Thursday, August 26, 2010

Open Thread for Our Readers

Here is your space.

Discuss anything on your mind—or in your heart—in the comments below.

Or, if you have a topic or article you would like us to post on the blog page, just email me at




John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Sorry that the last thread sort of died. I have been busy with school starting back up. I hope everyone is doing well.

Just as an update to MUM's TM policies for students.. they removed the DC policies, and instead have made some changes. All students must be checked 3 times per semester and go to two TM-meetings. That's not so bad. The academic portion of class now ends at 2:40 and we are to do our pranayama and meditate in class until 3:15 or so every day.. also, not so bad.

The biggest change, though, is forced rounding. The policy before has been that every student does one residence course when they start school here, but don't have to do any more after that. During the rounding before, students were allowed to stay in their dorms(or, if they live off campus, stay off campus) and still eat with their friends and talk to people.. they just had to attend the extra videos every day.

This year every student is required to do two residence courses every year. During the new week long residence course, students are moved into a special gender segregated building where they are not allowed to bring any computers, ipods, cell phones or even books. They are allowed no communication with the outside world, and their meals are brought to their rooms.

This has been causing a lot of uproar among students, primarily students that live off campus and have "real world" responsibilities such as jobs, spouses and children.

Students are told if they have children(or pets) they'll have to make arrangements to find babysitters for them for the week-long courses as they are not to interact with anybody that isn't rounding.

I feel like this sort of thing is like false imprisonment really. Although a lot of students have said they had problems with it, we were ignored. We are afraid if we speak up or refuse, we will be kicked out of school.

If there are any lawyers out there that think this kind of thing is illegal or that there is some way we could fight it without being kicked out.. please, let me know.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I'm not a lawyer, but I hope one will respond to you soon. I am outraged by this new rule. The U.S. Constitution says no denial of ones freedom except by due process. This seems to me the perfect set-up for brainwashing. Reduce communication with outside world, have only the party line fed to you. Garbage in, garbage out. (Garbage info in, garbage beliefs come out of your mouth.) I know people who went on a weekend-long Unification Church (Moonie) retreat and came out true believers after only 2 days! So I fear for all of you.

Something I read during my recovery from TM was "The brain uses information/stimulation as its 'food.' " It's what it uses to process info, form opinions, etc. etc. Jeez, even on TTC when I was meditating 12 hours a day, we had lots of socializing over meals, etc. Also, many years ago, during the rounding semester at MIU, students had to study the "scientific research charts." Doing that in an intellectually impoverished environment would make one believe the charts! If they foist that on you, may I pass on to your classmates that the non-TM scientific world considers TM research to be shoddy and self-serving.

Also, I imagine all that social isolation and lack of stimulation could make some people emotionally unstable. (Isn't that how prisons punish people - putting them into solitary confinement?!) I hope you all make some advance plans with your classmates, like to meet in the bathrooms and chat!

Really, I hope you find a lawyer and soon! Best of luck to you. Thanks so much for letting us know what is happening at MUM these days.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I wanted to click the "like" button (because you have revealed something really significant and important), but, of course, I don't in the lease like what you have reported.

If Maheshism isn't a cult, then why is it quacking like a cult and waddling like a cult?

A point of clarification: when you say "rounding", do you mean pranayama, meditation, pranayama, asanas as one round? or do you mean meditation followed by butt-bouncing as one round?

One of the most significant parts of what I mean by CULT is keeping people in a closed environment and out of contact with the outside world. Maheshism is looking quite highly qualified. - Thank you very much for reporting this here, but, please be very careful that you are not caught out by the MUM Thought Police! (That's partially a joke, we used to kid one another when we got critical that we'd get caught by the MIU Thought Police ... but that, too, looks more a reality than our old joke was).

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

As far as rounding goes, the schedule is wake up, have light fruit for breakfast, then pranayama-meditation-pranayama-asanas-mmy video-discussion about mmy video-group-walk to a meal as one round.. that's twice a day, with only resting/sleeping allowed besides it. And another MMY video and lecture after dinner before early bed.

The siddhas don't do that rounding, they have the "world peace assemblies" instead. I'm not entirely sure what they entail.

As far as the reports, I am aware of the beige-brigade/tm thought police, and hopefully this speaking out won't be traced back to me... already know a few students that were told "MUM isn't right for you" after they spoke out publicly against the policy or questioned things.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Your reply is much appreciated. I am surprised that Mahesh/MUM is still using the "old-fashioned" rounding since it gave such poor results, at least when done in the excesses Mahesh prescribed in Mallorca and Fiuggi. I suppose that kept to 2x twice a day there is relatively little danger - depending upon the "stability" of the individual. Mahesh never investigated before hand to know or understand what an individual could tolerate. It was only when things turned out inappropriate for the individual that said individual was ushered out of the cult (well, a little strong, but this seems to have been the standard way Mahesh weeded out those who didn't show the resilience he anticipated).

Well, do watch out for the beige-brigade, one day they'll really be the Taliban of the TM world and intent on spreading their micromanagement world-wide.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Probably the best first step would be to consult a NON-TM attorney in the vicinity. The local county bar association usually has a program where you can consult an attorney for 1/2 hour or so, for free. Even if you got an attorney, even a pro bono attorney (for free), a lawsuit may not be worth the struggle.

As soon as you would file suit, you will probably be unceremoniously told to leave. Without reading the MUM student handbook, I'm guessing that the school reserved the right to expel students without a hearing or due process.

However, if you had a lawsuit, and won, then the court could order you reinstated in good standing. However, there would probably be quite some time in between filing a lawsuit and winning ---- could be years! It is possible that the court could put an injunction on MUM from throwing you out, but still, it would be very uncomfortable for you there.

Obviously, the best course (unless you want to be a martyr) is mediation and negotiation. You also might try "a higher power," i.e. the accrediting board that accredited MUM (if they are accredited). If they aren't......well, back to the tactics of the 60's --- student protests!

Again, at MUM, unless you are totally aligned with the TM-siddhis agenda, you will always find yourself at odds with the administration. It is just a matter of how much can you personally take. It is no different than going to the Nazarene College--- where chapel and missionary work is compulsory. You can't suddenly leave a religious school just because you realized that you don't like the religion any longer. If you enrolled at MUM knowing what the requirements were, your argument is weaker----but not impossible. MUM does not claim that they are religious, so perhaps there is more room for argument. .

My best advise is to consult a local attorney (licensed Iowa atty.) just to get an idea of what you would be up against. Knowing your options, consult with your family, and then decide what is best for you.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I don't have any interest in any sort of lawsuit. I was just looking for a little legalese to use when talking to the school and trying to avoid being forced to round in seclusion. As I've said before, I enjoy the school, I just don't enjoy the movement associated with it and the rules they try to enforce on students.

As far as knowing things before coming here.. the school does a good job of deceiving students on visitor weekends, and it is not until after you've moved to fairfield and enrolled in the school that you're told you Have to meditate and do all this other stuff.

During the visitors weekend, they just suggest that people who want to do TM do it, but they avoid talking about most TM policies. The deception on visitors weekends and towards prospective students is one of the main things we as students have been trying to change.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Unfortunately, deception has been at the core of the TM movement since the 60's. It is a stealth religion and very unlikely to change.

On a practical basis, is the school accredited? Are there work-study funds available? Work study is federal aid to schools. If the school receives federal funding, such as work-study grants, etc., then there is more of a federal interest in making sure that student's civil rights are protected. In other words, there might be an argument to be made that there is an abridgment of your right to exercise your religious freedom at MUM by demanding that you practice a quasi-Hindu meditation, and forbid contact with the outside world. (Quick, join a church that frowns on TM.)

Obviously, what MUM is doing is obnoxious, and basically you will have to muscle them to get them to change. They don't change on their own.

The students could attempt to gain some leverage over MUM with: 1.the courts; 2. the threat of the courts; 3. economic threat with a large number of students preparing to withdraw; 4. BAD national publicity.

If you don't want to go through the pain of a lawsuit (which I totally understand), perhaps if enough signatures are garnered from a substantial percentage of your classmates, then the school couldn't throw you all out, as it would be economically devastating ---- and embarrassing--- to the school. Throw in a few negative reports in national media .....well, then you might have a chance. Maybe someone should call back ABC's Nightline for the REAL scoop as to what is happening at Fairfield!

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I agree that what is happening at MUM is very disturbing, and quite possibly illegal. At a time that the TMO should be looking at it's policies, and possibly changing them to appeal to a wider audience, it appears to be going in the opposite direction. I have a more general question. It appears that many people on this blog have at one time been TM teachers, governors, or other 'official' members of the TM Organization. I haven't, and I have found that my experience with TM has been, on the whole, positive. Since it appears that the TMO isn't going to change, at least in the near future, has anybody here thought of possible setting up a 'shadow' organization to teach TM (not the Sidhis), without some of the quasi-religious trappings and possibly at a lower fee, so that people could get some of the benefits of TM, without some of the negative aspects? Just a thought.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Hi, Morris, nice to hear from you. I agree that the TMO is devolving into fundamentalism and closing itself off, even more so than when Mahesh was alive, from what we might generally refer to as 'the real world'. I suspect that our MUM student reporter is actually telling us that the TMO engages in a form of hazing with its insistence on its week of rounding before classes (such as they are) commence.

"and possibly at a lower fee" - well, that just has to go without any further comment.

While I feel very strongly that the basis of TM (as easily as) is very valuable, I find almost nothing of any value whatsoever in what Mahesh has had to say with respect to the world in which we live or, more significantly, the role his meditation plays in helping to enrich our lives. (In Mahesh's hands, I can see no actual evidence other than personal experiences that can be classified as "helping to enrich our lives" - on the whole, he made his TM into something less useful and increasingly controlling.)

A shadow organization is a great idea, but, really, I think I'd much rather see Dr. Benson's books used as teaching material and no further mention of Mahesh made, ever again.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Unfortunately, deception has been at the core of the TM movement since the 60's. It is a stealth religion and very unlikely to change.

This seems to have become the epitaph the TMO has diligently composed for itself.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Morris -- So many meditation techniques now are very similar to TM, minus the "personally selected" mantra. What you propose, I do believe, has been accomplished. Over the decades I have seen many books and other instructional material on meditation, and none I have seen support straining or forcing. Almost all seem to encompass the TM idea of easily returning to your central thought/word/image when the mind strays.

In a sense, Maharishi did accomplish the worldwide spread of meditation, but, alas, look at the world. It does not seem any better whatsoever for the dissemination of mediation techniques.

But perhaps I misunderstand you --- what do you think teaching TM without the "quasi-religious trappings" would be like? How would your proposed shadow organization meditation teachings differ from the meditation teachings that are already readily available in books, churches, CD's, yoga centers, libraries and YMCA's around the world? And if you want the TM mantra --- well, those are available for free right here on this website. (See sidebar.)

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

No, you didn't misunderstand me. I'm not an expert on meditation, though I'm aware that there are many others besides TM, such as Zen and mindfulness meditation. From what I've heard, those are more difficult to learn than a simple mantra-based meditation technique, such as TM. Maybe 'shadow organization' was a bad term; I just think it would be helpful to have someone to go to if one was having difficulties or problems with his or her meditation, or had questions they wanted answered, without the risk of being sucked into a cult. One thing I think Maharishi was right about is that meditation is very difficult to learn from a book.


John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

One other factor that is perhaps different from what else is out there, is that Mahesh emphasized twice daily practice. Other techniques publicized on CDs, books, etc., seem to be that meditation is good to do whenever you feel the need to relax. That is quite different from having a twice daily practice. In that sense, I do agree with you that having a personal teacher that encourages you to do it regularly is a plus.....but that is only if the twice daily practice (2x20) is actually of benefit to you.

I do believe that the practice increases dopamine, and for some people that's just what is needed. However, for others, too much dopamine makes you, well......just plain dopey.

Unfortunately the "highly trained" TM instructors could not discern when TM was truly helpful to a student, and when it was not. Even when the practice was obviously causing severe neurological dysfunction (such as rounding in Mallorca and Fiuggi), still the teachers all said, "Something good is happening." In some cases, it would have been far better to have learned sporadic meditation from a book, and not have been caught up in a personality cult.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I don't get it. You go to a school where an esoteric technique is taught and neo-hinduism is practiced, a sort-of Hindu-Shaolin temple, and now you bulk at some of the requirements. Doh!

Obviously, if the underlying theory is correct and guides the school's activity, then "intensification" of practice with monk like limitations and internal regurgitation of the scripture is a given.

Rounding with cell phones and computers in the room, wot? People want it all, and they want it now. What, your farmville live stock can't go a week without tending?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Hey, jb9876,

mumstudent is being courageous and risking his education to share this stuff with us. The guy is obviously in a tough situation.

Could you lighten up and ask your questions without sarcasm?

It seems fair game to ask or state anything you like.

But sarcasm is always meant to hurt by implying the other is stupid, foolish or whatever.

They guy is willing to tell you pretty much anything. Do you think putting him down is going to encourage him to share more?


John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

JB, your assessment of MUM Student's situation obviously merits some consideration. But what I see is one mind-set (MUM Student's) interacting with another, the TMO's mind-set. -- We experienced this in the 60s & 70s when the "youth" of the day found that they simply did not fit into the mould of the parental/older mind-set that they had evolved from, actually, away from, and obviously couldn't and didn't want to crawl back into.

As with any religious institution, and MUM and SCI certainly fit some definition of religious institution, the "parental" institution endeavours to make the student fit into the "standard".

Not everyone fits and not everyone wants to fit, yet many want to know, to learn. I don't see the TMO ever making any effort to accommodate anyone on any point. I suspect the mantra of the TMO is simply my way or my way.

Part of the learning process, as I see it, revolves around the rather obvious situation of both sides having something to learn. Well, this obviously doesn't seem to apply to the cult mentality of the TMO so that the student (MUM Student in this case) has to determine what s/he can learn and how that can be learnt without getting compromised on the individuality frontier. Pretty much what everyone everywhere strives to do.

To say it is a puzzle kind of sums up what we all experienced back in the 60s and 70s when we were at university, when we were objecting to what was probably an unjust war, when, generally, we were up against a government that wanted us to do as we were told and not ask questions ... not at all unlike the mentality of the TMO as Mahesh devolved into his peculiar madness and the TMO struggled to survive with things that could not be questioned.

Still, your question, JB, is a worthwhile one to pursue here as well as the other question what can anyone expect to learn at MUM.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I'm sorry if it appeared as harsh and sarcastic. The problem with written thoughts. It was actually said with humor and pure amazement. In no way was I putting him down, and if he/she got that in impression, I apologize, now get back to study.

In real life I'm like a box of monkeys. If you come with your heart falling out of your chest, I'll just ask if you are sharing some love. Maybe I need therapy.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

The anonymous MUM student said that the Fairfield program was different than the other programs currently available at the large state universities. MUM is definitely small, and perhaps that fact alone is more appealing to some students.

The problem is what false promises and fraudulent representations potential non-meditating students were given prior to enrollment. From what our courageous MUM student wrote, despite questioning it, they were not told that they MUST meditate, and that they MUST attend week-long resident courses. They were also not told that they would be incommunicado from all of the outside world for a week at a time. This was a particular hardship for students with jobs and families.

Coming from the more rational outside world, a new student, or their parents, would never suspect that week-long non-academic isolation courses would be required, at risk of being expelled from their school! That's where there is a definite lack of common sense....IMO.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Granted that there are other programs. But the student who posted said that quite a few students at M.U.M. don't meditate, and s/he doesn't meditate either.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

There is no need to go to MAHARISHI university to learn a lot about sustainable farming. C'mon, the *name* is a giveaway that you are probably going to meditate there.

Here are some alternatives at mainstream universities:

"Universities launching organic farming programs

Degree programs launched in response to consumer demand for organic

By Nancy Pfoutz
When consumer trends begin to shift, academicians perk up their ears. But when sales of organic food tally a 20% increase per year since 1990, growing from $1 billion that year to $13.8 billion in 2005, it's time to consider a full-fledged academic degree program.

Four universities—Michigan State University, University of Florida, Washington State University, and Colorado State University—are the first to offer either a major or a certificate program in organic agriculture. Courses of study will include classroom and hands-on experiential learning, as graduates look toward careers in organic farming, certification, marketing, manufacturing, urban and community food projects, or sustainable agriculture...."

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Many colleges are affiliated with religions. It is my impression that the more enlightened ones (I use this word deliberately) allow their students who don't subscribe to opt out of [some of] the required religious observances. I would expect M.U.M. to allow students to opt out of retreats, group meditations, etc.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

As a former MUM student (2008-2009), I wanted to take a moment to address some of the comments made above. Whether they were made in jest or not, they reflect some potential misunderstandings about what recent students are dealing with.

cheesemonkey- You are arguing that students know (or should know, if they have brains) what they are getting into before registering for this university.

This is completely false in the majority of cases. I can confirm MUMStudent's report that the visitors' weekend does a tremendous job of hiding the realities of a student's daily life in this school. I remember great expense being taken to treat the visitors extremely well. They took the entire group out to eat at local restaurants, putting us up in hotels (off campus, I should add), and my favorite: the final soiree at one of the faculty's opulent, vastu homes.. complete with pizza from Revelations (definitely not a minor expense) and music/dancing performances by the current students and alumni. So where's the complaint? Never did they mention the policies that many students come to odds with not even weeks into the school year. I felt so at peace and comfortable from the weekend, of course I wanted to stay. In fact, they even let me come a second time and I never had to pay a cent.

And for your information, "Common Sense 101" is a course painfully lacking at MUM.

jb9876- Your comments are ones that I can personally relate to, I had been coming to Fairfield since before I was a teenager to trade books at Revelations and learn about alternative spiritualities, and various esoterica. However, I wanted to go to MUM so that I could be around these practices, not be forced to exercise them daily (or at all). In no way did I state, or otherwise give the impression that I wanted an authority to tell me how to live my life.

"What, your farmville live stock can't go a week without tending?" -- Don't make the mistake (like MUM) of thinking all your students are unmarried, 18-22 and previously living with their parents. Apply that statement to a student who is a single parent living off campus. Can their child go a week without being fed? I think not. You could argue that a babysitter would work out fine, but even then a parent's week-long absence is going to be quite stressful on a young child; and for what purpose? So Mom or Dad can get a doubleshot of enlightenment? I thought enlightened people couldn't be so selfish.

Again, I know many of these statements were made in jest and the tastefulness of such comments has been discussed ad naseum. See this as a discussion of the ideas and statements themselves, holding no connection to the hand that wrote them.

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