… with Michael Dettmers
(vice-president, Divine Light Mission)
Michael, I know this is to be an interview about the Mission's finances, and I know there are a number of things you would like to share with everyone about our current financial situation. But what we're really hoping is that whatever we say here can somehow relate to what Maharaj Ji has been saying about understanding.
Okay, but I think I should get first right to the point and try to give as much of a real understanding of where we stand financially. Trying to describe it as simply as I can will probably be more effective than trying to present it with a series of charts and complicated explanations.
The financial situation of our Mission is something that I'm very concerned about because our current situation isn't very good. I don't mean to be negative at all, in fact I want to be very positive because obviously we can see how we're evolving as an organization and where we're heading is a very inspiring and positive direction. It's only been 4 ½ years since Maharaj Ji left India and came to the West and we've come a long way during that time. There's a lot to be inspired and positive about. But at the same time we have to be realistic about where we're at now, so we can make sure that the momentum and the inspiration we're feeling is properly channeled and can actually have some effect towards what we're trying to achieve.
One of the first things that Guru Maharaj Ji asked me when I came to Denver about 10 months ago to assume the overall responsibility for the financial stability of the Mission was, "Well, what are you going to do different from what's been done in the past?" Because we're all aware that there have been many difficult times in the Mission's past and we've often had a "crisis oriented" approach to our financial situation. I answered that it's pretty much a misconception that whoever gets assigned to be the treasurer or financial director gets the job of insuring that the Mission is running in a financially stable manner. This is true, but only to a certain extent.
The real responsibility rests with every person who is making a decision which effects the expenditures of Mission finances and with every premie whose help is needed to support the activities of Divine Light Mission. Over the course of 1976, the understanding of this responsibility is going to be one of the main things we'll try to get across to all premies. So, with that, perhaps I should just talk about the general situation the Mission is in financially.
In 1975 we finally got to a point where the organization became well defined; and this enabled us to plan and control our activities in a more efficient manner. In 1975 we held five successful festivals which Guru Maharaj Ji attended around the world. All were planned by IHQ and all proved to be financially solvent, not to mention the incredible inspiration that the premies experienced wherever they were held.
An example of our increased financial planning shows that DLM has reduced the debt from the Millennium festival from a high of $600,000 on January 1, 1974 to less than $100,000 as of January 1st this year. Nevertheless, we still can't forget that DLM is a very young international organization and in order for the Mission to sustain itself during these embryonic stages of its growth, we need considerable financial support. Despite our increased planning and control during 1975, our normal operating expenses exceeded our normal cash inflow by an average of $38,000 per month.
The only reason we have been able to maintain our operations and avoid bankruptcy in face of this situation is because we received a few large donations from a handful of premies. The true fact of the matter is that DLM operations are still totally dependent upon irregular, unpredictable and unreliable sources of income. This is obviously not a very sound position. To remedy this situation will take planning and a conscientious effort on every one's part. We simply can't go on from hand to mouth, operating from day to day and still think that we can do what is necessary to make the understanding and the realization of this Knowledge possible for all people of this world. This is only going to happen with everybody's cooperation. When I say everybody, I mean every single premie, ever premie who is professing to be a devotee of Guru Maharaj Ji. We are all going to have to have the same understanding. Because this understanding is the basis of our future stability. The situation of the Mission right now is that there are only a handful of premies in each community who are really committed, who are really understanding enough to make a consistent, mature effort. So the real improvement in our effort is going to have to come from the premies who aren't yet plugged into the Mission.
This brings us to just the point I was hoping we could get to: If it's true that there are only a handful of people who have the understanding to make a consistent, mature commitment to Divine Light Mission and to their communities what can we say right here to share the understanding we have, as people who have recognized this understanding with someone who hasn't? What kind of understanding does a premie have to have in order to support the Mission in the first place?
I would think the most fundamental thing everyone of us has to understand is that coming to Guru Maharaj Ji, coming to Knowledge, coming to Divine Light Mission - whatever - means making a real commitment toward understanding our life. I mean we all know that, but at the same time you just don't realize it in the introductory satsang. We don't realize it as soon as we get Knowledge. This lack of clarity and understanding can be helped by better preparation of aspirants. Yet it has to be really fostered by the kind of community support that plugs a person into becoming closer and closer to Guru Maharaj Ji and his Mission from the start. It seems to me that it has to be a lot clearer what people are getting into when they come to Knowledge. Right now, we don't have many communities that are really able to help foster that understanding because not many of our communities are manifesting such a high level of commitment. But, still, we have to make sure that those people who do come are recognizing the kind of commitment they're going to have to make.
Okay, but what about the people who have Knowledge already? When they received Knowledge, maybe that commitment wasn't clear at all: a lot of us were hit with: "Just take Knowledge and if it doesn't bring you instant realization of God, leave it." And I think you're saying that there's a lot of people already around who aren't nearly plugged in as much as they could be.
It's true, but the problem isn't only that they're not plugged in. A person gets plugged in only according to the amount of understanding they have, and you begin to see that without that understanding it's very hard to get plugged into anything. Here is a fact: the Active Membership Program was implemented over a year and a half ago. Maharaj Ji explained the importance of his program on several occasions, most recently in his letter to the premies for 1976. But still, out of the 9,000 premies who attended Hans Jayanti in Orlando, only 2,500 are in AMP. That leaves 6,500 premies, all of whom are dedicated enough to Maharaj Ji to come to a festival, who could become active members if the understanding existed. Yet among those 6,500 premies, the average contribution to Guru Maharaj Ji's mission during 1975 was roughly $75 per year per person. This is less than the cost of a cup of coffee per day. Another 21c per day from these same premies could generate another $500,000 per year and easily offset our current operating deficit. Obviously there's an incredible potential, but until each premie comes to an understanding of why he should support Maharaj Ji's Mission, it remains untapped.
But I think this is just an indication of what it takes to deal with a particular aspect of the challenges we face as a movement. What's really needed is the understanding that will make us want to become active members, that will make us want to be plugged into a communiy. It has to be more than just a financial commitment. It has to be a commitment of our life.
I see. You're saying that there is a difference between seeing a situation as something financial and being able to see the whole process that Maharaj Ji's getting us through. If we didn't have any financial problems for instance, if we had like a Rockefeller, who was giving us all his millions, Maharaj Ji would still want people to grow in understanding. We'd still be trying to say the same things.
Right. The $38,000 monthly deficit is just a reflection of a lack of understanding of the real commitment that is required, and we can even call that an understanding gap if you want to translate it that way.
There seems to be one understanding that premies have about Guru Maharaj Ji and about the Knowledge; they love Maharaj Ji and they know they want to meditate, and there are a lot of people who feel that way. And then there is something else. There's almost a second understanding to do with the Mission, to do with the whole connection between this thing we call "Divine Light Mission" and the process of realization Guru Maharaj Ji is bringing us through. I know it's definitely a second understanding, because I only came to it about three weeks ago, at the conference; and only then because, for once, I took the time to go through and work it out myself.
Okay, let's talk about Divine Light Mission. For me the Mission is a way of bringing together premies who are going through this process of self-realization. I see Divine Light Mission as the vehicle Guru Maharaj Ji is using in order to enable all of us to come together and practically manifest the things we hold to be true in our lives. It is an opportunity to tap our full potential and synchronize our efforts into a collective consciousness movement. I don't think that this is so difficult to understand intellectually, but the problem is one I go through in my own life: I know that Maharaj Ji started Divine Light Mission and here I am, I'm even a vice-president of it, but look at how much difficulty I have in honestly relating to my own brothers and sisters, because of all the attitudes and attachments I have. I project all kinds of attitudes on other people just because I don't like their behavior, even people within the organization. But that's just a projection of my own lack of realization. It doesn't matter where you project your frustration. If you consider yourself not to be within Divine Light Mission then you can project a lot of it on the people who are running Divine Light Mission, because you think they're not conscious, instead of realizing that we're all just in this together; we're just brothers and sisters and we're on a path of realization together.
The people who are administrating the Mission, so to speak, are simply performing a service which assists Maharaj Ji in being able to continue to promote the understanding of Knowledge. In this respect, even if someone feels that it's just a trip, nevertheless, that trip is being used by Maharaj Ji to accomplish his aim. It's not our aim; our aim is just to realize Knowledge. Maharaj Ji has a much higher aim, which is to bring humanity to the point where we can realize the purpose of our existence.
There is a feeling many premies have that by becoming involved in Divine Light Mission, the thing we're doing is helping Maharaj Ji accomplish his aim. And I think this is a real fallacy that we have to get beyond - because we are the ones who really benefit by becoming involved. As soon as we begin to make an effort in satsang and meditation, and then begin to really commit ourselves to serving Maharaj Ji, we become involved in a process of being faced with our own life. It is our involvement alone that can let us see where we are really at. We can have an experience in meditation, we can have an intellectual understanding, but we can only find out our true condition when we begin to try to practice our understanding in real life.
What I see is just that we're trying to recognize that soul and body are one flowing thing. But that is perhaps the hardest understanding for human beings to have particularly in the West. Language, especially, splits soul from body so much that it's very difficult for premies to understand Divine Light Mission; because they're looking for an escape from incarnation, that concept of "liberated consciousness," and Divine Light Mission is actually the process of perfectly incarnating as a peaceful humanity, rather than the slipping of humanity out of its human circumstances into some etheric space. Spirituality can be a whole concept of going into the "clear white light," and I don't know how many thousand times I've been told that it's not that, but I still haven't wised up to the alternative. That actually Divine Light Mission is not just an arbitrary vehicle, but that whole process of realization that Maharaj Ji is trying to put us through.
I see Divine Light Mission as the consciousness movement itself; and it existed before Shri Maharaj Ji ever gave it a name. The whole world is part of this movement. The movement is just consciousness, becoming conscious of itself. And so all of the circumstances of the world are actually creating an environment which is forcing people to come closer to the realization of their own selves. Maharaj Ji is tapping everybody on the shoulder and it's just a question of the time before each person gets tapped. But then it continues. You're right when you were saying that people are working out their trips in Divine Light Mission, I can't completely deny that, but every person is working out their trips. I mean that's life, you know. This is why we have to stop seeing the organization as something separate from our own life: because that's just something we can project onto. Instead, we have to see it, that it's a process of realizing our own life.
The thing that's critical is the understanding that we've still got a long way to go before we're all acting as fully conscious human beings. So we'll have to deal with a lot of crap that still exists in each other, but the more we confront it, the less alienating the Mission will be to more and more people. The Mission is becoming more and more conscious. It really is - though I still see a lot of flaws and a lot of ways that it still has to become more conscious. As it does it will begin to satisfy the conceptions of what consciousness is to a greater number of people. But still, those are concepts of consciousness and our actual experience is much deeper than that. Our experience is individual, and ultimately our whole movement comes down to an individual confronting his own life. As conscious as this Mission may be, it still doesn't guarantee that the person who has projected all those faults and then sees that they've been eradicated is suddenly going to experience love in his heart. We all have to open up to our own relationship with life.
So the factor that we're dealing with first here is understanding. We have to have understanding of what is going on. See, though we work individually and though we eat individually, the common understanding in us prevails that we eat so that we won't be hungry, so that we will get the proper nutrition, and so that we won't die. Everybody in the whole world drinks water. Maybe once in a while in Africa they will drink something else, but everybody drinks water. Well, when you run out of water what do you drink? There are supposed to be tales of them sucking blood and drinking blood, but we all drink water as a basic factor to quench our thirst.
Now, this is a sharing that is shared amongst everybody. When we see a thirsty man, we can help him the best, because we know everybody needs water when he is thirsty. When we see a thirsty man, instead of bringing him 52,000 kinds of food from all around the world, all we need to give him is a little water and he'll be more than happy. So that understanding gives us that benefit. That understanding also gives you a benefit, because you do not know Hindi, but if you want water and you go like this, they'll bring you water. Because you share that common understanding, you really don't know how much it really helps you.
* * *
"if the discovery of the technique of discovery is the great discovery of our previous era, then the technique of suspended judgment is the discovery we need now."
* * *
Understanding … what is it? Is it bigger than a breadbox? Where does it hang out? How much does it cost? Should I trade in my blue chip stamps for it? Is it allergic to garbanzo beans? Can I use my food stamps? Will my boyfriend be jealous if I bring it home? Should I declare it as an asset or a liability? Does it need painting every spring? Will it blend with my decor? Can I teach it to skydive?
Or maybe that's the wrong approach entirely. Maybe understanding is not a gerund after all (that is, a verb form used as a noun) - or at least, this isn't what Maharaj Ji means. Maybe, like the other parts that make up a premie (S, S, M & D), it's a process, a verb, something to get into, not to just "get." As we sit in meditation, and experience dynamic effervescence of the name vs. the mind, as we open ourselves to the energy and experimental expression of the love of our brothers and sisters in satsang, as we plunge away into a project that somehow has appeared before us as service, in that same openhearted way all premies have in common, maybe we can let understanding understand in us. As we let go of our dualistic, materialistic grasp of "reality" as things and nouns, static and cold, we can perhaps allow the fluid, warm and expansive process of life to continue: not alive in or for a world of nouns and things, but active as a verb, alive! experiencing, being, and … understanding.
Still Crazy After All These Years
When Simon and Garfunkel got together again recently to produce some music together, I had hopes that they might coalesce some understanding around themselves just like the old days; and, if only for a moment, reconvene the "generation" and sum up where we are at. And they came through (introspective bards of "my" introspective generation) once again with flying colors, letting us know that Simon and Garfunkel, and all of us, are "Still Crazy After All These Years." In one sense, can appreciate that sensation, since it indicates to me that a certain necessary search for going beyond the limits is occuring, but in another sense, I find it embarrassing to be going bald before realizing the nebulous Utopia we set out for in the late 1960's.
There is sort of a generation-wide acceptance of the fact that to change the world you have to live in it. And then you have to change yourself. I see pictures of Eldridge Cleaver at home with his family, Ken Kesey milking his brother's cows at the Springfield Dairy, Rennie Davis selling shower doors, George Harrison sending out Christmas cards, and Paul Simon still crazy after all these years, and it brings home my own feeling that I'm going to be here for awhile, working on my life and the world I touch around me.
And for me that feeling brings a sort of maturity: the understanding that the solution lies in patient, dedicated effort over a long period of time. In 1968 a Jehovah's Witness told me (in the Channing Room of the Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon) that the world was going to end in 1976. It just occured to me that they must have spent the last seven years telling people about it, while I spent the last seven years trying to do something about it. Now both of us were crazy.certainly can't save the world, I think individually and collectively we've all realized that. But I can start to live here, and take responsibility for my world and what I do in it. And I think that somewhere along the line Kesey, and Davis and Cleaver all realized something like that - that we can only involve ourselves in a life-affirming process, to live and learn and help out here.
So this is maturity. To cast aside hopes, dreams, and other illusions and expectations and just take part in the world from where we can be most effective - in the sphere of our own human life. I can't accept judgemental cynicism or fear of manipulation as a valid reason for "refusing to get involved." A lot of radicals I know are up and coming participants in the PTA now. The broad base of "the generation" are now accepting the responsibility to live andlearn, rather than just trying to announce doom and stay a safe distance away. There is no safe distance away, and as long as I keep working as hard as I can with my brothers and sisters (all 4 billion of them) to raise our collective consciousness, I don't think there is any doom either.
We aren't going anywhere without each other.
A lot of times we tend to blame other people for our lack of freedom on this path. I know, I do it too. But if you look deeper, you find out how little resistance there is to someone who wants only to share some understanding.
It's a belief that I've always had that every premie - no matter how off the wall they may seem at times - is basically sincere. Because sincerity is the thing that brought them to Knowledge in the first place; and that's the thing that's giving them the patience to stay around and go through all the ten thousand trips they have inside them.
Anyway, it's only now that I can really begin to see that sincerity. It was a deep and strong belief, but now, just talking to the people around me, I can see that, yeah, it's really true; we all do want to get to the same place, we all do want to share ourselves with each other. And none of us do completely understand what's going on around here; but all of us do want to.
So often I forget this. I think, no one here really cares; and if I ever really tried to share any of this with them, why, they wouldn't listen at all. But it's not true! Because we are all going through the same process. Together. And we're all sincerely - even desperately - trying to get outside of ourselves enough to tap into real understanding. Most of the time the only real trouble I find is that I'm not willing to take that understanding that I have and share it.
Who limits our freedom? Without lifting it from the page, take a pencil and try to connect the nine dots below with as few straight lines as possible. You may find it hard to do in less than five; but it can be done in four.
Try again. You may be implying rules that aren't really there.