Tuesday, March 06, 2007

REMAINS OF IGNORANCE: Protecting the Maharishi

I'm a full-time therapist who has worked with a number of children of divorce. Something I've noticed, and which has been widely discussed in the literature, is the tendency of the children to "protect" either one or both parents by blaming themselves for the divorce. They hold the parents blameless for the unavoidable turbulence that breaking up the family apart causes.

This makes a kind of twisted sense. Parents are the most powerful figures in a child's life. They feed, clothe, and protect the child from the evil in the world. If they are wrong or flawed, there is no one to protect a child from that evil. At least in a child's mind. So it's easier to blame oneself than to accept that parents are, after all, human. As a therapist, I know children can't heal until they understand that they are not to blame for their parents' actions and decisions. And for many clients, particularly adults still suffering the aftereffects of divorce trauma from childhood, forgiveness for their parents can't begin until they first experience the anger from and place the blame for the divorce on their parents' shoulders.

Something similar seems to happen to people leaving the Transcendental Meditation Movement. In time, former TMers find it easy to accept that the TM Org was flawed. Some even come to think of the Org as evil, in whatever personal definition for "evil" the individual accepts.

But time and time and time again, I've seen former TMers hold the Maharishi blameless for the lies, fraud, greed, and damage committed in the name of the Movement. Some say he is an innocent, if naïve, monk. Some say he could not have known what was happening in a world wide movement. Some hold he was tricked by conniving deputies within the Movement.


It just seems that questioning the culpability of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is the last thing many former TMers do.

In an excellent book on exit counseling, Captive Hearts, Captive Minds, Tobias and Lalich state this is a common phenomenon for people leaving cults. I was lucky enough to be exit counseled by Jajna Lalich and Margaret Singer in 1995. I must admit that holding the Maharishi accountable was very difficult for me. I blamed Jerry Jarvis and other Movement leaders. I said that no man could possibly know everything that was happening in the Movement, and so he could not be held accountable. I said that the Maharishi existed in some kind of irreality bubble, like Nixon in his final days, and never received news of the terrible damage that rounding and the TM-Sidhis were causing for some TMers.

I used all the excuses. Lalich and Singer were patient and simply asked pointed questions. Never offering answers. Waiting for me to find my own.

Could the Maharishi really have been innocent? By all reports he micromanages every aspect of the Movement, not just the teaching, but money and real estate deals as well.

According to MIU Anthony Denaro, former MIU professor of law and economics, the Maharishi was aware of Transcendental Meditation side-effects that were "damaging and disruptive to the nervous system." "[He] was aware, apparently for some time [in 1986], of the problems, suicide attempts, assaults, homicidal ideation, serious psychotic episodes, depressions, inter alia [among others], but his general attitude was to leave it alone or conceal it because the community would lose faith in the TM movement. Maharishi had a very cavalier, almost elitist, view about very serious injuries and trauma to meditators." He could accept a "few" sacrifices to realize his World Plan.

It's alleged he went so far as to have the powerful tranquilizer Thorazine administered to students who "freaked out" on rounding courses.

Far from being a weak, innocent creature leaving his movement to underlings to run, the Maharishi has had a history of forcing out the strongest, most capable figures in his Movement, presumably before they could challenge him: Charlie Lutes, Jerry Jarvis, Deepak Chopra, others.

As for the innocent monk part, we now know he was a shrewd businessman and savvy marketer who knew the value and location of every nickel taken in. And he is alleged to have indulged his weakness for sex with many women.

It took me some time and a lot of work. But I eventually found the Maharishi responsible for these and other actions. He was not alone, but as leader of the Movement he holds the lion's share of the blame, in my mind.

But does any part of this resonate for you? Do you find yourself making excuses for our innocent monk?

Do you believe you can ever be free of this man's influence if you continue to hold him innocent? Do you believe you can forgive him and move on before you are willing to name his culpabilities for the damage he's done?

Do you have this or similar "Remains of Ignorance"?

Please consider posting your thoughts in the comments below. Just click on "Comments" and type away. Please feel free to remain anonymous. You may help another former TMer with your insights!


To read other articles in this series, click on the label "Remains of Ignorance" below.

REMAINS OF IGNORANCE is an occasional feature of quick hits on life after Transcendental Meditation. It's a reversal of the Maharishi's translation of lesh-avidya. He claimed this was a Vedantic concept: Even after enlightenment there remains some slight residue of ignorance without which one would "drop the body" or die.

I've found that even after I left the TM Org behind, there remain in my mind "alien artifacts," bits and pieces of TM-based myths that still affect me today. I represent my own experience only here. But I've learned from my years counseling TMers that a significant number of others have had similar experiences.

No comments:

Post a Comment