When encountering others premies use "informal" meditation to generate a specific interactive mode they call "satsang." Through this mode they continually help one another reawaken to the meditative state. A primary characteristic of Mission social life, "satsang" has impressed outsiders as nonstop dogmatism:
Weird premies unable to discuss anything but the party line, no matter what turn the conversation takes. (Greenfield, 1975, p. 81-2)
You discuss nothing that isn't directly related to the "Knowledge." You are censured if you discuss any topics of the world. [Quote from a disaffected premie] (Marin, 1979, p. 43)
But "satsang" has also impressed outsiders as a feeling, a mood, perhaps a charged-up or at least novel sort of atmosphere:
Yet if you get talking to these kids, you realize that there's definitely something going on here, they're all spaced … no … blissed out, the word they use. It's like they're all on some new kind of dope. (Greenfield, 1975, p. 68)
And many premies remember that "satsang" - not the meditation, the Guru, the theories and the promises - but the atmosphere of "satsang" first hinted of new awarenesses:
I was very amazed by the people. I could relate to them as I did to my closest friends. I could feel a complete openness from them. Their eyes didn't have dark shades rolled down over them, so that no-one could see what they had inside. (Cameron interview notes)
It was just a big blanket of light, just really nice and everybody felt really comfortable. Incredible. (Cameron interview notes)
"Satsang," like meditation, implies to premies both an experience and a specific practice, Successful practice reaps experience.
The "experience" of "satsang" resembles meditation "experience" in that premies feel the Guru's "vibrational" presence within themselves. But they also feel it in and between one another and then within themselves more vividly, as if communication or sharing of the "vibration" somehow intensifies its energy, clarifies its presence. Something special happens in "satsang;" the "reality" of "GMJ's world" manifests more obviously; his presence reveals itself more intimately; he is there. Jesus, premies feel, had to be describing "satsang" when he said, "When two or more of you are gathered in my Name, then I shall be there among you." 1
As with meditation, premies "practice satsang." They schedule nightly gatherings of "formal satsang" where individuals testimonialize before the group, and they practice "informal satsang" by trying to bring the Guru's "vibrational" presence and a deep, numinous meaning to their everyday casual encounters. They aim thus to sacralize or make holy their day-to-day human world, to make their social reality a vehicle of religious experience. Any human interaction, then, presents the opportunity and even the obligation to "practice satsang." For to forget "satsang," to abandon meditation, one loses not only the awareness of the religious reality but even the possibility of that awareness. Further, one loses these not only for oneself but also for and with others, so that together premies find themselves standing against or without their very purpose. So they encourage one another to "practice satsang;" they make "satsang" their norm, their statement that the meaning of their life together flows only from their shared satsang "experience."
THE PRACTICE: LISTENING
Developing a love for listening to satsang and giving satsang is an art. And, like any art, the art of satsang needs practice. It means constant effort. … Being in satsang … should be a consciousness that grows within us, just as we grow to realize the consciousness behind meditation. ("Life with Knowledge, a Premie Guidebook," 1975, p. 9)
Listening is central to the practice of both "formal" and "informal satsang;" perhaps listening is the practice, for one even speaks, in a way, by listening. In GMJ's commandment, "Never delay in attending satsang"2 premies understand "attend" in two ways: 1) "be physically present" or "go to the satsang program" and 2) "be attentive," "be there fully," "listen." In the second sense the commandment implies "never hesitate to listen completely concentratedly; drop other pre- occupations." "How can you listen to satsang," an initiator once said, "when you're wondering what to say when it's your turn to speak?" (sat- sang notes)
Ordinary listening, according to premies, sees only on the surface; but "satsang" listening sees despite or through the speaker and his reputation, looks, voice, sincerity, and words, and despite or through the literal or symbolic meaning of the words, their flow, their sound, their allusions. One cannot listen properly, premies say, if one is not meditating because meditative perception revals that inner "thing inside" in the speaker. One must be inside one's own breath in order to enter inside the speaker's breath.
Listening through meditation means letting "that place/GMJ" within oneself, within one's breath, do the listening. And "that place/GMJ" does not listen, like the "mind," by stepping out and probing around in the speaker, investigating, picking and choosing for something. That place/GMJ" receives and absorbs the fullness of the speaker. It intently
accepts his clothes, his shape, his posture, his expressions, his eyes, his tone of voice - everything evenly, as part of one harmonious whole. No aspect stands out separate, one cares about nothing, one merely receives:
To really listen to satsang, to really hear and experience it, we must be open, humble, and attentive - to let satsang calm our minds and envelop our hearts. ("Life with Knowledge: a Premie Guidebook," p. 9)
Breath-guided concentration draws everything into "that place/GMJ" within oneself. And yet through this drawing in, this absorbing, this accepting, this receiving, something does probe in a way, something does insist. For one wants to receive everything, even that which is hidden. Behind the speaker's face one finds his expressions; behind his expressions his eyes; behind his eyes his feeling; behind his feeling his energy; behind his energy his very being from which the energy, the feeling, the eyes, the expressions and the face came, the thing which makes him tick. As one premie expressed it, "I'm meeting the soul of other persons." And this is what premies want to see.
More than just seeing, "satsang" is communication, for premies say that "satsang" in Sanskrit means "company of truth," or "holy company." The "company" is other premies, specifically the "truth" or "holiness" of Knowledge which appears when one fully receives them. "Company" is also oneself with others; listener uniting with speaker:
I feel that every person I meet has that same center, and the only thing I try to do when I meet someone new is try to make a connection with that center. (interview notes)
"Satsang happens" for the listener when "that place/GMJ" within oneself merges with "that place/GMJ" within the speaker, creating an unbroken circuit between them, a fusing of energy and experience, and "Beyond all the different stories and examples, you begin to feel that experience
the person is speaking from." (interview notes) At this point, premies say, the speaker has become a "channel" for GMJ. Eventually both lose themselves in the ecstatic stillness of "GMJ's presence." During an initiator training program, during which candidates attended "satsang" all day long every day,
Guru Maharaj Ji 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. ("Light Reading," 4/77, p. 13)
"Getting Beyond" the Social Situation
Such ecstacy hardly comes easily. "Formal satsang" "happens" in the evening gathering of premies in a Mission center or rented hall. They straggle in from work in the 20th century "world," their minds racing with paychecks, appointments, arguments, traffic jams, dinner. To experience the "vibration" of "satsang" a premie must settle his "mind" and concentrate exactly as in "formal meditation." But, unlike "formal meditation," now he must settle it in the midst of a gatheirng which continually engages it and compels it toward involvement in an ongoing drama. He must "get beyond" the situtation without leaving it, find within its turmoil the center where the "vibration" of GMJ dwells. Sepcifically, a premie must "get beyond" first, the social occasion of satsang; second, the personality and person of the speaker; and third, the speaker's words. 3
Social and religious life coincide at the "formal" evening "satsang" and intertwine, but a premie does not try to separate them by transcending the social and entering into the religious situation. Rather, he must transcend or "get beyond" both, for both distract him.
Getting Beyond Social Life: For an active premie the premie community - a family-like, semi-closed group of people who see or hear about each other daily - often constitutes nearly his entire social life. 4 Many community members live together in ashrams or "premie houses;" 5 further, they move around so much between these houses that after awhile it seems everyone has lived with everyone else. As the same people work, argue, relax, play, and practice "Knowledge" together, very intense and complex relationships develop.
When a premie arrives at "satsang" after a day apart he wants to see his friends, shun his non-friends, deliver messages, discuss organizational matters. But he also wants to experience "satsang," which requires ignoring everyone and saving his eyes only for the Guru's invisible "vibration presence. Others help him by keeping their gaze riveted on the speaker, greeting him if at all with a quick grin, refusing to socialize. He settles himself unobtrusively amongst the listeners, perhaps bowing his head to the floor in the direction of the altar, 6 and waits for that human communication which will come only when he watches for that spark in the speaker which will unite him, through the speaker's inner presence, to everyone there.
A premie may, however, find someone willing to "space out" - whisper and exchange glances, never trying to concentrate. But "spacing out" in "satsang" not only prevents the "experience;" it is bad form. Others notice and one's reputation suffers (unless one takes part in a faction which tries to make its point by challenging authority and piety in "satsang.") Prestigious opportunities, responsibilites and friendships will elude one's reach. One may meditate all one likes, but only proper attendance at "satsang" will publicize one's devotional stance. And "good premies" require this stance of one another. 7
The lures of prestige and reputation, then, tempt a premie to make sure he appears to be listening properly. He will deliberately refuse to turn his head when someone coughs, snickers, or leaves the room. He might wear a glowing half-smile, even letting loose an overly devoted sigh or muttering "Oh Maharaj Ji" every so often. Perhaps he secretly peeks around to make sure others are paying proper attention and to make sure they notice his proper attention.
But all this distracts him as much as the simple desire to socialize. Effective "satsang" practice demands that he "get beyond" himself as "good premie," himself as "bad premie" as well as himself as friend
or himself as non-friend. He must "go beyond" being someone who listens, he must not be seeing or experiencing himself listening; listening must take him over completely.
For this to happen he has to blind himself to premie social life; he has to know a way to enter that room and just see the people, just see the room, just see the ground of stillness. He achieves this blindness by watching his "mind" as it imposes goodness and badness, highness and lowness on people; his "mind" as it remembers insults and others' opinions and as it imagines what others will or ought to do. If he can watch his "mind's" conjurings keenly enough he can catch its inconsistencies - its seeing another as happy, threatening, bland, all in one moment. He can catch the darting, disconnected, haphazardness of his "mind's" conjurings which cannot sustain a smooth impression. And eventually he can glimpse moments of non-conjured silence between the "mind's" dartings, when his own attitudes disappear.
He gradually realizes that his "mind" tends to obscure these moments of silence by making sense, by make-shiftingly connecting one
conjuring meaningfully to the next. The making-sense comes from taking the conjuring seriously, or "holding onto" it, and "reacting" to it with another conjuring, until each part of the nonsensical inner dialogue appears importantly "real," "really" peopled by himself and others. If he can break in at any point upon this "reality" and catch himself making himself "real" within it by "holding onto" or "reacting" to particular conjurings, or catch their disconnectedness or the tiny silences between them, or catch the gross inconsistency between his conjurings about people and their simple presence before him - if he can catch any of these he will spontaneously stop trusting his mind's rambling, stop taking the busily-thinking "self" acting within it for granted, stop seeing the whole frenzied mental world as "real."
When he has broken through his "mind's" conjurings' apparent reality he can become bored with it an come to not see it at all, but see only the empty simplicity of a room full of people and stillness. He still knows the peoples' names, what they have done, what they usually think, how they are apt to treat him, but their mere simple presence seems immediate and novel and overrides his self-consciousness which, with its busy concerns over what these people imply, seems static, out of touch, disjointed and no longer able to fascinate. In such a blindness nothing social engages him into involvement and he becomes free to step from trying to listen undistractedly into being only listening.
* * * * *
To bypass the difficulties of "satsang" as a social situation, premies sometimes try to "trick the mind" by setting "formal satsang"
apart from daily life. One accustoms oneself to "letting go" on schedule, stepping back from habitual social entanglements the moment one steps into the "satsang" hall. This special scheduled time becomes a time out of time where one knows one can safely let oneself be transformed and release others into their transformation:
I love to watch my husband give satsang, because I see him in a fresh way. It's like he's a different person, he's got this whole other side to him that I'm not used to looking for in our daily life together. (notes)
One convinces oneself that no consequences will arise from merging with others and with "reality," for here time takes a different turn. For once time does not threaten to tear the intimacy of "experience" from one's grasp, leaving only the burdens of anguish and responsibility. "I only feel safe in satsang," a premie once said. "It's the only time I feel free; free of the context." (satsang notes) One is drawn to an inward rather than an onward movement, stepping through the moment further and further into deep stillness, nearer and nearer to that magical center of things.
But a complete setting-off proves difficult because one can hardly forget that the end does come; "satsang" surely will have consequences; one will carry insights and shared delights back into social life. Too precise a clarity gained in "satsang" may, later that evening, reveal the hollowness of one's marriage with its indulgent bickerings, its collusions to skip meditation and watch the late show or use money for a ski trip instead of a donation to the Guru. Or new insight may reveal that one's devoted upward wormings in the Mission bureaucracy are inspired not by love of GMJ but of power. And one does not lightly leave marriage or a high post in American or even premie society
(though by comparison premie commitments seem much looser and more easily broken).
To jump instantly and completely out of oneself-in-society into oneself-completely-merged-in-"satsang" reality, and to let the "power of satsang" alter one's viewpoint forever, one must be jumping finally and for good. And one just does not jump like this flippantly and superficially day after day; rather, one jumps like this only when one is shoved so hard one has to "let go." Something outlandish shakes one's being so hard that oneself-in-society is wrenched from one's clutches and falls clattering to the ground. The experience of "satsang merging" shakes and surprises.
But how can one turn an unchosen shock, which one happens to idealize, into a deliberate practice? As a daily method, one simply can't. The setting aside of "satsang"-time which premies try routinely is not a final but a limited setting-aside, which secretly suspects that after "satsang" one will have to walk back into ordinary life. One manipulates one's perceptions of "reality" just enough to dabble in images of "Guru Maharaj Ji's world," not enough to undercut the non"satsang" world and one's firm foothold within it. This way the end of "satsang"does not threaten, for one can adjust quite easily back to an ordinariness one never quite left. But then of course this not-quiteness produces a not-quite "satsang experience" as well. One shoves one's usual self under the rug, so to speak, imagining and congratulating oneself that one has leaped beyond oneself forever, but sooner or later that usual self slithers out from under the rug and lurks into the background, into entanglements with the lurking usual selves of others. If these usual selves resist such easy thrusting-aside and insist on
obscuring one's "satsang" experience of GMJ's presence and if one really really wants to see that presence and not a counterfeit one must somehow deal with them.
Thus aspects of "satsang" listening must carry over into daily life, just as daily life invades the "satsang" situation. "Satsang" as a social situation, a religious situation, a confrontation with individual speakers and their words - all these are one's daily life condensed, so to speak, and presented in "satsang" as the obstacles of self-transcendence which must be dealt with thoroughly. One "practices" "getting beyond" them in "satsang," but one knows that getting beyond them "for real" will happen only when one has dealt with them outside "satsang" as well.
Getting Beyond Religious Life: A premie must also "get beyond" the religious aspects of the "satsang" situation. The community may give him prestige for attending "satsang," but GMJ will give him enlightenment and salvation. Faulty practice will not only ruin his reputation, it will doom him to the "darkness of illusion, confusion, and delusion." This very notion may tempt a premie to practice "satsang" too self-consciously, knowing all too surely that he is correctly doing what the Guru wants, that his devotion is increasing. Such sureness may produce rigid listening, a clinging to the literal words, an orientation toward only familiar, preconceived dimensions of "experience." He can never "let go." Or perhaps his aim at perfect listening reveals his imperfection and makes him constantly fret over failure and GMJ's wrath.
Either way he will keep his focus on himself performing a practice, himself following or pleasing the Guru, himself performing well or badly: "Why are you looking at yourself in satsang? Wondering
what kind of experience you're having? Just look at Guru Maharaj Ji." (satsang notes.) "Satsang" will remain an object rather than a means, and the Guru will remain an external person rather than an "experience."
To concentrate, a premie must relax and let GMJ entice him out of himself, out of his efforts and aims and into the endless boundlessness of "merging." But to do this he must "let go" of these images only when he can catch the way his "mind" simultaneously creates "himself" and "the Guru," and the gulf between them. He must catch, for example, the moment when he clings onto a clutching sensation coursing through his body instead of letting it pass. He must catch his recognition of the sensation as "fear" or "hate" or whatever, and of the cligning as "fearing" or "hating" "self." At the same time he must catch the simultaneous appearance in his "mind" of the heavy, authoritative opinion that this "fearing" or "hating" "self" ought not or would prefer not to be fearing or hating. And, finally, he must catch his conjuring of this opinion as coming from something vast, final and definite - the inscrutable and omniscient Guru, above and beyond, come into being. If he cannot catch and deflate and see through this conjuring process he will not be able to stop looking at himself in relation to this vast Guru.
The "Guru" he must watch, which can entice him into self-forgetting ecstacy, must not be an imaged "Guru" of his own making; it must be the pulling, alluring, flirting alivenes which can only be sensed, which cannot be held and solidified and thus can only captivate when the fixing of images and sensations stops. To follow this Guru he must not know him, not imagine him, and for this he can only wait.
Resisting "Getting Beyond"the Situation: Then again a premie may "resist" the practice instead of aping it One resists the theory that
"satsang" is indispensible to the spiritual goal, the actuality of listening seriously hour after hour night after night to the monotony of one's community-mates. One could be playing music, reading, walking in the park with a friend. But one has given these up, and anything - movies, parties, classes, hobbies, even TV - that might interfere with commitment to "satsang" every single evening of the year is a taboo "desire." The dedicated premie tries to counter the tendency to second-guess or avoid this sacrifice by reframing the problem: he says to himself that actually this is no sacrifice because only my "resisting mind" sees it as a sacrifice, sees "desires" - the image of friends, hobbies, parties - as more real and full of fun than the image of sitting bored in "satsang." He tries to penetrate his thought-process to the point where he can see that his "resistance" stems from the faulty perception that his desirous imagination is "real," and that the apparent reality of its enticing images has completely blocked off an engrossing way of perceiving the people, the room, the stillness immediately at hand.
If he can do this successfully he will spontaneously forget his "desires" and become fascinated by the "satsang experience" in the immediacy of the present.
In addition to "desires," boredom in "satsang" presents an ongoing problem. An imaginary sore throat lures one's thoughts toward bed and sleep, or the sudden conviction that an important phone call cannot be postponed propels one out of the hall. Anything to avoid just sitting and listening, looking for the Guru where he has promised to reveal his presence. The Premie Guidebook says,
Sometimes we will not "feel like" attending satsang, feeling too tired, or bored, or that we have too many other things to do. This is the time that satsang is most important, because it is just the subtlety of the mind persuading us to stay away from that thing
which inspires us and diminishes the power of the mind in our lives … It is not always necessary to be "inspired"to go to satsang. (p. 10)
Premies deal with boredom - or doubt, irritation, and other distractions - exactly as they deal with "desires." They suggest to themselves that boredom, like "desires," actually "exists" only in one's idea, in one's way of seeing, which when extremely tenacious utterly blankets out awareness that one could see in any other way. The idea of boredom creates boredom in the body - restlessness and fatigue - which reinforces the idea of boredom until it becomes painfully, intensely, overwhelmingly real. One must break into this cycle by close watching until something immediate so entices the attention that one forgets boredom in a trice.
The challenge of "getting beyond" social and religious life recurs nightly. Over-zealous urges and efforts prod one toward a religious slavishness which, proving impossible or dry, promotes frustration, desires, doubt, guilt and finally over-zealousness again. Every night as one patiently tries to settle into a simple watching of the breath and the speaker one must watch and live with these struggles until their "reality" breaks its hold, the breath experience takes over, and absorption frees one beyond oneself into simple listening in a still room. And if absorption does not come one must keep watching in quiet agony.
"Getting Beyond" the Speaker: Though he may "get beyond the social and religious situation still a premie must listen to a person, a person with multi-leveled implications which constantly agitate the "mind" and "ego:"
I was sitting there in satsang listening to Mel speak and thinking
that he's always on such a businessman trip, like he's addressing the board meeting instead of giving satsang, and I just can never hear GMJ coming through him. I was judging Mel, considering even the cut of his pants unspiritual. I wondered if GMJ approves or knows or even cares that such bullheads have taken over the Mission. (personal notes)
What method would a premie use to see Mel neutrally and without "reacting," avoiding projections, fantasies, associational entanglements, to see "beyond" Mel's name, pants, officiality, status, gender, his opinion of people like the listener? How does one remove a speaker from social context, in other words, and see him as no longer the person I owe money to, my ex-lover, my best friend, an attractive or cruel face, but see just his essence, as "GMJ's pure channel?" In premie terms, how does one "get beyond" "having concepts about someone?"
Premies try numerous strategies, like tricking themselves out of a set, dead, habitual view of the speaker with a conscious and deliberate perceptual shift into the moment. Sometimes one might watch literally from a new angle, sitting in a different place so that an unfamiliar profile will break one's habitual impressions of the speaker. Or one might stare at a tiny portion of the face or consciously notice and even try to love the gentle movement of breath in the speaker's shoulders and chest. Or one concencentrates so furiously on one's own breath and begs so intensely to GMJ that one hardly sees the speaker's surface. Premies especially enjoy "satsang" from outside visitors, for the automatic de-familiarization dispels the potential distraction of "concepts." Perhaps this accounts for the effectiveness of initiators, who travel continually and never spend long in one community.
This deliberate switch of focus tries, through technical means, to cause the spontaneous awakening from ordinary to meditative perception. One witches as if one were already seeing meditatively, on
another level. One brushes aside the ordinariness one cannot help but still see with the feeling that'even though this appears "real," I really know, or or ought to know, or some part of me really knows, that it is not.' Meanwhile one tries to imitate meditative, non-rubricized seeing by deliberately gazing into the glowingness of skin, the breathing chest, whatever one usually skips over, the gaps in "ordinary" reality where the "reality" of GMJ's presence ought to appear. Then sometimes, if one looks properly, it does.
This does not always work. Premies say that you can't "make it happen." Gazing through the apparent holes of ordinary seeing one may see nothing but a subtler level of ordinary seeing if one is not careful. The apparent holes, after all, are merely one's "concept" of holes, and one's "concept" of what seeing through the holes might be like. Thinking up any odd sensation into a strangeness which substitutes for real strangeness, one convinces oneself that one has already switched to meditative perception. A fixed, self-conscious gaze just at the speaker's eyes, for example, may dispel physical discomfort, boredom, dislike of the speaker, and even lull one into a passive, hazy euphoria.
The mistaken notion that this is "satsang reality" prevents further efforts at meditative listening. Much of "satsang experience" is only this. But everyone stumbles into an extraordinarily precise, lucid, and still "satsang experience" from time to time, often enough that premies know about it, talk about it, want it, and try to get it. Perhaps only this memory can alert one to the fuzziness of euphoric halfway "satsang" listening and awaken one to the clear perception that clarity has yet to appear.
"Getting Beyond" Oneself: The trick of seeing from a new angle,
like the trick of setting "satsang"-time aside as a special time-outof-time, can often work for a time, but really "getting beyond" the speaker usually involves "getting beyond" oneself.
Premies say that GMJ is a perfect mirror; when you look at him really you are seeing yourself. So if you see him as greedy or nasty or stupid actually you are just looking at your own greed and nastiness and stupidity.9 Similarly with the "satsang" speaker, GMJ's "channel." Even if the speaker really is stupid, conceited, power hungry and so on, one's judgemental preoccupations which after all distract the attention from "satsang" indicate that one's "ego" is also "hung up" on these qualities. They bristle with too many implications far too seriously and close to home.
If one decides that one's criticism of or reaction to the speaker comes from one's "ego," then one has to transfer the source of the problem from the speaker to oneself. One must examine the phenomena of criticism and "reaction" as they appear in one's "mind." Often one can do this quite matter-of-factly with a degree of detachment. With time, after all, one gets familiar with certain projections and their associated bodily sensations, just as in "formal meditation" one learns to recognize, disidentify with, and disregard certain types of "thought" as they flash through the mind-body. If a listener can remark to himself, "Oh yes, the power-trip again, I always see people that way when my boss has been giving me trouble at work," then perhaps he can just "drop it" without taking it seriously and return to breath-focused listening. With practice one learns to recognize and catch such a projection even the first moment it appears in the "mind," or in the body as a fidgeting of hands, a nervous shifting of the eyes,a tensing in the
throat and jaws.
Dealing with oneself and one's projections onto the speaker is not always so easy. Often one uncovers one's projection or viewpoint only to be caught in another and then another, and on and on, like Bartholomew who kept taking off his hat to bow to the king only to find that another fancier one had appeared miraculously on his head. For example, one may recognize or awaken from a certain "judgement" of the speaker but be unable to "drop it" or "get beyond it." One sees the source of the "judgement" clearly enough as one's own "mind," but one cannot stop seeing one's "mind" as one's "self:"
I still wasn't open and I remember going down to the satsang hall and it was a great effort to just go in there - I went in there but I was really in my mind and I was just judging everything I saw. (interview notes)
The "judging" goes on and on, all of one's efforts to stop it and listen meditatively rendered powerless. Then one starts to "fry," to feel a lot of pain. The listener cannot deny that he constantly defends and excuses himself, projects his absurdest tendencies onto others, sees in rigid and boring categories just like the conservative middleAmericans he hates, for it is all staring him in the face. Having opened himself to nakedly receive everything from the speaker he now also receives everything from himself, everything he has used to keep out the other person and his words. And he can hardly stand what he now sees in himself - a closed, proud unlovingness jealous of and yet perversely resembling whatever he hates in the speaker: "I couldn't listen to satsang from my brothers and sisters because I couldn't trust them." (interview notes)
The more the listener sees the larger it all looms, but he has to live with it, has to watch in humble dismay his own delight in
snickering at the speaker. Premies often say "satsang" "confronts" a person. One wrote that "satsang" is the "sword of truth." It
Pierces through the defenses of the personality, inspiring love and trust. But this trust is the very thing which begins to elim-inate the support systems of the personality. … Satsang inflicts a heavy blow upon the imperfect systems of the personality and mind. For satsang is perfect. (Crozier, 1974)
At any point the listener can stop "frying" by leaving, falling asleep, or ceasing to watch his mental activity until he takes it for granted completely once again, becomes self-righteous, and continues to dislike the speaker. But otherwise he must now examine "frying" itself; he must watch how dejections and hopelessnesses appear in the mind, how they cause pain and what pain is. But "frying" engulfs him so painfully and so intensely that he may inadvertently get "caught up" in it. Facing the fact that he can't even love his brother, GMJ's premie, his spiritual aspirations and accomplishments begin to evaporate. How can he hope to devote himself, let alone merge with his Guru if anger so engulfs him that he can't even remember "Holy Name" or concentrate in "satsang" as GMJ has commanded? Soon he feels hopelessly far from the "experience," from GMJ. At this point the problem of "getting beyond" the speaker merges with the problem of "getting beyond" the religious situation.
Then he may make the mistake of trying to "do something" about himself right then and there. He jumps into the mental fray, struggles to make his "thoughts" praise and encourage instead of lament and accuse, promises himself to mend his ways. Or he sets about proving to himself that he can improve; he forces himself to see the speaker as beautiful, not so obnoxious after all. And before he realizes it, he has completely left the "satsang" situation for the private world of his
own "mind." His eyes may be looking at the speaker, but he has completely forgotten him and the simple practice of listening to his words.
The Guru's advice cautions premies from "getting caught in the mind" in this way. One may think one is figuring out how the "mind" works in order to avoid its clutches in the future, he suggests, but such information will not help one to escape the "mind," it will only entangle one further, "mind" entrapping "mind" by trying to figure out "mind," trying to escape from "mind." GMJ has said for premies to stop trying to catch their shadows, but to keep facing toward the sun - in other words, just to face toward him and stop fighting with the "mind."
Facing toward GMJ in "satsang" means leaving one's inner turmoil and attending to the speaker in the physical actuality of "satsang." To switch out of the mental struggle one need only recognize it, not understand how it works, not rearrange or manipulate it.10 One just wants to get away that moment by seeing "mind" and "ego" as illusory. Again and again one must redirect the attention to the breath and to the speaker until, though one still "fries," one can watch oneself "fry" and see that "frying" stops during those split seconds when the attention hops into the breath. From experience one knows that if one persists these split-seconds will last longer and assert their quality as more "real" than the frenzied, "frying" "thoughts." The "frying" will gradually lose its grip on one's mood, and the despicable "ego" who "fries" will lose itself in the "satsang experience."
* * * * *
The "self" premies aim to "get beyond" in "satsang" and social situations is the ordinary social self, something like what Mead (1934)
called the "me." For they believe that beneath this social self lies a truer, enduring divine self, felt on some level to be identical in everyone ("like flowers on a garland connected by the thread of "Holy Name"), or even the same entity ("GMJ dwells within the hearts of everyone"). When these divine selves interact a social situation is trans- formed, obstacles to perfect communication melt away, and a qualitatively different level of human interaction comes into being, a complementary, sharing, loving communication which culminates in "merging." Having "experienced" this, ordinary interaction no longer satisfies; it irritates and grates, has no "energy," only "bad vibes."
This interaction of divine selves is what premies aim for in "satsang." When it occurs in "formal satsang," when one has finally concentrated enough to subdue the storms stirred up by the social and religious situation one then settles into an extraordinary perception of the speaker. One listens visually, gazing almost unblinkingly trying to enter into his eyes, into his essence. Open, fascinated, almost entranced by "Holy Name" meditation one sees as if for the first time or within another sort of time:
I was almost perceiving with or thorugh my breath, as if that was the medium of exchange or perception. I was drawing in or drawing on a quality inside the speaker. It felt sweet. At the same time my vision was changing. I was watching his face very intently, mostly his eyes and the way the light played on the planes of his face. What I was actually trying to look at was not exactly the contours and movement of his face, not even the sparkle of his eyes. I was looking for, or at, something that seemed spatially to be either just in frontof or just behind his face, but it was not his face. Something like the quality of the light playing on his face or even within his face. Then when the experience was stronger his face looked like clay, or dead matter, brought to life by this subtle thing. I marveled at how this energy or vitality thing could so thoroughly animate such a dead-looking thing as the features of the human face until that face glowed and shone with it and utterly fascinated me. Then it felt like this vitality thing I was looking at in the speaker had something to do with the energy I was sort of drinking in with my breath, and the more I was with that
energy in the breath, the more I felt connected to the thing that animated the speaker. (personal notes)
The listener's "experience" of the "satsang" speaker is charged with religious meaning far beyond the mere enjoyment of visual distortions reminiscent of psychedelic drug experience. 11 In the "experience" described above, I concluded that I was "seeing" the life-force, or "Holy Name" in action as it vitalized the speaker. More theologically, premies often speak of "experiencing" GMJ "coming through" the speaker. This perception occasionally becomes quite literal:
Sometimes GMJ humbles me quite a lot, like this time when I was listening to this brother give satsang and I was just a little bored. And this sister came up to me afterwards and said, "Did you see that?" And I said, "Did I see what?" And she said that when that one brother got up to give satsang, she saw GMJ walk into the room and up to the front and look at that brother, and just before he began to speak GMJ just sort of merged into him. If I had really been right there paying attention I would have seen GMJ too. (satsang notes)
In a similar vein, a popular "satsang" story around the 1977-78 period involved a child who lived next door to a Mission ashram. One day he asked a premie what they did there every night, and when the premie began to explain, he asked, "Well, what about that guy in the yellow pants and red jacket 12 who comes every time at 7:30?" The premie was "blown away" because he believed that the child's eyes were "pure enough" actually to physically "see" GMJ as he came every evening to satsang. Whether or not this incident every really happened, its popularity attests to the true meaning of "satsang" as an "experience of GMJ's presence."
"Getting Beyond" the Words: "Satsang," like any social situation, involves language, and language intertwines with every other facet of the occasion. A premie listener does not separate off the words from his whole perception of the speaker, just as he does not
separate off just the speaker from his whole perception of the "satsang" situation. The personality of the speaker which "confronts" a struggling listener expresses itself partly through words. The religious situation which one must "get beyond" includes the words, which can make a premie "fry" either by boring or exciting him, by contradicting his opinions or showing him up as a "spaced-out" devotee.
GMJ once described listening to his "satsang" on a tape recorder as "satsang at your leisure" - a cheating, inauthentic sort of "satsang" listening suitable to one's own mood and convenience, a listening devoid of "confrontation," devoid of having to travel to the festival, sit uncomfortably for hours, strain to see around people's heads, squint to see GMJ better, pray to hear every word but hear really his essence so that the physical distance will disappear with a flash of careful looking, loving, offering everything. One can hardly get this effect listening only to taped words.13
"Satsang" is paradoxical because one must "get beyond" words or "concepts" through the medium of words. And premies distrust words:
Words kill the sweetness of silence. Concepts dull reality. Thoughts interrupt the calm surface of peace. …
… we slip very easily from the wonder to the words, and only a faint aftertaste of the wonder is left. … Words, like maps, give us reality at second hand. ("Divine Times," 1/76, p.6)
Since premies want "reality" first hand, they must listen to the words in "satsang" through the words, and on the other hand they also "hear" the words.
"Feeling" "Satsang:" Listening only for the words even in the "satsang" situation misses the point. Initiators, for example, often instruct premies not to listen with closed eyes, not to concentrate only with the ears. "It's not the words," they caution again and again, "it's the vibration." But how does one "listen" for the "vibration?"
When premies say "listen" they also mean "feel," and afterwards they tell each other what they "felt." "Feeling" is like perceiving through an imaginary inner organ which uses ears, eyes, skin, emotional receptiveness, and so forth, to grasp an entire sense of being. Eyes and ears incorrectly used can distract from "feeling," as when one examines too closely the speaker's clothes or starts to argue mentally with his words. When one is really "feeling" "satsang" the eyes may detect a light and glowingness in people and things, the ears may hear the underlying meditational "music" in the room's silence as well as in the speaker's words, the muscles relax and perhaps tingle, the intellect feels lucid and empty, the emotions contented and even, the attention alert, the breath deep and energized with life. But of course the listener will not experience himself divided up like this: all of him - all of his body and all of himself - "feels." If it is not all of him, it is not "feeling."
The listener already "feels" GMJ's "presence" in the room before the speaker even sits in the "satsang chair." The words merely provide a point of concentration. Just as he rivets his seeing to the speaker's face, the listener rivets his hearing to each word as it is pronounced. As foci the face and the words hold the attention still, but in themselves, on the surface, they do not give what one is looking for.
The "meaning" of the words emerges when one has "gotten beyond" the words by "getting beyond" "reacting," boredom, association, "frying," and so forth. The "Vibration" of "satsang," which one already feels within the room and within one's breath, pulls a "meaning" out of the words which expresses that "vibration" according to its moment-
to-moment qualities. The words "mean" something about time's endlessness right at this moment, about the Guru's "love" hovering hereabouts right now. A "tuned-in" speaker, almost regardless of his choice of words, articulates by his "vibration" the "meaning" of the very thing the listener longs to "feel" and already knows within his own breath. One can even disagree with the literal meaning of the words and still "feel" the "satsang" "meaning:"
I went to the satsang at noon - they were just talking about getting into your mind and going out to the deli after satsang, and I didn't even want to hear it, because I was feeling so high on Holy Name, and yet I liked it, because I could feel the vibration of satsang there. (satsang notes)
Premies "experience" "meaning" as coming from communication, not communication coming from "meaning." In an article drafted for a Mission publication (but never published), one premie wrote:
Where does the meaning of a word lie within our collective experience? … We share the same language; we seem to know what each other means by the words we exchange; and we nod our heads yes, I see, I agree, right on; or no, I don't see, I disagree. Do we all share the same experience? Where does the meaning lie?
Is there any end to trying to trace the meaning of a word through words and through our experience? … The only end there is is the end that comes to an individual's mind when that mind is completely satisfied… . Satisfied that we understand each other's meaning, that we dig each other, that we are living in the same universe, understanding the meaning of our beinghere, experiencing the same world - satisfied that we are communicating.
The ultimate "meaning" of "satsang" regardless of which words are spoken, is "love:"
When we are communicating, we know it; we experience it; we feel it. When we really love someone, we don't look for an intellectual proof of our friendship. The people at Woodstock didn't need a theory to explain to each other that they were communicating, and how and why. They were simply One. And this was a spiritual knowledge. A knowledge beyond concepts … Love was the medium in which Woodstock took place. That's why it blew everybody's minds. 14
If the listener listens with and for "love," then, and the
speaker "says it with love," then the "satsang experience" will emerge. More than anyone else, GMJ himself "manifests" the "meaning" of "love" to premies while addressing the most mundane and unspiritual topics, much to the delight and disdain of carping journalists:
In his opening remarks alone, cars appear at least eight times, in a goofy juxtaposition to the fairy tales:
"I am talking about one thing - a car has four tires, and a car runs on four tires. And I can see that car runnin' on four tires. There are cars also run [sic] on three tires, of course… But I am talkin' about a car that's right there, it's on four wheels - not five, not six. There is a fifth wheel, but the car is not running on it, it's in the trunk. So there is a basic fact that I have understood …" (Kelley, 1974, p. 42)
Nevertheless, satsang does involve words, and premies as well as journalists listen to them and categorize them as "satsang" or not.
"Hearing Satsang:" "Hearing satsang" implies hearing and understanding every word clearly, not "spacing out" by half-listening. Paradoxically, one knows one is "getting beyond" the words when one has stopped "tuning out," daydreaming, or arguing, agreeing with, commenting upon the words to oneself and when one has settled into attentive concentration on the words' literal meaning. If one has acheived this and still cannot "feel satsang," then the fault lies in the speaker's choice of topic or style of delivery.
GMJ has suggested that topics like devotion, Knowledge, and Guru Maharaj Ji are proper for "satsang," and that others are not. Haggling over the price of a stereo, he has said, is not "having satsang." But incorrect delivery of even apparently suitable words - religious topics, spiritual terms, even Mission jargon - also misses the point of "giving satsang:"
How real or unreal is this world? There's an unreal way to answer the question, and there's a real way to answer it. Unreally, we can refer back to some theory, a dogma, philosophy, or creed. Indian philosophy suggests this world is a dream. Or, Christianity
emphasizes the realness of this world. Either way, we are looking on the map to find our answers, we aren't looking at "the real thing." So the real way to answer this question is to experience the answer, and then to put it into words. ("Divine Times," 1/76 p. 6)
Typical "satsang" style does not, like a speech, build points one upon the other to a concluding climax. On the level of ordinary meaning one train of "satsang" thought meanders free-associationally into the next, strewing non-sequitors as it goes. The words try always to point into the "experience," connecting to one another as the people in "satsang" connect to one another, by each connecting into the pervading "vibration" instead of directly to each other. Schwartz (1977), who analysed texts of two spoken "satsangs" recorded in typical "satsang" settings, found "a high frequency of the use of the conjunction 'and' to relate independent clauses, as well as the use of 'so' as a means of indicating transition." (1977, p. 55)
Talk which connects in sense and in logic but not in "experience" premies label "non-satsang." "Non-satsang" flies off tangentially to follow a pre-determined point to its reasonable conclusion, following logic-meaning at just the point where "experience"-meaning would be curving back into the ongoing immediacy of the breath and "reality" to which a "satsang" listener orients. Thus to one craving "satsang," "non-satsang" makes its own points but seems always to be missing the point, haphazardly touching the "experience" now and again instead of zeroing in on it, distracting the attention into one well-reasoned irrelevance after another. "Non-satsang" fragments the premie listener, pulling the thoughts into ongoing inner dialogue, the chest into the pushings and pullings of disconnected emotional spurts. No "energy" flows from "non-satsang;" it tires premies and gives them headaches.
The zeroing in on "experience" in "satsang" is achieved by two characteristics Schwartz noted as repetitiveness and implicitness. Even premies admit, often jokingly, that
Satsang is the same thing, the same words, over and over and over. Nobody ever says anything new. But we never get tired of it; the epxerience is always new. (satsang notes)
Schwartz notes the "continuing repetition of key words and phrases," and especially words which imply something special in premie language. He quotes several examples:
"It's like breathing the air we breathe, it's like breathing the air we breathe …"
"… and uh I would uh twenty-four hours a day think, think, think, and think and think."
… "I don't know why they call it Knowledge. I don't know why it's called Knowledge …"
"Knowledge requires practice; it requires a steady practice, a daily practice, a practice in meditation, a practice in - real meditation …" (Schwartz, 1977, p. 55)
"Breathe" and "think" have special meaningful implications for premies, as do "Knowledge," "practice," and "meditation."
Especially meaningful words like these seem to fall into two overlapping categores: those having to do with "Guru Maharaj Ji" and "the experience," and those having to do with the "practice of Knowledge." Words having to do with GMJ include those referring to his person, like "him" and "he," "darshan," "his feet" or "the lotus feet," extending to his family members 15 and even to his possessions - his "crown," "mala," 16 "Lambourghini," "helicopter," "airplane," the "residence." The same numinous power comes from references to the Guru's attributes, his "humility," "mercy," "caring," and his "power," "grace," and especially his "love," which "manifest" alike from his person and from the formless Guru, "Holy Name," the "superior power," "that thing," "reality," the "experience," even "Lord," or "God."
Whether they refer to the human or to the formless GMJ these
words carry the symbolic power of summoning up the "experience" of GMJ's "presence" in the "satsang" situation. When premies talk about GMJ, in other words, it is not long before they start to "feel" him, and perhaps this is why they talk about him so much, repeating the same words, descriptions and stories over and over and over. "Darshan" stories begin to feel like actual "darshan."
Premies also tend to repeat words having to do with the "practice of Knowledge," words like "devotion," "surrender," "concentration," "effort," "sincerity," "clarity," words for undesirables like "mind," "ego," "thought," "concepts," "spacing out." They repeat especially the phrase "satsang, service, and meditation," which refers to the three major practices expected of all premies, a theme GMJ himself also emphasizes repeatedly. Called "heavy satsang," these themes tend not to summon the "experience" of GMJ's "presence," but to "confront" the "ego" of the listener. Their use is controversial, and a speaker dwelling on them in an especially preachy style can be accused of "laying trips" on the listeners. GMJ, initiators, and Mission leaders tend to get away with these themes more easily than others; more lowly premies tend to excuse excessively preachy tirades by saying, "Of course I need to hear this more than anyone else, this satsang is really for me." Just as words referring to GMJ recall the "experience" of his transcendent beauty, so words referring to the duties of practice remind one of the imperfections and limitations of the listener. Premies seem to require both, to keep themselve from developing a deluded exaggeration of their own spiritual powers, to keep vivid the contrast between the "experience" of the transcendent Guru and the struggling limitations of a "self" which is not yet "pure." They feel, in fact, that "heavy satsang" "purifies." Early in the week of a nine-day festival in Orlando,
Florida in 1979, GMJ delivered an especially "heavy satsang" which roasted the premies over the coals, calling them unworthy, discouraging everyone. Rumor has it that a hundred premies actually left the festival that night in dispair. But the rest felt humbled, more open to receive the "love" which GMJ poured out in subsequent lighthearted, devotional "beautiful satsang." After the festival, the video of that one "heavy satsang" was the most popular and the most frequently requested.
This same theme of contrast between the divine and the ordinary, the "unpurified" self, emerges in an oft-repeated motif Schwartz calls the "conversion sequence," the story of "how I came to Knowledge," or the recounting of a momentary "space-out" and reconversion, which references all time "with respect to this central event: time before and time after." (1977, p. 56)
Space and social life are dichotomized as well by disparaging other groups and pre-Knowledge sorts of activities:
"… the other groups … They're so spaced out, they're so - they so - they're really hooked on mind …"
"But then drugs, sex, sleeping late, waking up late - all of these are related. It's like a chain." (Schwartz, 1977, 61,62)
Premies' bosses, families, and non-premie friends (or former friends) come under frequent fire in "satsang," often followed by lavish praise for one's premie community and the devotional lifestyle. This, as with "heavy satsang," which eventually culminates in GMJ-related "satsang" inspiring an "experience," "conversion sequence" and other comparisons of the premie and non-premie worlds, shows the divine arising in shining contract to the "worldly."
Besides repetitiveness, Schwartz shows implicitness to be another characteristic of "satsang." He refers, for example, to the "unreferenced"
use of the pronoun 'it' in such a way that its linguistic referent can only be discovered by means of a contextual analysis" as well as the "frequent use of 'you' and 'they' for the purpose of stating generalizations." (1977, p. 58) This, according to the theory of Basil Bernstein (1971) indicates a "public language" or a "restricted code:"
"The speech is played out against a background of communal, self-consciously held interests which removes the need to verbalize subjective intent and make it explicit. The meanings will be condensed … The major function of this code is to reinforce the form of the social relationship (a warm and inclusive relationship) by restricting the verbal signalling of individuated response…" (Bernstein, 1971, pp. 77-8 cited by Schwartz, 1977, p. 20)
Though the testimonials are from individuals, Schwartz suggests, "the so-called 'individual' experiences being related have in reality become group property by being cast in the testimonial form. The 'I' being described in the testimonial is also, and in more than an incidental way, a 'we'." (1977, p. 104)
For the listener this implicitness or the "we" character of spoken "satsang" allows for what he senses as an intimate, almost mysterious level of communication between himself and the speaker or between himself and GMJ via the speaker. If he is truly "begging" GMJ for "satsang," then he is "pulling satsang out of the speaker," appealing to him with his eyes, his "love," every ounce of his concentration. When the favorite words begin to be repeated and the meandering style emerges the words become numinous and the "experience" appears. Then again a listener may be bothered by something in particular. He goes to
"satsang" with his "head full of questions and doubts" but if he listens properly "GMJ will answer them all." Sometimes "GMJ answers" by so inspiring the listeners with the speaker's "darshan" stories and descriptions of the "beautiful" "experience" of "reality" that he forgets about
his doubts and problems. Other times, however, the speaker happens quite deliberately to address those very problems, not only general concerns such as "how can I become more devoted?" but often quite specific questions such as "should I quit my job?" or "what do I do now that my car has blown up?" One could almost say that the effectiveness of a "satsang" speaker is measured by the extent to which his "satsang" seems to answer such specific questions. 17
An experiment during the 1976 period seemed to confirm that the "implicit" style and specific repeated words have an effect in "satsang" that premies want and need. This was a time of rampant questioning and restructuring when the ashrams emptied and the organization seemed about to fold. One premie wrote:
There is no party line. No more Rap #47. The Divine Light Mission of dogma is crumbling inside and out. …
… we see our task as a newsletter staff as both taking the pulse of the community and also lovingly and creatively sticking a needle in its collective butt. (Atlanta Community Newsletter, fall, 1976, p. 2)
In communities all over the country premies met in encounter-style "workshops" to express "where we're at and collectively discuss issues and aspects of our lives with Knowledge."18 One of these issues was the language of "satsang." In one workshop I attended we went around the room listing expressions we felt we heard too much in "satsang" - drug-related jargon, vague referents like "it," superlatives and hyper-superlatives, and the ever-present "you know" which most premies sprinkled quite liberally through their delivery of "satsang." We also listed premie argot which was alleged to mystify us and confuse outsiders. Someone later compiled a list of the words mentioned in many workshops and distributed it in hopes these words would be shunned in the future:
propagate or spread Knowledge (vs. educational process, process of self-discovery, etc.)
non-premie (vs. person)
receive Knowledge (vs. initiation)
premie (vs. human being)
Divine Light Mission
devotee (vs. dedicated individual)
Master/Guru (vs. teacher, guide)
Holy Name (vs. vibration)
satsang (vs. discussion, talk, real communication)
agya (vs. direction, guidance)
Free of its old style and cliches, the new "satsang" promised to be "real," to speak ordinary language and deal with immediate life problems, to be "relevant" to contemporary life. But premies soon lost interest and "satsang" attendance waned.20
This reformed "satsang" no longer compelled, confronted or allowed one to "let go" into the "experience." Premies later criticized it for lacking "devotion" or being too "intellectual." After a series of impromptu festivals in the early 1977 period when GMJ began wearing his "Krishna outfit" more frequently, premies started signing up once again to move into the ashram and "satsang" soon resumed its devotional character, premie argot and all, with the 1976 "space-out" period now receiving the disparaging remarks formerly reserved for pre-Knowledge life and the non-premie "world."
THE PRACTICE: SPEAKING
Giving satsang, as well as listening to it, is also vitally important as we experience that energy being expressed through our selves. ("Life with Knowledge, A Premie Guidebook," p. 10)
The "right words" - the divinity of "Guru Maharaj Ji's world"
and the efforts premies must make to escape the ordinary "world" - these themes delivered in the familiar, repetitive "satsang" style help give concentrated listeners their "experience." But how does a speaker speak the "right words?"
He must begin by waiting, listening and meditating so that he might be "in the right place," "tuned into GMJ" even before he begins to speak. This involves "getting beyond" the social situation, the fact that giving "good satsang" enhances one's status and being chosen to give "satsang" reflects it. After one speaker finishes, the "satsang monitor" 21 chooses the next speaker both religiously and pragmatically, on the one hand waiting for the feeling that GMJ is choosing some person "through him," and on the other hand wanting to call on a "good speaker" to please those who have appointed him "monitor." 22 The waiting listener who rarely gets called to speak may secretly wonder why he is failing both GMJ and the Mission officials, while the listener who knows he is a popular speaker may be eagerly trying to catch the monitor's eye, his mind racing with the devotion he yearns to pour forth in front of everyone.
Once chosen, the speaker has only a few moments to clear his mind of all this. He slowly prostrates toward the altar in a gesture of surrender and then, while the others quietly gaze at GMJ's picture or close their eyes in meditation, he makes his way unhurriedly to a chair beside the altar. 23 He sits, closes his eyes, and meditates for a few token seconds or as long as several minutes. If he is lucky something about the room's special silence pulls him quickly into meditation without the usual struggles. Premies remark about the intensely peaceful "vibration" of this moment; some say this is when they "experience" their best meditation.
The speaker's eyes finally open to a roomful of intent, glowing faces with huge, mellow eyes which seem to expect nothing, seem already to behold what they are looking for. They startle him out of anticipation, out of himself, lure him further into the stillness of the room, into meditative awe, into the breath. He relaxes, sometimes to the point where he almost forgets about speaking and just gazes back at the others, "I am beginning to feel like it's home sweet home sitting on this satsang chair." ("Golden Age," February, 1977) Or perhaps he just starts giggling and laughing, and then everyone starts laughing. The "satsang chair" feels warm and suggests the presence of GMJ.
To speak, he simply waits and listens. He waits until the silence and the presence within the silence slows down his "mind," until his own thoughts and ideas stop pestering urgently to be spoken; until he can recognize them clearly as "thoughts;" until he can disregard them, until he can "get out of the way." He waits for the breath.
If he is truly poised within the breath's stream and if he has really "gotten out of the way" then he can beggingly listen along with the other listeners, for "Guru Maharaj Ji's words:"
Every time I have this opportunity to share satsang, I really never plan anything. I never really know exactly what's going to happen. But I just say, always before I speak, before I give satsang, inside I just say "Guru Maharaj Ji it's all Yours, it's all Yours." ("Humdinger," SF Community Newsletter, 9/77)
He listens for GMJ to speak "his words" through the "channel" of his own voice.
When "satsang is really happening," or "satsang is flowing," one speaks spontaneously, un-self-consciously, with a joyous sense of peace, of release: "You open up your mouth and your heart sings." One feels comfortable, alert, as if one had become one with the room's
brilliant silence. One talks about this silence, plays with it, caresses it and lets it caress, attunes to and within it. One's whole being feels pinpointed into speaking. One is giving everything, and yet in that giving one disappears and the Guru becomes the giver so that one receives as well: "It's incredible when you can feel sincerity come through, when you can really feel a love for Maharaj Ji come through." ("Golden Age," 2/77)
Getting Out of the Way: Sometimes "getting out of the way" to become "GMJ's channel" may not happen quite so easily. As with listening, the speaking of "satsang" can suffer from improper "surrender." One may wait and wait but one's "mind" will not "shut up," one's "ego" will not let "GMJ flow through." GMJ has said that giving "satsang" is like a car that coughs and splutters when it is cold and only gradually warms up to run smoothly. Premies sometimes say the speaker is like a drain pipe whose first response to the flow of pure water is a gushing of rust, dirt, and rotten leaves. Only when all the grime has washed out does the water flow out pure as it flowed in. But if this washing- out takes months and months or years and years one must in the mean time speak utterly self-conscious and unspired in front of everyone, listening, instead of to GMJ, to the "shit" flowing from one's own "mind." And noone wants to hear it:
When people start communicating the difficulties they're having in Knowledge, 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 the Knowledge, they sing the praises of the trials. … Satsang is something else. Satsang is a pure experience that lifts us into the faith and trust in GMJ and a determined effort in Knowledge.
GMJ said to the Initiators, "Don't give satsang unless you're having that experience in your heart." ("Light Reading, 4/77. p.3)
But how does one get "that experience in your heart" when one must deal
with a "mind" and "ego" which must now perform on the spot, its "reality" continually sustained by the real-life interaction at hand, but its status and reputation continually threatened.
A premie tries to "get beyond" his own personality as it intertwines with others in the "satsang" speaking situation by trying to "disappear." "Please, please, please GMJ," premies often beg aloud to their Guru as they begin to speak, "let me disappear completely, let it be you that speaks, not me." Instead of scrambling around like an ordinary speaker for what seems an acceptable front to present, the premie speaker must scramble around until he senses the futility of any front at all. The more attractive and convincing the stance he might choose, the more he and others might like it, the worse for his "satsang" because "getting out of the way" is all that much harder. He wants GMJ's "energy" to "shine through" him as the very life of his personality, expressing itself spontaneously through his humor, his sentimentality, his shyness, his articulateness, his fear, his bunglings, however it chooses. Even an "open," "beautiful" stance, if it is a stance, makes the speaker feel as awkward as the most shambling, scattered stance makes an ordinary speaker feel. For he knows his listeners are watching this "fakeness" through all its guises, waiting quietly to see not what he is but what he is not.
When a speaker really feels earnest and sincere he has "gotten beyond" the social situation's temptation to vent grudges, push personal views, put down rival "concepts" or "shine" with guilelessness, intoxication, devotional fervor to manipulate the listeners and garner support. If so, he must now concentrate on the method of speaking " GMJ's words."
Speaking "GMJ's Words:" Premies say that "GMJ's words" come when
the breath attunes to the room's stillness. "GMJ's words" do not disrupt but deepen that stillness because they come from the same "place" both the breath and the room's stillness are coming from, pinpointing the attention into the breath's present moment.
With practice one learns to recognize the way "GMJ's words" appear in the mind. They do not ramble like ordinary "thoughts," stringing chaotically along one generating the next, but appear suddenly, precisely, clearly, authoritatively, with or from a different "energy." One "feels" an ordinary thought as it courses through the body tensing or exciting various muscles and setting them against the next thought's coursings. But "GMJ's words" engage the body differently. They seem to flow effortlessly, firmly and directly from the breath or, more explicitly, from the twinge of "vibrational" excitement within or under the breath which begins at the same time to suffuse through one's whole body.24
Speaking "GMJ's words" feels different from speaking one's own ordinary thoughts. "His" words seem to speak themselves. One need not hear them, consider and formulate them for a split second and then speak them, for their appearance in the mind demands their speaking that very moment. One hardly knows their sense before they are spoken; one only feels a characteristic bursting feeling, as if a bubble were rising spontaneously from the breath, wanting to burst into meaning and into speech at the same moment. One waits, then, more for this bursting feeling from the breath rather than for meaning and qualities of specific words.
One can only let "GMJ's words" burst correctly into speech if one is ready and waiting. A hesitation or rival thought will ruin the timing
and perhaps the word will burst merely into one's thought and not into speech. If one then tries to speak it anyway, one will be speaking it merely in tune with one's rumination on that thought, with one's feeling that it is one's own. Attunement with the breaths moment will be lost; the word will sound stale, inappropriate, forced, imprecisely timed. Having spoken from the wrong moment one is not ready for the next bursting from the breath, and one cannot speak "GMJ's" next words.
Focus on one's own "thoughts" not only distracts the attention so that one cannot "hear GMJ's words," but also impedes one physically. Reading teachers, after all, know that pronouncing the words visibly with one's lips slows silent reading to the pace of speech. Premies
notice that people tend physically to "read" the ongoing rush of their own thoughts: if not muttering to themselves outright, they still "speak" their thoughts within the throat, chest, and mouth, holding the lips still while engaging the breath in hesitant forming and re-forming of half-conscious words. With the speech organs thus preoccupied and the breath's flow chopped up one cannot speak spontaneously. The mouth and throat will be too tense and the breath will be disturbed not only as an organ of speech out of timing but also as that ground to which the premie orients to feel the "vibration." To relax and be ready to speak "GMJ's words," premies do not try consciously to relax their mouths and throats the way singers perhaps do but concentrate instead on stilling their "minds." When the "mind" stills the muscles relax and "satsang just happens."
The "Experience" of Satsang Speaking
Speaking "satsang," one feels sure. The words precisely articulate one's perception of the moment; they authoritatively document the subtle unfoldings of "experience" so that one believes them and the "experience" together. One is not sure, however, of one's "self," for if one tries to divert the words' strength towards one's own intention that strength suddenly eludes one's grasp leaving one hollow and dissembling, quickly spending one's own limited strength defending one's lack. One loses the tread of the words' authoritative "energy" and lapses abruptly into confused silence, embarrassed giggles, or the nervous urge to jump down from the chair at once. The sureness returns when one begins to feel overtaken, pushed out of the way into the role of mere witness to an un-ordinary sense of strength. One must stay firmly in the outpouring words' current of strength, flowing only with their pace, never hesitating, never anticipating, never judging, always present to the depth of the moment at hand and the expression which marks it. One must speak, then, in the way one listens, letting the words say and mean what they will, letting them transcend one's private concerns. One cannot identify them as one's own.
"Satsang words" correctly spoken surprise the speaker. One hears the words not as a rehash of mulled-over thought, but for the first time:
I didn't go home and study what am I gonna say tonight. I just said, "Okay, well, let's see what happens." Because I enjoy it too, whatever comes out, you see. It's interesting. Fascinating. Always fascinating. And we call it satsang. (Satsang recorded 9/77)
One articulates things one was only dimly conscious of knowing, rather like finding oneself speaking a foreign language far more fluently than
Usual, coming out with words one hardly knows one knew. A novel feeling may invade, turning intended humor into a devotional outpouring, stern moralizing into humor or very intimate revelation, launching one into poetry or into incisive analysis. "How strange for me to be saying this," the speaker will often muse in mid-sentence.
The "experience" of "energy" also surprises the speaker. One feels as if the Guru is pouring "love," "devotion," and joy through one's being, letting it flow out again as "satsang." Often this "love" appears physically as the same pervasive tingling or upsurging energy which comes in meditation. Sometimes this "energy" surges so strongly one trembles slightly, not quite knowing what to do. One feels that unless one speaks one will burst:
I had taken a vow of silence, 25 then I met GMJ and received Knowledge, but I still didn't talk very much. I started meditating on Knowledge and something was just building up and building up, but I'd never spoken about it. I did a lot of meditation. And just one night during satsang someone else was speaking, but it was just uncontrollable. It was just exploding, and I just said, "OH!" This thing came out, like this energy was exploding inside. This guy was speaking, and everyone turned around and looked at me, and I was just sweating. My whole - just like a rocket that's about to take off. I just let out a groan, all I could get out was, "It's perfect!" I couldn't say anything more. It was just that energy was just going wild. Everyone looked and there was this silence and and someone else went on. But it was just something there. It was so beautiful. (Satsang recorded 9/77)
"Letting go" to the "energy" never results in the involuntary motor movements characteristic of possession trance. 26 Premies sometimes laugh or cry giving "satsang," but they never jerk, twitch, roll their eyes, froth at the mouth, or jump about. Nor do they speak in intonations or accents different from their own, as in spiritualistic "trans-lecturing," nor mutter incoherently as in "speaking in tongues." 27 A premie may say he feels "high," "in love," or even "ripped" or "smashed" while he gives "satsang," but he is cold sober in the sense of being
fully aware and in possession of all his faculties.
One wants to "experience" the "energy" while giving "satsang" but keep it concentrated and under control. Paradoxically, one keeps if from "scattering" by "letting it go," "not holding onto it," "letting it flow through" one so as not to be eaten up or "frazzled" by it. Most speakers appear self-controlled and speak quietly. The "energy" must serve to concentrate, bursting out just enough to reveal itself and the point from which it comes, but honed to a fine point, adding clarity, depth, exactness, and intensity:
The service offered by the mind to the Master is that of surrendering into the communion, of acting as a clear and precise reflection of the higher consciousness, as an effective channel for the transmission of the Truth. The communication can then be as clearly formulated as formal poesy, as precise and exact as light. The key to the clear and effective presentation of satsang is the peaceful centering within meditation, and being without preconception. The key is to trust the reality of the communion of the Knowledge which lies within the spontaneous and ever-creative expression of the WORD. (Crozier, 1974)
When one has really "let GMJ flow through" while giving "satsang," one returns to one's seat all vitalized and aglow with the "energy," scarcely knowing how long one talked or what one said. 28 Rehashing it in one's head afterward when one should be listening to the next few peoples' "satsang" is a sure sign only one's "ego," not GMJ really care through. "Real satsang" will leave one's mind blank, clear, and relieved, and one's "ego" unselfconscious. One will expect few comments from others, and rarely will they come.
The "experience" of giving "satsang" overwhelms the speaker with GMJ's "energy," "power," and "love," and at the same time points poignantly to the inadequacy of language to express the inexpressible and of oneself to perform as a perfectly "pure channel." GMJ frequently quotes an Indian saint as saying that "if all the world's oceans were
ink and all the trees pens, I could still not begin to praise You." Or as one premie poet put it:
White clouds rain joy
Upon the eager leaves.
Extended to receive
The precious water-seed
Fair of Word to greet
Each God-sent taste of love.
For me to tell you
How I feel,
I'd have to steal
The lyrics of their song.
What tongue could be so free?
What life, so long? 29
NOTES TO CHAPTER V
1) Any place "Name" or "word" appears in religious scriptures, premies take it at face value that the writer was referring to the same breath-sensation premies call Holy Name. And if the writer or someone who interprets the scripture talks about the Name as a particular pronounceable name, like "Allah" or "Hare Krishna," or a mantra, they think of that person as misguided, because they didn't really understand what the true, unpronounceable Name of God really is.
2) GMJ's four other "commandments" are: 1) Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today; 2) Constantly meditate and remember Holy Name; 3) Never leave room for doubt in your mind; 4) Always have faith in God.
3) These are analytic distinctions. Premies, who must deal with these three levels of distraction all at once, do not distinguish between them, except to remark that tape-recorded or written satsang, even of GMJ, can never hope to approach the "experience" of listening in a live satsang situation.
Most analyses of "satsang" have focused disproportionately on the words and their effects; Saliba (1980) and Schwartz (1977) abandon the situation altogether in favor of taped interviews. But satsang does not take place in a vacuum; it is a form of social interaction where participants who generally know one another well play specific parts, the listeners as well as the speakers.
4) Headquarter communities - Denver during 1973-78 and Miami since 1978 - boast hundreds of premies, perhaps over a thousand; New York and Los Angeles communities have also been quite large. Most premie communities, however, have about 20-100 "regulars."
5) A "premie house" is a dwelling where premies live communally but independently of the Mission. They take no vows, usually they share expenses but do not pool their money. Turnover in "premie houses" is apt to be quite high.
6) The custom of bowing to the altar ("pranaming") comes and goes, depending on the religiousness or casualness of the occasion and the phase the Mission happens to be passing through.
7) This varies with time, depending on how devotional premies are during any particular phase. Most "satsang" customs similarly vary with time.
8) The ashram schedule includes attendance at the two-hour "satsang" program every single evening. During especially fervent phases of Mission life, active community premies try to emulate this ideal and encourage others to as well. Many premies censure themselves for even one evening of "spacing out," during these periods, but during other periods they relax and attend only four or five evenings a week. Less involved premies, during any phase, content themselves with one or two "satsangs" a week.
9) The standard premie reply to the outsider's typical comment that GMJ, reveling in all his cars and luxuries, is a greedy, exploitative playboy is: "GMJ is perfect. You are just seeing your own greediness and exploitativeness when you look at him."
10) Premie meditation always focuses first on the object of concentration, and secondarily on external and internal distractions. Distractions are never analysed for themselves, only "recognized" as distractions so they can be "dropped." This same "dropping" of distractions is one main difference between this and Theravada Buddhist Vipassana ("Insight") meditation, which uses concentration only as a tool for examing the mind's vagaries, those very distractions premies try to deal with by recognizing and "dropping." Premie meditation thus dichotomizes mental phenomena in a way which Vipassana does not. For a phenomenology of Vipassana by a Western practitioners, see Walsh, 1977, 1978.
11) Tart (1971) notes three similar effects which arise from marijuana intoxication: a) "The face of another person will change even as I watch it, so he keeps changing from one different person to another." (60) [This often happened to me in satsang, and I believed myself to be seeing hidden aspects of the speaker's personality.] b) "There is a sensual quality to vision, as if I were 'touching' the objects or people I am looking at." (63) [Reported most often by heavy users.] c) "Everything I look at seems to vibrate or pulse, as if it had a life of its own." [This occurred at higher intoxication levels.] (64)
12) Often at festivals and especially during that period, GMJ would wear his "Krishna costume" of yellow pants and red jacket while he gave his final "satsang." Pictures of GMJ in the "Krishna costume" abound, and many premies see him thus clad in their visions and dreams.
13) Despite all this, taped recordings of GMJ's public "satsangs" are made by the Mission and sold to the premies, who listen to them in their cars, at home, even at work when they can. A real "satsang" experience can happen when the coincidence of GMJ's taped remarks seem uncannily to apply to the very moment at hand in a premie's life, particularly when someone happens to start a tape in the middle or pass through a room and just happen to hear a snatch of "satsang" from a tape of GMJ.
14) Premies occasionally sent unsolicited articles to the "Divine Times" and "And It Is Divine" staffs. This one was simply labeled "from Canada," and was never used in a premie publication.
15) These words change with time. Before GMJ and his brother Raja Ji split off from his two other brothers and mother, the five together were referred to as the "holy family," and even by Indians as like "five fingers of one hand." After the split, GMJ made it explicit in a letter to all the premies that only he was to be considered divine, though soon his wife and children began acquiring, if not "holy family" status, an especially numinous presence for premies. Possessions, too, change o'er time. After GMJ surprised premies by flying into a retreat
in the Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains by helicopter when they thought he was in Denver, premies talked and dreamed of helicopters for years. The Boeing 707 airplane he purchased in 1980 made an even greater impact, drawing premies to airports to work on it or even tell others about its gleaming polished wings, its elegant interior.
16) GMJ's "mala" is a garland of huge flowers GMJ has sometimes worn on the climactic final night of festivals.
17) One premie who claimed to be a practising spirit medium said that the talent required of a good "satsang" speaker was the same as that of a good medium. One somehow discerns the wishes and interests in the minds of the listeners and speaks to that.
18) Letter from the Denver "Community Coordinator" to the premies of the Denver community, March 7, 1966, p. 1.
19) Communique to the DLM centers of the U.S. from the premie headquarters in Denver, about the DLM image, Summer 1976.
20) A friend who lived in the same "premie house" as me had been assigned the job of keeping track of the number of premies who attended "satsang" in Denver during that period. She remarked to me several times that "satsang" attendance had drastically declined.
21) In the days before 1973 and in casual or impromptu "satsangs" whoever feels so moved speaks next, but the tendency for vociferous and "bongo" (crazy) premies to "hog the satsang chair" prompted Mission officials toward the "satsang monitor" system. Sometimes, especially at large satsangs or programs oriented to the general public, the monitor schedules the speakers beforehand.
22) Though most monitors rarely choose speakers with bad reputations (i.e. a premie who doesn't meditate or attend satsang regularly, who smokes marijuana, who seems absorbed in a career or non-premie friends, who disagrees with prevailing views, whose satsang borders on the "worldly".) Sometimes a move to democratize satsang and give
everyone a chance, abolishing favoritism, sweeps through the Mission. Then often enough a counter-move will follow, the urge to "clean up" satsang discouraging monitors from choosing borderline premies.
23) The altar always has a picture of GMJ on it, and is often decorated with flowers and raised a foot or two. Depending on waxing and waning trends of premie devotionalism, an empty chair may or may not wait on the altar for GMJ. Arguments for the presence of the chair cite instances where GMJ showed up unexpectedly to give satsang in communities hundereds of miles from where he was thought to be. "If he should come," the argument goes, "where would he sit?" Arguments against the chair say simply that it looks silly to outsiders to be bowing down all the time to an empty chair. Prostrating to the altar upon entering and before giving satsang also varies over time.
24) Premies rarely speak of satsang as "coming from the breath" in quite such a physiological way as Zen practitioners speak of actions
"coming from the Hara." (see for example Hara by Karlfried Graf Von Durkheim, (1962), and Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel (1953).) They mean something more like "coming from the consciousness which comes when the attention is on breath-meditation." Premies teach one another about this "consciousness," rarely referring to explicit physiological sensations, so that the individual must more or less figure out these sensations through his own trial and error. However, once in 1972 I overheard two premies' comments on a certain Indian Initiator's (called "Mahatma" in those days) especially passionate, concentrated, devoted satsang one evening. They talked about how his breathing was powerful
and even, how its "energy" manifested so evidently in his speech. He was neither breathing heavily nor shouting; his expression was calm, passionate not with arousal or excitement but with a lucid intensity.
25) Note that this person took his "vow of silence" before becoming involved with DLM. Rarely do premies do such things; noone requires it and others would discourage it.
26) On possession trance, see Lewis (1971) and Henney (1974).
27) On speaking in tongues, see Goodman (1972). Premies never try to go into some sort of trance while they speak. If anything, one experiences more alertness than usual.
28) GMJ is rumored to have watched a video of a "satsang" he had given earlier that evening and to have commented to his wife, "You know, I don't remember saying any of this?" (At other times, however, he quotes topics he brought up in earlier "satsangs.")