Rick Berman Shifting Into Third Gear

D.L.M. Financial Director, Rick Berman

Bob Mishler, president of Divine Light Mission, recently compared the mission to a car that is about to shift gears. "We are now in second gear and going as fast as we can. It's time for us to shift into third."

Specifically Bob meant that the mission was about to amke a shift in its financial base from one were relatively few premies support the mission to one where the support is spread over a larger base. For the past two years, DLM has paid its bills primarily with money earned and donated by ashram residents. This money, along with a few large donations from approximately ten people, has allowed the mission to grow as fast as it has.

According to Rick Berman, executive financial director of the mission, ashram residents account for more than half of DLM's income although they only comprise 1/60th of the premie population.

Today the mission has reached a point where ashram premies cannot increase the income to keep up with the growth. Bob explained at a staff meeting lastweek, "We just don't have enough money in proportion to the level of activity we are trying to maintain. We have cut back about everything we could. But at a certain point it is like pruning a rosebush. You can cut so many stalks but if you cut the main part there is nothing left."

top 10% to maharaj ji

At Guru Puja premies will be asked to begin making regular contributions to Divine Light Mission. The idea is for all premies to designate the top ten percent of their income as Maharaj Ji's and then contribute it on a weekly or monthly basis to His mission.

Rick noted that premies have money to contribute but they hold onto it unless they have a concrete goal in mind (like putting on Millennium '73) or unless they fear the mission is going broke.

Rick remembers the time right after Maharaj Ji's spring tour when the mission treasury ran low and he, along with Bob, made a nationwide appeal for donations. "For three weeks after the appeal the income was doubled but on the fourth week it began to taper off and in no time we were back down to the regular income we had been getting from the ashrams. But it was so beautiful during those weeks because could just feel the inspiration those premies had after having just seen Maharaj Ji and receiving Holy Breath."

Efficient financial planning of a corporation like Divine Light Mission requires a stable and regular source of income. If donations only come in during occasional bursts of enthusiasm much of itsvalue is lost due to a lack of planning.

Rick thinks that if premies realize the need for their dedication to be manifested constantly by making regular weekly contributions, the income of DLM could double and stay doubled. Of the 50,000 premies in America, 30,000 are listed on the DLM roster. If only one third or 10,000 people sent in ten percent of their earnings (take $8 a week, for example) then it still comes to a sizeable sum.

Lately the national press has attacked the financial integrity of the mission. An NBC television broadcast last month set aside a few minutes in which they interviewed Houston businessmen who claim that DLM owes them money.

Rick commented about the news broadcast. "Many people like to throw dirt. Unfortunately people who do not understand Maharaj Ji like to throw dirt on him. As far as our credit goes, we are in as good a shape or better than most corporations. Since Millennium we have paid off $400,000 in bills and most people just don't pay their bills that fast.""

The truth is that after Millennium the mission had a large debt. Through diligence and careful planning, DLM has almost entirely paid off the debt. Bills that the mission could not pay off immediately are being paid off under payment schedules. A payment schedule is an agreement whereby DLM agreed to pay a creditor so much money each week until the total bill was paid. Such agreements have been arranged with all but a few creditors.

Two of NBC's "star witnesses" were representatives from the Houston Astrodome and a company called Film Associates. Both claimed that DLM owes them money.

The whole story was not reported. According to Rick, the dome officials presented him with a bill for $24,000 after the festival. When he and Bob reviewed the specific charges, they discovered that DLM was being billed for items already covered under the contracted flat rate of $75,000. The mission has decided to dispute the charges and is letting the case be decided in court if necessary, rather than paying the excess service charges.

Another alleged creditor is Don McClendon from Film Associates, a compnay hired to film "Soul Rush" and the festival. Like the dome officials, he asked for $27,000 above the contract agreement. Rather than pay money it does not rightly owe, DLM has decided to let that case be decided in court also.

Regardless of how unfounded they may be, the press accusations are potentially damaging to DLM. Rumors can undermine the confidence in other businesses and they maybe leery of transacting business with the mission.

to stimulate spiritual rebirth

Despite the press notices and past financial problems, Divine Light Mission is entering into a whole new stage of growth. A new computerized financial system devised with the help of a Denver C.P.A. firm will allow mission leaders to have a "to the penny" report on our financial standing. Also, new emphasis by Maharaj Ji on making the mission international will put increased stress on stronger financial systems and increased donations as a base of support.

Maharaj Ji feels that strong economic nations like America should be able to lend support to other countries to help propagate Knowledge. A responsibility of American premies, as beneficiaries and citizens of the richest nation in the history of the world, will be to donate money to help stimulate the spiritual rebirth of the world.

Premies may wonder how Maharaj Ji relates to to DLM financial matters. Rick said that, "Once we had a board meeting with Maharaj Ji and we had all these reports for him. Michael, who was treasurer at the time, said to Maharaj Ji, 'I remember just before Millennium you told me that if I had only told you about the money shortage you would have given me grace to get the money together. I'd like to officially ask for grace now because we really need it.' Maharaj Ji laughed and said, 'Don't ask for grace officially because if you do I'll give you what I have in my pocket - two cents. Work hard and grace will come."