When Sri Yukteswar asked Master why he was averse to organizational work, Master’s conviction at the time was that organizations are hornets’ nests—“a thankless task,” he wrote in his Autobiography of a Yogi. Many years later, however, when asked whether it was all worth it—meaning the tests and heartaches that came with establishing an organization in the West—Master gave a resounding, “…yes, a thousand times yes!”
Most of us, I’m sure, understand exactly what Master meant when he called organizations “hornets’ nests.” Reflecting on my own work and volunteer experiences, I can think of many projects that failed, conflicts that couldn’t be resolved, and colleagues I didn’t understand. But I can also recall those extraordinary times when it was like lightning in a bottle: Teams that worked in harmony, outcomes that surpassed all expectations, and people who became lifelong friends.
So what makes the difference between an organization that brings out the best in people and one that doesn’t? After taking on a leadership role in my work, this became a burning question for me—so much so that after a few challenging years, I went back to school to find the answer. During my doctoral studies in positive organizational psychology, or the study of what helps people flourish in organizations, I discovered that science agreed with Master’s assertion that human beings are complex, and that no miracle solution existed. However, one thing stood out as having the most impact on whether people thrive: the culture of an organization.
How We Serve Together
At Yogananda Seva (YSO), we have the extraordinary opportunity to build on the foundations of Self-Realization Fellowship and consciously create the culture of a new lay disciple virtual community shaped by our Guru’s values. Using these values as a guide and by including the voices of YSO leadership, employees, and volunteers in answering the question, “How do we want to serve together?”, we can together shape how we see and value one another, and how we address challenges and communicate—both in the organization as a whole and in each of our project teams. When done with intention, this process has the potential to deepen our sadhana and provide us with the opportunity to put into action our Guru’s words:
When in service you forget the little self, you will feel the big Self of Spirit.
Where do we start?
Yogananda Seva’s leadership has developed a set of principles that form the heart of YSO culture: Guru Seva, Right Attitude, Attunement, Joy in Fellowship, and Noble New. The next critical step is to include everyone’s voice in how we put these values into action.
For example, at a recent Yogananda Seva project leader meeting, small groups were assigned one of the principles with the task to brainstorm a list of what they might do to “live” that principle. Here are some of their beautiful ideas:
Guru-Seva: Service to the Guru, to SRF which is the vehicle and embodiment of his teachings, and to the global family of lay members.
- Be open to new responsibilities
- See new opportunities as being sent from Master
Right Attitude: Accepting everything that comes to us as the next step in our spiritual unfoldment.
- Be genuine, flexible, kind, accepting, have a sense of humor, be humble, and understand your motivation
- Practice your sadhana and go deep into meditation to keep in alignment with Guru’s principles
Attunement: Living and serving with the continual prayer: “Thou art the Doer, not I; Thy will be done, not mine.”
- Stop and think that everything we do is for Master
- Take Master with you in every part of the day and keep him in your heart
Joy in Fellowship: Striving to be joyous and happy as we engage with fellow devotees.
- Have an open mind toward ideas, even if we have a strong opinion
- Be patient with each other — everyone is looking for that Joy
Noble New: Infusing our thoughts and activities with the spirit of Divine intelligence and intuitive creativity.
- Try a brainstorming tool: Say “Yes, and…” to each other’s ideas, accepting and building on other’s thoughts
Other teams are putting these values into action by reading a set of culture statements at the beginning of a meeting, and/or asking members to consider, “What quality do you want to exemplify now?” and then checking in with each other during the meeting.
The Yogananda Seva Onboarding and Culture team invites you to participate as part of the wider YSO family to put these values into action.
It’s an awesome privilege to have a humble hand in helping to shape Master’s new lay disciple initiative that supports SRF. May we all do our best to align our reason, will, and activity to the right thing we should do.