Vic Marsh, the national director of World Welfare Association, has just completed an interstate tour of the premie community. The Golden Age interviewed Vic on the development of a welfare consciousness in the Mission:
Are there any particular areas you found WWA manifesting in most strongly throughout the states?
First of all in the premies' hearts. That's where it's happening now. There's really a wide variety of things where WWA is actually working, but first of all premies are understanding why that's the thing to do now. You know, they're into everything. In Tasmania they're into visiting a night shelter for the derelicts, and they're going to be able to affect their diet and everything in that place, by Guru Maharaj Ji's Grace. In Perth they've done a tremendous amount of work in a wide variety of intstitutions doing plays and entertainment. There are prospects everywhere, really strong prospects for counselling work. Because all premies who work in WWA are going to have to be able to relate to people, going to have to be tolerant towards people and sensitive towards other people who haven't got Knowledge. And in each place there's someone who's been into counselling, someone who's been into dynamic encounter techniques that really open up our way of relating to people. And Guru Maharaj Ji's got this happening within the premie ranks. He's got administrative premies finding out that they love the rebel who's always lived on the fringe and vice versa.
Did you notice the institutions' attitudes to WWA?
No. WWA has really only been one of the planks of the platform that I'm standing on at the moment and it really incorporated just about everything in the Mission - except perhaps Divine Sales and Finance and I even managed to talk about those a lot. The attempt to develop DUO that started quite a while ago here is starting to build now, really building. And things like WWA are just the furthest extension of that phenomenon at the moment, that's the real phenomenon. DUO is waking up in Australia. And people are wanting to get it together now because they recognise WWA is the direction. Everybody wants to do WWA service, and they know that before they do that they've got to get themselves together. And they've got to get themselves together as a community. So, wherever I went there were new DUO activities starting to take life, and people who hadn't done service before, who might have been right out on the edge thinking, well everything's being taken care of, are suddenly finding themselves right in the centre of what's going on. And the administration is having a really liberating time, realising that it's a servant of the general premie need. And people are realising that premies are where it's at. That this is where the kingdom of heaven has to manifest - among the premies. They're the people to contact. We don't contact many people through telephones and offices. That's just like the brain, the nervous system, but it's the premies that are everything else. They're the blood.
It seems like Project Love is going through.
Yeah, that's it, that's it. Project Love is happening. That's the overall movement, that's just waking premies' hearts up to each other first of all, and to people outside. As soon as they realised that they really had to try and help somebody else, just by giving them love, not by giving them advice or anything but just by being loving and listening and attentive and sensitive, they realised just how much they were being premies - premies are lovers.
Rennie Davis was talking about workshops - did you find that any of the local groups had evolved techniques of their own?
Yes. As yet, they're not using them outside of the DUO community. But in Adelaide - specifically in Adelaide, and also in Perth, there are people with counselling experience, not just counselling experience but more dynamic techniques which actually get people into that experiential rather than conceptual sort of satsang. And it's really opening the premies up towards each other. And it's going to provide an avenue for WWA volunteers to work on themselves at the same time as working on other people, and at the same time experiment with what would work in a prison, what would work with drug rehabilitation, what would work in different places.
The techniques are there, and we're starting to realise that all the things people are trying to realise God with, outside of the Mission, are going to be used as our tools. The co-counselling thing in Adelaide has just started to spread among the rest of the community. There was this beautiful six hour session with about forty premies in Adelaide, using simple but very powerful techniques to get people relating to each other, past their roles and past their prejudices and old trips. And in Perth the two WWA directors are both experienced counsellors.
One of them has worked on a telephone counselling service for people who want to commit suicide, and the other one has been into a counselling thing set up by the state mental health services - which you can do in your own home - and it aims finally at providing volunteers for mental health programs. So we're going to be able to use a lot of the training facilities that already exist, for our own purposes. Because they're wide open, you know. I didn't realise how easy it is for volunteers to work in institutions. You don't have to be professional psychologists to get in there. But I can see that Maharaj Ji is sowing that next stage. There's already a premie in Adelaide with two years more study to be a trained clinical psychologist. There's a doctor in Melbourne who's doing psychiatry. So we'll even have the qualifications soon.
Do you see the main area of activity in prisons and drug programs like in the U.S. or going somewhere else?
Yes I do think that, but I think that's slightly longer term for us, because the Mission needs more strength really, to back up those programs. Like here in Sydney, the lady on the Robin Hood Committee is more interested in helping prisoners when they get out of prison than trying to make them happy inside, and I can see the wisdom in that. And if we could help set up rehabilitation households where there are very loving premies helping people coming to Knowledge, and helping people coming out of difficult situations and weaning them from their old habits. I think we've got to develop a bit more maturity before we can do that, really to do drug rehabilitation is quite a responsible service. At the moment premies are finding a lot of love with pensioners and derelict people - the down and outs. That's pretty generalised but some really high times have been had in Hobart and Adelaide and Perth with pensioners.
Would you say the introduction of WWA has made a major change in the consciousness of the Mission throughout Australia?
Definitely. And I think what is going to happen next, is we're going to have to implement some sort of stimulus for active membership, because the people who are still listening, the people who are still coming to satsang have picked up the vibe; but there are a lot of people who still haven't been brought in - our arms haven't extended to embrace everybody again. And like I don't think we can introduce AMP the same way the Americans did - like nothing's happening in the same way as in America, yet the same things are happening. And I think that everything depends on an active membership program. That's how Project Love takes root.
What do you think you learnt most from the tour?
That nothing is constant in the Mission. In two years Guru Maharaj Ji has just changed the whole atmosphere, the whole style of the Mission so much, so radically, and in six months he's done it all over again. And if we're in that change, in that Holy Name, he can just work through us so beautifully. And premies are waking up to the incredible gift of living in the divine community. That it is actually going to provide for all our needs, that it is actually going to be a beacon for the rest of the community. That we are already living in the kingdom of heaven. And all the things that we ever wanted before, that we ever got into before, in a sort of false hope, are actually now being given back to us. Now that we've got our priorities right Guru Maharaj Ji is actually even letting us use our minds. He's letting us do encounter therapy, he's letting us read books on Buddhism, he's letting us get back into education, he's letting us get back into social change. But first of all we have to learn the true inspiration. And now that's just unfolding. The emotionalism has gone out of devotion. Maharaj Ji has made people really low-keyed in the way they express their satsang - satsang comes out now just really straight - you could even take your mother to hear it. But the devotion is much stronger. And the love between the premies is just suddenly there.
What about things like community councils. Do you see them developing in common around Australia?
Everything is happening at different timing. There's something like a community council just about everywhere. In Hobart it's probably the least formal. It's like the ashram is really the centre of all socialising and people hang around a lot after satsang - which really destroys the ashram schedule, but it's really good for people to be together that way. And I left them with the suggestion that they should have community meetings - whatever format they develop into. And in Perth, most of the policy decisions are taken by a group meeting. Adelaide really just started up - they had a guiding committee meeting which included household representatives, but now they have established a much more open community meeting. And that brings everything out for discussion and is going to send directives to the guiding committee. And then perhaps the administration has its working party meeting just to keep the administration going.
So has the feeling between the general premie community and the administration changed much?
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Oh totally! I think active membership has to go further, I think that's really got to bring in the people who haven't noticed the changes. Like in each place, there was tremendous change of attitude towards each other. So many of the administration's personal lives have changed so much recently that they are having to look at the world in a different way, and look at their role, their function for Guru Maharaj Ji in a different way. And of course, while they're changing, premies are seeing them do different things. And so they're understanding that they're devotees first and administrative servants second. But I think a lot of work still needs to be done to bring the people that haven't noticed it yet, to bring them in.
Do you think that WWA is increasing the dedication and devotion of all the premies?
Yes. In Adelaide the premies served food on Christmas Day and New Years Day to say 400 pensioners, and they did a service on that you know. It wasn't just the hand-picked really loving counsellors, it was a large number of volunteers and some beautiful premies sang, and they sang things like, "When the red, red robin comes bob, bob, bobbin' along", and all that kind of stuff as well as devotional songs; and Satsang that night was just heavenly. Satsang in Adelaide was just about dead around Christmas and I think the attendance was just about doubled in Satsang. Satsang is just really high; people are coming to Satsang because they really like being at Satsang now, just because of that World Welfare boost. Anytime there's a group energy; anything that the group does together has repercussions for days, and especially World Welfare because everyone can see that World Welfare is just a natural corollary to the Knowledge; like you've got, say you've got meditation and that equals Divine Light Mission; and say you've got satsang and that equals Divine United Organisation (the company of truth worked out in our lives in the world); and they realise that World Welfare is service, like we serve ourselves in DUO, but we serve the wider community in World Welfare and I can just see that is the perfect corollary of Service, Satsang and Meditation.
Where is the general inspiration to get into WWA coming from - from the administration or from the premies who are in it?
From Guru Maharaj Ji's satsang. People are really listening for Guru Maharaj Ji they're listening for direction.
Even where there are community councils and people are saying, this is where we tell the administration what to do, everybody is automatically doing that within the context of agya and all that seems to have worked to quite a large extent in each community - there are still people who still haven't worked out what's going on. And that's our work for the next period. Everywhere people have understood that Guru Maharaj Ji gave Australia specific agya to get our communities together, and so every community happening in every city is just an absolute blast - wild volley-ball matches, beach parties, Guru Maharaj Ji's birthday parties - fantastic you know. And a beautiful wedding in the Satsang Hall in Adelaide that just blew the Methodist minister's mind, he just loved it because it was so happy!
Part of your service is also Information Services. Do you think WWA is going to apply to a propagation drive?
Yes, WWA is going to be the propagation. It's so wrong now, it's just so wrong to stuff a leaflet under somebody's nose that it's just almost a sin. And yet you can see that by having a Satguru as a Master, how he's changed our course just in time and other groups are still doing it, and they're blowing it you know. And World Welfare is definitely good. Australians are very, very humanitarian people; like the Darwin disaster was a lesson for I the whole of Australia, because everybody understood the lesson and everybody was just so ready to help. Like the National Telethon - it was a great big Australian community event.
What's happening in the Mission is being effected outside too, in a broader way, and you can see that just by learning to help other people And if Maharaj Ji says that we've got to do it by being loving then that's the thing that's going to make all the therapy programs work. A professional psychologist in Perth said that despite the cynicism he had about the fact Guru Maharaj Ji is going to do it, of Divine Light Mission is going to do it, or premies are going to do it, he knew that it is only love that can make any program of therapy work. I don't (I see how that's going to bring people into the Satsang Hall or under the mahatma's charms, but it's certainly the direction.