Brian McDermott, 30, originally hailing from Nova Scotia, was initiated into the Perfect Knowledge of Guru Maharaj Ji in October, 1971. In September, 1972, he moved into the Toronto ashram, holding various outside teaching positions before becoming ashram housefather. In November, 1972, Brian became Divine Light Mission's acting national co-ordinator of Canada. Transferred to Denver in 1974 where he did service in the finance department, Brian, a year later, found himself treasurer of Unity School. On Christmas Eve of the same year he became the school's principal. In February, 1977, our much travelled brother began his service as an initiator of Guru Maharaj Ji. Following is an interview with Brian about his recent experience as a devotee of the living Lord.
What were some of the experiences that you would like to share from Malibu?
I suppose on one hand the darshan stories, the way Guru Maharaj Ji manipulates and plays with the reality around him so that everyone around him can really grow in their self awareness and love. But for me, the deepest impression I was left with is that Guru Maharaj Ji alone understands the purpose of our life. He understands the immensity of what a human being faces on the earth. With all his love, with all his power, with all his concern for us, with everything that he can bring to bear, with just such infinite patience, he over and over again tries to have us focus in on what the purpose of our life is. He alone has that clarity. He alone knows why we were created and he alone knows how we're to get to that place. He alone knows how to inspire to reach for that grace and he alone knows when we're inspired enough to give it to us.. He doesn't want his devotees to settle for something that isn't that true experience. Whether he has to cajole them or push them or love them or whatever means he has to use, that's all he wants to do.
My experience at Malibu was that Guru Maharaj Ji has thousands of ways of loving us more than any manifestation of mind. All we have to do is let him. I experienced that he could speak my name so affectionately, in so many different ways. Sometimes he would say it with such humility that I would realize what humility was. Sometimes, he would say it with such affection that I would understand what care was. Sometimes he would say it pretty curtly so that I could understand that it was time to become alert. Sometimes, he would just play with me and call me "Mr. Principal from Canada" and then I could understand how much he wanted to be with me in that time he was giving me.
One day he called us all down to his darkroom and began showing us parts of the birthday party film where he was completely blissed out by the love of the premies! He would go very fast over the parts where he got this or he got the car, or went in the helicopter. But when he was actually with the car or walking toward the car or with the premies, he would do that sequence in slow motion so that we could understand how much he was pleased by our devotion. And when Guru Maharaj Ji is pleased it's just like we're flooded with Grace. That's the source of Grace, our pleasing Guru Maharaj Ji,
How do we please Guru Maharaj Ji?
By loving him and following his agya. Through the contact of satsang, service and meditation and our devotional love, we can please him. He's intoxicated by our love. He loves the love of devotees. He's told us that so many times in his satsangs. "The Lord manifests on this earth to receive the love that he's distributed to his devotees, who have also come to this earth."
What was your darshan experience like during the last program?
At one point, I saw Guru Maharaj Ji's complete mercy and it overwhelmed me. I saw premies going through the darshan line that I had known, who were having difficulty with Knowledge or having doubts about Guru Maharaj Ji. They did pranam and Guru Maharaj Ji bestowed such an experience on them. He immediately bestowed love. I saw that we forget Guru Maharaj Ji all the time, but Guru Maharaj Ji never forgets us.
I wanted to be with Guru Maharaj Ji so deeply. I wanted to give my heart to Guru Maharaj Ji completely, so I started to pray to him. I saw him as being so mighty, so omniscient and so total that I said, "Guru Maharaj Ji, I have to ask you to pray for me, for you to say my prayers, because I don't even know what to pray for." Then he turned around and fixed his gaze right on me. And yet, where does it all come from? It all comes from the practice of satsang, service and meditation. That brings about the surrender that allows you to be played with. All these other things are far out and they're all true, but what's the source of them? It's pleasing Guru Maharaj Ji. And how do you please him? Satsang, service and meditation. It always has to come back to that,
There are three other things that occur to me that are very definite impressions I have of Malibu. One of them is that, in our lives, we're always consulting inside our head. We think things over. We review things. We hold on to various things and we think it's being prudent. One thing I understood is that you can refer a lot of things of this world to that process and get clarity sometimes, but you cannot refer the practice of Knowledge to that process. Because what you're consulting with is mind. You cannot consult with mind about the practice of Knowledge, because the absence has never seen the presence. The night has never seen the sun. Darkness has never seen the light. Mind cannot be consulted because it will literally lie to you each and every time.
Another thing that was clear is that in giving satsang Guru Maharaj Ji said to the initiators, "Don't give satsang unless you're having that experience in your heart." At the beginning, I just took that as a direction, I didn't reflect on it, Then I understood what he was saying. People sometimes feel obliged to give satsang. When people, even sincerely, start communicating the difficulties they're having in Knowledge, the difficulties they're having on the path, then what they're really singing is the praises of the limited success the mind is having in preventing them from realizing their life. Instead of singing the omnipotence of the Master and the power of this Knowledge to increase people's faith, they sing the praises of the trials and people just get more overwhelmed, Sat-sang is something else. Satsang is a pure experience that lifts us into the faith and trust in Guru Maharaj Ji and a determined effort in Knowledge.
Guru Maharaj Ji also says that our only chance is to pray to please Guru Maharaj Ji, to have Guru Maharaj Ji come through our devotion and pick us up. Then Guru Maharaj Ji will not only lift us beyond mind, but he'll lift us up to where he is. But how do we shut the door on mind? Just acknowledge the practice of Knowledge, Guru Maharaj Ji said that within the human being there's an understanding that arises out of a necessity and this is called determination. With that determination you can close the door on mind, You can make that act of surrender.
How does Guru Maharaj Ji feel about the direction of his mission?
How could Guru Maharaj Ji feel about the direction of his mission? How can anyone feel who is totally surrendered to the agya of someone whom they recognize as being supreme…? Guru Maharaj Ji was given the agya to propagate this Knowledge, to fulfill all the tasks left unfulfilled by Shri Hans,
Guru Maharaj Ji has brought an understanding into the Mission that enables the people to surrender to him. Given the space that surrender creates, he can just go in and direct it. He's designing the initiator program. He's designing the ashram program. He's designing his tour schedule. He told Bill and some of the other people in Divine Light Mission, "Look, your job is to simply follow my agya. My job is to come up with the ideas. You implement them. You don't need to think. I don't need you to think. I've got all of the ideas."
Recently he said that the thing to do in this Knowledge is to rip out the brake, put the car in the highest gear and put the accelerator right to the floor. Just go. As soon as we're clear, he'll give us the agya to propagate the Knowledge.
You said satsang is that inspiration that lifts people, gives them that determination to continue. What about service?
In the conference after the Denver program Guru Maharaj Ji spent a long time describing what service was. He was trying to show us that service isn't a list of things that are right and wrong. Service isn't something that's done. Service is an expression of love to. Guru Maharaj Ji. The purpose of service isn't to do something. The purpose of service is to give a person an opportunity to express love to Guru Maharaj Ji. Guru Maharaj Ji said that service is an act of surrender. Service is giving up some part of yourself, letting some part of yourself go. There has to be an element of sacrifice in it. It's a surrender of your being to Guru Maharaj Ji. He says there's a certain amount of bliss you get from taking care of yourself, getting yourself comfortable, getting your routines together, etc. But he said there's a much higher experience than that.
When you give as much of yourself as you have time to give to Guru Maharaj Ji, then the experience that comes from that expression of sacrifice, of completely trying to understand Guru Maharaj Ji's work and agya and your own purpose in life, is service. We have to relinquish our attitudes and our explanations and our concepts in order to be open enough to be filled. We have to relinquish a portion of our actions to Guru Maharaj Ji and our feelings of what's useful and what isn't useful, of what's logical and what's illogical and simply be willing to serve in order to have that experience of service. Surrender is the key. If a person's doing service, no matter what the service is, if they don't have an attitude of love in their heart for Guru Maharaj Ji, then it's not service.
Once in Malibu, we had been having satsang for nine hours. No one wanted to leave, it was so precious. Yet when Guru Maharaj Ji stepped into that room, it was almost as if we hadn't been doing anything. Everything we had been participating in seemed unreal. The reality Guru Maharaj Ji brought into the room was so intense that everything was immediately forgotten and only Guru Maharaj Ji was there. It was a powerful experience that he shared with us at that moment — that he is the real thing. Another time he told us, "Let's get the priorities straight. Your experience of Knowledge will grow and grow and grow and grow and you'll get higher and higher and higher and higher, but Knowledge is like a bubble and Guru Maharaj Ji is sitting on top of it. As you get higher and higher and higher, as this Knowledge takes you higher and higher and higher, Guru Maharaj Ji's still sitting on top of it." Another time he told us, "The question isn't who is Guru Maharaj Ji.
Guru Maharaj Ji is he who can reveal Knowledge. The question is, 'What is Guru Maharaj Ji?' What is that which can reveal Knowledge? What is that power? What is that majesty? What is that omnipotence? What is that omniscience? What is that omnipresence? What is it?" I had such a tremendous sense of it in Malibu. We spent day after day in the satsang room there, and perhaps we only saw him for four or five seconds. Sometimes we had the opportunity to do pranam. Sometimes we didn't. But he was with us in that room every single second in all but the flesh. It was as if he walked into the room every morning with us and just didn't wear his flesh, so that we could understand what is Guru Maharaj Ji, so that no matter where we were in the world we could have the experience of him.
One thing that I'm realizing after having done most of this interview (or this satsang) is that all I've really done is talk about Guru Maharaj Ji. In a sense a person could say, "What was your experience? Why did you just talk about Guru Maharaj Ji throughout this whole thing?" But that is my experience. My experience was of Guru Maharaj Ji. Anything that I shared of Guru Maharaj Ji was something that I understood. I mean, who else is helping us fulfill the purpose of our life in this world? Who do we have when it really comes down to it? We have Guru Maharaj Ji. At one time he was trying to support us a lot, and said "Well, look if you seem something like mind, it's just a shadow. If you've got a problem and you try to deal with it, it's just like you're walking toward the sun and all of a sudden you catch a glimpse of the shadow behind you and you don't like it so you just charge after it. You never stand a chance because you can't catch it. It's totally illusive. It's just the absence of light behind you. The thing to do is just increase your concentration upon the light. Just keep facing that sun. Keep your concentration there so that's all you see is sun. And if you're completely focused there, completely, straight ahead, there's no possibility of seeing the shadow. The shadow will still exist. It will always exist, perhaps, but it will never be your experience. But do we have the strength to stop fighting mind? Do we have the surrender to obey Guru Maharaj Ji's direction and stop acknowledging mind and just face towards him? Do we have the courage to support each other in the venture? Do we have the courage to say, "That's an extension of mind."
Every time I've surrendered anything to Guru Maharaj Ji, it's been taken care of. And it's never been taken care of logically. Each and every time it required an act of faith on my part because if I had ever thought about it, I could never have convinced myself that it was the right thing to do. But just from my heart, by doing it and having the experience of doing it over and over again, now I'm really experiencing that faith in Guru Maharaj Ji. He never agrees to perform anything logically. He only aerees to do it.
What about propagation?
Guru Maharaj Ji's here to do what he does and we're here to enjoy being with him. And if Guru Maharaj Ji says he's 'going to save the world then we'll enjoy it, and we'll serve him because we're his devotees and we love him. Even if we forget it moment to moment, I see that the premies are really devotees. They really love him. We're here to do what he's come to do, with him. He has said that premies should really enjoy the lila of the Perfect Master. But it you're not having a sufficient experience of your own self, you can be threatened by it. You can get scared by it. It's like a person who thinks water streaming out of a hose can kill them. If a Perfect Master turns a hose on that person, that person's going to be freaked out because they're going to think that each drop of water is a bullet coming at them. But if that person knows that it's just. water and just just strike them and bless them, they'll just raise their hands and Guru Maharaj Ji will play Holi with them. He said it's like shooting a rocket to the moon. It isn't like, one day you decide to put a rocket on the moon and poof! the rocket's on the moon. First of all you have to get all the systems coordinated. You have to get the thing designed. It has to be manufactured. And then you do a few test runs. He says propagation's exactly the same thing. "Now you guys go back, share this satsang, make sure that the premies in the community have service to do. Make sure that when they come to you they can start participating in my work, that they feel surrender because of the satsang they've received, and that they are meditating because they want to experience that love." He says when that happens then the systems will be together. We'll do a few test runs and then we'll just shoot off …