The Golden Age
Welcome to the Autumn Conference.
During the last week in May, representatives of Divine Light Mission communities all around Australia and New Zealand met with the National Headquarters staff for a six-day convention. The venue was a scout camp just outside of Sydney, and the content … ? Here, The Golden Age has attempted to capture in photos and words a little of the flavour of that week. We've started with some excerpts from Terry MacKinnell's letter of welcome to the conference participants, followed that up with a report of what happened from the editor's point of view, and - to help round out the picture - finished with a few comments from other people who were there.
As we settle down after the initial emotional and fanatical tendencies to propagate Knowledge in a haphazard and disorganised manner, we are all realising that what is required of us is dedication through hard work, common sense, and cooperation. Hard work is actually easy, common sense appears to be more subtle and harder to obtain and cooperation the most important and sometimes the most difficult. Cooperation can only be obtained through constantly connecting ourselves to the experience within us; it involves individual understanding and external organisation.
Many new systems and procedures have already been implemented to standardise our operations. Most of these systems have been developed in the light of the imminent internationalisation of Divine Light Mission. The development of DLM/DUO within Australia isn't just some arbitrary process applicable only to Australia, rather it is part of an international development program. However, the international development of DLM which at present exists only on the level of communication and some minimal international financial transactions, cannot proceed further until we have reached a significant level of national development.
We hope the general approach we have used in organising this conference aids everyone who is participating. We realise that as well as being a place for material to be disseminated, discussed and reviewed, the conference also allows us to come together as fellow human beings experiencing something incredible which is far beyond any "hierarchical" positions within DLM, and which allows us to see each other on a more personal level. There should be plenty of time during the week for impromptu satsang and recreational activities.
Thankfully, Guru Maharaj Ji has given us the understanding to progress in our development and to become clear in our understanding and communication. However, we are still only scratching the surface, trying to work out where to dig the hole. There are four billion human beings in this world and thirteen million people in Australia of which about 1,000 are actively supporting Guru Maharaj Ji through Divine Light Mission. Therefore one person in Australia out of every 13,000 has been revealed the means to realise the aim of their life. It is our responsibility to see that the other 12,999 are given the opportunity to experience the aim of their life, and - more importantly at present - to see that those who have been revealed Knowledge realise the experience for themselves.
It is towards this end that we are engaged in this conference, and with the goal in mind and our dedication we should be able to become increasingly aware of the means to achieve it. We sincerely hope this conference will increase our understanding, both organisationally and personally, of the opportunities and responsibilities before us.
So we held a Divine Light Mission conference. But then, what's Divine Light Mission anyway? And what did we really achieve by getting this whole bunch of people together?
I guess a lot of us arrived with some ideas and feelings about what was going to be happening. I certainly did - expectations of hearing and learning about the technicalities and benefits of organisation, pockets of paranoia about the "high guys" I figured would be there, and/or the people who might expect me to be a high guy myself.
What did in fact happen was something very beautiful, and very personal. It's something I'm still realising - it's not like you can isolate out even in your life and say, "This did this, this and this, and that did that." It's a continuous learning process, where every circumstance seems to help you open up more. The conference was no exception - I think everyone felt that it was primarily an arena for grass-roots discovery, a place where we learned more about who we were as individuals and as a collective, than we did about organisational management.
For me, it seems to have put me in a place where I've wanted to be for a long time - a place I've talked about at length but have never really been able to achieve. A place of seeing where I'm at and understanding the need, and the way, to go forward. Not to say that I feel I've got my mind's number for once and for all. In fact, part of what I've been realising lately is something of what Maharaj means when he tells his "jai-satchitanand premie ji" story - that my mind is really a slippery little rat that needs to be watched very constant ly. But over the six days of the convention, and in the time since then, several layer of junk seem to have left my consciousness. And I can see that, before anything, my lif and my responsibility is to experience Knowledge. And the way to do that, I'm seeing is to completely trust Maharaji, put my mind into meditation and just keep on trucking whatever may happen. How many times have I heard
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that, or said it? A lot, but somehow it seems to be getting more real. And that reality has something to do with an awareness that the conference helped to crystallise, an awareness that I've never really done what I've said, not one hundred percent, an awareness that there's a great deal more to experience, and that it's up to me to get into it.
And so, back to the question "What is DLM?" It's an organisation set up to help human beings all over the world realise the potential of their lives. But even before that, it's an organisation set up to help people who already have received Knowledge to really experience it. And in order to fulfil that short-term goal, it's got to be an organisation whose staff are experiencing Knowledge, really moving someplace in their lives. To me, that was what the conference was about: developing Divine Light Mission - by developing the organisation, on one hand - but primarily by developing the staff's awareness of what it takes to be a human being.
Although a sound understanding of Knowledge is the basic requirement for anything to happen in the Mission, organisation is a very valuable tool for getting that understanding around to everybody - premies and public. At Essen in 1975, Maharaj Ji said, "We cannot expect this organisation will just flop together. It will not flop together. This takes an extreme amount of effort, understanding, patience and intelligence. When all of these things are combined, then we make a good servant to Guru Maharaj Ji." Since Divine Light Mission is every premie, not just the people who came to the convention, a brief report on the presentations given by the NHQ staff is included here, so that everyone has a chance to understand not only the place of Knowledge in their own lives, but also the developments that are happening on the organisational side of things.
Several weeks before the conference, Wentworth Avenue was showing its organisational colours to the full. At a meeting of all the staff, Terry MacKinnell - who is now Assistant Director and man-in-charge of organisational development - explained the basics of planning. To everybody's surprise, it wasn't really very complicated: basically you just have to figure out where you are now, where you want to go, the stages you need to go through to get there, and how you're going to reach each stage. The place you want to go is called your "objective", the way to get there is the "approach". For the conference, the director of each department had to figure out his or her objectives, approaches, and a timetable for putting the various stages of his plan into action. Executive committee meetings were held to make sure that the plans of the different departments fitted in with each other. Then it was time to write it all up for the conference. A week before the opening day, Productions were in full swing typesetting, proofreading and printing the combined efforts of the NHQ staff into a half-inch thick "DUO Organisational Manual".
Saturday, 22nd May was orientation day. By evening, fifty people from all around Australia and New Zealand had found their way to the Scout camp at Pennant Hills where the conference was to be held. After a day of settling in, talking, and orienteering, satsang that night featured an opening speech from Derek Harper and a ceremonial lighting of the open fire that burned beneath a mantlepiece adorned with crossed tomahawks.
Day 2 - Sunday - opened with some satsang from Derek about the responsibility we as staff have to be continually raising our consciousness through meditation, and a talk from Terry on organisation and planning. He explained that, in order to fulfil our primary purpose - to spread the experience revealed by Guru Maharaj Ji and to continually promote a greater understanding of this experience - Divine Light Mission's objective for 1976 was to develop an organisational structure capable of coordinating DLM activities throughout Australia on the basis of objectives set by International Headquarters. The national executive committee - made up of the heads of each department at NHQ, plus Derek and Terry - is going to be responsible for seeing that this organisational development happens smoothly. To do this, the executive staff will be making increasing use of the "management by objectives" form of planning used in preparing the conference presentations. And the committee will be there to make sure that it all fits together, and to see whether what has been planned is in fact happening on schedule.
In the afternoon, Faith Healy and Rhodes Donald, National Director and Controller of the Mission in New Zealand, spoke about developments there (see interview with Faith, page 20).
The rest of day 2, and all of day 3, were taken up with presentations by the national staff department heads who outlined their objectives and approaches for the rest of 1976.
Peter Smith, who replaced Terry as Controller when Terry's service changed to that of assistant to Derek, spoke about finance. The Finance Department has been active in three areas recently. The first, financial accounting, involves the development of smooth-running systems to record all financial transactions that take place in DLM Australia-wide, and to report them to NHQ. DLM's books are audited each year by an outside firm - a practice employed by many organisations to demonstrate to anyone who may be interested that everything is being done fairly and aboveboard-and a good accounting syster makes the auditor's job very straightforward. Financial accounting also includes budgetting: by asking the staff at NHQ and in the regional centres to work out beforehand what money the, will be needing in months to come, the Finance Department is encouraging everybody to plan their activities ahead of time. Management accounting, the second area of interest to the Finance Department, involve further developing the record ing, reporting and budgetting systems so that they can be used to give a clear picture o all aspects of the Mission's finances. This will allow Peter to ensure that DLM's money is being put to the best possible use. The third area, financial management, is to do with developing staf skills. It involves both educa ting the finance staff (at NH and in the regions) in manag ment techniques, and training other staff members to be aware of the financial implic tions of what they're doing. Overall, Peter pointed out, the Finance Department play a lead role in organisational development, because move is the resource that determines how much can be done on an organisational level.
Cathy Starr's Research and Development Department (formerly called Program Development) has as its objective the integration and development of outreach, aspirant and community programs. These three areas cannot really be considered in isolation, Cathy explains:
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Without a strong community, outreach and the preparation of aspirants to receive Knowledge is virtually impossible. But since the whole purpose of the community is to share the understanding of the value of meditation with other people, outreach and aspirant programs will naturally play an important role in strengthening the community. Although at present our focus as a community is primarily inward towards our own development, Cathy sees the possibility of an increase in outreach activities later in the year.
The Productions Department, headed by David Ransome, plans to continue upgrading its efficiency in producing tapes, films and videos for distribution to the premie community. David also wants to take increasing notice of the quality of the materials his department puts out, and is looking into various means of publicising what is being produced. Part of the Productions Department, Celebration Films, was represented by Greg Dee, who made a dynamic presentation on the progress of "Keep on Truck-in", the film he and his crew are putting together from footage taken at three festivals held during 1975. The "Keep on Truckin" project has involved a lot of communication with the film department in Denver. They've exchanged ideas, scripts and film stock, and in the process everybody has learned something about what it takes to organise things on an international level - and that's heaps of patience and cooperation. So besides being interesting in itself, Greg's presentation reminded us that we, DLM Australia, are in fact just a part of an international movement, and that our coming together nationally is just a stage in the development of Maharaj Ji's world-wide network.
John Macgregor explained in his presentations that as Legal Director it is his job, in 1976, to lay DLM's legal foundations. The primary aspect of John's work is to incorporate or register the Mission in the six states and to make them legally responsible to one central body (NHQ): in other words DLM's legal structure will reflect its current organisational nature. John will then set about organising the many tax exemptions available to us around the country.
Also on the cards for this year is a greater involvement in buying (rather than leasing) of premises, and a comprehensive and national insurance policy on all DLM's property, vehicles and workers.
As the department responsible for all the services to support everybody else's activities, Lindsay Field, head of Operations, is concerned more with systematising areas that are already in existence, than in branching out into new and uncharted lands. However he's still got a very full year ahead. Many of the matters which fall within Lindsay's area of responsibility have never really been organised before: office scheduling - seeing that everyone has the right amount to do, and is fitting in with everyone else - is new to DLM. So is the idea of formal methods of evaluation to make sure that everybody is in the job that suits them best. Lindsay is also the man at NHQ responsible for business operations, and in the months to come he will be working with the Divine Sales and Soul Foods staff to help them increase their efficiency in serving the premie community.
When DLM Australia first changed its organisational structure around in line with the suggestions that Terry and Derek brought back from IHQ at the end of 1975, the newest and least understood department was Development and Communications. As Karen Lamb, who heads D & C, explained in her presentation, at present the "communications" part of D & C is more highly evolved than the "development" part. Over the past few months, Karen has been acting as the nerve centre for all ingoing and outgoing correspondence, phone calls and the like at NHQ. In the months to come, she plans to expand the activi-
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ties of her department to include "development", that is, helping each community to become independently strong. This will involve sensitivity to each community's needs so that, for example, staff and initiator tours can be scheduled most appropriately, and so that the programs produced by Cathy's department can be adapted to suit the size and individual characteristics of each community. Because obviously, some things which would be just right for a community the size of Melbourne or Sydney might be quite inappropriate in Hobart. She sees her function. and the function of NHQ in general, not so much as one of telling anybody what they have to do, but rather as one of providing an information exchange so that the staff in each community can benefit from what's been learned in other communities around Australia and overseas.
After two days of listening, the workshop scheduled for Tuesday morning gave everybody an opportunity to express themselves. Not that we hadn't all been talking already - the noise-level at mealtimes had been rising steadily since Friday. But coming together in groups of seven or eight to discuss "our awareness of Knowledge" gave us another chance to meet each other on a level beyond our organisational roles. Cathy Starrs had worked out some questions for discussion. Several, such as, "How has the way we experience Knowledge changed, collectively and individually, since initiation?" and "What is a balanced life and what does Maharaj Ji mean by 'maximum effort?" dealt with our past and present experience of Knowledge; other questions, like, "What is a twentieth century premie?" and "How can you see Maharaj J's role in the world developing over the next five years?" got us projecting into the futture.
Back at the main hall after a couple of hours' discussion in the sunshine, a spokesman from each group reported the main points of interest to the full assembly. We found that although at times two or more groups had come up with much the same results, often different groups had taken somewhat different angles on the same question. We all tended to agree that a twentieth century premie should be someone able to interface with the rest of the world easily but also maturely, without getting caught up in the craziness: one group described the 1978 premie as a "full well-rounded human being".
While some people held that there wasn't any point in guessing at what was going to happen because you couldn't ever really tell, especially with Guru Maharaj Ji, others pointed out that the way the public sees Maharaj Ji is largely dependent on the way we present him. One group saw his future role as that of a leader of a movement (a shift - as they put it - from the newspaper's present view of Maharaj Ji as a figure on a pedestal surrounded by a bunch of weirdos called Divine Light Mission), another felt that in years to come Maharaj Ji would become less involved with premies and more concerned with spreading Knowledge.
The questions about our own experience of Knowledge evoked a common theme from a variety of different angles. There was a general agreement that Knowledge was becoming a much more natural part of our lives, an experience rather then something we try to make real by being told about it, or by trying to convince others about it; an individual, internal experience rather than the collective, emotional one it tended to be in times past. "Maximum effort and the balanced life" was also seen in terms of the individual - it was pointed out that each person needs to see for himself what his situation is and what he can do. Meditation and understanding were seen as the keys to a balanced life with Knowledge: from understanding that one's goal in life is to grow in awareness and to serve Maharaj Ji, motivation to go towards it as quickly as possible will naturally come; and through meditating comes the ability to pick out the fastest route to get there.
The rest of Tuesday and all of Wednesday were given over to group meetings. Derek met with the Community Directors, the regional Finance Directors joined the Finance Department people, Operations and Communications staff came together. At the Research and Development workshops, Cathy Starrs and Julie Collet met with the Program Coordinators and various others (the community Directors came along when they were free, and several of the cooks showed up, too) to discuss community development, the aspirant program, and workshop theory.
In the aspirant program workshop, Julie emphasised that we need two things to really help aspirants understand - a well-organised program, and a high level of awareness of the place of Knowledge in our own lives. A general discussion of the aims and approaches of the aspirant program followed. Over and over again the need for sensitivity and fine-tuning was emphasised. As each aspirant is a unique and complex human being, it is important to understand his or her particular needs. Some people open up more quickly than others, and our aim is to be able to provide the support and the opportunities for growth that exactly match the needs of any individual at any particular time.
By Friday morning, when we met together to be photographed - for posterity and the Golden Age - something seemed to have gelled. Through all the meetings, the volleyball matches, the discussions over cups of tea, the evenings around the fire, an understanding had grown. A paradoxical understanding, intensely personal and yet also collective. An understanding that life is a path you walk alone, that the decision of whether to experience Knowledge or not, of whether to grow in awareness or not, rests completely on each individual at every breath. And at once an understanding of how we can come together in sharing and cooperation to help Maharaj Ji achieve his purpose. Over six days of learning, communicating, working and playing together, we had become a community.
Friday ended with a meeting to get feedback on the conference, and closing satsang from Derek. This conference promises to be the first of many: another one is planned for December, and where the Autumn conference dealt mainly with happenings at NHQ, the next one will probably focus on regional activities.
And until then? As Derek said, "Go back and have a good time. Do whatever you were doing but practise Knowledge in whatever you do. Just relax and cruise: don't worry about anything, just concern yourself with getting as much meditation done as you can and you'll find everything will fit into place. Meditate more and more and more and more. You don't have to stop doing service to meditate, just meditate whilst doing service. You don't have to get up at 4 o'clock, just concentrate whilst you're sitting there. Organise your life so that you are just doing more and more. more in quality, more in quantity. All the time. And everything will be sweet."
continued page 18
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"It was a beautiful example of how Knowledge works, of what Maharaj Ji has done to us in our lives. You can see that so much progress has been made over the past two years that there's just every hope in the future that the beginnings of what Maharaj Ji wants can really start happening. I was really seeing at the conference that our communities are at a point where they are still primarily looking inward. As a staff we are still getting ourselves together, getting that trust and openness amongst ourselves. But you could see that this is just a stepping stone: that very soon, when that understanding is so deep that it can't be shaken, we are going to be able to look out and get into outreach in a very natural spontaneous way. You can see that when we can integrate that experience in our own lives, then our communities can become integrated and really interface with the wider society. Because there's no way that you could say that we are really interfacing with society now. But you can see the potential is there as we realise more and more what a natural experience it is, and how we are here to develop ourselves on every single level, to live in this world as human beings experiencing life from that point of understanding, of real experience."
- Julie Collet.
"I've had a really good time. There really is a way, a process that this Knowledge seems to be able to put us through, where if we put our heads together long enough it turns into one head, into one heart. The more we mix with other people within the environment of Knowledge, within that process of discovering what is true and real about oneself, and what is false or just learned, then the more really beautifully we emerge with a common understanding that each person's particular qualities, each person's individuality has something to contribute. Our individuality doesn't have to completely dissolve itself - we don't have to merge with each other, we have to merge with what is real within us, which is the same in everybody. It's like our differences are illuminated from within. And then when the whole thing is put together that's when we have a real group strength. It's when I have confidence in what is stable and secure within myself, and have confidence in the process of my own growth and in my ability to contribute that I'm really open to the group needs. This conference has been a fantastic experience of being in the one family, just waking up to my own life and watching everyone else wake up to theirs. "
- Vic Marsh, Adelaide Community Director.
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"I felt that the conference was good for all of us in that we could see that to practise Knowledge has to be a self-motivating affair, that Knowledge is something that we have got to uncover independently of anyone else. The conference showed all of us that it is possible to practise Knowledge in any situation, motivated by our own desire to dive deeper into it.
"We have to get ourselves to the point where satsang, service and meditation are natural expressions of experiencing this Knowledge, where we're not so much having to apply these rules that have been given to us by someone else. Where we meditate because we know how beautiful this Knowledge. is, because we get a taste of it and we just want more, not because someone is continually getting up on the satsang chair and saying meditate, meditate, meditate. Where we do service because we see it as an incredible opportunity to be at the disposal of Guru Maharaj Ji, rather than because it's in the rules. To me service is my whole life -it s not something that I do, it's something that I am becoming.
"I found that the conference was really a sharing experience. It was like an example for us, an example of how a community can be, of how human beings can just exist together in a completely balanced, harmonious way. It seems that whatever happens these days doesn't surprise me - the conference wasn't any big event for me, just part of the whole process of realising Knowledge, everything getting more and more incredible as we go along. After a while you start to see that you're not doing meditation, that meditation is doing you. The gap between you and this natural state of meditation is getting smaller and smaller. I saw the conference as a little glimpse of how it can be when we human beings are integrated with this Knowledge. When integration is there expressing itself in people trying to help Guru Maharaj Ji, in people sharing their experiences, their understanding. "
- Nils Koran, Melbourne Community Director
"Personally, it helped me because I could relate simply with a lot of people, and really experience normality. Especially towards the end it just felt beautiful, relaxed and calm with a lot of love present, and a lot a personal satsang which is something I feel has been missing, not just with us but in premies throughout Australia. Just sitting down and being able to communicate. It's beautiful when that feeling of aloneness becomes a feeling that we are really together."
- Lou Scott, Perth Community Director.
"One thing I found with the conference was that it really clarified the relationship between Regional and National Headquarters; it made everything really clear and open. Because it's so easy to get a concept of what NHQ is like. When we can see that we're doing it together we can really get it on. We can just do what Maharaj Ji wants, we can really cooperate. "
- Sharron Wade, Perth Programs Coordinator.