Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sahaj Marg(tm), Its Ashrams and Other Real Estate Investments

Translation from an article by Alexis: "Le Sahaj Marg, Ses Ashrams et Ses Autres Biens Immobiliers", on Élodie's blog: Pour Que Vive Le Sahaj Marg.

Feb. 23, 2014 

Sahaj Marg Its Ashrams and Other Real Estate Investments

Alexis has published two articles, gathered here (as one article), on the ashrams of the (SRCM (California-1997), or Chari's faction of the ...)  Mission:

Ashrams and Sahaj Marg Centers Worldwide

Condition of the Property Sites of the Mission (Updated February 16, 2014)

In 2012, SRCM was said to be present in more than 95 countries with 220 ashrams and over a thousand meditation centers.

The comprehensive census conducted in India by the Mission at the end of 2013 lists 2,500 centers, but fewer than 1,300 are open for group meditation on Sunday and 250 of them receive less than 10 people.

The figure of a thousand real Indian centers seems most likely.  Nearly 800 of them have less than 50 meditators, a hundred between 50 and 100, 65 between 100 and 200, 31 between 200 and 500, 17 between 500 and 1000 and finally 7 major centers have more than 1000 participants.

The distinction between ashram and meditation center is a matter of opinion. Accordingly, if one sets the bar at 50 or 100 participants, we get 100 to 200 ashrams out of the thousand centers.

Among them , there are two international Ashrams: the Babuji Memorial Ashram at Manappakam (International Mission headquarters near Chennai) and Satkhol ashram in the foothills of the Himalayas ( a spectacular showcase for foreigners).

Other major ashrams hosting more than 500 people on Sunday are in Hyderabad, New Delhi, Bangalore, Lucknow, Pune, Indore, Nellore, Tirupati, Jodhpur, Kanpur, Jaipur, Kurnool, Ghaziabad, Nandyal, Agra, Vadodara and Tiruppur.

In France in 2006, the SRCM had 43 centers and 97 preceptors for 1,111 contributors.  Extrapolating from these figures, we obtain nearly 500 centers outside India. But all the centers are not of equal importance, far from it. Thus, the Mission distinguished in France 8 major centers (including 3 with an ashram ) and 35 smaller centers, including 8 without preceptors ...

So abroad, we have some 500 meditation centers and one counts specifically 22 ashrams in 2014, including 5 new ones in the last 2 years.

Western Europe has 8 (ashrams): 3 in France (Montpellier, Paris and Nice ), 1 in Denmark at Vrads Sande, 1 in Lausanne in Switzerland, one in Berlin, Germany, one in Milan, Italy, and the last purchased in London, UK.

North America ranks second, with 6 ashrams, the latest in Canada is still in draft form and is at the implementation stage.  All others are in the USA: Molena , Georgia (on sale) , Sunderland in Maryland and Beavercreek, Ohio for the ancients.  The new ones are those in Cranberry, New Jersey and Fremont, California.

Asia (excluding India ) accounts for 4 (ashrams): Klang in Malaysia, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and the last 2 purchased in 2013 in Singapore and Qatar.  Eastern Europe accounts for one in Timisoara, Romania and one purchased in 2013 in Minsk, Belarus. South Africa has the historical Ashram at Lenasia, Johannesburg. Australia is looking to sell their ashram at Bringelly.  Latin America is beginning to think about a project ...

The situation is evolving quickly with new and frequent regular purchases (London, Fremont and Cranberry, Singapore, Qatar , Minsk, etc... ), But also the resale of old ashrams which no longer meet the current criteria. The French ashram at Augerans, the former European headquarters of the Mission, was sold in 2003.  Broomlee, Scotland location was abandoned well before the London repurchase of a new ashram.  In Australia, Armadale was sold before buying Bringelly, itself on sale today.  At Molena, the cost of development work was considered prohibitive, and is also for sale. Several resale projects of the Ashram at Lausanne, Switzerland, were also considered ...Since 2005, Chari wanted to diversify his real estate stock.  Beyond ashrams and meditation centers, he introduced training centers, centers of spiritual retreat and of course a school ... The Omega school!

There exists three training centers (or CREST Centre for Research Education & Training) launched by Chari to develop his followers: the first two are in India, Bangalore in Karnataka and one in Kharagpur in West Bengal, the last ashram is in Berlin (Germany).

There are also four retreat centers where abhyasis can come and worship and meditate for periods of one week to one month: 2 in India, Panshet Pune in Maharashtra and Malampuzha in Kerala, the SPURS (ranch) near Austin, Texas (USA), and the Vrads Sande ashram in Denmark.

The "Hesitation-Waltz" Orchestrated by Chari Around the Ashrams

 When Babuji was alive, the property of SRCM was mingled with his own property. The ashram at Shahjahanpur was built on his land, near his house, and was opened in 1976. This is the first ashram of the Mission, the only one ever created by Babuji. Apart from that, it had almost nothing else.

Total change in strategy with Chari if Western abhyasis want to see him, they must have an ashram and if possible an available cottage to receive him.

The real estate worth increases gradually, first with the purchase of Augerans castle in France in 1988, which was then the European headquarters of the Mission until 2003. Then the opening of the ashrams at Vrads Sande Denmark, in Molena, Georgia (USA ) in 1992, and at the location of Broomlee in Scotland, etc...

Chari has made himself a reputation in the West. In the late 90's, it was time for him to think of returning home to impose himself as the sole master of Sahaj Marg.

This time he bleeds Westerners for his Indian projects.  And in 1999 he inaugurated with great pomp the Babuji Memorial Ashram after two years of work (5 ha, a meditation hall for 13,000 people, $2 to $3 million estimated at the time). The transfer of funds from the West into India was at full throttle.  And major Indian ashrams followed: Bangalore, Tiruppur, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Allahabad, Kolkata, Satkhol ...

For example, the Ashram at Ahmedabad is spread over 2 hectares, the meditation hall can accommodate 2,500 people, there are dormitories for 750 people and a dozen apartments ...

Clearly, Chari began investing in Europe and in the United States, or rather he made the western Abhyasis invest at home, then better to ask them to finance his headquarters in India and all his new projects. The foundations concretized all that ...

In theory, in the new organization driven by Santosh Khanjee, the foundations are responsible for the material of the Mission, therefore the acquisition of ashrams with the money from donations. In practice, from now on the foundations capture the western donations, but it is to better use them for other purposes, primarily in India.

All is not rosy for the Western adepts who wish to acquire an ashram, far from it.  If the ashram becomes part of the heritage of the Mission once it is acquired, this does not prevent that the ashram must first be funded largely by local adepts themselves, the foundations often investing very little, sometimes nothing.

For any building project, it must first obtain Chari's permission. He decides everything without consulting the abhyasis. Worse, he plays "the weathervane" by agreeing and then withdrawing his agreement just as  quickly.

Examples: In 2003, Chari resells the Augerans castle against the advice of French abhyasis. In 2008, he talks about getting rid of the Lausanne, Switzerland ashram so as to build another elsewhere, even as the renovations on the ashram are nearing completion, and always against the advice of the local abhyasis.

SRCM Oceania has always dreamed of an ashram. Chari has obviously decided on something else. The first land was purchased in Armadale, near Perth, Australia in 2000. Chari makes them sell it in 2003. Likewise in 2011, the abhyasis buy a new lot in Bringelly, near Sydney, Australia. Chari decides to sell it in 2012.  As no purchaser is interested, it is now a question of renting ...

On May 16, 2006, Chari agrees with the Italians on their ashram project, but he canceled the project a week later, preferring on the next June 2nd, the Berlin project. The Milanese ashram will therefore not be realized until 2008. In the process, he opposes the London project as the lease on the Scottish ashram at Broomlee expires, and it will not be until 2012 that the English who stayed for 6 years without ashram, to finally acquire one in London.

In October 2008, he freezes all acquisition projects due to the global financial crisis, while he grants the "go ahead" to a few. Then six months later, while things remain blocked for the most part, he restarts investing in the United States ...

At the same time that he freezes all projects,
on October 5, 2008 the Chicago center is the beneficiary of a "right" to acquire a local lot of  more than 200 m² in Warrenville for a group of about 60 abhyasis and fifteen children.

A green light in April 2009 also for the acquisition of a lot in Cranberry by the local group, the future ashram in New Jersey.  And July 5, 2009, it was the turn of downtown Cleveland (Ohio) to inaugurate its new premises.  Also in July, Chari allows the resumption of expansion for  North American ashrams.

Acquired in 1992, the Molena ashram is the SRCM Headquarters in the USA (80 miles south of Atlanta, Georgia), it covers 13 hectares (32 acres).  In September 2008, the Committee provided 2 extension work phases: the first involved the creation of an additional wing with a second meditation hall of about 300 m², an extension of the dining room, bedrooms and bathrooms and a new cottage. The 2nd phase was to create a very large meditation hall outside, instead of the tent which hosted large gatherings.

The first phase of extension work, scheduled to begin in October, 2008 and ending April 30, 2009, had been blocked by Chari's austerity speech from Dubai just before its beginning. But in July 2009, it was finally given permission to begin the first phase of the work.

New about-face in 2013, the largest historic Mission ashram in North America is finally put up for sale. The library was moved to Cranberry and ashram cleaned and emptied ...

The extension of the Sunderland Pioneer Valley ashram in Massachusetts was also boxed and was frozen like the others in October 2008.  Indeed, this ashram serves both the abhyasis of the northern United States to those in southern Canada. Looking for land to expand its current lot has resumed in September 2009 and a campaign fundraiser for ashrams began. Some austerity ...Chari alone decides the investment of the mission, regardless of the local abhyasis . But back to the financial aspect and the involvement of foundations.

Chari alone decided that Berlin would be an ashram and a Training Centre (CREST) ​​of the Mission for the whole of Europe.  However, this has not prevented the European Foundation to limit its financing of the acquisition of the ashram to two-thirds of the total. The local association SRCM Germany had no choice but to rustle up a third of the remaining finances. So, even other associations participated: France up to €35,000 and Switzerland 30,000. The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Italy also participated.

Chari refused his foundations to contribute financially to the acquisition of the London ashram, despite some 1,500 euros paid on average by the abhyasis. He did not put a dime either in Lyon when the SRCM France undertook to raise EUR 150,000 and the local abhyasis pledged to find 3,000 euros each, thereby derailing the project. And how much has he put on the table for the Italian national ashram in Milan, when we know that France participated in the amount of €115,000?

Canadian example: Northern light - The light from the north. In 2012, Kamlesh Patel suggests Canadians they contribute if they also want them to get an ashram: 
“if 1,000 abhyasis each contributed $20 per month, that would be $20,000 per month and in a year we would have $240,000 – had we started five years ago we would be in a position now to acquire a property!” It is therefore a project to 1.2 million gold SRCM Canada is 4-500 abhyasis only. But the local accounts of SRCM showed an annual profit of $43,000. At this rate, the ashram is 28 years later and not in 5 years!

Chari is not crazy, rather than considering a participation of its foundation, wanted to boost Canadians: project approval was December 28, 2012 with the goal of opening on his birthday, July 24, 2013.

Chari had put pressure, it was necessary to please him for his birthday. Therefore they had to find almost $3,000 per abhyasi in less than a year! Of panic in March 2013, Kim Hansen wrote in Echoes of North America:
“(…) we have received gifts from several abhyasis in Europe who have heard about the project. We invite one and all to join us in bringing this project to fruition. There is no time to waste.”
Total panic at the beginning of the summer: to meet deadlines set by Chari, the committee called North American to be actively involved in fundraising and abhyasis worldwide solidarity on the principle of 'One World, one Family' for a new - Northern Light Northern Light "beacon of light" for the upliftment of humanity, a site near Toronto (Ontario) has been selected. The latest news, international solidarity to meet Chari worked well ...

About-face yet again? After renovations in 2009-10, Molena Ashram (the largest historic Mission Ashram in North America) is on sale in 2013 while that of Beavercreek Dayton, Ohio has been an expansion project. Simple transfer of activities from one to the other? Technically maybe, but not financially! The proposed creation of a new meditation hall of 240 m² for 300 people is estimated at $500 000.  Donations are requested for implementation in 2014 and the foundations are still not participating. In September 2013, donations amounted to $176 000 dollars and pledges to $124,000. Rather than soliciting foundations, new fundraising campaigns are organized to find the $200,000 still missing ...



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