Along with the U.S. and Europe, the island of Australia stands as one of the strongest and most dynamic premie communities in the world. In the first of a series of articles on our growing international family, DT InternationaI News takes a look at the history of DUO Australia in the grand style of The Golden Age, written by her editor, Michael McDonald.
As with all good fairy tales come true, the beginnings of DUO Australia are lost in the mists of memory. Most agree that it began somewhere around June 1972 but accounts of the first gatherings of premies vary in detail and sequence. So let us take one such story and see how a tree of truth grew gloriously despite being rooted in legend.
At a table in the Natural Food Centre, Sydney, premies including David Lovejoy, former national director, gathered to decide the whereabouts of the first ashram. All of them had recently completed their wanderings throughout Asia and had little money, so they renovated an old terrace house in Riley Street, Surry Hills, an urban nightmare.
Contrary to their schooling in the all-white devotional colour scheme, they painted the outside of the house yellow and blue. Yet satsang still continued in the style of eastern mystical tradition: incense, bells, chanting, invocations, candles, dhotis and yoga whites, a breath of oriental magic in the lives of the local residents.
Within two months the premies had saved the exact amount of money needed to purchase an economy airticket from Japan to Australia. Coincidentally enough, Mahatma Guru Charnanand Ji arrived in Japan soon after. At that time there was a frequent exchange of letters between the two countries as they thought of ways to draw Maharaj Ji to the Pacific. Some of these letters reflect the onrush of changes which still continually remould the face of the Mission:
"Elisha also said that the ashrams in the States (especially N.Y.) are becoming so strict and everyone is wearing suits and ties and no long hair or beards. They get up at 4 in the morning to meditate etc. etc. …
"We have a friend in London who writes us lots of news and more and more of our friends are receiving Knowledge. We must realise how lucky we were to receive it so early because now it is so big and in London they are giving satsang in halls!!"
On September 3, 1972, Mahatma Guru Charnanand Ji arrived in Sydney, where a brother waiting for Knowledge welcomed him by releasing a pigeon into the air. During his ten-day visit, he also travelled to Cardigan Street, Melbourne, where an ashram had been founded by Julie Collett, who had also recently returned from India. By the close of Mahatma Ji's short tour there were 130 premies in Australia - 80 in Sydney and 50 in Melbourne.
Efforts continued to bring Maharaj Ji near. Then, "Bliss, bliss, bliss - Shri Guru Maharaj Ji arrived in Japan on 25th Sept. to bless the people in Japan … Now for some real news for you … Mahatma Ji told Joe and me to ask Guru Maha raj Ji to go to Australia and I will quote what he said: 'I hope I will be able to face my two hours in Australia. When my license man sees my log book he will see I was starting from Denver then right down the world, right down the world into Australia.' If you want my opinion I think our Lord will grace you by his divine darshan."
For once, opinion proved correct. Guru Maharaj Ji arrived for a brief stay of 21/2 days in October. One public program was held at the Lower Town Hall, Sydney, but the main effect of his darshan was to reinforce in the premies' hearts the inspiring game that the Perfect Master plays within us all.
For generations to come, the divine files, newsletters and newspapers will record the major events of DUO Australia, but none can really recapture the full colour of those precious moments. After Guru Maharaj Ji's visit, twenty Australian premies managed to travel to Prem Nagar, India, for the Hans Jayanti Festival in November. Soon after their return, Sydney's ashram was transferred to Balmain, on Guru Maharaj Ji's birthday, and new centres began in Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra. Then the long wait for a mahatma began.
As the months passed, those waiting for Knowledge began to outnumber the premies. The correspondence of the times reflected the growth of Mission activities and the keen anticipation of a mahatma's imminent arrival:
"Yesterday came the most wonderful news that Satguru Has Come is ready to be distributed. A film of he Lord is the next best thing to his actual darshan, and here in the wilds we are physically far from his presence, though near in his grace. Please, please send this film as soon as ever you can. It would fill such a heart-felt gap here in Australia."
"Everything is ready in Melbourne for a mahatma. There are so many people waiting to receive this spiritual Knowledge. Many who can hardly wait another day. We are making every possible effort to get the mahatma here in time for the Sundbury pop festival and opening of the hall at Fitzroy on the 25th January 1973 …"
"Six mahatmas in London! Please Guru Maharaj Ji send a mahatma to Australia soon."
"So all shoulders to the wheel, and those who want a mahatma here, 'go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shall have treasure in heaven.' It would be nice to get the ticket off early next week."
"I had a long (and expensive!) phone conversation with Mahatma' Rajeshwar this morning. I told him all about the Spiritual Exhibition and the yearning need for Knowledge here, but although he was very happy with the propagation effort you have made, the gist of his reply was no one ever took harm or suffered loss through waiting for Knowledge …"
In the midst of waiting, propagation continued. Leafletting at the Sundbury Pop Festival evoked scenes of ancient rome and Christians in the Coliseum. Beer cans and abuse would follow the propagators, who now and again retired to their tent to meditate in the midst of blaring rock and roll.
"Rajeshwaranand Ji, who was due to visit us and who has been sent a ticket for the purpose, has lost his passport! What a lila! It seems we couldn't have been ready enough after all …
In May, another message of good tidings arrived:
"At the continuous persuasions of premies from there, Shri Guru Maharaj Ji has finally given permission to Mahatma Padarthanand Ji to go to Australia as early as possible."
Yet the wait continued for another two months as problems with visas and tickets were sorted out. Letter-writing reached a new peak. Mahatmas throughout the world were inundated with pleas for them to visit Australia. At the same time, news came of Millennium '73 in the United States, and plans were made to charter a Jumbo to the November festival. As the immigration difficulties drew to a close, a letter came from Mahatma Padarthanand Ji:
"Dear brothers and sisters,
Jai Shri Satchitanand.
"When the heart is full of feelings the mouth shuts, but my fingers are also frozen that no word is coming out. How can I write to such humblest devotees who have single-hearted devotion for our Lord? What all I can say. Oh Lord! please make me able to serve thy beloved children in Australia.
… See, Lord is ready the souls are also ready then what is the problem?
That is the very thing so called illusion; which is a great obstacle. … In the holy Gita the last verse explains the mystery of successful life, with grace there should be a devotee like brave Arjuna, a person of right and prompt action. We all are trying our level best to get a visa but it seems that you can do much better from the Australian embassy than we can from here.
"Do not forget your ceaseless prayers asking him to open your doors by his almighty grace. You all my thirsty brothers and sisters; this is the only thing we should wait for life long with a great patience.
"You are really blessed that you have come to the door of our father. Let thy hearts be purified with tears of repentance and your body, mind and spirit full of devotion to his supremest lotus feet.
"I am sure whoever has taken refuge in him even by love and faith they get peace and real joy.
"I am also praying to our Lord. I hope this short letter will answer your countless letters. Please let my words reach to every heart which is waiting …
"Your humble servant in the lotus feet,
Mahatma Padarthanand Ji."
Then Guru Puja '73 arrived. In Adelaide, all the brothers and sisters of the Australian mission gathered together for the first time. On the first day of the festival Mahatma Ji flew in from Sydney, the airport's consciousness exploded and a long association of devotion and love began between Maharaj Ji's beautiful servant and his Australian children. Mahatma Ji served us ceaselessly, initiating 108 people into Knowledge in three days. From Adelaide he began to tour all the centres throughout Australia, inspiring premies to work together on
a national level.
Now that Mahatma Ji had arrived, apart from the standard goal of bringing Australia to the lotus feet, what else was there to do? Nothing else but to draw MaharajJi himself. And thus began more letters, telegrams and phone calls which resulted in October 24 as the tentative darshan date. Activating our powers of assumption to the nth degree, we plunged into a full-scale publicity campaign called the Second Coming. From August to October posters saturated the capital cities and truckloads of leaflet-waving pranksters, fueled up on a night's satsang, descended on choice theatre and concert sites, high-revving tongues burying homegoers in conceptual avalanches. It took us a long while to learn the difference between publicity and public relations, and Maharaj Ji didn't arrive in October after all. The absence was filled for 220 premies however, by a charter flight to Millennium '73. Aeronautic samadhi aboard the Jumbo, satiated by films, music, nonstop meals and trays of prashad from our saffron-robed steward, Mahatma Padarthanand Ji.
Gradually, as the Mission expanded, different services turned to meet premie demand. In February The Golden Age began as an eight-page newspaper and over the year grew in quality and technique, through learn-by-error experience and the addition of equipment such as copy cameras and platemakers. It began by recording the salad days of Divine Sales jumbling:
"Divine Sales may appear as a strange hybrid of junk and opportunity shops but its real nature is based on a transcendental experience peculiar to its modus operandi. It thrives on the fruits of jumbling, that magical, blissful event which is becoming known as the fifth meditation technique."
In April, 1974, The Golden Age interviewed David Lovejoy:
"Has the Mission changed greatly from its early days in Australia?"
"Well of course you could say it has; our number has grown from four to 1400 or so, and satsang has spread from one dilapidated tenement in Sydney to all the major towns in the country. Inevitably in such an expansion, inessential features spin off and new ones evolve, but superficial change is no measure of our true direction. The important thing is that as long as we are all joined by our common practice of the Knowledge, external change is no more than a reflection of our different efforts to reach the maximum number of people in society."
And May's issue saw an interview with our beloved Mahatma Padarthanand Ji, whose constant state-to-state travelling kept us in contact with our original service: to love one another.
"… I became a mahatma by the blessing, by the company of mahatmas. This is the middle-man. If you want to call Guru Maharaj Ji you have to phone through the operator. Mahatma is the middle man who can unite you. This is his duty, to help you and to bring you to the lotus feet. One who has practically devoted his life can teach you something …
The first place where the Golden Age is seen is in the heart, our hearts, not Australia. First there is Golden Age inside, then it will manifest outside,or anywhere."
When he flew to Guru Puja in both Copenhagen and Amherst, we waited for Mahatma Ji's return with bated breath and scheduled our Guru Puja in Melbourne so that Guru Maharaj Ji and Durga Ji would have time to attend. That was not to eventuate but Mahatma Ji came back more blissful than ever with amazing darshan stories to share.
If a child asked you, "What's life?" or "Where did I I come from?" or "Who am I?", how would you answer? Maybe he doesn't know the truth, but he can spot a lie. A lot of times, 'growing up' means forgetting to ask the questions that need answering most. A person gets tired of never being told the truth.
You might say that Guru Maharaj Ji is offering an elementary course in self-knowledge. More basic than an atom is the energy that holds an atom together. And yet Guru Maharaj Ji is saying that he can put you inside that energy. It's possible because the same energy is holding your atoms together. Guru Maharaj Ji puts you inside yourself. He gives you the experience of the energy that keeps you alive. It's called 'Knowledge', because by practicing it you come to really know who you are.
Leaving theories behind, coming into the practical, touching and seeing the Knowledge is what life is all about. The experience, like your first birth, is free. To find out more about Knowledge, call your local Divine Light Mission chapter, or write:
While the waiting for darshan continued, the Mission's activities grew and diversified. The months of August and September saw the growth of global consciousness, as news came of Maharaj Ji's moves to internationalize DUO.
But October was the best month. It seemed that just as DUO Australia was coming together nationally, Maharaj Ji blessed us with the news of his impending visit.
Then for all of us the picture changed. Maharaj Ji's visit turned the fairy tale into a love story. The Golden Age tried to capture some of the magic of the all-too-short tour:
"The birthday cake was distributed as prashad and after a few songs from Harbinger, Mahatma Ji gave satsang about satsang: how it was the first gathering-point for us all, and that along with service and meditation it led us to the climax, darshan. And after darshan? More satsang. The road goes ever on. Smiling with delight, Mahatma Ji explained that by Maharaj Ji's amazing grace he was able to be in fancy dress 24 hours a day. The foxes and bears and angels cheered, and the tired but blissful premies danced and sang into the night, so happy for the first glimpse of their Lord and lady in Australia …
So, from the beginning right through to darshan, all the major desires had been fulfilled and the only necessary action left was to offer our hearts in service. Maharaj Ji provided that opportunity as well, by introducing World Welfare Association in his Sydney satsang. Off the press: the newspaper The Golden Age in Sydney.
From a family of four to 2000 in just over two years. Learning to play with each other, making mistakes, falling on our faces and picking each other up through his infinite grace.
Now we can look back to a year ago and laugh at our folly and feeble efforts. Hopefully, for the sake of continued growth, we will look at today a year from now and see how far we have come. He packs a lifetime's realizations into a moment's lesson and takes us to a point of maturity where we can just begin to understand what love and devotion are all about. Australia's history of DUO is not unique. It is another reflection of the love which grows in each premie's heart throughout the whole world, as we come to the one blessed place together.
A premie once had a dream. He was in a big study with a desk and a swivel chair. He was on the floor of the study, playing with crayons and paper. After trying for some time, he managed to write "I love you, Daddy." He held the piece of paper up to the man in the chair. The man swivelled round and it was his father, Guru Maharaj Ji. All our efforts at serving the Lord are child's play provided by our father, all actions are lessons in this love-story, made more real with every breath.
(International News continued on page 6)
In last month's International News we said that Raja Ji had become a U.S. citizen - this is not true: Raja Ji has been granted "permanent residence" only, and will have to live here for seven years before he becomes a citizen.