11 Sep 2012

A Basic Scheme for Sri Aurobindo Ashram – proposed by an Ashramite

The Advisory Board

The Ashram community’s primary objective is to practise the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. As the Trustees have failed to keep in mind this primary objective while disbursing their duties, an alternate administration is required to look after the problems of the community. This self-governance not only requires accountability, internal checks and balances, but also a process of election by which new administrators are appointed or old ones dismissed. Until now, the Trustees were all-powerful. Henceforth, it is proposed to give powers to a larger body of about thirty to forty members, which we shall name as the Advisory Board. This board will appoint a five-member Governing Board for a five year term. It will appoint the departmental heads as and when required. It will appoint the members of the Election Office and the Grievance Redressal Office.

The Advisory Board should consist of members who can truly qualify as practitioners of the Yoga and at the same time have the confidence of the community. They need not be technically qualified or endowed with great administrative ability as much as being spiritually oriented in the right direction. The members of the Advisory Board should be chosen by the entire community. On the day of the voting conducted by the Election Office through a secret ballot, each member of the community will mention the names of the persons whom he deems fit to be in the Advisory Board. The names of the elected persons should be announced on that very day.

There can be several ways to shortlist the names of those who would constitute the Advisory Board, such as by the principle of seniority or by the longevity of service at the Ashram. But the final deciding factor should be the confidence of the entire community. A few basic conditions should be laid down to qualify as members of the Advisory Board. They should have consecrated a substantial part of their life in the service of the Ashram or to the practice of the Integral Yoga. They should be physically and mentally fit to disburse their duties and certainly should have no criminal cases pending against them.


The Governing Board

The Governing Board can consist of members from the larger community, people associated with the Ashram, members of centres outside Pondicherry or from the Advisory Board itself, in which case the vacancies should be filled up again. The members of the Governing Board should necessarily have the administrative ability and intelligence to govern the Ashram and solve the problems of the community. The idea behind this arrangement is to put administrative and technical capacity at the disposal of disciples with a spiritual frame of mind, who can at any time challenge or reject the decisions of the Governing Board if they go against the fundamental objectives of the Ashram.


The Community

The will of the community should finally prevail in the case of any particular body hijacking power causing large-scale dissatisfaction. The community at any point of time should be able to assert itself and reject those who are responsible for the crisis. An emergency vote should be made possible by at least two thirds of the community opting for a change of governance and a new administration put in place by a repoll. Whatever be the system, the members of the community should be the last consultants in the matter of governance, even if it leads to a major restructuring of the existing system of election and governance. The only thing to be avoided is over politicisation and the possible instability ensuing from it – this can be avoided by making it mandatory for at least two-thirds of the community to express willingness to go for a mid-term repoll.


Grievance Redressal Office

There should be a grievance redressal system and an office specifically meant to address the complaints of the inmates. If any individual is not satisfied by the response of his immediate superior, he should be able to address his problem to the Grievance Redressal Office and the Governing Board. If he is still dissatisfied, he should be allowed to put his grievance in front of the Advisory Board, and finally, if necessary, refer it to the entire community in serious matters such as eviction, assault, etc. Going to the Court should be avoided as much as possible, and should be resorted to only in extreme cases. The filing of cases, especially against Ashramites, must have the consent of the Advisory Board.


Election Office

An election commission appointed by the Advisory Board and ratified by all the members of the community will oversee the election of the Advisory Board, the Governing Board and the members of the Grievance Redressal system.


The Role of Centres Outside

A method should be found by which the devotees and disciples from outside can be represented in this system of self-governance. In fact, the new Ashram should be built by a combination of people from outside who have worldly experience and disciples and who have lived and grown up in the spiritual atmosphere of the Ashram. Both these aspects are needed to counterbalance each others’ defects. Left to itself, the Ashram will deteriorate further and further until it will collapse under the weight of its defects and deficiencies. The intervention of disciples living outside is required to prevent the Ashramites from falling below the minimum level of morality and consciousness required to live in a normal society. Both should therefore learn from each other and there should be a free movement of disciples from both ends, i.e., disciples coming from outside who would like to practise Yoga at the Ashram and disciples of the Ashram who find themselves unfit for the Yoga and want to go out and have the experience of life outside. Right now, we are crowding the Ashram with more and more people who are not only unfit for Yoga but claim the right to live the ordinary life at the Ashram, which is thus becoming a nice convenience club than a yogic centre. What is worse is that Ashramites sometimes fall below the acceptable standards of normal society with the excuse of being above morality and religion.

2 comments:

  1. This proposal has the essential elements to redress the majority of the problems of the present status. We full-heartedly support it, and hope that an initiative like that will at last lift the Ashram out of its current chaos and conflict, to more and more enlightened standards of management.
    One interesting and important aspect is the redefinition of who is the 'community' that the Ashram management is answerable to. Certain decisions affect only the inmates, while many more concern a much larger number of devotees who live close-by and are involved in various Ashram activities. And finally there are many important decisions that have bearing on the millions of disciples of Mother and Sri Aurobindo, living in India and abroad, who regard and support the Ashram as their spiritual home and the sacred abode of their Masters.
    Ultimately, much will depend on the collective consciousness, and each one of us has to do his part in being open and receptive to the evolving Truth.

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  2. An alternative scheme to run the administration of the Ashram is a welcome step.The proposed structure is based on defined democratic principles which ensures participation of a "Divine Community" which is in the Ashram as well as outside.People often asked about such arrangements to be adopted in case current trustees step down . We should remember that our aim is not to develop a system of governance to run an institution but to prepare grounds for the growth of Divine Life according to the principles of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo.Let us hope everything happens according to the Divine Planning in which we are the instruments.

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