Recently Bob Mishler, President of Divine Light Mission, recorded an interview with Debbie Frazier of the United Press International Wire Service. The interview gives a good idea of the recent change and growth within DLM, so we've printed some excerpts from it here.
Debbie: What are you planning for '76?
Bob: Well, in 1974 we began to actively develop an international communications network and that's when we established what was then the United States headquarters of Divine Light Mission in Denver as the International Headquarters. We've done quite a lot of work to develop our international communications and coordinating capacities. And so in 1976, we have the capacity to share our input and feedback from around the world. We also have the capacity to evaluate the effectiveness of our program and then structure our activities to develop this program.
Sometimes our goal is very difficult. It's not as if our effectiveness can be measured easily because, like any other socially concerned organisation, it's hard to put a value on how you spend your time. We're trying to promote understanding of human life and in order to do that we have to understand ourselves and so that's where we focus. At one point we thought if more and more people were initiated and began to practise meditation, hat would be some measure of our effectiveness, but we found that that was a very poor measure and that a lot of people were being initiated but they weren't really being involved in the process of self-discovery as a human being. It was more like a fad or something.
And because of the way we were presenting ourselves, most people had a very strange idea of what we were doing. So over the last couple of years we've been working within our own membership to make sure that people continue in the process of selfdiscovery. So then they really have something to share. It's really hard to convince somebody that you have something to share if it's not evident in your own being. Our plans for '76 are to continue to work with our membership all over the world.
One of the most important areas of concern is the impact of our leader; Guru Maharaj Ji's work is definitely the focal point of all our activities. He works with the membership and gives the guidance and direction that people need in their own process of self-discovery. Our capacity to get his message to the membership is well developed but the need for that personal touch - the relationship between each of the followers and Guru Maharaj Ji - is something that's really a great inspiration to everyone.
Maharaj Ji is going to visit the membership in various parts of the world. He'll make an extensive tour in Europe this Spring and he'll be going to Africa later in the year. It's also anticipated that he'll go to Australia, the Far East and India towards the latter part of the year. And in addition to that, we're going to have a tour of North America during the summer months.
He's very much a part of our overall strategy because his involvement is so integral to it. We're responsible for our own organisation but in a way we're his staff. The reason that the organisation exists is to facilitate his work. Obviously each of us as individuals is involved in our own process of self-discovery and self-realisation and that's our primary concern, but the reason that we've decided to become involved at a career level is because we're really involved in his work and we've embraced it as our own as well.
Debbie: What made Guru Maharaj Ji decide to travel
No. 29. May 1976
extensively this year?
Bob: It's a follow-through with our continuing program of developing understanding. Maharaj Ji's concern is with the human condition. We can agree in general that there is a lot of room for improvement in the world. Okay, and so then it's like he has a particular approach to provide a solution. And the problem - from his approach - is that people really have a tendency to lose touch with the value of their own existence because they don't understand themselves, and when it's multiplied into society, it creates the sufferings that humanity has to put up with.
Rather than focusing on the aim of life and really being clear on that, most people get involved with the doing of things. They feel their fulfillment in life is determined by however successful they are in making that contribution as an individual to the collective experience of life that we're all part of. Maharaj Ji differs from this in that as well as making a contribution as an individual, he has an approach to get people more involved with the process of their own self-discovery, and that approach is what we call "Knowledge". It's most easily understood by people as meditation but the meditation is only part of a process. It's something to put you in touch with something inside of you which then motivates you in a deeper way in terms of your involvement with life. Maharaj Ji is teaching people practical skills to get deeper in touch with the meaning of their own lives.
There's a very strong bond of trust that is developed between the individual person and Maharaj Ji, and so therefore they really respect his guidance. They've applied it in their lives and it has been fulfilling to them, so they look to him and appreciate any additional guidance that he is able to give. It's a dynamic process which doesn't stop with the initial contact.
Debbie: It's fairly well known that there have been a lot of people who have dropped out.
Bob: I would say that there are a lot of members that we don't see unless Maharaj Ji's in town. In the U.S. we might have 50,000 names on our mailing list but maybe out of that we only have 15,000 who are participating and of that we only have 8,000 or 10,000 that we would classify as active members.
Debbie: How do you classify an active member these days?
Bob: An active member is somebody who's participating in our programs and it's a documented regularity. In other words they're making regular contributions, they're involved in our regular programs.
Debbie: Okay. They're not necessarily living in an ashram but they probably go to satsang.
Bob: The people living in the ashram is a very small number actually. That's a group of maybe 600 in the United States, of which about 250 are here in Denver because of the International Headquarters. Most of our membership isn't in the ashram; the monastic life doesn't seem to appeal to very many people.
Debbie: Is there one particular message Guru Maharaj Ji is trying to get across to everybody at this point?
Bob: Well the particular message is the same message that he's had all along. It's just adapting to the understanding level of the group. I've been listening to him speak for five years, and really he's been saying the same thing all along. It's just that he changes around because our understanding changes.
And as our understanding changes we need to hear it over again, because we're able to get more out of it.
Debbie: Has he changed much during the time you've known him?
Bob: He's grown up as a person, but to me he's just the same. I was incredibly awed by the depth of his wisdom when I first met him, when he was thirteen years old. His wisdom was so penetrating, his awareness about human existence went to such depths, that it really impressed me. That's still there, that hasn't changed although his capacity to relate it more broadly has changed. In the beginning, he used very childlike examples and if a person was trying to evaluate what he was saying on the surface, it might sound childish, but it wasn't at all. As he grows older he becomes more sophisticated in his ability to communicate his message, which is very deep.
His analogies are relatable on a very simple level. When you're dealing with understanding, you can get very philosophical and lose everybody except the most intelligent who are capable of the mental gymnastics needed to keep up with you. He doesn't play those games with people because what he's talking about is a very simple and relatable kind of thing. So he doesn't try to make it any more complicated than it is.
Debbie: He's always done that, evidently.
Bob: It's because being in touch with yourself is something that's very natural. It's just that our lives are complicated in the societies that we have existing in the world today. We have so many people, and so many things going on that we have the tendency to get strung out. And so Maharaj Ji is trying to describe something that's really a natural process, so we can bring it back to a simple level.
Debbie: Since early 1974 at least, I've perceived a lot of changes in the Mission. Can you talk about that a little?
Bob: We were relating to our experience of something that was an incredible thing in our lives, and we knew that, but in order to be able to share that with others it was as though in the retelling it became more than we were experiencing. You know how a person has a tendency to exaggerate something when he is retelling it.
It seems to be second nature for us to get things out of proportion - especially when something is very exciting to us. It got to the point where we were coming off completely out of sync with what wee were experiencing. We were coming off self-righteous. we were coming off almost like some people who had withdrawn from the world, and in a lot of ways that just wasn't correct in the terms of the experience we were having.
Then we realised we had gone overboard in trying to relate the experience to other people rather than trying to experience it ourselves. And so, after a couple of years we started seeing, "We're not really ready to tell the world about the solution. We have to solve the problems of the world in our own lives. We're part of this world, and if we start improving the quality of our own lives by applying what we know to our own being, it's going to make a person that's much more capable of relating to others--
Debbie: So you've gone through that transition. What do you see for the future'
Bob: I just see us becoming more and more an integral part of the mainstream of life. In a way, we were pushing ourselves away from people
instead of pulling ourselves closer. As an organisation we hadn't made our integration Into the world that we were living in. We found that as we were trying to get more involved, all we were doing was isolating ourselves. Nobody likes to be related to in a selfrighteous tone. It's like we were trying to convert people.
Debbie: You still are though.
Bob: No, I don't think so. I'm not trying to convert anybody. I'm trying to discover the meaning of my life. And as I do, I'm more and more committed to doing something thing constructive in the whole that I'm realising I'm a part of. So to me, it's like talking to people about real issues. It's a real issue that we're all alive and we're all a part of this collective experience of life, and talking to people about real issues doesn't have to be on the level of converting people. Because then it's like I'm trying to get you to accept my way when my way will never be really right for you because you have to find your own way. And so essentially, we don't really have anything to convert anybody to. We just want people to become more involved in their own process of self-discovery. As people start to respect their own lives more, then they have a tendency to respect life in general.
Debbie: I did a story last year saying you were putting a lot of emphasis on propagation. You were taking the energy out of all those projects and putting it into propagation. Am I wrong?
Bob: I know what you're talking about: Businesses, and activities like that. The members are going to be involved An all kinds of businesses because they've got to support themselves. But we figured, the organisation per se, Divine Light Mission, should have no reason to get involved in profit-making concerns. We only do it as a back-up to our main purpose.
We don't want it to detract from our capacity to do what we feel we're here to do, which is to help the people who really embrace the path of self-discovery. That's the work of Divine Light Mission. Of course, part of that is to provide information to the general public about the skill that Maharaj Ji is teaching, because they are very basic human discovery skills, to be able to know more about your life, to be more effective in life.
It's not a system of beliefs. If we had a dogma, a system of beliefs, or a philosophy, then we could try to convert someone from their system of beliefs to ours. But it's not a system of beliefs: everybody who participates in the path of self-discovery has to experience life and know what they know from their own experience. And since everybody's experiences with life are unique, no two people are going to express them the same way. So I don't think we could ever evolve a dogma as an offshoot of the work that we're doing.
In a way, we see that as detrimental. Because when people start identifying with a set of beliefs, they inhibit their own capacity to know. You can only really know as long as you're open to learning from your own experiences. So what we're teaching people is just how to be more and more open to learn from life without being afraidof it. Most people filter dl their experiences of life through very well-developed psychological screens. We've learned to develop these creens to cope with living in a complicated world. And if you have a way to be open and to learn from all the experiences of life without any fear of threat to your own existence, then it just makes you appreciate more your capacity to learn and grow and be alive.
Debbie: So the focus had definitely shifted to helping the people who have already accepted Knowledge, or accepted your methodology, versus trying to get more people joined.
Bob: Yes. Once your membership grows to the point that you have a lot of people involved in a very dynamic process of self-discovery, then the organisation's focus has to be with the people it has the most responsibility for.
Gaining new members is something that we feel goes on automatically. Because as long as there are people in this world, there will be people who are interested in getting more out of life and interested in the process of selfdiscovery. And so therefore a primary aim of our organisation is still to inform people of the techniques of selfdiscovery that are available.
Debbie: Why wasn't it set up this way originally?
Bob: Well, it couldn't have been because it was started from nothing. It's been a very organic process. You start with a seed and then it grows. There were just a few people. They wanted to do whatever they could and they did whatever they thought was available to them at the time. As more people became involved, then the situation changed. If you have to do everything yourself, then you'll organise yourself to do things in a way which you feel is effective. But if you have several people helping you, then you start to reevaluate your approach because you've got more people to be involved with. Over the last two years, we've focused our energies to develop the communications and coordinating capacities that we have internationally, and this has been a collaborative effort on the part of the staff members all over the world. We've got a capacity to do more than we've ever been able to do before. And as we work on it, we find that we're able to do more and more. You start sharing understanding that's being simultaneously arrived at in 55 countries around the world, bringing a synthesis of that awareness back into the formulation of your programs that get individually implemented according to the needs of a particular group of people, and you have a tremendous advantage in terms of a learning experience.
Debbie: What else do you foresee for this organisation?
Bob: It's really hard to say. To me, our whole world is going through a change. In organisations - there was really no change in organisational methods for all of recorded history - there's always been the military model. And then in this century we've seen there's something happening with human awareness that doesn't accept that model as the only model. We see Divine Light Mission as a living organisation. It's more like an organism model than a militaryy model. We're participating in our own growth, and as we grow we don't want to lock ourselves into a description, because what we're concerned with is really discovering what our full human potential is.
We have to work for freedom. We've seen that people have fought incredible struggles to have a certain amount of freedom, and how much freedom do we have within our own lives? How much do our concepts and attitudes shackle us? We see ourselves as a movement to further human liberation on a consciousness frontier, in terms of our conscious capacity to be in touch with our potential and to be able to express it.