Dear reader

Why do I write about pitfalls of spirituality?

My purpose with this blog is to crystallize and share my thoughts and experiences, in the hope that you and I may benefit from them. From 1993-2005 I practiced a so-called spiritual method (Sahaj Marg). Ultimately I realized that this method - and especially the organization around it (Shri Ram Chandra Mission or SRCM)- was contrary to some deep spiritual layer in myself. I came to some clear conclusions, and also to some still developing insights.

One still developing insight is that almost everybody is looking for some form of spirituality in their life. Therefore there are many spiritual methods and movements, often with similar pitfalls to the ones I experienced.

Many people follow a well-trodden path which is defined by the group in their immediate vicinity. Others are prompted by their heart and/or head to look for spirituality that makes sense on a personal level. Spirituality gives fulfillment -humanity as one, universal love growing, one with the buddha- as well as direction through life's tough questions.

I write about the pitfalls of spirituality because so many others seem to write mostly about the bliss of their own approach to spirituality. This bliss to me actually seems a pitfall.

Understanding the pitfalls I deem essential to gain more spiritual insight. For me this actually translates into a lighter and more loving heart. I do not believe that understanding is the key issue in spirituality. But I do believe that misunderstanding can block key issues (although to which degree probably varies with each person).

Please bear with my frequent use of I feel, seems to me, in my not so humble opinion and so on. It is to emphasize that I do not consider any of my opinions to be more than that. I cannot bring you universal truth. In my not so humble opinion [imnsho] universal truth is a major pitfall in spirituality.

Dear reader, I hope you find something worthwhile on these pages. Friendly reactions, which may be as critical as you like, are always welcome.

Tips how to read this blog

* Please start with the closing remarks (click on the link), they should provide a balanced perspective on this blog.

* There is a list of 20 pitfalls in the sidebar. Clicking on a pitfall will provide a number of posts in which that pitfall is discussed to some extent.

* If you have time, consider starting with the oldest post, and simply going through to each next post. This probably gives the most faithful ;-) reading...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Money, selfperpetuation, accountability

Let's continue from the previous post, and please keep in mind that I'm not a financial expert. Therefore my account is no doubt oversimplified. But I believe it to be essentially to the point. Any expert refinement and also criticism would be most welcome, please leave your comment.

Given the 5 attainable Goals mentioned in the previous post, acquiring money comes into a different perspective for the efficient Manager of the Spiritual Movement. Serious Money brings 3 of the 5 Goals much closer. (growth of recognizance, growth of influence, a solid Fund for the Movement).

Therefore, Money is transformed from being a simple means to being a complex end in itself.

Money started out as a simple means: some things have to be paid for. In the field of spirituality there are actually very little material necessities, so there is in fact very little real spiritual need for money. A small budget goes a long long way if one sticks to the spiritual essence.

But this cannot remain so if one wishes to `secure the Future of the Movement and its Pyramid'. This wish for self-perpetuation brings with it the 5 Goals. And for this Serious Money is necessary. This Serious Money will buy influence, land, places of practice/worship, books and other missionary activities, juridic securities such as trademarking the Movement's name, good lawyers, professional services in every necessary field. It will provide recognizance from governments, banks, local authorities, and any other entity which comes along.

To be really sure of Money, not only now but also in the future, many if not most organizations (such as NGO charities for instance) look to establish a Trust Fund, which invests the available money to yield an optimal interest. Ideally, this interest should at any time suffice to pay for the then-current needs of the Movement.

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Assuming that one cannot safely expect such yield to be higher than say 5% per year, this means that the Trust Fund has to be 20 times larger than what the Movement needs in a given year. And if the Movement grows, then to maintain the 5 Goals its financial needs also grow, and so its Trust Fund must grow accordingly.

This is -I think- a very real explanation for the many money schemes that one sees around Spiritual Movements (and to be honest, many other `charitable organizations' as well).

Because people are asked to donate for building churches / meditation halls / hospitals / natural disaster relief / publishing books /... where in fact, most of the money goes into the Trust Fund. They are sold books, audiovisual materials, you name it, all under the cry: we need money to help the needy and stricken...where in fact it is the Trust Fund which needs to grow.

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But the very aim of `securing the future of the Movement' to me seems very unspiritual. It shows a rather profound lack of faith in God, if I may be so bold to point this out. God surely doesn't care under what name or form humanity grows spiritually, I would say. A spiritual movement which cannot obtain directly what little it really needs, doesn't seem worthy of a Trust Fund at all. Self-perpetuation of the Movement is contrary to the natural change of things. Change is the only aspect of Nature we can really be sure of. Change to me is a spiritual value.

Not to mention that hoarding money in a Trust Fund has several very unspiritual drawbacks. Firstly: this money is not available to give the direct help which is really necessary NOW in many parts of the world.

Secondly, the investment of the money in the Trust Fund is often left to financial professionals whose expertise is in the increase of money. NOT in whether this increase of money was brought about in an ethical let alone spiritual way.

Just last year, a documentary in the Netherlands revealed that many charitable NGO's had invested large sums of money in the weapon industry, and other enterprises which were often diametrically opposed to what the charities collected money for.

Thirdly, the managing of large amounts of money unfailingly brings with it the pitfalls of greed, mismanagement, cover ups etc. Please read this article in the National Catholic Reporter as an illustration of what I mean.

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How to avoid all these complex pitfalls? Strangely, the answer is simple [imnsho]: transparency & accountability.

Transparency of goals and means and organization. This means that we tell everyone, in a simple and clear way, what we really aim for. And how we intend to achieve this materially and organizationally.

Public accountability of assets and liabilities, and all material transactions. This means that we tell everyone, in a simple and clear way, how much money and property we really have. And also what we have done with it, and why.

Could I suggest the following to you?

Please do not donate any longer to any charitable organization which does not offer transparency and complete public accountability. By donating to such an organization, you are hampering more than you are helping, is my strong conviction. Any organization which has nothing to hide will freely and unasked provide you with transparency and accountability, because it's not rocket science. So, in the extremely large majority of cases, if an organization doesn't freely give t&a, then it really has something to hide. And your money, which can give real help, should go elsewhere.

Thank you.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Frank,

Fully agreed! Keep the good work up.
Thanks for your efforts, really appreciate them.

Theo

frank waaldijk said...

thanx theo. coming from you on this subject, that feels as a real compliment.

so far, i think a lot of ground has been covered in the posts till now. for what still remains, i will try to move on from `money' to some of the other pitfalls of the preliminary list.

when enough has been said, i plan to stop posting. but it feels good to put experience and analysis of that experience in writing, where it may benefit others.

Anonymous said...

Frank,

Thanks!

Once you feel you've explained the pitfalls enough, perhaps it is time to move on to "Pour que vive la Spiritualité". Elodie opened a blog a while ago in an attempt to give the discussions a positive swing.

I can tell you, that will be a real challenge! Looking forward to reading your thoughts there...

Kindly,

Theo

frank waaldijk said...

ok theo, i did submit a comment to elodies new blog. but my french is not so good...why don't you add some comment of yours there too?

best,

frank