Ben lay flat in the middle of the orange grove. He was exhausted. This thing with Lena was going to complicate Ben's life. He felt like he had to help her, but he also felt guilty. Taking time off to go to Tucson, breaking the flow of constant service he'd gotten into. He didn't know if he'd be able to do that. He had given himself up to complete service to Maharaji, and he was happy with that. He had been living to serve, working from 8:30 in the morning until 2:30 at night. No time for satsang or a break because there was just so much to do. No time to do anything for yourself. No time to think about anything either - just get up, meditate, go to work, work all day and into the night, eat a few quick meals, meditate. Just living to serve. It felt good to him.
It had been hard to get the plane work going. There was never enough money, even though the community coordinators all over the country were constantly begging the premies for more. The heads of the project had no experience - they had run companies like Harmony Gardeners and Rainbow painters before being called to work on the plane project. Only a few people knew about planes, aviation, or anything to do with the project. The other people were premies who had volunteered to come to Miami and work on the project. A lot of them had families, who were being housed in crowded hotel rooms, but their desire and need to do service for Maharaji enabled them to overlook the uncomfortable and unsafe conditions.
Hazardous chemicals flowed like water: toluene, naphtha, and methyl ethyl ketone. The guy in the plating shop worked with cyanide constantly. Many of the inexperienced premies were given rags and methyl ethyl ketone and told to wash aircraft parts. Respirator cartridges were hardly ever changed because of the lack of time and funding. Ben knew that this was dangerous, but he was working out of time, out of the world. Maharaji would surely take care of his premies.
At first, they had gotten a break at 10 PM. Ben told jokes and always started the other workers laughing hysterically. They were all delirious with lack of sleep and methyl ethyl ketone fumes. Then someone decided that the break was just getting in the way of service. After that they only stopped for meals. But Ben was determined to keep on with it. In Hindu stories, the guru is always portrayed as having the devotees make the ashram here, then as saying, 'tear it down and build it there. Then when they had done that, 'NO, I wanted it there instead.' and on and on till there was only one devotee left. That was the test of Maharaji's lila. To see who was the REAL devotee, who would achieve enlightenment. Ben wanted to be that devotee. Right now, it was the purpose of his life. It felt right to him, like he was doing the right thing with his life.
For the Kissimee festival, he had been up all the day and working backstage at night until till dawn for three days. It had been hard to work with the sisters who worked backstage preparing. They were always freaked out and yelling. Of course, the pressure they were in was very real and visible - they were in charge, and liable to run into Maharaji's anger and displeasure if things didn't go well. Everything had to be perfect. He wondered why some of the people who served Maharaji seemed so unhappy. Two of the women he knew put fresh flowers in all the rooms of the residence every night. This seemed like a dream job to Ben, but the sisters who did it always acted sour and angry. It was hard for him to understand.
Two days ahead of him, then he could sleep. It was getting hard to listen to Maharaji's satsang, to concentrate... And then Lena had dragged him into the orange grove, and he'd agreed to go to Tucson with her. Anything...he was just so tired. I wish she was more devoted - I wish we could do this service together, he thought. But there's just something - maybe I'm in my mind, but I have to do this thing for her. Or maybe it's just another lila.
Then Ben fell asleep, in spite of the fact that he was supposed to be working at the food service tent. 'The problem with sex,' he thought as he passed out, 'is that it gets in the way of doing 24-hour a day service'.
As Lena walked out of the orange grove, she thought. 'I don't know what's up with that poor girl but I don't have time to think about it. Here I am at this damned festival. May as well TRY to see if there is an experience left to salvage'. She waited 40 minutes in the shower line. OK clean body. 50 minutes in the food line. Something to mix with the coke and wine - granola and low fat yogurt, and wow!! A fake chocolate bar on the side.
She went to the field and sat down. Tried to listen to that sappy woman who was always going on and on about how she can never give enough. Then the PR guy. They needed more money. Guru Maharaji had his Malibu house now but it was hard for the premies to come to service there, he needed more privacy for them. The lot adjacent was for sale, it is such an opportunity for us to serve....
She woke up 2 hours later, the Orlando sun at full heat. Lena had been dreaming of Tucson, a place she had never been. In her dream, all the yards were snow white beach sand and everyone was thin and healthy. She had a realization. She didn't need Ben if he couldn't handle it! Tucson was most likely a backwater hick city, worse than Tulsa actually. If he didn't come through, she could drive there herself. How many premie couples dealing coke owned a music store in that shithole? It would be a piece of cake.
One more day of this Kissimee festival. She was sure Guru Maharaji would bring out the big artillery tonight. Fireworks. Dancing without the shirt. (secretly she hated that. Her dancer's aesthetic sense just rebelled. God he had all this money, couldn't he get a personal trainer or something? He had breasts for God's sakes)
Lena decided to go back to her tent for a while. She had deliberately set one up alone after the first night, convincing herself it was to have more opportunity to meditate. The people around Maharaji had helped her get this private little corner in the cow patch, even though the place was packed. Money talks, even in guru land. So why wasn't she having an experience? One more try. Press the eyeballs, stick the fingers in the ears. Stick her tongue up the back of her nose. (her tongue was very adept, the years in Tulsa paying off again) So why no experience?..
Suddenly, during the nectar technique, something happened! She felt as though moving down a tunnel. A beautiful light was at the end, even though she wasn't pressing the shit out of her eyeballs. And then, the voice of Ophelia! It made Lena's body feel like it was rising off the swamp beneath her.
'Lena, you are special. I just know Malibu will help.'
Then the stuff from her nose, er nectar, started flowing and she was filled with a sense of peace. For the first time in weeks, Lena fell asleep without fear. The west is, after all, the best.
While Lena was fighting to have some kind of experience, Gaby was fighting off a fierce depression. The one night stand with Red and his confusing way of brushing her off had made whatever armor she had left completely crumble away. The veil of all illusion had been lifted, and she was left standing, stripped of all ego, completely desperate.
She had confided in her friend Pat, who stroked Gaby's hair and had said all the right words. 'Gaby, premies will try to pretend that they don't have desires, but we do. After all we are human. Maharaji knows we're human. he knows our hearts. Don't beat yourself up about last night. Perhaps it's just bringing you one step closer to Maharaji. Ask Maharaji to show you the way, He will.'
Pat's blissed-out blue eyes were like flowers. While looking into them, Gaby started to feel some bliss too. The doors of perception were opening a little, giving relief to Gaby's misery. Pat was filled with an experience that Gaby longed to have. Pat was a truly loving person, the kind of person Gaby longed to be. She prayed that she would have that experience that Pat was having too..
Earlier that day, Gaby had realized that she had run out of money (Gaby had this tendency-money ran through her fingers like water). Back at the hotel she called her parents in Washington, her hands trembling. The maid answered the phone and handed it to Mrs. Dawes.
'Where are you Gabrielle? her mother screamed. Your internship coordinator called here yesterday. I was so embarrassed!! After all your father did to arrange that internship with the Iowa legislature! Do you know how this makes your father look??'
'Mommy, I went out of town and my car broke down,' Gaby lied. 'I need some money wired to me, please Mommy. I'll call my internship coordinator and explain everything.'
'Gaby, I am so glad your father isn't listening to this conversation. You always are able to worm money out of him. The answer is no. If you want to ruin your life, that is not our problem. We simply can't continue throwing money in your direction when you're not even trying to get your education. From now on, you're on your own.' Gaby's mother slammed down the receiver and the sound of the dial tone buzzed in Gaby's exhausted brain. She left the hotel room and started walking back to the orange grove where she could meditate.
Although Gaby was stunned by her mother's rejection of her, she did realize her mother had a point. Following Maharaji around to all of these festivals had turned her college career at Iowa State into a joke. It was Gaby who had wanted to go to Iowa State in the first place, hoping that the open plains of the Midwest would somehow help her find some distance form the pressure of being a U.S. Senator's daughter. She was completely disinterested in her studies and was currently on academic probation, having received 5 incompletes last semester.
I have to completely surrender now, Gaby thought. Maharaji would have to start making her decisions for her, she couldn't do it for herself anymore. Maharaji and the premies would have to be her family from now on. She sat down and tried to concentrate on Holy Name. I have to forget the things of this world: family, friends, and everything, she thought. Nothing lasts but Maharaji and knowledge.
Maharaji was afoot in Kissimee Village. Cries of ecstasy and exclamations of joy could be heard coming from the road. Gaby looked up from her petition in the orange grove (I might add here that the orange grove smelled of stinky human feces since the campers had been shitting in it for nearly a week. Gaby who normally had a nose that could detect the brand of a person's perfume a mile away, was too out of it to care).
She saw a crowd forming at the road and saw bodies pranaming, like dominoes or a prostrate wave at a baseball game. She ran out to the road just in time to see a strange wagon bearing Maharaji through the festival roads!! He was dressed in his Krishna costume, glittering red and gold jacket and crown! Gabrielle looked at this face, asking prayerfully for a sign that he was a realized being, one who could liberate her from this madness. What she saw amazed and delighted her. He really was different from the rest of us! He had a glow that emanated from him, and his countenance was one of mercy and compassion and a certain martyrdom. This was the sign Gaby had so prayed for, and Maharaji had not let her down. He was the living Lord and her mind could no longer question it. She dove into the dirt, pranaming this wonderful creature who had come to give us hope. There was a God! He is real! 'Oh thank you, thank you' she cried from her heart.
The commotion outside woke Lena in her tent. People were running toward the dirt track as though their life depended on it. Now what? A fire? Locals fed up with the shoplifting, drugs, and trash?
Her head was throbbing. She could barely move, much less run. It occurred to her that her blinding light experience could have been a migraine, brought on by cheap red wine and heat and a terrible diet. Somehow managing to crawl out of the tent, she slowly joined the pack of premies. They had stopped about 20 yards ahead. The crowd was rows thick, and Lena, with her petite 5'3 frame, couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Doing what she always did at concerts, she inched her way through the bodies. Finally, a glimpse. Guru Maharaji was coming down the road!
Thankfully he had some type of shirt thing on. But, what was he sitting on? It made no sense. Between heads of free flowing hair, she glimpsed what seemed like a carriage, carried by, people??? The premies were screaming.
Finally when Maharaji passed in front of her section of the crowd, they all pranamed into the dirt. The man in back of her managed to take her completely off balance as he prostrated himself squarely between her legs. As she followed suit, she wondered, 'Did I forget my underwear?' then, another thought, 'DAMNED' - The Lord of the Universe just passed by and I am worried about some guy seeing my crotch!'
The headache was too much. She decided to go to the first aid tent....
Red stayed in prone position for a while after Maharaji had gone past the crowd. In an attempt to recover from infinite bliss, he took a deep breath and immediately filled his nostrils with Kissimmee's finest dirt. Coughing and sneezing he got up to his knees. Everyone around him seemed disoriented. But was it for the same reason that he felt so out of control? Somehow his darshan experience had been intermingled with the scent and sight of Lena, or at least that precious part of her he remembered so fondly. Earlier as Maharaji had passed by, he had fallen to the ground uncontrollably. Someone had held his head firmly clasped between her or his thighs. As he struggled to meekly catch a glimpse of his master, he saw instead what he swore what the mistress of his dreams and fantasies. Things were getting weird. Was it guilt over Gaby? He had to see Lena, soon, to straighten this out.