Within two weeks I’ll visit for the first time India. I’ve travelled many places but didn’t find the opportunity yet to go there. That has changed with the invitation to attend the 100th (!) birthday of Dadi Janki who is chairing the Brahma Kumaris. She is the last living founding member of this ‘World Spiritual University’ and under her leadership there are now BK centers in more than 100 countries. I was deeply touched when I attended earlier this year the Call of the Time Dialogue in Oxford. So this is a wonderful opportunity to deepen my experience with them.
When I talked with one of the CEO’s that co-hosted the meeting in Oxford, he shared with me: ‘This community is so special since there is no money involved, they have a deeply felt purpose and they have grown exponentially in size the past 40 years. What is the secret that we can learn from them in our business environment?’ For the moment I don’t have the answer yet. It has to do with their deeply felt purpose that convenes people from all over the world, with the love that you’re feeling when you talk with the sisters (and brothers) of the community and with their dedication to serve the world.
The past years I’ve been working in Sri Lanka with Sarvodaya, founded by dr. Ariyaratne and now led by his son Vinya. They are another example of wonderful community builders. They raised out of poverty thousands of villages. Their ‘trick’ is to organize Shramadana’s: poor villages are asked to form a council of diverse members (children, women, elderly). This council needs to decide what help they need to improve their well being. It can be water supply, a new road infrastructure, a school, they decide. Then Sarvodaya organizes a Shramadana camp: they bring together volunteers to support the villagers. There are examples of building a road with thousands of volunteers in a weekend! The volunteers receive the gratefulness of the villagers and that enlightens them. Through this experience, the volunteers long to do even more work for free, while at the same time the villagers are supported in their needs. They are building a community that matters to the members and to the world. I feel the love for myself while going there. Dr. Ari feels offended if I am asking if I can stay again at his house while working there: ‘Hein, you’re part of the family, you shouldn’t ask that! You have your own room in our house.’
So a few characteristics of these communities are: serving others, inclusion of all and love. This is not how the business world, -or hardly any organization- works in the West. To me though, it’s our way forward. Last week I was asked to host and facilitate a meeting to improve the situation of one of the Dutch provinces that socially (unemployment, health, safety) underperforms in the Netherlands. We were with 60 Academics, Ceo’s, Healthcare professionals, Mayors, and Citizens. During the check-out one of the citizens shared: ‘I didn’t feel at ease when I came here. With all these clever people around me, what do I have to contribute? But it changed within a few hours and I felt that my input was as valuable as any others. Thank you for that.’
I felt deeply touched as we all did. We’re building a new vital community together.