Leaving his plane at Denver airport on the weekend of September 11-12, Guru Maharaj Ji made it obvious that his major concern was in developing understanding rather than laying down rules. From the beginning, he emphasized the theme of the work that he was to enlarge upon throughout the weekend: In a period of transition, new definitions should not spring up just to become new limitations. When you put things together to create efficiency, you can go too far and either lose your efficiency or make a straitjacket of guidelines that prevent you from dealing with beyond-the-book situations. Understanding your purpose is the compensating factor which releases you from a single, rigid mode of operation.
Early on Saturday afternoon, after having lunch at home, Maharaj Ji came downtown to begin work with Bob Mishler and Michael Dettmers. The first topic of the day was the ashram. After the last meeting with Maharaj Ji, a policy statement for a new ashram program had been put together for Maharaj Ji's appraisal. In brief, the initial draft of the policy stated that:
1. The purpose of the ashram is to provide an environment for people to grow more successfully in service, satsang and meditation by providing them with physical and spiritual shelter.
2. The goal of the ashram is to enable individuals to come to a point where they would be able to do satsang, meditation and service at any time in any circumstances.
3. Specific guidelines for the program take the form of a code of ethics for an individual's guidance, rather than a set of rules and regulations simply dictating a life-style. The program would emphasize sell-development and self-reliance. The ashram will strive to avoid creating in an individual a dependency on the ashram structure.
Throughout his review of the policy, Guru Maharaj Ji agreed with the guidelines in general, but in places reworded "wills" to "mays," explaining that matters such as time limits for length of stay in the ashram were up to the discretion of the ashram supervisor when dealing with the individual. The major question that a new ashram program poses is how to achieve good supervision that reflects understanding rather than ultimate authority of decision.
The answer is linked to the newly-planned initiator training program which will provide eventually both community level initiators and ashram supervisors who will be partial initiators, specialists in reviewing problems with the meditation techniques and overseeing the spiritual welfare of the ashram residents. The ashram structure itself will be coordinated by a board of supervisors distinct from the regular DUO administration. However, this does not mean that ashram residents will be excluded from working in DUO. If the ashram is set up as a financially independent body, it will be compensated by DUO for any services provided by its residents.
Maharaj Ji has envisaged that separate facilities will be provided for men and women, and that families will be accommodated on a retreat basis "for a period of time" determined by an appointment with the ashram supervisor. As far as jobs are concerned for ashram residents, Maharaj Ji left it open, stressing that he did not want people to drop out from the world but for ashrams to be located in cities with premie communities. There the residents could play an active role in the premie community and the community at large.
Another item of Saturday's agenda was the word "ashram" itself. It seems that different words may have to be used for different cultures, and of course, "ashram" will remain the same for India. Some suggested delving back into Latin roots to invent a new term, gradually infiltrating its way into the English dictionary. In fun, Maharaj Ji looked at the brand name of his mineral water bottle and said, "How about 'Calistoga? How's that?"
With the Initiators
After his talks on the ashram with Bob and Michael, Guru Maharaj Ji worked
Divine Times, October 1976 3
with the initiators through to six o'clock that night. He began by emphasizing that Knowledge is a process consisting of three parts: service, satsang and meditation. "If a person is just doing meditation," he said, "he's not getting the effect." So Maharaj Ji stressed that at the time of initiation the initiators should also emphasize the purpose of service and satsang.
Maharaj Ji went on to explain the importance of Divine Light Mission in carrying out his message: "Guru Maharaj Ji says service, satsang and meditation. The organization does something about it. It provides the opportunity to do service, provides the facility to have satsang, and provides you (initiators) with the physical care and shelter so that you are capable of making that initiation happen."
From there talk turned to the readiness and selection of aspirants for initiation. Maharaj Ji remarked that, "It's a most crucial time when a person is initiated, but a more crucial time is when he's an aspirant. When you're giving a person the Knowledge, you're making the house. That's the service of the interior decorator. But the most important thing is the foundation. The foundation is the way the house has been built: what is the person like, how sincere is he when he approaches you?"
The future service of the initiators was also discussed and the need for a training program. After two and a half months off the road, Maharaj Ji decided it was time for the initiators to go on tour again, with Bill Patterson staying in Denver to work on the training program for initiators and ashram supervisors.
Maharaj Ji then asked if there were any questions about the initiation process. "Well, uh …" began Arthur Brigham. "You're fired," was Maharaj Ji's swift reply, accompanied by laughter all around.
A point was then introduced about initiation vows, pranaming and dedication. Some initiators felt that pranaming was strange in certain cultures, that stressing dedication could seem forced, and that parts of the vows were worded inappropriately. Maharaj Ji agreed that the vows could be simplified and suggested, for example, that "O Guru Maharaj Ji, I dedicate myself to your lotus feet" could be rephrased to "O Guru Maharaj Ji, I dedicate myself to you." In general, he left emphasis on these aspects of the initiation session to the individual initiator's discrimination. He did point out that it had been too much of a routine to say, " 'We don't go to the Perfect Master empty-handed. I don't see any practical value in it. It's your heart that has to be either full or empty. Your heart should be full of that true devotion."
On customs such as pranaming, Maharaj Ji felt that one culture was no better than another and stressed that we do not want to indoctrinate people in another culture's form of reverence for Maharaj Ji, and yet at the same time we do not want to devalue the importance of Maharaj Ji. In each culture we have to find a natural way to present our respect and understanding for Knowledge and Maharaj Ji:
"We have to stay where we are at and mold ourselves so that the society can accept us, so there can be a fundamental basis of communication between us."
Above all, Maharaj Ji's emphasis, as in all his talks, was the need for the initiators to be sensitive and adaptable to the individual situation before them.
While cameras were set up and last minute preparations made for the evening's videotaping (excerpted in this issue and scheduled for nationwide viewing), Guru Maharaj Ji took a short break in his office. He had spent some time going over the videotape format, selected questions to be asked and arranged their order of presentation. Maharaj Ji had preferred not to use a question and answer format as he felt that every question already had the answer built into it. However, he saw it as a good means to expand communication with premies and as a springboard for broader satsang to help develop understanding. Eleven questions were selected, and then posed by members of the I H Q audience. Maharaj Ji spent about an hour in answering them, and was very pleased with the results. Judging by the contemplative silence in the improvised studio after the show, and streetside comments on "so much love," the selected consumer audience also went away well-satisfied.
Sunday morning saw Maharaj Ji back in the office talking to Michael and Bob. As they briefed him on organizational changes worldwide, he pointed out that they should insure that people understand that the streamlining of an organization is not a faltering process, but a positive, forward momentum. By streamlining, we focus more effectively on what we have to do, instead of having an organization serving the organization, so that it can get around eventually to serving Maharaj Ji's purpose.
In simplifying the Mission structure, Maharaj Ji felt it was important to insure that the international communities have a proper understanding of any changes being made. For this reason, he will be attending conferences later this year in Frankfurt, Germany and Lima, Peru. Both these cities have been chosen because of their centralized location in Europe and Latin America respectively, and their easy access to major air routes. Two conferences will be held in Frankfurt: one for the European countries and the other for delegates from India. The European and Latin American conferences will brief all of the Mission membership outside of North America, apart from the Pacific and the Far East. And for North America, three regional conferences will be held in the United States towards the end of the year or at the beginning of 1977. They will involve the participation of more people than just administrators, and possible representation may include those in the initiator training program and members of major communities aside from DUO staffs. Cities have not been chosen so far for the conferences.
4 Divine Times, October 1976
Guru Maharaj Ji's overseas tour will take about two weeks and will also be highlighted by a Hans Jayanti celebration in Swaziland. For those of you who may be intrigued, Swaziland is a small, picturesque country, an independent kingdom six hours away from Johannesburg by car. The celebration is primarily for the benefit of the South African premies, most of whom live in Johannesburg. They have not seen Maharaj Ji for four and a half years. Although Divine Light Mission in South Africa is registered as a religious organization and thus is allowed to have multiracial gatherings, the country's apartheid policy may have made the festival difficult to arrange there, especially in the wake of recent racial riots in the cities of Soweto and Capetown.
Swaziland appears to be the perfect alternative, which as a major convention hub for African groups offers many hotel and resort facilities suitable for a festival.
Hans Jayanti will be held on November 23, 24, and 25. The facilities were not available for the traditional days, but the specific dates were felt to be not so important as long as the event was observed. Although most of Maharaj Ji's recent programs have been brief, informal occasions, a festival seems more suitable for Africa as it has been such a long time since he has been there. It will also give the African communities a break from routine and a chance to "get away from it all." The program will be set up by an advance crew from South Africa. Due to the economic environment of most premies throughout Africa, only a handful are expected from other countries, such as Senegal, Zambia, and West Africa. No provision will be made to accommodate visitors from other continents.
After discussing the initiation process a little further, Guru Maharaj Ji left for the airport. Then after a forty-five minute delay, he boarded his plane for Los Angeles, having expanded his coaching to the players of transition, who were last seen trying hard to sidestep limitations on the way to a single purpose.
- Michael McDonald
As the ashram recedes from the DLM spotlight, it is becoming necessary in many major communities for people to get together and determine a new way of organization - new leadership, new channels of decision-making and communication, etc. This is a fresh challenge to our ability to work together. Several cities are reporting a rebirth of energy in response to this challenge, and a renewed eagerness to get into creating the kind of environment that we all want to live in. As Maharaj Ji said in Lisbon this year, "We can create an environment that will fulfill us completely." And that is what a lot of premies are consciously trying to do. Some of these efforts are detailed in our two community highlights, San Francisco and Portland. Below is a brief update of the organizational changes so far in the 23 DUO communities in the U.S.
Atlanta: The ashram personnel has been reduced by over half, and there will be no full-time staff. Henry Jacobs is staying on as Community Director.
Boston: Booth Dyers is continuing as C. D. but has left the ashram. The community is involved in ongoing discussions about how to best organize themselves.
Buffalo: No substantial changes. The ashram residents continue for the most part to work at a profitable Divine Sales store.
Chicago: Harry Schneider and Sharon Stokke continue the service of co-coordinators. Community discussions like those in Boston are taking place.
Denver: No substantial changes. Allen Imbarrato remains as C.D.
Detroit: Many ashram residents have left, but more will probably be sent in because we are buying the house there. Andy Harris has recently arrived as the new C. D.
Houston: The ashram is closing. Don Johnson has been sent there to help the community formulate its own community structure.
Indianapolis: The ashram is now housed in one apartment. Carl Hebeler remains as C.D., but there will be no full-time staff.
Kansas City: The ashram is closing. Tom Wells, the C.D., will stay on until the community creates an alternative structure.
Los Angeles: No substantial changes. David Smith remains as C.D.
Miami: No substantial changes. Shelly Kaplan remains as C.D.
Milwaukee: The ashram is closing. Eddie Ormont will stay on as C.D. helping the community set up its own organizational system.
Minneapolis: The ashram is closing. Tom Maloney will remain as C.D. outside the ashram.
New Haven: The ashram is closing. Richard Barna will remain as C.D. outside the ashram.
New York: The former C.D. (Howie Hirschfield) resigned and left the ashram. Dennis Marciniak has been sent in to help the community decide what kind of organization it wants in the future.
Philadelphia: No substantial changes. Ted Levitt remains as C.D.
Phoenix: The ashram is closing. Peter Weeks stays on as C.D. outside the ashram.
Pittsburg: The ashram is closing. Bill Snow remains as coordinator for the community with the community council helping in the decision making.
Portland: The ashram is closing. A community council
Continued on page 20.
Divine Times, October 1976 5
Communities: from page 5.
has been elected to oversee the community. (See "Highlight".)
San Antonio: No substantial changes. Pat Murphy continues as C.D.
San Francisco: The ashram remains but not in a leadership role. Tom Munger stays on temporarily as C. D. while town meetings take place in which everyone helps the community organization to evolve. (See "Highlight".)
Seattle: The ashram is closing. George Koconis will remain as C.D. during the period of transition.
Washington, D.C.: No substantial changes. Randy Stein stays on as C.D.
Initiators on Tour
The initiators have been back on the road now since mid-September, and have covered almost every large community in North America. Arthur traveled throughout the mid-west and the east coast, and is now in Europe. Gurucharnanand went to Gainesville and Miami before heading for South America. Ira has been on the east coast and Jagdeo on the west coast. Padarthanand is in England, and Bill for the most part has remained in Denver working on the initiator training program. While concentrating mostly on giving sat-sang and conducting Knowledge reviews, Kowledge sessions have been held in a number of cities.
Below are the schedules for the rest of Ira and Jagdeo's tours. The schedules are subject to change, so anyone planning on traveling to one of these cities should call in advance to make sure of the dates the initiator will be in town. It is important to remember that initiation will only be given to those aspirants who have been part of an ongoing aspirant program and the decision about initiation will usually include consideration of the recommendation given by the local community director or aspirant supervisor.
October 30 New Haven
November 1 Hartford
November 3 Providence
November 6 Hartford
November 10 Boston (and Northern New England)
November 30 Buffalo
December 10 Canada (Toronto)
October 27 Portland
November 4 Canada (Vancouver)