Rinpoche has wanted from the beginning to have a system which allows time for individuals to settle into their relationship with the Teacher and the Teachings and become really sure of the nature of their commitment before becoming a member of the Dzogchen Community.
Anyone who has read the Blue Book (Principles of the Dzogchen Community) will know this already. For practical reasons, it has not always been so easy to implement his wishes, but we believe that the Welcome Card comes closer to Rinpoche’s intention than what has been done before.
Why do we need the Welcome Card?
The first thing to do is to forget what has been called a Welcome card before. In the context of IDC membership, this new Welcome card is different!
Rinpoche has asked us to make sure that people have participated in Dzogchen Community activities for at least three consecutive years before becoming a member, and then be able to take SMS exams, hold a position on a Gakyil, be a Gekod or be able to vote at IDC Annual General Meetings (AGM).
He has also asked us to make sure that we abide by the laws in every country.
In fact in many countries every member of an organisation must be entitled to vote at a general meeting. It is generally not possible to have a kind of introductory membership without voting rights.
So it is not possible for a person to become a member in a legal sense straight away and we have had to find another way for new people to be formally connected with the teachings without being a member.
What is the Welcome Card?
The Welcome Card is the solution we have adopted and it works like this:
In short, the Welcome Card is intended as a “pass” which enables the holder to access the facilities of the Dzogchen Community and to participate in its activities. Subscribing to this “pass” for three consecutive years is also a prerequisite requested for becoming a member of the IDC.
• A Welcome Card holder is not a member of the IDC in a legal sense.
• A Welcome Card holder is not an introductory member in a legal sense.
• Someone who has held a Welcome Card for three years in a row can then apply to be a member of the IDC
• A Welcome Card holder has all the same benefits as a member – access to closed webcasts and webcast replays, any discounts on courses and books, discounted use of personal retreat facilities, etc.
• The fee for a Welcome Card is the same as the fee for any level of membership (except for the first year a Gar can decide to offer a reduced Introductory Welcome card fee)
• A Welcome Card holder (having received transmission from the Master) can study and practice the Base of the Santi Maha Sangha, but is not eligible to take the exam and progress to Level 1 until they have been accepted as a Member of the IDC.
• A Welcome Card holder may be well qualified and experienced in areas useful for working with the Gakyil, and can offer to work in a supporting role for the Gakyil, but is not eligible to be a member of a Gakyil until they have been accepted as a Member of the IDC.
• A Welcome Card holder is free to make donations and give sponsorship according to their possibilities and wishes.
• A Welcome Card holder cannot vote at AGMs or any general meeting of the IDC, or work as a Gekod of a Gar or other place of the Community.
Why would someone want to become a Welcome Card holder?
• Being a Welcome Card holder is a necessary first step to becoming a member of the International Dzogchen Community of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu.
• It gives the possibility to follow all webcast teachings, use the replay system and to participate in the study and practice of the Base of Santi Maha Sangha.
• It may have other benefits according to the decision of the Gars’s Gakyil ( for example, discounts on local courses, purchase of books etc)
When should a Gakyil start to issue Welcome Cards to new people interested to become members?
In earlier communications this year, we have advised that a Gakyil can decide whether or not to begin the use of the new IDC Welcome Card in 2014, or wait until Jan 1st 2015, which is the start date for IDC membership to become a reality.
In any case, every Gar and Ling (whether already aligned, or only moving towards alignment with the Statute of the IDC) is asked to implement the new system from January 2015.
Some additional points:
• Continuity of membership is also important, so anyone who has been a member of the Dzogchen Community in the past can either rejoin now (prior to January 2015) as a member or they may need to become a Welcome Card holder if they wish to rejoin later. This can be decided on a case by case basis – for example, it may be necessary to pay the missing years membership in order to remain a member.
• A person who is a new Welcome Card Holder from 2014 can apply for membership from Jan 2017. All new Welcome Card holders from Jan 1st 2015 can apply to become members from Jan 2018, and so on.