Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lying: A Core Practice of Transcendental Meditation. (A Seven-Part Series). Part 3: Lies and the TM Hierarchy

There are so many different ways to lie. There are lies of omission, lies of commission, bending the truth, creeping around the truth, changing the story over time, rationalizing, and more.

There are also the fascinating questions of our own part in the lies we hear - why we did or didn't believe the lies, why we did or didn't take responsibility for perpetuating the lies.

I hope to cover these and other topics in future installments of this seven-part series. I hope those who gain healing from remembering, sharing and re-evaluating their TM stories will enjoy these trips down memory lane. Today's essay focuses on Maharishi's practice of progressively revealing more "inner secrets" as a person moved up the TM hierarchy.

When I learned TM in 1970, the hierarchy looked like this:

Non-TMer ("non-meditator")
TMer ("meditator")
TM teacher ("initiator")
Course leader
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

When I became a "meditator," Maharishi and my initiator taught me certain things. I was 19 years old and naive, and I believed what I was taught. Two and a half years later, when I moved up the hierarchy and was studying to become an "initiator," Maharishi and his course leaders informed us that some of the things they had taught us as meditators were not true, but that now the actual truth would be revealed to us lucky insiders. I was 22, and meditating 12 times a day, and I believed what I was taught.

And here is what I was taught. When I first learned TM, I was told that the mantra was scientifically selected by initiators who had been carefully trained on long courses how to choose the sound that would be most beneficial to each particular individual. But on my TM Teacher Training Course (TTC), I learned the trick to choosing the right mantra in four minutes: age 10 to 12 got "ing," age 12 to 14 got "im," age 14 to 16 got "inga," and so on. Scientific? Carefully chosen? Takes months to learn? Hah!

As a meditator, I had been told that the ceremony I watched on instruction day (the "puja") was not religious, and that it was just to remind the teacher to teach the meditation properly. But on my TTC, we learned that actually the ceremony was loaded with religious references. (Part of the English translation is " Lord Naranaya, to lotus-born Brahma the Creator...," who are Hindu gods.) Also, we were told that through carefully gesturing and contemplating during the puja, we initiators were transported to a higher state of consciousness that would both assist the student in learning to meditate, and in speeding us toward enlightenment.

As a meditator I was taught that TM improves every area of life; on TTC I was told that TM sometimes increases the frequency (or was it the intensity? I can't remember) of seizures for epileptics. (In writing this paragraph, I re-evaluated an event from 35 years ago! On my TTC, one of my dorm-mates stopped rounding or attending lectures, and spent most of her time partying with the local Spaniards. I had always judged her as flighty to waste her money that way. Now I remember that she had a severe epileptic seizure while we were rounding; and in retrospect, I bet that's why she stopped participating in the TTC program. My apologies for looking down my nose at you all these years, dorm-mate!)

When I learned TM, I was taught that when I experienced no thought and no mantra, I had "transcended." On TTC we were taught that no one actually transcends until the last stress is dissolved, but it just "feels like" we transcend.

(Those are just four examples. If I ever get around to re-reading my old TTC notes, I wonder if I would find more. If I do, you the readers will be the first to know!)

Maharishi thus demonstrated that he was at home with lying - but only to lowly meditators, I thought. I know now that the joke was on me. After I left TM, I learned that Maharishi had lied to us initiators many times. I suspect now that people who were higher up the hierarchy heard yet a different set of "truths" from the ones I learned on TTC. But were people at the top ever taught the real truth? Or did Maharishi only give out more elaborate lies? Did Maharishi even know the truth?

So - what about you? What did the TM hierarchy look like in your day? Do you remember being taught one thing when you were at one level in the TM hierarchy, and then when you moved up higher, being taught something different? Share your thoughts and memories with us if you'd like!


Sudarsha said...

I wasn't told, specifically, to actually lie. But there wa some implicit suggestions (sometimes far more effective that specific instructions) that we need to do whatever it takes.

Mahesh, on my TTC, said outright we welcome every question as the perfect opportunity for the answer we have already prepared. Those words still ring in my ears after all these years.

While only speaking for my own experiences with Mahesh, I have no doubt that people on many courses were told that, since it was agreed and understood, that nothing could be better than, let along as good as, TM, then promoting TM was the only good thing that could be done for mankind.

So, we promoted TM. We didn't tell lies, we promoted TM.

Yes, it avoided the actual question about the veracity of what we were saying.

I remember one of the conversations between the Buddha and his cousin, the venerable Ananda. Ananda is going on and on about how wonderful and the bestest ever that the Buddha is.

The Buddha stops him and asks him if he knows all teachers, all teachings and so forth.

Ananda admits that he doesn't. So the Buddha inquires how it is that he proclaims what he does.

No, even had that been emblazoned in neon on all the walls of my house, I would not have been able to penetrate the leap of faith I had made about Mahesh and TM.

lexico said...

About the mantras - as a teacher I never said anything about getting lots of training to scientifically select a correct mantra for an individual. How could I do that knowing what I knew? I merely said that not all mantras were suitable for all people and that we took this into consideration when selecting which to use. I'd be interested in knowing how other teachers handled this? I actually believed that the age criteria was valid - that the length and sound of the mantra was different to suite different age groups - we wouldn't want young people spacing out and transcending like crazy, or so I reasoned. I may have been wrong about this, or maybe not, but I didn't lie.

What were we told to do about mantas? I simply don't recall. I do not remember being told much at all other than to say they were selected based on suitability for the individual.

I have no doubt that some teachers went way to far in selling TM and probably even lied about some things, or at least exaggerated, but we need more careful analysis of this issue - how much was a group-think phenomenon that perhaps many or any other similar sort of group might have fallen prey too, how much was movement policy, and so on. This is a crucial question to get right.

eptfnj said...

Regardless of what people are told, it is their (our) responsibility to check it out for ourselves.

As long as you are quoting the Buddha, remember what he allegedly said as mentioned in the Kalama Sutra?

"Do not accept anything you are told as truth without investigating it for yourself". .

Blaming Maharishi or whoever is completely beside the point. I _know_ that i used bad judgement and took decades to come to understand the important of sound
investigation and real understanding.

I also remember most (if not all) TM Teachers having a smug condescending attitude towards anyone asking questions about the TM Holy Tradition and meditation in general. They simply did not know. Fault? Mine.

It appears to me that people will not read the pros & cons of the various meditative traditions from the East and even West. There is ample evidence that most Teachers are mere mortals with some interesting mental techniques and insights. Nothing special and certainly nothing spiritual.

Oh yes, there is always "My Teacher is ABOVE all that and
can manifest Siddhi at will but is not not taking on any more students". This is one of many ploys in the "My Teacher is better than yours" spiritual game.

Where's the REAL dialog about the problem: US.
We want something easy, something special and like
the TM Elite of the past, want to be ABOVE it all.

I prefer to meet people that claim to have been practicing Eastern techniques for years. So far, when you watch closely, they are so very human with all the shortcomings,
anger, envy, greed not to mention a deep need to feel special.

What do i offer?
Absolutely NOTHING aside from this.
Anything worthwhile requires effort and no matter WHAT people tell us, we must exercise sound personal judgement.

When we follow another Eastern piped right to the edge of the cliff, remember, it is YOU that choose to jump.

Sudarsha said...

Hi, Lexico

I remember Mahesh at least suggesting that the TTC was for the purpose of teaching us how to select the right mantra for the individual.

When I became a teacher, Mahesh handed me a piece of paper with two columns of words one column was for men, the other for women.

The ages for the mantras were down the side.

I pointed out to him that I had, by this reckoning, the wrong mantra. He said ,it doesn't matter! Some years later he asked me to attend to his letters. In one of them, a gentleman claimed that he was saying his mantra backwards and was seeing demons. I asked Mahesh how to reply and he said to tell this guy ,it doesn't matter!

Well, if you check out Beaconlight of the Himalayas, Mahesh says exactly that, the mantra doesn't matter, it's the way the mantra is used that is important, and the way the mantra was used was hardly a secret. Anyone who could check meditation could teach TM; but no one actually took that leap of insight to recognize that.

Sudarsha said...

Hi, eptfnj

Nope, wasn't blaming Mahesh. I made the decisions I made based on my own judgement. However, it's obvious that we have all had to do exactly as you quote from the Kalama Sutta. We have had to question our judgement and learn from it.

I think that speaking out against what appears to be false advertising on the part of Mahesh and the TMO is something else. It is not blaming, but asking people to consider something else.

If we blame, we reify rather than liberate. Blaming Mahesh, demonizing Mahesh only makes that aspect of our life that much more concrete and that much more difficult to manage.

While I wish I had had a better teacher than Mahesh, back then, since, I feel I have made the most that I can with what I have learnt from him, including to be more alert and not to be like Ananda in the quotation I used.

Growth, I think, comes from seeing that whether our life experience has been based on the greatest or the most disastrous of experiences, our life is what we make of it, not what Mahesh made of it (although I have seen way too much evidence of the terrible effects "rounding" had on people in Mallorca, Fiuggi and, to a much lesser extent, in La Antilla).

"Rounding" as done back then is decidedly NOT a good idea and the consequences can be terrible.

Tanemon said...

I've posted enough that most people here probably remember that I was just a rank-and-file TM meditator. Due to the time and place I grew up, I consciously or unconsciously tended to distrust hierarchical organizational structure (though I did understand that there could be gradations of wisdom, and that perhaps some people deserved more respect and responsibility based on further-advanced evolution).

Anyhow, while no one quite explained to me the TM hierarchy as Laurie describes it, I did gain a general sense of it. And I distrusted it - since conversations with many of the initiators seemed bound within invisible walls. There was no option to discuss TM in the context of general 'yoga philosophy', or the teachings of other masters, or the aims and accomplishments of other (related) traditions, or even within the context of the 'bright & good side' of contemporary social developments in the West or the world in general.

However, I did seem to be getting something from practicing TM daily, I did seem to gain benefit from the occasional "check" at the TM center... so I held my judgments in reserve.

But I still believed in the Biblical maxim that "by their fruits shall you know them": that aggregations of truly spiritual people will be identifiable by their valid, worthy, noble accomplishments in the world; that actions will speak to us much louder than words.

So, because the TMO had been promoting the idea of "flying" or levitation, I waited for the scientifically validated evidence to to emerge. (The TMO had published photographs - in their own literature, and provided these also to other widely disseminated independent magazines - purporting to illustrate genuine levitation. They even published a poster explicitly 'illustrating' and announcing 'levitation by mere intention', a poster that John Knapp reproduced on the TM-F Blog.)

When two of my close friends took the Sidhis training course and after six months shared with me that they had not learned to levitate, and that they did not think anyone in the TMO had learned to, then this was, for me, a great blow against any sense that the TMO was operating with what we tend to regard as integrity.

eptfnj said...

Personally, i take issue with the words "recovery" and "healing".

Immaturity is a major factor in an individuals wanting to seek outside of themselves for confirmation of what they are or of self image. Trust first manifests as an aspect of ignorance IMO. Basically, most young people don't know what they want or need. They are also quite impressionable. I know this from personal experience.

Once we find out we were wrong about something, like TM for instance, they next step should be to understand why we were attracted to the idea or lifestyle and what this need really indicated.

It is HARD work.
I don't think that the recitation of Mantra, Prayers,
Breathing techniques or Asana in themselves are any help.
All this activity might be a big SMOKE SCREEN hiding the real issues behind a persons insecurity.

Recovery can be used to describe a person recovering their personal responsibility and using their own intelligence to guide themselves.

Healing to me means taking back control ans assuming personal responsibility.

Reading battle stories and seeing how others also stumbled only shows that we have the potential to make mistakes. Dwelling on this only leads to a "poor me" attitude and then to blaming others.

The only technique i used to admire was the Rinzai Zen approach. It supposedly had a non nonsense approach
for resolving the question of "what is this?" and "Who am I?". Here too, abuses and poor teachers have corrupted this tradition as well.

We are left with what we started with: ourselves.
If we examine this closely, we are in not such bad shape considering we have the power to choose and to design a life we want. I consider this REAL Siddhi.

Here's the rub, it is a tough journey with no guarantee of
what people term success. No promises of bliss or necessarily getting what you want. Pain, disease and death are the only certainties.

Sounds horrible but is may be a springboard to freedom borne of intelligence.

Darth said...

So - what about you? What did the TM hierarchy look like in your day.

the TM hierarchy was Maharishi´s instrument of social control and more important Maharishi´s tool for making money, no one could in the long run remain a meditator, if one wanted to stay in TM it was necessary to move up in the world, which ment paying more cash to MMY.

Sudarsha said...

Hi, eptfnj

I have no quarrels with your point of view. I think that healing and recovery are end products that might begin with whining and blaming which, as I see it, are probably the first stages of recognition that something is not quite right.

Whether we are able to move on from those early stages depends a lot upon who is listening, what kind of listening and what kind of recognition and maturity the listener has.

Mahesh was an immature listener. He listened little and spoke much. He took what he perceived as the good ideas of otherwise useless "others" and incorporated them as his own.

With this kind of model posing as guru (which, of course, he claimed he was not, was not a guru), it is hardly surprising that his followers, like himself, turned out to be a mixed bag of contradictions, fury of sorts and delusional ideology propelling them like blind race drivers convinced that others are going the wrong way.

Yes. Growth, maturation, healing ... these are the issue of hard work, very hard work. Happily, whilst we have the recorded teachings of great teachers through the centuries, we can endeavour to do much of the work ourselves. The journey itself becomes the learning mechanism, the growth mechanism. While I wouldn't exactly credit Mahesh with being a good teacher because he taught me to trust myself more, much more, than to risk trusting him, nonetheless, that is something I finally learnt about myself.

I agree that almost all traditions have been spoilt by less than great teachers mucking about. Still, at some point, it really is necessary that most of us rely on someone to point in some direction. In Mahesh's case (although he's hardly a one-off or unique case), many people lapsed into worshipping the pointing finger rather than noticing that it wasn't pointing much of anyplace, except for the three pointing back at Mahesh.

It's all learning experience, a recognition that comes, sometimes, at the long end of the journey of whining and bitching.

But we learn a lot from one another's stories, travel tales, miseries and insights. I hope to one day be a much better listener than Mahesh was. He's a model of much importance if for nothing else than as an example of what to avoid.

Sudarsha said...

Yours is an important lesson for me, Tanemon. When I finally knew that TM and all things Mahesh were suspect, I was living with the International Staff in Europe and simply going home, dropping the whole thing was way too chancy. It wasn't exactly like I could just get on the streetcar and go home. Then, in Switzerland, one evening Mahesh, wafting out of the lecture hall, stopped in front of me and said you would like to go to India? - Well, I babbled, if that's what you want me to do.

Everyone thought I was so pious, so devoted, so highly evolved!

Truth is, I was trying to keep two mindsets from killing each other in my own head.

I was away from International Staff and Mahesh before the advertising of yogic butt-bouncing became public. But I had learnt the "techniques" and knew that they did bad things to my head and, by the time the advertising was spread about like so much peanut putter on cheap bread, I had quit and was, perhaps as eptfnj suggests, vetting teachers to see whom I could trust, or who I felt I could trust a little.

I never had any friends admit that they couldn't fly! They persisted in butt-bouncing with some kind of faith that eventually it would work. What do they say about persisting in one thing hoping that eventually it will turn out differently? I had been around Mahesh a lot, all total, just over 2 solid years in Europe. As I said to eptfnj, he pointed at not much with three fingers point to himself. It just wasn't what I could do any longer.

When you get to see David's film, I think you will be surprised at how skillfully David shows us all exactly what you have just said.

Sudarsha said...

Not exactly clear on whom you are addressing, Darth. I'll share my tuppance: Gina and I have compared notes. What was going on in California and Fairfield was nothing like what was going on here in Toronto in the late 60's, earl 70's. International Staff, those of us who laboured like so many Chinese building the great railway, lived in yet another sphere of "reality". We were the chosen. We didn't exactly go about acknowledging that, per se, but it seems, now, to have been like that. Mahesh was quite relaxed about "us" - he said, we did. But as far as rules and regulations, do's and don't's and so forth, it was just a different world.

You are absolutely spot on when you say the TM hierarchy was Maharishi´s instrument of social control and more important Maharishi´s tool for making money, no one could in the long run remain a meditator, if one wanted to stay in TM it was necessary to move up in the world, which ment paying more cash to MMY.

Darth said...

"So, we promoted TM. We didn't tell lies; we promoted TM."

When I went to my 1st TM lecture the TM teacher told us that "every individual will recieve his or her strictly personal private individual mantra, tailormade especially for he or her. The initiator gave us the impression that no 2 mantras was then same. not that it ever mattered to me but it showed Maharishis total lack of integrity and moral values.

Sudarsha said...


I was being sarcastic. But you are spot on that not only the impression but the outright promotional spiel was that somehow the initiator knew how to tailor, select or otherwise know something specific to the individual.

Obviously, hair colour, occupation, height, weight, eye colour ... anything could be the criteria for picking from a list,

I have many times talked about how the teachers in India chose the mantra: they asked what is your god or who/what is your favourite god then, if the person said one of the three mantra-specific gods or forms of god for which they had a mantra, then that was the mantra given. If the person said something other than one of the three they had, then they gave the first of the three.

Obviously, not something that would work in the West and not something that Mahesh would want the West knowing, that TM was religion based.

Yes, if a person has structured his or her life on the basis of worship of some specific god or god-form, then a mantra appropriate to that god or god-form makes more sense than as I learnt (by age and gender) or as later courses learnt (by age alone).

Earlier courses had a mantra for men and a mantra for women!

All this to divert attention from what was really going on: thinking a thought, a specific thought, as effortlessly as any other thought.

No wonder Mahesh was angry with Benson. Mahesh was making money appearing to sell mantras when the real secret was hidden in plain sight as easily as.

In India, magicians are really, really popular (probably some sort of explanation of Henning's sudden inwith Mahesh. Mahesh apparently learnt a lot from magicians, the art of distraction.

But, as in so many things, we have to remember res ipsa loquitur.

Post a Comment