No. 33, October 1976
WHAT'S GOING ON
There have also been many changes in the Mission over the past weeks. Probably everyone is basically aware by now of what is happening: in Australia, the full-time staff of both national and regional headquarters has been reduced by about half, and the ashram program is undergoing major changes. Next month, the Golden Age will be taking a closer look at the local scene in both these areas. This month, we thought we would share with you some of the communication that has come from international headquarters recently.
27 August 1976. Jos Lammers and Francisco Arce in Denver to Derek Harper. This letter accompanied Guru Maharaj Ji's letter to premies which was distributed with the last issue of the Golden Age.
A visit from Guru Maharaj Ji is always a happy occasion and, in some way or another, meaningful for us all. But it could be said that his last visit to Denver (18 - 22 August), although very short, was especially significant.
Guru Maharaj Ji continued the conversations he began some time ago, finding out in greater detail about the state of the Mission in the USA and internationally. As a result of this, Guru Maharaj Ji has started to indicate how he sees different aspects of the Mission developing in the future.
He first focused on the need to simplify the organisation of the Mission. His feeling was that the purpose of DLM - to serve as a tool in his work of spreading Knowledge in the world - was being impaired because things had become so complicated that in many cases it was making the work more difficult. He talked about the need for organisation to help create the proper situation in which Knowledge can be spread, e.g., to handle the financial, legal and logistical concerns of creating situations that allow people to hear about Knowledge, be prepared to practise it, become initiated and be continually supported in the practise of Knowledge. He felt that the communication from Guru Maharaj Ji to the premies should be developed and that the organisation should be streamlined to eliminate the distant feeling that many premies presently have in trying to relate to Maharaj Ji through the channels of the organisation. He assigned Bob Mishler and Michael Dettmers to work on a plan to reorganise ourselves so that Maharaj Ji would have a more open and direct connection to the premies. Maharaj Ji further clarified that in the on-going management of the Mission internationally, he would develop policies relating to the primary responsibilities of the Mission - to prepare, initiate and support people in the practise of Knowledge - and indicated that he personally would not want to be concerned with the management aspect of developing programs, but only with monitoring programs to insure that the policies with regard to the practise of Knowledge are understood and implemented to best serve his purpose.
One program that Maharaj Ji gave some clarification to specifically during this visit was the ashram. He felt that the purpose of the ashram program was not being accomplished in many areas where the role of the ashram had become primarily one of supplying the staff of the organisation of DLM. Although a more complete position paper outlining the role and purpose of the ashram and how Maharaj Ji would like to have us proceed in implementing this program is still being worked on, we would like to give you an idea of the direction in which Maharaj Ji sees the ashram evolving, and the purpose of the program as he envisions it.
He stated that the purpose of the ashram would be to provide a controlled environment for premies to be able to grow more successfully in the process of Knowledge by providing them with a physical shelter and a spiritual shelter to enable them to come to the point where they will be able to do satsang, service and meditation at any time in any circumstance. He is currently reviewing the ashram code and plans to restate the guidelines for the program as a code of ethics for the individual to be guided by rather than a set of rules simply dictating a lifestyle. He felt that the ashram program eventually should be open to everyone who feels that they could be benefitted by it and that the set-up of the ashram needed attention in order to make sure that it would serve its purpose of helping people to become stronger. Some points that he felt would be essential in a set-up that would emphasise self-development and self-reliance would be to avoid divisions of responsibilities which don't prepare people to be able to move on as strong individuals, but which make them dependent upon a system that takes care of everything for them. A new set-up would probably include many shared responsibilities amongst ashram participants. One essential aspect that Maharaj Ji felt would be needed in order to have the ashram program fulfill its purpose would be to insure that the growth of the individuals was given close attention: Guru Maharaj Ji felt it would be necessary for him to work on a system of monitoring the individual's growth so that if people were having difficulties there could be help available to them. As an example, each ashram program should have a supervisor who can give Knowledge reviews for those having difficulty with meditation and through communication with Maharaj Ji can insure that once a person reaches a point where he is stong enough to move on, that he can leave the program, or, if a person is not being benefitted by the program that he can be asked to move along in the best interests of his personal growth. Maharaj Ji envisioned that there would be a certain minimum commitment that an individual would make upon entering the the program, possibly six months to one year. The duration of a person's stay in the ashram would be determined by their individual growth; he
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did not envision anyone staying in the ashram for the rest of their life.
As part of developing the program into the future so that it could be open to anyone who feels the need for it, Maharaj Ji stated that families would not be allowed to live in the ashram, but in line with his vision to make it open to everyone, as indivivals they would be able to come on their holidays or vacation for from two to four week periods approximately. The program would be set up so that separate facilities would be provided for men and women so that they would not be living together in the same ashram. He felt that all these changes should be explored Lind implemented over the next few months and few years. His concern is that the purpose of the program be insured for the future. He considered that the name "ashram" was not necessary, and that it would be relevant as we are restructuring the program to change the name.
The other area of major concern that Maharaj Ji talked about during this visit, was the initiation process. He felt that this is a very large area in that it is the primary focus of our work in spreading Knowledge and he is going to give a great deal more attention to it in the near future. What he did say this time was that he felt that efforts had to be made to bring the preparation of aspirants in sync with the initiation. He indicated that as we streamline our organisational concerns and focus on the primary work of DLM, more and more of our attention will be going into this area. He indicated that he would prefer to have initiators operating at the community level and working with aspirants in the whole preparation, initiation and practising of Knowledge rather than having only a few initiators who fly in from other countries or cultures to conduct the initiation. He envisioned that a training program would have to be developed to prepare premies from around the world to assume these responsibilities. He met briefly with the initiators who are here at IHQ and told them that he would be working with them more extensively to look at ways to make sure that the way we present Knowledge is most effective.
One point that he did stress was that in many ways we
No. 33, October 1976
had made it very difficult for people to receive initiation when our goal is just the opposite, and that what was important was for people to have the right understanding through satsang in order to be inspired to know the Truth and then be able to initiate them so that through their experience in meditation they can have right motivation. When a person has right understanding and motivation automatically he will perform right action-service-and in this way Knowledge can be most effectively spread. He also cautioned that as we proceed on the path of Knowledge our experiences may be different even though our understanding and motivation are based upon the same reality and that we should be careful of judging one another or ourselves by another's experience of Knowledge. As long as we feel we are growing or another person feels he is growing, we should all be encouraged to continue to practise satsang, service and meditation.
Another clarification that Maharaj Ji made, was to a question stemming from his definition of the purpose and role of the ashram; that of the staff of DLM. He stated that it was not necessary for staff members at any level of the organisation to be ashram members, but that in a transition from an organisation which has been staffed almost exclusively from ashram members, that we would have to proceed carefully because he didn't want the spirit of voluntarism which exists in the staff of DLM to be lost in any transition. What this means practically for most situations is that even though a staff member may elect to not continue to stay on in the ashram, feeling that he is sufficiently strong in satsang, service and meditation and that he has derived the benefit that that program can offer to him, if he were to remain on the staff he would be compensated for his service at the same level as when he lived in the ashram. Maharaj Ji wanted to avoid moving too rapidly into a strictly salaried type of staff situation, not only because of the impact that it might have financially on any given Mission, but also he did not want staff members to start thinking of their positions in DLM as merely a job.
This is all the information that we have at present. As soon as we have more details on any of the issues presented to Guru Maharaj Ji, we will let you know. It would also be very good if you could send us your feedback on all this, and let us know how you see the possibilities of putting it into practice in an efficient way suitable for the situation of the Mission in your particular country.
Hope to hear from you soon,
Jos Lammers Director International Operations
Francisco Arce Director International Operations
24 September 1976. Bob Mishler and Michael Dettmers in Denver - cover letter for international mailing.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As scheduled, Guru Maharaj Ji returned to Denver last weekend. He was only here a total of 30 hours, but was able to accomplish a great deal before returning to Malibu. During the course of his visit, Maharaj Ji gave more input on changes in the ashram program, reviewed premie situations worldwide, discussed organisational changes, finalised plans for Hans Jay-anti '76, and confirmed conference schedules. He also met with the initiators to review the initiation process, current needs for initiators around the world, and the initial steps of an initiator training program. In this regard he instructed Bill Patterson to remain in Denver to further develop the ashram and initiator training programs, and sent the other initiators on tour to meet the current demand for initiators around the world.
Maharaj Ji was pleased to learn that since his last visit progress is being made in our efforts to simplify and streamline DLM worldwide so that it can more easily facilitate his purpose of spreading Knowledge in this world. Guru Maharaj Ji did emphasise, however, the importance of maintaining a positive attitude towards our current reorganisation, seeing the need for simplification not as a cutback per se, but simply reorganising so that we can be more effective and responsive to those people whom we are serving. In no way should it be misconstrued that we are cutting back or eliminating any program or activity which is essential for the continued growth of his Mission.
Here at IHQ this task of reorganisation is progressing very smoothly. Three months ago the total full-time staff at IHQ consisted of approximately 250 people. Presently there are approximately 150 full-time staff, and it is expected that this number will be reduced to approximately 80 people by the end of October.
During this time of transition, many of us are taking the necessary time to look at our lives in a broader context, seeing how we might begin to develop talents or abilities within ourselves which can ultimately be used in the greater service of Maharaj Ji. In this regard, Jos Lammers has decided to return to Amsterdam in order to attend a university there. His position of director of International Operations is being shared by Bob and Michael, with the assistance of of Francisco Arce, Willow Baker, and Ellen Saxl.
Do you think that by creating structures and organisations we're not taking ourselves away from the simplicity of the Knowledge, and the simplicity of our own experience, using it as something to hide behind?
To me that is not so much a question as a statement. Because I think it's definitely true. There's a definite risk of structuring yourself You can compare it to any structure people have in their life. Like you really love somebody, and you do that in a structured way-a bunch of flowers on Saturday. And you see-at least I saw in my parents-that every Saturday the guy brought flowers. But maybe after three Saturdays you could ask yourself if there was still that love behind it or was he just getting into flowers on Saturday?
So definitely even in a consciousness movement, you have the same difficulty. It's something that we've got to be really careful about and the only thing which is going to prevent us from getting into that pitfall is the sincerity of each individual who is part of that structure. When we really keep our sincerity going, when we really understand for ourselves what the purpose of it is, what we're doing there, then we might end up doing something in this world with real feeling behind it, with real consciousness of what we're doing it for.
- Jos Lammers, June 1976, Leicester Summer Festival, England. (From the English newspaper "Premies")