Saturday, February 03, 2007

Mantras Part 3: the makings of the “TM Casualties” or what colour is your cloth becoming?

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 heritabe 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")

The Images

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.

Was it?

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 or 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 wooly experience (dipping yourself into the dye of no meaning and no memory) gets speeded up. The cloth (that’s you) 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 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?

Was he saying 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.

What happens?

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.

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?

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, 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”.

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 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.

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

Mantras Part 1
Mantras Part 2: Some thoughts preliminary to an examination of the mechanics of TM
Mantras Part 4: unstressing, feeling the body and beyond


Vajroli said...

If you are really interested in the reason TM does not, for most people, really lead to "pure consciousness"--and especially if you're interested in what happens to TM causalities (and how someone could correct such a thing), I highly recommend "Kundalini Vidya" by Joan Harrigan.

Ms. Harrigan spent years studying under a realized Master of the Shankaracharya tradition conversant in the entire science of kundalini and mantra. The insights it will awaken in any long term TMer and insights it gives into the true nature of transcendence makes it truly beyond price.

According to this traditional account of transcendence, transcendence and the 'dive" into pure consciousness is not truly avialable until our shakti is awakened at the level of the upper ajna chakra, the makara-bindu or "makara point" as they call it.

If you want to see the entire roadmap, this lady has found it and is a true lineage holder. Breathtaking and awe-inspiring.

Sudarsha said...

An interesting suggestion, Vajroli. From my esperience talking with people who have had a TM "disaster", they have not been open to any eastern as a new undertaking.

But, for those for whom this might appeal, thank you very much for your kind suggestion and reference.


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