Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Limit the tenure of Trustees to a fixed number of years

From bijan ghosh to … "Tusar N. Mohapatra" tusarnmohapatra@gmail.comdate 3 August 2010 14:34 subject Fwd: Reply to Manoj Das from Sraddhalu Ranade  --- Forwarded message --- From: Sraddhalu Ranade Date: Thu, Jul 29, 2010 at 2:24 PM Subject: Reply to Manoj Das from Sraddhalu Ranade To: Manoj Das  Reply attached as PDF file.
The Mother did not lay down any procedures for selection of subsequent Trustees other than the first Trustee to replace her. In any case the question is not of procedures but of values and interests. I care a whit what procedure is followed as long as the selection of Trustees is by the highest standards of conduct and wisdom. But this has not been the case at all. Every Trustee selected after the Mother has been chosen purely on grounds of personal loyalty, obedience and servitude to entrenched interests. We are already in the third generation of Trustees after the Mother – the servile of the servile to vested interests. Is it any wonder that the entire Trust Board withdrew the unanimous decision of its conscience on command from MDG! If you see nothing wrong in this, then you are only pretending to be short-sighted. […]

We need not wait for the “golden age” to be operationally free of the rule of dictators, vested interests or the merely incompetent. The Mother chose Trustees around her not for their administrative skills – that she left to the department heads; She chose them for their wideness of vision and openness of mind and heart. In the declining steps of interested appointments, each subsequent Trustee has been chosen for smallness and narrow subservience bringing us to the present sorry pass. This can still be reversed. Human problems will remain, but the vested interests and blatant favouritisms can easily be avoided even now, without needing to wait for the golden age. And I can assure you that the golden age will be greatly delayed as long as the repressive rule of vested interests continues to suffocate the life of the Ashram community.
Instead of justifying the rule of autocrats, you should more usefully direct your energies in helping our present Trustees to broaden their minds and hearts and open to a higher intuitive vision. Otherwise, it is better to limit the tenure of Trustees to a fixed number of years so that absolute power does not corrupt absolutely, and vested interests do not entrench themselves to the detriment of the Ashram. […]

In fact Pranab-da had wanted to take over the Archives by force in 1989 and throw out PH right then. Had he done it, none of this or the numerous Savitri-related court cases would have happened. In retrospect he showed more foresight than the Trustees then.
If the Trustees are ordinary “mortals like us” (as you have said) who get selected for personal
loyalties, how do they mysteriously gain greater wisdom after their appointment? Did you find yourself infused with new wisdom when you were made a Trustee? Did you lose that wisdom when you resigned? In what way have MDG or other Trustees become more wise than others merely from sitting on their chairs? On the contrary, absolute power is heady, and very likely they have lost the little wisdom they might have had from the unavoidable exaggeration of their egos. A long tenure in absolute power has an intoxicating effect. I have seen one of our
Trustees take technical engineering decisions when he was not capable of a simple sum. Another recently declared, “Ashramites should be grateful to us because we give them food”. A dose of normal life as an Ashramite without political privileges will surely do them good.
As a rule, the collective wisdom of a community is superior to the wisdom of an entrenched oligarchy because entrenched interests fear competence and so push out capable people from the centre of community life. The only exception is when the oligarchy is selected for wisdom and not for personal loyalty or other interests. Therefore our present Trustees must learn to be humble before the community and seek guidance constantly from its best minds and most
compassionate hearts. To claim superior or sufficient wisdom amounts to hypocrisy, self deception and betrayal of their responsibility to the Ashram community. […]

The Trustees’ actions are intentional, led by their emotions, thoughts and as in this case their vested interests. Their actions have no relation to Providence. And if the right thing is for Ashramites “to leave it to Providence”, should not the Trustees do the same? Why not then simply discard the institution of the Trustees playing the role of administrators – Mother never structured it this way in any case. As She formulated it in the Ashram Trust Deed, the role of the Trustees is merely to complete the statutory legal requirements for holding the properties and finances of the Ashram community. They were never meant to rule over others. If at all there is a hierarchy of authority and responsibilities, it is thus:
1. First and foremost are Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, above all else. There is no Ashram without Them and all are individually and collectively answerable to Them alone. If someone cannot accept Their authority, he should not be in Their Ashram.
2. Second are the Ashram community members – all equally children of the Mother; none superior, none inferior; all serving and working for Them alone. (The day you can meet Abala as your sister and respect her for her commitment to Sri Aurobindo, you will be closer to the Mother and to the Truth of what the Ashram represents.)
3. Third are the coordinators of activities, the so-called “heads” of services and “departments”. They were chosen by the Mother not for their amenability to the Trust Board, but because of their competence and commitment to the work. Their working is decentralised, and attuned to the specific needs of their domain of responsibilities. Sri Aurobindo once corrected an official notice striking out the word “department” and replacing it with “service”. If we recognise the profound import of this word, we will be able to act more closely to what He intended.
4. Fourth comes the Trust Board as a legal entity. The Board does not rule over the Ashram or its inmates, and has no spiritual authority. Its only task is to hold the Trust properties in service of the objects of the Trust as decreed in the Trust Deed formed by the Mother. The Board must interface with the Government for statutory requirements and functions only. The actions of the Board should not depend on the personalities or vested interests of its Board members.
5. Last come the Trustees, “mere mortals” as any, whose only responsibility is to serve Sri Aurobindo and the Mother by serving Their children, the inmates of the Ashram community. They do not represent Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. They should not rule over the Ashram or its inmates. Ideally, sadhaks of wide minds and open hearts, they should serve the interests of the Ashram community as a whole. If they do not have the requisite wideness, humility and spirit of service, they are unfit for this function.
As long as the Trustees appointed by the Mother were alive, this was largely the working of the Ashram Trust and the Ashram community-life. […]

As the original departmental heads that the Mother had chosen passed on, our narrow-minded rulers appointed their stooges and minions, deliberately sidelining the more competent and committed. But mediocrity breeds further mediocrity because it fears the more capable. The end result today is a widespread mediocrity in the administration of departments/services, and a complete loss of autonomy and freedom in their working. Today nothing moves without sanction from the one man who has placed himself at the centre of the entire Ashram’s working, in place of the Mother. The Mother herself, although holding absolute power, was never as autocratic: she empowered people, encouraged personal initiative, and cared for each one’s feelings. Even Sri Aurobindo went out of his way to try and keep the sadhaks happy as is evidenced from Nirodbaran’s correspondence with him.
Today favouritism and nepotism are rampant, and few appointed heads are respected for their competence. We have already crossed the threshold of the danger zone. The warning signs are most obvious when we consider that practically all the commercial units which were vibrant and creative centres barely twenty years ago are either shut down or in the doldrums. The rapidly declining condition of the Ashram school is painful to see, more so because it was once at the forefront of innovative education, and its decline was entirely preventable because it was foreseen by many who warned of it but who were sidelined and silenced. […]

Even as the inmates enjoy “a range of freedom”, the Trustees have been granted absolute freedom with absolute power and zero accountability, by the inmates. If the Trustees tamper too much with the limited range of the inmates’ freedom, you can be sure that eventually the inmates will withdraw the absolute freedom and power that they grant to the Trustees.
You have mentioned earlier that “the trustees are not elected by a body of voters”. This in itself is a great privilege that the Ashram community bestows upon them, and which the Trustees must strive to be worthy of, but which they have over time increasingly abused. In all other “normal” institutions that you refer to, the selection of a powerful post involves detailed background checks, years of vetting for competence and intentions, long-term training and tests, and their exercise of power includes continuing checks and balances to prevent abuse of power. […]

If at all the Trustees are to have a special position of authority in the Ashram, then surely being a spiritual institution first and foremost, their selection should be primarily by standards of spiritual development. In other words, only a more spiritually developed person should be selected to the Trust Board. Do our present Trustees even remotely fit this standard? Have any of their actions expressed a higher spiritual truth, insight or inspiration?
In the absence of a “certified” spiritual person, nobody can claim spiritual judgment, neither the Trustees nor others. But it is important that the community sets for itself some standards, whatever they be, and ensures that our Trustees and heads of services meet those criteria, along with suitable checks and balances. We have already lost too much from the entrenchment of vested interests. […]

The freedom we enjoy is not a gift of the Trustees. This framework of freedom was created by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother from the very beginning for the practice of the Integral Yoga. The Trustees have enjoyed it just as much, nay, much more than the common Ashramite. But in the last 20 years, this gift of freedom has been increasingly abused by the Trustees as regards themselves, even as it has been curtailed by them with regard to others. Sraddhalu 28.7.2010

No comments:

Post a Comment