My experience in working at SRF was largely involved in interactions with the women, since it was they who were in charge simply because, during Master’s early years in America, men were slower to come to the spiritual path.
“In the beginning,” Master used to say, “the men who came here as monks couldn’t understand why they shouldn’t go dancing on Saturday nights!”
The women leaders were not against me, personally, but they were against change. They were against expansion. They were against anything that brought Master’s work outwardly into the world. And I came gradually to represent in their minds that force within SRF which bucked this established, inward-shrinking tendency. To them I represented change, expansion, unnecessary development. And to them also, my eagerness to spread the work beyond its present narrow boundaries looked like outright treachery.
Even projects that Master himself had initiated were abandoned with the excuse of “the growing pressures of the work” (which in reality was not growing at all).
His restaurants in Encinitas and in Hollywood were closed; his hotel in Encinitas was closed. Gradually an attitude seeped into the organization that no one, except for those who worked at headquarters, had any right or competence to serve Master’s work at all, except passively. Daya Mata favored people who gave her their support. She also tended to consider those who weren’t “yes men” to be disloyal.
One time, after I myself had been placed on the Board of Directors and made the first vice president, she said to me, “We must centralize everything.”
I replied, “Isn’t there much to be learned also from people in the field? Centralization alone, surely, isn’t workable. I think we should balance centralization with a little judicious delegation of power.”
Daya’s answer was brusque: “The Board feels differently. Don’t you think you ought to go along with the Board?”
I was myself on the Board, of course. But then, I was a man—the only male member. My opinion would always count for less. As Daya once said to me, “Let’s face it, women are more spiritual than men.”
a) I was also the only male member of a committee of fifteen responsible for guiding the work in its day-to-day aspects. To my mind, the discussions at these meetings seemed endless, and mostly non-productive.
One year we gathered several times to organize the approaching annual summer convocation. The discussions dragged on interminably. When it came time to organize the final event—an open house at the SRF Lake Shrine—I thought, “Here, at least, is an opportunity for me to take direct action.”
“We have a little group of helpers at our Hollywood church,” I announced. “Will you let me give them this job?”
My proposal was accepted with sighs of relief.
The following Sunday at church I announced, “Would anyone like to help organize the upcoming event at our Lake Shrine? Those who would so like please remain behind after the service.” About twenty people remained after the rest of the congregation had departed. I then asked for volunteers in helping to prepare a buffet luncheon. A few raised their hands. We discussed what dishes to serve. I then asked for volunteers to set up the necessary tables; for someone else to see to it that chairs were rented for the occasion; and, finally, for a show of hands of those willing to move chairs about, as the situation required.
Halfway through the week, I telephoned everybody to make sure everything was being done.
The big day arrived. Tables were set up; steaming food was placed on them. Smiling ladies stood behind them, ready to serve. The rental company had been phoned, and the needed chairs arrived; these were placed in convenient spots for people to sit on comfortably. When the time came for lectures to begin, I asked the male volunteers to carry chairs over to the lecture area. This simple task was carried out promptly. The whole event went like clockwork.
Later, Sister Shraddha, a member of the committee and also a Board member, complimented me on how smoothly everything had gone.
“And do you know,” I replied, “it required almost no work!” (My remark was a slight dig at the endless discussions at our committee meetings.)
“No work for you, maybe, but plenty of work for those who organized it!”
“In fact,” I replied, “I organized the entire event myself.”
She scorned my answer, which I could see, to her, only demonstrated my colossal egotism.
b) Most of my efforts to serve Master were vetoed by the women. It may seem almost comical, now, to consider so much of what I knew to be good work scorned, set aside, then cast (figuratively) into the dustbin. I prefer, after all these years, to see the humor of the situation, but I cannot help wondering whether things in future will ever improve.