SWEDEN

p18 (57K) January 1974 saw the beginning of an ashram in Stockholm, Sweden. In two and a half years time the Stockholm community grew from four to one hundred and eighty, with one hundred and twenty premies in regular contact with the Mission. In the same time, Sweden's Gothenburg clan came to number eighty, with fifty-five maintaining close contact with DLM.

The original dates for Maharaj Ji's visit had allowed the Swedish team to get everything together fairly smoothly. However, difficulties began when the program was rescheduled for more than a month earlier, the time when most congresses, meetings, and business exhibitions were running for weeks in advance. Elsa Dragemark of the national headquarters had a hard job

finding facilities where five hundred and forty people could eat, sleep, and meet Maharaj Ji. Yet in good time a hall and restaurant, within walking distance of each other, materialized from a "billion phone calls and contacts and tips."

The housing problem remained but was solved by the community premies and aspirants caring for the visitors in their own homes. Each

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family hosted from two to twenty people, providing them with bed and breakfast. The remaining accommodation was borrowed from the city itself in the form of two youth centers.

"Up until the very last moment, the fact that Maharaj Ji would come and see us in our small community was just unbelievable," remarked Christina Aaby, DLM's national director in Sweden. "People were very happy about it, yet they took it so easy - Swedes are slow to explode their feelings in any kind of way. The general feeling was that we needed the reflection of our state of being that only Maharaj Ji can give."

Three weeks before Maharaj Ji's program, Claus Blaedel of Copenhagen and Toke Moler of Finland arrived to help coordinate events, workshops and discussion groups which got underway at community evenings. They dealt with the purpose of Maharaj Ji's visit, its likely and unlikely effects, and also included a question and answer time with the program staff.

As to the lessons drawn from the workshops, Barbro Walling of Stockholm, who acted as an emcee for the three evening programs around Maharaj Ji's visit, felt that they manifested a desire she had experienced personally for a long time, "to meet and look upon Guru Maharaj Ji in a more relaxed and quiet way, in order to experience something more sincere within myself." Niklas Sunsten, ashram housefather in Stockholm and stage worker during the program, noted that "to me, the group discussions were at first an experience of artificiality. But then the festival did seem to become more real, to get closer in the process."

In terms of organization as well, the program team tried to make their work as real as possible. Toke Moler, the program coordinator, described the staff as wanting to take part in something they all could enjoy, "Not too big and not too small." They hoped that the program would be ''light, varied, with simple and good quality, that our finances would balance (which they did), and finally, that nobody should be too worn out to experience what would happen. In. short, we tried to do everything at the level we are at."

Out of the work of Claus Blaedel and Fausto Marchini, community directors of Copenhagen and Stockholm, a three-day program emerged at the very last minute. The hall itself, part of a modern high school complex, could hold eight hundred people and was typical of simple Swedish design, with big plastic balls for lamps and huge glass windows set into the side walls. The program evenings were full of entertainment, satsang, music ranging from classical through folk to hard rock, theatre, and skits "in which the seven participating Nordic communities showed their wit and joy."

On the second day, everyone went boat riding in the beautiful Stockholm archipelago, while Maharaj Ji looked out with his binoculars from his hotel window to where premies drank coffee on decks covered against the rain, and shared satsang with Gurucharnand.

On the night of his satsang program, Maharaj Ji was greeted by long, warm applause from the audience of about six hundred, including nine from Finland, thirty four from Norway, one hundred and sixty-five from Denmark, and two hundred and eighty-three from Sweden. The simplicity and power of Maharaj Ji's satsang held everyone in sharp concentration. Many expected him to talk about more than just "satsang, service and meditation," but the effect of Maharaj Ji's visit, as Bjorn Dahren, the community director of Gothenburg, expressed it, was to refocus everyone so that "we are giving much satsang now about the importance of meditation."

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