Billed as the "Swiss Riviera" and the "convention hub of Europe," Montreux lived up to its fame when it proved to be an ideal gathering place for Guru Maharaj Ji's program in Switzerland. The hotels were close together, and travelling to the program hall meant a short walk to the eastern shore of Lake Geneva, with its view across to the Savoy Alps.
From communities such as Zurich, Delemont and Lausanne, premies flocked to the tourist and jazz center of Montreux, and gathered for a program that most agreed was distinctly different from the past big festivals of Europe. The program coordinator of the Montreux event described the Swiss community's preparation for Maharaj Ji's visit as a quiet, personal time:
"Everyone was trying to understand for himself what it meant that Maharaj Ji was coming. There weren't many big emotions, big feelings. It was quiet and natural."
Around 3 p.m. on the Thursday before the program, people started arriving and booking into their hotels. Later that evening everyone celebrated Maharaj Ji's and Durga Ji's wedding anniversary. Music began it all, then satsang from Krishnasukanand, more music, the films "Family of Love" and Maharaj Ji's Bicentennial address in Washington, followed by a fifteen minute play. Swiss folk music gave way to Arti, and the cutting of the anniversary cake.
Friday morning's breakfast on the lower level of the program hall was followed by two seminars run in both French and German. One seminar concentrated on the world community in general, and the other dealt with the premie community itself. One of the Swiss ashram premies remarked on the outcome of the seminars, "We saw that as human beings we always need a community, and as premies we need a strong premie community to practice Knowledge. By a strong community I mean that every one of us has to be active and work with the community." Many felt that the seminars had made a real impression in their lives, that it "was not a mere talk about community but a real experience of openness and sharing, and making an honest effort to realize something." Later that afternoon, a question and answer time took place with Bob Mishler, Jos Lammers, and Peter Friedli, the director of the Swiss Mission.
Persian rug, white carpet, a backdrop of blue, two actual trees and two bouquets of flowers: these were the physical ingredients of the main stage of the Montreux exhibition center that night. At 7 p.m. the program began with music, and satsang from Jos, Peter and Bob. Then to a welcome song from a Swiss premie band and the spontaneous applause of the crowd of seven hundred, Guru Maharaj Ji arrived. After forty-five minutes of Maharaj Ji's satsang, by the end of Arti and the darshan line, everyone was dancing around to the rhythm of the band. The show was dismantled at midnight and on Saturday morning most people began to make their way back to their communities.
Even in the midst of the dancing, many felt that the atmosphere had been much calmer and quieter than past programs, that everyone "came much closer as a family" and "felt a much greater responsibility for being a premie." One premie, Benno, described the whole event at Montreux as having "a really good effect on the community. Premies are more mature and more natural … You feel that everyone is practicing Knowledge because he wants to practice Knowledge, not because someone is telling him."
What was it like to see Guru Maharaj Ji? John Wetherby, a community information officer, felt that seeing Maharaj Ji was a real catalyst for his own growth in Knowledge. "When we see Guru Maharaj Ji himself, we become really conscious of what he means to us. It was a really wonderful experience to see how my relationship to Guru Maharaj Ji had grown and become much deeper and more real … I received a lot of inspiration and direction.In the satsang he gave, Maharaj Ji tried to make it absolutely clear where a human being is at, what a dilemma he is in, and that Guru Maharaj Ji is proposing a practical way out of this di lemma."
Peter Friedli saw Maharaj Ji's visit ushering in a new phase for the local Mission. He saw a shift in emphasis from I over-organization to everyone trying to realize Knowledge, to every premie doing the work for himself. Peter felt that the Mission would be operating on a much more personal level, which meant that premies would take on more individual responsibility due to their greater understanding of what Knowledge can do in their lives:
"So many premies began to ask themselves, why am I practicing Knowledge? Premies began to ask and they also began to understand. With this understanding reflecting in the communities, they'll become more mature and more real. We have to create an environment to help that growth in everyone's lives. Every community has to find an approach, which may be different from community I to community, to create that environment. The main thing is that we understand much better what satsang, service and meditation are and how we can live together."
And as one premie housemother summed it up, "A great push of energy is here now …. Everyone tries to be honest and make that energy practical."