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Administration with Love
A talk given by Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari
I have requested permission from Brother Somakumar to speak a little, basically to tell you about the Sahaj Marg Spirituality Foundation. I don't know how well you are all informed about it. Legally it is a Trust, because in India they don't recognise a foundation separately. It was registered on the 6th of February, 2003, and its purpose is to take over all the functions with social implications from the Mission.
As a first step, Sahaj Marg Research Institute has been transferred to the Foundation, and the training courses are held by it. Second step, the Foundation has taken over the happy task of feeding abhyasis, free of cost, at Tirupur, Manapakkam, Ongole, Hyderabad and Satkhol - five ashrams. It is hoped to progressively add more ashrams to that list, so that the Mission does not have to worry about where the money will come from. The Foundation is acquiring land shortly in Bangalore. It already has a small plot in Vijaywada, one five-acre plot is being donated to the Foundation shortly in Pune, and one just above Palakkad, up in the mountains at 4000 feet, about fifty acres. And we already have some other premises here and there, where the Foundation expects to start what we call spiritual retreat centres. They will not be called ashrams. They will be called spiritual retreat centres. I hope we can organise training sessions for abhyasis of three weeks duration, with proper faculty permanently in place at these places, so that the training can go on all year round - three weeks into fifty-two, let us say, twelve courses per year. They will be, of course, free of all charges except your own transportation cost to go there. So the Foundation is now basically receiving the major part of donations so that it can carry on these functions, and I hope all of you will cooperate.
Now I come to the Mission and the structuring of the Mission in the administrative context. I have been somewhat concerned with the over-enthusiasm with which this is being done. And I have been voicing my concern to Krishna, to Ajay, to Brother Santosh Khanjee in the U.S., because it seems to interpose too many layers of, shall we say, restraint. Discipline is, after all, a restraint. In social terms, in public life, discipline is definitely a restraint because it is imposed by officialdom. In spirituality, such restraint must come from within ourselves. Therefore it is no longer a restraint; it is your own discipline upon yourself. Now the ideal discipline should be a self-imposed discipline by each abhyasi on himself or herself to conform to the ideal patterns of behaviour, the ideal patterns of sadhana, so that we can reach our goal in this lifetime.
There is an old saying in the British Empire, which said, 'No government is the best government.' That has always been an ideal of society that the society that does not need a government is the best government. I should like this to be borne in mind by our people that over-administration is always a sign of weakness, and I do not like signs of weakness. I have also received a lot of complaints from abhyasis, from preceptors, verbally, in writing, I will not say protesting but, shall we say, straining at the leash, asking why so much structuring is necessary in a spiritual organisation. Between the abhyasi and the spiritual guide there should only be a preceptor, as I said yesterday. We need a structure, legally, because there has to be a president, there has to be a secretary, there has to be a joint-secretary. There have to be auditors; therefore there have to be accountants because we deal with money for which we are accountable. In my opinion, that should be all that should be necessary by way of organisation and administration.
I would like you all to have a second look at this structuring business because I would like to read two letters or parts of them. One is from a preceptor in India who says, "I am passing through a strange kind of sadness and despair somewhere deep within my heart. When I tried to introspect and meditated on it, I found a kind of hurt caused by so many things " He is listing, you know. And says, "Secondly, increasing administrative pressures." The second one is from a preceptor abroad. "I don't know what happened to my centre. It is as if all of us are not working together. We do not have the personal touch with abhyasis. Something is lacking. It has become like a corporate structure - an AMC, ZA, ZIC, Centre Coordinator, Secretary. If I want to propose any ideas, I have to get approval from so many people and it takes so long to implement. Therefore I have become a passive participant. Sometimes I feel that the spontaneous heart approach has gone. They have manuals for everything now. Right now, my only participation is to give sittings." This is just a sample. I can assure you I have a hundred letters from all over the world, and this is only strengthening my concern that a spiritual organisation is becoming something like a governmental organisation.
Anything which has a structure has weakness; anything which has weaknesses can break down. In buildings we have manuals to ensure safety of the building, like how much concrete should be mixed, what seal strength should be there. But in a spiritual organisation, I think our structure is getting too heavy. Would some of you like to come up and voice your opinion? I would like to hear what you have to say. Ten of you, at random, come on, get up and speak. Don't worry about what repercussions it will have. I am the repercussion. Come and speak.
[Abhyasis voice their opinions.]
Well, I think we have had an interesting debate, and the consensus seems to be that we do need an organisation, which we have. Also there is a feeling that it should be administered with, shall we say, love. Quoting Shakespeare, we must have justice with mercy. Mercy means love. So essentially, we have to administer with a sense of belonging - that we are one family, and that instead of, shall we say, imposing penalties or displeasure or punishment, we have to train people more and more, even to follow the rules that we give or guidelines that we give.
I remember way back in 1964 when I joined the Mission, every preceptor was a member of the Working Committee, because there were only thirteen preceptors. I mean, who else could you have as committee members? And none of them knew anything about administration - what a committee is, what is a Working Committee. So it went along merrily, not because it had much to do but because, in ignorance, in total ignorance, if I may say so, the administration went on, because there was really nothing to administer, except Basant Panchami. I remember in the first Basant Panchami that I personally attended, we were forty-four people including Babuji Maharaj. And the whole administrative structure and responsibility and concern was: how to feed them, house them, and to conduct the satsangh. Of course, as it multiplied, we had to hire what are called choultries. We had the Khatri Dharamshala and another dharamshala. By then the attendance had grown to 400, 500. I have seen Babuji sitting with his hand on his head, "Hum kahan se inko khilayenge? [How do I feed them?]"
So the two needs of the Mission can be very precisely stated as: the physical need of the abhyasis for food, shelter, and the spiritual need which is what our preceptors are supposed to attend to. Now, basically, if the administration, the guidelines, the manuals, stick to the physical side of the Mission working, and regulate it, shall we say, with love, with a sense of amusement, with jokes, and train people, there would be nothing wrong with an administrative structure, because it is necessary. I mean, if I am a human being, I have to walk, my legs must be strong, I must be able to see where I am going, I must be able to hear sounds which will guide me in the direction. This is a transparent requirement, and when something breaks down, the human being is no more useful, to himself or to us. So the basic need seems to be that this regulatory, shall we say, feature of an administrative setup should not infringe on the spiritual side of the Mission. Two, that administration should be administered with love. Three, we must train our people even to appreciate the need for an administrative structure. So I recommend that we have, instead of all these preceptors meetings where nothing is discussed, we should train our people now in administration, in accounting: what is accounts, what is the debit and what is the credit, so many simple things.
I remember a joke about a young man who later becomes the chief accounts officer of a big corporation. And he lived to a ripe old age. He used to come every morning, open the drawer and look at a slip of paper, put it (back) and lock it up. He had the only key to the drawer on his table. Then he would go on with his work. When he died, there was rush for that slip of paper. What was it that the boss referred to every morning? And when they did find it, it said, 'The side of the accounts book which is by the side of the window is the debit side.' I have told this in my own TTK & Company organisational meetings, that all that an accountant needs to know is: what is a debit and what is a credit. I spoke about this in a bank meeting here in the State Bank of India. Paring down to its essentials, all that the biggest financier does is: what is the debit, what is the credit, how to balance.
So let us keep things simple, understandable. Keep the language in the manuals simple. Do not use American terms. There is a tendency to do it, I am sorry to say. But we should stick to simple English. Instead of saying add the two, don't say total up the two and arrive at what ever you want to call it. Because this Americanisation is an insidious disease. It has come into our society with our Pizza Corners and Burger Kings. It is making greater inroads; it has already made inroads into our language structure. Even I don't understand what they say sometimes when they use the American language. So let us keep it simple. Our manual writers should keep it simple. And let us not complicate it in the company accounting way where I pay out something and it becomes a credit, and where I have to receive something and it becomes a debit. I don't know whether I am saying it correctly; you should consult. Because they confuse, you know. I used to be very confused. When I have to receive something, it should be my credit. "No, no. It is a debit because I have already paid it; therefore I have to receive it." So we go on like this, like a game of ping pong. "I gave it; he gave it back. Now when I give it, what will it be?" So that chief accountant was a very wise man. He only wrote on a slip of paper, 'The side of the ledger on the window side is the debit side.'
So let us stick to mere essentials. Let us administer with love. So, what shall we say, long live administration [laughs]. Long live administration with love!