Friday, April 23, 2010

Lying: A Core Practice of Transcendental Meditation. (A Seven-Part Series). Part 2: First Lie

What was the first lie you spotted? When did you first notice Maharishi Mahesh Yogi or the Transcendental Meditation organization (TMO) lying to you?

For me, possibly it was at the introductory lecture. The lecturers said that TM was not religious in nature. I knew that their leader, Maharishi, wore white robes, religious beads, long hair and beard, and had a name that included the word "Yogi." He taught something called "meditation," which I knew was a Hindu religious practice. On the wall behind the lecturers hung a large painting of an Indian yogi. The TM teachers called themselves "initiators." Initiators initiate people into spiritual mysteries, didn't they - not into scientific techniques, right? And the initiators talked slowly, ethereally, with a dreamy-eyed inspiration. They were pale and they glowed. Of course, none of these proved that TM was religious in nature, but it certainly gave me pause. I overlooked the contradictions because the initiators explicitly stated that TM was not
religious in nature. They also had an answer to the yogi/yoga question: "Just because Maharishi is a Hindu monk doesn't make this a Hindu religious practice. After all, Linnaeus was a Christian monk, and he studied genetics, but that doesn't make genetics a Christian sphere." And as for the painting on the wall, and as for calling themselves "initiators," well, that was all chalked up to "tradition." So although I suspected they were lying at that lecture, I couldn't prove it.

However, on initiation day I spotted my first clear-cut lie. At the preparatory lecture, the lecturers had promised that we initiates would not participate in the "non-religious traditional ceremony of gratitude"- we would just witness the initiator perform it. True, I had to bring my own fruit, flowers and handkerchief; but I reasoned that the TM center didn't have the refrigeration facilities to provide the fruit and flowers for everyone. However, before I entered the initiation room, I was instructed to remove my shoes. Once inside the initiation room, I was instructed to stand during the ceremony. I was given a flower to hold during the ceremony, and at one point the initiator took my flower and offered it up before the painting of the elderly yogi. And finally, at the end of the ceremony, the teacher reverently kneeled before the altar, and gestured for me to do the same. So the initiators were surely stretching the truth in assuring us that we were not "participants" in the ceremony.

How did I justify this deception in my own mind? Trying to remember now, 40 years later, this is what I think happened. First of all, I was anxious to learn TM. I was startled by the gleaming altar. I was disoriented by the Sanskrit chant. I was in over my head, so it was easier to just give in and obey than to question every inch of the way.

Second, this was the tail end of the 1960s. I lived by the 1960s mottos, "Don't trust anyone over 30" and "God is dead" and "Down with the System." If Western religion was corrupt, then the "mystical East" had the truth, and I was glad to be privy to its secrets. I interpreted the deception as a way of pulling something over on those ignorant adults, and I was flattered to be part of the deception.

And thirdly, at the first follow-up meeting on the day after initiation, when there was an opportunity to ask questions, I was too blissed out from my first meditations to embarrass the initiators with piddling questions such as how they could swear that we new students would not be participants in the ceremony.

How about you? When was the first time you became aware that the TMO was lying to you? And how did you deal, mentally and/or concretely with their first deception?

24 comments:

Seeker said...

http://tinyurl.com/29b722v

Gina said...

Childhood initiation, Beverly Hills, CA 1966:

http://comingtolifestories.com/2010/04/25/karma-puja/

g :)

c f eyecare said...

c. 1994-95, i forget the exact year.  i arrived very early for an advanced lecture at the NYC tm center near 5th ave and 21st st.   the office door was open and i could hear the director Jane or Joan i believe was her name.  she  went thru a long financial list on the telephone, as in $45,000 here,  $50,000 there, $65,000 here etc.  i was reading a book and the list went on and on w/these large numbers.  it must have been an enormous amount in total.

Deborah said...

>>>and I was glad to be privy to its secrets. I interpreted the deception as a way of pulling something over on those ignorant adults, and I was flattered to be part of the deception.

Exactly. We were willing victims. I'm sure if the ceremony had turned out to be some fundamentalist talking-in-tongues lunacy or a Voodoo animal scarifce, you (and I) would have run out of there at top speed, young or not. MMY's timing was uncannily perfect, the exact moment when Eastern religion was bathed in a halo of entrancing beautiful colours that somehow reflected on our recreational drug experiences, only much better. Had we looked a little deeper, we might have seen the horrible inequalities, hypocrisies, etc residing in Hindu culture. But really...what do you expect you are getting from a Hindu monk wearing robes? No one hoodwinked us......we had all checked our brains at the door.

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Tanemon said...

Laurie, understandably you look back on it as a fabric of lies.<span>  </span>Maybe that’s because you knew the specifics of the situation all along.<span>  </span>As an “outsider” meditator – a rank-and-file TM initiate without large financial resources, and not an initiator – I just had to puzzle my way through things.<span>  </span>I picked up bits here and there and tried to arrive at my own understanding.
 
I came to my TM initiation having read a fair amount of literature about the spiritualities of South Asia and East Asia.<span>  </span>I was not that naïve about about MMY’s general belief system, nor about the initiation process.<span>  </span>My questions were more about pragmatic things:<span>  </span>Will this meditation help me in life?<span>  </span>Will this movement help my society?<span>  </span>Will this movement help the human race?
 
I read MMY’s Science of Being and Art of Living, and I watched some of the videos the TM center had on hand.<span>  </span>I read a generous portion of the literature that the TMO published to promote TM and the advanced techniques Sidhis.<span>  </span>So I did wonder about the claims. <span> </span>My wife and I got to be friendly with a woman who worked at the local center.<span>  </span>She was about 15 years older than we were, and she was genuinely warm and friendly, intelligent, and very humanitarian in outlook.<span>  </span>After some months, I said to her, “MMY puts TM forward as a panacea.  Do you think it is that?”<span>  </span>In all sincerity, I felt, she answered, “Well yes, it is.”
 
Rather than perceiving “lies” (as such), I felt that there were high-flung hopes, exaggerations, and mistaken opinions and perceptions rampant within the movement.<span>  </span>After a few years, I felt the TMO people were indeed glossing over realities in order to promote a “rose-colored” vision.  This was how I experienced it.  Given the position of the TM teachers in the whole system, I can see how your perspective would be different.

Tanemon said...

Laurie, understandably you look back on it as a fabric of lies.<span>  </span>Maybe that’s because you knew the specifics of the situation all along.<span>  </span>As an “outsider” meditator – a rank-and-file TM initiate without large financial resources, and not an initiator – I just had to puzzle my way through things.<span>  </span>I picked up bits here and there and tried to arrive at my own understanding.
 
I came to my TM initiation having read a fair amount of literature about the spiritualities of South Asia and East Asia.<span>  </span>I was not that naïve about about MMY’s general belief system, nor about the initiation process.<span>  </span>My questions were more about pragmatic things:<span>  </span>Will this meditation help me in life?<span>  </span>Will this movement help my society?<span>  </span>Will this movement help the human race?
 
I read MMY’s Science of Being and Art of Living, and I watched some of the videos the TM center had on hand.<span>  </span>I read a generous portion of the literature that the TMO published to promote TM and the advanced techniques Sidhis.<span>  </span>So I did wonder about the claims. <span> </span>My wife and I got to be friendly with a woman who worked at the local center.<span>  </span>She was about 15 years older than we were, and she was genuinely warm and friendly, intelligent, and very humanitarian in outlook.<span>  </span>After some months, I said to her, “MMY puts TM forward as a panacea.  Do you think it is that?”<span>  </span>In all sincerity, I felt, she answered, “Well yes, it is.”
 
Rather than perceiving “lies” (as such), I felt that there were high-flung hopes, exaggerations, and mistaken opinions and perceptions rampant within the movement.<span>  </span>After a few years, I felt the TMO people were indeed glossing over realities in order to promote a “rose-colored” vision.  This was how I experienced it.  Given the position of the TM teachers in the whole system, I can see how your perspective would be different.

RM said...

This is an interesting link and addresses the pseudo-religious nature of TM in that, like so many other religious ventures, TM strives to maintain its ego. The ego of any religion is that its belief structures, its dogmas, its method of both reaching out and keeping in are superior to the wellness of its supporters. The ego must survive at any expense is mantra-like in religion. The ego of the religion can never be questioned, challenged or threatened. From this all manner of evil behaviour in the world has been seen. - When the ego of a social system can be seen as ephemeral, useful but not paramount, then a social system can benefit others, even at its own expense. TM and the TM organization seem to be very well established on side of the unquestionable ego and this will, eventually, destroy the organization and any good that might have evolved from TM.

lex said...

I don't think 'lying' is exactly the right word for what we as teachers were doing, thoiugh we were not off the hook entirely either. Not the teachers of my era anyway - mid to late seventies - we thought the techniques worked independently of the Vedic trappings and that they worked for sensible, scientific reasons such as 'deep rest for dynamic action'. Under the guidance of Charlie Donahue on the East Coast we prided ourselves in this to a degree. Sure we sort of glossed over the Puja but we figured that once that was over the meditator would go away using a secular, mechanical technique from then on, so what was the big deal if we didn't spell out the details of the Puja. I thought of it as a quaint carryover of an old tradition and that the 'sanctity' of it at least would have the effect of preserving the delicate technique, of ironically keeping the mumbo jumo OUT of it.

I was very young and naive enough to believe that mantras were selected by age because age was in fact the factor that determined the suitability of certain sounds. I never knew about the mantras being somehow connected to the names of Vedic gods till much later. Of course all of this should have been divulged from the start but the fact is I never felt I was involved in a religion and I meditated for practical reasons. To my mind it would have been OK if TM had turned out to be the same as a religion so long as that religion had its basis in science and the actual physiological and psychological facts of a human being in which case religion and science are then the same thing - that was exactly what I hoped and believed to be the case and I thought this sort of explained all the apparent inconsistencies.

I always hedged when I discussed the sidhis and I never suggested or implied anyone was flying at all. I simply spoke of the hopping as being a semi-spontaneous phenomena that had real effects such as energy and bliss. If it would ever lead to actual levitating I always expressly said was an open question. (I realize not all teachers were as careful about this as I was.)

As TM got more and more 'Vedic' and involved all sorts of scientifically questionable things, including demonstrably false things like astrology, that's when I got out. I didn't like the cult-like devotion prevalent in the inner core of the organization either - the whole thing seemed to collapse out of that scientific, practical foundation that was for me the essence of TM.

Tanemon said...

Just wish I could get rid of the double (and sometimes triple ! ) postings.  And also, I wish my last couple entries - in this comments thread - didn't have the extraneous garbage at the top of the post.   Apologies, good people.

I'm beginning to conclude that the multiple entries on a single Post command are because I'm using a dial-up connection when I'm on-line at home.  (Today I'm at the public library, with broadband).  The garbage at the top of my recent posts is because I made the mistake of doing my composing/word-processing in Office/Word, then copied and pasted-in.  Another mistake.  Live & learn.

Do these Comments threads have a moderator??  (If so, can you get rid of my duplicate posts, and cut out the garbage at the top of my post above?  Thanks.)

Tanemon said...

Just wish I could get rid of the double (and sometimes triple ! ) postings.  And also, I wish my last couple entries - in this comments thread - didn't have the extraneous garbage at the top of the post.   Apologies, good people.

I'm beginning to conclude that the multiple entries on a single Post command are because I'm using a dial-up connection when I'm on-line at home.  (Today I'm at the public library, with broadband).  The garbage at the top of my recent posts is because I made the mistake of doing my composing/word-processing in Office/Word, then copied and pasted-in.  Another mistake.  Live & learn.

Do these Comments threads have a moderator??  (If so, can you get rid of my duplicate posts, and cut out the garbage at the top of my post above?  Thanks.)

Bjarne said...

Live & learn...love it! :) Tanemon.. maybe just use another browser

Gina said...

Sorry, Tanemon,
John Knapp is the only person who can edit or delete from comments.
I don't know where John is these days!
g :)

Laurie said...

Thanks, everyone, for your interesting and insightful comments on my article.  CF Eyecare:  I enjoyed your story!  But I am unclear about what you concluded from overhearing the initiator.  (Could it have been Janet Hoffman?)  Are you saying that her reading out large amounts of money was some sort of lie?  What did you think the numbers were referring to?  Looking forward to more details of your story!  Thanks. 

Kalinka said...

Yo, Lex

The big cheeze Maharishi preyed upon the intelectually and spiritually young (and naive). He reeled them in like fish and he used completely plausable and sincere appearances to do this.

But like any coin, there are two sides. Not everything the maha cheeze said or did was a lie. He knew his stuff, at least the stuff he actually parted with seems to have been based in real spiritual achievement. (and had it not been for the little thief's plausible deceit, I might not have gone on to try to discover more about what spirituality was really all about)

Then there's that other side of the coin: he used many devious ways, half-truths, believable lies, minor distortions and on the whole fed us what we wanted to hear, wanted to believe. To damn with faint praise, the old cheeze was one clever git who sussed out what we were worth and just how far he could push the envelope of credibility.

But he also enabled people, not on purpose of course, like yourself and many others of us to see through his web of half truths and self-serving greediness and lust.

He succeeded in failing to keep the wool pulled over enough eyes to actually cement his vision of his own greatness. I think he succeeded in freeing enough people from his grasp, again, hardly intentionally, so that his followers are a very small minority of those who once bought into his, now shall we say, scheme of things. It is poetic justice that he died in his little Dutch fish bowl, forgotten by so many and revered by so few (who themselves seem to be on the brain dead side of where TM was supposed to take them).

I think we who have escaped have the last laugh, a laugh free of TM's twist on reality.

Thanks and best wishes to the creators of this excellent Blog.

Kalinka said...

Yo, Lex

The big cheeze Maharishi preyed upon the intelectually and spiritually young (and naive). He reeled them in like fish and he used completely plausable and sincere appearances to do this.

But like any coin, there are two sides. Not everything the maha cheeze said or did was a lie. He knew his stuff, at least the stuff he actually parted with seems to have been based in real spiritual achievement. (and had it not been for the little thief's plausible deceit, I might not have gone on to try to discover more about what spirituality was really all about)

Then there's that other side of the coin: he used many devious ways, half-truths, believable lies, minor distortions and on the whole fed us what we wanted to hear, wanted to believe. To damn with faint praise, the old cheeze was one clever git who sussed out what we were worth and just how far he could push the envelope of credibility.

But he also enabled people, not on purpose of course, like yourself and many others of us to see through his web of half truths and self-serving greediness and lust.

He succeeded in failing to keep the wool pulled over enough eyes to actually cement his vision of his own greatness. I think he succeeded in freeing enough people from his grasp, again, hardly intentionally, so that his followers are a very small minority of those who once bought into his, now shall we say, scheme of things. It is poetic justice that he died in his little Dutch fish bowl, forgotten by so many and revered by so few (who themselves seem to be on the brain dead side of where TM was supposed to take them).

I think we who have escaped have the last laugh, a laugh free of TM's twist on reality.

Thanks and best wishes to the creators of this excellent Blog.

Laurie said...

Deborah, I agree that we were *partially* willing victims, but I don't think we were totally willing victims.  I agree that we *partially* checked our brains at the door, but I don't think we totally checked our brains at the door.  The TMO deserves some credit for our brainlessness, too.  As I wrote in the essay, we were hypnotized during the initiation, and after the initiation I was in a dreamy state so I couldn't think clearly.  And also, I was 19 and naive, so I thought Maharishi was a "holy man."  They took advantage of us in various ways.  As Steve Hassan, author of "Combating Cult Mind Control" says, "How could someone intelligent fall for all that?"  And Steve replies, "You're right, no one intelligent would fall for all that.  So the first thing the cult did was to make us stupid!"

Tanemon said...

Laurie wrote: "<span>I don't think we totally checked our brains at the door.  The TMO deserves some credit for our brainlessness, too.  As I wrote in the essay, we were hypnotized during the initiation, and after the initiation I was in a dreamy state so I couldn't think clearly.  And also, I was 19 and naive, so I thought Maharishi was a "holy man."  They took advantage of us in various ways.  As Steve Hassan, author of "Combating Cult Mind Control" says, "How could someone intelligent fall for all that?"  And Steve replies, "You're right, no one intelligent would fall for all that.  So the first thing the cult did was to make us stupid!"</span>"

It's the old thing of "how are you going to learn about something new (something novel, in terms of your own experience) if you don't chekc it out don't get involved?"

Each person (at least each adult - I'm not speaking of kids like Gina was) then goes as far into it as he or she chose.  Live and learn.

Generally, when TM teachers' or Governors' consciences really balked, they left the movement.

Tanemon said...

Laurie wrote: "<span>I don't think we totally checked our brains at the door.  The TMO deserves some credit for our brainlessness, too.  As I wrote in the essay, we were hypnotized during the initiation, and after the initiation I was in a dreamy state so I couldn't think clearly.  And also, I was 19 and naive, so I thought Maharishi was a "holy man."  They took advantage of us in various ways.  As Steve Hassan, author of "Combating Cult Mind Control" says, "How could someone intelligent fall for all that?"  And Steve replies, "You're right, no one intelligent would fall for all that.  So the first thing the cult did was to make us stupid!"</span>"

It's the old thing of "how are you going to learn about something new (something novel, in terms of your own experience) if you don't chekc it out don't get involved?"

Each person (at least each adult - I'm not speaking of kids like Gina was) then goes as far into it as he or she chose.  Live and learn.

Generally, when TM teachers' or Governors' consciences really balked, they left the movement.

Tanemon said...

Laurie wrote: "<span>I don't think we totally checked our brains at the door.  The TMO deserves some credit for our brainlessness, too.  As I wrote in the essay, we were hypnotized during the initiation, and after the initiation I was in a dreamy state so I couldn't think clearly.  And also, I was 19 and naive, so I thought Maharishi was a "holy man."  They took advantage of us in various ways.  As Steve Hassan, author of "Combating Cult Mind Control" says, "How could someone intelligent fall for all that?"  And Steve replies, "You're right, no one intelligent would fall for all that.  So the first thing the cult did was to make us stupid!"</span>"

It's the old thing of "how are you going to learn about something new (something novel, in terms of your own experience) if you don't chekc it out don't get involved?"

Each person (at least each adult - I'm not speaking of kids like Gina was) then goes as far into it as he or she chose.  Live and learn.

Generally, when TM teachers' or Governors' consciences really balked, they left the movement.

Deborah said...

When I said we checked our brains at the door, I meant we suspended judgement. We didn't submit MMY, the TMO or the initiation process to the normal scrutiny we ordinarily would have. Do you remember the book Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse? This book was hugely popular and influential back then. You will recall the protagonist Harry Haller  finds a door labeled Magic Theatre--Entrance Not for Everybody'. We wanted a magical experience, something that would lift us out of the realm of the ordinary to a marvellous new sphere. And just like Harry Haller, we had to make a leap of faith, and to have the courage to step into a new unknown realm. I do think MMY's timing was perfect and he pandered to our desire for miracles, something that could only have flourished during a time of  economic prosperity.

Also, not to be forgotten, initiation was cheap back then...$35. So we didn't evaluate it as carefully as if we were spending hundreds or thousands of dollars.

jmknapp53 said...

Hi, everyone, especially Gina,

I'm gradually coming back up to speed on the blog after some time away. 

Actually, unless something has grossly changed, anyone who is using a JS-Kit account to post comments from should be able to delete their posts. That's how the Travis, Orme-Johnson, and numerous other TMer posts have disappeared from the threads in the last few months.

I have never deleted a substantive post—just some posts promoting pornography.

THose who have posted using an account can test this out by clicking on the black and white "H" logo beneath your name. You should get a listing of all your comments, which you can delete if you care to.

The new comment system, which I'll announce tomorrow, will only allow editing and deleting up until the time someone replies to your comment. This avoids what happened to Travis's and Orme-Johnson's commenters: When the TMers deleted their comments, all the replies disappeared as well. 

Fortunately I back up the comments fairly regularly and have copies of most of the deleted posts.

J.

Gina said...

Thanks for explanation, John!
Glad you're back again.  Life can be so overwhelming (for ALL of us).  Hard to keep up w/ this ongoing volunteer activism online.

Duh!  I should've known to tell folks they can delete their own comments.  I had a brain blip.  Sorry.

g :)

c f eyecare said...

to Laurie:  at about this time i was becoming suspicious about the tmo and maha. Although i can not prove anything, there was something that seemed strange to me. i think that her name was Janet H., as you wrote.  i do not believe that she realised that she had left the office door partially open.  i was not paying much attention until she started chanting those large numbers and it went on for some minutes!  That did not prove anything but...   Also, i remember her, at a lecture, explaining the tm-sidhis, w/o explaining the price or how the money was to be spent! As if she were selling incense. At the time, the initiation fee was $1000, if i remember correctly.
                                            These things contributed to my skepticism. i was beginning to have doubts about the tmo and their policies. i often wondered if Janet and other teachers were completely brainwashed, and how this could happen. Are they really so insecure that they must agree, entirely, w/ the tmo ?    
                

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