Wednesday night again. Same night the Portland bombshell burst, just three weeks earlier. People giggling their way into the satsang hall, brimming over with the whispered news. A few innocents still among them. The satsang monitor turns out to be one of them. He is amazed when the first sister gets up and says it out loud:
Maharaj Ji is doing it again. This time the Instant Festival is going to be right here in our own backyard.
Things are happening fast in Maharaj Ji's world.
By Friday, a full scale festival vibe is building up in the community. Satsang in the afternoon, people congregating in the basement for meetings, service freaks running around with pads of paper, writing down names. Where are the tickets? Not printed yet. When's the meeting? Soon.
The magic, which swept home from Portland and has swirled around us ever since, is building to new heights. And that place we call Denver — the city we all thought we lived in — is beginning to fade. By Sunday night, it will be gone, perhaps never to return.
Hard lines between "there" and "here" are fading with it. Far away, people are going through all those familiar changes: Can I go? Should I? Do I dare NOT to? How can we? What about my job? What'll we do with the kids? I have exams Monday. I can't go! Can I? But I'm going, I can't stay away.
Just being in Denver doesn't exempt anyone from the same process. Here, too, people have children and jobs and classes to study for. Here, too, we have to make the choice. Which is the more important world: the one Out There, or His World, the world inside?
Having remembered the answer to that one, once again, 5,000 people set out for another magic journey. Off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of US. Some have to traverse a continent. Others simply have to make their way through the treacherous wastes of the mind. They travel by car, by jet, by light aircraft, by chartered bus and by Holy Name.
Relax, Trust, Get Out of the Way
In the meantime, Denver premies are learning what their brothers and sisters in Atlantic City already have found out: that the way to hold an Instant Festival is to relax, to trust, to get out of the way, to let the amazing grace flow right through us and watch it do the work.
With his notepad in hand, Allen Imbarrato has stood before us and confessed that there really isn't anything to say about the details. Somewhere in the city is a hall big enough to accomodate darshan. Allen and Teddy have sat down and discovered that they can't work up a good worry about these things anymore. If they just do their part — which is to stay out of his way — everything will take care of itself. They do, and it does.
For the Denver premies, it is the opportunity of a lifetime to do service — as long as they remember that the key to doing service is to avoid thinking they're supposed to DO something.
Six a.m. Saturday. A premie, one not accustomed to such hours on weekends, staggers out of the sack, remembering that he is supposed to be at the airport in two hours to set up a little information table for all those incoming visitors.
Complicated arrangements have been made. The folding table was to be left on the premie's patio the night before. Did it get there? What if it didn't? Peering out in the darkness, he sees no table. The mind begins to hum. A morning catastrophe seems to be brewing, like breakfast coffee. A mumbled prayer: Lord, help me to trust you, to know you're taking care of the details. Let me flow in your grace this morning, every morning. Please.
The table is there, leaning against the wall, where it couldn't be seen to anyone peering out the window. Minutes later, it is in place at the airport. Nothing to do now but wait and see what happens.
The mind begins to rattle once more. What am I doing here? Lonely place. People walking by, wondering what I'm doing here. Might be hours before anybody shows up. Will they find the table? What if they have problems I can't deal with.
Suddenly there is a wave of smiling faces, and the whole scene changes. Jai Satchitanand, brothers and sisters! Where you from? Winnipeg, Manitoba. Here for the festival. Isn't it exciting! Here's where the hotels are, and here's where the programs are and here's …
Here. There isn't anyplace else in the universe but Here. And nobody else but Us and Him.
Leaving There, Getting Here
All day they keep coming in: from Philly, Boston, Toronto, D.C., New York, Montreal. Half of Canada appears to be here. And the stories that come with them are overwhelming as the hours pass.
There is, for instance, the New York group which rolled their car somewhere east of Chicago, totalling the car but somehow climbing out of the wreckage without any serious injury. Premies in Denver, learning the news, have wired them the money to get on a jet in Chicago and keep coming. When they show up at the little table in the airport, all they can say is how beautiful it is to be alive. And here, in Maharaj Ji's world.
Who but premies would keep going to their destination after an experience like that?
Someone else drove as far as a tiny town in Kansas, where their car broke down. The pilot was already taxiing for takeoff when they rushed into the airport terminal there. With the grace at his back, he turned the airplane around, taxied back, and picked them up so they could make it on to Denver.
Six premies clamber off a small, chartered Piper. One has his pilot's license. They had set out for Portland on the same plane, had it stall somewhere over Oklahoma, made it safely to the ground and went back home without seeing Maharaj Ji. Here they were, three weeks later, trying again and succeeding this time.
Familiar faces popping in the airport door at 20 minute intervals. These are the drivers for the Divine Shuttle Service, motoring the newcomers in to the Community Center and wherever else they want to go. A few who never got this involved in a festival before, ever, are part of the action this time. The whole thing is turning into one incredible party.
Does anybody know where Maharaj Ji is staying? I suppose it's a big secret. What, he has a residence here? FAR OUT!
You again! We just saw each other, and embraced, at Portland! Where will our next hug be? And when? Might not be too long.
Jai. Jai. Jai. The whole world is in love when you are a premie on the way to an Instant Festival.
At the community center, there is wall-to-wall sat-sang, and the action overflows on to the grass outside. Diapers getting changed. Stubborn cars getting whacked and wrenched back into shape after chugging their way the last few miles into town. People renewing connections (inner and outer), making hasty arrangements, carrying bags of fruit and granola.
Local premie houses fill up fast. A premie finds himself standing in an airline waiting lounge, watching them park a Boeing 727. He suddenly realized he has an earto-ear grin on his face. He's never been more excited about meeting an airplane in his life — and he's not even sure he'll recognize the sister he is there to meet. Subtly — or perhaps not so subtly — he dangles a leaflet with Maharaj Hs picture over the railing of the lounge. She'll spot that if she doesn't spot him. But the recognize each other, and after a quick embrace, they float on out of the place in a cloud of euphoria.
Saturday Night At The Lotus Feet
Four programs are planned for Saturday. Nobody could come up with one big hall. The question of the hour is: which one will Maharaj Ji come to? The answer: most likely, none. On the other hand, there is always the possibility he will elect to manifest simultaneously in four locations.
You can't rule out anything in this movie.
Sure enough, as the evening programs move ahead, that familiar excitement begins to set in. The word comes: Maharaj Ji might appear at all four — not simultaneously, perhaps, but close to it. But he has issued a stern warning: If he sees anybody chasing him from program to program, the whole deal is off. He'll head back to the residence.
The premies get the message. Everyone hangs on to his seat. Joe Anctil and Allen zip back and forth from program to program, dropping off hints at each one. Joe reports that a local radio station has agreed to provide Maharaj Ji with 55 minutes of air time tomorrow morning. Maharaj Ji is pleased.
At the Unitarian Church, the scheduled speakers have all given their satsang but the sister who is emceeing is given the word: keep the program going. She calls Allan and Carole Thomas up to sing. They have just begun to stum an intro when it happens.
Maharaj Ji and his small entourage walk in the door at the left of the stage. He is beaming. It's the first time he has given satsang in this sanctuary in three years and four days.
It is brief but beautiful. Satsang, service and meditation. Get serious about this. And I love you. And then he's gone, on to the next one. Later, he is said to have been overjoyed at the chance to appear at four programs in one night. It is a Divine Record.
Sunday, 8 a.m. Premies are busy, busy, getting ready for the big day. Many already gathered in the Auditorium Arena, putting up chairs, putting up the stage, giving satsang about service. Others have their ears glued to their radios. Maharaj Ji doesn't appear at the studio but five initiators do — and practically everyone who calls in during the telephone phase of the program is a premie.
Even the moderator appears to have heard a bit of satsang himself. He knows all the premie terms and phrases — and his questions sound like the interviewer is turning into an aspirant, whether he knows it or not.
The morning's satsang in the balcony of the already busy arena follows the theme of the whole weekend: don't get it in your head that service means you're supposed to DO something. Maharaj Ji is doing it all. Just be there, be conscious, be in the flow. Just be.
Poss and Lemon and Brent all tell how he has been blowing their minds ever since Atlantic City, showing them how he can make it all fall into place on a moment's notice. It has reached the point where all they can do is remember Holy Name and maintain a big grin on their faces. No heavy-duty WPC trip here. Those
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initials aren't even spoken.
Noon. Right on schedule, the doors of the arena open and the long line of premies begins to flow into the hall. Before long, there is music flowing and the huge crowd settles down to one point. Maharaj Ji isn't wasting any time today. He'll be here before we know it. And he is. And that beautiful thing we call darshan, which many of us experienced only three weeks before, 1,200 miles away, is happening again.
Soft music, premie music. Long lines down the aisles. Smiles. Tears. Gentle brothers and sisters with dedications clutched in their hands, walking slowly, feeling deep things, beautiful things, wordless joys, deep inside.
Bliss, Kefir & 5,000 Part Harmony
Inching forward slowly, slowly. Then the moment when each one turns a corner to walk those final eternities, looking up and ahead into a pair of eyes which see everything, everywhere. Swallowed up in the depths of those beautiful eyes.
Close now, bowing down, gently kissing Maharaj Ji's foot. Floating away in a bubble of silent bliss. Nobody can hear anything but smiles for a light year in any direction.
Prasad is sweet as one tiptoes back to one's seat to sit in awed, wordless silence. There is nothing happening, anywhere in the universe, but the absolute completeness of this moment.
Hours pass this way. Someone inside the arena reports that the line outside, made up of brothers and sisters waiting to get into the evening program, already is getting long. And darshan is still going on.
Room 401 has been converted into a mini-cafeteria courtesy of Rainbow Grocery. Premies float from the arena to the Kittredge Building for some kefir and and a banana, then float back to get in line.
In the arena, before the doors open, Mort Jonas is handing out little bundles of song-sheets. It is an eight-part extravaganza, based on an old Broadway show tune. Incredibly complex. Ushers and security people look at each other, glancing over the sheets. This one is either going to be a monumental catastrophe or something magnificent.
An hour later, with exactly one rehearsal, the 5,000-voice choir does it perfectly. The effect is amazing. Grace is here in great measure.
Hours of powerful satsang from initiator after initiator, new and old. Their words punctuated by premie music that rocks the rafters. The theme is one giant chorus of devotion. Hardly anyone is even aware of the time when Maharaj Ji, still beaming, mounts the stairs to the platform.
He is centered perfectly, as always, in front of a multi-colored cloth backdrop in the shape of a flower's petals, surrounded by subtle blue suggestions of the sun's rays. Maharaj Ji is like a precious stone in a magnificient setting. Across the street, another group is having a religious conference, titled "Crossroads of Faith."
Earlier in the week, someone has quipped that this means people will be sitting around talking about God on one side of the street while, across the street, God will be making a personal appearance.
Looking across the thousands of adoring premies, with every eye focused on the exquisite figure at the center of the stage, one thinks of that quip and discovers it inspires something other than a snicker now. A well of joyous tears is on the verge of bursting forth.
The Power Of Love
Maharaj Ji is talking about his son, and about himself — about Prem Pal Singh Rawat, and about the Guru Maharaj Ji which is greater than Prem Pal Singh Rawat — and about his premies.
"Because," he is saying, "I love you." That is the reason why. Why he is here. Why he is saying what he is saying. Why he is doing what he is doing. It is because for all the whys on all the lips of all the world. It is the answer for everything. And one could never ask for more than to be loved by the Perfect Master.
After a long, wonderful time, Maharaj Ji is through speaking. A few in the upper balcony begin to drift out. Perhaps they don't know about the encore that Maharaj Ji made in Atlantic City, and again in Portland, with his Krishna costume on.
Jiva is playing and then, with the costume on, he is back. A long, slow Arti, with everyone savoring every phrase, brings tears to his eyes. After Arti, the music pours on and on and on. Joe Anctil waves his arms from side to side on the stage and the premies clap and dance and jump up and down and pour out their joy. Maharaj Ji beams and beams.
A half hour passes, then 45 minutes. The music is still going. Each time a song stops, everyone wonders if he'll leave now. But he just sits, looking as if he is prepared to sit here beaming at us forever. Forever, forever, the crowd sings in time with the music.
Each time the song ends, Joe signals frantically for the band to keep playing. Another song and another. Maharaj Ji still beaming.
It is very late. Bodies are aching with fatigue by now, and the mind is getting edgy. What's going on here? This isn't the way it ordinarily goes. It is time to yell "Bholie Shri!" and go home, says the mind. But Maharaj Ji is having a wonderful time. He is in no hurry to leave.
Gene DeQuinzio, standing in front of a microphone only feet from Maharaj Ji, has the supreme opportunity. "Don't go, Lord! Don't ever leave us!" he yells. The mind says, "Oh no, don't say that. I'm exhausted." But, deep inside, the soul vibrates with Gene's words. Please, Lord, don't ever let this moment end. Take us beyond the limits of our tired bodies and our crazy minds.
When he does leave, it is because we had to quit. The music ends, and a microphone is placed in front of him again. Perhaps if we could have taken it, we would all be there still.
He bids us goodbye, but it isn't a goodbye at all. He says he isn't through with this series of quickie festi- vals. The festival of Holi — which at this time last year seemed laid to rest with a lot of other things that have now sprung back, full blown — will be his next excuse. It isn't that far away — two weeks? three weeks? and he'll see us then.
Most importantly, Maharaj Ji declares: Don't ever let this night end. Take it with you always. It doesn't have to end, ever.
Premies joyously embracing drift out into the night. Where are we? Denver? Hardly. This is Maharaj Ji's world now, pure and simple.
Rumors are already beginning to circulate. The Bahamas next time? And everybody is saying Jai Satchitanand to everybody else.
Loosely translated it means, "See ya." Most likely, soon.