Devanand comes from Bihar, in northern India. He was born in 1931, into a simple farming family, and until he reached the age of 28, he lived what he calls a "normal life". His world changed forever, though, one fateful day in 1959.
"My belief was in the temples and the statues. I had great trust in them. But then this person just came up to me and said: 'What you are really looking for is within you.' This really got me thinking. I had to fight with the idea for a while. but then I thought: 'If what I seek is really within me, there must be some way I can find it. I think I should go back and listen some more'."
This was how Devanand first heard about Maharaji's father, Shri Maharaj Ji. Soon after, he received Knowledge.
"For the first two years after I received Knowledge' says Devanand, "I stayed on the farm with my family. I made a point, though, of visiting the nearest local center to help out. I would just do whatever there was to do, whenever I could. Often, I worked in the garden and sometimes Shri Maharaj Ji would come there in person to speak to us. When he did, it made me feel: 'Now my life is fulfilled.' I felt really good."
The next major turning point in Devanand's life came in 1963. "Shri Maharaj Ji called me to him one day and said: 'Now I am going to make you an instructor.' I asked him: 'How am I going to do this? I am not educated so how am I going to speak in front of people? Can't I just stay here and work in your garden?'
"He replied: 'The work you are doing here, I can pay someone else to do. But I cannot pay someone to spread this Knowledge. And anyway, you are not becoming an instructor. I am going to make you an instructor. So don't worry.'
"I used to sing a lot back in those days and Shri Maharaj Ji knew this. He said: 'You just trust in me and sing these beautiful songs. People will listen'."
Thirty-five years later, Devanand is still living in India, still communicating his enthusiasm for Knowledge, still performing much the same task that he was originally asked to carry out. "I practice Knowledge and feel this beautiful feeling and I take the videos from place to place and show them to people."
Devanand has very fond memories of Maharaji as a child. Asked what changes he has noticed in the intervening years, his reply is instructive and inspiring. "Maharaji has made it simple. He has made it clear that he is not connected to any religion or any race or anything like that. People see the videos now and they just open up right away. Magic is happening in ways that I would never have thought of, even in my dreams. I could never have imagined that one day Maharaji would reveal Knowledge to more than 3,500 people in one session."
At the age of 68, Devanand would seem to have no intention of retiring. He frequently visits Nepal, taking videos by bus or car to outlying villages where people gather to listen to audio cassettes or see videos.
When the large events take place, Maharaji will often sit on stage for some while after he has finished his address. He smiles and beams at the audience and they wave back to him. Live music accompanies this exchange and as soon as the sitars start to play, one elderly gentleman will invariably be the first to get up to dance. Devanand explains that he can't stop himself. "In front of Maharaji my heart bursts. It awakens and I can't say thank you enough. The happiness in my heart lifts me up and I just dance. I have no words to describe my gratitude. I feel that life is so full. All I want is to continue to be with him. My master has shown me how to live this life with a big smile."
Henry and Mary Hsu are happy to help in any way they can. And now this Taiwanese couple are holding bilingual video events in their purpose-built home in New Zealand. As aspirants living in Kaoshiung in Taiwan they often traveled 16 hours by bus or train to attend events in Taipei, the island's capital.
Gradually there were enough aspirants to hold events in their home city. "Right from the start, the feeling in our hearts was to tell people about Maharaji," says Henry. "The more we listened to him, the stronger this feeling was."
After years of living and working in the hustle and bustle of Taiwan they decided on a new start in the tranquil city of Nelson in the South Island of New Zealand. Now Henry travels between Taiwan and New Zealand to maintain his business connections, while Mary remains in Nelson and cares for their two children.
"When Henry wanted to build a house, I asked him to design a big living room so we could hold video events," Mary says. "People started to come and before long some were interested in receiving Knowledge."
After attending the Amaroo event in Australia in 1994, Mary returned to Taiwan. But not for long - she had a strong feeling to hold video events in Nelson again.
As more people started to come Mary and Henry wanted to create an environment where people could come to see videos of Maharaji without any other distractions. They decided to renovate the upstairs rooms in their house and create a small hall to be used solely for video events.
A separate staircase leads into the beautiful room from the outside of the house. Subtitled videos and translation enable both the New Zealanders and the Taiwanese community to enjoy the events together.
Mary studied at the local college to improve her English. "I wanted to be able to talk to people and to invite them to the events," she says. "Every day when I prepare this room, I welcome Maharaji to come."
Mary and Henry outside the room they adapted especially for video events
Connect 1998 31