You Can't Imitate Devotion
The following is an interview with Divine Light Mission president Bob Mishler
and vice president Mike Donner conducted in Denver in April, 1974.

Can you recap the different phases the mission has passed through in the past three years?

Bob: To a certain extent. Stage one is receive Knowledge Stage two is to realize Knowledge and stage three is to build a new world order. In the last year we have been in between stage one and stage two, previewing stage three.

Stage one doesn't stop and then stage two begins in the same way that stage two doesn't stop and stage three begins. Realization must be a living realization that is as continuous as life is continuous. Now we recognize the importance of concentrating on developing new systems within our community, not only to serve ourselves but to come together as a community.

Our communities will be an example for the rest of the world to see that there is a practical basis for uniting humanity. We need to recognize that it is not going to happen in a sudden flash or cataclysmic occurence. This experience of life is the greatest miracle and meditation is the thing which reveals what this life is all about.

I know premies who, because of their expectations of meditation, rather than their practice of meditation, are miserable most of the time. They expect some cataclysmic occurrence within their own being rather than suddenly recognizing and subtly perceiving the miracle of their own life.

In Phoenix, Maharaj Ji said, "If you think there is going to be a big miracle, well, it's happening right now. The biggest event is that you are alive. For a man to breathe, it's too common. But it's not common and he must understand that."

Mike and Bob After the program
Maharaj Ji was practically
floating on air. He turned to me
and said, "I'm blissed out."
On the last night someone yelled,
'We love you Maharaj Ji.'
He yelled back, 'I love you too.'
That was the whole message
of Millennium '73.

Do you think people have learned not to blow things out of proportion and not look outside for things to happen? Bob: I think there are some people who are still into hyping things, but those of us who are working in the headquarters have gotten beyond that for the most part. In fact, I tried to put the brakes on Millennium. I even did a tour around the country explaining to people that it wasn't the numbers that were going to be significant. It was what was taking place at this event that was going to make it the most significant in the history of the world. The positive vibration of love that engrossed all those people in the Astrodome marks the beginning of the human race.

I was only expecting 20 or 25 thousand, but it was like calming a team of wild horses to stop the predictions of hundreds of thousands and the Astrodome taking off into outer space. To an extent, that sort of thinking is still with the premies, but not nearly as much as before. Many premies are having a broader and deeper awakening of practicality in terms of realizing this Knowledge and understanding what human life is all about.

The question Maharaj Ji originally put to us was, "What is the aim of human life?" The aim of human life is not to fly off to another planet. It is to establish peace right here in our own life, right down here.

For many premies, hyping was an experience they needed. That is, to blow it up and have it pop. Maybe the Holy Family helps it along at times. It's like when a puppy goes on the carpet, he has to have his nose rubbed in it for him to recognize that this was his mistake. I know every premie had his individual lesson.

The only thing that was protecting the premies was the Knowledge because the Knowledge is Truth. So even though we were hyping it up beyond what we had realized and were adding a lot of garbage that did not belong, we were safe.

I once mentioned to Guru Maharaj Ji that it seemed he was spreading Knowledge in spite of us, not because of us. Divine Light Mission is a rehabilitation organization that transforms people from negative lifestyles. And it takes time. The experiences that Maharaj Ji gives us in the process are those necessary to break down our concepts, illuminate our fears and open us to the love that's inside us. When that love starts to come out you really notice what this miracle of life is all about.

Was the slow down of the mission after the festival a reaction to those lessons?

Bob: Guru Maharaj Ji doesn't allow anything to go unchecked. The debt we had after Millennium was a sobering experience. People who came with expectations went away disappointed, but those who perceived ahead of time what would happen dealt with the situation that remained. Those who expected nothing in particular just went on with life and were happy to have attended.

The debt was prebuilt into it. We could have cut back, but think about the long term significance of the event. This was the first time Maharaj J was crowned in the West. Maharaj Jis a gem. We would not mount a gem in tinfoil, we always use platinum. We did Millennium to the utmost of our capacity, and even though it cost us a lot of money, what is money? We are not businessmen. We are here to bring peace to this world.

Millennium was perfect. Every night after the program Maharaj Ji congratulated me, which means all the premies, on how perfect it was. On the second night I could not stay on my feet when I went to see Maharaj Ji. I kept falling into pranam because he was so happy. I was in a state of ecstasy I cannot express.

Maharaj Ji was practically floating in the air. He turned to me and said, "I'm blissed out. It was so fantastic. There was such a positive vibration of love being felt by the premies there that I felt like dancing." If you remember on the third night someone yelled to Maharaj Ji, "We love you," and he shouted back, "I love you, too." That was the whole message of Millennium because the practical plan for world peace was expressed right there.

What was learned from the debt?

Bob: The debt taught us a great deal about developing a stable foundation for our communities. Today we are on the most stable financial basis we've been on at any other time.

In our effort to propagate this Knowledge we seem to have large numbers of people receive Knowledge and then fall away because they are not properly cared for and given satsang. Is anything being done about that?

Bob: Well, after Millennium, Maharaj Ji called a meeting of the international mission leaders where he told us to concentrate on organization rather than propagation because we had propagated to such an extent that we had more people than we were capable of handling. We didn't have the facilities to provide people with a situation wherein they could realize the Knowledge You don't effectively spread Knowledge unless people realize it.

Mike: Too often we leave each other alone because we believe. "You do your thing and I'll do mine. You leave me alone and I'll leave you alone". But if we realize we are all in the same boat going through the same life changes we can really help each other.

There is a tendency to hype ourselves saying, "I have Knowledge and am realizing it." But I shouldn't have to pretend that I am strong if in fact I am experiencing difficulty or doubt.

"You must influence that
portion of humanity over which
you have some direct connection
- your own life."

Do you see the orientation of the mission changing toward taking care of our own people as opposed to going out looking for more?

Bob: It's more like take care of yourself, then get your communities together. Maharaj Ji has given you, us, the responsibility to save yourself from misery and suffering. So you must influence the portion of humanity over which you have some direct connection, which is your own life. We have to get our lives together.

Maharaj Ji has said we must make our communities an exemplary alternative and then people will recognize it. Talk is theoretical. Many utopian thinkers came up with beautiful conceptualizations of how life would be if people would get themselves together. Unless we manifest something people will see us as just another utopian sect.

Mike: When you grab hold of this Knowledge and not all the trappings, you are going to go somewhere. Like a rope tow up a mountain. You can talk about going to the top, but until you grab that rope, you aren't going anywhere.

Bob: Exactly. We talk about Knowledge but how much do we really do? Maharaj Ji said we have to meditate to experience what this Knowledge is.

How is the mission changing?

Mike: It used to be that you had to join the ashram to do service. We said there was no distinction between ashram premies and others, but our actions indicated otherwise. Part of this was that premies protected themselves to see where they were with the Knowledge. But now through practice, we have grown stronger to the point where we can see we are all the same. Non-ashram premies have realized the same thing and are coming to do more service. It has happened to such an extent in New York that since Millennium we've transferred thirty-five ashram premies and the community is stronger than ever.

Bob: The pretense is gone. For a long time, people pretended that there was something missing if you were not completely dedicating your life to Guru Maharaj Ji, and that meant living in an ashram. What does dedicating your life mean anyway?

One thing I've learned is that you cannot imitate devotion. In the learning process of a human being, you can notice that a child will imitate the behavior of the adults around it. He doesn't learn anything by imitating but through imitation he guides himself into experiences. Only from experience does he get experience. In the same way, devotion has to come from your own experience. Most of us imitated Indian Mahatmas as devotees of Guru Maharaj Ji. We took our models of saints from the scripture in order to emulate the behavior to learn devotion.

Now by actually having served the Lord we have begun to experience what dedication really means. Our experience has to do with a particular time, 1974, and a particular place, America. We have our own culture. A devotee is someone who is dedicating his life no matter what his lifestyle is.

Mike: Recently a friend asked me how a person with a family and responsibilities could serve and feel connected like someone in the ashram would feel connected. I thought about it and said. "The only assurance that you are connected is the meditation. You can live in the ashram, do work and all but if you are not doing meditation you aren't connected."

He said, "Man, that must be such a relief to know that you can do anything in this world, but if you are in meditation, you are connected."

What are the practical ways for premies to become involved?

Bob: In a large community we have a DUO office that nurses, coordinates and administers the activities of a community, like a town council. We have the Divine Community Projects which are like new towns. People, regardless of their living situation can participate in programs, like Rainbow Groceries, Shri Hans Humanitarian and Shri Hans Educational.

But even premies living out on their own around the country can represent Maharaj Ji in that area. By following a few simple guidelines they can be an Information Center which is directly connected to the national DUO offices and coordinated through here.

When you say coordinate, what is actually being provided to the people?

Bob: For example, people may want to know how to set up social service projects in their area. This is one of the emphases of DUO today, social service projects. Practical instructions like this we call coordination. People want to know what to do, what to say and how they should approach people.

People want to participate in the national system. Premies with a farm in Ohio may want to know what food to grow so they don't duplicate efforts with premies in Bloomington, Indiana. Premies are motivated to cooperate because they know that through cooperation efforts increase. One and one do not make two. They make eleven.

Mike: We are just helping people plug in. What is the life of an ashram premie? He works all day and turns in his paycheck so that the bulk of his money can go for propagation. In the evening he gives satsang and perhaps two or three nights he goes to a social service project. How different is that from most premies? They work too and come home. Maybe they will call DUO and ask, "I have a free night, what can I do?" DUO might send the person to a prison program or have him help paint the clinic.

Bob: The important thing is that people work and make donations to the mission. Maharaj Ji said that the American mission should be so strong that it could assist and subsidize the propagation of Knowledge all over the world. America has the only economy that is resourceful and strong enough to do that. Most countries can't even send money out of the country.

Sometimes premies don't realize how much this national headquarters does for them in terms of taking care of details like visas for the Holy Family and mahatmas, travel arrangements and communication networks. We have to maintain a certain level of operation that allows Maharaj J to go all over the world. We can create a foundation in America that truly can bring peace to the world. But it's done with that $15 a week contribution. Most premies could make that donation to Divine Light Mission and still maintain the work of propagation in their communities. If our basis of support is cultivated among the broader community then DUO becomes a reality.

"You cannot imitate devotion.
Devotion has to come from your own experience,
and ours has to do with America in 1974."