A City Hall advisor, a third degree Tae Kwan Do black belt, symphony musician and Miss Black Cincinnati help make up a very diverse premie community.
The premie community in the city of Cincinnati is unique in many respects. Of the 450,000 residents of the city only 27% are Black; however, the population of the premie community is approximately 75% Black. The diversity of ethnic and cultural backgrounds has given us a practical lesson in sharing and accepting various social habits.
Another interesting aspect of the community is the fact that at the present time there is no center facility. For the past seven months satsang has been held on a rotating basis in premies' homes. This situation gives brothers and sisters an opportunity to open their hearts and homes to the community and their service has been greatly appreciated. At this point, however, the community consensus is that a single, permanent facility would be more conducive to the practice of Knowledge in Cincinnati. The Housing Committee is currently undertaking a campaign to locate an adequate facility to be used as a center. We are attempting to broaden the community's financial base in order to secure comfortable quarters in which to hold satsang and present programs.
Our organizational structure is also rather unique. We have a Center Representative (Barbara Milon) and an Assistant Center Representative (Montu Robinson). Services are divided into three major categories, each with its own coordinator: Social Services (Ron Matthews); Communications (Keith Boswell) and Financial (Bob Oppenheimer).
Chairpersons from each committee (E.G:, P.L.A., Newsmazine), service coordinators, Center rep, Asst. Center rep and Planning Consultant make up the Advisory Council. They meet regularly for the purpose of: facilitating communication within the community; synchronizing the implementation of projects and insuring efficiency and expediency of activities. Because this concept is relatively new, there have been some changes in the mechanics of the council; however, they continue to function in a viable and necessary capacity within the community.
Major projects and decisions are put through a planning process which is based on an assessment of needs and statements of goals and objectives. Although it appears sophisticated and at times complex we find it to be very effective and efficient. At the present time the community's first business priority is financial development.
But we are also very much interested in spreading the experience of Knowledge. Several members of our community have positions in the larger Cincinnati community that allow them to share their experiences with other people in the course of their day-to-day lives:
Adija Harris is employed by the Mayor of Cincinnati as a Community Relations Specialist. Her responsibilities include attending meetings in various neighborhoods and communicating particular problems to the Mayor. Adija's intellectual capabilities combined with her deep sense of concern for communities make her a "natural" for the job. "The Knowledge has made me more sensitive to human needs and sufferings. My goal is to bring about harmony, not only in my life but to achieve harmony throughout the people in the neighborhoods with which I interact. I want to help people to feel good about themselves and each other."
Montu Robinson is a Third-degree Black Belt in Karate (Tae-Kwon-Do). He has been a student of the martial arts for over 10 years and has been teaching for approximately five years. Montu views the Knowledge as the "missing link" in the martial arts. He stated that Karate emphasized the physical and mental aspects of the human being but often ignores the spiritual. "Practicing Knowledge has shown me the spiritual aspect of myself. I have a direct experience of that source which others are only able to speak about." Through his Karate instruction, Montu has encouraged a number of students to come to satsang. He says, "Before I received Knowledge my classes were primarily devoted to physical technique-exercise. Now I try to communicate the source of the technique, where that energy comes from."
In a regional competition for Miss Black U.S.A., Rosaland Richter was crowned Miss Black Cincinnati. A talented dancer, Rosaland captured the attention and the hearts of the audience with her combined ballet/modern dance performance during the talent portion of the pageant. Premies who were in attendance could literally "feel the Word" as she moved about the stage.
"It was Maharaj Ji! It was Maharaj Ji!" the jubilant Ms. Richter cried at the conclusion of the pageant. "I couldn't have done it without his guidance. The only thing that kept me together throughout the program was the meditation."
Robert Allison, one of the community's aspirants, is a Music Education major at the University of Cincinnati's College Conservatory of Music. This past summer he performed with the Chicago Civic Orchestra as principal percussionist (tympanist). CCO is generally recognized as the premier youth orchestra in the country and musicians from throughout the midwest and east audition each summer. Bob has also performed with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra as percussionist. Although he has not had the meditation techniques revealed to him, he does realize that the Knowledge is having an impact on his life. He says, "Since coming to sat-sang I don't feel as nervous about performing anymore. Whether it's practice, a concert or an exam, I feel more relaxed and confident."
These are just a few examples, but they reflect a growing consciousness in our community here in Cincinnati that, as Maharaj Ji said, you can't separate Knowledge and life. What you can do is have a beautiful experience of both.
- Steve Lowe
20 Divine Times, November 1976
A conversation with Gail Shapiro and John Foss, Members of the Boston community's Financial Development Committee.
While on leave of absence, I had an official assignment for D.T. - check out the Boston Financial Development Committee; get a story. I was not into it. I've had to write every financial article for the past year, and I was sick of it. Who cares about the B.F.D.C., I thought. Sure they're probably doing a good thing, getting premies' economic trips more together, etc., but let somebody else cover it. I'm on vacation.
I put aside one morning - no more - to talk to these guys. Unfortunately for the plan, these guys turned out to be people worth spending a hell of a lot more time with. They turned me on.
I started with Gail Shapiro out in the suburbs, busily unboxing her possessions in order to set up house. Gail laughs a lot. She welcomes you with a cup of tea and begins running off at the mouth with little provocation. She's wonderful:
Gail: I've been in Boston about seven or eight years, and received Knowledge 4 ½ years ago. What I do now is I'm a childbirth education counselor and I'm starting a private practice doing pregnancy counseling and counseling for new parents. People sometimes have problems that they can't handle in a group. It's starting very slowly, but I have a few pediatricians who are sending people to me now.
As far as the Financial Development Committee goes, Booth (the C.D.) wanted a group that he could turn to for advice on financial matters. He was just realizing that, sure, he was the community director, but he didn't know a lot about business and finances. There are people in the community who know a lot more. So he appointed a committee, and we brought in some of our friends, and so on.
Paul: How did he choose the original people?
Gail: Last winter, we had a general conference in Boston about the community - things we'd like to see done. Some of the people there had expressed an interest in overseeing the financial development of the community. Some other people wanted to see more services provided to premies in the community - things like group health insurance or maybe buying real estate or forming a credit union. It came from the perspective of, well, here we are and most of us are married and a lot of us have kids. We're settling down, not just jumping around sleeping on foam mats on the floor anymore. We want to get our lives together and that involves taking responsibility for ourselves and trying to use the collective strength that we have to make our lives better. We wanted some way to use a community of 200 people to help our own practical lives. People who expressed this kind of idea at the winter conference ended up on the F.D.C., also people who had exhibited some kind of knowledge and expertise in that area.
Paul: It seems like a pretty advanced step from the old food co-op days.
Gail: I think it has to do with people here being older. Actually, what started the whole idea in my mind was at the winter conference we broke up into small groups and had to answer the question, "What is a premie?" We put our answers upon these big pads of paper that everyone always uses for workshops, and people said things like, "Someone who meditates on the Knowledge of God …" etc., etc., but this one group was great. They had, "A premie is someone who wears long skirts, is a vegetarian, and wears Earth shoes." It was implied, " … And is someone who has a job that they keep for two weeks and makes $2.30 an hour, and sleeps on a foam mat on the floor, and jumps from town to town."
People started thinking about it and said, "But we're not like that any more." So that's where it started from, just a deep-felt need to help each other get our lives more stable. We've started looking into things like how to establish credit … Like, we want to buy a house next year, but who's going to give you a mortgage when you haven't had a job for more than six months? So, we're checking out real basic, practical things like that.
Most of us have had this rest period from the world where we weren't too concerned with jobs and money and we put a lot of effort into meditation, satsang and service. But now it's coming back around. Knowledge has become a simple, natural part of our lives. It's not so much of a trip; you don't have to work so hard at it. And because of that, we can just come from that place of meditation and live in the world. I think that's the way it's supposed to be.
Paul: What kind of business does the committee do? I know you said you've checked into group health insuance, a credit union, and real estate. Anything else?
Gail: Mostly, we act as advisors, not just to the community director, but to people in the community as well. Not so much personal questions, like how do I fill out my income tax forms, but business projects. Steve Gross, the head of Rainbow Grocery in Boston, came for several weeks to talk about what to do with the store. It was in financial trouble and he wanted to know if we thought the store should close or move to a better location or change the way it operates or what.
We're also serving as an interim committee to handle community finances because the leadership is up in the air right now with the community director moving out of the ashram. That involves taking charge of fundraising, too.
Divine Times, November 1976 21
Paul: The F. D. C. sponsored a community conference last month. What was that about and how did it come off?
Gail: About 200 people came. We just wanted to help people get some practical information - like what they do for you in a bank, what is insurance anyway, if I have extra money what is the best way to use it (keep it in a sock?). Just all kinds of little practical things that a lot of people don't know about. We rented rooms in a hotel downtown and sold tickets. Each member of the committee was in charge of a study group. Like one person was in charge of the study group on insurance, so he went out and got one or two insurance agents to come in and give a presentation: do you really need insurance? What are the basic kinds of insurance?, etc. Somebody else did a group on investing, somebody else on banking. A woman who wasn't on the F.D.C. did a workshop on budgeting. It was a light workshop - helpful little hints on saving and stretching money. We also had a study group on small businesses that was a really largely attended one. Somebody on the committee went out and got a speaker from the Small Business Administration who talked about how to set up your own business - what you need, laws, etc.
Paul: It sounds pretty comprehensive.
Gail: It was good. Most people really enjoyed it. But they wanted more. We just barely skimmed the surface on a lot of topics. Afterwards we had a party on a boat. A band from Providence came up, and we had a casino and an auction for prizes. It was real nice. We sailed around Boston Harbor for about three hours. It was a good ending for the conference.
Paul: Has there been any follow-up?
Gail: We brought Bill Chiricos, a job counselor from Denver, in for the conference. He's here now doing counseling for people. We did the publicity and set up the appointments, and he's been working on it steadily for a few weeks. Everybody's going to him; he's working 9 to 9 six days a week. So it looks like people are really getting into the idea that we're going to be around in this world for a long time, and we might as well get our physical, as well as our spiritual, trip together while we're here.
From Gail's I went on to visit the F.D.C. temporary chairman, John Foss. John greeted me with an offer for a cup of tea. (I'm beginning to think this is one of those premie rituals we've heard so much about.) I left his apartment five hours later in a very, very high state of mind.
I'm trying to figure out what it was that got John and me so high that afternoon. Honesty is all I can come up with. You begin with the standard raps - polite satsang, holy company, sweet smiles, knowing nods, agreement - and slowly, if both allow it, the pictures you hold of each other that make you talk the way you do begin to fall away, and you're left looking at someone real. And then you begin to talk, really talk, and tell each other what you have to say. I'll always love John for being with me one afternoon. I have listened to the tapes and taken from them what I could. But the truth is that I couldn't capture the spirit of it. You'll just have to go and have sat-sang with somebody yourself:
John is a graduate of M.I.T. (Physics), Harvard (Organizational Development), Transcendental Meditation, est, Kundalini Yoga, and marriage.
Paul: Why don't you start by giving me some background on yourself in relation to Knowledge?
John: That could go for three hours. How long do you want me to take?
Paul: Don't worry, I'll stop you if I get bored.
(Here we delete about an hour of the tape. - Ed.)
John: Okay. I went through a lot of initial problems in relation to the Mission, because I didn't have any opportunities for service - partly because there was an anti-intellectual strain in the Mission, and that's my profession, being intellectual in one or more various forms, so there was nothing I could do. I ended up in January or February volunteering to run the cash register at Rainbow Grocery. Actually, I got off on it. I surrendered to doing what needed doing. And yet, for me, there was still a very strong feeling that the Mission wasn't serving premies, not even creating service opportunities where premies could really serve the Mission. rather than just putting in some time.
Paul: How did you get from the cash register to the F. D. C.?
John: There was a conference in February right after Booth got back from Denver and somebody got up and said. "Hey, Booth, whatever happened to Ed Weinberg's proposal for a premie bank account or a credit union? I've been pushing you and the last DUO director for two years to allow something like this to happen." Then I jumped into the discussion. That was the first real sign that something like this might manifest.
Then in April there was a tape of Lou Schwartz and some other people that was played. It was supposedly a tape to inspire people to support the Mission financially. Well, my friends and I heard it, and I almost left the Mission afterwards. I didn't hear any sensitivity. I also didn't hear any financial skill, any professionalism. So I said, "What? I'm contributing my money to this?" I think a lot of us started seeing that.
So that same month, Booth set up the Financial Development Committee, and put me on it.
Paul: Gail told me that it was pretty tense in the committee the first few weeks, a lot of arguing and people screaming at each other. Why was that?
John: I can give you my personal opinion …
Paul: That's all you've got.
John: I think what's needed at this point is a sense that people are there who are really serving the community. There's a lot of mistrust and cynicism as a result of the transformation taking place in the Mission, and what led into that transformation. My experience is that whenever you have a change-over from one system to another, especially from a top-down situation to one
22 Divine Times, November 1976
where a large number of people are realizing that they have essentially equal power and responsibility, a lot of ego battles happen.
Paul: And it's really easy to replace one set of people who got their power because of a system with another set of people who get it because of their personalities.
John: Exactly. I've already been seeing some of that. In the midst of that struggle, there are a lot of people who are responding negatively to anything that looks like power, or vested interests. That makes me feel uneasy about what's going to happen as the control strings get loosened more and more. It's important that we do this process as gradually as we can and still get it done in good order.
Paul: It's such a strange thing to deal with - that the Mission is in the situation of having so much reaction to power taking place. I guess we deserve it, because we've put it out. But it's just strange.
I know I got completely into that before I received Knowledge - that whole thing of trying to break down power trips - and you can get into such a head space that everywhere you look, that's all you see. Then even if people are trying to get out of it, you won't let them, because that's all You're looking for.
Paul: Did you ever read anything by Kobayoshi? He was a plant manager for the Sony corporation in Japan and he wrote a book about how he organized the plant. It's totally inspiring. Some of the best satsang I've ever read. We started passing it around at IHQ. Anyway, the whole Sony corporation was having a rough time, the morale was real low, the work was shoddy. So they - told Kobayoshi, "You can do whatever you want. Just fix it. " What he did was break down all the lines of authority in the plant. One of his main axioms was, "listen to the voice of clarity, not the voice of authority. It took him a long time to get that into people's heads, because they were so used to listening ng to the voice of authority. But what he was saving was that if you're in a group, wherever clarity is coining from at any particular point in time is what you listen to, not the person with the title or power. He's completely inspired about people working together on that level, not just playing roles with each other.
John: I'd really like to see people in Divine Light Mission have a greater awareness of that looking within for the voice of clarity. But I don't even know how to communicate it. I'm really touched by what you said about people developing that ability to hear what clarity is in somebody's speech, and also to look within for that same clarity.
During the summer, I had great difficulty experiencing satsang in the satsang hall. Then one night somebody was speaking really intensely, and I interrupted him because l wasn't experiencing it as satsang. I realized that having that option to ask someone, "Hey, is that your experience, or is that a concept that you're talking from?" makes a big difference for me in terms of my being able to experience satsang.
Paul: I think personally that that's a major or reason why till this group process and small committee stuff is happening. There's the business to take care of; but on another level there's the fundamental business of just being in a small enough group that you can actually relate to someone and have some instant feedback on what you're saying and thinking.
John: Don Quinn said at our last meeting that he experiences satsang at the F. D. C. meetings and he doesn't experience it in the satsang hall. So he goes to the F.D.C. meetings and not to the satsang hall. And I've shared with a number of people that I was at a meeting, a study group, with some people who don't have Knowledge, and I experienced incredible satsang coming out of this architecture student. I thought, "Wait a minute. This guy doesn't even meditate. He doesn't even do T.M. How can he be giving satsang?" There are enough of us having these experiences now that there is an increasing awareness that satsang doesn't have so much to do with worldly forms, but with the truth that the listener to satsang is experiencing.
- Paul Starr
Divine Times, November 1976 23