This is the revised four-part Mantras post in one continuous piece.
Mantras - when I was instructed, my teacher had recently returned from her course at which the fab four had been briefly involved. She gave me the mantra "I'm" (that's what it sounded like but I visualized it as an eye with an m after it, at least for a while). [11 May 2007: I have edited all 4 part together here. This is the beginning of part one]
When I became a TM teacher (30 months after learning TM) I was given two lists, one for men, one for women. I immediately pointed out to Mahesh that my own mantra was "wrong" according to the piece of paper he had just handed me. I instantly asked if I should change my mantra. He said no, doesn't matter.
ages 6-15 (children's technique from 6-10 ing, boys, im girls )
11-16 ing male, im female
15-30 aing male, aim female
30-45 shring male, shrim female
45 and over shiam male and shiama female.
I had gotten my "second" (a.k.a. night) technique from Sattyanand (this turned out to be slightly different from what a friend had gotten in a different group either before or after my group – I'll dig out my notes in order to discuss this later, I don't recall it being hugely significant, we had all been taught to check it, essentially give it, the same way). – The night technique never worked until about 18 months later in Fiuggi, then it worked brilliantly until my next technique which Mahesh gave me, then it stopped working completely and I forgot about it.
Two months after becoming a teacher, Sattyanand gave me my third technique. He asked me what my mantra was and I said aim (pronounced I'm ... right age, wrong gender). He more or less grunted I'm namah and told me to go and meditate.
It felt like I was falling out of an airplane. I felt dragged down and down and down, becoming increasingly and increasingly, heavy, woozy, dreamy and all the time consciousness of this and increasingly unable to form a clear thought, like help, for example.
After about two more tries of this, I asked him to check my mantra. He asked what it was, I said I'm namah and he grunted no, eye'ng namah. Lots of emphasis on his part, I knew unquestionably I had made no mistake of understanding before. After that, meditation was just meditation, moderately dull, kind of restful.
In Fiuggi the mantras list was just ages and mantras. the first two the same as my first two, but no gender differentiation [I doubt he had gone equal opportunity given his penchant for separating men and women, but that came later anyway]. I don't remember the ages, but I do remember the mantras: ing, im, inga, ima (obvious, add a to the end of the first two) aying, ayim, (obvious, add ay to the end of the first two) then ayinga. ayima, (adding a to the end), then shring, my 40-45 men's mantra.
Long story (omitted here but it was after Fiuggi), I asked Mahesh to make me an M-Group teacher. Which he did. I could teach monks, nuns, priests, and religious brothers so they could take the SCI course. Mahesh wasn't just trying to invade politics! – I was given two mantras aying for men, ayim for nuns.
I still have the piece of paper he picked up to write them for me.
What's personal about personal mantra in the mythical purity of the teaching?
Next, I want to mention a few things about some observations I have about what Mahesh said about mantras in Beacon. And then, maybe, what Yogananda said about his use of mantra.
*§* part two
Mahesh lied (3 to 5 years to CC, gimme a break) in order to sell the product I believed in. That’s a given. But I certainly believed and he certainly lied, depending on rumour and innuendo to persuade me, all of us, of not only the greatness of TM but his personal greatness as well.
But he lied and he wasn't so great, either.
We all, as far as I know, believed at one time that if lying was what it took to spread TM, then that was OK. The end justified the means because, speaking for myself, I truly, deeply, completely believed TM was the greatest gift that could be given.
Sure, I had some difficulty with the fact that anyone wanting to learn had to pay so I could give this great gift; but I managed.
To this day, I firmly believe that meditation is a great and valuable gift. But is TM meditation? Is TM “great” and is it “valuable”? I want to look at this in Part 3.
It certainly is not a gift. It is an expensive commodity – one not only purchases TM like a pair of shoes, but also comes to possess something to which of necessity commits like raising a child. Except this product surreptitiously elevates you to another life-style. And while you might have started out as the one taking care of it (good old 2x20) eventually it takes over and you are buying it the next thing Mahesh is selling, the next thing that will make it work better, faster, smoother.
Are we also to absolutely trust Mahesh when he tells us his method* is the only thing that can be called meditation? In the early days he referred to smoke, to unwinding. It was not until his meeting with Hans Selye that we discovered that we were unstressing. Didn't he understand his own method? Whose meditation is it, anyway?
Can someone “own” a method?
I have tried several different forms of meditation. BUT I am not claiming that my assessment is sufficient reason for anyone to stop what is working, or switch to something else. If you personally are happy with the results of TM or any other form of meditation, if your life is running smoothly and you are not dependent on anyone to tell you what kind of life-style is most appropriate, what life-partner you should or should not have, if you are making good decisions that are working out for you and not alienating you from family and friends, if you are not having to get new friends to support new life-style – then you are most likely on a path very likely appropriate for you.
TM is one of several mantra-based methods. What is special about TM as a method is THE WAY the mantra is used. I have found this way to be brilliant, highly effective in every one of the meditation methods I have tried. I do not know where Mahesh got this method, from whom he borrowed it or from whose efforts he extracted it.** I am, however, very grateful for this method. The meditation I am presently doing gives me much, much more peace, calm and insight than the TM mantra-based method did.
What is the method? Return to an awareness of the object of meditation (in the case of TM, the mantra; in the case of one of the methods practised in Theravāda Buddhism in the Thai Forest Tradition, the breath) as effortlessly as you experience the awareness of having drifted off the object.
This is simply brilliant.
My question is this: why are the results in activity so much more rewarding for me using the breath as an object than using a "meaningless sound".
The “method” is useful, but what about the “mantra”?
The mantra (a.k.a. meaningless thought, meaningless sound): Let’s look at what Mahesh said at the beginning:
We do not select any sound like mike, flower, table, pen, wall etc. because such ordinary sounds can do nothing more than merely sharpening the mind; whereas there are some special sounds which have the additional efficacy of producing vibrations whose effects are found to be congenial to our way of life. This is the scientific reason why we do not select any word at random. For our practice we select only the suitable mantras of personal Gods. Such mantras fetch to us the grace of personal Gods and make us happier in every walk of life.***
So, first we don’t want sounds that just do nothing more than merely sharpening the mind. Isn’t this in and of itself a red flag? Why wouldn’t we want sharp minds? If we had sharp minds might we detect something not in Mahesh’s best interests? That was my thought when I read this remark by Mahesh.
Like any totalitarian thinker, Mahesh would only want sharp minds from which he could cull information. Then, as he has done so often when finished with someone providing him with answers, he could send them to round and do the ‘sidhi’ program until they were no longer sharp enough to realize they were being blindsided and their work siphoned off to the credit of someone else. This requires some more discussion and I intend to get to that in Part 3.
So, we need “special” sounds that have the additional efficacy of producing vibrations whose effects are found to be congenial to our way of life – doesn’t that suggest maintaining the status quo and feeling better about it?
Is Mahesh actually saying, as I obviously suspect he is: give me your devotion and resources and I'll make you happy. Doesn't that sound suspiciously like some grubby guy on a street corner our mothers told us to stay away from?
Then Mahesh mixes science and God. This is the scientific reason why we do not select any word at random. For our practice we select only the suitable mantras of personal Gods. Such mantras fetch to us the grace of personal Gods and make us happier in every walk of life.
How is this scientific? Is Mahesh suggesting that what he says is as valid as “science” [just because he says it]? Isn’t science based on observation, trial and error until we find what works consistently? In what way could such experiments be undertaken to find the suitable mantras of personal Gods?
What are personal Gods and how is this not a religion? (An unswered question, as far as I know.)
To me, his words suggest that you somehow get the calling card of some “god” (whatever he might or might not mean by that) or maybe you get the private, unlisted number of some god (a super-being, a fairy godmother, a notion that can only be the product of magical thinking) who then owes you? How can that possibly make sense? Again, how is this scientific?
What are personal Gods? What are Gods and who determines how they get personal? When did this become acceptable thinking? Or, as has been easily observed so consistently, the development of Maheshism resides in the repetition of the same words which finally brings acceptance, not necessarily understanding, but definitely unquestioned acceptance. Back to page one of Beacon Light of the Himalayas mind control. Mahesh was advertising "his" method as mind control.
Who was going to control whose mind, anyway? Or has that become increasingly obvious since those early days? Did he or did he not know what he was talking about then? If he did, why isn't he talking about it now? Is TM a secret religion?
In Mantras Part 3, I want to look at what the mantra is doing as opposed to what Mahesh says the mantra is doing.
--- The Notes ---
* Mahesh referred to TM as “my method” from the very beginning; this is unquestionable. You can refer to Beacon Light of the Himalayas in the related links section. But note also that he advertises on the cover of this document MIND CONTROL. Who will be controlling whose mind? It doesn’t say.
** I am suspicious that he might have conned it out of some Lama fleeing Tibet as it so closely resembles some of the teachings of Dzogchen, such as “sky-like” mind and “nonmeditation”.
*** Beacon Light of the Himalayas, page 65, published in THE MAHARISHI, by Paul Mason, 2005, [see footnote 310] pages 248-9. The complete text of Beacon is available at Paul’s web site.
*§* part three
The TMO (TM Organization) has been careful to ignore and cover up the problem of casualties: such things as loss of mental stability, depression, suicide, bankruptcy (in the effort to buy the next greatest course rumoured to be the next greatest course), burgeoning drug use amongst its children, neglect of children in favour of “program” and so on.
Yet, we know people who did TM, got checked regularly, did or tried to do all the courses but crashed, burned and were simply invisible on the radar of Movement.
Of course, we also know people with varying degrees of success (as described by Mahesh and the TMO).
In the end, it seems only one thing can be said about TM: results vary.
On one level, TM is no different from any other practise or endeavour in which large numbers become involved. If Mahesh chooses to only notice the “good news” brought to him by his tail-wagging sycophants and on that basis believes that “his” meditation is some universal good, that tells us much more about Mahesh than it does “his” meditation.
In Part 2, I questioned Mahesh’s primary statement about “his” method and mantras. Any ordinary word, he said, would only “merely sharpen the mind”. But to make a stronger case for himself/”his” method, he said, “for our practise we select only the suitable mantras of personal Gods. Such mantras fetch to us the grace of personal Gods and make us happier in every walk of life.”
We might wonder how this is not religious or why he said something very different in the West.
I am very much indebted to Paul Mason (author of the 'The Maharishi') for editorial comments and for sharing with me his excellent analysis regarding what Guru Dev apparently taught, what Mahesh initially did with it and then simply ignored any kind of obligation he might have had toward Guru Dev and his own Hindu heritage by “masking” his religious teaching as a meditation method based on ‘meaningless sounds’.
(see and the contents of 'Beacon Light of the Himalayas'. See also the Blog more about "techniques")
Mahesh used two images which, I am sure, are familiar to all TMers: the image of dipping-the-cloth and the bubble diagram.
The bubble diagram purports to explain that since thoughts arise and come to our attention on the “surface” of the mind, the gross awareness, we should therefore be able to follow a specific thought backwards, to the source of thought.
We accepted that as factual.
But, is it?
Then, we accepted as factual that a specific thought, not just any thought, but a specifically chosen personal (meaningless sound), would do just this, dissolve into the source from which all thought arises.
Is this factual?
What would the source of thought look like? If we found it, how would we know. The answer seemed to be you just would.
Then we learned that no thought and no mantra (personal meaningless sound), an after-the-fact experience, was just that, pure consciousness, the source of thought.
A Sideways Look at Things, a different perspective:
This is how I think the bubble diagram and the dipping-the-cloth image can be explained and account for some TM casualties. Since no blanket explanation can be made about the effects of TM because so many different people have had so many different experiences, results and so on, I will try, here, to explain just one possible result of the TM method and meaningless sound:
(1) When you just sit and think a thought, you notice that it leads to other thoughts which in turn lead to other thoughts. I do not think it is possible to think one and only one thought for any prolonged period. It certainly is not possible to think the mantra and only the mantra because it is very clearly laid out in the checking procedure that when we realize we are “off” the mantra, we come back to it as easily as we notice any thought.
You can check http://www.trancenet.net/ or http://minet.org/checktoc.html for the precise wording of the checking notes.
(2) What were you doing when you noticed you were “off” the mantra? Were you daydreaming? Were the daydreams clear or were you unable to recall what the mind was experiencing?
(3) OR, and especially after some familiarity with the practice, were the daydreams much muzzier than your usual daydreaming? Have you noticed that this kind of experience/daydreaming tends toward long absences from memory?
Since so many people have so many different experiences and few if any have the same experience repeatedly, I want to talk about just this one possibility: muzzy disconnected daydreaming becoming increasingly gossamer until there was a blank spot. – This is where I think TM leads, to a bleary, disjointed, ephemeral experience of increasingly vague, insubstantial daydreaming until (that other image) dipping the cloth becomes complete.
Sometimes, this takes a long, long time, sometimes, not. Some might and some might not remember the process; BUT on teacher training courses in the past and I suspect ‘sidha’ experience today, the vague and woolly experience (dipping yourself into the dye of no meaning and no memory) gets speeded up. The cloth (that’s you and your awareness) becomes more and more the state of vagueness and less and less a “merely” sharp mind.
Just what colour was he impregnating your cloth with, anyway!
As I did not like the way rounding made me feel, I didn’t do much of it, so at the peak of rounding, when Mahesh told the assembled pie-eyed believers that only he could love them, that no one could love them as he could, I was just a little shocked; I became more taken aback as he clarified that neither mother nor father could love you as he could. He kept at this theme for some time. The assembled were malleable, supple in the hands of an expert at indoctrination (of course, I only recognized this for what it was much, much later). So many of us had dipped-the-cloth to the point of total surrender; no wonder he didn’t want us to make any new decisions on the course, he wanted us to accept his decisions, he wanted us to leave no room for any but his decisions, the permanent dye of his thinking.
My interpretation of mantras/meaningless sounds used in the intimate way of Mahesh’s meditation
The mantra does NOT draw the mind into finer and finer levels of thought until it reaches the “bottom” or the source of thought. Rather, the mantra takes the awareness, the clarity of mind, the thinking process sideways into a vague state of daydreaming and disconnect from meaningfulness where no clear perception or clear thought can be formed.
What else can a meaningless thought do? Mahesh told his Indian audience about personal gods and suitable mantras for those gods but then later taught that the mantras were meaningless.
Which is it? To whom was he lying?
Was he suggesting Guru Dev was wrong? Did he know better than the teacher to whom he pretends such devotion? Or was he simply modeling our future behaviour toward himself?
Words with no attached meaning ARE meaningless and meaning does not arise from meaninglessness. But if you are sufficiently saturated with the colour of TM, the colour of rounding, the colour of imagining you can fly – then how easy would it be to insinuate an idea that seemed completely meaningful i.e. that by repeating the mantra one would discover blissfulness, heaven on earth!
A simple experiment:
(after you read this)
Sit and close your eyes and say/think/ponder some word over and over; just that word, over and over, some word you understand, some particular word you know the meaning of. Pick a simple word like house or flower or chair.
If you keep doing it you notice that it becomes nonsense. The sound and the meaning detach from one another. There’s just this very strange sound that does not have the sense it had when you started. It’s even funnier if you do it again and pick a complex word like hypothalamus or train station. After a while you begin to hear what someone who known no English hears.
Now notice: do you get intellectually sharper doing this, or do you feel slightly spacey? – Ask yourself very carefully how different is “just any word” and your personally selected meaningless sound? Do different words bring different experiences of silliness? Is this a beneficial experience of altered alertness? Is this experience of altered alertness beneficial?
Only you can answer. Obviously experiences may vary.
Suppose that you undertake to do this experiment 2x20 (twice each day for twenty minutes each time) and go on a teacher training course where you do this 4x20 twice morning and twice afternoon). Suppose, given the fun of group meditation and suchwhat you do this 4x30 or 4x45 ? On the teacher training courses I attended the “rounding” escalated to 4 morning rounds and 4 afternoon rounds.
Now the ‘sidhi’ program requires something near 4 hours morning and afternoon. In the early days before the ‘sidhi’ program, Mahesh only encouraged 2x20, but when he surveyed an ATR for which I was course-leader, everyone was doing AT LEAST 45 to 50 minute meditations! He didn’t have a hissy fit, he didn’t get angry, he didn’t do anything.
Apparently no response is assent.
Dipping-the-cloth. Whose colour was your dye?
The more you dip into the TM pool, the Maheshism pool of altered alertness, the more easily it is to disconnect from meaning and clarity and get comfortable with that spacey feeling where no meaningful thinking is taking place … do you remember “the mind goes in the direction of more and more”? That is a definition of greed and craving; but Mahesh wanted you to think that more and more meant encountering the “source of thought”, the “field of all possibilities”. He wanted you to think you were becoming more and more enlightened. Were you becoming more and more enlightened? Are you more and more enlightened? (What in the heck does “enlightened” mean, anyway, more and more spacey?)
If Mahesh brought anything to the west, it was the super fast-drying dye-job of Maheshism.
I am firmly convinced that when Mahesh said the nature of the mind is to go in the direction of more and more, what he knew was that the more you became absorbed in that spacey realm of the unclear and purposeless, the more easily you simply accepted every word and any word he said, bought into every new course, concept and product, made every effort to attend every program.
Just consider those moments you thought of as no thought, no mantra – might they have been blackouts, periods when you were not there! Might you have been in some hypnotic frame of mind, open to suggestion?
Meaninglessness takes the awareness sideways.
The more you willingly participate in the super fast-drying dye-job of Maheshism, the more sideways, dissociated, disconnected, purposeless your mental function becomes. The more you readily believe the magical thinking of Maheshism, the more willingly you participate and tell others.
Remember when Mahesh said again and again on your teacher training course “we do not make any decisions on teacher training”? He wanted you to get the full benefit of what you were being exposed to: the disconnect nature of your own mental processes which he told you was the source of thought. You were being shepherded from your colour to his preference, he was dipping you in his dye, you were taking on his colour. – Have you ever asked yourself what became of your colour? What was your original colour, can you remember?
You don’t have to give this any further thought if you truly and sincerely believe you are getting or have gotten your money’s worth from TM. Many are firmly convinced they are truly blessed by all that is Mahesh and TM. But if you have doubts, you might want to consult with http://www.suggestibility.org/ .
*§* part four
There is a significant difference between what Mahesh said (“For our practice we select only the suitable mantras of personal Gods.”) and understanding the concept that some things are endowed with spiritual significance. To endow a thing with spiritual or religious significance does not change the thing in any way. What changes is attitude on the part of those who subscribe to the endowment.
Mahesh clearly endowed his actions/teachings and "vision" with spiritual and religious significance and cultured that attitude in us. Remember The Spiritual Regeneration Movement?
When bizarre behaviour began to erupt at Mallorca, Mahesh called it waves of bliss. He said something good was happening. He didn’t teach that the experience was just another experience and we were to experience the feeling until it resolved itself. Yes, something like that was somewhere in the checking notes, but people thrown off guard by suddenly strange behaviours and feelings, seeing their neighbours in the same situation are highly UN-likely to run off to check the checking notes.
From my side, I see "unstressing" as the body-mind experiencing a crisis, cognitive dissonance in opposition to which it cannot restore its integrity: body and mind feel like they are coming apart and behaviours beyond will-power or aside from what one had previously considered her/his will-power display themselves. I think that many of us accepted Mahesh in toto rather than resolve a crisis.
Feeling the Body
Many of us were there, saw it, even experienced it. The checking notes as they appear on line now http://minet.org/checkinggp.html or http://www.trancenet.net/secrets/checking/checkinggp.shtml give excellent if somewhat inconsistent teaching regarding untoward experiences arising in meditation. But were these "general points" in the checking notes at the time? I would very much appreciate knowing if anyone has the checking notes from Mallorca or prior to Mallorca and could tell me or preferably show me how the understanding of "feeling the body" was taught. Maybe they were, but who had the presence of mind to look? Where were the “monitors” who should have kept people sane by making sure they weren’t going off the deep end? Where was Mahesh’s head when he suggested that during the week of silence we should meditate as much as possible! He never mentioned round as much as possible, suggesting asana breaks!
I only remember a conversation with Jerry Jarvis, prior to Mallora. He said that 'it' probably shouldn't be called feeling the body but should be called continuing. At the time, however, this concept seemed a very minor consideration.
I do not ever recall any time when Mahesh explained "feeling the body" as anything integral or as a necessary element to know or practise with as part of long periods of rounding. I can recall no mention of feeling-the-body as a "stitch in time". Regarding the horrendous freak-out that was Mallorca and (to a lesser extent) Fiuggi, apparently very few if any others remembered or knew or thought about this, either. – My conclusion: Mahesh is irresponsible, or, even more irresponsibly, he thought that he was weeding the weak from the strong, separating those he might like to use from those he could discard.
I knew that I was really seeking something.
In a story Ramakrishna* told, he said that the seeker is like a thief in the night, he slips into the darkened house, touches this and that always muttering not the gold, not the gold. But when his hand feels the gold, he knows, he grasps it and is immediately gone into the night.
In some way, I knew I was in the darkened house of ignorance and TM really had the feel of gold. Maybe it might have been just that; but much later I discovered that Mahesh was corrupted by his own greed and narcissism subsequently corrupting not only what he had purloined from his tradition and teacher, but those he taught as well. This is my perception to this day, based upon my interaction with Mahesh and observing his interaction with others.
But just because I had been hoodwinked by a charlatan whose motives I felt were highly suspicious, I did not cease seeking. I kept looking for the gold and now I feel I have found that gold and have been examining it in the broad daylight, questioning practitioners and teachers alike, watching, observing, certainly looking for the behaviours and attitudes with which TM allowed me to be familiar. I am also looking at criteria such as Lifton’s to see if I am being cheated. I wish I could have done this from the beginning with TM.
I have continued the search that began in the spring of 1964. I can only conclude at this time that there is much more to life than TM. There is more than imagining that if you believe something good is happening long enough something good will happen. There is more to life than imagining you have been spiritually endowed by using the suitable mantras for personal gods.
I am a Buddhist presently practicing in the Thai Forest Tradition of Theravāda Buddhism. I have no intention of suggesting that this is better than or superior to what Mahesh or Guru Dev is teaching/taught. However, if you are or feel you might be or might have been a TM casualty, you might want to look at “feeling the body” as explained in the Buddhist teachings.
If, and only if after considerable reflection on your part you feel that this is a step, endeavour or exercise you feel confident in making read through http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/clubs/buddhism/vimalaramsi/main.html. This is a link to The Anapanasati Sutta – A Practical Guide to Mindfulness of Breathing and Tranquil Wisdom, the Buddha’s own very straightforward, uncomplicated alertness-based method of meditation and/or http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/soma/wayof.html, The Satipatthana Sutta, basically the same method, but given in more detail. Notice, there is nothing held back, no secret courses, no fees.
I am suggesting nothing easy, but I am suggesting something very do-able and uncomplicated. But, if you will, notice that the teaching begins with following the breath and letting mind and body become calm. Do you remember from the checking procedure how, before any mention of mantra, after opening and closing the eyes, you felt some quiet and calm, just naturally?
Did you realize anything or ever think about this?
You already knew how to be calm and quiet. It is my opinion that Mahesh’s teachings beyond establishing this insight is nothing more than a distraction from that calm and quiet, sidestepping the only meaningful reality, your own innate, knowable reality.
How can there possibly be any other basis for happiness in the world than knowing your own specific reality (your own colour)?
Cultivating this calm-and-quiet is the object of the Anapanasati Sutta. The method and teaching above (A Practical Guide) has been extremely helpful for me and I feel that if it is only read as an explanation it is helpful to understand the concept of mindfulness in the Buddhist tradition.
Further, in the The Satipatthana Sutta, we read how the Buddha established mindfulness in four REALITIES, the primary four realities of the individual, the person, YOU.
The first foundation is, basically, feeling the body, getting settled in and comfortable with your own physical reality just as it is. Little by little, as the impediments to mindfulness come up, they are skilfully abandoned.
I want to leave off with the advice of Padmasambhava**, an 8th century CE Tibetan teacher, who summarized his advice on spiritual development like this:
As for the innermost advice: no matter what kind of disturbing emotion you feel, look into the emotion and it tracelessly subsides. The disturbing emotion is thus naturally freed. This is simple to practice.
This is for me the gold and legitimate teachers share this innermost advice but do not sell it.
* Ramakrishna late 19th Century Indian saint living in the Bengal
** Padmasambhava’s Advice from the Lotus-Born (‘Pointing the Staff at the Old Man’)