His viewpoints are quite different from many readers of TMFB. But my impression of Bart is that he seeks a direct, respectful dialog with readers who differ in their opinions.
Dear Friends and Former Meditators,I look forward to reading the discussion below in the comments.
I'd like to offer an open letter as an alternative view, and in particular, a response to Earl Kaplan's letter of April 2004. I became a TM teacher and Governor in 1974 and was very active in the TMO for about 20 years.
Before I begin, I want to acknowledge to all of you that it takes great courage to make a significant life change, and in particular, to make a break from ones former spiritual practice and teaching. While I may not agree with some things that have been posted here, I deeply respect those who have shared their experiences.
My intention here is not to debate or persuade anyone, and certainly not to explain or defend Maharishi's behavior. Simply, I'd like to share some of my own views and insights after 40+ years of seeking out, and spending time with, a number of spiritual teachers and masters around the world. My views are not shared by most of the readers, but nevertheless may provide a perspective worth considering and certainly a balance to the rational mind's approach to assessing spiritual masters.
First of all, there is a huge difference between a spiritual teacher, or leader, and a true spiritual master. There have been relatively few spiritual masters during the last several hundred years, and I believe Maharishi was one. A spiritual master is, as if, “possessed” by Divine power that is not of this dimension. He, or she, has surrendered the body/mind over to that power and no longer fully occupies a physical address on this plane. Or put in technical sanskrit terms, the Annamaya Kosha has been absorbed into the higher and impersonal levels of consciousness. They have a toe in the world of human beings, just enough to do their work. But they live and abide in another dimension. I have no proof or arguments to support this statement. Either this is something that is self evident after spending time with a spiritual master, or it will seem absurd and mentally unbalanced.
On the other hand, a spiritual teacher is first and foremost a person in the world with training and credentials which confer a certain worldly status and authority to teach or to hold power. For example a Pope or a Shankaracharya. By contrast, a spiritual master is a person in name only and usually has no worldly credentials whatsoever.
A spiritual teacher can be understood and judged according to human law. But if we try to comprehend or judge a spiritual master by these same laws, it simply won't work. And, in the same vein, we can't compare a spiritual teacher and a spiritual master. They're like apples and oranges. Of course, people will try to judge spiritual masters by worldly standards. But that won't stop them from doing their work, nor will it have any affect on their long-term reputation.
A spiritual master may do things that are completely irrational to our minds and unacceptable by our social and legal standards. Nityananda of Ganeshpuri sometimes sat in open sewers and smeared his body with feces. It's reported that, on at least one occasion, he even ate feces, to the complete disgust of onlookers. Shirdi Sai Baba (the original Sai Baba of the late 19th century) would demand money from his devotees and if they didn’t give the right amount, he’d fly into a rage, abusing them mercilessly and even beating them on some occasions. Neem Karoli Baba was famous for his insane behavior from time to time, abusing people, hiding under his blanket, kissing and fondling his female devotees. A friend of mine who was a close disciple of Nisargadatta Maharaj told me personally that he made sexual advances on her. And there are many other examples which I could give.
Another friend of mine, who was close to Maharishi, told me that one day while he was involved in some financial transactions, Maharishi said, “After I'm gone, they will say I’m greedy. But I have to do these things”.
The point of all this is that there's no rational explanation for the behavior of a spiritual master. In educated circles, and particularly in the west, this notion is not easily accepted and certainly not popular. But among the less educated (what are sometimes call "primitive" peoples) this is understood. Does it give a wide berth for charlatans and con-artists to take advantage of seekers? Yes, it does. But I believe it’s the truth, as unfair and unattractive as it is.
From this perspective, the essential question is only this. Was Maharishi a spiritual master? Or was he a charlatan? Or maybe these questions are too simple to explain a very complex and multi-dimensional being, which he was. We could present evidence and arguments for years to come, but it wouldn’t make any difference. It’s a question that each person can only answer in his or her own heart. And I don’t believe that a litany of deeds and misdeeds will prove very helpful, or even meaningful, in this regard.
For myself, I am deeply grateful to Maharishi for TM, which, as taught, is a unique and powerful spiritual practice. Over time, Maharishi apparently experimented with different beeja mantras. But it's the instruction of how to use the mantra that distinguishes TM and makes it so effective. (BTW for those interested, the prohibition against chanting "OM" is not something Maharishi made up, but came from Guru Dev and has been likewise given by other great masters, going back to Krishna Himself. The admonition is that women should not use "OM" at all. Householder men may use "OM", but only when co-joined with other mantras. Sannyasins may chant "OM" alone, under certain circumstances. There is more to it, but that's the bottom line.)
In closing, I would like to add one more observation. I've read many criticisms of Maharishi and a number of very negative remarks, both on this blog and another website. But I never heard any person make such a remark to Maharishi’s face. (Maybe it's been done, but I never heard it.) In fact, I never knew any person who had any doubts about Maharishi while in his presence. Why is this? Because the power of Maharishi’s darshan was such that whenever people got within 100 feet, questions tended to be answered and doubts erased. If doubts ever did arise, it was only later, when the thinking mind and the insanity of the world pressed in. This was my experience and the experience of many people who visited or spent time with him.
I know that many sincere and educated minds say that the world is sane, and Maharishi and his influence were not. And I'm sure to most of the readers, I must seem deluded and brainwashed. But just as all of you have done, I have written this in order to share my honest experience as it is, deluded or not.
If anyone feels moved to write, you may reach me at the email address below. Please note, I'd rather not engage in debate via email and would therefore ask that you post your objections or arguments on the TM Free blog. And also, I may not get around to responding (I get a lot of email.) But I promise that every sincere note will be read. In any event, I wish all of you the very best on this wonderful journey.
P.S. If you have an article that you'd like to publish on the main blog—or a topic for an open thread—please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com or (800) 950-5329.