The Golden Age
Maharaj Ji In Europe
A tidal wave of international travellers has been landing on Australia's shores lately, bringing news and inspiration from Guru Maharaj Ji's programs in Europe and Canada. You've probably heard a lot of stories already, but just for the record, here's Cathy Starrs' version of the re-union with Maharaj Ji in Europe:
On the thirty hour plane flight to Rome, my feelings ranged from excitement, looking forward to being with Maharaj Ji, to not wanting to go at all. At the airport I had called Penny Storey at the last minute for a needed phone number, and Julie Collet answered my call.
"Don't forget what you're going for," she said.
All ten Australians arrived in Rome, contacted the Italian DLM, and registered for the festival. There were three days until we saw Guru Maharaj Ji; our conversation centred mostly around the last time we had seen him, and a general understanding to avoid expectations this time. Hitting the shops in Rome to discover a centre of elegance, taste and culture, I still thought of what Julie had said.
The first program in Rome, with 1700 people crammed into the hall, was a good look at myself and how I had been handicapping my experience of Knowledge. Trying to hide my anticipation behind a blase feeling, I arrived late and took a seat near the back. Initiators were giving satsang, and I had trouble listening; I felt so analytical and sophisticated compared to the spontaneous, trusting way in which they talked about Maharaj Ji.
When Maharaj Ji came on stage, I felt a sigh of relief. It was him I had come to see, come to get to know. Yet somehow I felt that all of us there were having trouble opening up to him. I didn't know whether to clap and sing or shout and wave but I just wanted to be able to love him.
Darshan the next day was beautiful. It was loving Maharaj Ji; I realised that I couldn't take from this Knowledge: to be with Maharaj Ji was all I wanted, and to be with him I had to give up. When I did pranam, the experience was so complete. In one moment Guru Maharaj Ji can do for you what you've wanted all your life to experience. A few moments later I was walking back to my seat with a lolly in my hand, remembering I was in a hall somewhere in Rome. Had I given him my love and had he given me peace? It didn't seem to matter; my heart was opening.
That night I sang to Maharaj Ji and clapped my hands and sometimes stood silent, feeling like I would love to see him again and again. In his satsang, Guru Maharaj Ji explained that he had felt our reluctance the night before. Clapping in appreciation was not the best way to treat a Perfect Master, he said. Perhaps we were trying to consider the people outside but they are not the people who will save us.
"No: our Lord is going to save us; Guru Maharaj Ji is going to save us; Knowledge is going to save us."
I travelled with John Perry and Igor Jacoby to France. Occasionally we would meet premies en route to the French program, and I began to feel that what was happening was bigger than I thought. The French program tried to create a total festival environment in a seaside resort called La Grande Motte. About 2400 premies turned up for the program.
At Rome I had seen where I wanted to be and now I felt that Maharaj Ji was telling me how to be there always. At one point he said that there is this boat, and maybe you wonder how a little boat like that won't drown in the storm - you are sure it's going to go under - and then you see that little boat just streaking ahead through the waves, and it eats your heart out to see it afloat and safe. And I was feeling, "Wow, Maharaj Ji that's really what you're like. You never falter in serving this Knowledge."
In the darshan line, Maharaj Ji seemed so powerful to me, so strong, sure, and resolute. I couldn't not meditate. Surrender was the name of the game; Maharaj Ji was teaching me how to be a devotee. I was realising why I had sat behind my typewriter for four years, why I had even taken Knowledge: internal surrender to Maharaj Ji was the way. In Rome, Maharaj Ji had asked us to leave our hearts with him and not let them stray into the world. Now this was what I wanted to do. It was somehow different from the surrenders of 1972. Not a blind rush at some unknown goal but a growing comprehension that to walk towards Guru Maharaj Ji would give you your real place in life.
On the way to Germany, gazing out of the train window at the staggering beauty of Europe, I commented, "Maharaj Ji's really attractive; you could have the whole world at your feet, but if he invited you to a program, you'd drop everything and run."
Maharaj Ji kept inviting all the premies to his programs. After a while, it was like I wasn't in a particular country but on Maharaj Ji's European tour. In Munich, only 1,500 premies were expected but 3,000 turned up. I began to feel that it was possible, as Michael Dettmers said, "to have a personal relationship with Maharaj Ji." In the darshan line it was like seeing a dear friend, someone who you could only thank and love. All the premies from Europe seemed so much more open and the last night in Munich was alive with love. I started to see what Guru Maharaj Ji was doing: picking us up and out of our individual lives and taking us again and again into the most beautiful experience.
For three weeks my whole life had been focused on Maharaj Ji: when I would see him again, how to make my money stretch out. It was
showing me that my commitment to him was and could always be a total experience.
Germany was especially beautiful for me, because I had the chance to attend the European national coordinators' conference. There I saw an aspect of Guru Maharaj Ji that I had never seen before. We had satsang for four hours with initiators and N.C.'s (that's what Maharaj Ji calls them), then Maharaj Ji arrived. He pointed out that his strategy for propagation, if we wanted one, would be for us all to surrender to him. I got the feeling that he wanted us all to get out of his way and really let him do it. Maharaj Ji said that our lack of focus on service, satsang, and meditation had slowed down propagation, but a refocus on the path of Knowledge would get things going again.
After the Munich conference, I called Derek in Australia to tell him what had happened and asked if I could follow up Maharaj Ji's invitation to the London program. Derek said okay. I travelled by car to London with Ingrid, a German premie, and caught the underground to Mitch's place in Kensington. Mitch, a former Australian premie, had invited us to stay while in England. When I arrived, John Perry was already there, and he said that another four Australians were expected. It was all the guys from Rome - a reunion! When the others arrived, we talked for hours about the Munich conference. I started to realise how high we were and how we were all experiencing so much individually yet loving Maharaj Ji in the same way; as Durga Ji had said, "one heart loving our Lord."
The programs in London were held in the Wembley stadium. The stage, designed by Maharaj Ji himself, was spectacular. The whole thing felt so well-organised, but when I spoke to Geoff Bridgford in the band's room backstage, he said, "there's nobody running this festival, nobody who is obviously in control."
The European tour had built up so much momentum, and we all felt so close to Maharaj Ji; he was talking like our friend and teacher. To me, it had felt like the first night of France had started off like the last night of Rome had ended, and so on and so on, and now I could only feel Maharaj Ji's love. In his satsang in London, Guru Maharaj Ji explained that there is no reason for this love; all other wordly loves need a reason, but this love just is.
We got back to Mitch's at about 4.30 a.m. The program had finished at 1.40 a.m., and we had to wait for hours to catch a cab. I knew that now I had to go back to Australia, to go back to serve Guru Maharaj Ji. I was really going to miss not seeing him each week, but now I felt much more confident in his love. Who else only wants you to really love you; who else can you give your life to in service, satsang, and meditation?