Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Charisma of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Founder of Transcendental Meditation

About a month ago, I attended a 2-hour workshop on healing through movement. After this brief workshop, I wanted to immediately buy the presenter's book, take his classes, do home practice off his audiotapes, immerse myself in his technique and philosophy, and become a true believer, practitioner and follower.

I had to shake myself awake! It was only because of my years in recovery from TM that I so quickly recognized that I was thinking irrationality. Why would I become a "true believer" after only 2 hours?

I picked apart my reactions, and realized that what I had been reacting to had been the teacher's "charismatic" presentation. Here is what he did that won me over:

1. He appears absolutely sure of the truth of his knowledge.

2. His teaching encompassed sweeping areas of life (health, biology, movement, evolution, physiology, healing, the brain).

3. His teaching was internally consistent.

4. He promised us great things.
(fluidity of movement, no more aches and pains, healing of chronic injuries).

5. He backed up his promises both with fascinating anecdotes and with quotes from science.

6. He appeared knowledgeable about his competitors' products, and discredited them in a way both loving and condescending.

7. His teaching was original and off the beaten track.

8. His personality was attractive (a happy, warm man.)

9. He promised his technique would give me exactly what I longed for (relief from chronic pain and healthy aging.)

Put this all together, and it was so easy to take the internal steps from, "How nice if this were true," to "Wow, there is some evidence that this is true," to "This must be true. How lucky I am to have found it!"

Upon reflection, I could see how closely this brief experience paralleled my experience with Maharishi. Each of the qualities I experienced in this exercise teacher, I also experienced 40 years earlier in Maharishi:

1. Maharishi seemed absolutely convinced of the truth of his knowledge. No gray areas.

2. Maharishi's teachings encompassed physical, mental, emotional, social, financial, governmental, educational, philosophical and spiritual regeneration.

3. His teachings were internally consistent. (If you didn't dig too deep.)

4. He promised great things for us: enlightenment, having the support of nature and inner peace; and later he also promised us perfect health, immortality, and world peace.

5. He backed up his promises with endless fascinating anecdotes of people who he said had benefited from TM, as well as appeals based on scientific research.

6. He described what he said were the different types of meditations, and explained why his meditation technique was superior. He quoted scientific research to back it up.

7. His teaching was original and off the beaten track.

8. His personality was attractive (joyous, bubbly, happy).

9. He promised that his technique would give me exactly what I personally longed for (peace of mind, self-esteem.)

So it wasn't surprising that at the naive age of 19, I fell under the sway of Maharishi and his teachings.

What were your experiences of the persuasive powers of Maharishi?

As long as I'm talking about Maharishi's public appeal, I wanted to comment on Maharishi's physical appearance. It's ironic that TM teachers became known for looking "corporate" (business suits, clean shaven, etc.), - Maharishi had a strict dress code - because in fact, Maharishi looked like the quintessential "flower child." He had the long hair, flowing beard , beads, carried a flower, sandals or bare feet, sat cross-legged, talked about love. In fact, his only lapse was wearing a dhoti instead of blue jeans and a tie-dyed shirt! Which came first - Maharishi, with flower children emulating him? Or flower children, with Maharishi imitating them?

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