Gathering video on Vimeo
July 25-27 1972 - Guru Puja Festival held in Montrose, Colorado.
A curious bystander, Bruce Woodside, who had been harassed by premies on the streets of Denver took a Super 8 camera to the Montrose Guru Puja festival in 1972. By not using clever editing tricks but just linking a series of scenes filmed during the day he shows the event in a more honest way than the film taken by DLM cameramen. While not exactly a rip-roaring overwhelming spiritual success it was remarkable that the "festival" could even have been organised and it was an important part of the extraordinary though ephemeral success of Divine Light Mission.
The film has no dialogue.
Prem Rawat's Boastful Prediction of His Imminent Acceptance As God by the World's Population Proved Premature
Premies Doing Service: Clearing Stones From Prem Rawat's Path to the Darshan Temple
Prem Rawat Sits in the Darshan Temple Awaiting a Mass Foot Kissing
The Crowd Lines Up and Passes Past Prem Rawat in the Darshan Temple
Prem Rawat Blows Out His Holy Breath
Holy Breath Accepted by Newly Initiated Premie
Life Must Go On: Eating
Life Must Go On: Dancing
Life Must Go On: Sitting Around Waiting For Something To Happen
There Was a Rush To Start Practicing This Secret Meditation aka "The Knowledge"
Prem Rawat Gives Satsang Speech Montrose Guru Puja 1971
"And all premies must understand, is a very important point. I must explain to everyone in America, I'm not scared of telling them this point because it's true, it's a true point, there is a going to be a soon, the time is coming soon where you're going, going to see a great, strange thing happening, really far-out thing happening. The time is coming this it's very near. And soon, maybe this world will be able to realize who is God. Not only believe on Him, know God exists. Blessing to all the premies."
Some Premies in Matching Dresses Try An Arti Ceremony
I was quite shocked to read Bruce Woodside's 2017 comments on his day at Montrose in 1971. His cultural insight was amazing, his writing terse but brilliant and the film really gives a picture of the day as he describes it: "largely filled with a sort of aimless peripatetic energy, empty sermons, meager spectacle, a little commerce, much sunshine, a welcome afternoon shower, a bit of music, a suggestion of mystery."
The film maker's comment on posting this film on Vimeo in 2017
In matters of belief – religious, political – I have always been more or less on the outside looking in, an observer rather than a participant. I can recall sitting in church as a small child, staring at the rapt faces of the surrounding congregants, wondering what it was they were experiencing and why I didn’t seem to be able to access that same sense of awe or joy or fulfillment or whatever it was – and wondering too, was it real?
As I got older, I occasionally found myself in the company of believers who were often as well proselytizers for their particular cause, and I would press them, “Why do you believe? How can you simply accept answers to questions that are clearly mysteries, without demanding some kind of evidence that those answers are true? Is it a virtue, or is it just a release from the burden of questioning authority or being perpetually curious?”
In the spring of 1972, I began to encounter on the streets of Denver, Colorado, followers of the teachings of the child guru Maharaj Ji, the fourteen-year-old son and heir apparent of a spiritual leader in Northern India - who, it was claimed, had become enlightened at the age of six and achieved Satguru status by the age of eight.
His religious order or operation, international in scope, was known as the Divine Light Mission and their American ashram and headquarters was in a large old mansion in the Capitol Hill district, just around the corner from where I lived at the time. Consequently I was frequently accosted when out in the city by his “premies,” devotees who had given up their own concerns to live communally, seek out new recruits, follow and serve their newfound Master, and who cheerfully invited me to enjoy a free dinner and receive the Knowledge with which He had been endowed. I inevitably, politely, but forcefully, declined.
Traditional Western beliefs and institutions had collapsed for many young people in affluent industrial nations under pressure from the vibrant and chaotic counter-culture of the Sixties, and that had opened up the opportunity to sample from a broad buffet of exotic dogmata. Eastern gurus, amateur philosophers, political activists, secular and religious conmen and hucksters of every conceivable stripe sought to fill and, in many instances, profit from the void. In the confusion of the battle for contending allegiances, it was easy for many to be momentarily attracted to one cause or another, to sacrifice, to serve, and then move on to the next shiny object when enthusiasm waned. There were so many to choose from.
Watching this pageant became a kind of pastime for me, and it was in that spirit that I decided to travel with my friend and fellow Super 8 cameraman Lee Ferdon to the first Guru Puja in the U.S., which was held on a ranch outside the town of Montrose, Colorado, in the summer of 1972. Our intention was not to celebrate the miracle or adore the Perfect Master Who Was To Bring Peace To The World, but simply to observe and make a record of one day in the life of an ephemeral, transient community of believers, seekers, and skeptics gathering on the western slopes of the Colorado Rockies.
Staring at these faces now, across the gap of forty-five years, I wonder: what became of them all? What did they gather from that day, largely filled with a sort of aimless peripatetic energy, empty sermons, meager spectacle, a little commerce, much sunshine, a welcome afternoon shower, a bit of music, a suggestion of mystery. Why did they gather, I wonder, and what did they take away?