No 27, March 1976
It's nine o'clock on a Monday morning, and the Magic Carpet taxi truck has dropped me and three other premies from Kingsford ashram off in Wentworth Avenue, Sydney. Six lines of traffic swish past deserted warehouses, shops full of motorbike parts, poplar trees struggling with asphalt footpaths, and …. the national headquarters of Divine Light Mission. On many other mornings, I've simply said goodbye to those disembarking at this point, and travelled on to my public service job in the city. But today I start as Golden Age editor. As I climb the stairs at number fourteen, I wonder exactly what I'm walking to.
It doesn't take long to get settled in. By eleven I'm talking with Derek Harper about the Golden Age "Premies have to know what's going on. This place, for example, how many know what's happening here? There's been a lot of changes since last time the paper did a story on NHQ."
It's easy to see that's true enough. Even on a physical level, the building looks quite different. The first floor, once Sydney's satsang hall now supports a sunlit art room, two offices and construction equipment promising more office space soon. Upstairs, another four rooms have somehow been squeezed between Derek's office and the old nursery. Peoplewise, the national staff has grown from ten to sixteen.
But what's behind these physical changes? Looks like a good opportunity here to explore my own new situation, and gather some news for the Golden Age at the same time. Armed with a tape recorder, I set off.
During the morning, I've noticed something-a feeling of energy, of movement. It's not that people are running everywhere, or shouting across the office. In fact, it's much quieter than the decidedly low-energy government office I just left. There's conversations happening, people coming and going. But it all seems to fit in. There's a sense of direction.
This high energy, unhurried movement is so new in my experience of office routine that I decide to start my interviewing by asking some of the old-timers about its development. Felicity Bray, who has been letrasetting in the art department for almost a year now, fills me in.
"It started to change when the regional offices moved to William Street: there were less people running around all over the place. But I really noticed a change a couple of weeks before Guru Maharaj Ji came in October. Suddenly, everything became really mellow. People were starting to drift in from other states - in fact, there were even more people than before regional headquarters moved, and they were running everywhere, but it was so concentrated, and so mellow. And after darshan, it stayed mellow.
"Then Derek and Terry got back from overseas, and everything started to change on the organisational level. Everything was completely rearranged-so now you're in a specific department, and you've got a head to your department.
"There's still a lot of people running around, but there seems to be more purpose in it, and the bumping into each other that used to happen doesn't seem to be going on at all. If anything like that comes up, it's really quickly sorted out, just by satsang.
"And there's so much satsang going on. That's another thing that's developed. There's more and more meetings. You might have half a dozen meetings in a week, and at every meeting I've ever been to there's been satsang."
It doesn't surprise me that satsang has lubricated the wheels of change at Wentworth Avenue. Satsang gives focus to any premie's activities, because it turns you back to Knowledge. Derek puts it this way:
"At this time my greatest energy is being put into meditation, service and satsang, because that's the foundation of whatever we're doing. Just as I have meetings and satsang with the NHQ staff and the premies in the different centres I visit, in meditation I have regular meetings with God to get His perspective on what's happening. Then in satsang I try to share the understanding I get through the experience of Knowledge and this understanding motivates me to do service for Guru Maharaj Ji."
To Terry MacKinnell, the increased understanding of Knowledge that the premies at NHQ and all around Australia have been experiencing, has everything to do with the recent changes.
"There's a big change on the organisational level. But there's also been a big change on the consciousness level. In fact, the two go hand in hand.
For example, there are always problems - situations that seem impossible or ridiculous or stupid or whatever. When I first came here, I would tend to get really involved in the problems. But when you practise Knowledge, it's always simple, there's no problem. Now, I don't get nearly so involved in them - it's much more functional to see them from a detached point of view.
"Really, the consciousness changes first, and it affects everything. It's then that the whole organisation gets together."
What of the organisational changes? Felicity has singled out the Pacific Guru Puja
festival and Derek's trip to America as turning-points in NHQ's development. Since Terry MacKinnell was involved in the festival preparations, and also accompanied Derek overseas, I figure he's a good person to ask about the effect of these events on the organisational structure.
"For the festival, we had to set up a much bigger organisation than the national staff of DLM. The bigger the organisation, the more developed you've got to be. So that was the first time we did a lot of things that are now becoming everyday practices in here. For example, we brought in budgeting and financial preplanning for the first time. And we had someone doing communications, coordinating information and activities.
"We got quite a bit of help from Denver on these new systems, especially with budgeting. Then at the conferences after the Orlando festival, we learned some more about the organisational set-up they use in America. When we got back, we had a good look at everything we were doing, divided the different activities up, and allocated them to various departments. Now we've got five departments-Communications, Operations, Program Development, Productions, and Controller, and they should cover everything. So if something new comes up, we know whose area of responsibility it falls into.
"Before, something new might not get attended to, because it didn't fall within anyone's sphere.
"The way we're organised here is much the same way as they're set up at International Headquarters in Denver. The regional centres around Australia have the same breakup, too. So every department in IHQ has a corresponding department here, and a corresponding department at the regional level. The advantage of this is that information doesn't get lost along the line. So what Guru Maharaj Ji tells premies in IHQ in Denver he wants done, gets done - it just gets relayed down a clear channel from the relevant department at IHQ to its counterpart at NHQ and then on to regional and out to the premies or the public.
"That Guru Maharaj Ji's agya is able to come through much more smoothly now, makes a big difference to the Mission.
DLM is really like an organisation that has taken Knowledge - it's growing just like an individual premie. As premies, we each see the relationship between ourselves and Guru Maharaj Ji: we take hold of his direction because by doing so, our experience is increased. In the same way, DLM grows through Maharaj Ji's direction. The clearer it comes through, the better."
Terry explains that the OPERATIONS department has been responsible for transforming the five-part organisational system from theory to working reality.
The permanent staff turns out to consist of Lindsay Field, and another new arrival at NHQ, Cathie Weise from Brisbane. Lindsay says he feels as though he's got six different hats hanging on the wall, and
No. 27, March 1976
that he changes them every five minutes. But he still finds time to explain a little of what implementing the new organisational structure involved.
It wasn't until after the Orlando conferences, when we got a standard organisational structure for the Mission with a clear delineation of responsibility, that things really started moving. For the first two months after that there was just an incredible burst of energy, as the whole of NHQ was reorganised.
First of all we had to build the physical structure, the offices - because we only had two offices upstairs, the rest was just open space. So we built partitions; they're like pigeon holes, but for once it's really easy to concentrate. Then all the support systems needed to be got together: telephones, and a filing system - we're still working on that.
Now that the physical structure is there, we're getting into office scheduling. For the festival last year we had a big time/space flowchart so we knew what was to happen each day, and what various people had to do on that day. In the same way when an office gets to be a particular size, it gets very necessary that everybody knows in advance what's to be laid on their plates - especially as far as typing and typesetting goes. We already budget for money, this is like a budget for time, so that we can use time efficiently. Then if we see ???? coming up, we can fill them. And we can make sure nobody's getting six weeks' work to do in two days.
"Operations is essentially a back-up department; rather than being a front-line thing it's really a case of serving the servants. At NHQ, in addition to office management, operations looks after all the support systems, like distribution, transport and typing. As the department develops here, we'll be putting out guidelines to help the regional Operations staff to maximise the assistance they're providing to all facets of Guru Maharaj Ji's Mission at a community level."
The COMMUNICATIONS Department is another legacy of the post-Orlando reorganisation at NHQ. It is coordinated and staffed by Karen Lamb. "Communications," she explains, "is the department where all the communications - letters, telegrams or whatever - come in from the states and overseas, and the point from which information is distributed again. My service involves keeping everybody informed. For instance, if Paul Mayberry in Melbourne has a question about Introductory programs, he writes to me, and I pass the question on to Cathy Starrs in the Program Development department here. When she's got an answer to Paul's inquiry, she tells me, and I write back to him.
"IHQ sends us letters and a monthly mailing giving us the latest perspective from an international viewpoint, and from their direct communication with Maharaj Ji. In turn, we send this information, together with material we've got together from our national perspective, out to the states once a month.
"Having communications centralised in one place has made a difference at NHQ in that now all the other departments can just carry on with their service, and leave the letter-writing to me".
The PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT Department isn't completely new territory for me, as The Golden Age is included in its sphere. At present, there are four of us in P.D. - Michael MacDonald, Cathy Starrs, Julie Collet, and myself. Michael is soon to move to Denver, to join the IHQ Program Development team. So Cathy has come up from Melbourne to take over as department head. Julie joined the staff at the beginning of the year, and has been working on the aspirant program. I asked Cathy about P.D.'s function, and its present activities.
"The idea is to develop programs for Australia. What happens is Maharaj Ji gives IHQ the agya to get together certain programs, like AMP. They send us some guidelines, and we adapt them and fill them out on the basis of what happens in our executive committee meetings at NHQ. Then we send them out to the Community Directors, who gather feedback from premies in their community, and relay it back to us. So each program is developed from an accumulation of everybody's experience.
"Our main focus over the past couple of months has been on programs for the aspirants, partly because there have been so many people wanting to find out more about Knowledge after listening to Ira's satsang and coming to introductory programs. But we're going to be looking more at community development in the months ahead. Because that's what Guru Maharaj Ji said we should be doing this year - getting a program together to help the premies realise their potential.
"I don't see the programs we're developing as static things. As the communities grow, and as our awareness and understanding grows, the programs are sure to develop, too. We're always getting feedback on how the programs already in use are going. The Community Directors send us reports, and we photocopy them and send them around to the other states, which gives them a valuable form of exchange."
PRODUCTIONS, with a staff of four, occupies almost half the building. I find David Ransome, who heads the department, busy running off Brisbane's newsletter Word for Word on the printing press downstairs. I wander back up to the art department, where Felicity is working on the layout for an aspirant seminar booklet. "What we're doing in Productions basically hasn't changed. We take all the material for printing from the other departments, work out the layout, do the necessary artwork and photography, print and assemble it. Tony Lunn does most of the artwork - anything to do with design, he does it, and I help him with the paste-up. Graeme Giles works in the darkroom, and takes care of most of the photography nowadays, too. A lot of our work comes from P.D., making up booklets and materials for the programs they're coming out with. And we do The Golden Age, every month now.
"With the new organisational structure, there's really been a pile of jobs for us to do. We still take in quite a bit of outside work, too."
Terry MacKinnell occupies one of the new "pigeon-holes" upstairs. Sometime Treasurer, sometime Finance Director, he is now known as the national CONTROLLER. I ask him about this name change.
"A treasurer is someone who gets his money and treasures it. It's really hard to get it out of him. A controller is someone who doesn't think about treasuring money, but sees the money coming in, and knows it's got to go out, and works out all these systems so that the money can come in, clearly, and be slotted out in a controlled way."
Terry has a staff of four. Peter Smith, Doug Wakefield and Dick Cooper - who has
just arrived from Melbourne-make up the finance section of the department, John MacGregor looks after legal matters.
"Because Maharaj Ji has given agya to stabilise the legal and financial situations of the national DLM organisations this year, the Orlando conferences had a big concentration on legal and financial matters," Terry explains. "Having a Controller rather than a Treasurer is part of this stabilisation process.
"Before, we used to work the crisis way, dealing with situations as they arose. We didn't know how much money was coming in, we didn't know how much we were going to be expected to spend. So there would be crisis after crisis. But a controller plans out income and expenditure for months in advance. Then if he notices that he's going to be $10,000 short in two months' time, he can start fixing it up now.
"At the moment, we're doing this on a monthly basis. But soon we'll be working out all income and expenditure for up to a year in advance."
And on the legal side? John fills me in on the advantages of having a sound legal basis.
"Right now, legally, we're setting up a structure which will hopefully see us right for years to come.
"The most basic thing I'm doing at the moment is getting the Mission incorporated, which means the Mission will begin to exist legally, which it doesn't at the moment in most states. We'll have one national incorporation, centred in Sydney, with the other states as equal branches, all legally tied together. So it's like bringing the legal situation in line with the reality.
"One of the main advantage of incorporation is prestige not in the sense that people will begin to look up to us, but in terms of contacts with government and business. You're looked upon as pretty shady if you don't have any legal status. Being incorporated will make our dealings with the world much easier. Then if we want to rent a house, we can do it in the name of Divine Light Misson. Or if we ever want to get a loan from the government, it will be very advantageous to exist legally, otherwise they won't know who they're giving the loan to."
And how about Derek Harper? "As National Director of
No. 27, March, 1976
DLM," Derek tells me "my service here is that of a coordinator. It is up to me to ensure that each department is working in synchronisation with the others, and with the world perspective. The department heads and I have three major meetings each week where we go over new ideas, existing projects and give the final okay to completed projects. Thus everyone can see what is happening in each department.
We also have many other meetings in the course of the week: departmental meetings, and meetings of special interest groups, such as those involved in the AMP committee program, or with the Golden Age. I'm often included in these meetings, and frequently individuals will present ideas to me for my opinion. So I spend most of my time listening, and giving satsang and advice from the overall vantage-point that comes from not being deeply involved in any of the five departments.
"Travelling is another important part of my service. Letters and telephone calls cannot give an accurate or deep impression of a situation, and so I travel around the centres to see what they're doing, and to explain what we're doing. I give satsang to share the understanding we are gaining from being in the centre of activity and to clarify the direction and emphasis we are trying to promote. And for me a fuIl understanding of what's happening in the regional centres is essential if I'm to serve them properly."
So NHQ is becoming organised Maharaj Ji is indeed towards doing his job professionally. But as he reminded the premies in Denver, Divine Light Mission isn't any ordinary organisation. It's an organisation with a purpose - bringing peace to the world. and it's an organisation made up of premies who are realising that peace in their own lives.
How do the premies at NHQ experience their service? Karen, the Communications coordinator, puts it like this:
"Every position Maharaj Ji has ever put me in has been like a learning process. It doesn't matter whether I'm working at NHQ or out in the world, I feel that Maharaj Ji's put me in that situation to just help me go back to meditation. I find that everything that happens within this service just serves to tune me back to Holy Name. At the same time, it's teaching me to serve Guru Maharaj Ji better, as well."
"We've gone through a period of getting the skills part of the service together," Lindsay explains, "and what we're finding now is that the perspective is changing from just doing a skilled job, to putting it in the context of Knowledge.
"After Orlando, it was just like 'turn on the gas'. You had to really be clear, really meditate a lot, to progress with it. It's really beautiful to be moving at a speed where all the time your resources are constantly being stretched to try to keep up with the consciousness, to try to keep up with the progression of the Mission.
If you let yourself slide, it's so hard. And it's an integral thing - you've got to maintain everything at once - service, satsang and meditation. We're finding here that there's no time to space out; you either keep up with it or you slide off. I know that everyone here has been meditating a lot more, going to satsang every night. We're having much more satsang in the building; everyone's becoming much more Knowledge-oriented."
"When Derek told me I would be working on the aspirant program at NHQ I was really blissed out," Julie Collet recalls. "It's really something to be given a way to serve Maharaj Ji.
"The fact that it's pretty intense here, and that you're getting stretched beyond your capacities all the time means that you just really have to trust Maharaj Ji and apply yourself every minute of the day. I've been realising lately that time is all we have, that this is actually our opportunity to serve Maharaj Ji and realise Knowledge."
Is service at NHQ any different to service elsewhere? Many premies I speak to at Wentworth Avenue bring up this question spontaneously, and answer it with an emphatic "no". Cathy Weise tells me about her experience moving from the ashram in Brisbane to NHQ.
"Coming here I really realised that it's completely irrelevant where you are or what you're doing, if your heart is really desiring to serve Guru Maharaj Ji and propagate Knowledge, that's really all that matters. Before I was limiting myself, thinking 'Here I am in an ordinary job out in the world, and I'm not really doing Maharaj Ji's service'. And the only thing was that my mind wasn't in the right place. Now it's so beautiful because I know that I can be anywhere, doing anything, as long as it's coming from Guru Maharaj Ji's direction and coming through this Mission, then I'm in service, doing what he wants me to do.
It's Tuesday at 14 Wentworth Avenue. The NHQ staff is gathered in the renovated nursery for the weekly satsang meeting. As each premie speaks, I experience afresh the power of satsang to unite people on the level that's real. No wonder Wentworth Avenue is so different to the Public Service. Here, we've got a purpose, and a continuing experience of the reality of our destination. That gives us the basis for cooperation that limited, idealistic goals can never give. As Julie says, this is our chance to realise what love is, and this is our chance to share it. Maharaj Ji says he's going to bring peace - to us, and to the world. And as we're understanding that he can really do it, we're all opening up to his guidance as to how it can best be done. I guess there's still a lot to learn - in six months' time, the Age will probably find lots of improvements around NHQ to report on. But the force behind the changes, and the Mission itself will always be the same - Maharaj Ji's Grace, and the desire of premies everywhere to get it on with Knowledge, to get it on for a drowning world.