THE ASPIRANT RETREAT
On March 31, forty-two aspirants accompanied by 18 premies and initiators Arthur Brigham and Brian McDermott left the confines of Denver for a four day retreat at Foss Park in Indian Hills, Colorado. Following are a few impressions of the experience by some of the aspirants who were there.
The retreat, just like everything about Divine Light, was not what I expected. I remember that somebody told us at the begining of the retreat that many people would have an intense experience and that things might even get too intense for some. I thought, "that includes other aspirants, not me."
You see, the retreat came at a time in my aspirancy when I wasn't experiencing a whole lot. In fact, at first I did not want to attend the retreat because it meant giving up a precious day of annual leave from work. It turned out that the retreat came exactly when I needed it. I'm discovering that such occurrences happen frequently once one begins this path. I've often heard premies say as much, but words don't count for much. I'm used to the idea of trying to pray for help and guidance and trying to have trust. I grew up with Sunday School teachers telling me that. But what I'm not used to is getting results.
Which brings me to the main experience of the retreat for me. I feel that I got my first real glimpse and experience of who Maharaj Ji is. And it really blew my mind and still amazes me. I've heard people talk about him being the Lord, and I've thought about it as a real possibility, but it was mostly on an intellectual level. On the retreat, however, I came to a point where I felt the Lord was here. I felt it in my heart.
There came a point when something really happened inside me. Our aspirant group, the newest one and not included in the Knowledge selection, was meeting with Brian McDermott. At one point he asked us, "What do you feel is getting in your way the most on your path to Knowledge?" My answer was that I have had trouble giving up my concept of myself. I feel I'm not the type to fly off to Montreal for three days or to bow down to somebody or to be taken in by some trip. And I'm certainly good at being Marilyn Brown.
Brian then asked me, "What's it really like being Marilyn?"
"Not very satisfying, sometimes more so than at other times," I answered.
Then Brian told me that before Knowledge he knew that being Brian was completely empty and lonely. He gave me a look as if there wasn't anymore he would say to me, and went on to somebody else.
Then it happened.
I started thinking about what it's been like being Marilyn. Suddenly that protective pretense of "Things aren't so bad … life is beautiful …" just fell away. I thought, "It's been awful being Marilyn." And I started crying, very quietly. When I tried to fight the tears I could feel my body shake. I couldn't stop. I saw myself as a lost little girl, and I cried for all the sadness and pain of my life. It was very painful.
Afterwards, after being comforted a little, I felt in my heart that a power was working on me and had brought out that deep sorrow that was inside in order to start taking it away. I felt that finally there was an end ahead, that my Father was finally coming to care for me. All I wanted to do was go home to my Father, to God.
Even as I've been writing this, I've had to stop because I started crying again. But this crying is different. It's not full of despair, but rather full of hope and faith. While I experience sadness I also see the end of that sadness. I feel that Maharaj Ji has started to reveal himself to me. Although at this moment that experience is a memory and mostly intellectual, I know I experienced something very deeply, and that memory gives me faith.
One more experience I want to relate occured later that night, the last night of the retreat. I was walking from one cabin to the other. All around me was a foot of newly fallen snow illuminated by a full moon shining through soft, slow-moving clouds. It was very quiet.
I felt like a kid again. I lay down and made an angel in the snow. Then I walked up a little hill to a patch of trees and just lay in the snow and looked at the moon. I experienced such contentment. For the only time I can recall, I felt deep down that everything was going to be all right. Looking at the living things around me, I felt that I, too, was being taken care of. I finally got up, prayed a wordless prayer to Maharaj Ji, and walked back to the cabin to go to bed …
— Marilyn Brown
It's 4:30 Thursday and I'm leaving work to head for the mountains for an aspirant retreat. I've been anticipating this experience for several days. I know it will be intense, but it will also be very beautiful. As usual, because I'm in a hurry to get up there, nothing flows smoothly. After spending an hour or so in my mind, I remind myself why I'm here and where I'm going. Then I relax and everything gets done properly. The excitment returns. After only 3 wrong turns, three other aspirants and myself arrive at the lodge. Oh my Lord, it's so beautiful! I haven't heard this much silence in a couple years. So many trees, rocks, mountains and stars. Clean air, too. Perfection.
Inside the lodge a fire is soothing those sitting near it. A few have already arrived. Dinner is being prepared in the kitchen. I feel my heart starting to open. There will be absolutely nothing to hide here. I see my brothers and sisters in a new way. The potential for sharing love is unlimited. I feel I am home. Uncontrollable smiles beam from every face.
As the last arrive, we get our rooms and enjoy dinner. Some songs are played and satsang begins. The stage is set. We will be looking at ourselves very closely. And hopefully we will grow a lot. Then we sleep.
The next day starts early. Five-thirty is a very natural time to get up. Some ice cold water in my face readies me to start the day. There is a warm fire and hot tea in the lodge. At 6:45 a video is played. Guru Maharaj Ji gives some of the most beautiful satsang I have experienced. My attention is completely concentrated. My mind quietly asks me if I can hold this level of concentration for the entire weekend. I really think I can.
After being in total bliss for the video, at 7:30 we see "Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji?" Complete joy, total thankfulness. I feel beautiful tears of joy flow so freely down my face. If I could only start every day by viewing this film.
Nine-thirty. A welcomed breakfast. Light and satisfying. Arthur starts what turns out to be a two day indescribable experience. Look at your experiences. Where are you at now? What trips are you still holding onto? Can you really give your whole life to this path? Who is Guru Maharaj Ji? What is satsang? What do you expect to experience in the Knowledge session? Are you really ready?
Intensity — beautiful intensity. From Thursday night 'til Sunday noon, only videos, films, tapes, music, satsang and service. The time is broken only by meals, sleep, and occasional breaks. I find myself wishing the breaks weren't so long. I need more satsang. I need to see that film again. I feel so thankful for this opportunity. The concentration I've experienced has taken me so much further, so much closer. I truly feel I'm knocking on heaven's door. And I know it will be opened unto me, by His most beautiful grace.
The meals have been eagerly anticipated. The lunches are very light, and it seems to help my concentration. On Saturday night the tables are set for us. It is a celebration of Passover. A sister named Carol tells us the literal translation of the Hebrew scriptures which relate to Passover. "Moses led the children of Israel out of their sea of sorrows, across the sea of limitations, into the land of light and milk and honey. (possibly nectar?)" This is truly a celebration.
On Sunday Brian is the last to give satsang. He asks us to leave this place in such a condition that whoever comes here next will know it has been occupied by children of Light. In one hour the lodge is clean, and we are leaving. There is still about eight inches of snow left from the foot which graced us yesterday. Everybody is helped out onto the road and soon 50 or so blissed out people truck on down the mountain.
This experience has been one I hope to be able to feel every day of my life. I feel so close to a lot of my brothers and sisters now. I've known them in a very intense situation. I can see that there is only love which connects us. Maharaj Ji's love is in us all. Sharing that incredible love with all these people this weekend is one more beautiful taste of Truth. I have also come so close to my Master. All I can say is thank you, Maharaj Ji, thank you. You make it so easy for me
to aspire to know you. You place everything I need squarely before me. I will cherish this time for all of my life. You love me, and that's all I'll ever need.
— Jerry Neal
I have learned that receiving Knowledge is a process, rather than just an event. And through the grace in the aspirant program, I can grow in understanding until this thing that is me is a place where Knowledge can survive, and I will be able to begin to experience Maharaj Ji's ever increasing love.
We aspirants begin as large groups of timid strangers, full of misconceptions and ego motivations. In just a few short months we become a close band of brothers and sisters who rejoice in the growing love apparent in one another.
Through it all, the lesions we learn, from concentrated premies and dedicated initiators, we always carefully calculated to be no more than we can handle, and no less than we are capable of understanding.
The aspirant program has been my first real taste of the truth to be found in this world. And even without the promise of continuing into the ever increasing wonder of Knowledge and Guru Maharaj Ji's world, it's still the best thing that ever happened to me. The program is real. It works. Thank you, Maharaj Ji.
— Tom Byers
… I knew I wasn't ready for Knowledge, and I wasn't clear as to what I was unclear about.
I was hoping that Arthur would clear up whatever it was I was missing, and perhaps knowing my need, select me. I've got to have Knowledge. I go bananas every night after satsang, seeing my friends hurry home to meditate. "It's only 9:30. It's early. Can't you meditate later? Please?" So I go home to shuffling a deck of cards, while watching old stale movies listening for sat-sang in them.
I want Knowledge. I want to practice it and live it and be part of it. I want to be devoted to Guru Maharaj Ji and to live my life for his agya. I want to be one with him.
Slowly, he's revealing to me who I am! I'm aware of the concepts as to who I think I am and just know it's going to blow me away, when and if. By his grace not only who I am, but why I am …
I went outside and looked around. Everything was perfect. I took off my shoes, and barefooted, walked into a forest for the first time. (The only thing I knew of forests was that Hansel and Gretel lived in one.) Walking into a grove of trees I was aware of the still quiet. Not a sound. It was really beautiful.
— Danny Profit
"These tears are not because I am remembering my Father, but because I am feeling so much power in me. They are tears of strength. I have come so powerful. I have come for the world. Whenever the great come, the worldly oppose them. Again I have come and you are not listening. Every ear should hear that the savior of humanity has come. There should be no chance for anyone to say they haven't heard of Guru Maharaj Ji. Those who come to me are. already saved. Now it's your duty to save others. Shout it on the streets. Why be shy?
Give me your love, I will give you peace. Come to me, I will relieve you of your suffering. I am the source of peace in this world. All I ask of you is your love. All I ask is your trust. And what I can give you is such peace as will never die. I declare I will establish peace in this world. But what can I do unless men come to me with love in their heart and a keen wish to know peace and Truth?"
Guru Maharaj Ji
"Peace Bomb Satsang", 1970