Active Membership Program Interview
Following is an interview with Sherry Weinstein about Divine Light Mission's Active Membership Program.
DIVINE TIMES: Could you explain a little of what the Active Membership Program Is?
SHERRY: The Active Membership might be more aptly called a dedication program. Whatthe Mission is trying to do now is to encourage and awaken those premies who've received Knowledge but have not yet found a way to plug into service. Active Membership is designed to encourage premies to utilize whatever energies they have, to give whatever gifts they've been given by Guru Maharaj Ji back to Him. For instance, some premies have time on their hands - their service is to give time and energy, like the premies here at National Headquarters and the DUO offices. Agreat number of premies, however, are living in situations where this kind of service is impossible; they are householders and have families. These premies also want to feel a part of Guru MaharajJi's Mission, but don't have the time to give for service.
What we are proposing is that these premies make a pledge to dedicate a portion of their income to help support the efforts of the Mission and do their.service in this way. By working in their jobs and giving ten percent of their income, they can give the first fruits of their income - that gift of money that was given to them by Guru Maharaj Ji - and offer it back to Guru Maharaj Ji for his mission.
So Active Membership is trying to encourage service in every way, through your energies, into the mission activities, into programs like WWA and into financial support of the mission aswell.
DIVINE TIMES: lt seems like we're finally getting down to understanding that there's no difference in the way a person does service. People can either give their time and energy or anything they can, realizing that time and energy depend on your situation more than the amount of devotion you have in your heart.
SHERRY: We're actually seeing what service is for the first time - we've put some labels on things - and service, because of narrow vision, was limited to working in a DUO office. What we didn't see was that we neglected the vast majority of prem ies who were ded icated, who love Guru Maharaj Ji but could not, because of their situation, dedicate in a way that we had prescribed.
DIVINE TIMES: How did the idea for an Active Membership Program first begin?
SHERRY: The idea for the Active Membership Program and the tithing system began with a clear realization on our part. We began to see a great need to open up Divine Light Mission to include all the premies, and, on a practical level, this just wasn't happening. Divine Light Mission will always continue to operate on the strength and energy of pure purpose, but financially and practically speaking, we need the help and support of all the premies. Up until now, the support of the entire mission was being undertaken by something less than one tenth of the premie population.
From this we could see that something was missing. We began to ask ourselves why there was a lack of support. What was missing was the consciousness. We saw that part of our problem was that there was no way for the premies to channel their dedication - nowayto channel their support for Guru Maharaj Ji. We began to see that we had actually set up obstacles for the premies to dedicate by the limitations we had ourselves constructed.
DIVINE TIMES: So it was a realization and change in perspective on our part about the way we would approach people?
SHERRY: Exactly. And everyth ing comes a II at once. At the same time we were realizing our mistakes, the premies who normally didn't think to dedicate were realizing that they wanted to help in a practical way. Because consciousness is really one. Now the premies who weren't supporting the mission before, are suddenly taking a look at their lives and are seeing the need for them to dedicate. Durga Ji said something at Guru Puja which I've been using to illustrate the consciousness behind Active Membership. She said all the premies want to know Guru Maharaj Ji more and more, and the more we know Him, the more we love Him, and the more we love him, the more we want to serve him, and the more we serve Guru Maharaj Ji, the more we come to know him, And this goes on continuously. Forever.
DIVINE TIMES: Something I always seem to notice at big programs when they ask for donations is there seems to be a very subtle balance between a consciousness of "The mission's trying to take my money," and "I'm willing to dedicate to Maharaj Ji." It seems to be the thing we've never been able to really break through with the premies on – that it's really their mission.
SHERRY: That's the crux of the problem. There wasso much lackof support because of our failures in communication. And it is a very delicate thing. For a long time, those of us who were brought to Denver sawthe mission in terms of the organization. It was an easy trap, because at the time the organization was the only aspect of the mission that was really beginning to be developed. But "the organization" was also a concept we imposed on Divine Light Mission. We thought the best way to reach the world would be to present a very slick corporate image, because then we would have something they would be impressed with.
But after we experimented with this way of living, we found it was neither acceptable to ourselves, to our needs, or our souls; although the world might have been impressed. But they noticed the image and missed all the work that Guru Maharaj Ji is trying to accomplish in this world to bring peace.
Somewhere along the line, though, it became clear to us that our mission is Divine Light. Divine Light is Knowledge. And Guru Maharaj Ji's mission is to give Knowledge to the world. He wants to bring peace on this earth; he wants to uplift every single soul to a really full and meaningful life of complete peace, of being one with God. And in order to do this, he needs an organized body, a way to unite people under one banner. This is Divine Light Mission.
He's made it clear that our purpose, if we're to join Guru Maharaj Ji, must also be to bring peace on earth and to spread Knowledge of God. Divine Light Mission is one. It isn't the ashram, it isn't the DUO office, and it isn't Denver. It's that mission, however it isaccomplished, and whatever way itcanbedone in your life. If we have thataim in our life, if we have that goal in our heart tospread the Knowledge of God, then we're partof Divine Light Mission. That's all.
DIVINE TIMES: So what are the basic steps of the Active Membership Program how are you going to try and communicate this point?
SHERRY: The way I feel is this: the communication of what we'redoing, our purpose - Active Membership - is basically dedication. And that's all I'm thinking about today, and always saying to the premies: dedicate yourself to Guru Maharaj Ji. That's active membership. We're not trying to lay a trip. "Denver has now come out with a new thing give your ten percent or else, you know, get in or get out - you're gonna be special or you're not, now you're gonna get a computer print-out and be an active member." We're just saying that, if you want to experience the grace of Guru MaharajJi, if you want to experience a very open flow in your life, then surrender more and more of yourself; your mind, your ego, your attachments,your physical things, your service, your everything to Guru Maharaj Ji and his mission.
Until now, we've missed a step, because we haven't been understanding the full consciousness of everyone being Divine Light Mission. The premie who has just received Knowledge - who has maybe never walked into National Headquarters, never seen a DUO office or typewriter, never even given out a leaflet - he is Divine Light Mission. As long as his desire is to spread Divine Light.
Understand, we're not saying that Active Membership is the latest you know, try it this month. Dedication is a continuous thing. Therefore, Active Membership is going to be a continuous thing. This program is being instituted so that we can find a means whereby premies can have a continuous, ongoing, constant method to dedicate. We're asking for a years commitment; that it will be ten percent of your weekly or monthly income over the next year.
DIVINE TIMES: Could you explain tithing?
SHERRY: Tithing is what we mean when we ask everyone to contribute ten percent of his income to Guru Maharaj Ji's mission. Throughout the history of Perfect Masters, the idea of devotees giving their first ten percent is constantly repeated. The scriptures present it as kind of law. In the Old Testament, Moses declared, "the law of tithing." As the people would gather and reap their harvest, the first ten percent of it would go to what was called the Lord's storehouse, the Lord's treasury. There was a big barn where all the grain would be taken, and when the grain overflowed the storehouse, it would all be taken to feed the people in need. There was a consciousness that was being expressed there, a principle, that, if you give freely, you will always have. Malachi, the Old Testament prophet spoke that, "as you empty your barns, you will find your vats overflowing with new wine." They were trying to relate this law, this principle, to people; they were giving them satsang and hoping that they understood.
Shri Maharaj Ji once said to his devotees that, "For every ten handfuls of rice, give me the first handful. And if you ever need anything just come to me." What we're coming to realize is that there is really a fundamental consciousness behind this thing. Each one of us has to awaken to it and realize just who is the giver of everything that we have, that this body is really given by Guru Maharaj Ji, and for a specific purpose. We have to see that our wealth has been given to us for a purpose; our families - everything has been given to us, but by whom and for what? Jesus was once talking to the people of Galilee. He said, "O people of Galilee, recognize you are but stewards of God's wealth. Yu have been given this wealth in your charge for a time of need, and now is the time of need. Why hoard his wealth?" In other words, it doesn't belong to you. We're wardens. We're just the guardians of these things that have been given to us. But they can be consecrated; they can become meaningful. They can achieve the purpose that they were brought here to achieve by giving them back to the giver so that he can achieve his purpose. This is what Guru Maharaj Ji really means by cooperation. We can cooperate in this physical sense, but we can really cooperate by surrendering to Guru Maharaj Ji - by giving him the tools that he's given us to achieve that highest purpose.
You see, we can ravish people and we can try to raise funds by making them feel guilty, but the highest form of giving, and the only form Guru Maharaj Ji is concerned with, is the gift which is given totally out of purity, out of love - which is completely given from your heart and from your soul. We're not telling you that you're gonna be minus grace points if you don't give, you're gonna die - Guru Maharaj Ji's gonna strike you with lightning if you don't give. But, if you want to dedicate, if you feel from your heart that love for Guru Maharaj Ji and you want tof ind a way to express it, this is a way to express it.
DIVINE TIMES: It seems as though the program is going to take a consciousness-raising on the part of the premies before they'll really understand.
SHERRY: Exactly. It's exactly what I term it. When I began working with the Active Membership Program, I was fund-raising. I was not concerned with just going out and trying to get f unds. Actually, if I could rename it, I would call it consciousness-raising. I've been through every satsang that I could get my hands on that's ever been published by Guru MaharajJi - every satsang. I came up with twenty pages of the best quotes I could find about satsang, service, meditation, and dedication. I looked up every quote I could find where Guru Maharaj Ji's ever talked about materialism or wealth. He repeats over and over again, "I don't want your money. The Lord has created love, the Lord has distributed love. And now what he's hungry for is your love. Not for your diamonds, not for your bank account, but for love."
The point is this love has to be spread, it has to be distributed. Guru MaharajJi has created Divine Light Mission, to be his vehicle in this world. This mission of Divine Light needs the involvement and support of each premie. This is where our dedication to Guru Maharaj Ji comes in and where Active Membership begins.