A HOLI TIME
People around Flamingo Park had never seen anything like it.
A gang of eager young folk had set up a big, round stage that almost looked like the upper deck of a ship, with rails all around the edge.
And now, under the hot Miami Beach sun, a "crew" of thousands was streaming into the park. Eager anticipation shown in every eye. The regulars wondered: what was everybody so excited about? What was going on here?
Had they seen us all a little while earlier, they would have found it even more difficult to figure out. Eight thousand people doing a quick change act, rushing back to their hotel rooms to change into yoga whites or sloppy clothes - and all carrying with us the quiet joy of what we'd experienced at mid-day in the giant Convention Center.
How do you explain to any of the tennis players, or to the restless teenagers hanging out, or to the retired couples sunning on the sidewalks what darshan is, or how it comes in so many varied forms? How to grasp this ourselves on such a whirlwind weekend?
And then Maharaj Ji was there with us in the park: an energetic, smiling 19-year-old fun-loving Lord in a Holi tee-shirt. Raring and eager to go. Eight thousand voices exploding with a vast "Bhole Shri!" Soon he mounted a short flight of stairs, stepped on to the "bridge" of the imaginary ship, grabbed the controls of a heavy-duty water cannon and let fly.
With shrieks of excitement, the Divine Splash was underway.
Holi. An ancient celebration, unheard of to anybody in the West, as basic as our Christmas or Easter to people in India, and now transplanted to a place as unlikely as Miami Beach by the only person in the world with a sense of humor vast enough to create that bridge across the two worlds and march across it.
Holi: a tribute to the faith of one devotee's faith in the Master, and how that faith was enough to transcend death itself. And how joy reigned as those who heard this magic story splashed one another with colored water to celebrate the liberation that came with it.
Holi 1977 - an unforgettable weekend in a truly amazing year.
Just three months after Maharaj Ji belatedly celebrated his birthday in Atlantic City, opening hearts left and right, just two months after Portland and a month after Denver, the Pied Piper of Love was convening his court once again beneath the palms, the blossoms and the tropical sun.
All up and down the beach - that seemingly endless row of posh resort hotels that runs for miles and miles like a picture postcard come to life - premies poured in from every state, from the provinces of Canada, from Europe, South America, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, New Zealand.
Checking in, grabbing a little time on the beach, soaking up some sun - but mostly reminding one another about the real reason why they came.
Inside the Convention Center, a backdrop that looks like a kite waits behind the chair. Appropriate for one who loves to fly kites when he's not splashing people in a park in the hot sun - or running around the world, inspiring his premies to greater and greater heights of experience.
Outside, the familiar queues snaking down the sidewalks, with premies from everywhere reuniting, running and calling out to each other, embracing in laughter and tears - the surest signs that a festival is underway.
And satsang begins to flow. After the exchange of chit-chat the 'how's-Jimmy-where-you- living-now-did-you-drive-or- fly,' after all that, the remembrance of What It Is that brings us all here, of Who It Is that makes it happen, and Who It Is that soon will sit in front of the big and beautiful kite.
Scattered energy inside the big hall this first night, as we shake the travelling dust loose from our shoes. Premies milling about, hanging out in the lobby. Joe Anctil trying his best from the stage to settle us down, pleading with us to take our seats, chiding us for acting
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a bit too much like a bunch of tourists who just blew into Miami Beach for a convention …
But all it takes is a rush of energy from inside the hall to pull us all inside. In more ways than one. Is he here? Yes, he's here, but not yet in body. Joe has just explained that Maharaj Ji is hearing the proceedings through a loudspeaker and a telephone line hooked up to the hall. And, at Joe's direction, we are clapping and shouting and stomping to let Maharaj Ji know how much we want to see his golden face again.
Initiator Diego tells us that night: Maharaj Ji will be with us tonight. But are we prepared for him?
That's what we are here for: to shake loose the dust of our travels through this life, to settle down, to remember, to get ready. Always, to get ready. Ready for Here and Now.
At 10 o'clock, we find ourselves singing Arti to the big kite and the loving presence at the other end of
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that telephone line. Those of us who have just slipped through the time tunnel from other places don't know whether it is supposed to feel late or early, but we are singing Arti now, and we know he hears us.
Forty minutes later, a voice comes to us through that telephone line. The golden face won't shine beneath the big kite tonight, but the voice comes now to reassure us, to sprinkle us with the love that we all know will pour on us in endless measure tomorrows
"This is, ah, Guru Maharaj Ji. I'd like to welcome you to the Holi festival." And a reminder: there was only one reason why we all flew and drove and rode and ran and hitch-hiked from London and Vancouver and Caracas and Minneapolis: to feel anew this Knowledge, to do satsang, service, meditation.
Goodnight, Lord. See you in the morning.
And, indeed, we saw him that Saturday morning. We saw Maharaj Ji that day in many forms. We saw him in the awesome setting of the darshan line, slipping back to a small, private room to kiss his lotus feet while he smiled and joked with those who stood close by to do service - and where he, at one point, ceased to smile as he rebuked the mind, declaring in tones not soon forgotten that one does not yell in the presence of the Lord.
All the while, in the main hall, soft music interweaving with the satsang of quiet devotion. Here we are, at the far corner of a vast nation getting darshan - and the truth is, as one speaker reminds us, our souls would gladly have seen us crawl across this big land on hands and knees to be in the magic presence for even an instant.
Hot sun beating down at mid-day as we jump in cars and the chartered city buses for the quick trip to our rooms and the necessary change of clothes. And now he is before us again, in the park, the laughing teen-aged Satguru who drenches us all with a love we cannot comprehend.
After an hour of splashing and shouting and drenching and laughing and loving, Maharaj Ji is gone. Eliot Brye is washing down the stragglers with a hose and the sun is going down. Soon, the big stage will, too.
Saturday night on the sidewalks of Miami Beach. Sabbath has ended. Retired couples sitting in lawn chairs on concrete patios, taking advantage of the shirtsleeve weather (It's not like this in New York right now), chatting in the evening air beneath the glare of bug lamps. Wondering, maybe, where love went?
And noticing every now and then a handful of happy young folk walking by, their voices bubbling, with shining faces and soaking wet clothes, big splotches of blue and red and yellow and green all over them. Satsang drips off the premies as the two worlds keep bumping into each other.
Hello, there. Yes, we know we look funny. We would give anything to have you be inside of where we are so you could find out how beautiful it is. It looks like paint but it's pure, pure love.
Just enough time to splash back to the rooms, wash off the paint - but not the love - and dress up again for Darshan Adventure Number Three on this Saturday to end all Saturdays.
Satsang this night is powerful, as it must be after such a day. Jagdeo with characteristic thunder, declares: "All the past karmas are washed away!" John Hampton predicts:"He's going to liberate us all!" Soon, premies are on their feet in a joyous dance to the rock and roll music of devotion.
Ira Woods is at the microphone when the curtains behind the big kite begin to part in a way that suggests something very large is being brought in through the outside door just behind the stage. It takes awhile for everyone to figure out what is happening, but the top of Maharaj Ji's motor home eventually slides into view just to the left of the stage.
Something (someone) very
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large has, indeed, just come in. the premies come unglued, as always when Maharaj Ji is at hand. Ira finds it very hard to keep going.
And now Maharaj Ji is with us. He tells us that Holi, more than ever before, is now a moment of holiness: It is "holy" with a "y" as well as an "i." A divine pun, bridging 1.000 years and the far corners of the planet to achieve its meaning.
And he shares with us his own feelings about the precious gift of moments such as this. Were he a premie at this time, he would be content to be a tiny grain of dust beneath the Perfect Master's feet. And, by his grace, we are here to realize his perfect Knowledge, to love satsang, service, meditation - and to love the originator of love; Guru Maharaj Ji.
As he did in Denver, Maharaj Ji tells us the reason why he's expending all this energy, going all these places doing everything he does: because he loves his premies. What more can he say than this? What more could any of us ever want to hear?
It is Sunday, now, and the kite has disappeared from the stage. A new one - same shape, but with a glittering border of changing colors, depending on what angle you view it from - is raised up as the weekend's final program gets underway.
After satsang from many of the initiators, new and old, the premie players from Denver re-create the ancient Holi legend of the young devotee named Pralad, who tells his father: try to leave this Holy Name, father, but it won't leave me."
And, as Randy Prouty is speaking, the curtains part again. This time we know what, and who, is coming through the door. First John Miller appears, then Raja Ji comes out to tell us he's sorry to have passed up the Portland and Denver programs. Even the brother of the Perfect Master can find himself regretting lost opportunities. But he and Claudia haven't missed this one.
At last, Maharaj Ji is with us again, his white suit looking beautiful against the backdrop of Kite Number Two.
He tells us what we already suspected, whether the mind wanted to hear it or not: this pied-piper parade is not over, not by a long shot.
This can go on," he says. "This is easy." And it will. He wasn't kidding when he told us in Denver not to let that last night's magic die, to keep it going and take it with us.
Give your mind a vacation, he tells us on this last afternoon in Miami. And keep the faith. He gives us agya:
"This time when you go back, start preparing for the next one." Something inside says he isn't just talking about getting the money together, either. He adds: "The time is going to come when the Peace Bomb is going to start exploding."
After a few more days in Miami, showering love on the community coordinators in a Tuesday conference and leading an outing to Seaquarium, Guru Maharaj Ji is off to continue his parade of love in Europe.
A few premies stay on in the hot sun, trying to thaw out from the long winter. Within days, it is announced that the next North American program will probably be at the end of April in Montreal.
Premies who thought they'd spent their last dime, their last ounce of travelling energy on the way to Miami are busily getting ready for the next Instant Festival, and the one after that, and the one after that.
And, in the back of the satsang halls all over the world, you can almost hear that Peace Bomb ticking away.
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