The Golden Age
By Dan Hinckley of the American 'Divine Times'
Walking along Avenue Road to the national offices, Gary Ockenden (DLM Canada's director) and I began to talk about the Canadian Mission, its premies scattered across 4,500 miles, its communities, and his attempt to help tie them all together.
Gary was happy to talk, and seemed to be crystallizing his thoughts as he spoke. DLM Canada, he said, "is in the midst of a real rebirth of practising Knowledge …."
"Maybe I'm being surprised because I haven't been exposed to too many people for a while, but when I meet people in the communities, like say a husband and a wife with a few kids, and they share satsang with me about what they're experiencing in their lives, I've just been really impressed with the amount of, I guess we've been calling it understanding and maturity that people have. Knowledge is really integrated into their lives, and they're experiencing a lot with it. People are understanding the importance of Knowledge and how to practise it; I felt a lot of strength and clarity."
The Long Winter
But this rebirth took place only after what Gary calls the "Long Winter", a term I'm now familiar with - a time when almost a quarter of the residents left the Canadian ashram, and when DLM Canada experienced its first financial crisis in its otherwise affluent history. A time when, even two months ago, there would be meetings where "just the idea of having satsang wouldn't be accepted."
"Many activities stopped," Gary told me, "or crumbled or just fell into a lull. But to me, it was because they probably weren't needed. Most communities I've been to are almost at step one again. This is a generalisation because it varies from community to community, but in most places, a lot of things used to be happening that people, out of their own motivation, weren't really into. So all these things sort of stopped or collapsed. Now people are rebuilding, but on a really basic level, out of what their real needs are. Usually, that begins with the need to have inspiring satsang for themselves and for other people. Where that's happening, there's a really strong social bond; the premies are very close to each other. In a lot of communities, everyone knows each other intimately. There's a small number of people in the communities in Canada, usually between 10 and 50 people, but there's a stung social bond. A lot of growth happens just through the natural getting together that premies are doing in their families and with their friends. Community organising isn't happening so much any more. Growth is just taking place really naturally."
The simple needs
This scaling down of activity and emphasis on the basics is happening at the National Headquarters in Toronto, as well as in each community and each premie's life. The Long Winter forced Gary and his friends to reassess their own situation: "It used to be that the level of activity in the Mission was determined not by the activity of the members, but by the funds available to the director. We used to sit and think, 'When are the premies going to under- stand and support us?' And all the while they were thinking, 'When in DLM going to come down to earth?'
"Then last winter, we started to recognise that we had never really looked at what was needed and built from that. Instead, what we did was based on how much money and how many people we had. My feeling was that we really have to look at what the communities actually need from us and what we're capable of doing.
"What we've discovered is that, basically, premies have pretty simple needs in relation to DLM. Say there's 50 people who have received Knowledge in a community. Well, what do they need to do as a group to really experience it; what do they need to do as a group to really be fulfilling their purpose, individually and together? Basically, they need to meditate, which they can do without National Headquarters. And they need to have satsang together, which means they have to come together and have a place to do it. Service in most places just means people getting involved in helping to do that and in having satsang programs. Then the next step might be a community being able to expand, to be able to have things for people who are interested in receiving Knowledge so they can get involved in the community and be able to have initiators come and initiate those people.
"When you look at it that simply, just seeing what those people need to do to experi-
No. 33, October 1976
ence Knowledge, then you see that the communities can pretty much develop their own programs based on what's happening in the community and who's there to help develop them. The purpose of any larger organisation seems to be just communication as to what Maharaj Ji's doing, what he's saying, guidelines or policies that might come from Guru Maharaj Ji through the organisation, and festivals or some way of getting darshan.
"My feeling is that communities should look to a national office as a resource to help them do what they have to do, and a national office should look to international headquarters the same way. But not that much needs to go down the channels except policies and guidelines that are necessary, and the co-ordination of tours, etc. Beyond that, most of what needs to be be done can be initiated by the communities themselves."
As a result of this kind of discovery, the national headquarters staff was recently cut in half from 24 full-time workers to 12. And Gary has begun to spend more and more of his time where he feels he can be useful-out in the communities.
The reduction in the role of the headquarters has fostered a corresponding development of responsibility withi-, the communities: "It's natural that the individuals in the community cieate their own community, and the gree that they're committed to doing something in that community and working together is what's going to determine what happens."
The Long Winter caused people in Canada to throw out a lot of trips (everyone agrees all of it had to go) and now premies are beginning to concentrate on what the process has left them rather than on what it caused them to throw away. DLM in Canada is small, but that is turning out to be one of its major assets. Everybody knows just about everybody else, and that enables people to build communities based on trust rather than on pre-defined organisational structures. As Gary put it, "We might even go less organised than we already are, but there are so many people who are really having a deep experience of Knowledge in every place that I've been that it just seems like, whatever form it takes, things can only go forward."
From a letter written by Denmark's national director Ole Grumbaum in July.
I wanted to say a little about how the organisation works here in Copenhagen. Since May we have had permanent groups to take care of most of the essential services of DLM: satsang; written materials for premies; meetings, conferences, lectures; other premie activities; and aspirant activities.
These are fields where there can never be specialists, because they can only be covered according to our whole understanding as premies. So what we did was to announce that whoever wanted to dedicate two nights a week for group-meetings, plus approximately six hours for other duties could join any group. Between 30 and 40 people are now working permanently in these groups. The groups themselves choose their own coordinator who handles the contact with the DLM administration and other groups.
It has worked brilliantly!
None of the services has lost quality, in fact all of them have improved. Each group has a field of work that is commonly accepted, but it decides its goals itself.
After a few weeks we started to have one representative from each group meet with the DLM staff. This meeting has in two months time grown into being the regular DLM management meeting where all the important decisions are taken or at least presented and discussed. It serves to coordinate the daily activities, and also serves to correct and inspire the direction of the different groups. It links the DLM-administration together with the service that premies are doing in a new way, because it puts the administration in a position to be advised and criticised by the most competent premies in the community. The administration is therefore there to facilitate the real service, which is what these groups are doing.
As a result of this development I have cut down the staff staff to two people, me and the treasurer. We answer the phone, write letters, talk with everybody, and do all the administrative routine. We are office-workers helping the premies who go to work every day and whose time therefore is very precious when they do service after work. We should help them to be able to do DLM's real work efficiently. They shouldn't have to bother too much about administrative and physical details.
Consequently I can see myself as "Director" of the Mission for only a very short time while things get put back to where they should be. Then I, or whoever is in that position, will be an administrative worker serving the Executive Body, which should be made up of the representatives of the premies who are developing the link between Knowledge and human beings.
I am glad to say that all this is no theory, but what is happening right now. The groups are performing very well. They are developing their own skill at working together and slowly, slowly developing the services they are doing.
Since the satsang group started, average figures have gone up from 40 to 60 people per night. Three nights a week is "normal" satsang, one night starts with small groups discussing a subject that has been announced beforehand, like "What is your next step with Knowledge", "Why are we afraid of dying?" "What can we give each other?" These nights then conclude in general feedback. The meeting group concentrates on the weekly community meeting. It's a new situation for the staff here, going to a community meeting and just sitting down and participating and getting inspired just like everybody else. Then sometimes I am asked to speak about a certain thing.
The written materials field was catastrophically left out of our activity during the last twelve months. Now, it's getting back there with a newsletter and regular translations of satsang. The whole thing including the printing is done by premies in their spare time.
The coordinating body consists of a representative for each group, plus four staff members (of these last four only I will be left after August 1st). The meetings in the coordinating body are all very fruitful and constructive. Out of these meetings it has become clear that a premie not at all has to be a fulltime staff worker in order to play a great role in the community. We're finding that developing satsang and communication means and skills is more important than making administrative decisions.