Without The Guru - Michael Finch
These are excerpts from the book, "Without The Guru" by Mike Finch in which he discusses the Rejoice campaign that began in 1987 and continued for some years as Prem Rawat tried to get his followng back on-line and growing.
instructors came and went – Mahatmaji came once and gave satsang to our dog, Chad, telling him that he must get a human body next time! In fact, Chad played quite a part in the satsang routine, acting as receptionist and vetting people as they came in. He appeared fierce to some (he was a Rottweiler) but he had a sweet face, and was very gentle to everyone, and several people told us that he helped them overcome their fear of dogs. Apart from our dog Chad, there was not much that remained 'homely' in our home life – the focus for each of us was to serve Maharaji through and through, to the exclusion of all else. - REJOICE -
Although this instructor activity was pretty much full-time, it was still not enough. My dream was to have Maharaji call and offer me full-time service directly, so that I would be doing something special and unique for him, and so have even more of that 'personal connection' for which premies craved. And I would have dropped my relationship with Gail without a second's hesitation to be with Maharaji or to travel on his behalf full-time. And Gail felt the same. She would have acquiesced happily in such a situation had I got such a call, since it would have been Maharaji's agya; and if it had been her who had got such a call, she likewise would have dropped me without a second thought to be with Maharaj full-time. It was difficult to have a normal, loving, human relationship based on such a priority.
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After getting a few new-style instructors under his belt, as it were, Maharaji embarked on the next stage of his project to remold his guruship and his following: the Rejoices. These were a series of events with premies only, where Maharaji reviewed the Knowledge techniques.
There were two main objectives to these events. In the past, when premies complained that they were not 'realizing' Knowledge, or that they were not getting the peace and bliss from Knowledge that they were expecting, Maharaji often responded that the struggling premie did not understand the Knowledge techniques properly. In chapter 10 I relate how this happened to me.
So the first objective of the Rejoice events was for Maharaji to explain, personally, the Knowledge techniques to every premie. Certainly by the late 1980's many premies had had Knowledge for a long time – since 1970 in my case – and during that period there had been a large and diverse band of mahatmas, initiators (and now instructors) giving the Knowledge, all in their different ways and with their various, and even conflicting, bits of advice. Thus Maharaji wanted to review the techniques with ag masy practicing premies as he could, so that at least all his followers would know precisely what the techniques were that he was 'giving', and would hear it from him.
Hearing it from him was important, and that was the other main objective of the Rejoices. Most premies had never even spoken to
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Maharaji before, and he wanted them to have some sort ofpersonal contact with him, and be reinforced in the idea that they had a direct relationship with him as their Master. There was an attempt to make the settings intimate (even though the later Rejoice events might have a few thousand attendees) in which premies would get the feeling that at last all the bureaucracy of organization and 'inner circle' premies would be removed, and there would just be the simple premie sitting in a smallish hall interacting directly with his or her Lord and Master.
The first few Rejoices were in America, then they moved to Europe, and by the end of the 1980's they had occurred all over the world wherever there was a sizable population of premies. Although premies were to go to one, and only one, Rejoice event (so that everyone who wanted could attend one), we instructors were invited to as many as we could go to. This was not just to reinforce our privileged status, but we had a practical value in that we could help Maharaji show the techniques. As I have narrated previously, the first meditation technique involved placing your thumb and middle finger on each eyeball, sliding each towards the nose and resting where the eyeball meets the eye socket, with the index finger resting on the lower center of the forehead. There were some subtleties to doing this precisely as Maharaji wanted, and so the instructors would go round the audience and assist.
Based on this invite to instructors, Gail and I over the next five years went on a globe-trotting marathon. It makes me exhausted to even think of it now, but I have my old passport from that time period, and based on the various countries' entry and exit stamps, and comparing notes with others, I can trace our journeys. Rather than narrate them in detail, I will mention the places and dates all in one breathless paragraph, for the record, and then pick out various incidents and episodes.
In the six-year period 1987-1993, Gail and I went to Rejoice events in Europe to: Valencia, Spain; Le Touquet, France; Lyon, France; Montreux, Switzerland; Rome, Italy twice; Helsinki,
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Finland; Birmingham, UK; London, and probably others I have forgotten about (most European countries do not stamp British passports). I went to America several times: New York Summer 1988, Miami Summer 1989, California February 1990 (that has a chapter 'Crescendo' to itself below), Miami February 1993, and a visit to Chicago in 1988 or 1989 that I cannot recollect (my passport stamp is not clear as to the last digit of the year). In 1989 we went to Africa twice on two separate journeys: Swaziland in April and the Ivory Coast in July. We went to Australia twice, and I went to India five times (not all with Gail) in 1988, 1991, 1992 (twice, April and November) and 1993. And almost all these were separate trips (one or two European events were on the same trip, and once I went to an Indian event on my way back from Australia).
Before getting into any detail, one obvious question is: Were we particularly rich to be able to jet off all the time and ignore our jobs? The answer is, no we were not. Credit cards were stretched to the maximum, anyone foolish enough to lend us money was prevailed upon to do so (we paid back all our loans, in the end), and we gave ever more creative excuses to bosses, family and commitments in England.
The point, you see, was that Maharaji was the Lord. This meant, first, that if we had these opportunities to be in these intimate settings with him helping him, we just had to go. When would an opportunity like that happen again? This was an invite from the Lord of Universe! There was no question about our not going, the only question was how to go – where to get the money and how to be excused our commitments? Finding dog-sitters for our dog Chad was particularly onerous, I remember.
Secondly, since it was the Lord of the Universe who was having these events and inviting us, He would help us. Yes, the upper-case 'H' is deliberate. The world was his lila, his play, nothing mattered but surrendering to him. And what a delightful surrender when you have some important meetings over the next week, a family commitment or two, many home affairs to take care of, a visitor
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scheduled, and no money – and you throw all that up in the air, make a groveling phone call to your bank or credit card company, and take the next plane out to Abidjan or Brisbane or Delhi, or wherever the Lord was going to be at the next event.
In addition to our practical help at the Rejoices, Maharaji usually met with us instructors for a time before or after the main event, often during the evening before. At the start of the Rejoices in Europe this meeting was specifically for Maharaji to give a review to us, the instructors, before we helped him with the review to the premies the next day. But after a while this meeting became a sort of ritual where it was just an excuse for us to hobnob with him, and the meeting became guided by whatever mood he happened to be in at the time.
For us instructors, this prior meeting was as important as the actual event. When we went over the Knowledge techniques with him, the fact that I could do the fourth technique well (rolling the tongue back and up into the nasal cavity, see chapter 8) meant that Maharaji asked me to show it to others, which pleased me greatly – although in his explanation of the technique, he made it clear that you only needed to get the tongue as far back as you could comfortably. The whole idea of the techniques as Maharaji was now showing them, was to be gentle with yourself, and to leave the heroics of the early 1970's behind.
However, after the first few Rejoices, we had gone over the techniques enough times, and as I say, these evening get-togethers with the Lord became relaxed meetings, often with Maharaji telling jokes. In one of the African Rejoices, Maharaji joked to me that he had invited me specifically to show the Africans what an English gentleman was like, which blissed me out (as we used to say) – clearly, since I still remember it.
Sometimes he would invite us for drinks, before or after the main event, and at one such gathering in Swaziland he joked to Gail and myself saying he was giving us both agya (divine command) to do lots of "mumba" – he never spelled out what he
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meant by "mumba", but the meaning was clear from the context of the jokes.
Occasionally he gave a dinner for all us instructors. At one, in Lyons France, we all had to stand around until Maharaji took his seat at the center table, and then indicated that we could sit wherever we liked. Since his table had a few empty places, there was a mad scramble for those few seats, where the quickest person with the sharpest elbows or heels won. Gail, who often had a good rapport with Maharaji, managed to get one of those seats on Maharaji's table, and spent the rest of the evening imbibing his best cognac, smoking his Marlboro cigarettes and enjoying his jokes. Gail was a non-smoker, but regarded Maharaji's cigarettes as his divine prasad – a gift from the Perfect Master, and so too holy not to be smoked.
I didn't mind not being at Maharaji's table that evening, since the evening before I had had a private dinner myself with Maharaji where there were only two other guests, Heike and Ole, and so I was feeling very privileged and superior. I could look with sympathy on those less fortunate, like Gail, and so I did not begrudge her an evening at the Lord's table without me.
As the Rejoices progressed, I spent more and more time with Maharaji personally, either in his room or suite at the hotel, escorting him to the actual event, or just walking around with him shooting the breeze. In 1988 I was experimenting with the Z88 computer, a new laptop revolutionary for that time, and Maharaji became interested in it. This was the excuse for spending even more personal time with him.
Given that I still thought he was the Lord, not just the Lord, but my Lord, then this was heady stuff for me, after all those years in the wilderness since the intimacy of the early 1970's. Was this the beginning of a comeback for me? Was he sizing me up to take my rightful place again as his close confidant doing full-time service for him once more?
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So there were three categories of time at these Rejoice events. The most important by far was the personal time I spent with him. Then there was the event itself, the ostensible purpose of the trip. As I write at the start of this chapter, they were really Maharaji's personal Knowledge reviews to the premies of the area, and an opportunity to create the devotee-master bond with the premies in a way that had not happened to most of them before.
The third category of time at these Rejoice events had nothing to do with Maharaji, but the time we spent in the country or at the locale of the event. Since the purpose of going to these places was simply to be with Maharaji, and since we could only spend the minimum time away from home, then often we would see nothing of the country except from the window ofthe bus or taxi driving us from the airport to the event location or hotel (which were often the same).
Neighbors, friends and family who were not premies (assuming we had any left) found this distinctly odd:
"Where were you last week, Mike?"
"Oh, I went to Abidjan, Ivory Coast".
"Gosh, what a trip, that must have been wonderful – what is the country like?"
"I have no idea, we arrived at the airport at night, drove straight to hotel X, did not put a foot outside until we left four days later, also in darkness, straight for the airport. Oh yes, I did look out of my hotel window once, and saw a field in the distance."
So these trips were not holidays, not vacations, not a relaxing time abroad, not taking a break – they were very focused times surrendering to the Lord, and basking in his personal attention.
* * *
Having said that, we did take vacations occasionally – India in 1988 for instance. That was the first time I had returned to India since 1970, and I was looking forward to it, although when we landed and took our taxi through Delhi to the ashram, I had quite a
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culture shock. However much India gets under your skin, and you think you know it, it is always a shock returning after a time away.
When I was in India previously, Maharaji's main ashram had been at Prem Nagar, in Haridwar, and his own residence was at Dehra Dun. But since then the family split had occurred, as I relate above, and both those places were in the hands of Satpal, Maharaji's elder brother and now rival claimant to being the one and only true Satguru. Maharaji's main ashram was now the Shri Sant Yogashram' at Chandan Hula, a suburb of Mehrauli, once an ancient city but now itself a Delhi suburb, and it was to there that we took our taxi. We had flown out early, so after spending two or three days at the ashram, we went up to Kashmir. I tried to find the same houseboat I had stayed at in 1970, and some of the same landmarks, but all had changed (or perhaps it was me that had changed). Although we did not know it at the time, we were some of the last tourists to enjoy the peace and beauty of Kashmir for a long time, as the militants took over soon after, and Kashmir has been in armed conflict since.
We returned for the event in the Mehrauli ashram with Maharaji in late November. Although it was an ashram, and in normal times was probably staffed by about a hundred full-time ashram premies, it contained a large amount of land, and was able to accommodate many tens of thousands at festival time. The Indians built a tent city for their accommodation, and there was a large maidan (flat open space) for the event itself where Maharaji spoke.
Maharaji himself had a large and luxurious residence in the grounds, for himself, his family and his immediate personal staff. These events in India were obviously not the same as the cozy Rejoice events in Europe and America; here he dressed up in Indian costume, and spoke in Hindi to an audience ofperhaps 100,000 from a large and impressive stage. He did, however, attempt to create Rejoices, having side events of several hundred or a thousand at a time in large tents, and giving the premies Knowledge reviews, as in other Rejoices.