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Open Email to CD Asking for Discussion

The Executive aimed to force through a new constitution for Tara Institute without consultation or discussion with the Members.

On reading the proposed changes, it was clear that they did not conform to the requirements of the FPMT Board, and alarmingly additional, unexplained changes had also been included.

TI lacks any mechanism for simple discussions with and between Members so this flyer below was unofficially passed around where ever it could be. Rather than paused to discuss ” Much better POSTPONE than be forced to vote. Rushing this decision can only further divide our precious community.”

The EC avoided consultation and went ahead in the belief that they could succeed without stopping to explain. The vote was lost.

 

In between that first failed vote and the next one that succeeded, I emailed the interim CD below but he chose to ignore all concerns outlined and again made no effort to consult. In fact he told the Extraordinary Meeting that this was “trolling” (deliberately provoke others online. By saying inflammatory and offensive things).

Dear Dave, (CD David Andrews)

I refer to the changes to the Rules that you are proposing to push through while, I am told, many people are out of the country for His Holiness’ teachings. There are lots of questions and issues relating to the reasons and structural thinking behind your decision yet there has been no discussion with the community in order to gain buy-in and to avoid further division at TI — the kind of loving conversation Lama Yeshe advised in 1981 at Miller Grove.

“We need someone to think about the way to present, but not only to think, but also to touch the area every individual works in. He [Lama Yeshe] added that it was important to listen to everyone’s problems. If that was done, Lama said it would be successful; otherwise we would just be disconnected.” — from Newsletter on TI website; screenshot here: peterguiliano.com/president-appointed-by-lama-yeshe-august-1981/

Please delay the meeting until next year and after the new CD is appointed. Last year, the EC submitted several lists of names to Rinpoche, and I am told one of them included yours. As I understand it, you were not one of the two names he selected so, don’t you think that it’s odd you would be rushing through dramatic Rule changes while you are simply holding the fort? On top of that, I understand that in May Central Office asked the TCWC EC to advertise globally for applicants for the CD position. It seems inappropriate to be acting unilaterally and hastily without Rinpoche’s approval and without discussions with the wider TI community and the incoming CD.

Instead of worrying about those changes, there are important legal liabilities that ought to be addressed pronto and way ahead of any contentious Rule changes. Specifically I refer to the Centre’s failure to comply with the existing 2013 Rules. Towards the end of this email, I list a few non-compliances that are troubling and obvious to an untrained eye. Trained eyes may see more.

In May this year, there was a written attempt to focus the Secretary onto the negative impacts that arise from improper handling of Membership but he was not interested. Now without outside adjudication, we cannot identify who is a legitimate Member and who is not. Who is entitled to vote and who can serve on the EC? Do we really need to raise these crucial issues with Consumer Affairs or can that be avoided somehow? However, Consumer Affairs is a much smaller concern. There is a far more dangerous issue: the one that troubles me most is our vulnerability with the Australian Tax Office who is much more powerful and potentially a far bigger and more lasting problem, one that could end up blocking Federal Government visas and so on. As you must know better than I do, we have never (as far as I am aware) conformed with our obligations with the School Building Fund; instead, I believe we have simply banked and spent Tax Deducted funds as part of consolidated revenue rather than (as legally required) set up an arms-length account run by an entirely separate committee. Is that not correct?

This is a can of worms that would only do us lasting damage — specifically impacting on those relevant CDs and EC members who were responsible for those decisions over the years. Please let’s get this sorted first.

On 1st February 2019, you wrote that “Tara Institute has a valid constitution under Australian law which dictates our activities”. These Rules are all that protects TI from bad actors, bad actions and bad luck. They are demonstrably not “dictating” anything. The Rules are being taken by the EC as entirely optional. This is a bad situation akin to anarchy, no?

Lama Yeshe’s instructions to communicate and be professional are not superceded by better advice. He instructed that we need to listen to everyone’s problems and that linking “should be done in a way involving loving kindness”. He never advised ruling like the politburo; TI is not communist China; everyone needs to be treated with respect and their opinions incorporated wherever possible.

No one thinks the EC has deliberately gone off on its own jaunt but the drift away from the EC being dictated by Rules is plain to see. Like the proverbial frog in boiling water, unknowingly TI has split into “us” versus “troublemakers”. That is wrong and something that needs fixing before it’s too late. You are in the right place; are you the right person?

As Lama always urged us, Check up! You are one of the earliest Kopan students of the Lamas. From Buddha Sticks to now, you have been one of the most important steel bars running through TI’s concrete but rust has entered somehow. No outside CD and no government institutions will help us; we have to do what Lama Yeshe has told us directly — we have to do it ourselves. Exactly as he told us in 1981 — when we followed his instructions we boomed and later, “otherwise we would just be disconnected”. Was he not exactly right?

Instead of serving the Centre, the EC has gradually adopted the stance of ruling the Centre. You cannot mandate kindness, it has to be nurtured. It will not grow by command and Lama and Rinpoche’s words will not be followed simply because they are crowbarred into flawed Rules that are already ignored and which have unfortunately been avoided for many years. “Communication” is not “telling” — but lately, even telling is rare at TI. Who knows what’s going on at the top? There is so much secrecy and distrust; what teachers are we following? I’ve personally never heard a single teacher, good or bad, advocate secrecy and distrust. Certainly not Lama, Rinpoche or Geshela.

There is nothing wrong with disagreeing; we disagree with our own cherished partners, how can we expect to fully agree with people we don’t even talk to? TI is not a la-la land where we blissfully hold hands with almost-strangers. It is a place where we work on sharpening our dharma practice together with other people with whom we share that objective and who are also flawed like we are. A knife cannot be sharpened without friction. “Our worst enemy is our best friend”; isn’t that a message that causes us friction before sharpening? No, at TI, anyone who has a different view is our enemy… absolutely. Dharma?

Let’s please stop burying our heads in the sand, pretending that everything is wonderful and not in Samsara. Let’s turn back to Lama’s advice and get back to communicating professionally with each other for our collective good. Openly not in the dark. It’s not too late, we just need honest goodwill and real trust that we all want the best results for the Centre. Why is anyone who expresses concern over its direction, branded a “troublemaker”? If everyone shuts up, the ship will still hit the rocks anyway.

To see just how much I am dreaming with my belief that this can be turned around, I am copying people (listed below) who I think share the original motivations for building this place on the words and advice of our guiding teachers… please, let’s work together before we lose all hope in self-transformation via Tara Institute.

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Some issues with non-conformity to Rules of Association

I already raised non-conformation with the Rules regarding Membership in detail with the Secretary in May. I think an independent view of his reply (both emails can be viewed here: bit.ly/timembership) indicate a cavalier if not illegal approach to the Rules.

In 2019, one person was appointed to the EC —when they are known by members of the EC to have publicly asserted that TI is not an FPMT centre— in direct contradiction to the Rules regarding who can be a Member.

In giving Notice of the 2019 AGM, the EC misrepresented to all Members the scope of the Rules, thus calling the last AGM into question. I refer specifically to the EC’s assertions:- 

  • -Claiming a deadline for Applicants; I refer to 52 (1) and (2) as proof that no such deadline is possible given those two Rules
  • -Members were also told they could not vote for SPC but I see no such Rule. There is a clear distinction between voting and appointing. The AGM cannot appoint but how else can it advise Central Office?
  • -Members were told they could not vote for “Residents Rep”. Who is not subject to voting?
  • -Similarly, they were told they couldn’t vote for Director when 53 (1)(a) specifically says they “must”

—Rule 46, General Duties: places an obligation on EC members that “The Committee is collectively responsible for ensuring that the Association complies with the Act and that individual members of the Committee comply with these Rules.” Again, I refer you to the Secretary’s response above.
—54 (1) Do any AGM minutes since 2013 show that Members decided the number of ordinary members to be elected for the coming year?
—58 Filling casual vacancies: I suspect a review will show that new EC members were appointed in excess of vacancies over the years.
—Contrary to 31 (4)(d) membership dues have been arbitrarily raised many times outside of AGMs

Several examples are available which show members of the Committee writing that they believe it is skillful to disguise the truth —and also to outright counter it— in communications with Members. And there is also the example of the Committee itself in communication with FPMT Central Office, planning to do exactly that without one objection being raised by a single Buddhist involved.

Emails from both the Treasurer and Centre Director refusing to allow, grant or facilitate inspection of the financial statements for the year 2017/18 as specifically mandated by Rule 77. That request was made by, and refused to, an honoured Life Member of the Association who is one of the few people we can actually be assured is indeed a member. Officials outside TI may find it strange to read how the changes you propose sit with that.

I’m sure other people will have their own concerns but these are mine.

None-the-less, one of my most troubling observations is not to do with hard and fast Rules. When I was busily setting the world record for the FPMT’s shortest tenure as CD (8 days), I was told that the front porch saga took 3 years and cost in excess of $80,000 — but when I saw the audited figures for the previous 2 years presented to the AGM, I saw no sign of that expenditure anywhere; it is not listed as a line item at all in either year.

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Dave, I am writing this letter out of my own private despair but at the same time, also in the hope that we can avoid a valuable Life Member being left no option other than to raise these issues with Government. No one in authority at TI is prepared to communicate openly with him about crucial concerns he —and several other Members have— and that leaves him with nowhere else to turn for adjudication. Why does he have to go to the Government for simple justice that ought to be a hallmark of a Buddhist centre? I believe such a step would be very damaging for TI. So I really hope you will listen to Lama Yeshe’s words before pushing TI over the brink.

And please note; I’m not writing for me. I’m writing for Tara Institute. For me it is already too late. You don’t need to get rid of “Life” Members to get rid of me. I haven’t been near TI since April; I’m gone.

In Lama Yeshe’s name, please let’s not waste the great investment by so many people since 1974…

Peter