For each topic, here are some questions to respond to:
Comparative spiritual philosophy
A deeper understanding of AM philosophy can be achieved by comparing its philosophy with other systems of thought and belief. This requires a study of comparative philosophy and religion, which also then enables conversation with people from other perspectives.
Prout philosophy is obviously also a core part of acarya training. The philosophy is very broad, but its like a skeleton, than needs flesh put on it.
This could consist of firstly, gaining a deeper understanding of other socio-economic philosophies which Prout stands in relation to. This requires study of those streams of thought, and an examination of successes and failures.
It could also consist of developing knowledge and skills required for effective social action, local organising, and managing the dynamics of political processes. There are many resources available for study in this area, and such knowledge would greatly increase an acarya’s effectiveness in implementing Prout.
What is it useful in studying this subject, and how much do acaryas need to know about it
This is a special subject Baba created, and it has great value for the world. What is the best way to teach it, and what should be covered
Other than family acaryas, celibacy is one of the central practices of being an acarya. For a few its relatively easy. For a larger number, its difficult at times. Over the course of the lifetime of an acarya, its likely to become challenging at some point to keep on the celibate path.
Given the challenges faced in this arena, and the danger of slipping up, support and self awareness are essential. For this to occur, it has to be a topic that acaryas are comfortable talking about, including being able to honestly talk with each other the places of difficulty. Training centre is an place where this openness to dialogue can be established. What is the connection between spirituality and sexuality
We are not like the catholic church, but what is actually our position
Baba has said very little about the area, leading to much space for intelligent thinking and discussion.
The erotic has also been called life energy, and apart from someone being emotionally dead, the currents of this energy exist in many personal interactions for everyone, celibate or not. Especially where there is warmth and close relationship, the erotic is part of the binding force of holding two people in a connected way. That can range from the playfulness of two long term friends, who greet each other warmly, right through to the other extreme of sexual current and verbal or physical sexual connection. Towards that end, it appears sometimes as flirting, or seduction.
This is not something that anyone can completely ignore, and acaryas, being celibate, need especially to know something about what they do with their erotic energy. Simply suppressing it or ignoring it will not work.
To deal with this energy in a wholesome and choiceful way requires awareness and knowledge of self and the nature of relationship.
So for instance, sometimes dada’s flirt with didi’s. Not intentionally, not with any awareness of sexual overtones, and not necessarily likely to lead to any kind of sexual behaviour. But its important to be aware of just where that energy is between any two people, and to be able to live with in a relaxed and comfortable way – neither making it too big, nor trying to make it too small.
The erotic is about attraction. In that sense you could say, devotion is a spiritual direction of erotic energy. Mundane attraction occurs as well, and it can destabilise marriages, and acarya role stability. What can acaryas do about this in a realistic and aware way.
What conditions arise to make this more difficult to deal with?
Child sexual assault is a crime against humanity. And it occurs. And it has occurred in Ananda Marga, perpetrated by acaryas. So, it's a topic which must be faced.
It has brought world wide shame to the Catholic church, and their policies have been exposed, which essentially allowed the abuse to go on, unchecked. Even today, their policies are still worded in ways which put some of the responsibility on the child.
So acaryas need to understand in depth how, where and why such abuse occurs – both in the world in general, and the marga in particular. They need to know the emotional, organisational, professional and legal dimensions of the subject. They need to know what to do when its uncovered. And they need to know about the way it occurs.
It's a very unpleasant subject to learn about, but ignorance is part of what perpetuates it.
Why on earth would acaryas want to know anything at all about pornography
Those 70% of men and 30% of women who look at porn – surely there’s no margiis amongst them
Porn is a feature of modern internet life. And if margii adults are not looking at it, then their teenage kids probably are.
This is one of those topics that's good to be informed about. ‘Just say no’ is a limited an ineffective response to a range of social issues, of which this is one. How can acaryas give people grounded guidance on this and other related subjects.
Dealing with personal sexual trauma
Around 25% of women and 10% of men have experienced sexual abuse. So its likely that someone becoming an acarya may have been subject to abuse. Without this being addressed fully enough, it can become suppressed or spirituality or celibacy used to try to distance from the pain. It can create distorted filters when dealing with the subject – personally, or in the acarya role.
Around 2% of any population identify as homosexual. This is a controversial subject in AM, as it is anywhere else, and there is certainly no position that everyone agrees on. Acaryas have power in their position, and can and have made life hard for people who identify as homosexual. It's a topic which usually has very positional debate, with little intelligent examination of the actual ideological issues. How can this topic be discussed in a way which leads aspiring acaryas to a deeper understanding.
Goal setting and resistance
Baba’s system of RDS is very valuable. It requires setting goals in the first place. This can be very simple process, but there are also valuable management skills which can be learned to increase the likelihood of success. There is some kind of balance between ‘going with Baba’s flow’, and making things happen.
Goal setting is one aspect of good planning, but understanding resistance is another. Everyone has some degree of resistance to moving ahead or doing certain kind of tasks. At times that resistance can become large enough to sabotage success. Understanding one’s own style of personal resistance is important in order to be able to work with it, and not let it get in the way of important work. This awareness requires self reflection, feedback, and strategies to preempt problems.
As Baba said ‘time is the naughtiest factor’. Acaryas have a very full life, and a never ending list of things to do. How can they manage their time most efficiently. This is an important skill, and can make a difference to productivity and stress levels.
The acarya life is often varied, and involves movement and travel. Acaryas meet many people over time, each a potential margii or supporter. Its easy to lose track of this stream of people. A system of recording and tracking contacts is a valuable base underpinning the people-oriented work of being an acarya.
Many acaryas travel extensively. This is a complex process and its easy for things to go wrong. It can also be wearing. What are the elements of success in managing a travelling life.
Managing personal finances
In some places acarya upkeep is sustained though supportive margiis or established projects which provide a kind of ‘wage’. But this kind of dependable support is often not the case. Acaryas find ways to sustain themselves in a range of ways. At times this work can absorb a large amount of acarya time, leaving little left over for actual AM service work.
Often acaryas have just depended on Baba for something to show up to help them. And often Baba has responded, ensuring that there is always some kind of support.
But in recent times, acaryas have often found themselves in something like a job, working for their maintenance or the maintenance of the jagrti. These kind of financial pressures can be very stressful, and demoralising.
How can acarya training prepare people for managing this dimension
What kind of topics need to be discussed, what kind of knowledge and skills need to be developed.
Balancing education, work, leisure & spirituality
Acarya work can be 24/7, and often acaryas work in a highly dedicated way for many years. But if there’s is a not a personal prama, the result can be burnout – emotionally or physically. It's a phenomenon that as they age acaryas often get many illnesses as a result of unbalanced lifestyles.
How can a potentially workaholic lifestyle be brought into harmony with the different needs we have.
Rest and leisure are needed by everyone. What is a reasonable amount of this in an acarya life.
Are some leisure pursuits better than others.
Do acaryas need ‘holidays’.
The contemporary understanding of education is that it can be ‘lifelong’ rather than something that just occurs in one part of one’s life. What are the ways that acaryas can chart such a direction; what kind of study is appropriate, useful, relevant. How much time should be spent in further study.
How much study is essential for work in various professional areas, such as education
It is relevant to pursue educational qualifications.
How much is a reasonable amount of money to spend on further education.
In a service organisation, in a life dedicated to service, when and how do acaryas draw limits on their availability, hours or capacity to give or be with others
Spirituality is at the core of an acarya’s life. What is a reasonable balance between spiritual practices and productive work.
What is spiritually nourishing, and how can that be achieved amongst the busyness and demands of acarya external commitments.
In the bigger picture, how can education, service work, and leisure be balanced together.
Ananda Marga promotes a basically healthy lifestyle. Yet acaryas can and do get sick. How to maintain ones’ health for long term service potentiality.
What are the pitfalls that acaryas fall into, and what an be done about them.
Necessary knowledge includes nutrition and eating a balanced diet. Physical fitness is not something acaryas always address above and beyond asanas.
Health is not just physical, but also emotional. How to recognise the signs of poor emotional health, and what to do about them.
What happens when acaryas get unfit and overweight? This is not a good example of yoga. What is needed to deal with this?
What is involved in keeping emotionally healthy?
In order to assist others to be healthy, acaryas need to set an example. This involves both attention to self, and the development of knowledge around health. This includes some knowledge of different diseases, some training in how asanas and other aspects of Baba’s health system can be applied.
Mental health is also an important area to understand, and some basic understanding of mental illness is essential to be able to work with others, and to ensure acaryas are setting an example.
♣ Expressive skills
♣ Listening skills
♣ Dealing with shame
♣ Dealing with different types of conflict
♣ Negotiation skills
♣ Mediation skills
Most acaryas will be approached at some time or other by margiis or people from the general public, who want help and guidance with emotional and family problems.
To know how to even talk productively about these issues requires some basic skills, which go beyond basic listening.
This also applies to dealing with various types of emergency situations.
Its important that acaryas learn at least the core skills involved in counselling, as these will always be useful in a variety of situations, including being a supervisory worker.
A portion of most acarya’s roles requires these basic skills. Being able to give basic counselling can help people. Doing it badly can hurt people. Some people have these skills naturally. Others don't. These need to be included in a basic acarya curriculum. But what is best way to learn them, and how much skill and knowledge should be required
Better quality counselling requires personal awareness, interpersonal skill, and an ability to enter into dialogue. This requires some training, and a willingness to develop emotional intelligence (another section).
Dealing with group dynamics
An additional set of skills is required when dealing with the complex dynamics of groups. This involves the ability to think in complex terms, to know when and how to intervene, and to understand the nature of group dynamics.
Understanding professional limits
One difficulty with being in the role of acarya is that people will come wanting help with often quite serious problems, which are beyond the scope of basic counselling. Its essential to have an understanding of where the limits are to being able to help someone, and how to refer them on.
Preventing, and working with, Religious Wounding
Religious wounding occurs when people experience trauma in a religious context, generally through the misuse of power, but also through a variety of other circumstances including hypocrisy, discrimination and exclusion.
Ananda Marga is not a religion (unless you believe Mr Dawson), and yet people can and do experience this type of wounding, especially from acaryas because of their position of power.
Its clearly something that is against Ahimsa, and that acaryas would theoretically want to avoid. To practically do so requires self awareness, willingness to accept feedback, and knowledge about how such wounding comes about.
Utilitarian versus existential value
Baba clearly states that we should value people for who they are, not what they can do. Yet the operation of an organisation involves getting work done, targets achieved, and this requires the utilisation of people as a means.
This becomes problematic when it either triggers someone’s innate sense of low self esteem, or where it is overused, and there is a lack of emphasis on personal value.
Acaryas need to know where this occurs, and how to avoid it, while at the same time being dedicated to achieving their service outcomes.
In team terms this is know as task and maintenance functions, and the two need to be balanced. This is a skill that is important to acquire.
Emotions can be seen as unruly, and something to be either transcended or directed devotionally. But we are complex beings, and the seemingly irrational nature of emotions cannot be easily ignored or dismissed without problems occurring.
Understanding the role of emotions in the life of a spiritualist, and being able to recognise and articulate them is an important skill for an acarya.
If a simplistic approach is adopted, it can lead to a lack of balance, and this can only be maintained for so long before problems occur.
Understanding the influence of family context and the development of personal style
Part of understanding oneself is understanding how one has been shaped by the family and culture we grew up in. This helps us understand our bias, our filters, and how our way of looking at the world was formed.
Such knowledge can help greatly in understanding more deeply our strengths and limitations, what can be understood as Personal Style. This can lead to insight about how we go about things in the world, and the resultant effect.
For acaryas to have this kind of knowledge makes a big difference in how they work, how they relate to margiis, and how much good or harm they can do.
Authenticity and responsibility
The principle of Satya is highly relevant when it comes to interpersonal relations. The more an acarya is able to know themselves, and be honest about who they are, the more likely they are to be effective, and inspire others.
This kind of Satya practice, or authenticity is not easy, and needs training and skill to do to any significant depth.
Its also related to responsibility – one of the Shiilas, and clearly an essential element of successful acarya life. The more self awareness someone has, the more able they are to be honest with others and take full responsibility on a personal, interpersonal and professional level for choices they make.
There are some very useful philosophical traditions which talk about this – for instance existentialism. Knowledge of the concepts, and an ability to apply them can deepen the work acaryas do.
Penetrating exploration of what it means to live ethically
We have Yama and Niyama, and the centrality of that is embedded in the Supreme Command. Yet to really live those ethical principles in a way which honours our spirituality, our relationships with others, and professional behaviour, requires a great deal of self reflection, receptivity to feedback, and a willingness to really be challenged.
For acaryas to be able to integrate this kind of awareness and behaviour on a deep level, a thorough understanding of professional ethics is essential. Because acaryas play so many roles, it becomes particularly important to be able to recognise conflict of interests, and all the places where the acarya is a one-up power position.
In order for acaryas to come up to, and surpass the current level of expectation in the professional world, they will need to receive a thorough induction into the real of applied ethics.
I am happy to chat with anyone about how this could happen. I don't have a particular position or direct power in Ananda Marga (or any sub or splinter groups)' my role is to provoke discussion, introduce ideas, and be part of the change I want to see. If you want to contact me about this, email: email@example.com