Initiator Nadine is standing on an outdoor stage, in front of a big screen shaped like a heart, giving satsang to a little more than a thousand premies from all over the East coast, when the sound of a helicopter begins to drone in the distance.
At first, neither she nor the other premies pay too much attention to the noise. After all, it's a common sound nowadays. But, as it grows louder, something begins to click inside a few people, and then a few more and a few more.
There have been rumors flying around that Maharaj Ji might come to this retreat in the Pocono Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. One rumor has even suggested he might come by helicopter. But those were just rumors, weren't they?
Yet why are those helicopters heading this way? Can it be that the rumors were true? Voices deep within many hearts have pleaded with Maharaj Ji to come here, to sit in front of the heart-shaped screen, to give us his precious darshan.
Of course, it can't be happening. Maharaj Ji's in Denver right now. Or Malibu. Or somewhere. Isn't he?
Nadine continues, but the sound gets louder and louder until everyone's eyes are drawn to the choppers which, by now, appear to be heading for Camp Akiba. A few seconds more and the sound is so overpowering that Nadine can't go on talking. She looks up with wonder and asks into the microphone: "That's Guru Maharaj Ji? Oh, yeah!"
One chopper lands, only a few feet from the stage. Maharaj Ji is in it!
Maharaj Ji is here! He has swooped down out of the sky, answering the call of hearts that were gathered for the "Court of Love Retreat." Lord of all the universe, come down to show the way.
There are tears and gasps and roaring cries of "Bhole shri!" Nadine is speechless, yet at intervals she blurts her feelings into the microphone. "Godddd!" she cries. "Oh, Goddddd!"
It is the climax to a drama that has been unfolding for more than 24 hours under wraps of maximum security - such secrecy even as to foil the fabled premie rumor-machine. Of course, it is Maharaj Ji who has demanded it be this way, saying he wants this to be the "surprise of surprises."
Now, as the tears flow freely, and as hundreds of hearts feel something deeper than they've ever felt before, it's apparent that the plan has worked perfectly.
Maharaj Ji has shown us he can go anywhere he wants, anytime, to demonstrate his love. And, only 11 days later, he gives us another chance to experience that we, too, can go anywhere, anytime, to be at his feet.
A fitting prelude, no doubt, to the experiences that lie ahead for us in Rome.
The premies in Denver were trying to understand what he told us when he said at Guru Puja that the best way to get what you desire is to go beyond desiring anything. We had a test of our understanding when he came to Denver, stayed a week and a half - and didn't respond to any of the invitations to attend community programs.
Were we desiring him too much? Should we abandon the idea of inviting him, and just try our best to experience him inside through our practice of Knowledge? But what to do about that longing inside that wouldn't go away?
Jim Vuko, newly transplanted from Washington, D.C., to be the Denver community coordinator, said he was going to go ahead and ask Maharaj Ji to come to our Sunday night community meeting on Labor Day weekend. Everybody was feeling that Maharaj Ji might go to Malibu soon and this probably was our last, best chance.
Jim went to the residence on Saturday and left word that we were going to fix up the stage for Maharaj Ji and we really wanted him to come. The vibe that Sunday night was one of waiting - and hoping - for darshan.
The satsang was beautiful, and so was the music. Everyone seemed to be reaching together for deeper answers to old questions: Do we have a right to demand that Maharaj Ji come to us, ever? Is it wrong to acknowledge that we want to see him so badly we can't stand it? If our hearts are breaking to see you, Lord, will you come?
From time to time, in between the satsang and the music, Jim would come to the mircophone and tell us about his latest call to the residence. But he seemed to be having a hard time getting a straight answer out of anyone there.
Once, two people at the residence picked up phones at the same time. One voice answered with the mysterious words, "Temperature Control." By the time Jim realized whose voice that was, Maharaj Ji had clicked off and Jim had to settle for talking to somebody else.
In another conversation, a premie told Jim the answer was an "absolute negative." But Maharaj Ji, from across the room, yelled out: No, it WASN'T negative. There was still hope.
As the evening stretched
4 Divine Times
out, Jim suddenly discovered he couldn't get through to the residence at all. Many minutes went by and he tried and tried. Eventually, he reached a premie who said he was alone at the residence, everyone else had left and he couldn't give any further details. As Jim desperately tried to find out more, the premie hung up.
Not long after that, we learned that Maharaj Ji was in the air - presumably heading to Malibu. The Denver program ended with Arti to Maharaj Ji's empty - but somehow occupied - chair.
In the meantime, however, a Divine Plot was in the process of unfolding. The premies at the Pennsylvania retreat were told that Maharaj Ji wanted satsang to go on well past midnight. And, unbeknownst to them, a jet was winging its way from Denver to the East coast.
Premies at the retreat were led to believe there might be a telephone hook-up with Denver, allowing Maharaj Ji to give them satsang. Only a handful of premies knew there was more happening than that.
For hours, the preparations at both ends had gone smoothly - so smoothly that the Grace seemed to be overflowing. But, at some point, things began to bog down. Details started to go awry - and, as Bill Patterson later explained, those closest to Maharaj Ji learned how quickly Grace can turn into disgrace.
Either way, as Bill found out, it leads to surrender.
At the retreat, satsang went on all night. Maharaj Ji had hoped to make a surprise appearance before daybreak, but he had to settle for going directly to his hotel suite in New York City and getting some rest first.
Premies with Maharaj Ji - and those in New York who had made the hotel arrangements - were mortified when the suite turned out to be dirty, one that hadn't been used for some time. But the plan went on.
Satsang ended in the Poconos after sun-up. Premies were told to get some rest, to meditate and to eat. Then they would return in early afternoon.
Refreshed, they came back for more at 2 p.m. An hour later, Maharaj Ji called from New York and gave the word: Nobody should leave. But the secret still remained intact.
And, at some point the evening before, the longing - call it desire, call it "lust" or whatever - began making itself felt deep in the hearts of those premies in the Poconos. Brian McDermott had made no secret of how he was feeling when he had gotten up at the microphone and given a satsang which many will never forget.
Brian wept so much at the outset that it took him several minutes to begin the flow of his satsang. In the meantime, his heart spoke for him.
"If that Love doesn't have to have a reason, why do I have to have a reason to want it?"
Eventually, the tears gave way to more than an hour of satsang - some of the most powerful words anyone had ever heard come from Brian. Actually, Brian was among the few who knew that Maharaj Ji was intending to be there that night, but he had no information about why Maharaj Ji wasn't there yet.
The next day, Maharaj Ji was at the retreat for 27 minutes, telling the premies he was on the Earth to help us all get past our hallucinations and experience that which is real.
He reminded everyone that in Miami Beach he had hinted there might be another festival before Hans Jayanti. This was it, he said. "I love you all," he said. "I'll see you at Hans Jayanti." Then, remarking that his chopper would make a lot of noise, he left the stage.
As the chopper lifted off the premies began to sing Arti. But even then, Maharaj Ji didn't leave. Throughout the many verses, the helicopter circled repeatedly over the camp. It was low enough that some premies could see Maharaj Ji inside, waving. And it is a safe bet that no one who was there will ever forget the way they felt as they sang Arti to that circling helicopter.
Later, in a letter to his former colleagues at Unity School in Denver, Brian recalled that Maharaj Ji had said something at Guru Puja about coming down with a bunch of helicopters and pulling us out of that valley of mind - if we would only cry out to him for help. And Brian went on:
"Monday, blue sky, breeze, sunlight, full of satsang. Everything was drenched in His Grace. Suddenly three choppers clearing the trees, driving straight over the premies.
"Love exploded, premies screaming His praises, arms stretched upwards, knowing it was Him. The Lord, come just for them, all Love, wanting to see His children.
"We danced our whole beings. We sang pranam, did pranam.
"He came. That's it. Everything. He came. There's nothing else. Ever. We knew it. And wept. And wept. After Arti, sung to the disappearing choppers, we wept, in joy, in Grace.
"We were infinitely loved, once again, and forever."
To Willie Svob, Maharaj Ji "stole our hearts - literally. He flew down in a chopper, stole our hearts and then left with all our hearts." And Jon Knight said he "felt we were marooned on a desert island and He had to come to save us. But it was like He was coming to the planet. He was just descending on this world to just completely save us."
If this were a movie, of course, that's where it all would end. But Maharaj Ji's movie just keeps going - and the intermission is usually a short one before the next reel starts.
This time, the next reel began spinning on Thursday, Sept. 15, two days before Hans Pal's first birthday. A program had been planned in Los Angeles. When Maharaj Ji finally commented about it, he said simply: "Nobody is not invited."
No hall lined up yet, no certainty that Maharaj Ji will come. Nothing more than the assurance that "nobody's not invited." And that was the exact message that began to go around to the various centers, to ashrams, premie houses and every name on every phone tree in the wee hours of that Friday morning.
It was the shortest notice yet, and not all could get away. But thousands hopped into autos and buses and trucks and vans and airplanes. And, when the program got underway in the Shrine Auditorium on Saturday afternoon, there were nearly 4,000 premies there. No promises of anything. Just "there's a program and Maharaj Ji might come."
On Sunday, at a quarter to five, Maharaj Ji walked out on the stage, looking glorious in a blue suit as he stepped
smartly along a carpeting which led up to the magnificent, flower-bedecked stage.
This time, he stayed with us an hour, returning soon after that to let us sing Arti to him. (Once again, he had come in a helicopter, but few inside the auditorium knew it.)
In a satsang earlier that day, Bill Patterson joked that Maharaji was giving us a chance this time to experience a little of what he had gone through the week before to be with his premies.
And, in his satsang, Maharaj Ji said his Guru Puja promise was certainly fulfilled: He'd come once for the East coast and once for the West. And, once again: He loved us and would see us at Hans Jayanti. Only this time, he made it official that it would be in Rome.
In going to Los Angeles, many premies had unhesitatingly used up what little they'd already saved for the charter fare to Europe. It could only be called an act of surrender and faith.
Yet, when Maharaj Ji stepped out on that carpet, doubts about whether they might get to Rome, or any other place Maharaj Ji wanted them to be.
Once again, the pull of the Perfect Master had been stronger than anyone's logic.
We had run toward him and he had come to us. And, again, we were infinitely loved.
September/October, 1977 7