Guru Maharaj Ji in Denver
Guru Maharaj Ji's first visit to Denver this year was back in January for the Development '76 conference, the first major fundraising conference in DLM history. In late April, he returned to Denver. While he was here, he talked a lot about the need for every premie to focus his life on the experience of Knowledge and on Guru Maharaj Ji.
We have a tendency to sometimes assume too much about our pursuit of Knowledge, Maharaj Ji explained. We try so hard to figure out where we're at and where we're going, that we get lost in the process of our own growth and gradually lose sight of the real focus of our life.
A key word which Guru Maharaj Ji used was "determination." He said there is no substitute for it. We get out of Knowledge what we put into it. The quality of our experience, and the depth of that experience is integrally related to our determination to do service, to do meditation, and to give satsang.
"I can't say anything further than a person has to have determination," he told us. "Am I going to do something or am I not going to do something? It's just that simple."
We should also understand, Maharaj Ji said, that growth is a natural process. If you force it within yourself, or on a group of individuals, it becomes unnatural. We are not trying to force understanding, we are simply trying to constantly focus our lives on Knowledge and on Guru Maharaj Ji. If we can do that, then the growth that we need will automatically happen.
In reference to some of the changes in the Mission that have been discussed over the past few months, Maharaj Ji said that the few days he was to be in Denver this time weren't enough for really considering those changes and implementing them, if necesary. But he reaffirmed that he will be, and always has been, constantly examining the development of DLM and will institute changes as they are needed and in the right time. As he said during his visit in January:
"You see, these changes will slowly, slowly start occurring. I don't know to what extent they are going to occur. I can't tell you. I can't predict that. But we are trying to get rid of the things that were sitting locked up in Divine Light Mission's closet just catching dust, doing nothing to nobody and putting a heavy burden on us. We arejust trying to get rid of all that stuff, so that we can really present ourselves properly.
"As you know, people really don't have the right consciousness about Divine Light Mission. They think it's a cult or a religion. But what do we really teach you? Still, those things confuse people because there are some similarities to be found. Anything that's becoming a burden in the path of Knowledge, I'm just going to eliminate that."
Maharaj Ji also took care of some business matters while here. He reviewed recent Mission activities, gave directions for future development, and finalized plans for his European and North American tours.
IHQ Premies Go On Tour
On the Road to Being Real
Scientifically, we are told, a person tends to remember 10% of what he hears or sees, 20% of what he sees and hears, and 80% of what he actually gets involved with. What this means for the people at IHQ who are in charge of coordinating the development of our communities in North America (North American Operations) is that the kind of communication that has been relied on most over the past few years - letters and phone calls - isn't extremely effective. Personal, individual contact -- people actively involved with working with each other -- remains the best communication of all.
This kind of communication is vital to NAO's relationship with Mission communities throughout North America. So for the next two months NAO representatives are visiting every DUO community and center community in the U.S. and parts of Canada. Lou Schwartz, Ross Mickey, Jeff Grossberg and Joe Natter have already taken to the road, each with a list of communities in which they will spend 3 to 4 days sharing satsang and gathering information to be compiled and reviewed in Denver during the months of August and September. The source of that information will be all the premies that they talk to during their travels -community directors, DUO staffs, community members - and from it NAO hopes to generate a clear focus for their activities over the coming year.
In reference to the tour, Jeff Grossberg, former community director of Los Angeles, expressed the need to overcome the isolation of NAO from the premies that it is attempting to serve, and the need for Mission programs to be generated from real experience. He feels that these tours will be a major step in practically involving community premies in the development of the overall programs of the Mission.
What Kind of Info
Before setting out on their respective itineraries, Jeff, Lou, Ross, and Joe met with four community directors who were in Denver, to figure out how to best use the tours. Jim Vuko from Kansas City, Tom Munger, on his way from D.C. to San Francisco, Ted Tannenbaum from Denver DUO and Allan Imbarrato, who will be replacing Ted in Denver, sat down with the NAO staff members and together they reviewed the purpose of the tours and how to achieve the best results. Basically, the tours were seen as a breakthrough in terms of bringing together IHQ staff with premies around North America to share information and satsang, and to establish a firm connection for ongoing personal communication and feedback. As Jeff expressed it, the tour team expects "to have our minds blown."
The group of NAO staff members and community directors also generated a list of the kind of information they would like to get while on tour. This list includes such items as the role of the community director and the ashram in the community, the development of such programs as AMPandthe aspirant program, feelings about the image and role of Guru Maharaj Ji, attitudes about DLM and IHQ, and feedback about Mission publications. How these issues will be dealt with in each community will depend on the agenda designed by the local director. The tour team hopes to send reports back to IHQ regularly (for possible publication in DT) and to get together on the road for a mini-conference to share their discoveries and adventures.
The premies going on tour also met with people from every area of IHQ and were updated about all the various aspects of the Mission so that they could answer as many questions as possible while on tour. The final session in this series was a meeting with Joe Anctil, press relations secretary for DEM. Joe reversed roles and played the part of someone asking the questions to see if the NAO staff was actually on top of the facts they had been gathering.
Whether NAO passed the test or not is information that has not been released.
Each person is taking with him the video of Guru Maharaj Ji giving satsang at the fundraising conference in Denver last January, and a film created by Shri Hans Productions especially for the tour. The film features Maharaj Ji's Washington address to the U.S. Citizens' Congress, plus various footage from festivals and programs. Jeff and Joe are mostly visiting areas that have housed Divine Light centers, while Lou and Ross involve themselves with DUO communities. However, all of them will be visiting a cross-section of kinds of communities in order for each to get a larger perspective of the country as a whole. A major area of emphasis for Jeff and Joe will be the future development of DLM information centers. At the five centers conferences held in February and March of this year, center representatives were asked to discuss with their communities the criteria they felt were necessary to create an environment which could support outreach programs as well as provide a strong support for the individual's experience of Knowledge. Those communities that felt they could meet those criteria were encouraged to reapply to be DLM centers. Thirty-five communities have applied out of the 110 centers and 80 applicant centers that existed prior to the conferences. The NAO team will be reviewing the center findings and using the tour as a means to work with the various communities to help them determine how best to fulfill their own needs.
Although the overall effect of this 4-man NAO tour cannot be gauged while it is still in progress, the hope is that this kind of real involvement between international headquarters and premies around North America will begin to replace phone calls and mailings as the primary means of communication. The long distance method has proven an inferior tool of development compared to a situation which encourages personal participation and mutual growth.
Feedback from Development '76
When Maharaj Ji began organizing the way he wanted the first Development '76 conference run, he set up a few guidelines for choosing the participants. They have to come for more reasons than just that they have money to give, he said; they should already be involved, already be active and willing in their support for Guru Maharaj Ji's work. And then Maharaj Ji instructed the people who were organizing the event to place the emphasis on giving the people who came a good, clear understanding of the way Divine Light Mission is set up, and the way it actually works.
When those original people met, got to know one another, discovered the way DLM works, and met with Guru Maharaj Ji (see the satsang printed in this issue), they had an extremely positive experience - so positive, in fact, that the overwhelming recommendation from them was that more of the same sorts of conferences, based more on understanding than on an appeal for money, should be held as soon and as often as possible.
Then, in three successive weekends last month - in Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Denver - the conferences were again continued. And the result? Most of the people who came this time again had a positive experience, and again had the same suggestion: this process of personal sharing of ideas and information between the premies who work in IHQ and the premies who live in the communities IHQ is trying to serve should happen more often, and should get many more people involved.
Last week, we got on the phone and called a few premies from around the country who attended the different conferences, and asked them to tell us some of the impressions and feelings they were left with, once they had gone home and recovered from the initial "workshop high." The photos were taken at the D.C. and Denver conferences.
Peter Karp (Washington, D.C.)
"Before the conferences, at that point in my life - although I think it's radically different today - I wasn't aware that there was any recognition of me as a resource or of me as a brother on any level.
"I personally feel I could be a fantastic asset to the Mission. But I also realize that the bureaucracy of the Mission, and the distance involved in the Mission between some of its members and the home office - along with the basic difficulties of common communication - prevent anything more than just my 'rattling' someone to give them my input. I feel that if anything was achieved at the conferences for me, it was my 'rattling' somebody.
"The purpose of the conferences as I saw it, was to establish organizational guidelines and aids on an international and national basis: but what Divine Light Mission really boils down to is an individual journey, and I think this is where all the confusion we experience begins and ends.
"I think everybody recognizes difficulty. When I spoke to Bob (Mishler) I found that he completely recognized it; and when I spoke to Lou Schwartz - whom I got very close to - he recognized it also. But as they tried to implement that understanding on an organizational level, there was just no way to do it; there was just no way to convey that DLM is just up to Connie and Peter and Dan and everybody else .
Janet Maggio (Chicago)
"When I first heard about the conferences, I was having pretty negative experiences with the way the Mission is here (in Chicago), and I planned to go primarily to voice my feelings about the way the Mission is being run. I didn't really think the conference would achieve much of anything. Then a few days before the conference started, I talked to some of the people who were working on the arrangements. Right away, they seemed very open, so I felt opened. I told them my deepest, darkest nastiest feelings, and they accepted them!
"And the feelings I started off with changed altogether. I saw that DLM isn't just Chicago, and that there is a plan for the whole world. One of thethings that impressed me the most was when we talked about the way Maharaj Ji sees all the premies as equal -talking about the premies in Africa or Europe and connecting with them. It inspired me to see this was the plan.
"I think that somehow premies in other communities should be tied into the same process that we've been through in these conferences; there should be some way where we're all able to give our input and suggestions - and voice our criticisms - in the way we did at the conference. And the information that the other premies want to know should be supplied to them in the same way it was supplied to us. If this could somehow be done on a nationwide basis - through tours, anything - it would be a good thing."
Stan Cohen (New York)
"I have had the feeling - and still do - that we can do a lot better in using the money we have in actually propagating Knowledge. It seems to me that the bulk of the money premies give is being used to help keep Denver going; and in my own mind, I still don't know how effective we're actually being. I just feel like we could do a lot better.
"I happen to be lucky in that making a living is very easy for me. But some premies really struggle to be able to support the Mission. And they have so much faith and love for Guru Maharaj Ji that we should treat their money as something sacred.
"At the conference, I think we raised some immediate and needed cash, which was a goal. But I also think the people who are in a leadership capacity in Denver got the message that more can be done with the money; that it can be used in a more conscious and vital way
"I think that it would be good to take all the ideas, criticisms and opinions that came from all the conferences and all the people and build them into some more ongoing, alive sharing of those ideas. I think everybody's ideas are useful. Just because I happen to be in a position to have money or to be an active member doesn't mean that the person who isn't at that place doesn't have as good ideas as I have - he might well have better ones."
"Divine Light Mission is an individual journey, and I think this is where all the confusion we experience begins and ends."
Don Delaski (Philadelphia)
"Walking into the conference, the thing I wanted to achieve was to get a better feeling about the whole situation of DLM's finances. I had begun to worry about the way the money I and other premies were giving was being used, and I didn't like to think that way. So I hoped I would understand, just for myself.
"By the end of the conference, my feelings changed, and I got beyond the point of worrying about the money at all. The one thing that impressed me the most was how few supporters of the Mission there are in relation to the work that we're doing. We can throw around figures - a million people here and there - but when you get right down to the brass tacks, there really aren't that many people supporting Guru Maharaj Ji's organization on a regular basis."
Susan Hubly (Detroit)
"It didn't matter what name was given to the conference; I knew we would be giving up money, but I could care less about that. I went with no expectations. I just went there as open as I could be, and I felt everybody else went the same way. Everybody was very centered and there was a feeling of love underneath it all that made it a wonderful experience."
June Cotrell (Denver)
"Entering the conference, my husband and I were in a process of reevaluating our whole situation, asking ourselves whether we were really doing the rightthing by having these particular jobs. We were trying to see if we were really doing service. Then the whole thing that was going on at the conference seemed to be saying, 'These things are service, they are significant; you should enjoy them.' Since the conference, we've been getting into our lives full-speed ahead, just feeling the push to make our lives our service."
Remember AMP? The Active Membership Program? First introduced at Amherst Guru Puja festival, for the next year and a half AMP was presented as the central program in building a solid foundation for the Mission. It came complete with brochures and a four-page application form, a coupon book for sending in your AMP pledges, and an AMP membership card.
But as 1976 rolled around, no new materials were forthcoming from IHQ; February, March, April, May - still no news. What has happened is that the entire Active Membership Program has been (and still is) under review.
The response after the Orlando festival was tremendous, and it was already January before the premies at IHQ got enough ahead of the post-Hans Jayanti deluge to begin taking a look at the way AMP would be handled in 1976. A task team made up of members from all areas of IHQ was set up to look into the program and come up with a proposal for the year. At first, the team planned only to slightly modify the application and the coupon booklet. But once things got moving and they had consulted premies from many communities, both AMP members and premies who are not, they saw that a good hard look at the entire program was needed, and perhaps even some major changes in the way we define membership as "active" and, for that matter, the way we see membership in Guru Maharaj Ji's Mission altogether.
Since AMP began, many people from around the country have expressed their feeling that - in its presentation and very structure - AMP implies judgemental overtones that lie far behind our current understanding of what Knowledge and Divine Light Mission really are. In various ways, someone who had the personal resources to join AMP and pledge 10% was given the reinforcement that he was now accepted as a full-fledged member of DLM, and that he was more closely connected to Guru Maharaj Ji for it. (We even handed out a card that says 'I love you,' signed by Guru Maharaj Ji.)
And the people who weren't able to join became subject to subtle feelings of exclusion. In part, this was because AMP was a catchall for our entire approach to community development, trying to tie all our efforts to increase our understanding of Knowledge and our dedication into one neat package. Well, obviously Guru Maharaj Ji's idea, even in signing the backs of the cards, is to be as inclusive as possible. "It's a premie's right to do service," he's said, and nobody should be left out of being a part of Maharaj Ji's movement - no matter what their situation. So, the understanding has shifted from AMP being the way to do service, to its being a way - and yet a very important way. In the future, AMP will probably be presented and understood simply as the program of consistent financial support for Divine Light Mission that it's always boiled down to anyway. The task team working on AMP felt it was artificial to try to make someone agree to follow the AMP criteria, or even to dedicate 10% of their income to become a member of Divine Light Mission. In looking over things, the team decided that people should be able to assess for themselves the extent to which they can pledge their support for the Mission, and that DLM should be there to help them fulfill the dedication they're feeling in whatever way they can.
Events seem to be affirming the observations: as the team has been working on its proposal, an increasing number of premies around the country have expressed their interest in the AMP program.
In the meantime, community directors are taking steps in cooperation with IHQ to provide people with a way to formalize their participation in the program as it now stands. People in DUO communities who are interested in AMP are being encouraged to keep in touch with their local community office. People not living in DUO communities will receive information from IHQ if they have inquired about AMP.