Community Highlights

San Francisco

In the May issue of the "Bay Area Bulletin," a premie newsletter which came out of Berkeley, California, the brand new community director for San Francisco was quoted:

"I find myself in San Francisco by the agya of Guru Maharaj Ji, to serve him in the capacity he has assigned me. And really I rejoice in the opportunity. I can't think of anything that I'd rather do."

- Tom Munger

One month later, the "Bulletin" no longer existed, and in a new publication, originating in Frisco, the following quote from Abraham Maslow appeared on the inside back cover:

"Even if all these needs are satisfied, we may still often (if not always) expect that a new discontent and restlessness will soon develop, unless the individual is doing what he, individually, is fitted for … What a man can be, he must be. He must be true to his own nature."

Something was obviously stirring in San Francisco. Discontent is the first symptom of change.

"The San Francisco DUO staff decided to forget preconceived structures, lines of authority,
'DUO staffs,' - the works - and see what was left.

Like most communities around North America, the Bay Area premies had become involved last spring and summer in a thorough going effort to understand what they were doing as premies and how it related to their own individual experiences of Knowledge. When Tom flew in as the new community director in May, a committee of ten had been set up as the coordinating body for the area. Their goals:

1. Develop an organizational system that nurtures the growth of premies;

2. Develop a method of deepening and synchronizing premies' understanding of what Knowledge is and how to practice it according to Guru Maharaj Ji's instructions;

3. Develop opportunities to practice Knowledge;

4. Develop premies' understanding of the purpose and role of Divine Light Community.

Fine goals. But can ten people do it? Can ten people take on the job of "developing and deepening premies' understanding"? While the committee met, active participation in the community was falling off. So was the attendance at satsang. Discontent with the organization of DUO seemed to be growing. But the practical experience of Knowledge was growing, too. So the picture looked like this: individual inspiration was high, but it never seemed to break through into the organizational superstructure. (Anybody that's worked with the Mission for a while knows that that's not an unusual story.)

Tom decided to disband the committee and start over. But in the midst of all this, Maharaj Ji's San Francisco program appeared on the scene, taking precedence over everything else. Or so it seemed. Actually, working on the program turned out to be exactly what the community needed to stand back from the day-to-day hassles and get some fresh insight into the nature of their own experience with Knowledge and with DLM. Basically, what they discovered was that they were locked into a narrow system where a few people made all the decisions. The organization had been busily building itself over the past few years, but because of its hierarchical nature, how well it fulfilled everyone's real needs was completely open to question. And there wasn't any lack of questioning. The planning and implementation of Maharaj Ji's program brought out a lot of the tensions and shortcomings inherent in the S.F. DUO structure.

But it was a good lesson and when Maharaj Ji left and the program was over, the changes that had been waiting to take place for a long time began to come. It just didn't make any sense to go back to the old bureaucracy. But what was the alternative?

The surest way to find out where to go from here has always been to get in touch with your own experience and find out what it's telling you. The S.F. DUO staff decided to forget preconceived structures, lines of authority, "DUO staffs" - the works - and see what was left. From the Frisco newsletter, "Community Information," the week after the program:

"DUO has yet to find a secure and realistic place in the community. It has tended to operate on its own, neither really leading nor responding … There are always things to do - Sunday night programs, an ashram, and financial management. But what really is the best way to go about it?

"In working on it I have to start with the basics: I am a premie, I have an experience of Knowledge and a relationship with Guru Maharaj Ji, inspiration, a sense of purpose. And there are a lot of other people around, living together, shar-

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ing, working together. What do they want to do? Is their desire to 'manifest Knowledge' the same as mine? As a group, shall we attempt to do something? … Is there something to do? What? How? … Let's take it from the top."

They did. And the results are pretty inspiring. Tom more or less announced, "O. K. Let's say there's no DUO structure. It's just an idea, anyway. Let's chuck it. What do we want to do now?" This coupled with his own decision to move out of the ashram, made it clear that the Bay Area community organization is now completely in the hands of the Bay Area premies. About 85 people have taken up the service. As Tom put it, "Once you get the stuff that separates DUO from people out of the way, you find that there are plenty of premies willing and capable of doing whatever needs to be done."

The premies decided that organization is only good when it's necessary. So in both San Francisco and Berkeley, they have set up very simple structures to deal with the business of DUO - time-tested structures, known as town meetings. Whenever decisions need to be made, they have a town meeting, vote, and the decisions are made. At first, Tom was going to stay on as community director, and probably will for a while, but the new system is working so well, that it is clear that no small group of people, let alone one individual, needs to have decision-making power. Tom feels that although this approach may not work in other areas, the S.F. community is small enough - and enthusiastic enough - that no separate superstructure is necessary to "organize" it.

The division between DUO and premies is, after all, an artificial one and it is rapidly becoming extinct in the Bay Area. The result is that DUO is getting in synch with the real experience and understanding that premies are having. Since that experience, for a lot of premies in the Bay Area, is really good, whatever they choose to build up around it in the next several months will probably be just as far out.

- Paul Starr


Portland Community Council: In front, from left: Stan Cohen, Don Schuman, Mark Mays; middle row: Barbi Hope, Wally Qualmann, Mike Koch; in back: Barry Ollman, Tom Hagan. About the same time that Tom Munger came to San Francisco as the new community director, Barry Ollman moved to Portland in the same capacity. A lot has changed in Portland since that time - the ashram has been closed, a community council has been elected to oversee the organization of the community, and a charter for the council has been written and adopted by the community. We interviewed Barry and Michael Koch, the newly elected chairman of the council, about what's up in Portland.

"Nobody likes to be led, nobody wants to be pushed, but everybody wants to be involved, to have input, to be heard, to participate, and to know what's going on."

Barry, why don't you start by recapping the events since you got there? Then we can get Michael's opinion.

Barry: The first few months I just felt that I should wait and listen, and find out what people here really wanted to do, not put myself in the position of running everything and making sure that the DUO office keeps tabs on everything that's happening. I really wanted to avoid that so that people would feel a desire themselves to get more involved. I sensed that the very fact that the DUO office was still functioning here after all these years was short-circuiting a lot of energy from the community itself, that the community would plug in more if everything wasn't being done for them. So I started talking to people about that a few months ago.

In a sense, my stay here has been very uneventful. I haven't been initiating all kinds of programs or anything, just trying to listen and find out what people want to do, and see if the community can sustain itself, get its own things going. I started talking to some people, Michael for one, and we started wondering, well, is it really important that we keep an ashram here, or a community director as we've know it? At first there was a reaction, some fear that, oh no, we don't want to get cut off from the Mission. And that's a valid fear. I don't think anybody here does want to get cut off from the Mission. Yet if being connected to the Mission means having an ashram, then we should take another look at that, because the community has so much to offer as it is. I don't think the ashram is a necessary component in this particular community.

As I talked to people, I found out that more and more people felt this way, even though a lot of people had been dependent on the ashram. They never called the office, but they wanted to know that someone was there if they ever did.

Then at one point, I talked to Don Lackey in Eugene and

Divine Times, October 1976    21

In session: Barry and Stan look on as Mike makes a point

he told me about their community council. I thought that would be a good idea. It would get the premies involved more in creating their own direction as a community. I brought it up to a few people, but it didn't seem like a very clear thing to do at the time.

A couple weeks later, I started going through a few changes myself. I decided it was time for me to move out of the ashram. Then all of a sudden, I started hearing talk in the community about a community council. I didn't even bring it up again, but everybody started talking about it. So we had a series of six or seven community meetings with the intention of developing a charter for the community council.

How many people attended?

Barry: About twice as many as had been showing up for community meetings before. As soon as I started telling people that the ashram was about to go through some changes and conceivably might not exist here in the near future, all of a sudden people were a little bit shocked out of their comfortable situation and decided, "Well, I better getinvolved." Before that time, community meetings, as far as I was concerned, were really an ordeal. We had a lot to learn about communication. But as soon as the change started happening, every meeting there were about forty or fifty people out of a community of about seventy, and the energy was much more focused. We didn't rush it through or anything, we really paid attention to the dynamics of the group. As far as I'm concerned, it was just a beautiful experience every week. It got to the point where everybody was so involved in every single step of this charter, that even if 30 people were in accord on it and two people had a question, we'd all stop and listen. It was a really beautiful thing to see everybody be very sensitive to each other's feelings.

It slowly evolved to a point where almost everyone was comfortable with the charter. It's a pretty thorough document at this point. But we know it's not a heavy thing that we have to live by. It's very changeable. We developed it to serve the community, not for us to serve it.

I'd like to get Michael's reactions to all this. But first of all, Michael, give me some background on yourself.

Michael: I've been in Portland all my life, and have had Knowledge for about two and a half years. I'm 34, not married.

Have you worked with the DUO administration there much before?

Michael: I've been gradually getting into it. Never in any official capacity, just giving input where it was needed.

What do you do?

Michael: I'm a carpenter. I've been a lawyer, but am not presently practicing. That's given me the tools to work with the council in my present capacity as chairman.

Why don't you back up a little bit, before you get into the council charter, and tell me how you see what's been going on there for the past several months?

Michael: For about a month before Barry got here, we had been holding Sunday community meetings as businessmeetings, rather than Sunday night satsang. Just coming together, handling issues, and reaching some kind of conclusion. The initial issue that we dealt with was some money that we'd raised during the April fundraising drive. The question was whether or not to send that money to IHQ or keep it here. What was important about it was that it was the first time, at least since I've been here, that this community came together as a community to make a decision in an organizational sense. Before that time, it was the DUO staff or the DUO director who would come up with a program or idea and institute it.

So the community was starting to take some initiative about what happened within the community. Then about six weeks ago, the idea of a community council came up. It came up because we found that in the larger meetings of about 40-45 people it was inconvenient for handling business. It got cumbersome; we're very new at learning how to conduct ourselves in meetings. So we took one community meeting to discuss the idea of a council. We broke down into groups of six or

22    Divine Times, October 1976

eight people and each group dealt with questions like what would a council be, what would it do, how would it represent the premies in the community, and how would it be selected. Then we came together and a representative of each group gave a little summary of what they had discussed and what conclusions they had come to. 'Two or three people took these summaries and compiled them into an agenda, and then at the next week's community meeting, we looked more specifically at the questions that people had raised.

We broke down again into small groups, and from these groups enough solid ideas were formulated that a charter committee of four people was formed to take those ideas and draft a charter. At the next community meeting we began to go through the charter and deal with each issue one by one. That process took us three or four weeks. We dealt with each problem extensively, considered all the alternatives, and voted upon them. Forty to fifty people were at those meetings. That's really good participation for a business meeting.

Barbie listens attentively to council business in session What are some of the specifics of the charter?

Michael: There are six voting members on the council, one chairperson, and a nonvoting community director - a total of eight. They have terms of three months with two rotating in each month, so we have an election for two each month at a community meeting. The chairperson serves for three months. We're going to take the community and divide it into six geographic areas, roughly equal numerically, so each council representative will have one of those groups as a direct constituency. 'The idea is that within those groups they can meet and have smaller group discussions so that the representative on the council can be more directly in touch with the members of the community as individuals. The whole idea is to make the council a channel that makes sure that the things that do happen here are a direct reflection of what the premies at large want to happen. Thecouncil will also begin to act as the phone tree has in the past.

How many times has the council met and how's it working?

Michael: Twice. We've so far been able to be quite sensitive to each other's input so that everybody does have a good opportunity to give their ideas and express themselves. I've been really encouraged with that. It seems like more than just a meeting. We're learning to communicate, learning to be sensitive to one another, and learning to listen as well.

Do you think what's been going on has really improved the overall feeling in the community?

Michael: Well, like we said, the attendance has doubled really quickly. That indicates to me that when there's something going on that directly involves the peoplehere, then they want to participate. There's very much a feeling that I've heard expressed that now that the ashram is closed, people are really becoming aware that it's up to us as individuals to make the Mission happen here. We can't ride on the coat-tails of the ashram or the DUO director any more, or rely on their energy to maintain the community. That's a realization that's becoming very clear to everybody, and just out of that need there's a definite, positive response.

Barry: I agree. I feel that there's a whole weaning process that's been going on from the days when the DUO director just spoonfed everybody and controlled everything. Coming away from that, everybody's consciousness is changing. Everybody's growing to a place where they want to feel more responsible for what they're doing and be more involved. When I first broke the news to everybody that Iwas going to be leaving and the ashram was closing, some people were afraid, and thought, "Oh no, now it's all going to fall apart."

I watched that evolve till people started coming up to me and saying, "You know, since this change has happened, I'm beginning to feel a lot stronger." I started seeing that in a lot of people. People definitely feel more in touch with the whole movement. It's really cut down on the amount of alienation from the Mission, because everyone gets to be involved in a very equal way. These council meetings have really been beautiful for me. I came away from each one very inspired because of the level of communication that's been happening. Everybody is respected for what he has to offer. In fact, the whole change that's come over this community is really what I'd hoped for and even more.

Why don't you give me some background on the other council members?

Barry: Well, there's Wally Qualmann, who is a lighting contractor. Barbie Hope, a secretary. Don Schuman, a high school teacher. Mark Mays, a pilot instructor. Tom Hagan, a university student. And Stan Cohen, another student.

O.K. Anything else you'd like to say?

Michael: One thing I've noticed here about the premies relating to the organization is that they're very interested in practicing Knowledge, and very concerned about the facilities that allow that to happen. When those facilities are not being taken care of, when those needs are not being met, they really rise to the occasion. I've seen that happen a number of times in Portland, like with the childcare situation. Nobody wants to be led, and nobody wants to be pushed, but everybody wants to be involved, to have input, to be heard, to participate, and to know what's going on. That seems to be what's happening right now.

- Paul Starr

Divine Times, October 1976    23

Open Forum

A Catharsis

lt's always therapeutic to express our feelings, whether verbally or written, and I've needed to put some thoughts on paper for quite some time now.

For a long time, my approach to Knowledge was one based on spiritual concepts and guilt. Practicing Knowledge to me meant attending formal satsang four or five times a week, sending in my 10% to Denver each month, practicing the meditation techniques for two hours a day at all costs, and telling people around me about my guru in hopes that they, too, could be "saved." My failure to do any of these things resulted in extreme guilt.

Yes, I went on practicing Knowledge based on my understanding at the time, but I was neither happy nor satisfied, though I would never admit it - even to myself. As a result of my inflexibility and the fact that to me Knowledge came before anything else, I almost lost my family. I treated my wife, Buffy, as a fellow premie, but neglected to see her need to be treated as a woman. 1 went to nightly sat-sang whenever possible, since I thought it was more important than sharing time at home with my family. I sent my 10% to Denver, even when we had unpaid bills, because I knew if I did, that "everything else would be taken care of." And I found myself thinking it all the more difficult to be spiritual anyway.

Things seemed to change for me when I finally sat down and began honestly evaluating my own experience with the Knowledge. It meant admitting some things to myself that 1 had previously refused to admit. Though I tried to make myself believe I was experiencing peace in my life, I really was not happy. I was trying to live up to my concept of a good premie, and in the process was hiding some of my real feelings because I was afraid to face them.

The Flagstaff community situation played a big part in helping shake some things loose for me. Recently, the house that had served as the center was sold and satsang was cut back to twice a week. Consequently, Buffy and I started spending more time with each other and our little girl. We decided that we were going to do some things that we enjoyed for the first time since receiving Knowledge. We began saving money for a new baby and a home and began the process of letting go of some old concepts. We suddenly found ourselves enjoying life again, yet with an understanding that was absent prior to receiving Knowledge.

Today we only go to satsang once a week, but our home life is based on a beautiful and growing understanding of what real satsang is. There is no longer the guilt-based need to constantly attend community satsang because satsang is happening everyday in our home. We now have temporarily stopped sending money to Denver until we get ourselves together financially. And for the first time, we've begun to take responsibility for our own actions instead of "relying on Maharaj Ji to take care of everything for us." It's taken a long time, but we're finally starting to get away from practicing Knowledge out of fear and guilt. Guilt is such a bummer! We are meant to learn from the past, not get into guilt feelings about it.

When I express all of this to some premies, I can feel them become uptight. For myself, when I get that uptight feeling, it is an indication of something in myself. I know then that someone or something has hit a sore spot and that I'm reacting from a concept and need to open up.

I believe that until premies honestly begin to evaluate their own feelings, rather than trying to cover them up with concepts about spirituality, they won't be open to the experience of Knowledge.

Certainly, Maharaj Ji has taught us one very important lesson through his actions. BE YOURSELF! He's blown about every concept I ever had about spiritual teachers, yet he's the perfect example because regardless of his lifestyle, he has based his existence on this Knowlddge. No matter what we do, this Knowledge will never leave us. It's life itself!

And who is Guru Maharaj Ji? Hell, I have no idea and I've spent too much time in the past worrying about it. All I know is that I'm growing and feeling better and better as time goes on, and if I remember correctly, he once promised me something to that effect!

- Tom Black
Flagstaff, Arizona


Space Conqueror

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I just finished reading Divine Times in the cashier's booth of the self-service gas station where I work. As usual I didn't read it from page 1 to finish, but skipped around until all was ingested thoroughly. Two things happened ( really three). One, I flashed on a young college student who by some fluke of fate had purchased a copy of Dune by Frank Herbert, and consumed it almost nonstop. Something really happened there and he fell in love - not simply with all science fiction or Frank Herbert, but with that something he felt when he was "in" the book. Years floated past and a sprinkling of other books (Stranger in a Strange Land, Time Enough for Love) reinforced ever so strongly that feeling. Often he whisked himself away to other planets remote, uncharted, searching, searching …

Then in November 1973, one day after the Starship Astrodome had lifted off from Houston, Texas, a friend gave him the gift of satsang and three months later he received Knowledge. Bliss-land seemed light years away and strangely enough S.S. Astrodome was still on her moorings. Well, anyway, another bursted bubble isn't going to matter, he thought, but Maharaj Ji had better plans than thoughts and wouldn't let go. Still hasn't. What I had hoped with all my heart was real, IS, and what I thought was real, isn't. If you're reading this wondering what a space conqueror is doing in a gas station - well, more likely than not you'll find him in meditation - something Frank Herbert hinted at, but left up to Guru Maharaj Ji to explain. Oh yeah, Meditation … funny name for an uncharted planet, isn't it?

You might be wondering about the other two things that happened this morning - just stay tuned, I'll be in touch.

I love you,
Andy Cork
Atlanta, Georgia


Dear Divine Times,

I would like to see Divine Times come out twice a month so it could reflect what's going on more immediately. We all need to be well-informed in order to be synchronized. There should be no mystery or incomplete information. I would like to see a lot more sat-sang and inspirational articles, too. 1 really like the articles about communities in this and other countries. It's good to be made aware that we are all part of a worldwide family that is striving towards realization.

It might also be good to have an idea and satsang sharing section to which the membership could submit commentary and articles. That's some changes I'd like to see in the newspaper; mainly having it come out more often. Thanks a lot.

Jim Kuth

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