|Date: October 17, 1997|
I first met Guru Maharaji was when he was about 13 years old and living in a small house just outside London. I lived with a group of about 12 friends sharing a large house in West London and one night a friend who lived nearby told us that an Indian Guru had moved into the neighbourhood and that he had an open house every evening if anyone wanted to come along and meet him.
He said people just sat about talking about meditation, god and other spiritual stuff and as that was what we spent most of our time doing anyway ( I was practising Maharishi's mantra, and other friends were into Madame Blavatsky, I Ching, Tarot, philosophy, Aurobindo, etc.), we went along the following evening.
At first we only stayed for about half an hour. Taking our shoes off and squeezing in to sit on the floor of a crowded room to listen to someone go on about how philosophy, art, and science were a waste of time and that there was something called the knowledge that was going to change the world gave us an irreverent fit of the giggles, so we retired to the pub for a pint and a ciggie. We soon went back, however and ended up there almost every night.
All the talk was by people who had received the knowledge and I remember feeling that this was a bit unfair as we all had our own experience and accumulated wisdom to give satsang about. I soon found out that my previous forays into the search for meaning were considered worthless and that the only thing people worth paying attention to were those who had received knowledge - particularly mahatmas and of course ultimately Guru Maharaji who came down to sit on the armchair covered in a sheet towards the end of each evening and sometimes in the afternoons (we ended up hanging around the house day and night). When he wasn't downstairs he was up in his bedroom watching T.V. and it was sometimes weird to be listening to lofty spiritual discourse while hearing Guru Maharaji listening to Star Trek or some other popular programme above us.
The whole thing was very strange and although I was drawn to it, I did not find it enjoyable at all. One of the worst things was the destruction of the relationship that I had with all my friends. Whereas before we would sit about as equals, pondering life's perplexities and laughing a lot, now everything was very serious and there were divisions between those who understood satsang, those who had knowledge, those who were aspiring to receive it and those who were confused. There weren't many who thought that the whole thing was a load of rubbish, and any that did dissent were ostracised. We spent virtually our whole time at the ashram so there was no socialising with ordinary folk.
I went along because I was attached to my friends and because it soon became clear that what was really being offered was infinite bliss and the realization of the true purpose of my life. It was also evident from the start that this involved acceepting Guru Maharaji as Lord and Master. I sat a few feet away from him many times in that small room while he talked about surrendering the reins of your life to Satguru,there will be many false prophets but only one true Lord; Guru Maharaji is better than God,there is only one Satguru and all the other gurus are like weeds surrounding a tree, and so forth.
This last quote, along with many other premie satsangs about the uselessness of every other Guru, teacher, meditation technique, and philosophy as compared to the knowledge convinced me to give knowledge a go. However it was not that easy to receive knowledge. It was necessary to prove that you had a real thirst and that you accepted Guru Maharaji as the boss. Part of the process was that you had to show your humility by asking (I think begging was preferred) a mahatma to give you knowledge. This could be quite humiliating when you had to do it in front of a large audience of friends and strangers, only to be told that you were not yet ready by someone who did not know anything about you except the fact you had not asked them very many times before and thus had not demonstrated enough humility and perseverance.
I went through a bit of this (it became even harder to give up the quest for knowledge once you had gone through
a few of these refusals) and eventually spent a few intense days in the process of receiving knowledge. This process
involved moving between ashrams and premie houses, being kept waiting for hours (of course with plenty of satsang),
and then being told the mahatma had gone to bed, and if we still wanted knowledge to come back the next day at
the crack of dawn. When we did this, we were in for another 14 hour wait (the whole time dying for a cup of tea
and a cigarette ) but finally received the techniques late in the evening.
When Ashokanand finally gave us the techniques that evening, the pressure of his heavy hand on my eyeballs certainly caused me to see something but I did not experience anything from the other techniques. On the way out there were a few disgruntled ex-aspirants who did not know what to make of it - the anti-climax was profound - and on the long walk home (no night buses in those days) we tried to talk about what had happened, even though we were had been told not to analyse and "chit chat". I was so cold and tired that I could hardly speak.
Over the following months I remained one of the few who could not surrender at the feet of the master - figuratively or literally. I could never do pranam (bowing down), engage in darshan (kissing Guru Maharaji's feet), or sing arti (a Hindi devotional song). When the satsang meetings erupted into the chanting of "Bhole shri Satgurudev Maharaji ki jai", I felt like a pacifist at a National Front meeting.
If Guru Maharaji came out into the garden or arrived at a program everyone would hit the deck (pranam) leaving me standing there about 2 feet. taller than Maharaji and feeling very embarrassed for not displaying my respect. It wasn't that I did not like him, it was just that it was such a strange thing to do. I was often told that it was pride and ego preventing me and there probably was some truth in that, but at the same time I was trying to be honest about how I felt. This was no easy thing in the devotional environment of the times.
After about 2 years of trying to meditate (at least 2 hours a day), going to satsang meetings nearly every night, and attending all the programmes and festivals in Europe and the U.S.A., I ended up living in a premie house near G.M.'s residence in London. It was only a 3 bedroomed house and although it started off with a small group of us, it ended up housing around 40 premies - all proclaiming the love and devotion that I had not yet experienced. A few friends and I ran away to the country but this soon got boring and I was glad to get back to the hustle and bustle of the premie scene in London around the time of Guru Puja at Ally Pally (July 1973). The feeling of not quite fitting in soon returned, however, and I drifted away over the following months.
Later that year that I went to live in Amsterdam where people seemed to be enjoying lives of love and peace without any Guru or meditation and I was only too pleased to blend in. As luck would have it, the kind art students who gave me a place to stay included a premie and an aspirant. Before I knew what was going on, I became a sort of go-between and gradually found myself leaning towards the premie viewpoint . In fact I got drawn away from the clubs and good times that I was having and into the premie world that centred on Amsterdam ashram.
I don't know if it was the Amsterdam air or what, but I finally got caught by "devotion", hook, line, and sinker. I believed that Guru Maharaj Ji was greater than god and that he knew more about me than I knew about myself. I thought that he was Creator, Preserver, Destroyer and guided my every moment. I believed that his wisdom and power knew no bounds and that the knowledge was the key to infinity.
I have to admit that the next few years were incredible. I felt confident, inspired, full of energy and often extremely happy that I was privileged to have knowledge and the love of Guru Maharaji. My greatest joy was telling other people about the answer to all their problems of which I felt I was living proof.
It felt so good being in the Lord's gang. I danced all night at the festival in Orlando when Maharaj Ji dressed as Krishna, and Durga Ji (Marolyn) sang 'take my heart, take my whole life too'. I was at last on the inside looking out - as the song went. There were so many good songs that seemed to express the feelings of a devotee cruising along the supposed six lane freeway to Nirvana and I really believed they were all inspired by Guru Maharaji, without whose permission not a blade of grass moved and who was going to make everything all right with the world, as long as we followed his teachings. I was dedicated to spreading the message far and wide.
The fact that I was lacking in any social or material responsibility and that many of the people I encountered considered me to be a proselytising pain in the neck hardly bothered me at all. (I am sorry for anyone who had to put up with me in those days. I hope I can be forgiven if I upset anyone - although I think I caused more amusement than upset.) After a year or so of this I gradually started coming back down to earth and began to appreciate other people's perspectives on life. Getting married and having children helped to bring me to my senses, although I continued to meditate. However the responsibilities of being a parent and a husband soon took over from those of being a follower of Guru Maharaji.
I finally made the decision to drop out at a knowledge review given by Guru Maharaji, at which, after having struggled to raise the entrance fee and leaving my children for a few days, I was subjected to some of the most schmaltzy, slo-mo, sentimental videos accompanied by the most bland music I had ever heard. Guru Maharaji's poetry recitals made me think what a shame it was that he is surrounded by sycophants who are not able to help him with some objective constructive criticism and save him embarrassment . I suppose some would say that it is a matter of taste - and I can only say that it was not to my taste. Did this mean that I was criticising my Creator and the sustainer of my life?
The review itself seemed to lay down the law about the exact way in which to practice the meditation. This surprised me as I had previously been to many reviews where slight variations on the physical positioning and so forth had been described, and had been told by initiators that such considerations did not matter so long as there was sincere effort and you were in tune. The present knowledge review seemed so different from the magic of previous years. I felt that what had been part of a mystical revolution had been transformed to something which felt like a hotel business conference .
The crunch for me came in the Question and Answer session after lunch. I disagreed with many of the answers that Guru Maharaji gave or thought they were so ambiguous that they made no sense to me. One chap asked how he could reconcile the practice of knowledge with his job, which involved gaining huge profits for a capitalist City company by misleading clients, if not downright lying. Guru Maharaji just said "don't worry about it - such things go with the territory" - questionable ethics, I thought. This sparked off other questions about practising knowledge in difficult situations/environments. Each one seemed to get Guru Maharaji more irritated as each time he gave the same answer along the lines of 'I have given you the greatest gift and all you do is put obstacles in the way of practising it'.
Finally a sweet little old lady got up and started to say something innocuous about her meditation and family life. Before she could finish Guru Maharaji appeared to reach the end of his tether - which probably had more to do with the previous questions than the one she asked - and she became the recipient of a lengthy admonishment on not appreciating the value of knowledge, and how he was doing all he could, and if it was not working correctly there was no one to blame but yourself for not following the instructions. I can't remember exactly what was said. I just remember an attitude that seemed to lack sensitivity and compassion.
I know it could be argued that he was acting out of extreme concern for the welfare of his premies and getting
frustrated that they were not experiencing the joy that he knew they could. However, the knowledge that he was
talking about was given by him, and he was presumably having that experience himself, yet here he was losing his
temper. I know that these days some premies say that he is regarded as human with all the
I remember being totally fed up with wondering who he was, what the knowledge was, and what was the best way to practice it. After trying sincerely for over 20 years, I decided that I may have been one of the many who are called but not one of the few who are chosen and made a conscious decision to drift away. This was four or five years ago and it has taken this time to let myself really question the whole business. It was hard to say to myself that the experience of all those years were based on an illusion, or wishful thinking, or the attempt to fulfil some pipe dream, and that I would not crash down and irreparably shatter after having reached such great heights.
Also there was the worry that I, a humble nobody in the great cosmic scheme of things, was refusing the gift that was being offered by Maharaji, who, if not the Lord or Perfect Master, was at least someone with greater wisdom, insight, spiritual experience than I would ever have. Without practicing knowledge, I was doing nothing to fulfill my human potential except making a living and trying my best to look after my family. After having all my past karma washed away when I received knowledge. what bad karma would I now reap? This is the sort of dangerous mumbo-jumbo I am glad to be away from.
Since reading your site and hearing the accounts of many premies who went through much more intense experiences than mine, I have gained more confidence in the realisation that many of my views on life while being a premie were not based on truth. Even if truth may not be the 'consciousness of bliss' I think it is important to find the courage to honestly seek it.
[Editor' Note: Seymour later added this follow-up to his Journeys entry.]
The response to my journeys post have been mostly encouraging - two wavering premies who thanked me for giving them something to help them abandon what they have previously relied on. I suppose they recognized their own feelings and hopefully saw that if I and others can move away (and towards something positive - even if only to become a 'seeker' again) then so can they.
It was a few years ago that I dropped out and it was a strange experience. I would have benefited tremendously from the present web site and newsgroup as I felt very unsure of what I was doing. Out of all my friends I was alone in rejecting the path of knowledge and it's hard disagreeing with the lord of the Universe and his followers when you have nothing to back you up but your own reasoning.
My friends were very sympathetic but they thought that one day I would come back to the fold and that I was just temporarily in my mind - which didn't help me at all. As time went by and the vegetables did not rot inside I gained a bit more confidence and enjoyed reading humanist philosophy, psychology and many other subjects dealing with the human condition.
I actually did a degree - something I would never have bothered with as a premie. I realized that all this study could not offer anything like the 'magic' of satchitanand but it felt like I was taking responsibility for my own understanding of life rather than surrendering the reigns to a master who I now consider to know as much about how to run my life as anyone else.
However , even though I feel distant from DLM and in less need of support than others who are presently going through the transition from devotee to freethinker, this ex-premie venture has proved helpful to friends of mine. I have printed out the archive of forum1 + some other items and given it to a long time buddy. I was amazed at the effect it had on him.
We always talk about G.M. and our opposing attitudes towards him and knowledge but my opinions were never enough to convince him that there was anything to doubt about it all. The week after I had given him the folder he had given his practice of the knowledge up completely! - and has since told me of the sense of relief he feels at not having to meditate everyday or drain his meager finances to visit Australia, Los Angeles or wherever else the festival are held.
Added to this he is now getting on much better with his partner who could never understand his obsession with the whole business and no doubt felt a bit hurt that he chose to leave her to visit his guru or sit under a blanket for an hour each day.
So let's hope the site & newsgroup keeps going - Although I know that we cannot convince the hard-liners, and I don't know if I want to suddenly dislodge anyone from their religions beliefs, it is a great help to those who have reached the end of their tether and realised they are getting nowhere. Without the support of others who have gone through this it can be a very difficult leap into the unknown.
What anger me is the fear that is instilled in premies - 'rotting vegetables' and the like. I remember G.M. saying (in Munich) that the most important thing was the link between him and his devotees. This link was a strong but complex cable that could be stretched almost endlessly. A premie might stop meditating, doing service or attending satsang but if the link broke ( the rejected the master) because of its complexity, it could never be repaired. This really stuck in my mind.
At the time I thought it was wonderful. As I sang Arti I knew that although I may be weak and undisciplined in my service or meditation I would always be connected to the all-compassionate Lord who would look after me forever. It was later when I began to doubt the wisdom of G.M. ,that this and many other similar satsangs played on my mind - putting the 'fear of God' in me. Wow , I am so glad to be out of it. I think even nowadays I get flashes of the fear of eternal damnation.