PREMIES AND THE "WORLD"
"Informal satsang" as elusive ideal operates side by side with "informal satsang" as established requirement in premie life, playing out two levels of interpretation of the "Krishna Lila" myth. The complexity of "informal satsang" within premie life does not end there, however, because premie society does not dwell apart from the surrounding society but nests here and there within it. "The world's" "non-premie" interaction styles always loom nearby to contrast with "informal satsang," providing a threat and a challenge. The "world" threatens because it declares itself "real" and the deified "Guru" and "experience" of the premie world "false." But the "world" also challenges because the raison d'etre of premie life lies in revealing falseness, converting and transforming it. Premie society has intermeshed with the "world" through both necessity and design. When "worldly" contact proved corrupting premies withdrew into insulation. But when insulation hampered "propagation of Knowledge," they approached the "world" once again. Thus underlying the 1976 questioning of rigidified Mission structures lay as much concern with "propagation" as with the elusiveness of "experience." But premie society has intermeshed with the "world" also because GMJ apparently never wanted to create a viable sect insulated from the larger society.
The hardest challenge for premies has been to find ways of
sustaining their worldview during those periods, like 1976 and 1982-3, when their society crumbles and abandons them to the "world."
Some cling to tiny groups of other premies, many still see "non-premies" as nothing but potential converts. But a few have tried to transcend rather than sustain the differences between themselves and others, and to sacralize all their human interactions.
WORKING IN THE "WORLD"
Most premies have had to deal with the "world" at least through employment. Only for brief periods - 1974-75 in Denver, 1974-76 in San Antonio, perhaps 1978-80 in Miami - did significant numbers of premies find themselves employed as well as housed by the Mission, existing in virtual isolation from the "world."1 Even most ashram premies have had to work at outside jobs. And the expense of travel to festivals as well as the Mission's constant call for funds has required most premies to work full-time.
Even when premies were undergoing their most insulated phases, they still attributed some value to work in the "world." Approached with an impeccable "consciousness" it could even come near to the "purity" of devoted "service" to GMJ. Certainly work provided the Mission with funds, for ashram residents donated their full paycheck (in return for support) and others were encouraged - with the argument that this certainly was "service" - to donate ten percent of their income. And even if work could not be performed as "service," it still provided discipline.
Work as discipline, especially in the early and mid-70's, helped temper the "spaciness" of premies who were long accustomed to
drifting, freeloading, "hippy" ways. In particular, day jobs with reputable businesses forced them to cut their hair, dress presentably, stay out of trouble, and free up evenings for "satsang."
Thus emphasis on work as discipline helped integrate many premies who had been middle class countercultural dropouts back into mainstream society, as Robbins, Anthony and Richardson (1978) suggest.2 But this re-integration back into society went only so far, stopping at the point where job commitment threatened religious commitment. Premies tended to choose jobs which minimized this threat while maximizing the disciplinary advantages of employment. They preferred, for example, job situations conducive to meditation. They sought simple, routine or manual work which required little "thinking." Too much work with words, details, decisions, responsibility, or abstractions was said to distract the attention from "Holy Name." Thus a premie might prefer straight typing over bookkeeping; dishwashing over waiting on table; school bus driver over cab driver; warehouse worker over supervisor; retail over commission sales. Jobs unconducive to meditation were seen as a "test." If one succeeded in enduring them one would come to appreciate the premie world one came home to immeasurably more. But if one failed one's "energy" would drain and practise of Knowledge would suffer, and others advised quitting the job.
Socially, premies preferred jobs where another premie worked with whom one could sneak frequent "satsang" breaks. Barring this, working alone at one's own pace afforded the best chance for meditation and maybe a little "satsand'over the phone or the chance to glance at a DLM magazine from time to time. A few "mellow" work partners were tolerable, but premies tried to avoid harried interactions at work or
social entanglements which required a lot of "non-satsang" discussion or spilled over into commitments beyond the workplace. Thus temporary work, though generally isolated from other premies, at least prevented social entanglements; solitary work like delivery truck driving provided privacy and flexibility. Independent odd jobs like gardening, painting, fixit, and house cleaning could be done in comfort, alone or with other premies away from outsiders.
One of the worst risks to premie practise was a job which called for too much commitment. A boss might start demanding overtime or after-hours training or transfer to a place where no premies lived, and he might dimly view requests for days off for festivals. Or the job might open up opportunities to tempt ambitions for success, prestige, money, security, the attainment of which might push the practise of Knowledge down to a lesser priority in one's life. So premies had to settle for something in between. Typically they favored temporary employment or high turnover low-paying jobs. The choice of jobs was sometimes difficult because premies had to balance revulsion for marginal work with the obstacles premie life put in the way of committed long-term employment. At times when the ashram was fully functioning, ashram premies had no idea when they would be transferred to other cities, and non-ashram premies could not predict the timing of festivals or the possibility that someone in Denver or Miami would suddenly request they come there for a special "service." One middle-aged woman considering leaving her husband and comfortable professional wife's life to move in the ashram agonized over the job dilemma:
That thing about the ashram really bothers me, and maybe it will prevent me from moving in. I just don't know if I could stand a job at Taco Bell or something like that, I think I might go crazy. I've done all these shit jobs; I was a telephone operator, and I hate it. On the other hand there are a lot of trainee positions,
but I don't think it's right to take a trainee position and have the company spend all that money on you, and then you just split and say "see you later!" I don't want to go in and be a flake but I don't want to marry the company either. (interview notes)
Thus though commitment to DLM helped integrate some premies back into the mainstream society, it pulled others already in the mainstream out of it. Many quit demanding jobs for marginal employment; many others quit school and training programs in favor of casual jobs which would pay for festivals and support the Mission. Those who stayed in career jobs or school generally enjoyed a more peripheral role in the Mission, plagued with constant guilt for their inability to "surrender" their "attachment" fully to GMJ by quitting their jobs.
Thus the Mission tended to pull people from disparate occupational and social categories and recast them together into the role of marginally employed clerical, service, and light industrial workers.
This tendency made certain classes of people, even if they did convert, unlikely to take this sort of job and stay permanently in the premie community. Those with family and job commitments could not as flexibly switch to marginal positions; they had more to lose than the uncommitted youth. On the other hand, uneducated and minority persons might not find it as easy to take and quit a number of typical premie positions. They had less options and no safety net of disgruntled middle-class parents who would ultimately appear from the wings to rescue them if they should get in trouble. As the 80's recession came and deepened, the DLM staged fewer festivals and premies presumably were permitted to have stronger job commitments. Perhaps this was related to the increasing difficulty of supporting oneself by sporadic marginal work available at one's whim.
Those premies who remained in professional careers which demanded
intensive, committed interaction with non-premies encounter the problem of having to divide their lives and selves between the outside "world" and the premie "world." According to one premie lawyer,
It just seems that when I get in that elevator and the doors close then it's closing out my world of premies. (satsang notes)
Such dividing-up, though commonplace in modern life, is intolerable for premies because no world but theirs has a purpose or meaning:
These people I work with are nice, and I'm working on "good" causes, but it's just bull, it doesn't mean anything to me. I just get all tense at work and can't remember Holy Name, so how can it be helping Guru Maharaj Ji? (satsang notes)
The job has to mean something in relation to "GMJ's world." Some professionals found meaning in donating large portions of their income to GMJ, or in using their expertise or prestige for Mission causes. But still they yearned to overcome the day-to-day sense of a split world.
The issue often revolved around being known and/or tolerated as a premie at work. The Mission's reputation as a "cult" forced many premies to "pass" as non-premies, to fake normal interests, to invent excuses for avoiding extra-work involvements. In certain cities some employers and agencies began refusing to hire premies so that even non-professional, marginally employed premies also had to "pass." This added the question of duplicity to the burden of living in a split world:
In jobs, you have to lie perhaps because as a premie or ashram resident you don't know how long you'll be able to keep the job. (interview notes)
Then again, premies often took pains to "pass" when they didn't really have to. They exaggerated the effect of their religious affiliation on their careers and reputations and underestimated their colleagues' potential tolerance and interest. The premie who had been a stroke victim, for example, found that when he was in the hospital he tended to view the people from work and premies very differently:
The office people would walk in there; and there would be a real heavy separation. The moment they'd walk in the door they were already looking for the way out - they'd pivot and right back out the door - so much fear on their faces. But premies who'd come, they'd settle in like they do at the corner coffee shop like they're having a party, like this was an excuse for satsang and they were ready to stay forever. "Oh boy, somebody's in the hospital, so we can go and give him love, and satsang, and all these joyous things." (interview notes)
But he felt singularly undefensive, the close brush with death somehow giving him the right to be "himself," a premie. So for the first time he didn't feel he had to hide his affiliation with GMJ from his co-workers:
The walls were covered with GMJ's pictures, and all the people that would come in that room to see me would gawk at those pictures … But I just realized that I'm never gonna care again about what they think about me being a premie. There was no trip about "the office people are coming so let's put away the Maharaj Ji pictures." I just felt like you're coming in, and you're seeing my life wide open and that's where I'm at, and I don't care - when I went back to work after that I just carried that with me. Because those office people in spite of being hung-up and neurotic and so on, are actually a common group of people, and when the right combination of circumstances happen the love comes out of them too. (interview notes)
"Passing" as a non-premie, minimizing social contact, seeing a job only as a facilitator of meditative discipline - premies used these strategies when they saw the "world" as a threat. This posture divided the premie "world" sharply from the outside "world." Home safely in "satsang" premies were fond of caricaturing co-workers, condemning their commitment to work and search for meaning in it, ridiculing their faith in work's rewards of money and comforts, and pitying their consequent misery and loneliness. To premie eyes their lives were empty or misguided, and even those appearing most happy were hiding some fatal flaw whose only possibility of healing lay in conversion to GMJ. In this premie view "worldly" work was a useless waste to be done minimally and quickly, then forgotten.
* * * * *
But "propagation" forced premies to take other stances toward work and the "world." To "propagate" actively, premies had to step out of their simple dichotomized view from which outsiders appeared as a featureless "them" on whom premies could blame their woes from a secure distance while celebrating their own virtue. "Propagation" brought an attitude not of escaping the "world" but of covering or incorporating it within the premie "world." "Propagation," then, nudged premies toward a unified, monistic view of reality.3
The premie urge toward "propagation" comes directly from GMJ's teachings. His father Shri Hans Ji Maharaj founded the Divine Light Mission in Patna, India, in 1960. A biography of him published by the Indian Divine Light Mission in 1970 states,
Shri Maharaj Ji realized the necessity of following a modern technique for propagation, and wished to provide for his followers an organization in which they could work for the betterment of mankind. Therefore, in 1960 the mission was named Divine Light Mission and registered in Patna. For the first time membership in the Mission was recorded … The Mission aims at achieving the unity of nations and the one-ness of mankind by instructing them on the technique of utilizing the universal primordial Force, that is, the Holy Name (Word) which is the same as the Divine Light and which pervades all human beings thus bringing to the fore the eternal principle of unity in diversity. (1970, p. 46)
Shri Hans Ji Maharaj is said to have commissioned his youngest son Sant Ji (the present Guru Maharaj Ji) to carry his message to every corner of the earth. GMJ and his mother began this task when he was still only eleven or twelve by initiating Western hippies who stumbled upon him in India and sending them home to prepare for his coming. (He also sent Indian missionaries to "propagate" to the large Indian population of South Africa.) At thirteen in 1971 GMJ first went to Europe and the
United States and within a few years DLM centers had been established in South America, Africa, many Asian countries, and even a few tiny outposts in Communist and Arab countries. By the late 1970's GMJ was scheduling regular festivals and tours in North America, Europe, South America and Asia (Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Hong Kong, sometimes India when politics permitted.) This pattern continued through the early 1980's,
Theologically, GMJ explained his efforts in terms of the theory of "Perfect Masters." "Perfect Masters," he would say, come for specific purposes. Some "manifest" to only one or two disciples; others influence a handful and still others like Krishna and Christ turned the tide of whole civilizations. In his incarnation as GMJ, however, the "Lord came with more power than ever before," this time to save everyone. In 1970 in what has become known as the "Peace Bomb" satsang GMJ declared to a huge crowd in Delhi:
I possess such a thing that I do not need machine guns, I do not need pistols, I do not need a sword, I do not need a spear. I possess such a Knowledge that I can control the whole world from ants to elephants, from men to animals, from birds to mosquitoes by tying them in the thread of love. I have this Knowledge and I have come to give it to you.
Dear premies, the time has come. See how peace will be established in the world. There will be peace on earth … It will come and once again the world will understand it … Right now I feel such a spirit in me, I do not know where it has come from; I feel as if I want to shake the world.
Already he was commissioning Indian premies to help make his message heard around the world:
Dear premies, arise! Awake! Open the ears of each man and tell him the time has come. Make them understand that I have come to show the true path. ("And It Is Divine," 11/76, p. 12 actually 11/73)
GMJ's coming was understood to be fulfilling the prophecies of all religions, he was Kalki, the tenth incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu, the Buddha Maitreya to come, the Christ returned, the Moslem twelfth
Imam Mahdi, the Aztec God Quetzalcoatl, the Great One which every religion and legend has predicted will come to "bring true meaning to religion and unite all the world's people. ("And It Is Divine," 11/73, p. 12)
The first naive outburst of premie "propagation" in the West saw only GMJ's consciousness marching blithely, step-by-step toward its final destiny of world transformation. But the "world" was not an enemy to be conquered, not a "them" distinct from "us" because it was nothing but an "illusion." The premie "world" was the "reality," and premies felt they need do nothing more than act within and by that "reality" for the transformation to occur. Typical of this attitude was an Indian Mahatma who used to say, "For me, GMJ has already established peace on earth, because everywhere I go I see happy premies and because I meditate on Holy Name I feel peace in any circumstance." When an angry crowd attacked premies once at a festival in India5 this man was hit by a brick which broke his back. He is said to have prostrated immediately to GMJ, in the midst of the melee, to thank him for his "prashad," or holy gift.6 For him everything, even those who attacked him, was a manifestation of GMJ's "play."
Further, "propagation" was seen not only as GMJ's "play" but also as GMJ's gift to premies, a situation created by him in the illusory "world" so premies can serve him and get an "experience:"
In the Ramayana, Lord Ram created a whole situation so that all His devotees had a chance to show their love and devotion for Him. Their service was to re-capture His kidnapped wife. It was a situation made for the benefit of the premies.
I can really feel the same thing happening now. Here is a situation of darkness covering this world and GMJ wanting us to do
something about it, by doing propagation. Of course, he could do it by Himself - but then what would that leave us? There would be no way to become part of Him and to fulfill our life's destiny. Now is our chance to have the experience we were created for. 7
This attitude led almost to an indifference toward success in "propagation." Krishna on the battlefield had said to Arjuna the warrior "remember my Name and fight;" he had told Arjuna not to care what happened, but to act and dedicate all fruits to him. Disregard of consequences made premies feel free to act. They reasoned that isolation from the "world" can lead to laziness, whereas even wrongly-directed action keeps one on one's toes and if one dedicates the fruits to GMJ then the results don't matter.
Organized Mission "propagational" activities during this stage included leafletting, door-to-door sales of Mission magazines, "meditation surveys" or solicitation of junk for "Divine Sales" rummage stores.' Singly premies doing this had to rely on Holy Name and the feeling that GMJ was acting through them. But when they went together "satsang" fortified them, often to the point where increasing the "vibe" between them took precedence over trying to convert outsiders. One report about "propagational" efforts said, typically, "they just went around giving satsang to anyone they saw. They had a marvelous time."9 For premies felt that the "satsang vibration" between them was the best tool of "propagation," a visible result of the power of GMJ's "Knowledge" in promoting peace and love in human society. They recalled the role of premies' sacralized interaction in their own conversion, in ritual:
They started singing and at that moment I thought it was the most beautiful song I'd ever heard. And all of a sudden that wave … started coming again. So soothing. (Cameron, interview notes)
and in daily life:
I worked with the premies for three weeks - there were 300 of them -
and observed the harmony in which they worked together, no slamming of telephones and no slamming of doors, they just wanted to work together, they wanted to share the experience they were having. (interview notes)
"Propagational" efforts went toward getting people to come to introductory "satsang programs," and sometimes premies held "satsang" in open public places so that the "vibe" would be right there, available to the public:
[in the Boston Commons] We set up Maharaj Ji's photo close to one well-trodden sidewalk. Some premies stood around listening to one premie give satsang … The gathering, photo, etc., attracted quite a crowd in about ten minutes. Once they got sucked into the vibe of satsang it was very easy to approach them and give some personal satsang.10
Whether people were attracted or not premies witnessed through their own "propagational" efforts the "satsang vibe" prevailing in "worldly" situations again and again, unbroken when "the police threw us out," undaunted when "no one was in the park and it began to rain as well," and overwhelmed when "some people came over and listened. We got blown away ."1° As along as they remained together in "satsang" no matter where they went they never had to leave "GMJ's world." The "world" they carried between them outshone the mundane "world" so completely that they really never even had to see it except as bit by bit it yielded to GMJ's power of transformation.
The "propagational" principles of "remember the Name and fight" and "dedicate the fruits to me" led premies to seek in a job not just a quiet haven for meditation, but a platform for "propagation." Proponents of this view liked jobs which involved meeting the public - jobs like receptionist, waitress, salesman, cab driver, and any helping jobs. Such jobs offered them ample opportunity to proselytize actively, not just exhibiting a beautiful "vibration" but directly telling people about GMJ. That this strategy caused them to lose their
jobs frequently hardly mattered, for only "satsang" was "real," and GMJ would soon provide another job situation where someone needed to hear "satsang." And meantime GMJ would provide, through food stamps, thrift stores, cheaper living arrangements, an IRS refund, overripe produce discarded by supermarkets at the end of the day. To premies with this view the whole "game" of jobs and job-hunting was merely GMJ's setup to expose the public to "satsang." Premies who job-hunted for weeks giving "satsang" to interviewer after interviewer might never land a job but would feel convinced that they were serving GMJ by "propagating" Knowledge the way it was meant to be "propagated."
Stress on action and disregard of consequences pervaded not only job situations but every encounter with the day-to-day "world." House-hunting yielded opportunities similar to job-hunting, and apartment living offered creative new "propagational" strategies:
In apartments, premies have put up small notices on bulletin boards that they can take care of plants or animals if someone is going out of town. People often put a lot of love into these things and it is a good medium to get to know someone. You can also get posters to put up in the laundry rooms, common rooms, etc. ("Pathfinder," Denver community Newsletter, 9/14/76, p. 6)
A premie who had taken an initiator shopping that day reported in "satsang" that the initiator, having decided against a particular shirt, turned to the saleslady, showed her a picture of GMJ, asked her if she'd heard of him and proceeded to give her "satsang." The premie had felt jealous that the initiator had beat him to it, and the rest of the day they wandered around shirt departments giving "satsang" to sales people. One premie told me that she first heard "satsang" from a premie who turned to her in a supermarket checkout line and asked her if she'd heard of GMJ. Traveling to festivals by car premies regularly deluged gas station ..ttendants and waitresses with "satsang."
Premies also ****** rest of line missing ***** "satsang," reasoning that good and bad, pure and corrupt were only relative and that GMJ's "play" pervaded every such situation in the illusory "world." A friend once told me that when he was drafted into the Army he just gave "satsang" to everyone, especially his sargeant who eventually turned him over to the Army psychiatrists to whom, even in confinement, he continued to give "satsang" until finally they gave him a medical discharge. Sexuality provided yet another "satsang" opportunity. An attractive gay San Francisco premie used to dance for hours at a popular disco wearing a T-shirt which said "I love Guru Maharaj Ji." The numbers of gay men who consequently found their way to "satsang" unnerved the heterosexual San Francisco premies, but they themselves had used the same sort of ploy upon occasion. Attractive premie women occasionally gave men the ashram phone number instead of their own. Other times "satsang" was more ambiguously mixed with romance:
I saw this brother at the beach reading this spiritual book so I asked him about it and he said it was incredible and he couldn't put it down and satsang just started happening, just flowing. And his eyes became completely dilated while he was listening, he was just completely drinking in the satsang … he began to come to satsang every night and during the day he would be at the beach and we would just have satsang all the time. It was just like watching this flower open, because it was so beautiful, and at that point it was just so pure because the relationship was just totally based on trying to bring this brother to Knowledge. He was very attractive but at that point there was no ulterior motive … (interview notes)
Premies who utilized "worldly" situations in this way felt no discontinuity in their "experience," no division between "our" and "their" "realities," so in a sense they could never be defeated. Every situation, however bizarre or apparently unfruitful, harbored GMJ's "grace" if one approached it with faith and energy. A premie kidnapped
by the infamous Ted Patrick and subjected to "deprogramming" failed to deconvert:11
Patrick and his men tried for almost a week to break Ellen but, she said later, 'When they brought in a minister to question me, he could only say, 'she's fine, as peaceful as a madonna.'" The interrogators stood over her from morning until night, she said, not letting her get into the lotus position to do formal meditation. Little did they know the power of the Word, commented Ellen …
… The morning of the day she was abducted, Ellen had been writing a premie letter which began, "Guru Maharaj Ji's lilas abound and sweep us away …" ("Divine Times," 4/1/73, p. 2)
In her mind GMJ's power was unlimited, and she returned from the ordeal, as many premies returned from lesser "worldly" unpleasantness, with re-doubled zeal.
Ever-buoyed by their purpose, premies who thus propagated indiscriminately exuded a certain excitement and determination which sometimes astounded, sometimes offended, sometimes inspired others:
There seemed a touch of fanaticism in their insistence that GMJ was the only one … But on the other hand they showed a genuine human interest, they were happy - very happy. Their eyes were bright and brimming with childlike enthusiasm. They were light, and honest, and candid. (Cameron, interview notes)
They felt no doubt. They could neither be bought nor deflected from their purpose and they let people relate to them only on their own terms.
Conversation with others meant waiting out what they considered he other's babble until a topic surfaced they could redirect toward satsang." Premies traveling in planes, for example, found that the appearance of their specially-ordered vegetarian meals usually sparked questions, which they turned toward "satsang." Relating only on their terms meant vigorous use of "satsang" words, so that people attracted by their sense of energy and purpose could not think for a moment that it came from any source other than GMJ. Nothing the other offered except agreement was given any value, because the premie would expand his
own interests, his words, his "vibration" until it obliterated the other. Therefore in a sense he hardly even saw the other; his world did not even exist. Once a premie reported in "satsang" that he and his wife had gone to visit some old friends. One the way he had told her, "if satsang doesn't happen in twenty minutes, we're leaving." Others took on value only as potential objects of "propagation." Because successful conversion was secondary to the actual act of "propagation," premies wanted most that others simply hear "satsang." How they responded was up to GMJ.
* * * * *
This naive, heedless mode of "propagation" tended to promote problems; because it relied on the words and hardly saw the other or cared for his response, it offended many. Even GMJ commented on it:
Some of the approaches we were taking were definitely wrong. They, in fact, were not helping people but were confusing people. ("Divine Times," 2/76, p. 4)
Lack of success and hostile reactions always generated an undercurrent of doubt during phases of naive "propagation." This doubt surfaced organizationally as the inability to settle on any one method - door-to-door, leafletting streets and parks, advertising, free concerts, special products, introductory dinners were all tried. The Mission never even kept to one logo or format for their advertising materials.
Individually, despite the attitude of "dedicate the fruits to Him," premies came to blame themselves for failure in "propagation;" they were failing GMJ, their faith and devotion must be all wrong, they were believing too much in the power of "illusion" because their "realization of Knowledge" was faulty. They interpreted feelings of silliness and embarrassment they felt during "propagation" as their inability to rise above the "ego's" concern with "social respectability." So
many preferred to avoid "propagation" altogether. Work, job-hunting, house-hunting, shopping were tedious enough as it was without the added burden of always feeling one must risk embarrassment and complications by telling everyone about GMJ.
Naive "propagation" often lapsed back into avoidance of the "world." But since GMJ continually stressed "propagation" this avoidance could never last with premies who wanted to obey him or be a part of Mission activities. Calculated "propagation" provided a compromise.
Unlike the defensive stance which opposed the ordinary "world" to "GMJ's world," both naive and caluclated "propagation" offensives perceived only one "world." But while the naive approach overpowered the "world of illusion" by "shining like light which makes darkness disappear," the calculated approach incorporated it, finding GMJ already there in every aspect of the outside "world." The naive emphasized action, vigorously shining the light into the darkness, while the calculated emphasized consciousness, learning to see and trust that GMJ was already everywhere. The naive wanted to "bring people to GMJ," while the calculated felt that "It is His job to bring people to us."12 The naive stressed quantity, the number of people informed about GMJ, and the calculated stressed quality, the way they were told. The naive tried to convince, the calculated to intuit:
And while the naive approach stressed "satsang" words, the calculated approach stressed "experience:"
The emphasis has to be placed on the formation of a Company of
Truth, rather than on the spouting of our beliefs and concepts.13
Premies at work who practised calculated "propagation" tried hard to meditate, to realize Knowledge, to see GMJ in everything. This transformed their attitude toward work from disdain and irrelevance to scrupulous conscientiousness. The job became "service" to GMJ. For if GMJ were everywhere certainly he was here on the job, and anything performed in Holy Name, though the company claimed it, was really for "Him."
But conscientiousness for GMJ was different than conscientiousness for a "worldly" boss. Premies who did things directly for GMJ in person did them exquisitely perfectly, and usually carefully and very slowly. As the object took shape - a marvelous hand-made desk, a woven belt, a complex computer program - it acquired a special numinousness which captivated its creator and inspired even more careful, loving work. They sustained their alertness through meditation and their inspiration through the sense that GMJ's presence worked through them so they could give it back to him. Such work depended on the proper consciousness and the consciousness needed meditation and "satsang." Premies who persisted in this caliber of work on the job, however, often got in the way in the business world. Exquisite craftmanship took too much time where mediocrity and efficiency prevailed. Treating every customer as if he were GMJ risked too much familiarity and generosity when the job demanded depersonalization. And the effort to sustain a high caliber of effort required frequent "satsang" and meditation:
A lot of people have trouble with their jobs because they do service at work, like they spend all their time making phone calls and I don't blame employers at all. We hired some premies to do some work at our house and they just sat around and had satsang
the whole time. I felt it was OK for them to have satsang, but I didn't feel like paying them for it. (interview notes)
Especially concerned with maintaining proper consciousness in the "world," premies practising calculated "propagation" interpreted any praise of their work as a sign that the "vibe" had worked. They would report in "satsang" that, though they had not breathed a word on the job about GMJ, co-workers would begin coming up to them wondering what "special thing" they had, why they were always so happy, why their product "shone." Only when asked did they tell co-workers or customers about GMJ. A real estate agent commented,
I believe that this Knowledge is very subtle and it's when people are open to you that they're going to hear what you're saying. So unless someone is really open to me, I don't necessarily bring up Divine Light Mission or the Knowledge except for the fact that I do have a picture of Maharaj Ji on my desk and in my car. However I don't wear a button14 and I don't have any stickers on my car. I just respond when people ask me, which is quite frequently. (Interview notes)
Even if their conscientiousness and affability pleased the boss, however, premies made clear their allegiance. If taking off work to attend a festival jeopardized his job a premie would feel that his commitment to GMJ would prove instructive to others. The boss and co-workers would see that work was not everything, that one could have a higher loyalty, that no commitment of the "world" could hold a premie for long. And so the premie would leave feeling free as a bird, hoping that others would at least be inspired to re-examine their cages.
A premie who couldn't see things in this way, who got upset that a boss wanted to fire him for going to a festival or for working too slowly and conscientiously tried to see the fault in himself, not in that boss:
It's never our bosses' resistance we have to go beyond. It's our own resistance. It's our resistance to [GMJ's] Love, our lack of faith, our lack of trust. (Divine Times, 1-2/79, p. 3)
With no "other," with no "them," the perennial scapegoat was the self, the last recalcitrant entity to try and maintain its separateness from the Guru-pervaded unity of creation.
The fact that GMJ wanted to "save the world" was clear enough. But his teaching was complex. Salvation required the two-step process of conversion and "realization:"15 conversion happened at the beginning, but "realization" meant a prolonged process of deepening and stabilizing one's "experience" which led asymptotically toward the infinite point of absolute and eternal "truth, consciousness and bliss" (Sanskrit "sat, chit, anand" often said to have been attained only by GMJ). Both conversion and "realization" required the dual method of "experiencing Knowledge" and "recognizing GMJ." Thus one had to "recognize GMJ" within each of four basic practises: one had to understand that GMJ had taught the meditation and that the "experience" was of his infinite form; one had to understand that "satsang" was talk about GMJ which summoned the "experience" of his presence; darshan was his physical and infinite presence "experienced" simultaneously. Similarly, "service" meant the "experience" of GMJ acting through one's own efforts to serve him and "propagate Knowledge." So an important part of the route to realization lay through the "service" of "propagation."
Conversion also involved both "experiencing the Knowledge" and "recognizing GMJ." The naive efforts at conversion, emphasizing the latter, had eagerly paraded GMJ's picture and extolled his marvels. But the later, calculated efforts worked first at bringing a prospect into the "experience of Knowledge" after which, it was felt, "recogniz- ing GMJ" might come a little more easily.
"Informal satsang" is the major method used to lead outsiders into the "experience of Knowledge." "Informal satsang" with premies is difficult enough, with having to break through the barriers of "ego" and "fake satsang," the temptations of ordinary talk, mere agreement, and "non-satsang" fixations, but fellow premies can at least recognize the "experience" and know how to enhance it through concentration, "satsang" words, and unswerving longing. Even the most benign and curious outsiders know nothing of the sort, or so at least premies think.
To establish "informal satsang" with an outsider a premie has first to see beyond his "personality" to "GMJ within him." If one can not see GMJ in the other then the other appears alien, with potential only to bore and not to inspire. Or he appears lacking and needing to be taught. The latter perception leads premies to a sense of "separation" or a preaching stance which robs them of the "humility" necessary for "informal satsang" to develop. Such a stance tries to force "satsang:"
I was having a conversation with my sister, and I was trying to give her satsang - you caught it: trying to give her satsang. How many people have ever received satsang from someone who's trying to give them satsang? Not quite the same, is it? I really got into my ego. I really started teaching my sister. 0 sister, you are this way and this way and this way, and it's really not necessary. You should be this way - and I don't know what it was exactly; it was ego, and she responded to it with ego: Goddammit I don't like to get taught! Why are you always teaching me??? That also was ego. (recorded satsang, Denver, 1974) 16
Sometimes this attitude is overcome serendipitously as the encounter progresses and either or both recognizes the problem:
That was also ego, and we both did our ego trip, both sat back and said wow! Look at that ego! And as a matter of fact, we both, both, at that moment, had a realization about what ego is, and what it does to us.
If such recognition does not happen the "teaching" continues, the
outsider feels increasingly uncomfortable, and neither "informal satsang" nor conversion takes place.
Premies seek GMJ in outsiders as they did in other premies, through the eyes. This proves difficult when the other darts his eyes about or refuses to meet eyes with the gaze premies are used to. The divine essence of the other lies beneath all scatteredness and distrust, which one has somehow to peer through without trying to change it.17 Collier apparently managed this even in dreams. Once she dreamed she met a man on a bus who made fun of her spiritual interests:
I looked deep into his eyes. They were a rich chestnut brown. As I watched, their appearance changed. The man's eyes seemed like windows into another world. Through them I could see the dark blue color of a starless night sky.
When the man blinked, his chestnut-colored eyes reappeared. In this brief look I felt I had seen the infinite part of him. I had seen his "Buddha nature," the Kingdom of Heaven within him. (Collier, 1978, p. 131)
In searching for GMJ in the eyes of another, one sometimes has to be careful not to use the piercingly direct premie gaze, but deliberately to glance away from time to time. One uses the direct gaze only after having induced a steady gaze in the other, which usually comes only with the pinpointing of attention. But first the premie has to get the other not only to trust, but to be "open," interested and curious.
Getting an outsider "open" and interested takes patience, sometimes the patience of waiting for months or years for friends, co-workers, family members. Meanwhile one has to be quiet and "play along with their trip," but not in the naive offensive sense of lying in wait without listening, ready to pounce with "satsang." Rather, the calculated offensive stance takes "playing along with their trip" to mean going,along on the "trip" and even enjoying it because GMJ
would be there as he was everywhere. One waits and plays the part of the other's friend by being the other's friend, neither threatened by the challenges of such a "worldly" role nor attracted toward getting "stuck" in it, but feeling safe and balanced within it.
In "playing along with their trip" one avoids any proselytizing gesture; "What I mainly do is not say a word when religion comes up in a conversation. Rather I wait for satsang and explanations to be dragged out of me."18 The "right time," the moment of the other's "openness," could come any time, in a crisis or a time of unusual stability, a time of "searching" or a time of satisfaction.19 The calculated offensive stance sees such a moment emerging spontaneously from the prospective convert, not caused or inspired by the premie. They feel that GMJ works invisibly with people long before they became aware of him and sends premies by just when the moment of "opening" is near at hand. Sometimes conversion follows upon only one such moment of "openness." Others require several such moments and still others enjoy many "experiences" of "openness" and "satsang" without ever converting at all.
Only when the other becomes "open," eager to discuss religious and existential matters, ready to ask about the premie's experiences - only then does the calculated offensive stance begin "informal satsang." But the necessary concentration is often harder to induce in outsiders than in premies, because most outsiders appear to have trouble keeping their eyes still, sticking to the point, not letting their minds wander off with each new whim:
Ever notice conversations? How it wanders all over the place, from here to there, just wandering, "what kind of tea was that, Oh it was from that New Age store, I forget the Name, you know those New Age stores are not doing that well, their prices are high, well it's like everything else, inflation. But you still can find good deals. My mother got this hat the other day." It wanders all over,
has no point, no focus, no conclusion, it's just scattered. (satsang notes)
Perhaps for this reason the most useful "open" moments are moments intense with emotion, misery concentrating the mind on misery, joy concentrating it on joy, boredom on boredom. With concentration already attained, the premie has only to direct it to something intriguing and then let the natural concentration of curiosity keep out distractions until the person, like the premie, becomes curious about the very moment at hand.
Having pinpointed concentration in the moment at hand, having slowed thought in both minds to the point where silence can be heard, the premie still has somehow to show the other the "vibration" so he can feel the "experience." This he usually has to do without "satsang" words, which with outsiders lose their power to summon symbolic meaning and which may upset or distract. Even if the premie tries to introduce "satsang" words and convey their symbolic power, he must do so by means of other words, common to them both, which already carry numinous meaning for the other. The process is hit-or-miss, the premie throwing out possible words - "love," "truth," "peace," "God," "infinity." GMJ becomes an "enlightened soul," the "true teacher," even the "ultimate playboy," and the "experience of Knowledge" is presented as "time standing still," the "ultimate rush," "insurpassable beauty," "knowing your true self." The premie continues until he hits upon expressions which enliven the other's religious sensibilities. Once over dinner with an intellectual outsider I found him responding to Maslow's notion of "Being-cognition."
But the premie can not just let the person rest in his habitual understanding,of a numinous word: I could not let my friend merely
recall the nice feeling he had had reading Maslow's discussions of "Being-cognition," or even the profound feeling of oneness with nature he associated with that word; the word "Being-cognition" had to recreate those feelings here in the moment, and not only to recreate but lead him beyond them. To do this the premie tries to enter into the other's numinous memory, feel it together with him, and then, watching as numinous words recall numinous experiences for the other, point out just that moment when the other's recollection is closest to his own present "experience." Then he must merge the other's present "experience" into his own. He might just point to things in the room, the way they look, or tune the tone of his speech more precisely to the "experience," responding when the other adopts a similar tone. The premie uses subtler and subtler cues to direct the other's attention increasingly precisely into his own mode of perception, hinting to the other what to notice and how to stand within one's eyes and breath to notice it.
When the other has finally entered into the premie's "experience" of the present, his eyes now gaze unflinchingly, he relaxes utterly, and perhaps he too begins to point things out - "your face looks so radiant," "gee, it's quiet all of a sudden," "suddenly I'm feeling full of energy." The friend with whom I was discussing "Being-cognition" began saying that our table seemed to be enveloped in a bubble of still, fuzzy light, magically shielded from the surrounding restaurant hubub. I agreed, we investigaged the "bubble" a little more carefully, and when the topic of "Being-cognition" came up again he suddenly said, "you've brought me there."
"Bringing me there," however, does not always result in conversion.
Outsiders, unlike premies, do not always desire to repeat the experience. When I invited my Maslow-phile friend to "satsang" saying he could get the "experience" there more deeply and again and again he declined, telling me that while he valued such moments he just let them come as they would and never pursued them. Communicating the "experience," in fact, turns out to be the easiest step in converting an outsider. It is much harder to instill the desire for repeated "experience" and harder still to link the "experience" with the person of GMJ.
Desire for the "experience" sometimes grows with exposure to it, until the point comes when an outsider actively seeks out "satsang" on his own. Sometimes a crisis or a strange dream suddenly leaves him with a yearning for it. But often people have to learn this just as they learn to like martinis or marijuana.200 People learn to value the "experience" primarily by being with premies who value it, who sacrifice other pleasures and goals for it, who describe it in such ultimate terms. Thus if an outsider feels the "experience" was "nice," premies tell him it was "fantastic," it he thinks it "unusual" they insist it is "unique." If he finds it "meaningful" they explain that it is "ultimate truth." And beyond using such terms, the premie shows the other his valuation of the "experience" by treating it with reverence and awe, worshipping it, moving within it as if God were present, as if the time and the place had become sacred.
At the same time, premies cast pleasurable and meaningful "worldly" "experiences" in a different light, explaining that drugs, making love, and winning goals only provide temporary happiness, material comforts are superficial, and artistic creation is a moment of spiritual insight manipulated and distorted by "ego." They say that even
nature is only a dim reflection of the perfect divine universe which lies within. Finally, premies associate with the "experience" various phenomena the outsider had previously overlooked or discounted. Coincidences, indistinct feelings, sometimes even dreams are all redefined as manifestations of "GMJ's world." Thus common but little-noticed "experiences" are labeled for the first time. Once labeled one begins to notice them more, sees that they seem to occur more often. Because the outsider associates these newly-noticed experiences with the "satsang experience," the importance of it expands, seeming to pervade many hidden nooks of his life. The outsider recalls it easily and it begins to teem with mysterious meaning.
But even if an outsider comes to enjoy the "experience" of "satsang," to desire it repeatedly and to assign it spiritual meaning, he still has to be convinced that the "experience" comes from GMJ and can only be found through him. For "recognizing GMJ" is the necessary second step in conversion. To those who have already enjoyed similar experiences on drugs or through other teachers premies explain that GMJ had been just preparing them, only now revealing himself as the true Source. The "experiences" at "satsang" and with other premies, furthermore, are only tastes, not the true "experience" GMJ is capable of revealing. For this, the newcomer must be initiated. Then only will the "connection" be made, then only will GMJ open his "third eye," then only will the premie learn the meditation techniques which enable him to regain the "experience" any time he so desires.
When this time comes the calculated offensive finally has to use "satsang" words, to present GMJ in detail, to introduce the newcomer into the intricacies of premie culture, to wean him away from
his "attachment" to the "world." If the naive offensive offended many by trying to assert GMJ from the start, at least noone stayed around who imagined that the "experience" could be gotten without GMJ. But te calculated offensive, which concentrates on "experience" before belief, risks losing people who find other means to the "experience" or, no matter how much they valued it, can not bring themselves to "surrender their lives to GMJ" in order to get it more and more. For this reason, the phases of Mission life which emphasized the "calculated offensive" tried to devise a series of steps for the newcomer to tread on his way to initiation - what one official called a "consciousness continuum," which would gradually, through seminars, films, dinners, and meetings, introduce the newcomer to the Mission belief system and customs.21
Nevertheless, no matter how much the organization tried to ease the transition between recognition of the "experience" and belief that GMJ was its only source, many prospective converts were lost between these points. To convince newcomers of the core premie beliefs - that GMJ is the source of their "satsang" and meditation "experiences" and that his is the only path to spiritual realization - is harder thanjust to bring them into the "experience." The "experience" showed them a new dimension of life, an unguessed potential on which the beliefs immediately threaten to impose a limitation. Premies have somehow to bring newcomers to an integration of "experience" and belief which establishes the Knowledge "experience" as the reality of life and GMJ as the reality of one's own being and which make one an actor in the sacred drama of his "play." "Experience" and belief have to become inseparable. With this "recognition" the limitation
of the belief appears to vanish, for GMJ then encompasses the "world."
To bring about such a "recognition" premies can not rely just on their own "satsang," but have to orient newcomers squarely toward GMJ. They can not "make it happen" to another, or even to themselves. Only by GMJ's "darshan," or a "darshan dream" of GMJ, or his picture, or an instant of "satsang," or an event of the world blazingly branded by his omnipresent signature can the "recognition" take place and convince a person to "dedicate his life" to GMJ, bow down before his picture at the initiation, and utter the words of the "submission vow:"
Oh my Guru Maharaj Ji,
I dedicate myself at Your Holy Lotus Feet. I am weak and ignorant, and am filled with the impurities of this world.
Oh Guru Maharaj Ji, please take my mind and purge me of the impurities I possess. Reveal to me the Knowledge of all Knowledges. Strengthen me, uplift me, and reveal the Kingdom of Heaven within inside of me. Bring me from hate to love, darkness to light, death to immortality.
I will obey you implicitly, and will never reveal this Knowledge to anybody for any reason. I will keep in contact with You through my devotional love, satsang, meditation and service.
The "recognition" of GMJ which happens to each new convert is a mystery to premies, the mystery of GMJ's hidden and all-knowing power acting infinitely beyond their own capacity to unveil in any unexpected corner of the creation his divinity. The new convert's "recognition" is the established premie's re-"recognition." Now suddenly complete communication flows where hedgings and urgings had struggled a moment before. "GMJ's world" has been found in yet another person's eyes.
* * * * *
The conversion of another is the highest reward of "propagation," the strongest confirmation of a premie's own "recognition" of GMJ.
Especially until the 1979-80 period initiations were often celebrated with great fanfare, the premies crowding around the newly "born" initiates with great curiosity, searching in their eyes for a new spark, basking in their "vibration," giving them feasts and birthday cakes, demanding they give "satsang" to all to tell about the miraculous merging with GMJ they had just undergone. But as the 70's gave way to the 80's conversions continued at a mere trickle and nothing fed the perennial premie hope of massive world-wide conversions. The organization embarked on a second loosening, decentralizing phase, and it looked like the DLM, which no longer even bore that name, seemed to have collapsed for good. Festivals came now only once or twice a year, ahsrams disbanded, local "satsangs" convened irregularly and premies had to struggle in the "world" without even recourse to "informal satsang."
Yet a 1983 Memorial Day "local" program in Los Angeles attracted two thousand premies and a Fourth of July festival in 1983 in Miami projected an attendance of over ten thousand. Thousands of GMJ's followers still stuck with him though his organization and they themselves had become nearly invisible. They had merged back into the "world," someone explained to me, but since GMJ was in the "world" too they had really only merged more completely with him. Their ideal now was to end all separations between "us" and "them," between "propagation" and life. They felt freer - "we've finally gotten rid of so much of that crap" - less afraid of the "world," less plagued with ambivalence and guilt. "So much has changed;' an old friend assured me and yet, when I told her I had rejected GMJ and was following other religious teachings, suddenly nothing had changed. For her, my
rejection of GMJ, my new religious interests, even my very existence were only a mere shadow. "But I'm happy," she said, "I look around and noone else is happy." "GMJ's world" still held her apart. Yet others perhaps really are learning to live up to the new ideal, articulated to me by another old friend who told me, "Now GMJ has sent us fully into the world and there's no place to hide and no excuses. We will be there, like lotuses growing in the mud but untouched by it, looking like everyone else but only serving Him, quietly and unobtrusively reorienting the world toward His love."
NOTES TO CHAPTER IX
1) Two to three hundred premies were employed by the Mission in Denver's International Headquarters, one hundred and fifty or so in San Antonio's "City of Love and Light."
2) They suggest in particular that "monistic, two-level, charismatic" movements, of which they define DLM as one, perform this "function." (1978, p. 108)
3) Anthony, Robbins, and Richardson (1978) classify DLM as a "monistic" rather than a "dualistic" movement. But actually GMJ's metaphysic vacillates between dualism and monism. Dualism emerges when he emphasizes distinctions between "mind" and meditative consciousness, the "world" and the premies, belief in and rejection of him. But he also suggests that these could be united in the realization of Knowledge and the recognition of GMJ, when "illusion" would disappear as "darkness" flees when a light is turned on. His is, of course, a theistic monism, in which all is seen as a manifestation of one existing divine essence.
4) See discussion of "naive" and "calculated" offensives in chapter I.
5) The DLM in India was occasionally harassed by, among others, an organization called the Arya Samaj. See chapter X.
6) "Prashad" usually means a gift of food from the Guru.
7) "The Word," a DLM Propagation Newsletter distributed to all DLM centers, 11/24/79, p. 2.
8) Selling of magazines and solicitation of junk took place mainly during the early 1971-1973 period; "meditation surveys" during 1975-76. This was probably the last of the door-to-door efforts, which never were conducted with any regularity. Leafletting in parks continued at least through 1979-80.
9) Letter to premies from Ira Woods, National Propagation Coordinator, 8/31/79.
10) Letter to premies from Ira Woods, national Propagation Coordinator, 8/31/79.
11) Patrick describes in his book, Let Our Children Go! (1977) the "deprogramming" of several other premies. Over the years he and similar "deprogrammers" apparently kidnapped and tried to "deprogram" quite a number of other premies. Some deconverted and others didn't.
12) "Comments from the Workshops," Denver Community Bulletin, p. 7. This bulletin was sent out to Denver premies summarizing results of "propagation workships" during the 1976 period when the philosophy of the calculated offensive was originally forged.
14) The phase of wearing GMJ picture-buttons ended around 1975
15) According to the typology of new Religious Movements developed by Robbins, Anthony and Richardson (1978), this makes the DLM a "monistic, two-level movement" disposed toward both "technical" and "charismatic" means. "Two-level" simply means devotees see enlightenment as a gradual process and themselves as still having a long way to go. "Charismatic" means that devotion to a spiritual master is the means to enlightenment; "technical" means that techniques and practices are the means to enlightenment. My point has been to stress that premies feel both are indispensible.
16) Though premies used their own terminology to describe this sort of thing, similar preoccupations raged in countercultural and alternative psychology circles. Richard Alpert/Baba Ram Dass had this to say at a lecture at the Menninger Foundation: "As long as I have a value that where I'm at is better than where you're at, then I'm coming on to you in the most subtle way saying, 'Look how conscious I am, and look how centered I am,' see? You can't come on. That's impure." (Ram Dass, 1971, p. 78)
17) Alpert also describes this same phenomena:
"I am perfectly convinced that always in another human being there is that place, if I can just cut through to that place which is my own ability to not get caught in the melodrama each time." (Ibid, p. 62)
18) "Comments from the Workshops," Denver Community Bulletin, p. 6)
19) Many theories of conversion suggest that people convert as a result of disorienting life crises. No systematic data has been gathered which would confirm or deny this theory among premies. Further, such data might be hard to gather. Like many converts, premies tend to reconstruct their biographies, dwelling on particularly unpleasant experiences they had before converting to emphasize their disillusionment with the world. But even despite this penchant for viewing the "world" dimly, a number of them still recount very bland conversion stories, saying they were leading normal, average lives with gurus and enlightenment the furthest thoughts from their minds.
A further problem with the crisis theory of conversion lies in the fact that nearly anything in one's life can be viewed - or subjectively felt - as a crisis. Therefore whenever conversion takes place it is not too difficult to look back and find some sort of "crisis" withir the previous year. The problem then becomes explaining why all one's other life crises did not result in conversion to something.
20) Here I am following Becker's (1963) argument which suggests that, after learning to perceive the effects of marijuana, the neophyte must also learn to enjoy them. the "Knowledge" differs from marijuana in that the effects must be induced without aid of a chemical substance and often take more patience to point out. Further, the
newcomer must learn not only to enjoy the effects but to value them as spiritually meaningful.
21) Styles of preparation for initiation changed over time. When the Mission first arrived in the West, in 1971-72, some people could get initiated the very day they were told about Knowledge. Someone would leaflet during the day to advertise a program for that night after which a Mahatma would hold a Knowledge Session. Gradually restrictions were set up; a person had to have heard ten, then twenty satsangs in order to receive Knoweldge. Later one was required to have heard satsang for several months, to have done service for the Mission. Still later formal Knowledge seminars were held, lasting weeks or months, and a person had to be fully integrated into the life of the premie community before becoming eligible for initiation. Some people waited as long as two years, and even more in remote areas which initiators seldom visited. Around 1979, however, restrictions were gradually lifted, the Knowledge seminars were shortened or eliminated, the requirements for satsangs attended, services performed, and integration into the premie community were increasingly ignored. By 1982 apparently it was again possible to receive Knowledge within a few days of hearing about it if one showed properly sincere and reverent attitudes.