|Journeys: Bill Veale|
|Date: May 11, 2004|
It seemed a good idea at the time
I was born in 1951, a second child and a Leo, in semi rural suburban Sydney into a childhood of yabbies, billy carts and the beach. Along with broken bones and sunburn I acquired the belief that a benevolent omnipresent god created me and looked after me. At the time I found this both irritating and comforting. I didnít question it. I was just a kid. Together with a rebellious attitude adolescence brought much hand wringing and head banging. Growing up required me to question religion, life, the universe and everything.
My Christian religion didnít fit anymore. The shelves of Theosophical Society bookshop groaned under the collective weight of truth. The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Poems of Kabir, Zen Flesh and Zen Bones and other books filled my head with a potpourri of spiritual notions and aspirations.
By 1970 I was living in Kings Cross. This was before the over pass, when the Cross still had a sleazy innocence. The prostitutes out numbered the junkies and the pool halls were used for playing pool. Oxford St smelt of fish and Micks Cafť struggled to hold the line against health food and tofu. In The Courthouse Hotel at Taylor Square lawyers, hippies and students rubbed shoulders with the Ďnew australianí cafť owners and queens. The streets were awash with peace, love and acid. At last here was a religion I understood, worshipping the unholy trinity of sex, drugs and rock n roll.
I wouldnít say I took drugs seeking a religious experience but the cosmic connexion is hard to gainsay when youíve merged with every molecule in the seventy-two universes and lived to tell the tale. With a little help from enlightened insects, breathing rocks and talking trees the inner journey to godhead made strange sense to me.
Now I had an inner cosmic energy experience to go with my god is love belief.
In 1972 I heard about a boy guru called Guru Maharaj ji, who was speaking in Sydney. I didnít go but it was the beginning of my odyssey.
By 1973 several good friends were involved and were going to the millennium festival in Houston, Texas. They encouraged me to go to one of their meetings called satsang. It was bizarre scene even for a hardened hippy. Sat guru Has Come, Arti in Hindi, garlands, bad suits and worse haircuts. Something screamed inside meÖ loony cult run away now.
Hanging out at the Yellow House and grooving on acid at Santana concerts appealed far more than sitting uncomfortably on the floor before an empty throne and large photo of a young m doing an impersonation of Mao.
However my friends looked happy and the idea that Ďthe energy that moves an atom moves youí fitted nicely into my paradigm. But the main game was to get high, so it wasnít until I took on the possibility of a natural high thru meditation that I became interested. I knew the knowledge was some kind of far out meditation but the whole guru thing was hard to swallow. I asked my premie mate if I could get knowledge by correspondence. He smiled shaking his head, he was sorry but if I wanted to see the divine light of a thousand suns in my own head, in the privacy of my own home, I must come to the ashram and listen to satsang on thirty separate nights. It seemed a pretty high price, but the promise of seeing all those suns blasting away constantly was tempting.
After a particularly cosmic camping trip in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney I decided I would pay the price. I did the first five or six satsangs stoned before someone told me it wasnít cool and hinted that stoned satsang didnít really count. That pissed me off because someone else had just finished telling me that you benefit from satsang even while asleep. They counted in my book and I did a couple more, invented the rest and received k from Paddy in Jan 1974 at the Mosman ashram. I was twenty-two years old.
I wanted it to be true. That the boy in the Mao suit was at least as good as Jesus and at best the lord of the universe. That meditation was the direct route to my soul. That m knew what he was doing.
Over the next few months I slowly started becoming a premie. I was exposed to a vast array of bizarre, ridiculous ideas and concepts. The holy family, that m was my mother and my father, holy breath and prasad to name a few. Still the high was there to be had, I just had to stop my pesky mind long enough to merge with the light and never-ending bliss would surely follow. I was ready to consider that I might need a guru after all.
M rarely came to oz back then, so against the advice of my now ashram premie friends I bought a one way ticket to Amsterdam and left in time to be in Copenhagen for Guru Puja in 1974. If darshan from Bal Bhagwan Ji on a tennis court overlooking middle harbour was trippy, then Copenhagen was surreal. Itís the one where Marolyn said she was now our mother. It was all devotion and surrender, by his grace and bhole shri. It was like a Hitler Youth rally on ecstasy.
Several months later I arrived in England and set out to find the satsang hall, a large gutted cinema in south London. The huge picture of m on the outside wall of the modestly named Palace of Peace made this relatively easy. A sign in the lobby proclaimed Ďwork is worshipí. The back wall of the palace was decorated with paintings of past perfect masters who looked down on the premieís bums as they kissed the carpet in front of the stage. The accommodation service that operated from the palace gave me the address for a nearby premie house. I moved in that day.
For the first time I practiced k in the prescribed way, daily meditation and regular satsang. Although I substituted sightseeing for service, I figured as long as I did it with love it was okay.
There was a lot happening, Reigate, DUO, schools, farms, businesses, warehouses, plays, mahatmas, special artistís ashrams etc. A new world of truth, consciousness and bliss presided over by the current and most powerful perfect master was manifesting itself all over England. Strangely this occurred mostly unnoticed under the noses of nearly everybody else on the planet who thought we were a bunch of wacko losers. But without the inner connexion and the grace thatís what you get, a life of ignorance and maya.
Not me, I was making serious progress. I meditated for hours every day. My tongue licked my brain while my forehead became accustomed to sticky carpet and smelly pillows. I was pretty sure I could tell the difference between lila and maya. Lord of the universe still bothered me a bit but I concluded that m was certainly special and probably divine. What other explanation could there be?
Unbelievably I didnít seriously consider this question for another twenty years.
Late in 1975 a festival was announced for my hometown. I returned to Sydney with a gorgeous girlfriend, Lesley, to witness m wearing his Krishna costume at the famous opera house. We stayed on in Sydney, happily settling into the cult world of Wentworth Ave and William St. My transformation from fringe premie to church lady surprised me. Iím not much of a joiner but I wanted to fit in somewhere. I wanted to play a part.
Premies still gave satsang back then and often there was fabulous live music. The vibe ranged from deadly boring to electric depending on the night. But it was real people telling their story. Sincere, courageous, mostly young people who wanted to get it right, live a loving life and fulfil their potential as human beings. We needed inspiration and direction unfortunately we got foot kissing and fear mongering.
Fuelled by my addiction to the darshan high in the late seventies I spent a small fortune attending big international events in Europe and North America. Huge indoor and outdoor venues with gigantic stages and massive thrones from which m would tell us how fantastic he was and what dickheads we were, pontificate on some pet peeve for a while, remind us how lucky we were that he was prepared save us from our crazy minds, shamelessly exploit his children for a bit and finish off bare-chested with some mala swinging and arm waving.
I lapped it up. The more bizarre it was the better I liked it. Surely it was the real deal. The divine play was unfolding and lucky me I had a nice seat in the back.
The indoctrination was relentless. Stories and images of m were the staple diet, m with shri Hans, m being crowned, m looking sad, m looking coy, and m addressing the faithful. Mahatmas told us stories of a compassionate and powerful m. We were bombarded with tapes, photographs, music, magazines and videos. I absorbed it all. It became my personal understanding, my memory.
I needed to know how to take full advantage of his infinite mercy. He told me I had to put him first. I had to be his slave. I had to trust him. I had to understand that only thru devotion to him is it possible to be truly fulfilled. At every event he hammered the message home. Without him there is nothing. He is all-important and if you canít accept that then youíre stuffed.
ďNot only does Perfect Master have the key, but that answer, that solution, that experience, lies within him. He is the experience.Ē Malibu May 28 1978.
Or this little gem from Dortmund Oct 1 1978: ďReally what makes you a premie is if you obey me.Ē
One last quote from Kissimmee Nov 5 1979 I call shutting down the options: ďOnly those devotees will know the joy and the true bliss who exist and devote themselves to Guru Maharaji Ji.í
It was all a tad intense if you thought about it. Luckily I knew thinking was evil and avoided it with religious fervour. Constantly meditate and trust m to safely carry me across the ocean of illusion.
It barely occurred to me that I was being isolated. K and m were the most important things in my life but I was repeatedly told donít think about them. Donít discuss them with your closest friends not even your partner. Never evaluate the experience of meditation. Never ever compare experiences it will lead to blindness. Just find a seat on the boat, sit down, shut up and start rowing.
We moved to Mullumbimby in 1981 into a small house in the forest, by a creek and started a new life. It was an adult life in many ways, a home, a career of sorts and a business in a new town. Beautiful beaches and stunning scenery provided the backdrop for an enviable lifestyle. I was still very much a premie but the scene in Byron Shire was laid back and besides my cult was one of the less obviously wally cults around town. I meditated every day, even did a stint as community coordinator, but the times were changing. DLM vanished, the big festivals stopped and the Krishna crown got mothballed. We had to make do with the occasional visit.
One visit managed to make it onto the surreal list. At a dinner dance in a Sydney hotel reception room m sat at the íbridal tableí, which was surrounded by other tables full Ďwedding guestsí dressed to the nines. M proceeded to encourage everyone to get drunk and tell dirty jokes.
However the visits were mostly a bit dull. An impeccably tailored m speaking at introductory programs about peace, pretending he wasnít Krishna or Kabir while smiling at someone in the front row who thought he was but could not discus it with the person sitting next to them.
My life was really good. I had k, I could meditate as much or as little as I wanted. I could see m when he came to Brisbane if I wanted to. At the heart of my social life was a circle of premie friends unkindly nicknamed the country club who were in a very real sense my family. We shared our daily lives, our homes and gardens, births and funerals and when m came to town we would meet up with the extended family for a fine old knees up. I didnít have to be any more involved.
It was semi retirement from cult world. The door was ajar I might have slipped out, unnoticed and taken up permanent residence in my own life. All I had to do was ask the fucking question.
Conditioning is difficult to over ride. Years of meditation, thousands of hours of satsang and half a life time of going with the flow is not good training for the clear thinking necessary to answer the question Öis m the perfect master and is meditating on my breath connecting me to god? As a premie it is almost impossible to ask yourself that, let alone answer it, because if the answer is yes, great, but if the answer is no, then you have to also ask yourself why am I still here? I could not ask myself for years.
EV started rearing its ugly head. It was the age of the video presentation with its endless shots of swaying grass and running water mixed slow motion shots of m walking, m wearing his captainís hat, m swotting flies. The content changed a bit, less surrender at the lotus socks and more psycho babble about the heart mind split. Basically it stayed the same mantra, the perfect master/teacher is always right/good and the devotee/student is always wrong/bad. The heart is good and the mind is bad. Everything good is only by his grace and every thing bad is courtesy of my own crazy mind.
It was Amaroo that finally did me in. I remember m boasting about how cheap the land was. Itís inhospitable, hot and dry, real bushfire country complete with millions of flies and thousands of rabbits. It has an eerie beauty. Iím not surprised he liked camping out there under the great southern sky. Itís a breathtaking experience. What is surprising is that such a simple pleasure could be the inspiration for a divine fiefdom where the faithful pay to kiss his feet.
The first time I went it was really hot and depressing. A heavy malaise hung over the place mixing with the desperate excitement of a childís birthday party. I wasnít the only person looking stunned, anxious and out of place.
My gut instinct was to run. I used to trust my gut instinct. But premie thinking is that the heart and the mind are the only protagonists involved in the human psyche, slugging it out in some cosmic boxing match. My belief about the heart/mind split defined my being. I had forgotten to give gut instinct enough credit. Itís a warning. The warning is something is wrong.
I used to like to meditate enough to feel a little Teflon coated, so I wouldnít notice lifeís bumps. Extra bumps required more meditation. It works to some extent. Meditate a lot and itís possible to tolerate stuff that usually drives you crazy or makes you uncomfortable. It can even calm a gut feeling for a while. My gut didnít need calming it demanded recognition and forced its way into the ring and fought with mind and heart as I slipped back into cult world.
After several years of slowly escalating involvement, I knew a bit about how Amaroo works. Itís basically a medieval court with m of course king pooh-bah, then an inner circle, an outer inner circle, an inner outer and an outer, outer circle. Then come the barons and dukes vying with the good olí boys for his lordshipís ear and so on down the line.
I was just one of the mass but I knew about the incredible squandering of resources. Millions of dollars poured into useless infra structure, decaying utilities and washed out roads. I know premies who put their blood, sweat and tears into that place and in the process became too poor to camp there during an event. I knew the windmill site and the private area. I knew about Monica. I got pissed at fine dining while Daya sang the blues. All the time my gut rumbled. The more it rumbled the more I meditated.
Initially Lesley was more taken with Amaroo than I was and became involved earlier and more actively than I did. She has her own story to tell. Itís a harrowing tale. I learnt a lot from her courage and her pain.
Our journeys converged pretty much after she had a serious accident at Amaroo. After a week in hospital she came home to months of painful rehabilitation and terrible depression. We talked a lot. It helped us both. Still it wasnít enough to stop one last tilt at the windmill. We limped back into cult world, Lesley with broken bones and me with that nasty feeling in my gut.
I was on my last legs. During the summer of 1999-00 it all unravelled. I hated the videos and Amaroo made me ill. Chest thumping and finger pointing dominated cult politics. The way premies treated each other was careless and inconsiderate. The way m treated the premies was callous and demeaning. The trainings boarded on the criminal. The feudal order left me cold.
The evidence that m doesnít care about the fear and pain he causes is hard to accept. It is however plain to see if the rose colour glasses become dislodged.
After a lot more straight talking and some actual clear thinking helped along by my friends and the ex-premie site, I was ready to jump ship. Ready to discover what I really believed and how holding those beliefs affected me. Questioning the dynamics of cult thinking and behaviour helped me untangle the confusion of euphoria and fear I experienced around m. By any definition I was certainly in a cult and m was a cult leader not the Sat Guru. He really was only the client.
And then thereís the subject of meditation. First up, I never saw any evidence that m does much of it himself or even actually knows much about it. For him itís a hook. Itís the secret, special cosmic link he claims with his followers. Yoga, hyperventilating, pain, altitude, exercise, music, magnetic fields, sex, sonar, chocolate, laughter, drugs, grief, sensory deprivation and sleep all produce changes in brain chemistry. Meditation does the same. It was the context in which I practised meditation and the beliefs I held about it that made it so special to me.
When we went to Amaroo in April 2000 we knew it was for the last time. It was a sentimental journey, like a chance to say good-bye to a dying friend. It was an act of closure. M looked silly and uncomfortable as he made jokes about instructors and flirted with the front rows. I sat in the back. It felt like the last day of school with a boring old headmaster droning on about wonderful school traditions.
That last drive out the gate and down Mt Flinders Rd was the beginning of the real journey home. Of course my premie friends would disagree, to them itís a betrayal. Only a few are still in my life. We still love each other but itís tricky not mentioning the war. I wish them well.
I am yet to catch the smell of rotting vegetables seeping from my wasted life. I certainly donít feel like a spent match. On the contrary I have experienced movement and genuine personal freedom for the first time in years. I am delighted to have m out of my head and out of my life. Itís great.