Abandoned Roads - Jos Lammers
… Only the truly enlightened one could handle it and was allowed to play with it. That's why guru Maharaj ji could enjoy himself in his mansion on the hills of Malibu Beach, with a Maserati Convertible, a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, a Cadillac Seville and a Mercedes SEL all sitting in the garage. And could dream about his own Grumman Gulfstream 12-person jet, his biggest desire then. I knew the brochures that were passed around within the Divine Light Mission with a whispered explanation of the divine play of the guru. After all, as 'Jesus returned', the earth and everything on it was his. It was the true devotees' honor to be able to deliver it to him. Sometimes literally, like when the German 'general secretary', head of the national branch of the Divine Light Mission, flew to London with a hundred thousand German marks taped to his body, to complete the deal of the guru's new Rolls Royce.
But a good follower kept far from material things and other illusions that could drive him off the path to enlightenment. For that same reason I had seen next to nothing of the United States in the year and a half that I lived in Denver and worked at the IHQ. … In the more than three years before I got the phone call to come to Denver, I established junk collecting services in four Dutch cities, along with sorting businesses, wholesale to processors of rags and used metals and retailing the usable stuff in our own shops. Where in the previous, normal life I found my job as a nurse's aid utterly overpaid, as a follower of Maharaj ji I generated cash flow that supported the divine play of the guru in such a way that his 'international president' called me to his IHQ.
The moment came that I didn't believe anymore in walking around in a three piece suit. … I didn't believe anymore in the daily routine of going to the office, the six complete floors of a heavy stone building in downtown Denver that the Divine Light Mission rented from arms manufacturer Joe Gould. I didn't believe anymore in the meetings on 'international communication systems', 'financial planning and control' and the hidden question: how the enormous stack of bills was going to be paid. I didn't believe anymore in sleeping on the ground in a room with at least five other people. I didn't believe anymore in food that shouldn't be delicious because that would distract you from the straight path, not to mention women. And I didn't believe anymore in a guru that refused to lower his daily allowance of five hundred dollars even by a dime to help relieve the financial burden
of his organization. But then again, that was just what triggered it. The life that I led didn't bring me the tiniest bit closer to what I was looking for: being at peace with life. I wanted a normal home and a wife and a kid. I wanted my own life back.
So I thought, more or less from one day to the other: I quit. I'm going back.
How this meditation had to be done, was called the 'knowledge'. Techniques that had to be revealed by a mahatma, a traveling teacher of Maharaj ji. This wasn't so much about technical skills, the devotees in the ashram stressed, but rather about becoming a part of the world of guru Maharaj ji. Or not. The test of whether you were ready for that was a game without rules. The fact that a mahatma came, showed that enough souls were ready. But what you had to do to get there, was a question that only
led to mysterious smiles and devotionally raised eyes of the devotees. Lots of vacuuming and potato peeling, was all I could come up with, and looking just as happy into the world as the real followers. …
So I sat on the floor of the ashram and listened for hours to the stories of the initiated followers. They were basically always the same. First there was darkness, then guru Maharaj ji brought the light. Just like there always has been, in all ages, a 'perfect master' on earth for the ones that were truly searching, there now was guru Maharaj ji. The followers of Jesus had found him, the followers of Krishna had found him, the followers of Buddha and Mohammed had found him. And we, as we sat on the floor for a day and a half in the end, had found him. All these masters taught the same thing. This was the eternal secret behind all religions. Well kept and
only meant for those who understood that following and worshipping the living perfect master is the only way to enlightenment. The techniques were a mere aid, worthless without complete dedication to the guru.
… The initiation was strictly secret. Like the others I had to solemnly promise never to tell anyone what the mahatma was about to reveal. I see that differently now.
Maharaj ji taught four meditation techniques. Three of them I had read about before in 'The Yogis of India', a book with a hard cover and black and white photos of sadhus with waving grey beards that I carried around as a bible for years. But now, thanks to this mahatma,
I finally understood the value of these techniques. Like concentrating on the sound that your breath makes at the back of your throat that kind of sounds like sooo (inhaling) --- hangggg (exhaling). A simple breathing technique, I always thought. But this sound, the mahatma said, is the true meaning of the Word that the bible mentions. The Word that is god. "Every living perfect master teaches same technique but then, I tell you, people turn it into religion and true meaning gets lost. Until next perfect master comes..," he said, bowing deeply at the picture on the wall showing Maharaj ji wearing the red velvet robe and golden crown of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.
The second technique he demonstrated to us one by one. I sat with my back straight and legs crossed on the floor. In the half light the mahatma sat in the same posture right in front of me. His knees, covered with pink cotton, touched mine. He smelt a bit sweetish, like incense. He breathed very light, as if hardly there. His dark brown eyes shone. "Close your eyes." With his index finger he lightly touched my forehead, right where he himself had a red dot. "Concentrate here." He then put his thumb and middle finger on my closed eyes and pushed them pretty strongly to the place where his index finger was pointing. "What you see?" "Light, mahatma ji." "Good. This is eternal light of creation. Source of all bliss. Meditate on it." He grabbed my own hand to take over his grip on my eyes and moved on to the next one.
After that he taught to listen to the sound of your own body while pressing your thumbs in your ears. The fourth technique was to stretch your tongue to the back of your throat, till it reached behind the uvula. There the true devotee could, after lots of meditation, taste the reward of 'holy nectar'. The drink of the gods. The food of yogis that meditate for months without food. The source of life for Jesus in the desert. "This is their secret."
We had to practice this twice every day for at least an hour. With a cloth over our head (that's why all of these beautiful Indian fabrics in the ashram!), because nobody was allowed to see the secret techniques. Together with a life of dedication to the master, "this will bring you eternal happiness." We then were allowed to kiss his feet and finally go home.
Must try to find one of those beautiful cloths tomorrow, I thought, riding my bike.
The first time in my life I was in an airplane, was about half a year after I got that half a shelf and a place to roll out my sleeping bag at the ashram. Just like a few thousand other followers from Europe and the United States I was in one of the five chartered Boeing-747's, on my way to a big festival in New Delhi to see the guru for the first time in person and then stay at his ashram in Hardwar on the Ganges for a few weeks.
It was hot, there on that concrete plain right next to Delhi Airport where we were told to assemble and wait. Maharaj ji himself was going to welcome us, a whisper said. After about four hours in the burning sun, it was clear that we weren't ready for that. Too little meditation and too much 'mind and illusion', no doubt. So we left in rented buses to a campsite that the Indian followers had put up on a dusty plain outside Delhi. The tents were basically wooden poles affixed with ropes. On those poles sat a roof of colored pieces of fabric. The sides were open for wind, dust and warmth. Next to the campsite were the festival grounds - a wide open field with a stage at the far end that had microphones on it, a throne decorated with flowers for the guru and embroidered pillows for the mahatma's. After his father's death, Maharaj ji was chosen to succeed him as guru and religious teacher at the age of six. A daunting position, because the Divine Light Mission of his father had almost ten thousand followers in India. A few thousand of them sat on the festival grounds in red, purple, yellow and golden saris and white 'Indian pajamas', that were also quite popular among the Western followers. They had a red dot on their foreheads, put flower leaves on each other's heads and sang songs that seemed to turn around over and over in the same intonation. On the stage the mahatma's took turns giving 'satsang': an improvised speech, directly from the meditative experience, about the virtues of the holy master and his divine knowledge bringing enlightenment for the true devotee. Again and again similar words in repeated
circles, just like the songs. The microphones cracked, the followers sang, the sun burned and the mahatma's praised our luck because the road to eternal bliss was right in front if us. For three days without end, sometimes in English but mostly in Hindi.
Prem Nagar ashram in Hardwar, facing mother Ganges and the foothills of the Himalaya. The few Western followers that had been there, like the American with hepatitis-B on my ward in the Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis, pronounced the name with shiny eyes and covered in silence. The holiest place on earth. But not quite built for receiving three thousand guests. Actually the ashram was basically a bare piece of open field made of tamped down clay, with a rusty fence around it and a small lone building in the middle. Just outside the fence was a small vegetable garden. I saw a few mahatmas, who were driven around with high esteem in luxury cars and accommodated with soft sheets and long pile carpet back home, squatting on the ground to remove weeds between bushes with melons on it. The loam building on the ashram grounds consisted of two rows of small sleeping
quarters (a door, a window frame, no glass, and a wooden bed). For the mahatma's. Perpedicular and at the one side there was a kitchen, at the other were two toilets and an open air sink without a tap. Next to the building was a space for satsang gatherings, made in the same style as the campsite in Delhi: a roof made of pieces of fabric on poles. Underneath was a small stage. Other than that the ashram consisted of wind and dust.
For the three thousand guests from America, Europe and Australia a campsite was built on a small bare field next to the ashram grounds. It was made up of about ten large tent roofs constructed from pieces of fabric, with open spaces underneath where everyone coming from the buses tried to find a spot with as little dust and sun as possible to roll out his sleeping bag. Next to the campsite, on the way to the river, were two rows of canvas cabins, with open fronts and backs, built on top of ditches where every now and then water from the river would run through. The toilets. One row for the 'brothers' and one row for the 'sisters'. Behind that: mother Ganges, also the place where everyone had to make a sincere effort to keep himself and his clothes sort of clean.
That, the food (scooped from large buckets on a hold out chapati - 'More dahl brother? More rice brother?'), the heat, the toilet-ditches that soon didn't flush at all anymore and aimless hanging around in the ashram dust,
caused the number of sick persons to increase by dozens each day. Andy, an American follower with a half-finished medical education, did daily consultations in one of the tents. My job as 'experienced' nurse's aid was to go visit the followers in their sleeping tents that were too sick to attend these consultations. Whereupon there was not much I could do. Almost everyone was sick with diarrhea and most of them had already given up the hopeless run to the ditches. When I could find anything clean, I put it on them. I brought some drinking water that I could, with a lot of effort, extract from the kitchen. And gave the number of their tent to doctor Andy. Who promised to drop by as soon as he had a moment.
Other than that practically nothing happened in the ashram for four long weeks. Sometimes a mahatma visited the open space alongside the loam house to give satsang. And every day the rumor spread that Maharaj ji would come. Which didn't happen. We apparently lacked devotion.
A steadily increasing number of taxis and rickshaws appeared in front of the iron ashram fence to drive followers that were, for the moment, fed up with the guidelines of the guru to Hardwar, chai and chillum. It convinced me that I had to be strong. This was a test. So I meditated in the mornings with the mahatma's, joined them singing the praises of the divine incarnation that was among us,
listened to their endlessly repeated satsangs ('we are bery lucky souls') and saw my diarrhea patients.
Click Here for more excerpts from Mescaline, Maharaj Ji and the Mojave Desert: Abandoned Roads