Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mantras Part 2: Some thoughts preliminary to an examination of the mechanics of TM

Mahesh lied 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 that’s 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.

I rationalized.

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 one commits to like raising a child. Except this product surreptitiously elevates you to another life-style.

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 havng to get new friends to support new life-style – then you are 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? Why was this 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.

*** 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.

Mantras Part 1
Mantras Part 3: the makings of the “TM Casualties” or what colour is your cloth becoming?
Mantras Part 4: unstressing, feeling the body and beyond


Anonymous said...

Is irrational paranoia a typical characteristic of TM "casualties"? Because this post is full of it.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I'm experientially familiar with both TM and all three series of Dzogchen, and TM bears no resemblance whatsoever to Dzogchen. Where on earth did you get such an obviously false idea?

It's actually rather clear where it did come from, as TM is nothing new. Why is that so hard for people to get? It's a rather common type of meditation, although the mantra is usually personally chosen based on the student's own unique qualities, not taken from your age or sex!

Sudarsha said...

My 'suspicon' was not about mantras, but about a possible source for his "as easily as" method -- since the Dzogchen and Mahamudra traditions also recommend effortlessness, I don't think it is too much of a leap to imaging Mahesh coming up with something simple that did not demand too much of his time and energy to impart to others.

What are TM "casualties"? This suggests that there is a dark side to TM. How successfully has the organization kept this hidden?

If TM is rather clear where TM came from, where did it come from? The use of mantras is clear enough, of course, but I have not encountered anything like mahesh's method of using the mantra in any other place.

If you know, please enlighten us.


Vajroli said...

It's simply called "manasika-japa" in the parlance of tantra: mental repetition of mantra. When one can't maintain the gap at the end of mantra, one just returns to the mantra without judging. For many people that is too langid and many prefer to add some aspect of mindfulness, as in the use of a mala. At that point most TMers would be screaming "that's not effortless!".

Typically one is given a range of ways to use it. For an example from the Shankaracharya tradition, see:

Can you spot the one closest to TM? It's just one in a list. The student choses.

This tradition does recommend the use of a mala which is a major improvement if you've never tried it.

Sudarsha said...

Thanks, Vajroli. This is very useful. Still, Mahesh must be given some credit for refining this into a "pointing out" instruction that is very personal. I am absolutely NOT in favour of Mahesh's TM. It is simply poison (which I will try to explain in Part 3).

Mahesh took what he could find and either himself transformed it, or as he did in many other cases, got others to generate opinions which he turned into "his" answers.

The old fox is a brilliant thief. I can almost admire that, but certainly not the damage he has done to individuals in the name of making a big name for himself.


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