Maharaj Ji in action
A report by Michael McDonald, taken from the American Divine Times.
Leaving his plane at Denver airport on the weekend of September 11-12, Guru Maharaj Ji made it obvious that his major concern was in developing understanding rather than laying down rules. From the beginning, he emphasised the theme that he was to enlarge upon throughout the weekend: in a period of transition, new definitions should not spring up just to become new limitations. When you put things together to create efficiency, you can go too far and either lose your efficiency or make a strait jacket of guidelines that prevent you from dealing with beyond-the-book situations. Understanding your purpose is the compensating factor which releases you from a single, rigid mode of operation.
Early on Saturday afternoon. after having lunch at home, Maharaj Ji came downtown to begin work with Bob Mishler and Michael Dettmers. The first topic of the day was the ashram. After the last meeting with Maharaj Ji, a policy statement for a new ashram program had been put together for Maharaj Ji's appraisal. In brief, the initial draft of the policy stated that:
No. 34, November 1976
1. The purpose of the ashram is to provide an environment for people to grow more successfully in service, satsang and meditation by providing them with physical and spiritual shelter.
2. The goal of the ashram is to enable individuals to come to a point where they would be able to do satsang, meditation and service at any time in any circumstances.
Guru Maharaj Ji agreed with the guidelines in general, but in places reworded "wills" to "mays", explaining that matters such as time limits for length of stay in the ashram were up to the discretion of the ashram supervisor when dealing with the individual. The major question that a new ashram program poses is how to achieve good supervision that reflects understanding rather than ultimate authority of decision. The answer is linked to the newly-planned initiator training program which will provide eventually both community evel initiators and ashram supervisors who will be partial initiators, specialists in reviewing problems with the meditation techniques and overseeing the spiritual welfare of the ashram residents.
Maharaj Ji stressed that he did not want the people living in the ashram to drop out from -he world, but for ashrams to be located in cities with premie communities. There the residents could play an active role in the premie community and the community at large.
Another item of Saturday's agenda was the word "ashram" itself. It seems that different words may have to be used for different cultures, and of course, "ashram" will remain the same for India. Someone suggested delving back into Latin roots to invent a new term, gradually infiltrating its way into the English dictionary. In fun, Maharaj Ji looked at the brand name of his mineral water bottle and said, "How about 'Calistoga? How's that?"
With the initiators
After his talks on the ashram with Bob and Michael, Guru Maharaj Ji worked with the initiators through to six o'clock that night. He began by emphasising that Knowledge is a process consisting of three parts: service, satsang and meditation. "If a person is just doing meditation," he said, "he's not getting the effect." So Maharaj Ji stressed that at the time of initiation the initiators should also emphasise the purpose of service and satsang.
Maharaj Ji went on to explain the importance of Divine Light Mission in carrying out his message: "Guru Maharaj Ji says service, satsang and meditation. The organisation does something about it. It provides the opportunity to do service, provides the facility to have satsang, and provides you (initiators) with the physical care and shelter so that you are capable of making that initiation happen."
From there talk turned to the readiness and selection of aspirants for initiation. Maharaj Ji remarked that "It's a most crucial time when a person is initiated, but a more crucial time is when he's an aspirant. When you're giving a person the Knowledge, you're making the house. That's the service of the interior decorator. But the most important thing is the foundation. The foundation is the way the house has been built: what is the person like, how sincere is he when he approaches you?"
The future service of the initiators was also discussed as was the need for a training program. After two and a half months off the road, Maharaj Ji decided it was time for the initiators to go on tour again, with Bill Patterson staying in Denver to work on the training program for initiators and ashram supervisors.
Maharaj Ji then asked if there were any questions about the initiation process.
"Well, uh …." began Arthur Brigham.
"You're fired," was Maharaj Ji's swift reply, accompanied by laughter all around.
A point was then introduced about initiation vows, pranaming and dedication. Some initiators felt that pranaming was strange in certain cultures, that stressing dedication could seem forced, and that parts of the vows were worded inappropriately. Maharaj Ji agreed that the vows could be simplified and suggested, for example, that "Oh Guru Maharaj Ji, I dedicate myself to your lotus feet" could be rephrased to "Oh Guru Maharaj Ji, I dedicate myself to you." In general, he left emphasis on these aspects of the initiation session to the individual initiator's discrimination. Maharaj Ji felt that one culture was no better than another and stressed that we do not want to indoctrinate people in another culture's form of reverence for Maharaj Ji, and yet at the same time we do not want to devalue the importance of Maharaj Ji. In each culture we have to find a natural way to present our respect and understanding for Knowledge and Maharaj Ji:
"We have to stay where we are at and mold ourselves so that the society can accept us, so there can be a fundamental basis of communication between us."
Above all, Maharaj Ji's emphasis, as in all his talks, was on the need for the initiators to be sensitive and adaptable to the individual situation before them.
Sunday morning saw Maharaj Ji back in the office talking to Michael and Bob. As they briefed him on organisational changes worldwide, he pointed out that they should insure that people understand that the streamlining of an organisation is not a faltering process, but a positive, forward momentum. By streamlining, we focus more effectively on what we have to do, instead of having an organisation serving the organisation, so that it can get around eventually to serving Maharaj Ji's purpose.
In simplifying the Mission structure, Maharaj Ji felt it was important to insure that the international communities have a proper understanding of any changes being made. For this reason, he will be attending conferences later this year in Frankfurt, Germany and Lima, Peru. Both these cities have been chosen because of their centralised location in Europe and Latin America respectively, and their easy access to major air routes. Two conferences will be held in Frankfurt: one for the European countries and the other for delegates from India. And for North America, three regional conferences will be held in the United States towards the end of the year or at the beginning of 1977. They will involve the participation of more people than just administrators, and possible representation may include those in the initiator training program and members of major communities aside from DUO staffs.
Specific guidelines for the program take the form of a code of ethics for an individual's guidance, rather than a set of rules and regulations simply dictating a life-style.
The program would emphasise self-development and self-reliance. The ashram will strive to avoid creating in an individual a dependency on the ashram structure.
The Golden Age
Guru Maharaj Ji's overseas tour will take about two weeks and will also be highlighted by a Hans Jayanti celebration in Swaziland on November 23, 24 and 25. The celebration is primarily for the benefit of the South African premies, most of whom live six hours away in Johannnesburg. Although Divine Light Mission in South Africa is registered as a religious organisation and thus is allowed to have multiracial gatherings, the country's apartheid policy may have made the festival difficult to arrange there, especially in the wake of recent racial riots in the cities of Soweto and Cape-town. Swaziland appears to be the perfect alternative: as a major convention hub for African groups it offers many hotel and resort facilities suitable for a festival.
Due to the economic environment of most premies throughout Africa, only a handful are expected from countries other than South Africa, such as Senegal, Zambia and West Africa. No provision will be made to accommodate visitors from other continents.
After discussing the initiation process a little further, Guru Maharaj Ji left for the airport. Then after a forty-five minute delay, he boarded his plane for Los Angeles, having expanded his coaching to the players of transition, who were last seen trying hard to sidestep limitations on the way to a single purpose.
This letter was written by DLM President Bob Mishler on 27 October 1976, as a covering letter to the mailing which IHQ sends monthly to each national director.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Guru Maharaj Ji has once again again visited IHQ with more input and direction on steps now being taken by premies.
In this mailing we've tried to respond to requests from your recent reports. The in-depth descriptions of specific events and activities which some of you have sent are greatly appreciated. These monthly reports to IHQ have been used lately to up-date Maharaj Ji on the current activities of premies world-wide, so please continue sending them in.
One area that will be covered during the conferences in Lima and Frankfurt is that of the initiator development program. Everyone worldwide seems acutely aware of the need for more initiators; at IHQ we receive letters and phone calls daily requesting revisions of the touring initiators' schedules. There are aspirants everywhere, yet only six initiators "in the field". Fortunately, it seems that progress is being made with this program almost faster than we might have expected. The first session of this training program is currently scheduled to begin in December of this year.
As Maharaj Ji explained in the September 11 question-and-answer session, the program for new initiators and the revised ashram set-up are closedly connected. Maharaj Ji wants the ashram supervisors to be either initiators or partial initiators. He described the ashram as a program intended to help the individual see his own possibilities and to begin to realise his potential. The supervisor of such an ashram will, naturally, need to be sensitive to the individual needs of the participants in order to assist them, while encouraging them to develop self-motivation. The program for initiators is designed to help develop the necessary sensitivity and understanding required to perform this service. Therefore, this will not be a "training" program in the sense that one initiator, who has perfected these skills, will train the candidates for a certain period of time, so they will be "ready" upon completion of the course. Instead, each participant will help decide before leaving the program if he is prepared to return to his community (or country) as an initiator, or as an ashram supervisor giving Knowledge reviews and working with aspirant teams, or he may decide that he does not feel this is the suitable service for him and will use this experience on an aspirant team. Final confirmation as an initiator or partial initiator will be determined by Guru Maharaj Ji.
Obviously, the first participants will have a very demanding schedule, since they will still have a large geographical area of responsibility. Maharaj Ji's first requirement for the program is that the individual must have successfully completed the ashram program, i.e., that the candidate is able to consistently integrate satsang, service and meditation into his lifestyle even after he has left the ashram structure. For the time being, most candidates for this program must be single and currently an ashram resident. Eventually, this service opportunity will be much broader, so that an initiator may be a premie who had completed the ashram program and now has a job and possibly even a family, performing this service in his community.
Tentative plans for this program now include three two-month sessions to be held in Denver, with 24-30 potential initiators in each session. The first group, which will start at the beginning of December, will probably be comprised of about one-third Latin Americans, one-third Europeans, six or seven from North America, and one Australian. The plan for the session is to structure it enough to keep it focused, while remaining flexible enough to let each one grow on his own. It will include six periods, covering:
1. Basic interpersonal communications skills, including how to set one's own learnin goals and offering available resources, so that each can work according to his own educational needs;
2. Understanding the Knowledge process (from the first introductory satsang onwards);
3. Indepth training in the techniques of Knowledge including practical experience in Knowledge reviews and Knowledge sessions;
4. Understanding the service of the initiator (based on the new system of community initiators);
5. The relationship of initiators to the overall set-up (DLM/DUO);
6. It is expected that there will be a session with Guru Maharaj Ji at the conclusion of the program for him to confirm the new initiators. After wrapping up the odds and ends, these premies will return to their communities to begin their new service.
I feel that these conferences will be an excellent chance f the representatives attending to share the vision of the direction of the Mission with
Guru Maharaj Ji, the mission which all premies must share the responsibility for accomplishing in the near future.
We will expect to hear from you if you have any input c-questions concerning these conferences. I look forward to seeing you all soon.
Your brother, Bob Mishler.