being said here about Divine Light Mission is that, once again, an experience is being offered, and it is the experience from which one can draw conclusions and judgments. You should really not draw any conclusions or judgment until you have had this experience. We're saying that it is the ultimate experience; it is the experience for which we are born; it is the experience that clears away the mystery of life; it is the experience that every single being needs; it is a direct experience of God; it immediately triggers all these things in our mind. Because the one thing that grew out of the rejection of absolutes and the commitment to process was definitely — I'll just speak for myself -- a complete rejection of God. The one thing about God was that it was unverifiable. Some people would say, 'I see God in the trees, and the order of the universe, and in every flower that I pick there is life.' But I just couldn't feel that that constituted the kind of direct evidence or experience that I needed in order to say there is a creator to the whole thing. I just put that question aside and came to the view that no religion, no philosophy, no great thinker, really could absolutely prove the question. "What causes life? Why are we here?" It's just that we are. And we figure out, given that, what we should do. To me the best thing to do is to try and cure the injustices that were so plain, that were so immediate, that were so real.
"You have to come and see what you see"
What Guru Maharaj Ji is saying is that if no one up till now - if no one through the ages, through all the times — has not actually shown you God, then come to me and I will show you. But the thing is, people can't hear it. They hear the word God, and they say, "No; no, no, it can't possibly be." But what we're saying is that a lot of cynics like myself, a lot of agnostics like myself, a lot of haters of religion like myself, have been opening up to come and check this out. We come away saying Guru Maharaj Ji shows me God. That doesn't mean that you will necessarily see God, though I'm convinced that you will; all we can say is that you have to come and see what you see, to experience it yourself, and then draw your own judgments as to what this experience is, who is Guru Maharaj Ji.
Ken: Do you feel open enough in your heart to check out, Who is Guru Maharaj Ji?
Paul: Sure, that's why I came here. I came here as open as I could be. But again, I think that Guru Maharaj Ji is the spiritual equivalent of Mark Spitz. In the sense that Mark Spitz was trained from an early age; all his energy was put into becoming a swimming champion. Guru Maharaj Ji, at an early age, was trained for this craft, and he says things that I consider irrelevant. Actually they are relevant, I guess, because I agree with them. For example, I try to see things through as many viewpoints as possible. One of the things that Guru Maharaj Ji says is that the ideal is to see things through no filter. So besides trying to see this event through the eyes of the premies, through the eyes of the media, through the eyes of the parents of children, I also see it through the eyes of one who has studied the media, as a vehicle of propaganda.
Let's get specific. There are a couple of people on the West Coast who never have done any reporting before, but did some investigation of Divine Light Mission. The article they gave me for the Realist provided the impetus for me to make this challenge — because this is kind of a presumptuous thing, to make a challenge to a debate. They had never done any reporting before, but we are all investigative reporters: the people who investigated Watergate; I have been investigating the Charles Manson case for the past two years, and gotten a lot of news from people who are just individual citizens. Everybody is an investigative reporter.
One of the things they did was to go through issues of the Divine Light Mission monthly magazine, And It Is Divine. I'd like to read a few quotes from that, and get Rennie's response.
Everybody is an investigative reporter.
I'll start with one which should most relate to Rennie. This is what was said about the Chicago convention in 1968, in And It Is Divine: "Rioters at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago from a variety of student political organizations resulted in scores of injuries, including 152 injured police." That despite the fact that the Curran Commission called it a police riot. No, the people's reality is affected by this perception and, if they are premies, and they get more and more involved in the literature of the organization, their reality of these events in American contemporary history is perverted by these partial truths.
Another one is the Viet Nam war itself. In the January, 1973 issue, there is a computerized history of the world and war from the years 1967 to 1972. The only entry that even mentions Viet Nam, in all four pages of this article, is this: "January, 1970, Viet Nam: 40,000 Americans die in the longest U.S war." No mention of the Vietnamese … - the people that Rennie would say were the victims of injustice.
There are also things that might be considered racism in the magazine. Here is a quote fr or: the magazine, April 1973: "Selected breeding is truly a double-bladed axe, capable of cutting both ways, depending completely upon how it is used. One good example of the scientific objectivity which may be expected is Dr. Schockley, a Nobel prize-winning physicist, whose own persona! theory of genetics allows him to state that the Negroid race is genetically inferior, as proven by IQ test." This is one kind of example; here is another one. They go from various countries -- Kenya, Hong Kong — I'll read you one from Japan: "… In this subdued, Lemurian land, where the character of the people is so reserved and disciplined … the Japanese heart is not open; indeed, they must be the most inhibited people of the civilized world … Japan is as poor in spirit as she is rich in material wealth." This kind of "knowledge" is dangerous because it is not knowledge, it is propaganda.
Ken: How would you respond to these charges?
Rennie: It always interested me the way people investigate the question, "Who is Guru Maharaj Ji?- It makes me smile a lot, because I think back on my own investigation. I came back from India and the one thing I felt is that I represented every doubter, every question, every cynic, everything that could possibly have been represented. I felt like I struggled through it all and, in the process, (experiencing the Knowledge) it was just an amazing trip.
So we pick up a magazine put out by different individuals who have received the Knowledge, who share every different kind of conceivable outlook on life. Every set of policies, every set of beliefs is here. Divine Light Mission, without any question, is the most diverse organization I've ever seen in my life. There is no doubt about it, you couldn't possibly get this group of people to agree on anything, if you had any kind of ordinary circumstances, other than the fact that Guru Maharaj Ji is the one that has brought us all together. The magazine doesn't represent a kind of a party line. I feel like a lot of these things Paul has pulled out of a sentence, and he says, "ah HA! Here it is!" I think that a mind that is basically trying to discredit or see something to be wrong is very good at going through and pulling out a sentence here or a paragraph there that conforms to their view that our politics are messed up, which is the basis for Paul's judging whether we're valid or not valid.
"There's no doubt it, you couldn't possibly get this group of people to agree on anything, other than the fact that Guru Maharaj Ji is the one that has brought us together."
Someone with a right-wing perspective could go through And It Is Divine and find the article, I can't remember which month it was, that dealt only with the suffering of the Vietnamese people and did not mention a single American soldier that had been killed. In fact, it only talked about the suffering of the Vietnamese; it only talked about the prisoners in Saigon jails that are being tortured; it only talked about women, Vietnamese women, who had been turned into prostitutes by Americans. It didn't talk at all about the American suffering. If I were debating someone from the right wing, they might pull out that and say, "Ah Ha, you see? Didn't even mention that Americans were also killed, and it shows that Divine Light Mission is unpatriotic."
I'm not trying to dispute that there may be things in And It Is Divine or Divine Times or the other publications that come out that I would disagree with, based on my experience in this life and my politics. There is a basic truth that is being said in Divine Times and all our publications. This basic truth is what we're really trying to get people to come to grips with, and this basic truth is whether Guru Maharaj Ji has the secret of life. The basic question is, Is Guru Maharaj Ji the Lord? Is he in a human body? Is he now on the planet? And is he actually revealing that secret that every age and every country really want to know? That, to me, is really the hardest question. You might have a different attitude towards a magazine, or anything that came out of our hands, if you came to grips with this question. But as long as you're trying to judge it on the basis of what does he wear? How does he dress? What are the publications that come out? Does every line conform with the correct political analysis that we have at this time?
"You will have missed the whole thing"
It's not to say that you won't make a good case against us — you'll make an excellent case of some sort -- you will have missed .the whole thing that's going on. I rather liken it to an investigator who would go to Hanoi during the height of the bombing and come back with a report on the people of Vietnam and describe their lives, talk about the architecture, go into all these different details, but would basically miss the main thing that was happening, which was that bombs were dropping and a war was going on. I saw American reporters go to Hanoi and come back with this report, completely blind to the main thing that was happening. One of the things that is happening when people do their own investigation into Divine Light Mission is they come up with a lot of things, but they miss the main thing that is going on, that the Lord is on this planet, and that he has the secret of life.
Ken: It's all in your mind, Rennie's saying.
Paul: All right, let me get to the body a little bit. During the Chicago trial Rennie was living with a woman and I'm presuming having sexual relations with her. I would be interested in knowing, not necessarily the status of Rennie's life now, but if there is a distinction, if there is an elitist division: if it's OK for the mahatmas to have sex, but net for the premies.
Rennie: The main thing that Guru Maharaj Ji is trying to do is to teach us to be human again, what it means to be a human being, and what it means to be completely natural. I think that in this age, we are very, very far from what it means to be human beings. We really do not actually know what it means to be a man and a woman in a relationship with each other. Guru Maharaj Ji has not spoken yet so much about this. What he is basically saying is how we should be; what our relationships should be with one another; what is the function of sexual relationships; what is the aim of two people, two companions going through this life. And our relations to all the things that give us pleasure: drugs, opium, alcohol, money and everything.
We are going through a complete re-evaluation of all these things, and Guru Maharaj Ji has very few do's and don'ts. Like in the ashram, which is a spiritual center for DLM — there, we are trying to create an environment where people can focus wholly on realizing this Knowledge. In the ashram we practice celibacy, primarily so that our confusion about our relationships that grows out of the age that we live in will not get in our way. So it's just suspended for the time being. In no way does that mean that men and women, sisters and brothers won't be married. It's been quite natural for two souls to join together in trying to realize the Knowledge and to seek a companionship in that pursuit. 1 think we are going to come to find out that the reason that we have sexual intercourse has only one function in the natural human being: it's not for self-fulfillment or gratification of personal needs, but it is actually for the purpose of bringing another soul into a human body so that it can realize this Knowledge. It's not necessary that anyone feel anything about, "Oh, that — I can't get into it," because most people don't actually live in ashrams; most people continue to live lives pretty much as they lived before. Guru Maharaj Ji has very few do's and don't's; mainly what he says is be clean and neat. Other than that, there's not much else. He just says meditate on this Knowledge and all these questions will be cleared up.
What I find is that I don't feel such a threatening anxiety all the time about whether or not this sister I happen to he with is in a physical relationship with me. I just don't feel that that is my relationship with a sister anymore. It's not because I'm surpressing my sexual drive, it's just that other drives are manifesting in me and other interests are blossoming. Similarly with drugs. You can smoke dope and receive this Knowledge if you want, but if you're actually meditating on this Knowledge what you will discover from your own experiences is that dope brings you down; it will actually bring you down. This is a higher high; this is a better trip; you will find that you are clearer and more focused and it's more far-out than any drug that you have had in your life. So by your own ex- perience you let go of it. It's not because Guru Maharaj Ji says do this or do that. So while you had a particular question, it has a general application. And really it's just by meditating on this Knowledge that we will come to realize what it means to be a natural human being again.
"Note that there is a screening-out process"
Ken: Is it only celibacy that is preventing you from joining Divine Light Mission?
Paul: Although I haven't personally gone through the practical seeking of the Knowledge, I do know people who have. The one that comes to mind is most relevant to this discussion is Larry Brilliant, who is a doctor of medicine. He was the sort of communal doctor for the Hog Farm Family. He was also the doctor on Alcatraz Island when the Indians took it over and, in fact, delivered the first Indian baby on Alcatraz Island. He is at least as much of a guru, as anyone I know. Larry Brilliant went through the process of receiving Knowledge.
Now, it's important to note that there is a screening out process, like in any organization. As you get into any structure,
continued next week