No. 34, November 1976
The recent changes in DLM have had a large effect on our financial structure. We asked the coordinator in each community to send us a list of the questions people were asking about finance, and put them to national controller Dic Cooper.
What's happening to the AMP money now?
What's happening to AMP money now is what has always happened to AMP money. AMP money can only be spent on Divine Light Mission's activities in the regions and NHQ. Which means it is used to pay rent on DLM property, pay telephone bills, maintain the satsang hall, buy satsang hall chairs and equipment - anything that is simply part of running the Mission. It's got nothing to do with the ashrams, nothing to do with supporting the ashram premies. It's very simply to run the Mission. The Divine Light Mission account is checked by auditors, who are people whose job it is to critically examine all the books and records of a company or organisation, and to give their opinion as to whether all the money has been accounted for in a true and legal manner. Auditing is often required by law, however in our case, due to our status as a charity, it isn't legally essential. But we do it just the same, so that anyone who is interested can see that everything is above board.
So the ashram system is separate. What's happening to that?
It's virtually closed down. The ashram fund is still open in all states, but with only a small amount of money in it. But in time it will close down completely, and there will be just one fund, that is the Divine Light Mission account, which is where all the AMP money goes.
There have been a lot of cutbacks, so presumably our financial commitment is much less than it used to be.
In one way it is, and in one way it isn't. Because you've still got a very large structure of Divine Light Mission, which needs a lot of money to just keep running even at a minimal level.
Whereas before we turned over $80,000 a month, we're now operating on about $16,000 a month (see Table 1). That $80,000 included the ashrams, and all the programs and seminars we were running. So we've cut our spending by about $64,000 a month.
However, the thing is, when you build yourself up and get yourself operating at this sort of pace - $80,000 a month -you can't just suddenly stop. You can't cut back just like that, because you've got commitments to situations, you've got hire purchase agreements for stuff that you've bought. And so in actual fact, although we can operate on $16,000 per month, we've been left with something like $50,000 worth of bills which we've got to pay off with whatever we can scrape together. For example, we're committed to a national insurance policy, Celebration Films needs $9,000 to complete "Keep on truckin' ", and we've got to repay a loan we took out earlier this year. We worked out the finances to the end of the year, as well as we can, and we can just get by selling everything we've got, and using the money that was saved up for the ashram premies go to the convention.
So before, the Mission's income used to come from the ashrams, and also from AMP?
That's right. The ashram fund used to contribute $10,000 a month to the Mission over and above it's own running expenses. It also supported all the full-time Mission staff, and many of the people who worked in the businesses, such as Soul Foods and Magic Carpet Taxi Trucks.
What's happening to the businesses?
The businesses have either been sold, or are in the process of being sold to individuals or various parts of the community. And if they haven't been sold off yet, they're now starting to pay a full wage to what used to be ashram premies, so the money is no longer coming back to the Mission as contributions. It's going to the ashram premies who work in the businesses, who are now leaving the ashram and need the money to support themselves. So in actual fact we're no longer getting any money at all from the businesses, whereas before they used to give us about $15,000 a month nationally. That's another really big source of income which is gone now.
What about the staff? How are they being supported?
As you know, the number of staff both at NHQ and in the regional offices has been cut back quite considerably. At present it looks as if there won't be anyone working full-time in the regional offices-everything will be done on a parttime volunteer basis. And the NHQ staff is down to 5. That'll be just enough to keep things operating at a minimum level, just to maintain the Mission: a couple in finance, one Productions guy, one typist, the Golden Age. We might have to have one extra in Finance for a short time, just while things get straightened out.
The staff will get wages. We've already started paying everybody at NHQ $50 a week, which is enough to cover rent and food. And we hope to be able to raise that to about $80, for those who are full-time. But most are getting part-time jobs.
So the $16,000 per month which we need to support the Mission now all comes from AMP?
Well, AMP is our sole source of income. But see, the thing is we're not even getting $16,000 in. We're only getting $12,000. AMP has dropped drastically from $17,000 to about $12,000.
Over what time period? Just in the last month. Why is that?
I really don't know, to be honest. Maybe people just think Divine Light Mission's gone on holiday. I couldn't even start to say why it is.
You know? Not giving to AMP. As far as I'm concerned it's a fact of life. You meditate an hour in the morning and an hour at night and you give to AMP. It's basic. That's the way I see AMP. I always have done, actually, ever since I understood what it was. Like it took me a while to understand what it was, but as soon as that clicked into place, what it really meant - like not just the trip of giving ten bucks a week or something, but what Maharaj Ji wants us to understand by it, why we had to do it - when that clicked into place, then it was just completely automatic.
I really do fail to see why people don't do it. It's like there are people who are fair-weather sailors, who don't support Guru Maharaj Ji through thick and thin, through the good times and the bad times. Because you always get the opportunity, it seems, to leap on the bandwagon and have a good time. But then at other times there's the opportunity to see who knows what's going on, who really understands something. It's as if Guru Maharaj Ji puts you in these situations - does this to the Mission, or does that to the Mission - just to give you the chance to realise what's going on for yourself.
The Golden Age
Will the money continue to come to Sydney first?
Yes. In the first half of this year, we changed over to a system of accounting called the imprest system. It's been working very well, so there's no reason to discontinue using it. We first got the idea when Terry went to the conference with Guru Maharaj Ji and the IHQ staff in Orlando, late last year. Maharaj Ji said he wanted the financial situation of DLM stabilised, and it was suggested that the most viable way for us to do that in Australia was through the imprest system.
You see, the problem was that up until last year, all the finances were done separately in each state. When you do your finances separately, you have to draw up a ledger, and you have to have some sort of know ledge of finance and accounting you need to know how a ledger works, what auditors require and all this sort of thing. And so when it came time to audit all our books throughout the country, some books were fine and some were completely hopeless. Some states didn't even have a cash book. And that was either because the people doing that service just didn't have the expertise, or because in those days the Mission transferred people around so often that you didn't have time to get anything done before you got moved. So what the imprest system did, it centralised all the money to come in to NHQ, where you bad two or three people doing the whole trip, just keeping one set of books. So it's more stable now; and when it comes to being audited, we can do it cheaply, because we only have one set of books to be audited, and we can be sure they've been properly kept.
In a way, although the money comes to Sydney, it doesn't really change the situation for the states. Say for instance Perth's income for a month is $ 1 000, they receive $ 1,000 in AMP donations. And they want to spend $600 on their rent, their telephones, their vehicle expenses, their nursery or whatever. So under the old system, out of that $1,000 income they'd take out $600 to spend on their community, and they'd send $400 to NHQ, which would be used to pay bills or whatever. And with the imprest system, there's really no difference, because they send us $1,000, we send them $600 back, and we just keep the $400 up here. What happens now is that then we can distribute the extra money to places like Cairns and Adelaide, where they depend on support from the larger centres.
So in a way, the imprest system makes no difference. It just saves us a lot of money, it's far more practical, and it simply makes the Mission - on an external level, on an audit level, on a business level -look a lot more stable and mature.
What sort of financial commitment do we have on a national level? Apart from regional expenses like satsang hall rent?
It costs us $6,000 a month to run NHQ. That's on a minimum level. That includes rent, telephone, wages, and various things that we're paying off (see Table 2).
So out of $16,000, $6,000 is for NHQ, and $10,000 is for regional?
Yes. But that's just minimum operating expenditure. That's the smallest amount of money we can use and still get by, still keep the Mission open. But apart from that, we've also got to think of other things. For example, there's Derek and Julie's trip to the conference in Germany, in November, which will cost us more than $3,000. And if an initiator ever wanted to come here, we wouldn't be able to support him. If Guru Maharaj Ji wanted to come here in three days' time, which is the amount of notice he's said in the past he wants to be able to give us, then we just couldn't do it.
The only way these things are going to be possible is if AMP rises. Because that's the only income we've got at the moment. I can't see any other source on the horizon. The ashrams may start up again in the future, but they'll be a new style of ashram, and as far as I can see they won't be tied up with the Mission financially at all. They'll just be supporting themselves, because everyone in them will just be leading a normal life-style, there won't be the scrimping and saving there has been in the past.
I see the whole thing reverting back to community. Everybody is a community premie now, so everybody has to run their Mission, everybody has to support it. It's up to everyone to understand that the Mission isn't like the ashram premies' Mission any more, it doesn't belong to a few guys who are up there on top. It's Guru Maharaj Ji's Mission, and if you want to be in it, then you've got to buy your own ticket. You don't win the lottery without buying a ticket; you don't become part of the Mission without getting involved in it and supporting it. You only get out of it what you put into it. And like, if you only ever put criticism into the Mission, if you only put negativity, then that's all you get out of it. But if you put in positivity, if you see what the Mission's doing -that we're only trying to do what's to be done anyway, that nobody is any more or less than everybody else - and if everybody gets in it together, then that's cool. We can all have a good time, we all reap those benefits. It's pretty simple, really.
If we found we had money sitting in the bank, we'd probably consider an initiator visit. But we can't afford anything at the moment. We couldn't propagate if we wanted to. We could- n't print anything, we couldn't hire halls. We couldn't afford it. We need to spend $16,000 just to survive, and we're only getting $12,000, so we're $4,000 under at the moment. We literally can't run on what we're getting. That's why we're not doing anything.
AMP really needs to pick up to at least $16,000 or $17,000 a month. It should be possible. I mean once, after Ira's visit, it was up to $19,000 a month. If you assume the average premie gets $100 a week, and gives $10 to AMP - $40 a month - and you divide that into $12,000, you get 300. In other words, it appears that - there's 300 premies supporting DLM in Australia. Add a few mothers who don't contribute financially, and maybe you get 350 or so. But that's a long A-a% short of the 1,000 people who supposedly attend satsang regularly.
Where do the administration premies get their spending money?
Well, until recently, from the ashram fund. Everyone in the ashram fund gets an allowance. to do whatever they like with. Some places it's only a couple of bucks a week, some places it's $5. And each person is free to do whatever he likes with It's only a recent thing.
And now that people are leaving the ashram and getting jobs they're getting money of their own to spend. It's up to them what they want to do with it. just the same as it is for everybody else.
Why does the community coordinator need a car?
If he has to get around the community, then he needs a car. We can't afford to give him a wage large enough so he can larg himself a car, and we have these ex-ashram cars around the place, so we give him a car. You do need a car to get around the community, definitely.
No. 34, November 1976
Where will the money be spent in future?
Well, it depends how much we get, how we can spend it. As I explained, at the moment it's all pretty well tied up just in running costs. Until AMP gets up into the $20-25,000 a month bracket, I can't see us doing anything more than just operating.
We just can't pay out money when there's no money coming in: I mean if the Mission loses $4,000 a month, somebody's going to lose out: it's going to be the rent man who's going to want to boot us out, or it's going to be the telephone people and they're going to want to cut off our telephone. At the moment it's still sort of theoretical, because we're getting by, we're putting off the guys who we owe money to, we're flogging everything we can. But it's going to have very serious actual practical repercussions, if the whole thing doesn't pick up.
And it depends what people want. Premies should take an interest in what's going on, take an interest in the finances. Nobody's ever bothered before. To a certain extent that's because although the books have always been open to anyone who's interested, we haven't publicised it much. But we're trying to fix that up now. I'm getting on to all the regional finance directors to publish all the information on where the money goes each month. I think people are starting to realise that it doesn't just stop when you drop $10 in the AMP box. You've got to carry it over from that, take an active part in the Mission. Which goes hand in hand with finding out what goes on with the money.
I suppose in one way we're a bit lucky. Compared with the way it used to be in some other countries I've been to, where the premies have been so uptight about money that they've just dragged the Mission down further and further.
Where people flung so much muck at the Mission that it just fell down flat in their faces. And they couldn't see it. They were doing it, but they couldn't see that their criticism was just blowing the Mission apart. It's a really sad thing to watch. You can't do anything. Here, in a way we're pretty lucky. Although at the moment we're shouting that we're broke - I mean it looks like we're going that way pretty fast - I don't think we're going to be stuck. I think we're going to get out of it. But it's just that it shouldn't happen. There should be no need for crises, for almost going broke and doing stupid things like letting the public see that we're a whole lot of idiots. Like I reckon we've sort of forgotten what we're here for when we let things like that happen.
It's one of those horrible cliches, but it's true: if you go away and meditate, then everything's cool. Your head doesn't rattle you about money, and you just contribute to AMP because that's what you know you have to do. Because you meditate and it's clear. But like, when meditation isn't the foremost thing, when Knowledge doesn't come before everything else, then your mind slips in and pops all these questions to you. It really does. If you're meditating you can see that the people in the administration, or the people in NHQ are just the same as you. We're all just human beings, we've got exactly the same mind, and exactly the same Knowledge, so we're no different -
We just happen to be doing this service, and we just happen to be sticking to it. We just happen to be here. Like I don't know why I'm doing this job - I didn't ask for it, but I'm doing it, and I'm doing it the best I can. And the only way you can do a good job, is to do it. Not pick and poke holes. Try to realise something, rather than critise something.
Average Monthly NHQ Operating Expenditure Communications
freight costs, national air travel
Five full-time staff at approximately $80 per week
Stationery, office equipment hire and computer hire
Car repayments, repairs and running expenses
Rent, rates and electricity