GERMANY

In the beginning of 1972, Divine Light Mission established its first ashrams in Germany in the cities of Heidelburg and Frankfurt. More ashrams followed, and by 1974 the communities started the first community houses and the full weight of service responsibilities slowly began to shift from the ashram to the community premies. The real step forward, as described by Wolfgang Burghartz, DLM's national director in Germany, was the Guru Puja festival held in Essen in August, 1975. Wolfgang recalled it as a very good opportunity for many premies to work on the festival, where any differences or preoccupations between ashram residents and community premies, and between premies and DLM, were sorted out. Since that festival, the German Mission has received strong, constant support and participation in all activities from about seven hundred to eight hundred premies.

A month before Maharaj Ji's program, Wolfgang participated in a fundraising tour where he "noticed some premies had expectations of another Essen festival. But many premies had matured a lot from that program. They had reflected on Essen and felt we should change the way we handle things.

"There were no high expectations really, but everybody expressed that they really wanted to make an effort to be as open as possible and experience whatever is there. Of course, everybody at the same time knows very well what it means to have a program with Guru Maharaj Ji. It also seemed that the program as a whole was important to everybody. Everybody felt that they didn't want just a consumer program, where they consume and then go back to their communities. They wanted to participate."

The first choice for the program site was the city of Munich, but there proved to be little accommodation for all the German premies plus their

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p15 (85K) guests from Austria and Yugoslavia. So program plans zeroed in on Hamburg, the most developed premie community. The program team soon found a new convention center, finished in 1974, with its hall and food hall linked to a nearby hotel. Accommodation proved easy to arrange in hotels and a youth hostel village which provided six houses.

Before the actual program, six hundred people, in one hundred groups of six, participated in workshops which asked two questions: "What do you expect of this program?" and "What can you do yourself to experience as much as possible of this program?" There was some uncertainty at first as to whether the group process would work with so many people, but Wolfgang felt that "the whole thing was practical and down-to-earth, but still in an atmosphere of real love and affection among each other." Community premie Wilfried Fink of Frankfurt saw from the questions posed in the workshops "that it is very important to have Guru Maharaj Ji's darshan, because it always involves a very strong direction and inspiration for every individual premie concerning his life and practice of Knowledge." Of the program itself, Henny Wolff, also a community premie from Frankfurt, felt that "some premies had been rather surprised by Maharaj Ji's appearance and a lot of ideas were lost about how blissed out everybody should be or that premies would start screaming, as we used to at other festivals. And yet I felt that the premies really enjoyed it, because it was a completely new experience, and a very beautiful experience."

Where to from here? Wolfgang explained that Maharaj Ji's visit hadn't really changed his perspective on Knowledge and community, but it seemed to be another note in a harmony of development. This development, he explained, moves towards making Knowledge a practical and natural event in everyone's lives in a step-by-step confrontation of concepts about the individual, DLM, and so on. However, for Wolfgang the visit did reaffirm the importance of Guru Maharaj Ji himself:

"If something is happening in this world, it's happening around Maharaj Ji because he has the capacity to do things if we're at the point of getting together with him. All this comes back very strongly when I see Maharaj Ji. There's so much truthfulness and love there."

"It has to be your personal experience, and you can do it, only if you just stop joking around with yourself, if you really become serious about it, and if you really understand that yes, you need to experience Knowledge."
Guru Maharaj Ji, Hamburg, Germany 26 May 1976

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