Joan Apter's Speech
This is the text of an introductory speech made by Joan Apter in December, 2007 at at Prem Rawat's 50th birthday program in San Diego. The audience is made up of students of Prem Rawat (Maharaji) and their astonishing age-invariance is quite obvious. They are the remnants of the young hippies that were caught up in the initial excitement of Divine Light Mission's early 1970's beginnings in the West. Joan's speech is meant to inspire the audience to go out and do "propagation" with stories of the early exciting rush in which most of them were involved 35 years before. They've only got to look around the crowd to see that not even their children were interested in Rawat and his Knowledge.
The story she tells is an extremely bowdlerised version of her 1973 story. In that she claims to have been travelling for 4 years and she appeared to be suffering from marijuana induced depression and various Indian diseases. She does not talk of "practical experience of that which is already within you" but "practical Knowledge of God" and she never used the term "Gift of Knowledge." She no longer calls Rawat's mother "the Holy Mother" nor believes that his "divine brother, Shri Bal Bhagwan Ji, is the incarnation of divine intelligence". She said then that "Holy Mother and the divine brothers of Guru Maharaj Ji gave me so much love that I knew only one thing, that I had found my destination," and that I wanted only to be with them forever.
Guru Maharaj Ji is pure and perfect. We can experience this purity and this perfection only from the divine manifestation of the soul, the Perfect Master." Well she may have learnt a few things but she's probably not allowed to say things like that in public anymore.
"Wow! Hello, my name is Joan Apter and it's my privilege to be able to speak umm at this wonderful occasion of my love and my appreciation for the single most important person in my life, Maharaji. (applause)
I met Maharaji in India in 1970. I had left America during the turbulent 60's convinced that I would never return and I had heard about Maharaji the first time in a restaurant in Afghanistan as I was heading overland and I met the people who had met Maharaji from England who were on their way back to start the first centre and they told me about their 12 year old teacher who they had met in Dehra Dun India. I filed it away and continued on my journey and some time later I had been in India already 10 months I met one of M's instructors and he told me "Joan, if you want practical experience of that which is already within you, you better go to Dehra Dun. And at the time I said "OK I'm gonna go for it" and I ended up on Maharaji's residence porch at his home in Dehra Dun, waiting for him to come home from school. My heart was beating just about as fast as it's beating now and soon, you know, the car came in very quickly, Maharaji came out to the porch, sat down and he said "What do you want?" (laughter) And I just started crying and in the time that I cried I expressed to him everything that I had been going through in the whole I don't know … lifetime, especially in the last months. And he listened, I had the profound experience of his attention and his listening as I just expressed myself in tears.
Maharaji was 12 years old and I had not a clue what that meant, those days and I still have no clue what that means today because I could feel his ability to really hear what my heart was saying. And when I was done he said "OK, fine, you can go upstairs and take rest and we'll talk more tomorrow and every day, I stayed there for one month, and evey day I'd wait for Maharaji to come back with my pad full f questions for the day. I'd say Maharaji there is no such thing as truth and he'd smile and he'd say "Yes, there i-i-is." and uhh it just went on until finally that crust of disappointment and uh pessimism that had been weighing me down just dissolved in that beauty of his love and his laughter and he kept saying to me about this experience that I should be asking for called The Gift Of Knowledge and how I should be asking for it and I didn't quite get it because I was so happy, I I I had Maharaji every day and I was enjoying life more than I had enjoyed it before so I didn't ask and so one day he said to me "Joan, if you want a permanent connection to Maharaji then you better ask for the Gift of Knowledge." And it began to make sense to me but not enough that I actually did ask. And one day he was on his school vacation and that's when he would go and do umm tours to big cities around India and he invited me to come along to Delhi and Chandaghar and it was in Delhi when I saw him in from of throngs of people sitting on a stage speaking with his eyes brilliant his love his power shining I was overwhelmed, I got it and I went to him after the event and I said "Maharaji, can I please learn the techniques of Knowledge?" and he said "No, you're not ready."
So the next day we went to Chandighar and the same thing watching Maharaji in that was my heart was just bursting and I went to him "Please Maharaji can I learn the techniques?" He said "Yes" and after that things were amazing. He was preparing for a big event in Delhi which was the Peace Bomb program in 1970, was that 71, 1971 and he said that there was a band of Westerners coming from England for the first time who had received Knowedge there and wanted to meet Maharaji and would I host them and take care of them when they arrived. So this first band arrived, we all went back to his centre in Hardwar and every day Maharaji would come out and he would answer questions and he would just be delighted to experience and to feel the thirst and the longing for all of these people to learn more. Um he kept on saying alt that time that we should be thinking about going back to our countries but once again I was not interested in hearing about this. I thought "You know Maharaji, he's going to school, the chances of him coming back tothe West were slim, marginal and so I I didn't pay too much attention to it but again he kept saying "Joan, you should go back to the West to prepare for me to come, I'm coming."
Finally in April of 1971 I agreed and I went back to America and started writing letters to all the people, I had lists of people who had received Knowledge in India and in London from America and finally someone from, Gary from LA, said "We're sending you a ticket, we'll start the first center in LA." So we went there and this was the end of April, think of that, May, we were you know going downtown to get his visa, we were, we were doing programs every day at the center and then we heard that Maharaji was going to be arriving in April, I'm sorry, June, June 17th in London. I started calling him every day "Maharaji, please come to, come to to LA. Please come to the States, we're thirsty, we want you" and finally in July, to the day, 17th 1971 Maharaji arrived in LA and as I watched those first days evolve it was amazing. We probably booked him, maybe one event a day, sometimes 2 events a day, it was out of control, there were people literally hanging from the ceilings, there was so much excitement everywhere Maharaji went. He went on radio, he went on TV, he he ageve his message and for those od us, I don't know, if some of you are seeing him for the first time today, but for those of us who have experienced Maharaji, his message when you feel the love, when you feel the energy that Maharaji has when he speaks, to em, that's his message and it hits such a place in me that it has the power to bring that thirst up to the front and make me feel like "Yes, I'm open, I'm ready to learn which for someone coming from Washington DC is quite an achievement (some laughter).
So uh those days Maharaji would just respond to invitations from California to Boulder, Colorado to umm one guy called him from Morgantown, West Virgina "Maharaji, I'm a conscientous objector, I can't come to you, please let me do an event for you at the university here and come to me" and he did. He stayed in his home, his one bedroom apartment, and did an event at Morgantown, West Virgina and from there we, we prepared events in Washington, DC, in New York, Toronto and so it went. So I've just been very, very privileged to see how Maharaji responds and how he does his work over the years and people say to me "Joan, you know, you're so lucky, you've seen Maharaji from those early days" and yes it's true but I feel like that same privilege in my life right now as I watch him do his work. I remember in LA, actually it was in Carmel, that day when he called India, he was 13 years old, and he said "Guess what? I'm not coming back to school. It's time for me to do my work." And he knew it, he knew the time, how many people do we know that have a life history as our Maharaji. It's absolutely extraordinary to be a part and to be witness and particiapte in any way in what he's doing. I live in Woodstock New York and I love the opportunities I get to, you know, make public programs, we have cable TV video broadcasts going and to watch what happens when a human life touches M's message and to see that blossoming that can take place. It's such a miracle. We're also going to set(?) be inviting Maharaji to a big public program in Albany. What can we do? Please Maharaji come and give us your message because that's really the hope, the hope, you know, that I have, that I can be a part, somehow, of his work. So."
References: The information on this page was sourced from:
- Divine Light Mission offers 'true knowledge' to devotees THE DOMINION-NEWS Friday April 7, 1972 Morgantown W. Va
- Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji? edited by Charles Cameron © Bantam Books, 1973
- Elan Vital magazine 1980, Volume 4 Issue 3
- Divine Times magazine 25th Anniversary Issue, 1996
- A Youtube video of this speech downloaded on 1st October 2009