THE MONTREAL EXPERIENCE
Long, long ago - back at the end of January - there was a two-day drive through the hard winter to see Guru Maharaj Ji in Portland.
Maybe you'd missed the program in Atlantic City, wishing you were there, but feeling it was one of those things that just wasn't meant to be. Then something clicked the week they announced the Portland program and you knew you were supposed to go. You knew HE wanted you there.
Only three weeks later, you might have found yourself on a chartered bus to Denver, feeling a sense of total amazement that it was happening again so soon. You remembered thinking, back about September, that this might be a year without a single major festival - and now look!
A month after that, there was Holi. By then, you were beginning to go through some real changes. How many times can I carry this off, you may have asked yourself. Do I have the courage to keep asking my boss for the time off? Can I keep scraping up the cash to get to program after program after program? Will I simply run out of steam after awhile and stay home while everyone else goes for darshan?
Oh yes. Darshan. What am I talking about? How can there be any question about whether I'll go or not? Have I forgotten who it is I go there to see?
Forgetting and remembering. Forgetting and remembering.
Suddenly you find yourself in the Montreal Forum, arms locked together with the brother at your left and the sister at your right. Along with 10,000 others, you are singing "Rock Me, Maharaj Ji" at the top of your lungs, and a tear lurks just inside the corner of your left eye.
You look around, then turn to the sister and blurt something out about how the whole planet is being transformed in front of your eyes. And she reminds you that one person is doing it - the young man who shines so brightly at the center of the stage, framed in a garland of thousands of happy faces.
As we sang to him, with our arms locked together beneath the bright lights of the arena, the simplicity of Maharaj Ji's love flowed down and spread out until it melted away all the freak-outs about money for airplane tickets and getting time off from jobs and worrying about whether you would ever be able to realize this Knowledge and all the other petty fears and anxieties that you had carried around
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for so long.
And you found yourself saying silently that there wasn't any other life to go back to, that this was your home, that anywhere Maharaj Ji goes is where you want to be, and he can take you zipping around the planet every weekend for all eternity, if that should prove to be his plan.
It may be. That Friday night, he told us: "There's never going to be an end to these programs. These are going to just go on, and they're going to become bigger and bigger and bigger."
With eyes glowing and hearts bursting, we poured out of the Forum and into the Metro, like a giant wave of bliss-bugs. As the crowd grew and grew at the subway turnstiles, someone began to sing:
"Maharaj Ji, Maharaj Ji, your face shines like a thousand suns …"
The song spread from voice to voice until it tumbled and spilled and flowed through the subway station. A train arrived and the song joyously jumped in through every door. Then it raced through the tunnels and along the track, filling every car with devotion.
Thousands of voices singing in one key, pouring out a song of love. It spread out along the Metro line, pushing forward onto the platform at each stop, leaping up the stairs to the streets and the hotels and fading gradually into meditation in the rooms.
Time to prepare, if one can ever prepare, for darshan. Bill Patterson gave us some help the next morning. He told us that Maharaj Ji had explained some things about what happens in that magic moment.
Premies go through many changes when they pass through darshan lines, wondering if Maharaj Ji will look at them, will smile or speak to them. But he had told Bill that he gives every premie as much as that person can handle at that moment, provides them with whatever they need just then. And always with total love. Bill also had another item to report: Maharaj Ji had said Friday night's program was the most wonderful program he'd ever been to!
Saturday. The day of the "blue tube," when each of us came around a corner and gasped to see Maharaj Ji looking in our direction through a long tunnel of blue fabric, which he had designed himself.
He sat for many hours, allowing premies to pass through slowly, feeling unrushed, in total privacy with him during that moment we stood before him and felt that power, that simplicity, that love which neither he, nor we, could explain.
Some waited most of the day for that moment. But, throughout the wait, the strength of his presence grew and grew until it pervaded the building.
The line of people leaving the darshan line went through the middle aisle of the main floor in its early hours but later was diverted to an outer hallway. And, sometime after that, a magic thing began to happen.
As premies wandered out of the hall for one reason or another, they began to gather alongside the outgoing line, forming a corridor which extended on from those officially designated to receive those who had just had darshan.
At some point, just as happened the night before in the subway, a voice began to sing, and then another, and then another.
"The Lord of the Universe has come to us this day …"
Premies in the darshan line floated through the corridor of singing voices, some smiling, others sobbing, many joining in the song. It went on for more than an hour, with some people drifting in and out while others stayed and sang, clutching the hands of the brothers and sisters next to them the whole time.
A daytime program melted into an evening program, with no one leaving the hall, and Bill Patterson eventually informed us that Maharaj Ji was exhausted from those hours of exchanging love with his premies. Instead of coming back to give satsang - a remarkable feat, if he had done it - Maharaj Ji had chosen to return home and rest.
No one felt disappointed after such a day as that.
Sunday. One final program to conclude a whirlwind weekend. By now, a new object was in place in the backdrop of the simple stage: A large, round replica of the buttons we had been wearing all weekend. The theme - "Festival: Peace Flight '77" - was there, along with two swans, complementing the styrofoam birds that hung from wires overhead.
The only difference between the buttons and the replica was that Maharaj Ji himself, rather than a drawing of him, completed the design. One knew, on seeing the big disc, that it wouldn't be perfect until he was there in front of it.
The music was powerful on that final day, largely due to the presence of two imported bands - One Foundation from Australia, and Salutations from England - which Maharaj Ji had requested come together for the program a couple of weeks earlier in London.
Neither band had been playing together in recent months, but Maharaj Ji's request changed that quickly. Australian premies chipped in to send the musicians from that country to both festivals, and Maharaj Ji took a personal interest, even to the point of attending rehearsals for each group in England.
At Montreal, he went over the list of songs which the two bands would play, making sure it reflected his own preference. The resulting repertoire was full of oldies-but-goodies, many harking back to Blue Aquarius days, and all rich with devotion.
In his final satsang of the weekend, he explained a little about his preoccupation with such details:
"There is only one purpose of this band," he said. "And that is not to rock out. The one purpose is to harmonize and sing the praises of Guru Maharaj Ji. To sing the praises of what this whole path is."
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Again and again, he touched on the topics of love and devotion: that special love which was impossible to define or explain, and that devotion which was essential in order to experience it.
He retold the story of Lord Ram offering Hanuman anything in the universe that he might want. Passing up the opportunity to know great powers and endless riches, Hanuman chose the simplest thing, the purest thing, which was devotion. But he knew it was the greatest gift Lord Ram could bestow.
That day, Maharaj Ji bestowed the same gift on all his premies in full measure. And the Forum, as it had been for three days, was transformed into Guru Maharaj Ji's world.
As he had done in so many recent satsangs, he again compared his world to a boat, saying he was eager to give us all a ride in it, if only we would take the few tiny steps needed to get inside. He said we must learn to relax and enjoy the ride.
Just relax and "keep away from those rails."
He told us many things that Sunday afternoon which sent ripples of bliss through the big arena. He said it was time to give our minds a vacation with all expenses paid. "It deserves it," he said. "It has been working for a very, very long time. Too hard."
But the most joyous part of his message, perhaps, came when he declared that the boat was going full speed ahead.
"Just a real report about how is the ship's condition: well, it's never been better before. And it's, it's in incredible shape.
"For the first time, the Grace has filled the sails of the ship completely. There's no knickyknacky problems. And everything is just beautiful."
After his satsang, Maharaj Ji left the stage to change into his Krishna costume, then returned and was crowned by Durga Ji.
With the arena lights turned high, premies from all over North and South America, along with those from faraway places such as Australia and Japan - and many who had accepted his invitation to follow along after the European programs - joined in a deeply-felt Arti.
With Durga Ji, Premlata and Hans, as well as Raja Ji and Claudia at his side, Maharaj Ji sat for a long, long time while the two bands took turns playing those old songs and singing his praises. And, once again, we all joined hands and sang and sang until our hearts were overflowing.
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Maharaj Ji had said one other thing in his satsang. Just before telling us that the sails were full of Grace, he had given us all a simple, two-word agya: "Stay intact."
He left the stage, finally, after taking the microphone for one last brief, blissful message: He loved us all and hoped he and we would go on loving each other like this forever.
Once again, we flowed out into the streets with the power of love bursting inside of us. Bound for highways and bus terminals and airports, all leading to other cities but all to the same place.
A few hours later, at the modernistic new airport a few miles outside Montreal, premies in a ticket line slowly began to sing. The song picked up energy and grew into something powerful, just as other songs had burst forth that weekend in the subway, the hotels and the halls of the Forum.
It was a song of praise, of gratitude and the realization that there really wasn't anyplace to go back to any more, except deeper and deeper into Guru Maharaj Ji's perfect world.
"In our lives we can really be sitting there and just enjoying Guru Maharaj Ji's cruise within our hearts, and just sailing so freely, so beautifully."
Montreal - Sunday, May 1, 1977
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