Thursday, November 20, 2008

Revisiting TM Initiation, Part 2: The Puja ("Traditional Ceremony of Gratitude")

Please note: This is a four-part series. "Revisiting TM Initiation, Part 1," was posted 11/11/2008. "Revisiting TM Initiation, Part 3: The Mantra" was posted 12/5/08. "Revisiting TM Initiation, Part 4: Bowing Down" was published 1/1/2009.

The initiator finishes instructing the initiate, and he leaves. The initiator is now alone.

The initiator is striken with a bout of conscience. "Good heavens!" she thinks to herself. "I told that initiate one lie after another. I thought I was a person of integrity. I'm ashamed of myself. I've got to turn over a new leaf. I hereby promise myself that from this moment forward, while keeping my promises to Maharishi, I will also be truthful with my initiates."

There is a knock at the door. The next initiate enters with his basket. They both sit down.

Fantasy Initiation #2:

Question from initiate: Is it OK if I ask you a few questions as I'm learning?

Answer from initiator: Sure.

Q: Why do you do the ceremony of gratitude in the traditional way? Why don't you express gratitude in a Western way?

A: Well, Maharishi said that to assure the purity of the teaching of TM, we should start with this traditional ceremony.

Q: But you do so many other things that deviate from the tradition, that are the Western way.

A: You're right. Maharishi was very strict about us wearing Western clothes - he forbade us from wearing Indian costumes when representing TM. And he told the men that they were absolutely not to grow their hair long in imitation of him - they had to keep their hair cut short. Also he modified the traditional meditation posture into sitting in a chair to make it comfortable for Westerners. And he was insistent that we use Western scientific research to sell TM. He changed the language from traditional "God" to "Creative Intelligence" to make it more Western. So you're right - I really can't prove to you that the traditional way is essential.

Q: You said in the preparatory lecture that the reason you do the ceremony is to remind yourself to teach TM in its purity, accurately. Why do you have to remind yourself? My school teachers taught me all sorts of things accurately, without a big reminder priming themselves to teach it accurately. Isn't it enough to just have a minimum level of integrity?

A: Well, when I was learning to be a TM teacher, Maharishi told us to tell the public something different from what was the real reason for the ceremony. He said that when the initiator invokes all those great teachers or gods during the puja -

Q: Gods? Didn't you assure us that this wasn't a religious ceremony?

A: Yes, that's what I said, but there are gods named in the puja.

Q: And didn't you assure us that TM wasn't a religious technique?

A: Well, yes, it isn't. Anyhow, when the initiator invokes the names of the gods and masters, it sort of enlivens the room with the qualities of those beings -

Q: What are you talking about? This sounds like some weird spiritualist religion.

A: Oh, no, it's not a religion. TM is a simple natural non-religious technique. Anyhow, when the initiator invokes the names of the gods and masters, it sort of conjures up the essence of those beings, and Maharishi said that the initiator takes on some of the qualities of those beings -

Q: It sounds like Maharishi trained you to be a medium. It sounds like you're channeling these creatures. Now you're taking on their qualities. Do you think you're "possessed?"

A: Of course not. I continue to say the words I had planned to say; I don't find myself speaking the being's words.

Q: I don't believe in this conjuring stuff. To put it in Western terms, don't you think it would be accurate to say that you go into an altered, highly suggestible state?

A: I've never heard that. But anyhow, when the initiator is vibrating with the qualities of the gods and masters, in that state, we can teach TM properly.

Q: You said in the introductory lectures that TM is a mechanical technique that uses the natural tendency of the mind to go to increasing charm. If it's such a natural technique, why do you have to go into an altered state in order to teach it properly?

A: Maharishi told us on Teacher Training that when the initiator is in that state, the initiate becomes sort of in awe of or intimidated by the initiator, sort of like "cat and mouse" were his words. If the initiator does something, the initiate does it back.

Initiate: That sounds nefarious. It sounds like you're trying to control me. Why can't I just follow your instructions of my own free will, because I want to learn? Why do you have to entrance me into obeying you?

A: I don't know. Maharishi didn't cover that point.

Q: You told us that the ceremony is just a reminder for yourself. But you want me in a suggestible state, right? That's why I have to be present, right?

A: Well, I wouldn't put it that way.

Q: Well, does the puja do anything else aside from supposedly making you resonate with these beings and making me compliant?

A: Well, during the ceremony, I sing out loud in Sanskrit as I simultaneously translate it into English in my head. Then there's a certain point where I start offering objects to the painting of Guru Dev in a very prescribed way. And at the same time, I am supposed to be thinking prescribed "puja feelings" that the actions and words are supposed to be inspiring in me. Like when I am offering water, I am supposed to be thinking of feeling "I feel an upsurge of purifying waves of knowledge." So I am doing four things at once.

Q: Yeah, so what's the point?

A: Maharishi said that the purpose of thinking the "puja feelings" was to amplify the feelings that I was already having.

Q: What's wrong with the feelings you're having naturally? Why do you have to amplify them?

A: I don't know.

Q: So Maharishi wants you to amplify your feelings. You mean talking yourself into feeling an emotion strongly that you may only feel slightly?

A: Yeah, I guess so. Embroidering. Embellishing. Mood-making. It's strange, because Maharishi had such contempt for, and taught us the worthlessness of, what he termed "mood-making." That was the term he used for when people kidded themselves that they were having a spiritual experience. He used the term contemptuously for people who claimed spiritual experiences but did not practice TM. And here he was encouraging us to "mood make."

Q: Well, did you find it successfully amplified your feelings?

A: No. Most of the time I find it sort of disorienting, because it's not easy to keep two thoughts going at the exact same time. (I don't know if other initiators have that same problem. ) Even though he said it was a "feeling," we had to memorize the feeling as specific words. I think it made me sort of woozy. By the end of the puja, I am thoroughly zonked.

Q: Why would Maharishi want you in an altered state by the end of the puja?

A: He said that between invoking the beings to possess some of their qualities, and amplifying the feelings, we get into a deep state, and it is from there that we "pick up" the mantra. Then when we impart it to the initiate, we are "planting" the mantra, and it heads right back inward from whence it came, thus facilitating the inward direction of the meditation.

Q: Wait a minute. In the preparatory lecture, you said that the mantra moves inward due to the natural tendency of the mind to seek increasing charm. Now you're giving me this mumbo jumbo that the mind moves inward because with the help of these beings and your trance state, you have dug up the mantra from some esoteric realm and the mantra wants to go back there. This doesn't make any sense to me, and it certainly doesn't square with what you told us, that this is scientific and non-religious. You have a whole esoteric spiritual teaching going on here. So Maharishi told you that you virtually channel these creatures, and that you and the initiate go into a hypnotic state?

A: Isn't it strange that you should put it that way; because at the end of the teacher training course, he told us there were two things we should specifically avoid: channeling and hypnosis. Well, do you have any more questions? No? OK, then shall we begin?

- End -

(Note: The author attended TM Teacher Training in La Antilla, Spain in 1974, and is using those experiences to inform this article. People on other Teacher Training courses may have learned different things.)

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