******************* Unfortunately Pages 186 & 187 were left behind in a Berkeley motel *******************
As he kept tightening the noose, I was saying something like "Guru Maharaj Ji, if it's your will for me to die, then take me, but please take me to your lotus feet." … Then, all of a sudden, he loosened it. He told me if I didn't struggle, he might let me live. So I sort of went "Whew, maybe Guru Maharaj Ji wants me to live." …
It was definitely a miracle. It was sort of like being taken into the wilderness to face demons and having them overcome by the grace of God, by Guru Maharaj Ji, and then being taken back to civilization. (Downton, 1979, pp. 44-5)
Still other stories recounted masters' impossible commands miraculously fulfilled and ecstatically rewarded only when devotional faith flamed hot enough to melt away illusory obstacles.
Gradually GMJ replaced Hindu stories with technological parables about cars, airplanes, computers, but the story of the young Krishna and his "gopis," or milk-maid devotees, weathered Americanization and continued to animate premie lives. GMJ always identified heavily with this myth; in fact, its premie version allegedly emerged from one of his dreams:
During the celebration of Guru Maharaj Ji's 14th birthday party [December, 1971] at Prem Nagar ashram [in Hardwar, India], he related a dream he had about Krishna and the love and devotion of the gopis. The dream was a play which tells a story of the pain and separation from the Lord and the Joy of reunion. Premies begged GMJ to let them perform for him the dance he had dreamed. ("And It Is Divine," 3/75, p. 8)
A dance troupe formed and performed this play at major premie festivals and other public occasions for several years. They called it "Krishna Lila." The plot of "Krishna Lila" was simple. Act I portrays the initial merging and separation. The gopis are going through the motions of their day's activities longing for Krishna to appear. When he comes, "The gopis do not resist, and with their Lord they perform a joyous dance of reunion." But separation soon follows:
The elusive Krishna cannot be held for long, and too quickly the dance is over. As He turns to go, Radha, most beloved of the gopis, presents the Perfect Master with a lotus flower.
In his playfulness, Krishna at first appears to ignore the gopis' longings:
[Act II] Alone with His beloved servant Uddho, Krishna seems to have forgotten the young milkmaids who are weeping ceaselessly, praying for His return.
But the gopis' longings finally pull him too into the sorrow of separation:
A lotus flower floats by [Krishna and Uddho] in the midst of their play and Krishna becomes sad, for he is reminded of Radha and the strength of her pure love.
Act III portrays Krishna spying playfully and lovingly on the mourning gopis:
The gopis are still in misery, waiting for the return of their Krishna. … Finally drawn by their love, Krishna appears. He has been hiding, watching His loved ones, and knows the depth of the sorrow they have been feeling.
And Krishna pours a miraculous joy into the final merging by manifesting so many forms of himself that each gopi has a Krishna as dancing-partner all to herself: "Laughing through tears of joy,all perform the Rasa Dance." ("And It Is Divine," 11/73, p. 18)
"Krishna Lila" thrived in the premie imagination partly because GMJ would act out Krishna with them. On some festival occasions he dressed like Krishna as king, wearing a royal red and gold jacket, flowing yellow pants, and crown. He enjoyed the ecstatic love of his premies, or "lovers," sometimes even dancing with them. And, like Krishna, he played hide-and-seek "lilas" with the premies, appearing unexpectedly at "satsang" programs, phoning premies at strange times, fouling up Mission plans, and periodically vanishing. At one performance4 of the "Krishna Lila" dance, for example, specially decorated
seats sat empty awaiting GMJ's entourage while upstairs he cut his cake, cavorted with fireworks and, declining to attend the performance, declared uproariously, "This is Krishna Lila!" Another time GMJ sat laughing in his car watching unsuspecting premies prostrate to his motor home parked nearby, where they thought he was.
"KRISHNA LILA" AND THE INDIVIDUAL: "LILA" AND "GRACE"
"Krishna Lila" fit individual premie lives well, with its pattern of merging-separation-merging, joy-sorrow-joy, understandingconfusion-understanding. The "conversion sequence," whose frequency Schwartz noted in premie satsang, typically begins with an account of the chaotic, unhappy, ignorant state of life before Knowledge and ends, in fairy-tale fashion, with the initial merging of "coming to Knowledge," or to GMJ. But soon the honeymoon bliss fades:
After my initiation into Knowledge … Day after day I woke up to discover I was still overjoyed. (Collier, 1978, p. 118)
In particular I remember the day my two-month period of joy broke. Early in the morning I had had a haunting dream. …
I woke up crying. This was the first morning that I was not in the elated state that had become my normal consciousness for the past few months. When I went to cook breakfast I was still sad. I served food and went to cry alone in the kitchen. (p. 131)
Then the round of separations and subsequent mergings begins: "darshan" and then GMJ's absence; the premie community, then "the world;" "Holy Name," then "mind;" "clarity," then "confusion." Then miraculously, "darshan," the community, "Holy Name, "clarity" all back again, but never for good.
This cycle does not command one's life impersonally, like the cycles of the seasons and the heavens, for GMJ with his "lila" shines through In every phase, teaching, playing, flirting, loving, using
worldly "illusions" for his props.
GMJ the person is said to play hide-and-seek and other "lilas" in order to play with premies' consciousness. "One time," a premie once told me, "GMJ put on a record for me to hear. Then as he gazed into my eyes the music slowed, the turntable stopped, and time hung in an eternal suspended moment. When I glanced away the music and time along with it started up again." Another premie recounts:
And just then [GMJ] put his finger right in my forehead, just straight into the middle of my forehead, and he just said, "You have no control!" … That was it; I was gone. I was gone for weeks! And a couple of people helped me over to a rock and they draped me over it. And I was looking at Guru Maharaj Ji, but he wasn't that same. … Because he was omnipotent now. And he was everything. ("Divine Times, 9-10/77, p. 12)
GMJ also plays with premies' consciousness in their visions and "darshan" dreams, and even beyond these his "lila" includes the whole effort and reward of meditation.
"GMJ's lila" also includes anything unusual or untoward done by the DLM. According to Foss and Larkin (1978), many premies saw as "lila" GMJ's lavish lifestyle, the "Millennium '73" festival which incurred a one million dollar debt and much bad press, and the characteristically abrupt changes in Mission policy.
Then again, "lila" appears as the unexpected or unwanted at work, in the family, with health or weather, for these are all part of GMJ's dream, or "movie," in which the "energy" of his cosmic, universal form grandly manipulates everything to "test" premies' inner spiritual "connection" and to instruct them in the intricacies of meditational equanimity.
So in one sense a premie can always blame bad luck or "separation" from "experience" on GMJ's "lila," or even on the more fatalistic "karma,"
that myaterious flowering of effects rooted in the shrouded realm of long-forgotten causes. But on the other hand premies tend also to blame "separation" on themselves:
When bliss fails to manifest itis blamed on the premie, and the problem can be attributed to numerous possible causes: he is insufficiently dedicated, he is in his mind, he has not let go of his ego, he has "expectations" of "realizing the Knowledge" too quickly, failing to "let go" and thereby make real progress on the spiritual path, and so forth. In short, if bliss is manifested, this is GMJ's Grace; if it is not, this is human failure. (Foss and Larkin, 1978. p. 162)
Only on the most rarified level can these shortcomings been seen as "GMJ's lila." In a similar way, if GMJ in person does not appear as expected, premies scrutinize themselves for the guilty explanation -for, as one version of "Krishna lila" would have it, Krishna left the gopis because of their quarreling and jealousy; "Karma" here is only literal, everyday cause and effect.
"GMJ's Grace," as the flip side of "GMJ's lila," brings about the individual's reunions with the person or "experience" of GMJ. As with "lila," premies understand the operations of "Grace" on many levels.
Some instances of Grace are directly attributable to the actions of GMJ as when he Graces a premie with his "Darshan" or assigns him to a particularly blissful service. [Foss and Larkin, 1978, p. 161]
"Grace" can also appear as the explosion of "experience" during meditation, or as some vivid coincidence of daily life. Just as one contemplates "spacing out," a passing radio blares sentimental lyrics which recall "divine love;" or a premie immersed in melancholy goes to a repair shop to pick up her car, only there to receive a blissful feeling like "darshan" from a Mercedes which had once belonged to GMJ.
Finally, premies often extend "grace" to encompass any good which befalls them:
One evening in April 1974 a sixteen-year-old woman said that
"little droplets of Grace" were constantly raining down on her. As an example she told of looking for a present for her mother; she did not expect to purchasethe desired item for under six dollars. Grace intervened when she happened by a store which had the intended gift on sale for a mere $1.98. (Foss and Larkin, 1978, p. 161)
GMJ has occasionally defined "grace" more strictly than this: if your car breaks down and you just happen to find the right size fan belt lying there on the shoulder, well, that's luck, that's "fan-belt grace," not real grace. Real "graces" are four: 1) having a human body; 2) scriptures, which point the spiritual way; 3) saints and Perfect Masters, who can teach God-realization; and finally 4) the grace of one's own efforts. Thus, though GMJ' uncontrollable mercy and love are said constantly to shower the premie with "grace" in every circumstance, only through individual effort can one recognize and thus benefit from it. "Grace" will follow the effort of opening to, or "surrendering to grace." Thus "grace" can be said to follow effort, but still subtly and somewhat unpredictably, still escaping the strict logic of causality:
At other times Guru Maharaj Ji intimates that Grace is a miracle or supernatural reward which magnifies the anticipated consequences of virtuous behavior such as hard work or diligent organizing … the notion of Grace in the old sense that runs, "God helps those who help themselves." (Foss and Larkin, 1978, p. 161)
Thus with both "lila" and "grace" human activity is only ambiguously causal, for the "lila" of separation and the "grace" of merging are inherent in the very nature of the cosmic drama.5 This ambiguity permits the individual to view all his life events, whether he is responsible for them or not, in mythic "grace/lila" terms, as part of the vast cosmic round of merging, separation, and merging. Individual biography merges into myth as premies tell their stories in "satsang," and others tell and retell, color and exaggerate them until the
devotees' identities are lost and only the stories, with which the listeners identify, remain, and 1970's Americans join the Ancient Indian yogis and gopis in the premie mythic universe.
"KRISHNA LILA" AS MYTH OF THE PREMIE COLLECTIVITY
The "Krishna Lila" story spells out the relationship of "me and my Lord," but also of "us and our Lord." Thus it speaks to the individual's devotional life, but also to the collectivity of devotees together with their Master. In the myth, ecstatic dancing together with Krishna symbolizes ideal togetherness. He comes for them all, his call brings them all together, they dance all together with one another, all together with him, but at the same time each alone with him. The new mode of being together is grounded in Krishna's presence; the ecstacy he brings the "gopis" transforms their relationship with one another.
Similarly, when premies come together with GMJ their relationship with one another is also transformed. But reenactment of myth in collective life is subject to interpretation; thus premies have, over time, experimented with modes of coming together with one another and with their Guru. Three discernable experimental directions correspond roughly with Wilson's (1969) conversionist, introversionist, and Utopian sect types.
1) "Conversionist" tendencies of the "naive offensive"6 are typified by the 1972-1973 recruitment efforts culminating in the intensive publicizing of "Millennium '73" in Houston. This period saw a syncretism of Hindu cosmic cycles and Christian millenarianism. GMJ represented Vishnu/Krishna returning once again to Earth at the end of a world-cycle, the end of the Age of Iron and the beginning of the new
Golden Age. But he was also Christ come again for the period of final judgement, the Battle of Armageddon, and the next Millennium of peace. A fanciful sci-fi tale entitled "Aromageddon" which appeared in the January, 1973 "And It Is Divine" reflects this syncretism while chronicling the typical early premies' odyssey through drugs, Eastern religion, and hippiedom to GMJ and his dream of converting the world.
The tale of "Aromageddon" begins with Earth in trouble. But "the prompter, scene shifters and script writers for the Divine Comedy are constantly on guard," the call for help "flashed acrosss of host of angelic visors," and help comes:
Krishna put it nicely. When things get rough, I'll drop in, look to the interest of my boys, and tidy the whole mess up.
"Supreme Intelligence" then recruits yogis from laid-back planets and "dream-locations" to reincarnate on Earth. But "yogis parachuting into a new planet often suffer from amnesia." "…So it was that many of our boys got quite caught up in the Earth Programming Courses known as schools." The reincarnated yogis, "disenchanted with school," are soon lured away by Arabs with magic carpets, "a butterfly named Chuang Tsu," and "various distinguished Swamis and Rishis, Rochis and Rimpoches."
Eventually the yogis find one another, gather together to make music, and then "the Supreme Commander, the Born Lord of the Yogis,"7 arrives to train them at an "Inward Bound Camp" to overcome hatred with love using, among other tactics,
The butterfly-versus-tank ploy. I'll bet my butterly can tickle the soft underbelly of your tank before you can set your gunsights on him. For gentleness is always tougher than strength. …
… For it was time for the meek to inherit the earth, and the Born Lord was here to see it happen. …
… Pulling the thorn out between His teeth the young Guru tossed His rose through the windown of the High Command, where it exploded with colossal peace in the warmongers' hearts. …
… All hearts responded to the Born Lord. None died. The
powerful, powerless to stand before Him, dropped to their knees, and learned Love. All mankind stepped into the new age. ("And It Is Divine," 1/73, pp. 39-42)
In this fantasy premies arise from another world and reunite in "Krishna-Lila" fashion with GMJ the "Supreme Commander" after various adventures, but instead of staying separate they invade the world to save and transform it.
2) After the "Millennium '73" festival failed so utterly in its missionary aims and brought heaps of derision upon the Mission, premies retreated into their first introversionist phase. The Mission fell deeply into debt and though the Denver headquarters reduced its staff, within a few months it began to expand once again, and along with it the nationwide system of ashrams. During the 1974-1975 period premies withdrew from the outside world as much as possible, the Headquarters worked not on outreach but on facilitating internal networks, premies concerned themselves with meditative purification of the "mind's" "worldly" tendencies, clung to one another in their communities, and drew a marked distinction between "us" and "them." One often heard that "if you miss just one night of satsang your mind will become worldly," or "I know now I want nothing more to do with this world," accompanied by a sigh and a long, pious blink. During this period, then, being together with GMJ meant conforming to a tightknit premie society, socially and physically rejecting the "world."
3) Introversionism gradually mellowed as the group recovered from its post-"Millennium '73" setback and thoughts turned once again towards saving the world. This time, however, the method involved the creation of premie alternative institutions which would inspire the "world" through Utopian example. A "divine city" fantasy of
1972-1973 crystallized as the "City of Love and Light," a semi-monastic urban commune of 200 which flourished in San Antonio between 1974 and 1976. The fledgling premie school and clinic in Denver expanded, a publication company, arts group, photography business and food cooperative emerged as well during this period, and by the end of 1976 premie alternatives in construction, travel, gardening, music, childcare, psychotherapy, to name only a few, began to appear all over the country, drawing premies out from the ashrams and eventually into communication with the "worldly" institutions they sought to copy and inspire.
Utopia, however, was nipped in the bud. Plans for a premie rural commune or permanent festival site never materialized, and the leadership sensed that premies were enjoying their various projects all too much. Some enterprises disbanded at GMJ's express command, others faded from lack of attention as GMJ drew premies' focus back to himself. If towards the end of 1976 premies had a question it would have been, "Where is the premie ideal community meant to manifest if not in world-transforming crusades, retreats, or Utopian alternatives? If GMJ never speaks of waiting for Heaven until after death, thwarts premie efforts to establish Heaven on earth yet still speaks continually of a Heavenly collectivity, what is he talking about?"
GMJ answered by staging a series of impromptu "festivals" during the spring of 1977, calling his whole nationful of followers first to Portland in January, then three weeks later to Denver, then to Miami, then Montreal, and on and on over the next couple of years until most premies' projects, ambitions, careers dropped by the wayside. GMJ proved to them that the premie ideal collectivity can exist here on earth but only temporarily, only here and there and now and then -- only, as in the "Krishna Lila" myth, when the "Lord" calls and the
creatures respond. Only when thousands of premies gather for GMJ's "darshan" and "satsang" and the most spectacular, whimsical, memorable, and intoxicated moments of premie life.
Inspired by these frequent festivals and distracted from Utopian and worldly pursuits, the premies entered another introversionist phase. Ashram ranks swelled, communities turned inward once again. But this time they attempted minimal institution-building. The new headquarters in Miami never blossomed to the proportions of the 1973-1975 Denver headquarters, and no new schools, clinics, or communal experiments emerged. Only a few new companies formed, and these were stringently kept legally separate from the religious organization which now no longer even bore the name of Divine Light Mission.
By 1980 even the new introversionism had crested, communities began to scatter, individually looking into school and careers, communally selling off any lingering real estate. Ashram residents grew increasingly restless until in 1982 GMJ urged most of them to move out. In terms of tangible accomplishments, the premies had clearly failed. This failure to establish either a retreat, a missionary organization, or a Utopia stands in sharp contrast to the tangible achievements of some other New Religious Movements.8
Yet premies did not perceive themselves to have failed.9 Individually they still experienced spiritual growth and continual inspiration from several dozen Western "initiators" appointed by GMJ to crisscross the premie world giving "satsang" and initiating what few newcomers trickled in by word of mouth. And as a group they still attended festivals and witnessed GMJ traveling more and more, in the early 1980's giving numerous programs on four continents.
If anything, premies by the early 1980's probably sensed in their movement the final triumph of a kind of simplicity. They had, after all, transcended their "concepts" of how to be with GMJ -- the experiments with conversionism, introversionism, and Utopianism -- and acquiesced to the original pattern of periodic festivals, the "Krishna Lila" pattern of merging and separation with their Lord.
NOTES TO CHAPTER VI
1) This understanding of myth and symbol owes much to the work of Eliade and Stanner.
2) Manifestly Indian symbolism -- Brahma, Vishnu, lotuses and so forth -- became less popular as the Mission Americanized. Nevertheless, the underlying import has very much continued in premie thought.
3) Strict Hindu interpretations admit only ten incarnations, the human ones including Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and the future Kalki who will appear at the end of this world cycle, whom premies claim is GMJ. Neo-Hinduism, inspired by Hindu contacts with other religions during the last centuries and exemplified by Sri Ramakrishna (1834-1886) who reenacted the experiences of Christians and many other religionists in ecstatic meditations, includes Jesus, Mohammed, and teachers of many traditions. The Sant Mat traditions emphasize the medieval "bhakti" masters and their spiritual descendents. On the relationship between GMJ and the Sant Mat tradition, see chapter 10.
4) In celebration of GMJ's fifteenth birthday in Hardwar, India. I happened to have witnessed this particular incident myself.
5) Foss and Larkin (1978) interpret the premie attraction to "grace/lila" theology as evidence that premies sought in GMJ and his teachings a cosmic reflection of a social reality which to them, as post60's movement youth, was random and absurd. As with most such glib equations of theology with social circumstance, they ignore other facets of the native worldview, in this case the premie semi-belief in the "karma" notion of causality, which points to a kind of fatalism rather than nonsense as the underlying logic of the cosmos. They also ignore the Christian roots of the "Grace" concept (premies often sang the hymn "Amazing Grace"), and the Hindu origins of the "lila" concept, and fail to observe that these notions persisted through centuries of various social circumstances, some absurd, others not.
6) My term, see chapter I.
7) "Born Lord of the Yogis" is the literal translation of "Balyogeshwar," the name by which GMJ is generally known in India.
8) The Unification Church has a theological seminary, a communal farm used to socialize new recruits, publishing firms, and a number of successful businesses. Krishna Consciousness has a large retreat center in the South, schools, a publishing firm and businesses, and it owns most of the temples where devotees live. Raj Neesh followers are establishing a a model community in Oregon. Bubba Free John followers have a community and publishing house in rural Northern California. Zen Center in San Francisco has two rural retreats; followers of Yogananda have a commune in the Sierra foothills and and urban center in San Francisco. Followers of the Tibetan Buddhist Trungpa Rinpoche have established a university and medical clinic in Boulder, Colorado.
9) Most journalistic and scholarly reports have been describing the demise of DLM since 1974.