The Power of Consensualocracy
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2002-03-24
Consensualocracy was conceived by Gurudeva as a system of government or management by intelligent cooperation based on a shared vision and adherence to dharma. It is the preferred way of management in any religious group, and has ahimsa, nonhurtfulness, at its core. Kauai Aadheenam and the worldwide missions of Saiva Siddhanta Church follow this system, which is conducted through meetings where those attending are not attached, not trying to dominate, and strive to create together something better than what any single one of them could come up with on their own. Nonconsensualocracy occurs when someone tries to dominate the group. Consensualocracy occurs when all are encouraged to express a viewpoint. Thus, all must avoid getting carried away, forceful or disrespectful but rather should speak kindly and praise others' good ideas.
Consensualocracy. Hard to pronounce, consensualocracy is a wonderful principle that Gurudeva gives us. It is not the opposite but different from how many matters are decided.
For example, in politics you are happy to have a majority. If something gets the majority, if more than fifty percent vote for something, it wins. Why do we use majority in politics? Because, people have such diverse opinions that there is no way you
can get everyone to agree. They just hold very diverse beliefs on basic facts on how life should be lived, about wealth, about government and so you cannot get everyone to agree. If you can get more than fifty percent to agree, you consider that a majority and you do it that way.
However, in a particular religion, members of that religion have the same beliefs, respect the same hierarchy, perform the same religious services. So having everyone agree is possible because they have common beliefs. In that context, Gurudeva defines consensualocracy as "Government or management by intelligent cooperation based on a shared vision and adherence to dharma. Ahimsa, non-hurtfulness is the key note of this tribal family system of rule."
Intelligent cooperation based on a shared vision. Wonderful statement! Of course, our monastery works on this principle and our family missions worldwide also follow it. But because so many activities we are involved in do not, I thought it would be helpful to share a few thoughts of how this type of management, consensualocracy, works best.
Usually you have meetings. Group gathers together and have a meeting to discuss a topic that is the basis for decision. In a non-consensualocracy approach you figure out your best idea, bring it to the meeting and you try to convince everyone of your idea. If you are successful in convincing everyone, you feel great. If you are not successful, "Boy! They lost out on a great idea." You feel that things are only right if everyone agrees with the idea that you brought to the meeting. That is not consensualocracy.
Consensualocracy works best when you bring your best idea which opens to other ideas. You are hoping that the group will get creative and develop an idea which is better than the idea that you brought, better than the idea that anybody brought. Because you are looking to create the best shared vision that you can. So it is a creative process, it is a detached process. Not attached to your own idea, not trying to dominate and have everybody agree with you. Rather you are trying to create together by each one contributing their best thoughts in a free flowing way and hoping to transcend what anyone would come up with individually.
Non-consensualocracy, you dominate the group with your view point. Consensualocracy, you are helping others to express theirs. You are encouraging everyone present to express a view point. So, you don't dominate with a single idea, you want everyone to participate. So encouraging everyone there to share ideas.
Another point to avoid is sometimes we will get carried away in presenting our own view point and our words are so forceful, they hurt people. Or, they are even disrespectful and they hurt people by not showing proper respect for everyone present in their opinions. Works best when we always speak kindly and praise others' good ideas. We want to be careful as Gurudeva says, "Ahimsa, non-hurtfulness is the key note of this system of rule." So we cannot hurt other people's feelings, either by being to forceful or not showing enough respect.
Those are just some ideas on how we can all improve our consensualocracy management of our monastery and our missions worldwide.