Growth of SRF Centers
Notes of the SRF Center Representatives’ Conference — 2008
The meeting commenced with a prayer, chant and meditation. The monks took turns to talk. One of the first remarks was that spiritual gatherings are dear to Paramahansa Yogananda.
How can we sustain real growth in our centers?
Communion with God by concentration and meditation.
Materialism in Western societies such as ours offers a greater hindrance to the search of spirituality than in India which has a long history of this most noble practise. Hence growth is a greater challenge in the West than in India.
The monks are in admiration of the maintained persistent dedication of those who attend centres & groups. They also state that persistent attendance of groups is very important for an individual’s spiritual growth. 80% of success is showing up! Feelings come and go – so it is important to make the effort to keep showing up no matter what. Develop a personal relationship with Paramahansa Yogananda and with Divine Mother.
Bramachari August said growing numbers and donations are ok; however, a pleasant inner spiritual growth is what really attracts new devotees to our centre. They want to feel Paramahansa Yogananda’s and God’s presence. In other words a pleasant experience at our centre is most important!
This experience can be qualified as:
a) Love, peace, dedication, kindness - this is God in action.
b) Good service by devotees to newcomers, answering questions, being friendly and helping in anyway possible.
c) The creation of lovely ambience i.e. pleasant vibrations.
Comment that Paramahansa Yogananda’s devotees are a select group and very disciplined.
“What is the vibration in my group?”
You need a good vibration to attract new comers, especially important for those who serve to act calmly etc. because they are being carefully watched by the seekers. People are alert and sensitive. They watch how you interact with each other. Groups grow with our inner growth. It has a special sweetness. Sincere devotees will be the factor to stimulate growth.
"It’s not the outer appearance of the temple that has the greater appeal to attract newcomers. It’s the inner love, devotion, peace etc. cultivated via meditation which is the attracting force".
— Sri Daya Mata
Solid core devotees are not swayed by 'bad' service readers, they attend the centre anyway! This is because they have the good attitude of wanting to commune with God no matter what! However that is not to say that we shouldn’t endeavour to make improvements to service reading. If we are being critical of readers perhaps we need to look at our own attitude & our own focus, perhaps we really need to look at our own real desire for God!
How hungry and enthusiastic are we?
Enthusiasm for God seeking becomes really contagious. You don’t have to preach SRF and you don’t need to have a certain personality type to “push” SRF benefits. It is by example and the practise of the techniques that have the most effect on others. In respect to service it is good to try to figure out a way to do yourself out of a job, that way you can meditate more yourself (after relinquishing a position to your replacement). If you have flexibility in the way you serve then you will encourage others to volunteer!
Paramahansa Yogananda says: “Keep it clean, keep it holy!” (This is in reference to our chapel)
To attract newcomers it helps to create a nice vibration by creating a spiritual sanctuary. Be natural, be warm, be relaxed, be flexible, be hospitable and there should be absence of personal conflicts for harmony is important. Important to have a balance between meditation and kindness to others. Don’t lose sight of the human side. Stay friends first. Train and mentor new people to serve. Make your own life simple.
Listening to Each Other
SRF group found that there was resistance to change!
Center Department advised that no matter what, they should remain friendly!
Subsequently a meeting of volunteers was organised to ask for ideas and suggestions to simplify things in order to allow more time for meditation. The Managing Council emphasised that at this stage this was a meeting for ideas only and that people were encouraged to express their thoughts etc.
The biggest change that occurred was that people were prepared to listen to each other and remain friends! The open discussion was done with respect in an atmosphere of no one is right and no one is wrong.
Big changes started to occur within the group and they started to experience “real” growth. People became much more co-operative.
1. Maintain contact with Center Department for guidance.
2. Asking for Congregation’s agreement for change was very important.
3. Talk face to face with devotees who have different views. (Very important)
4. The Managing Council opens up decisions to members, so that the members can be part of the process. Inclusion is critical.
Do we need to be more inclusive in Sydney?
The Managing Council needs to encourage others to participate.
Keep a sense of humour; do not take things too seriously.
Sharing of service responsibilities has improved the atmosphere and consequently the growth of their group.
GOOD idea here! At the end of services the Sunday School kids were invited to come out and show the adults what they had done with their craftwork at Sunday School!
The post Sunday Services were regarded as social and fellowship building time.
An overall theme of communication between all was most important.
Smiling and Hospitality!
Brother Savananda’s talk:
Paramahansa Yogananda said “Don’t play martyr to avoid meditation!” eg. too tired, too late, too early etc. In Norway the monks found a meditation group in a weird location, bit like a ship’s engine room, but it nevertheless had a great vibration!
Make your meditation place like Babaji’s cave!
Samadhi comes when we have an intense craving for God. Be careful; don’t take the “world” into your meditation, because the problems still await you when you exit your meditation! Your meditation is as holy as you want it to be. Learn to let go. Tell Paramahansa Yogananda you do not want to deal with the problems in meditation.
Some self introspection for your centre:
How are you going as a centre?
How are you treating newcomers?
Are you treating each other well?
It’s good to have a group discussion. Get feedback from devotees. Do we have Paramahansa Yogananda’s spirit to the fore?
a) When people come to our centre and don’t stay, that’s ok! Don’t feel that we have to convert people to SRF. Be a divine friend but not too attached if they go.
b) Don’t make unimportant things important!
Council should try to keep life as simple as possible. Your concern is to live by SRF teachings to seek God. Do not worry about other groups.
The most important part of the meditation after the techniques have been completed is to pray as deeply as possible to God! Through random acts of kindness, we serve Paramahansa Yogananda and enforce his Spirit.
In our ashrams the monks try to forget the little self because it impedes our aim to love God.
THE GURU’S FORCE IS NOT ORGANISATION ASPECT OF GOD, BUT THE HEART ASPECT OF GOD!