|Journeys: Bobby Manrodt|
|Date: April 3, 1997|
|In the spring of 1971 I read Be Here Now. This book affected me strongly. Ram Dass spoke of a spirituality I strongly
relate to. I couldn't put the book down. I read it through within a day. On the basis of what I got out of this
book, I decided to stop drinking, smoking and eating meat. Ram Dass stated in Be Here Now that when an individual
was 'ready' his guru would show up. Around that time I had gone to see Satchitananda but he didn't do it for me.
Who was my guru?
In early Sep I listened to Bob Fass' all night radio show on WBAI, a radio station in New York City. A few folks -- Suzy Bai, John and Ken -- were on speaking about a 13 year old Guru, a 'perfect master', who was coming in New York City in a day or two. Anyone could come and help to prepare for his arrival.
I was interested. I took the telephone number and address they read on the air and hitchhiked into New York the next day. I went to the address that was given, the address of a printer who was printing leaflets about Guru Maharaj Ji. When I arrived, there was a sign on the door saying come back later. I called a number listed on the sign from a phone booth right across the street from the printer. It was Suzy Bai's parents' home in Bayonne, NJ. Someone there told me to wait where I was. He said there should be a couple of folks showing up at any moment. While still on the phone, I saw John and Ken come up to the printshop door.
Received knowledge Sep 10. The ashram was a townhouse on 10th street in New York. People interested in knowledge could crash on the floor on the first floor. Downstairs was the knowledge room and Maharaj Ji's room. In those days, one would ask Maharaj Ji directly for knowledge. I knocked on the door to his room. He opened and asked me what I wanted. I was on my knees. In a trembly voice I asked 'Guru Maharaj Ji, would you please give me knowledge.' He said yes.
Over the next few days, Maharaj Ji would come upstairs and give satsang to the mostly ragtag group of New York folks. A sheet was placed on an easy chair. We all sat around on the floor.
The 10th street ashram only lasted for a week or two as the owner wanted his house back. For awhile, satsang was held in private apartments. I went to satsang at the apartment of a German artist who painted exquisite unique pictures of groups of gnome-like people. Then a place on 6th avenue near 12th or 13th street was acquired. This was on the second and third floor over some stores. Maharaj Ji's residence was on the third floor along with the Divine Light Mission offices.
The talk amongst the premies concerned the upcoming trip to India. We would be guests of Guru Maharaj Ji and would stay in his ashram, Prem Nagar, in Hardwar. Early Nov was the Hans Jayanti festival commemorating the birthday of Maharaj Ji's father Shri Hans. Premies had organized a 747 plane to leave from England.
In late Oct, I flew to England with a bunch of US premies. We were to stay in London for a few days before our plane would leave for India. Some of us were to stay on the floor of an old church somewhere in London. The old wooden floor was very hard. I slept in my sleeping bag and had difficulty sleeping.
In the morning some of us went for a walk. We met a guy stumbling naked through the London streets in the early morning, apparently crazy from taking too much acid. Some of us went to the public baths were you got your own little room with bathtub for a quarter.
Towards evening I got sick. I came down with a fever. There was a big Satsang program to be held in a large hall near big ben. All I wanted to do was to lay down and get some rest. I ventured to communicate to people that I was sick. One of the first people I spoke with was a girl who berated.me, saying that my illness must be due to my karma. After a bit I managed to find someone sympathetic who took me to a London flat where a bunch of premies lived. Charles Cameron was around. He didn't impress me as very compassionate. It might be that I took his bed. I had a high fever.
The next day we boarded the 'jumbo jet' 747 for India. I was still sick. The plane flight was long. I remember flying first the Alps, then the long flat areas and azure waters of the Persian Gulf. We landed in Delhi, then boarded busses for Ram Lila grounds, a large field placed right between Old Delhi and New Delhi. Big striped tents were setup for accomodations. These were right behind the large main stage where satsang would happen. The toilets were concrete gutters that were periodically flushed out with water.
The first day in India we got up about 3 AM to a clanging bell and yells of 'premies of balyogeshwar! We must propagate this knowledge!' Most of us dutifully got up and lined up ready to do our service. Indian premies taught us some Hindi chants. These, sounded from memory, were: Chetto chetto rensensa. Balyogeshwar ey ata. Hindu, Musselman, Sikh, Issai, Satsang mesab aobai.
Immediately across the street from where we were camped was Old Delhi. Our procession plunged right in to the ancient streets in the pre-dawn hours. I was fascinated by the culture. I could have been in the 15th century. I saw many folks sleeping in the alleys and under vendor carts and stalls.
I walked for miles and miles still sick. I felt that I was obliged to. For certain we walked at least 10 miles, probably more. We walked for I think 4 or 5 hours at a fast pace, most of the time yelling the chants we had learned. The picture of me, sick, walking with this group through old India streets is a strange image that stays with me today.
The first day of the premie procession, most of the Western premies went. The second day only about half and the third day just a few. Many Westerners weren't up for the march and there were several remarks and blasts of 'get outta here' and 'fuck you' when the Indian premies woke us and attempted to persuade us to join the procession.