THE EUROPEAN TOUR
Just three months after the incredible sequence of North American programs began, Guru Maharaj Ji stepped aboard a small private jet in Miami and winged his way to Europe to give the premies there a big dose of the love he had been showering here.
In Miami, he had told us it was "impossible" for him to have another American program immediately. When voices in the hall cried out in reaction to this, he insisted: "Let me tell you why." Then he explained about Europe.
Six weeks later, he was back, this time in Montreal, for the festival called "Peace Flight." In between, he gave four programs in as many weeks.
Those who were there say Europe will never be the same.
It began in Rome, in the midst of the splendid ruins which stand as reminders of a time when a military empire was in its prime - and when the Perfect Master stepped into the world to show that there was another way.
The crowd was small, perhaps 1,700 in all. At first, it seemed some were rousing themselves from a long sleep, making their way back to the Knowledge after a detour here and there. The few North Americans who attended could see the contrast between this - it was much the place where they'd been a year ago - and the world to which he had taken us recently.
Premies who came from Greece, from all over Italy, from Switzerland and even Israel, found themselves groping at first, slightly out of touch.
It didn't take long for Maharaj Ji to bring them home again. He responded patiently to their initial feelings of uncertainty. Then, on the second day, as these premies walked through the darshan line, he brought forth their tears. The mood was much mellower that second night, and people who had been expecting to return home to Milan or Naples or Athens were now feeling that, perhaps, the thing to do was to move on to southern France, to stay with the tour a little longer and experience darshan again, at least once more.
In his satsang on the second night, Maharaj Ji took note of the struggle that the premies
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there were going through. "Such a last minute struggle," he said of the feelings he'd perceived in them the previous night. "It was like so many premies had been buried for such a long time under so much mind."
As he had done in Portland and Miami, he explained the futility of letting one's horses run wild for 22 hours a day, expecting them to be tamed in the other two hours.
"Our purpose in life is to really stay in tune, really stay clear, with what is the purpose of Guru Maharaj Ji being in this world," he declared.
He talked about the fact that premies were applauding for him, instead of crying out "Bhole Shri!" Again, it was very much like what had happened during his U.S. tour in the summer of 1976.
Recalling that premies on both sides of the Atlantic actually had been instructed to clap for him at those earlier programs, Maharaj Ji told them this time: "You have to experience Knowledge; somebody sitting on the stage has no right to tell you what you should do."
Later that night, he returned to the topic: "When you guys clap, of course, maybe that's what you want to do. But clapping means you approve of it, and it's not a matter of approval or disapproval."
Afterward, some still were applauding. But something was changing for all to see. Many went on to the south of France.
Willow Baker got there from Denver in time to find the French premies facing a hard decision. The program in La Grande Motte, not far from Montpellier, was to be in a circus tent. There were two tents: a big one for the food lines and a smaller one for the program. And, as the program grew nearer, they all began to realize that there might be a lot more people coming than they had anticipated.
Should they switch tents? At first, they said it was too late to do that, but as new arrivals streamed in the night before the program, they finally realized they had no choice. Brothers and sisters spent all that night moving benches out of the little tent into the big tent, while the food service area was transferred to the smaller one.
Even then, premies wound up practically sitting on one another's laps. There were about 4,000 there -- more than twice as many as in Italy.
In contrast with the sophisticated setting in the ballroom of Rome's Cavaliere Hilton, the circus tent was down to earth, and Maharaj Ji's stage was simple. He sat on a blue velvet sofa.
The town itself was a futuristic resort city with pyramid-shaped hotels that looked like something straight out of "2001." Yet, in the midst of such extravagance and glitter, stood a plain, ordinary, somewhat battered circus tent, with blue and red and green stripes. And, inside, nothing but Guru Maharaj Ji and his premies. And love.
Now, there were Spanish premies and French premies and Germans and more Swiss and some from Africa, along with those who had come ahead from Rome. And, again, there were those who assumed at first they would just go to this program, get blissed out and go back home. But, as had happened in Rome, they experienced something in the circus tent that made them want to keep following Maharaj Ji as far as they could.
Maharaj Ji commented on the setting. As one American premie recalls it, he told them: here we are, in a circus. A little circus in the big circus which is this world. But this is the only circus in the world where truth is being spoken.
The darshan line was in another tent, just behind the stage. Premies went outside the big tent, through the line and back inside, to their seats. Maharaj Ji had arranged things so that each of them could come to his feet in an atmosphere of maximum privacy. It was a trend that would continue through the tour. Dr. Carlos Warter of Denver, who stood in the prasad line to receive the premies coming out, reported afterward that, as he looked at their eyes, "it was like candlelight."
Soon afterward, the evening program began, with initiators giving satsang while Maharaj Ji left for a while to get some rest. But when he came back, there was an explosion of love. Again, he took note of the changes that had taken place in 24 hours. Premies at first feeling a little unsure about their relationship with him, but then remembering as they came close to his feet. And opening up.
He told them that the original plan had been to have one-day programs in each city. But then he said, "No, we are going to have darshan one day and we are going to have satsang one day."
Durga Ji, he explained, had been the one who suggested the satsang should come first, "because premies come from all these different concepts, all these different places in their minds, and they're confused."
In France, by the time it was over, premies had met and heard satsang for three days, instead of the expected two. The weather was gorgeous, and there were even rumors that he might have an impromptu Holi celebration for those who hadn't experienced it in Miami Beach.
The premies pleaded with Maharaj Ji to stay another day. But he said he had to fly on to Munich. Nonetheless, when they sang Arti to his seemingly empty chair on that last night, many strongly felt his presence.
In Munich, the setting was also a place where circuses often are held. But, instead of a tent, this was a permanent arena a short distance from the heart of the city.
Again, with his cosmic sense of humor, Maharaj Ji talked about the contrast between ordinary circuses - the ones where people come to see lions
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and tigers do their tricks - and this gathering, where the real trick was for each individual to find Truth inside himself.
In his magic presence, it didn't seem like such a hard trick at all.
Meanwhile, the handful of premies from North and South America who were following the tour were experiencing Europe, not through the eyes of tourists, but as yet another sector of Guru Maharaj Ji's world. For instance: Denver's Maurice Brog, who practices law when he's not running around from festival to festival, had first thought he would surely get some sightseeing along the way.
But it wasn't meant to be. Travelling by train part of the way, and by plane another, he thought his best chance would come with the auto ride from Montpellier through Switzerland to Munich. Yet he hardly got a glimpse of the spectacular countryside.
"I wanted to go through in the daytime, but Maharaj Ji said no, this is not what you're here for. We went at night, in a snowstorm."
As usually happens when Maharaj Ji gives a lot of public programs in a short time, recurring themes kept popping up in his satsang. One was his recollection of the time in his young life when he began to desire Knowledge.
He told about a day when he asked his father, Shri Hans Ji Maharaj, what Knowledge was. Laughingly, Shri Hans Ji asked him what he thought it was, and little Sant Ji sat down in front of his father and pretended to meditate.
Shri Hans Ji told him this external pretense might look convincing, but it was like a stalk of bamboo with no internal substance. Anyone who came along could snap it.
And thus did the child come to hunger for the inner experience which his father revealed to him soon afterward. But, Maharaj Ji said, he came to know that this wasn't simply an experience of Knowledge. It was more: it was one of surrender to his Guru Maharaj Ji.
So he reminded his premies here in Europe that that was what they, too, must do.
"We have to surrender ourselves," he said. "We have to surrender ourselves to the Perfect Master, we have to surrender ourselves to this Knowledge, we have to surrender ourselves and become one with that Ultimate that is there, and have that devotion."
In contrast with the low stage in the French tent, that in the Munich circus arena was high - so high that, as he noted, some of the premies in side sections of the balcony were very close to him.
Outside, it was cold and snowing, in sharp contrast with the way the weather had been in Rome and southern France. Inside, 3,000 premies were jammed into a hall that could scarcely hold them all.
Fortunately, everybody sat on benches. So, when the police and fire officials threatened to empty the hall if the premies who were jammed into the stair-stepped aisles didn't find a way to clear out of them in 10 minutes, everyone simply squeezed together a little more tightly.
"It was like the loaves and fishes in reverse," Maurice reported.
To Dr. Carlos, "That German program was beyond what I had ever, ever experienced." It was also intimate, as Maurice remembers it, with those furthest from Maharaj Ji having a closer look at him than those in the front rows at the Orlando, Florida festival in 1975.
Like the Pied Piper that he is, Guru Maharaj Ji issued a blanket invitation in Munich: Anyone who wanted to follow him to London was welcome to do so. Until then, many Europeans had no inkling they might do such a thing. Now they experienced a pull that was too strong to ignore.
To the Americans who had hopped from East Coast to West Coast and back again, it was beginning to be a joyously familiar meeting.
And, finally, there was London. Originally, the plan was to have a program in Birmingham. But, when the people who managed the exhibition hall began to raise the price for this and that, Maharaj Ji said no. He insisted that the English premies find a cheaper arena so as to assure that anyone who wanted to come could do so.
In a hall with an undeniably British name - it was called the Wembley Park Empire Pool Stadium - he sat atop a high, flower-bedecked pyramid on a massive, specially constructed throne which looked like a couch wide enough to accommodate a soccer team.
Drapes arched behind him, and potted plants led up to his throne. Behind it was a striking portrait of Shri Maharaj Ji. And, hanging from the entire backdrop were blue cords with dozens of tiny mirrors attached to them.
Flashing lights of different colors played on the mirrors, causing them to reflect the rainbow hues in all directions. It was a setting designed to bring forth a gasp from each newcomer as he got his first glimpse - but the crowning touch, when he sat down there, was the one who had designed the impressive stage: Maharaj Ji himself.
As he had in each of the European cities, Guru Maharaj Ji returned to the stage on the last night with his Krishna suit on. And, as she had each time, Durga Ji placed the crown on his head. But here - in this most royalty- conscious of all countries - Maharaj Ji took special note of the fact that it was the first time he had been crowned in England, even though London was the first western city to which he had come when he first left India six years ago.
And as he sat before the premies there, giving satsang, allowing them to sing Arti to him and beaming as the music rang through the hall, he melted heart after heart until they beat together as one.
He spoke of the organization he had created, and how it had got out of hand until it was a monster of its own making, one that even failed to recognize his perfect role in it. And how he had finally taken it apart gently and put it back together so it would run smoothly again, placing the machinery in order so it could do what needed to be done: service, such as organizing beautiful programs like this one.
Energy had built up and built up throughout the tour. In England, it reached a high level. Perhaps 150 premies came out of the darshan line needing assistance just to walk back to their seats. Even those who watched them coming out of the line found themselves with tears running down their cheeks.
And then he invited them to follow him across the Atlantic to Montreal.
And, when he came back to Montreal, Guru Maharaj Ji seemed very, very pleased with the way things were going in his world.
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