Thursday, February 07, 2008

An Ex-TMer Remembers the Maharishi

A former Transcendental Meditation teacher I've known over the Net for some years wrote me this morning. Very moving.

by William W. Eberwein

I spent 13 years with Maharishi. Several friends wrote to tell me of his passing. I wrote a few words in reflection.

MMY died today. He had been predicting it for a few weeks. Missed a few "drop the body" dates, and finally succumbed to whatever ailed him. He was 91.

A huge part of my life. I feel about him the way Dean Martin did about Jerry Lewis. Best thing that ever happened to me was meeting him. The second best thing was leaving him. I met him in 1971, was "initiated" personally by him into the teaching profession in 1972, taught around 500 people "the technique" and established several centers, and was program manager at the 'TM TV station' in Los Angeles, spent several 6-months retreats with him, and left the movement (as we called it) in 1985.

He was an enigma. Claiming to be a world teacher, his real aim was to re-elevate Indian culture and influence. He often spoke in harsh terms about the Chinese, and was dismissive of any claims from other traditions until they had been veda-ized. Even science, which he used to underpin his meditative practice, was seen as the sterile though poetic expression of the Life Force -"The Science Of Creative Intelligence." In the last 15-20 years, all of the programs were explicitly "Indian" - from foods and dress codes, to program names. Schools have been set up in India to train young boys into the priesthood. They must be genetic Indians to have the pure sage-capacity, it seems.

He never taught morals or ethics, and often gleefully counseled us to break laws if it served the purposes of world enlightenment. It was thought that meditation would naturally cause one to live in harmony with nature - and that proper civil laws were derived from nature. Therefore, any requirements or ethics were a "waste of time." When enlightenment dawned, you would naturally be a good citizen.

"Lie to them!" he told us when he made us teachers of TM. "An elephant has two sets of teeth: one to show and one to chew with!" So we lied about the matras - the names of Shiva - and how we selected them - simply by age - and the goals of meditation, thinking we were serving a higher truth. An odd man.

"Move the money from SIMS to IMS (two training organizations set up in the early 1970's) until the audit is complete, then move it back." When we told him that this was illegal, he snapped, "It's my money!"

"Go past the passport gate and then hand your passports through the fence to those still here," he told us, when many of us had exhausted our six month visas in Switzerland . Those who were leaving would pretend to be those who were staying. This was pre-9/11 and very easily accomplished.

"Start being late and losing their videotapes," he told us at KSCI - the TM TV station - when we wanted valuable air-time back from the Koreans, to whom we had sold it months earlier. We now wanted the prime hours for our own broadcasts, but had signed contracts. "Make them responsible for breaking the contract. They're only Koreans."

He was very conservative in the 1970's, telling us to cut our hair, allow ourselves to be drafted, and "listen to your parents." As time went on he drifted to the left, mostly due to health-food concerns that irradiation and genetically modified food was vibrationally damaging to the soul, and the accompanying conspiratorial charges that big government and big corporations were intending to enslave people by weakening them with altered foods. Queue the Twilight Zone music.

Most of his big initiatives were accompanied by wild esoteric prophesies. If we don't get 1000 people to move to Iowa, nuclear war will start. A demon is just outside the solar system, and is about to move the world into "Kali Yuga" (the dark ages) unless we have a facility built in India . He would simultaneously inspire the faithful with declarations that "The Age of Enlightenment has dawned!" or is in "Full Sunshine!" which we could see if we could only open our eyes. Visiting the various Maharishi websites reveal that there is a currency and a King of the Enlightened world, to which other meditators must bow and pay homage. One staggers under the audacity of the enterprise.

I should write about the good times I had - which would be like the starry-eyed idealists who became Marxists until they started seeing the bodies pile up. Yes, yes, lots of days sipping coffee until dawn in a bohemian apartment, reading utopian poetry, and chasing coeds with Daddy issues. Waking up at dawn to paint signs and march against "the machine," throwing rocks, the tang of tear gas, and the wild glee of having the press bringing pressure to have charges dropped.

So there were days with the other flower children, feeling we were saving the world. Sipping herb teas and reading Upanishads until dawn, but the same coeds. Giving lectures on meditation, and chanting in an exotic foreign language, chided by the world in their “ignorance” of the beauty of our message. We felt anointed.

In the end, like the radicals who grew up and rejected Marxism and revolution – I wish I would have joined the Army, gotten married much younger, and taught more kids how to throw a curve ball. Spent those wild years in domesticity and talking to my father.Listening to him. And wish I would have read the book of John, and followed the carpenter from Galilee much earlier.

This isn’t regrets. Just a statement of acknowledgment of where the truth lives.

William W. Eberwein

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