Monday, October 26, 2015

How money can corrupt spiritual radiance in spiritual institutions

This is an account of an ashram associated higher educational institution (a deemed university) in India that suffered significant loss of spiritual radiance/fire due to a combination of bodily passing away of the ashram founder and the influence of money.

During the time the ashram founder was alive, he was personally involved in running of this deemed university (DU). Salaries were rather limited especially for youngsters, as compared to well paying universities elsewhere in India. In fact, some youngsters were being paid very poor salary. But there was no compulsion. Youngsters were willing to work on low salary due to the physical proximity chances they had with the ashram founder who was a very powerful mystic. It was considered to be great good fortune to get a chance to serve the ashram founder in his DU. Further, expenses in the ashram setup were also quite limited for those who were living in the ashram or DU hostel.

This combination of simple & frugal lifestyle and devotional intensity of many youngsters in this DU and the PHYSICAL PRESENCE of the powerful mystic & founder of the ashram, created a very powerful spiritual atmosphere infused with PURITY & DIVINITY. The youngsters from the DU contributed very significantly to the spiritual RADIANCE of the DU. This was something that could be easily noted by visitors to the ashram.

When the powerful mystic and ashram founder passed away (bodily), shock waves ran through the ashram system including this DU. There was a HUGE administrative as well as spiritual VACUUM. Naturally there was some amount of trauma, chaos and confusion in the ashram system as a whole including the DU.

Some days after the physical bodily passing away of the ashram founder, the big concerns were about financial viability of the ashram system and its various institutions including the DU. Those concerns were addressed by the top ashram administrators (trustees) by explaining to the staff that the funds were adequate to run the show. However, the number of devotees/visitors to the ashram had plummeted and so had donations to the ashram system. It was a SEVERE CRISIS period.

In this CRISIS period some left the ashram system. But many stayed put and were willing to continue the work of the ashram founder.

To the surprise and even shock of an observer, the DU staff, around three months after the passing away of the founder, received significant pay hikes (sixth pay commission) and many youngsters were appointed on regular UGC pay scales giving them huge pay raises. On the one hand, donations to the ashram setup had almost stopped (if not stopped) and the future seemed very uncertain. And in this scenario, where normally one would worry about managing to keep paying salaries to staff, the DU paid staff were given significant pay hikes (with some youngsters being given HUGE pay raises)! [The DU also had free service staff who were offering the service as spiritual service to the ashram founder and not asking for any money to be paid for services rendered.]

Later it became known that the vice-chancellor of the DU had threatened to resign if the sixth pay commission hikes had not got implemented, and that another senior administrator of the DU (a former student of the DU who had become an administrator) had supported the vice-chancellor in this demand for sixth pay commission hike! It seems that the vice-chancellor (VC) was offering honorary service (no salary but only his expenses of travel being met, and lodging being provided). So the VC was NOT doing it for PERSONAL GAIN.

The mother trust of the ashram system which had to bear the increased salary burden, was already facing huge challenges. Sources said that the trustees tried to reason with the vice-chancellor but the vice-chancellor was firm in his threat to resign if his demand was not met. During that period of trauma and chaos in the ashram system, the last thing the trustees wanted was for the VC of the ashram DU to resign. So they buckled under the pressure of this resignation threat, and caved in to the sixth pay commission raise.

Once the DU got this sixth pay commission raise, naturally other ashram institution paid staff (e.g. hospitals) wanted the same! So it shortly became sixth pay commission raises for all ashram paid staff which the mother trust of the ashram orgn. had to bear at a time when incoming donations to it had drastically reduced, and when it was faced with a lot of other challenges.

It was felt by an observer that this was a period of GREAT SPIRITUAL TEST for the followers of the ashram founder. The DU being a higher education institution and perhaps the most precious and most loved institutional child of the ashram founder, had to lead the way forward for the rest of the ashram institutions. Even in non-spiritual regular world commercial companies, when the company founder dies, loyal employees know that it is a period of storm for the company and are willing to continue to work on the same salaries (they even take some salary cuts, at times) till the storm blows over in a year or so, by which time the company would have transitioned to the new top boss(es).

Here, it was a spiritual university! The observer felt that the NOBLE SPIRITUAL path that the DU vice-chancellor and other top administrators should have taken would have been to appeal to all paid staff of the DU, as a gesture of gratitude to the ashram founder, to continue to work on same salary for six months to a year (in other words, postpone the sixth pay commission implementation), as both devotees/visitors as well as donors to the ashram had drastically fallen. Perhaps that appeal would have met with support from many of the paid staff (though perhaps not all paid staff). That would have been a FANTASTIC show of SOLIDARITY with the mother trust of the ashram. How enthused the trustees would have felt by such a show of Tyaagam (sacrifice) by the staff of its university! That enthusiasm would have spread to the other institutions as well.

The SPIRITUAL RADIANCE of the DU would have BECOME BRIGHTER if they had done that.

Instead, the DU vice-chancellor forced the trust to implement sixth pay commission on threat of his resignation! [The observer does not know whether the other senior administrator too had threatened to resign.]

Now, one has to be practical too. If the DU paid staff were not listening to such appeals to serve the DU on same salary for six months to a year, and an exodus of paid staff had started, then it would have been appropriate for the VC to have informed the trust about the situation, and suggested immediate sixth pay commission implementation to stem the exodus. The trust itself may have then implemented sixth pay commission to stem the exodus.

But the VC had NO BUSINESS to THREATEN to RESIGN if sixth pay commission was not implemented in the spiritual university. That is NOT the SPIRITUAL and NOBLE way of doing things. The observer's view is that if the ashram founder were alive and had been informed of this resignation threat his words to the person would have been (in the founder's Indian language) Po ra po - translated as Go man, go OR Go, get lost.

Anyway, sixth pay commission salary hikes did get implemented for paid staff in ashram institutions around three to four months after the ashram founder passed away. This boost in money made many staff overjoyed and made the VC and, one presumes, the other administrator, great heroes to many among the DU paid staff. Those paid staff who used to ride bicycles were soon seen riding motorcycles. Those who used to ride motorcycles bought an additional small car. Some senior faculty could now buy big cars (in keeping with their "academic designation status").

Essentially, materialist lifestyle became the norm amongst many of the ashram paid staff. That brought down the spiritual RADIANCE. Only a very tiny few highly evolved spiritual people can maintain SPIRITUAL RADIANCE in the midst of sudden boost in money. For most, sudden boost in money turns the head towards the material world, and spiritual radiance takes a big hit.

And once somebody gets used to a more comfortable material lifestyle it becomes tough to get back to the less comfy material lifestyles one led earlier without much complaints. And, for ashram institutions, once salaries have been raised it is virtually impossible to undo it - they can only delay further raises, freeze new recruitment on regular pay scale (and go for temporary staff on lower contract salary), and increase workload on paid staff, to somehow run the show with the money they have.

The observer noted one DU paid staff saying that the ashram founder knew how much should be given to the staff. The implication of these words to the observer was that the ashram founder knew that if more money than needed was given to spiritual aspirant type staff of the spiritual deemed university, it would have a NEGATIVE effect on the spiritual journey of these spiritual aspirant type staff.

For spiritual aspirants who are doing regular worldly activities like being faculty in a spiritual university, 'ceiling on material desires' is a VITAL teaching. Too little money makes one struggle for basic amenities and that hinders one's effectiveness as a faculty in a spiritual university. More money than is needed can make one easily get lost into temptations of the material world that money can buy. Rather than contemplate about spiritual matters, such spiritual university faculty may end up contemplating the rise & fall of stock market prices or real estate values, or keep thinking about which fancy tech. gadget or fancy motorbike/car to buy next!

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