Saturday, February 17, 2007

Mantras Part 4: unstressing, feeling the body and beyond

Mantras Part 1
Mantras Part 2: Some thoughts preliminary to an examination of the mechanics of TM
Mantras Part 3: the makings of the “TM Casualties” or what colour is your cloth becoming?

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.

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 (Checking Notes or General Points) 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.

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.


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 Theravada 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 The Anapanasati Sutta – A Practical Guide to Mindfulness of Breathing and Tranquil Wisdom and/or The Satipatthana Sutta.

I am suggesting nothing easy. 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?

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 skillfully 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’)


Anonymous said...

It is ironic that those dissing Maharishi have a cosmic joke played on them by using the name 'Mahesh', which is another name for Shiva, a far greater compliment than referring to Maharishi as Maharishi...

"Adi Sankara interprets the name Shiva meaning "One who purifies everyone by the utterance of His name" or "the Pure One". The name Shiva is the Holiest of Holy names. The Good Lord is beyond and unaffected by the three gunas (characteristics) of Prakrti (matter/nature) namely Satva, Rajas, and Tamas.

Gina said...

Mahesh is his given name.

Maharishi is a title, meaning "great sage", that he bestowed upon himself.


Anonymous said...

The Cosmos is laughing!

Anonymous said...

When it comes to MMY, the cosmos and a hell of a lot of human beings, including many who practice TM, are laughing so hard they're throwing up!

Anonymous said...

really? Ew, how unpleasant for you...balance is what is needed.

Anonymous said...

Balance is needed...Thanks for the sage advice. Maybe someone should have given that to Shuvender Sem...Oh yeah, they did!

Anonymous said...

"The World Is as You Are. It's a common experience: One morning you wake up as tired as when you went to sleep. The day moves slowly; complications arise; problems seem to be overwhelming. You feel worried, relationships suffer. But the next morning, after a good night rest, you feel fresh and alert. The circumstances of the previous day may remain the same, but your evaluation of them differs dramatically. You are more relaxed, yet more energetic, more productive. Relationships are smoother, more harmonious. Why the difference? Basically, it's because the world is as you are."
-Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Punditster said...

Did you realize anything or ever think about this?

Yeah, Sudarsha, I just realized that for two years you posted to Usenet, making all kinds of TM status claims, yet you never once mentioned anything about the Maharishi and his secret private sex life. What's up with that and why didn't you mention it before? From what I've read, you spent months alone with Mahesh in his room at TTC.

"I spent a long time with Maharishi..."

Vaj said...

It's interesting, the instruction for "feel the body" actually has some parallels in the yogic tradition of the Shankaracharya tradition, but it appears (as with many things in the TM tradition) it was watered down and distorted.

In Sri Vidya there are a series of practices where one progressively relaxes the body by feeling the body with the awareness in a sequence. It's great because it prevents one from having adverse reactions like unstressing. It is extremely relaxing. Unstressing largely is due to insufficient relaxation of certain parts of the body and they send out warning signals that tension still exists.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...


I believe this is the practice called Yoga Nidra. It's an important practice in many lineages in India. Interested readers can find CDs and other aids to doing Yoga Nidra by using Google. The Wikipedia also has an article on the practice.


Vaj said...

Hi John:

I believe this is the practice called Yoga Nidra. It's an important practice in many lineages in India. Interested readers can find CDs and other aids to doing Yoga Nidra by using Google. The Wikipedia also has an article on the practice.

Yoganidra is yogic sleep. In the version taught by the oral tradition of Gaudapada (Shankara's grandmaster), they teach the actual technique of yoganidra and the savayatra, a 61-point exercise, which is a kind "body survey" (lit. "corpse journey") based on the Sri Yantra as the body. It's useful in assuring total relaxation.


John M. Knapp, LMSW said...


Thanks for setting me straight. Any chance you have access to the 61-point survey, or can point readers here to it?


Pundit said...

In Sri Vidya there are a series of practices where one progressively relaxes the body by feeling the body with the awareness in a sequence.

The meditation technique in Sri Vidya is transcendental meditation. There are at least three TM bija mantras listed in the Soundaryalahari composed by Shankaracharya, the founder of the Shankara Order of Dasanami Swamis.

Sri Vidya is Knowledge of the Absolute. The TM technique comes directly from the tantric practices of the Sri Vidya.

Swami Brahmanand Saraswati was a desciple of Swami Krishnanand Saraswati of Sringeri. All the Shankara adherents practice a meditation that is transcendental.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...


Thanks for your post. But your understanding differs significantly from mine. Perhaps you can point me in a direction where I can learn more about your views?

The Buddha is not generally considered a "yogin" as far as I know. The Suttas report that he studied with various teachers who taught him various "jhanas", Pali for "dhyans", but the Buddha explicitly rejects all the teachings he learned from them, declaring himself enlightened only by his own efforts. It would seem that there were "yogins" before him -- but he broke with their tradition.

Patanjali is not in the Shankaraya tradition, as far as I know. Although I don't claim to be an expert. I remember when the Maharishi first began teaching the sidhis, that there was consternation among some TM teachers with an esoteric bent, not only because he seemed to be rejecting his principle of "capture the fort," but also because Patanjali was outside of our tradition. Patanjali was definitely not a Buddhist. So it would seem that your feeling that his teachings are Buddhist inspired, because they flow from Patanjali, may be mistaken on two counts.

If my understanding is wrong, which seems likely because I am only lightly read in these traditions, please steer me straight!


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