By George Keenen
(Editor's note — an aspirant is someone who is preparing to receive Guru Maharaj Ji's Knowledge.)
The first time I went to satsang I sat in the back and cried. I cried the next night, and the next night as well. I don't know why. Something was happening in that satsang hall that made it possible for me to let my feelings out. It felt like shelter. In fact, it felt like home. I kept coming back.
* * *
I'm sitting at breakfast between two premies.
"Someone said at satsang last night that this is not a religion," I say. "It's not," says Maury.
"Shri Hans Ji (Guru Maharaj Ji's father) says true religion is the direct experience of God," I say.
"In those terms this is a religion." says Mark.
"The true religion," says Maury.
I ask Maury, "You mean you are having a direct experience of God right now?"
Maury says yes.
I turn to Mark. "Are you having a direct experience of God right now too?"
He says yes.
I can't tell you what it feels like to be sitting between those two experiences of God, experiencing nothing but a light breakfast myself, but I think it shows on my face.
Maury smiles at me.
"George, you need this Knowledge."
* * *
My first month in Denver I take notes like crazy. I'm building a glossary in my head of all the strange words: Guru, pranam, satsang, prachar, prashad. I have definitions. I have labels. I have answers. I have the trip scoped out and I like it. If they give a final exam before being revealed the Knowledge, I'm in.
Then the Portland program is announced. Beautiful! I'll be able to see this man at last, and fill in all the missing pieces of this experience. Poor fool! I fly to Portland. I see him. And he blows away all my answers.
Maharaj Ji said that if I took one step towards him he would take a million towards me. I tried to take that first loving step. Whenever worry or fear crept in I turned to him, concentrated on him. And it worked. I began to feel changes happening inside that I couldn't account for. Still, what' happening to all those things I normally worry about? Wasn't I just repressing them? I began to worry about not worrying.
Finally I got the chance to share sat-sang with an initiator. I can only remember the exact words I needed to hear, "Guru Maharaj Ji's love is cleansing." Then it's true! Yes! Love is All! A deep feeling of thanks began to well up in me and with that gratitude, a longing grew, a longing for that permanent attachment to love that comes with Knowledge.
* * *
It's a beautiful time to be an aspirant. Guru Maharaj Ji attends five programs in six months. By the time the Denver program is announced I am deeper into satsang and service. I don't know if I need them yet, but I enjoy them, and slowly my life is beginning to turn around them. More and more of my energy is going towards Guru Maharaj Ji and his Knowledge. And yet, perhaps not enough. I still have plenty of resistance. I'm struggling with words like surrender, Grace, experience, devotion, attachment and mind. I'm still holding on to lots of "George," trying to fit the experience into my framework. I still have doubts and I bring them before Maharaj Ji on the darshan line. Experiencing him as a perfect mirror, I see myself full of doubts and confusions, my own petty creations. It is excruciating. All my answers are gone again.
* * *
There's a retreat for aspirants before a program held in Miami. Three intense days of satsang with another of Guru Maharaj Ji's initiators. I have a chance to ask him why Guru Maharaj Ji wants to eat my mind.
His answer: "Because up to now you haven't had the courage to do it yourself."
"But what does he want with it?"
"It's his raw material," says the devotee before me. "What he does with it is he turns it into love. That's what he's here for."
Meanwhile, there's plenty to eat. I can eat my sophistication. And I can eat my problems.
* * *
At some point in my aspirancy I realized that I couldn't work on myself to prepare for Knowledge. I could only put myself in a position to be worked on by doing satsang and service. I keep a quote from Kabir pinned on my wall to remind me: "Kabir says this: When the guest is being searched for it is the intensity of the longing for the guest that does all the work. Look at me … you will see a slave of that intensity."
* * *
Holi Festival. Miami Beach. I work furiously to pull everything together so I could go before him as fully as possible in love. And when I pass before him something beautiful really does happen. More than beautiful. But I will have to rely on the words of Shri Hans Ji, who said, "My way to describe the glory of Satguru is to say that the glory of Satguru can never be described."
I stumble off the darshan line blind with tears. A premie from L.A. is selling T-shirts that say, I love you, Guru Maharaj Ji. I want to buy them all. Instead, I fall into her arms.
"What is it?" she asks.
The experience of my life."
I'm surprised to hear myself say it, but I know that it's true. So that's it. So that's why I am alive.
* * *
I am beginning to realize Knowledge is not just an experience I love and want — it is something I love and need and do not yet have. I am between two worlds. I am removed from what I once thought of as the real world. There's little there of interest now. But I am not yet fully in Maharaj Ji's world either. In a way you might say I feel like a beggar.
* * *
Guru Maharaj Ji, Orlando, Florida, 1975
You'll hear it more than once at aspirant satsang: the worst thing is to think you can do it yourself. The second worst thing is to think you can't.
* * *
There's going to be a Knowledge session. I speak privately with an initiator, telling her of my love for Guru Maharaj Ji.
"You've got to be more humble, George," she tells me. "There's still something there. You've got to be empty to receive this Knowledge."
During the satsang intensive before selection she tells me. "Maharaj Ji is really working on you. You look so different."
Finally the moment of selection comes.
"May I receive this Knowledge?" "Are you really stable? Are you solid?"
"Like a rock," I reply.
"I don't know yet," she says. She meditates a while, then opens her eyes.
"A young rock," she whispers. "Wait just a little longer."
* * *
I'm sitting in a chair, a nice wooden straightback, and one by one the legs are removed. I'm nervous because all my support is being taken away. And yet when the four legs are gone, I don't fall to the floor. I'm still there, comfortably suspended.
That's the Grace of this experience. ; I can see that something is keeping me alive and yet it's nothing I thought it was. It's Guru Maharaj Ji. I'm learning to trust him and the way things work in his world. It's illogical. It's irrational. It's the opposite of everything anyone ever taught me.
And it works.