Monday, August 16, 2010

A Transcendental Meditation Governor Addresses TMFB Readers

Bart Walton, a TM Teacher since 1974, wishes to begin a sincere discussion about his perspectives on the Maharishi, the nature of a spiritual master—and the inability to judge the actions of a man who does irrational things.

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'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.

Warmly, 

Bart Walton
Portland, OR
bartwalton@hotmail.com
I look forward to reading the discussion below in the comments.

J.

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 jmknapp53@gmail.com or (800) 950-5329.

65 comments:

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

If he had walked on the water or cured cancer or brought about world peace then I would cut him some slack, maybe, but his accomplishments seem to have fallen well short of that - you can argue TM was a a good thing, although it is not clear after all that it is anything more than another meditation method, or that the effects greatly exceed the massive placebo effect generated by all that 'belief' Maharishi engendered with the force of his personality and the devotion we willingly gave him.

The technique was well crafted for the masses and popularized greatly by Maharishi's charisma and his crafty marketing. I give Maharishi props for that. It is kind of hard to judge how popular Eastern ideas would be in the West if M had not become so popular but I suspect a lot of what M was saying did find it's way into the collective memes and whatnot. Time will tell I suppose if this effect was really because of him or if it is even on the whole positive.

But the Sidhis have produced nothing! All this time and they cannot scientifically demonstrate any loss of body weight? any psychic ability? and there is ZERO evidence that pretty much anything else he 'revived' out of 'Vedic Science' or whatever you wish to call it has panned out. If his method is getting at this Ritam level so well then where are the effects, where are the so-called powers?

Astrology? Yagyas? Reversal of aging? Immortality! LOFL Please. Again, ZERO evidence.

Yes, all sorts of people have claimed or have been believed to be above normal standards, we see them all the time, run of the mill, actually - narcissistic, megalomaniac types, maybe even among the lot there was an actual master who's inscrutable methods were beyond our ability to judge? Maybe. For every Einstein or Leonardo there are a million wannabes and of course all the wannabes followers claim that their man was the great exception and in many cases they have forgiven or actively supported the narcissistic goals of the master toward sometimes disastrous consequences. If Maharishi needed gold toilets for his delicate ass or whatever (exaggerating here, I hope) then of course their must have been a good reason.

You really offer no evidence here that M was this great master. Your main point seems to be that he felt that way to you! You do realize there are millions of other people who think this same way about their guru, are they all great, transcendent masters too? He ACTED the part, he convinced a lot of people who WANTED, as always, to believe, but the evidence seems to show otherwise.

We, the followers, did believe, we gave it our all, we poured our sincere efforts and passions into our practice and into our lives, surely some good came of this for us personally, I do not think it was all bunk, but does M really get the credit fot that or do you? but all of this devotion had its dark side for us too, it was at best a mixed bag and in many ways it devastated the course of our lives and it seems the only way to salvage your life and your dignity out of that is to go on believing NO MATTER WHAT we later learn about M or TM that it was all that we thought it was.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I had my greatest doubts about mahesh when I was within 100 feet of him, on our MSAE senior class trip to Vlodrop. He was meant to meet with us(who had practised TM from the age of 4 and all except the richest among us had never met him) but instead called us from another room in his house and said some of the same nonsense we'd been hearing on tapes since birth.
Maybe if I'd met the guy I'd understand why my parents thought he was special enough to give up so much for.
In my personal view mahesh was no more a spiritual "master" than my cat, the tv or anyone/thing else.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I spent quite a bit of time in close physical proximity to Mahesh and there was definitely 'something' there - call it what you will.

But maybe there's really no such thing as a "spiritual master," except in the eyes of their devotees. I don't know about you all but I'm not searching for a replacement for Mahesh --- as these things go, he seems about as good as any other purported master.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

"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."

There are those who excuse their masters from sex with disciples, to pick just one example, under that principle.

Joe Kellett.
www.suggestibility.org

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Oops, I'm sorry, hadn't read far enough down.

How, then, does one distinguish a "spiritual master" from a "sociopath"?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

BTW this is must reading for anyone who not only wants to understand cult leaders, but who wants to understand an important aspect of how the world works in general: http://tinyurl.com/2aqogzq.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

You offered the following as some sort of proof of Mahesh's greatness:
"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."

The phenomenon you are describing is called common courtesy. Even Sarah Palin did not attack Barack Obama when face-to-face with him in a social situation.

I've been in the presence of bona fide murderers, yet I don't attack them verbally to their face. It's not because of erasure of all doubts of their culpability, or their powerful "darshan," it is just a social courtesy, a societal norm.

I had many, many doubts about Mahesh's "greatness" when in his presence ---- especially on courses after waiting for hours and hours for him to make an appearance. I was following my husband's passion to the course--- not my own. I had PLENTY of doubts, in and out of Mahesh's presence.

Perhaps you may consider editing your piece above to eliminate your "proof" that all people were wowed by Mahesh's darshan. Obviously you, and current true believers were, but certainly not everyone was. Offering up the "100 ft. darshan" theory as some sort of proof of Mahesh's greatness, is not true, and a very weak argument at best.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

If someone tells you that you are going to have an audience with the messiah, or a great spiritual healer, or a great guru and you want to believe it, even if this want is just subconscious, and then that person arrives with all of the trappings - the robes, the entourage, the sweet scent of carnations, the red carpet unrolled, the incense lit - then it is quite likely that what you are going to experience is pretty much in line with what you are desperately hoping for, heck people literally speak in tongues and swoon for amateur backwoods faith healers! healers like Marjoe, who now freely admit to being frauds, people pass out for mid-level rock stars and feel touched by the greatness of Bono. This is just a variant of the placebo effect, it actually probably is just the placebo effect, which can be very tricky and very powerful - very little these days seems to actually excede the placebo effect, under strick testing, though of course some remedies do. We didn't really have such a solid understanding of this back in the day - if something affected you powerfully, if others were swearing by it, if some 'scientific research' was thrown out showing that people did in fact 'feel better' after a magnet was passed over their feet, then it had to be real, but now we know how easy it is to produce an 'affect' and how unlikely it that affect will be any more powerful than what belief alone has produced.

I got to within two inches of Maharishi on two occasions as he practically whispered things in my ear and I felt like I was on cloud nine, I had a glow for days, weeks afterward, but now I am quite convinced I bestowed that darshan on myself - I thought I had license to feel special and I took it. The prosaic, sensible, non-magical explanation for this is so much more convincing than the magical one.

There is a very tricky phenomenon at work here; YOU CANNOT SEE THAT YOU, YOURSELF, ARE BEING CONNED WHEN YOU ARE GETTING CONNED. No, that's what happens to other, foolish people who do not understand the mechanics of this stuff, but I am too clever for that, I have waited patiently for the real McCoy to come along and when I feel the magic it is the real magic. This is how people get conned everyday, smart people who know better, if they get an email from a Russian bride who needs $1000 to come to the US to marry them then this 'girl' will be the exception to the rule, surely there are SOME Russian women sending out SOS email who desperately need my help and will love me in return? Right?

I knew two very sharp TM teachers, brilliant guys, who told me unequivocally that if I invested $1000 with some financial wizard they knew I was guaranteed to get back ten times that amount, how? through the magic of arbitrage! Guaranteed! Of course it was a ponzi scheme. TM people continued to try to sell me ponzi schemes, multi-level marketing schemes, get rich quick schemes of all kinds and I had several TM friends who actually bit on them. OMG! Bioline, Herbalife, Amway, Ed Beckley's no money down (jailed finally thank you) - the list goes on and on. I had two other friends who 'guranteed' me that an investment in Rubies was surely to double in one year's time, that very year the bubble burst and your investment went way, way down. Thankfully I knew there was no such thing as an investment guranteed to double, though I was tempeted . . because these were TM teachers, exponants of reality.

TM people are not only not smarter than the average Joe but it seems clear to me that they are more gullible, more deluded, they have a special disposition toward self-delusion, in fact, this despite the fact that many are very smart and well educated.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Her book on dissociation and "The Myth of Sanity" is a pretty good read, too. I find her a little sensationalistic, but always interesting: http://jmk.im/bS7CH5

Nice to see you here, Joe!

J.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

BTW How would one edit out mistakes? Affect should of course read effect!

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Hi John. That looks like a great book too, thanks.

The light bulb turning on for me in the sociopathy book is the understanding that sociopaths are a *normal* part of life, that of all of the people I've seen in the last month, not necessarily met but just seen, on the order of 2-4% (depending on who you ask) are sociopaths. It's not unlikely that there are some at my workplace. It just explains so much about the world. It's actually liberating to understand.

She doesn't approach sociopathy from a "horror" point of view but just as an everyday thing in our lives that almost none of us know about but that we should for our own awareness. As a matter of fact the book ends on a very uplifting note as she explores the phenomenon of "conscience", and ending on a note of how very wonderful and amazing it is that 98% or so of us *do* have a conscience.

The book left me feeling good.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

(Oops, I did hit "Reply" I thought.)

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Editing your post --- In this system, the writer of the post always has the option of editing their original post at any time. Just look at the button-box at the bottom of your post and you will see one marked "Edit." Then you can correct.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Wow, that was pretty lame stuff. I'm sure Rev Moon people thought/think that way too. You just gave more ammunition to the anti-cult-cultist.

This view of Spiritual Masters is a meme of sorts. But, is it a valid view in any way? If you want to contemplate this "madness" aspect (whether its a valid view or not) a great book is "Holy Madness: Spirituality, Crazy-Wise Teachers, and Enlightenment" by Georg Feurerstein. Not an easy subject, and yes, spiritual teachers can seem bizarre, even Rabi Jesus was not "normal".

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Sincere spiritual teachers can seem bizarre, sociopaths *posing* as spiritual teachers can seem bizarre. There's no way to distinguish them if we excuse anyone claiming to be a "spiritual teacher" from all moral scrutiny whatever.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I must be missing something but once you have posted you get logged out and I don't see any obvious way to log back in once you leave the site and come back, the login button on the main page takes you to 'blogger' which does not accept the yahoo un/pass I used to post. I can get logged in if I make a new post, which leaves me logged in and makes the edit button appear under my original post, but even then it often seems that you can't edit the text in the edit pane, even though it seems to be sitting there waiting to become active after you click in it - you click and click and nothing happens. I did manage to get it to work just now but only after repeated efforts and I'm not sure why it worked.

I'm using IE 8, does it perhaps work better with another browser, or am I just missing something?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

i use Firefox, not IE, so not sure if it is a platform problem that you are encountering. Here's how it works for me in Firefox.....

On every thread the comments have a choice of "Like" or "Reply" on them. Any comment that I wrote has the choice of "Edit" or "Reply." Then the edit window opens. I edit it if I so desire then click on "Save Edit" (box on lower left of pane).

Since I use a Yahoo identity, I'm automatically logged in every time I come to the TM Free website. The program recognizes me and all my comments have the "Edit" option available. (Thank God! --- I always seem to make some mistake in composing.)

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

This is an excellent reply, Lexico. I think you have seen through the mirage of Mahesh/Maheshism very well and reported accurately.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I have had the good fortune to have worked closely with several teachers (Mahesh included). None of them would let anyone refer to them as spiritual masters (except Mahesh, tacitly). A really good teacher points the way, even if that way is to another teacher. A really good teacher shares what s/he knows if s/he feels it will benefit the student. A really good teacher doesn't ask for money up front before any teaching/sharing is done!

Of course, this is just my opinion based on my experience. While I learnt a lot of useful stuff from Mahesh, I do not consider him a really good teacher. I do consider him a really good con artist, a sly old dog who knew all kinds of tricks and I consider him someone I should never have trusted and regret I trusted him. Still, like so many of us, I was hooked from the git-go and only discovered the error of my thinking long after the fact.

Incidentally, of the many teachers I have worked with, I only feel negatively towards Mahesh/Maheshism.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I can't see how any objective person could consider Mahesh Varma, the self-proclaimed Maharishi, a spiritual master. Perhaps a master con-man.

Let's look at his record:

-Worked as an assistant to a famous saint, but was never authorized to teach by this person.
-fabricated a meditation technique of mantras of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses, and then tried to convince others that they were not religious based.
-went directly against his own (alleged) tradition (remember he was never authorized to teach in the Shankaracharya tradition) and promoted siddhis: considered a major impediment to enlightenment in the Shankaracharya trad.
-sold Vedic materials and rituals.
-fabricated research to look like actual science and over-valued insignificant findings, utilized poor science (bad or no controls, weak null hypotheses, etc.).
-is unique in that he is probably the only major Hindu spiritual marketeer who had students have severe mental or psychological problems from his technique(s), sometimes leading to suicide, and he did not try to intervene.
-holds no major awards outside his own org for contributing to humanity, world peace, etc. but used world peace pretensions to garner money, fame and students.
-holds no training in mantra shastra, the science of using mantra, but sells mantras at exorbitant prices.
-promises medical benefit from sham medicine, where no such benefit is known to exist. In some cases this fraud lead to severe illness or even death.

And this is just scratching the surface!

Does this sound like a "spiritual master"?

No, of course not, it's the M.O. of a master con artist.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Thanks Karina, using FF seems to be the answer! Works well now, although I don't see where I could select to get logged in automatically but that is no biggie.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Sounds like a logical fallacy here, ie, just because some spiritual masters have been known to bark like a dog does not mean that every barking dog is a spiritual master

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Deborah and Lexico: while I actually give Mahesh some credit for trying to encourage the practise of meditation (there really is useful research that demonstrates the benefits of meditation, and it isn't done by the TMO), fact is that Mahesh's photograph should be in the dictionary of absurd logic next to "logical fallacy". Lexico, your list is outstanding! Your last point about "sham medicine" is interesting, considering that Mahesh had no problem selling it, but when he was sick turned to Western medicine (and then called it evil). His own words and actions discount his eligibility to be considered a trustworthy person, let alone whatever the heck "spiritual master" is supposed to be or mean. I certainly remember how high-ranking Mahesh was in my own estimation prior to my own discovery of just how clay his feet of clay actually were. Those who glorify Mahesh may suffer from insufficient opening of the eyes, or some such disadvantage.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Editing in IE7 works fine for me.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I think Maharishi wanted to prepare us for things to come. Yes he thought we could get enlightened when he was here. It was more difficult than he thought but I still think we can. It's up to us now and all that meditation DID NOT go to waste.

I feel so much gratitude for Maharishi's influence on my life. I feel better prepared for life in these changing times than most people. It's best to take the good from all of our experiences and leave the rest, this includes everything that happened while in the movement.

We are so lucky to have even known this man. Stop whining about what you feel so entitled to and didn't get.

Life is hard when our parents depart. Life is hard when our spouse departs. Life is hard when we loose our source of income and have no place to live. Life is hard when we are completely alone and afraid. But when we reach that point and are faced with the reality that life is just hard, thank God we can remember the sweetness of Maharishi's teachings.

Here's a thought, What if we see him again? What would you say to him. I'm going to ask for a hug and say Thank You.

Sandra

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Allahsandra,

Hmmm. I have no idea of your level of experience in the TM Org or how long you were involved.

It sounds from your note that "spiritual development" and "peace" might be dear to you.

But I'm not sure calling people "whiners" when they disclose they are in various levels of pain is a sign of spiritual development.

More along the lines of casual cruelty.

As best we can, we try to talk to each other with respect here on TMFB—no matter what the viewpoint.

I think you'll find you are more persuasive if you respect your audience rather than call them names. Unless you're as funny as the BEST standup comics.

And, as a bonus, you're also much less likely to be called names in return.

All in all, it's going to lead to better conversations for you—and the readers of TMFB.

J.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Actually Sudharsha I believe the list you refer to was in Vajradhatu's post, not mine. I suppose the movement spin would be that yes, Maharishi was a rebel who broke the guru rules (but so what, the ossified rules needed to be refreshed and that's what genius does, it doesn't need no stinking rules), that he used up a lot of talented people and then cut them loose to drift, and probably sent a lot of people to the loony bin, had a few failed experiments along the way (which might yet yield fruit, Sat Yuga was not built in day, he only said it was to keep us at it) - that he HAD to do all that for various reasons as to timeliness, motivation, logistics, the good of the many over the good of the few, and so on, but the problem is, even if the ends justify the means, the final results, the distilled products, really aren't that great. TM seemed to be a bit of a winner but it is so hard to judge its value - all we really have are some studies that show it helps with stress (but a lot of things help with stress and meditation was nothing new, not even in 1958) - but he did popularize meditation massively, for that he should get credit.

So setting the value of TM aside we might look to the rest of his output to see if there is other evidence of a great revival of Vedic science and this is where it all seems to fall apart. The sidhis were in fact, among other things, supposed to prove that TM was working, that it took the mind to Ritam level, to the edge of source of thought where great things would materialize, but nothing materialized, nothing tangible at all, every bit of evidence that the sidhis have done anything is anecdotal, impossible to verify, but they were SUPPOSED to be tangible, that was the point.

Where are the Ayur Vedic miracles, the cancer cures, where is the reversal of aging? Can't they demonstrate anything with anything with Vedic astrology? It's all so lame and desperate.

OK, so maybe this stuff proved to be more difficult than he thought, maybe it's still coming, but this is a cop out - he was supposed to be infallible, a great, transcendent master, but we believed that BECAUSE of the results, if you take the results away we end up with a circular argument for his validity, or else we are left with some sort of deep, personal intuition that he was great and we must follow no matter what because somehow, someway, in this life or the next, we will be repaid, we will have done the world right, but didn't that intuition, that belief come to us by a sort of gradual brain conditioning? Didn't it come from sitting there hour after hour listening to that giggling guru tell us in as many words that he was the greatest ever, from all the now highly suspect scientific research, from Merv Griffin and the TM craze? What was your original feeling?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Yes, my apologies to Vajradhatu for the misattribution.

There's no end to the possibilities when it comes to the politics of spin-doctoring. Mahesh was very good at it, even giving us examples of his skill when he told us how he wormed him way not only into Guru Dev's room (!!!to adjust his table!!! whatever that meant) and directly into Guru Dev's business by writing that letter in which Guru Dev apparently had no interest.

But I knew this guy, Mahesh Chandra Shrivastava (a.k.a. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi). For me there was, initially, that deep personal intuition that this guy was indeed the Real Thing (which I think Ram Das also said very early in Mahesh's career, but to my knowledge, never repeated). But time will out and by their fruits you will know them. I'm sure these are pious platitudes that the TMO would rather spin than think about. But things is what they is and the TMO seems to be like a mother hen trying to hatch marble eggs.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Vajradhatu, thanks to Lexico for correcting my misattribution of this really useful measuring instrument. I'm wondering if you can, at your convenience, add to this list for the edification of all of us. It's an eye-opener even for those of us who pretty much open our eyes long ago.

John, might it be possible to put Vajradhatu's list in some special category so that he and others might add to it so it will be a bit easier to find than here?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Allahsandra, thanks for your reply to John.

My position is not that I'm upset about what I wanted and didn't get. My position is that Mahesh was incompetent and/or uncaring and/or predatory.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

While I second what JosephK has said and take into account what Lexico has said above (and this time I double-checked) about by-the-rules gurus and what Allahsandra has suggested about whinging about not getting what one wanted, expected: well, it's the by-the-book teachers who have been, for me, the most dependable, accessible, clear and reliable. Mahesh was not dependable, accessible or reliable and sometimes was very, very unclear (I am thinking of one example on my TTC when someone asked about "emptiness" and he went on and on until both he and we and forgotten what the point of all the talking was ... without offering anything useful, then or, according to my extensive notes, now).

With respect to whinging about not getting the goods, well, I got the goods, all of them. I had the 'sidhi' stuff long before a lot of people even knew this new development had developed. While I have no idea what the rules were (or if there were any rules) regarding advanced techniques, all the people who talked to me certainly did not get the advanced techniques I got from Mahesh.

Incompetent, uncaring and predatory are three words that definitely sum up the behind the scenes Mahesh I knew very well and was, for a time, very close to. - But I also knew the public face of Mahesh and have no difficulty whatsoever understanding the attraction.

Once again I can only fall back on a phrase Mahesh repeated over and over on my TTC the actor can play god better than god. Mahesh's accumulation of adulation and his bamboozling rich people out of their money adequately demonstrates not only the truth of that, to me, but also, for me, demonstrates one of Mahesh's greatest accomplishments: he could play god better than god.

Frequently, on my TTC, Mahesh also said that for the coin to go in the market, it had to have both sides.

Having known both sides of Mahesh, I can only conclude that he was counterfeit and absolutely does not "go" in my market.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Another very memorable oft-repeated phrase of Mahesh's was ......"Even a sick man can open a health food store." Only years later did I get his joke; he was the sick man. No wonder he always giggled at his private joke Thousands of us might have been there, and yet we didn't catch on until years later.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Thanks, Allahsandra, for your thoughtful reply.

I find it hard when discussing topics that I'm this passionate about to keep my hurtful emotions out of the discussion. Everybody here knows I screw up on that.

But it's really a pleasure to find someone like yourself who can strongly disagree with me or others here and have the guts to be human about it.

I really hope you'll stay to share your viewpoints at TMFB. Maybe we can find the good points in each other's arguments.

Imagine what we could imagine then!

Thanks again.

J.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

>>>“After I'm gone, they will say I’m greedy. But I have to do these things”.

What was he saying here--that he has a compulsion to carry out fraud and extortion which is beyond his control?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I have a few questions for you, Mr Walton:

Why did you leave the TMO 16 years ago?

Do you have any involvement with them now and if not, why??

Why have you spent 40+ years seeking out various gurus if TM has been so satisfactory for you?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Yup, who could forget that.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Who is advocating that anyone should not use their own moral standards when it comes to making such judgments.

Besides this whole guru spiritual master thing is so old-fashioned and comes from another place and time. Life was simpler and information hard to come by.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Right! Great answer "I have to do these things"??? Well you better explain WHY if that is your justification! And we are offered none, not by M or the OP.

The only possible justification for taking money was to further the aims of the movement, a worthy cause one COULD argue, you might even argue that stealing it from the rich, who had enough to go round a thousand times, was a noble thing, so long as every penny was put toward his cherished world plan, even if the world plan was bunk we could argue that his effort was noble, forgivable at least, so long as he believed it (of course stealing will end up ruining your reputation, noble aims or not, so it would still be irresponsible, BTW the reputation of the movement on this point and MANY others is indisputably in the toilet thanks to his ridiculous whims and extravagances) - but from what I hear a lot of it went to conspicuous luxury for Maharishi and god knows what else. How do we spin that?

Good Karma for those who gave? How is it good Karma to feed useless extravagance? It might be good for you to do that if you believe it but this is still bad Karama for the guy who takes the money and gets filthy rich. We gave it thinking we were saving the world with it! Supposedly the world was on the brink and every single meditator, every Sidha was needed. I'd so love to have a proper accounting of the money but lacking that we are left with what we saw and what we insiders saw highly suspicious.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

You have used the magic word, Deborah. That word is compulsion. Observing Mahesh over time, it slowly became obvious that he was compulsive almost obsessively so with respect to constantly having to be busy. It was as if he simply could not sit still. One usually easily observes this in children with attention deficit disorder. But in Mahesh, it was different: he just had to be busy, as if, I have often thought, proving to some unseen someone (his ghost of Guru Dev??) that he wasn't idle.

Of course, much of Mahesh's busyness was wasteful, useless, compulsive and draining on those around him (many of whom convinced themselves that they were somehow helping Mahesh save humanity).

Mahesh told the story of Krishna's favourite town, Vrindaban, being destroyed by the gods who were trying to wash it away with heavy rains. So Krishna picked up the whole Himalayan mountain range and held it with one finger [Mahesh's emphasis, not mind] over Vrindaban, umbrella like.

Then all the pundits and wise men rushed to get sticks to help Krishna hold up the Himalayan mountain range.

Mahesh nearly fell off the couch, bouncing up and down, giggling and laughing, emphasizing that Krishna was holding the Himalayas with one finger and these [and here I have to insert what I think he was saying to us] idiots thought they were helping.

Well, we has seen them idiots and them be us! (apologies to Pogo)

It was as if Mahesh lived in fear of not being seen to be busy (perhaps at one time it was "productive" that slowly morphed into just "busy").

I doubt Guru Dev was compulsive about anything and had no ego to placate with being "productive" or masking it by being "busy".

After a while, even without all that careful an emphasis on watching closely, one began to see through Mahesh façade of accomplishing something. There was only a poor, naked emperor, imagining that everyone was admiring his make-believe garments.

So sad.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

MMY's compulsive activity is an interesting quirk, but it doesn't have the moral implications of his compulsive greed or compulsive exploitation, financial and otherwise, of the trusting and naive. If he were to be called to account for his actions, would he use that as a defense, that he was ruled by an uncontrollable compulsion? Perhaps the morally-bankrupt financiers who have brought the world to its knees could say the same.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Absolutely. But Mahesh could hide behind any form of appearance or imagination, so in his own mind I'm sure he was always morally perfect with just the right excuse.

But, as so many of us know and found out the hard way, Mahesh would NEVER accept an excuse from anyone for falling short of whatever he wanted.

One set of rules for the idiots, the drones, an altogether different set for himself. In my book, no spiritual person, let alone a spiritual master, operates on a double standard. That we let Mahesh get away with it, and we surely did, is on us. But the lies were originally perpetrated by him, and that's definitely on him.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Sudarsha, I was enthralled with your analysis of Mahesh's compulsive, and ineffective, busyness. So true! I remember him in Englebert, Switzerland, publicly obsessing for hours over the background color of a brochure, with perhaps a hundred people in attendance!

In addition to an Attention Deficit disorder, I would also throw in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Bipolar Disorder, due to his self-aggrandizement, lack of need for sleep, and other tell-tale signs of a physical mental illness.

Persons on the manic side of Bipolar Disorder can definitely appear to be sociopathic, with preposterous money-bilking schemes, and irresponsible spending sprees. In Mahesh's later years, with the self-imposed isolation, he seems to have settled into the depression side of the illness.....IMO.

Mahesh's life is worth documenting and studying --- but only as a precautionary tale. I sincerely hope that Mahesh will make it into history books, but not for the reasons we once believed he would be remembered.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

DEFINITELY, MAHESH'S LIFE IS A CAUTIONARY TALE. I was just watching a bit of David Sieveking's David Wants to Fly in which David interviews Dr. Michael Persinger. Dr. P makes the observation that we are drawn into organization in which we gain a feeling of importance. He goes into quite a bit of detail about the makings of a cult. TM turned into a cult in ways that I have not experienced in other "spiritual" groups. Mahesh somehow let us turn our sense of belonging into a sense of mission and a sense of aggrandizement. Perhaps we were mirroring his sense of self-grandeur. That we were suckered into a folie à deux, that we let ourselves drift into that shared madness says a lot about Mahesh's manipulative abilities and a lot about our naïveté.

I don't know what history will have to say about Mahesh. Perhaps he'll be remembered as the oick who thought he made the Beatles famous!

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Don't forget Narcissitic Personality Disorder. Per that book on sociopathy I was mentioning, NPD can mimic sociopathy.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I have never been completely clear how Narcissitic Personality Disorder and outright Sociopathy go together or if they do. And are either or both congruent with a borderline personality disorder?

Any help here would be much appreciated.

While I have no doubt that Mahesh was narcissistic and that his narcissism seems to have increased as the believability of Maheshism waned (as so many people have noted so clearly, there is just no tangible evidence that TM does anything beyond letting a person rest), and while it is also clear that Mahesh had no empathy for others (which is characteristic of the sociopath), still I have never been able to sort whether the two can co-exist or whether one or the other dominates.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

You all have just used a number of technical psychiatric terms to explain or describe Mahesh's failings: sociopathy, ADHD, OCD, bipolar disorder, NPD, megalomania. I don't think this type of name-calling responds adequately to Mr Walton's post nor do I find this type of analysis to be very incisive. These terms are overused by the general public and it's fairly unlikely that one person, no matter how demented, could be suffering from all of these mental illnesses simultaneously, isn't it? It is becoming laughable.

I don't regard the fact that he didn't sleep much as a flaw or an indication of hypomania -- he was busy because there was so much he wanted to accomplish.

Certainly we can say that Mahesh was guilty of capriciousness and other flawed behaviors that have been described here; it underscores the fact that he was not the Perfect Master (sadguru) many of his followers regard him to have been.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

No one said that they were of necessity present *simultaneously*.

Bart asserts that Mahesh was entitled to do **anything** that he wanted without being held to **any** standard of morality whatever.

We are exposing what Mahesh *actually* did and *postulating* reasons for why he did it. That is certainly no more egregious, if at all, than suggesting that Mahesh was beyond *all* moral boundaries which is absolutely preposterous.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

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John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

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John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

This is an excellent review of an Internet space I feel way too uncomfortable visiting. Thank you.

One thing that I think needs some investigation is Mahesh's helicopter hard landing in 1977 (I think that's the right date).

I am told Mahesh hit his head (is there something like a dashboard in a helicopter? I have no idea). If so, then (and we cannot forget that 'if') we need to consider whether Mahesh might have gotten a frontal lobe head injury (some other area of the brain might have been injured).

IF (always with 'if', yes) he suffered a frontal lobe injury, then his decision-making processes might have been impaired. Persons with frontal lobe injury tend to act on impulse. I suggest this on the basis of 30 years experience with head injury rehabilitation prior to my retirement.

BUT, details! we need more details. Obviously a change took place in Mahesh's behaviour. Can we look for or at a possible cause?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

In response to your comment...
These terms are overused by the general public and it's fairly unlikely that one person, no matter how demented, could be suffering from all of these mental illnesses simultaneously, isn't it?

Hi Revoluce,

Let me be another one to correct your misunderstanding here. Mental illness diagnoses are descriptive labels to describe a patient with a constellation of symptoms. For instance, the symptom of "impulsivity" or "anxiety" are two of a constellation of symptoms that could be found in attention deficit disorder, bipolar, autism, narciissism, etc.. It is not at all "laughable" to throw out multiple possibilities as to a psychiatric diagnosis. In fact, that's the way it is done. The goal is to try to find the best match between patient and label. Often times people have received many different labels by various mental health practitioners. Over time, there usually is one that seems best suited, but multiple labels, and co-morbid conditions, are the norm, not the exception.

These technical psychiatric terms have precise definitions in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), but they are subject to change, as research and understanding dictates. The DSM is certainly not an infallible catalog of all human failings, but it can provide some insight into someone's odd behavior-----such as Mahesh's.

For me, if I were to realize that Mahesh had probably inherited some bipolar genes, and the circumstances of his life kindled that inherited predisposition, then i might feel better about the years I spent under his sway. Indeed, Mahesh truly may "not have been able to help his greediness" due to biological mental illness. .

To me, that is an idea worthy of rumination.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Not sure about the head injury but we do know that he almost died when he got very ill, if Chopra's eyewitness account is to be believed, and I do believe it. He also became paranoid during the late 70's and 80's I think, what with all that fear about the CIA being after him (do I have the time frame right here?). The movement had been in a tailspin ever since the late 70's, he had lost the NJ court case, and now we know he was also immersed in sexual relationships, inappropriate sexual relations, perhaps to distract from an increasing pressured and painful reality? relationships that he must have known were OTP!, even for him, LOL. BTW I heard it from some very top people, virtually national leader level people, that M was having the affairs and that they were scared to death it was going to be the end of the movement. These people were out of the movement and harbored some ill feeling but it still sounded very believable to me.

In short it must have been clear to M that his movement was fading and that at best a long dark era was ahead. I believe he may have retreated into himself, into a secluded, insulated Howard Hughes type world as a result of this.

All of this, the illness, the possible injury, the fading of the movement and, probably, his sauces driven mania, and then of course his age . . . it must have taken a toll and I think he was actually in a form of insanity or dementia - again, I gather this only from distant observation but it seems to make a lot of sense.

By the time he was doing the stuff I talked about in the previous post he was VERY old, late eighties, nineties, and that is old - if you get that far at all and your health has not been REMARKABLY good I suspect your mind is likely to be in a pretty bad state, particularly if you have been living a massive lie that has artificially propped up your ego, but that's just a layman's speculation of course.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

OK I understand your point of arriving at a diagnosis by trial and error. It's a somewhat futile excercise, though, isn't it? Like trying to figure out why Van Gogh cut off his ear or what made Napoleon act the way he did. If it makes you feel better about your time in the TMO to think of Mahesh as bipolar, then fine.

But at this point wouldn't it just suffice to say he was possibly delusional and because of a strong personality he managed to delude thousands of other people, including me for some period of time and unfortunately, some undeterminate number of people continuing into the present.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

But you are making a diagnosis as well.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

There is a huge amount of symptom overlap between all the personality disorders. They are just a label...and the distinctions between them all aren't really that important. However whether or not a diagnosis is "Axis I" or "Axis II" is more important. Axis I (ADD, bipolar, autism) is more biologically based, and are often called "major mental" disorders. The Axis II disorders are thought to be more developmental, and less severe. However, all the lines are blurring in the last decade or two. Medications are now used to treat both Axis I and Axis II disorders. Some researchers think that borderline personality is just another name for bipolar; autism was on Axis II, now it is Axis I. Homosexuality was a disorder --- now it isn't. The "experts" are just trying to figure out life too.

So, if even the shrinks can't agree on the labels, then it's no wonder that the rest of us have problems with them too.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Yes, it is very difficult to know if he actually sustained a head injury. However, the event was there and the behavioural characteristics of frontal lobe insult were also evident. Obviously, we need more detail, someone to speak up. In adults, a closed head injury is much more difficult to treat and, untreated, looks a lot like Mahesh's behaviour. Then, also, was there anoxia associated with his heart attack? While I don't have a lot of confidence in Deepcrock's self-serving accounting of events, it could be possible and anoxia is another cause of brain injury/damage. We just don't have sufficient facts; but speculation/theorizing based on observation of events and behaviour would seem to substantiate a loss of faculties.

Yes, I think your CIA paranoia dates are correct, also relevant to the time of the injury; but his sexual affairs go way back and are hinted at as early as Joyce Collin Smith's book. As well, a friend of mine noted his predilection for young, petite blonds in the early 60's.

Certainly you have nailed the failings that must have caused considerable cringing on his part as well as the other leaders in the Movement. Of note is the way the Gurdjieffians flocked to him as the messenger predicted! And then dumped him when he announced his 'sidhi' scheme.

I know some really old people (in their80s & 90s) who have all their faculties in remarkably good shape. But Mahesh hadn't taken care of himself. He almost worked himself to death and (my one experience) ate awful food. I had a late lunch at his house in Fiuggi once. This was during the SCI filming (ugh!). Hari, his cook, had just given Mahesh and Jerry dinner in Mahesh's room and brought the rest out to about 3 of us. This was also the time I met Devindra, so the memory is quite clear. Devindra was very tall and big boned for an Indian, very quiet, very present. The food was like lead. Ghastly.

Then, of course, Mahesh would sit on his couch from early morning to sometimes very late in the afternoon without once getting up. Very bad for the legs and couldn't have done his bladder any good.

While I'm sure the spin doctors and court rationalizers can have a field day with this kind of thing, fact is still fact and his movement had begun to slip away almost from the day he announced his 'sidhi' scheme. He needed money and hadn't really thought things through very well, or so it would seem.

He also, in my study and translation efforts, didn't do a very good job of sorting out what Patañjali was all about. But like religion and politics, there's no end of fruitless argument there. Observationally, whether he was spot on with his 'sidhi' interpretation or off the mark by a country mile, nothing whatsoever observable by any means I know of shows any effect coming from this spectacular failure of great marketing and pitiful follow-through.

Yet again, Lexico, many thanks for your excellent research and very informative sharing.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

True I guess; but it's possibly more circumspect to put it the way I did rather than flinging around DSM terms. It's a matter of degree, probably.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

For me, I would feel better (or "heal") if I could place Mahesh into some DSM mental illness category of which I have some knowledge.

I do understand illness, both physical and mental. I understand genetics and genetic predispositions. But I don't understand megalomania outside of the framework of mental illness. If indeed perfectly sane people could suddenly act like Mahesh ----well, it makes the world a scarier place to live in.

Some ex-TMers have seriously proposed that Mahesh made a pact with the Devil, or was demon-possessed. For some people that explanation works, but not for me.

If your explanation works well for you, fine, but it does not work for me. The DSM manual gives me the hope that future "Maharishis" could be identified earlier in their "careers," and then do less harm to others, and even to themselves. I think society needs to learn about this type of very public mental illness. Forewarned is forearmed

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Thanks, Karina. This is helpful in understanding Mahesh, actually. He wouldn't take medication for a mental disorder, wouldn't admit to one. I suppose his heart attack didn't allow him choices! Still, he promoted his Ayurvedic concoctions while he condemned Western medicine. Another sign of some kind of reasoning disorder, in my opinion.

It definitely would appear that psychiatry is not an exact science. I have do difficulty with it being an art or a skill, however. Yes, most of us spend our whole lives watching and observing, our brains storing, sorting and labelling what doesn't fit with the rest of what is stored. I suppose that if one grew up in a loony bin, then the loons would all appear normal to such a person. However, most of us didn't grow up with too many abnormalities, so abnormalities and changes in behavioural characteristics tend to stand out!

Mahesh's stand out, at least for those who knew him over a period of time, especially when we get together and start comparing notes.

I first met Mahesh as an actual person at Poland Spring and then again, in a somewhat more intimate and less chaotic setting at Estes Park. Next came a two year period of observations in a variety of settings. During the SCI production he was particularly out of sorts, hating having to be told what to say and not to say and how short as well as to the point to keep it! I watched him under stressful situations and rather relaxed situations (Seelisberg, after the La Antilla course).

Psychiatrists don't get to do this, for whatever that is worth. But, definitely in Seelisberg, there were little changes that were in-congruent with the situation.
The last time I met with him, when I became a special techniques instructor (whoopteedoo), he was much different from the person I had known before. There was something darker, more brooding. This was about 18 months after I had returned from India, spent time leading ATRs and then returned to "the field" for a bit.

Having since spent considerable time with many different teachers (many of whom had been trained for their teaching position since childhood), many of whom were elderly, I noticed no such mood shifts, outbursts or irrational thinking (or magical thinking) as is relatively easy to note in Mahesh's history and our history with him.

Granted, as noted in another note, Mahesh did not take care of himself and a form of dementia arising from a sick body is probably not beyond consideration.

In La Antilla, Mahesh mentioned to a small gathering that included yours truly that he was supposed to get an inoculation (for what, exactly, I no longer recall, but his had expired and immigration or whatever was after him to get his jabs; in that childish way he had of appearing innocent and bashful, he said he'd send Devindra to get it).

What exactly transpired I have no idea. There was never any talk of Mahesh going anywhere to get an inoculation. But Someone was sent to Seville (if I remember correctly) to collect his passport. Another story for another time.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

There are many gurus and cult-leaders to look at in this regard - don't most or all exhibit the same types of [narcissistic?] behavior? And, just as important, what are the salient characteristics the followers of these charlatans share?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

This makes a lot of sense, Revoluce.

Mahesh has much more in common with a wide variety of cult leaders than he has with legitimate, recognized spiritual teachers. (By "recognized" here I mean recognized by a lineage of teachers, as in Theravada, Zen or Vajrayana; of course, legitimate means that we actually know how an individual got his credentials, which we don't in Mahesh's case.)

Mahesh, it would seem, had to manipulate someone into a position to "recognize" him (with reference to however he got Shantanand into the Shankaracharya chair.)

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Yes, there are many false gurus over the last few decades, and I thankfully am observing that the Eastern religion guru-fad has all but faded away. In the 60's and 70's it seemed as if 90% of the youth in Berkeley, Calif., where I lived (not necessarily the students at Berkeley), were disciples of some teacher or master.

My recollection is that after asking, "What's your sign?" the next most popular question was, "Who are you into?" (Translation: What guru or teacher do you follow?) Ohhh....those embarrassing memories of one's youth!

I agree that the guru charlatan list is long, but I disagree that it involves 100% of all teachers. I don't think "most or all" of charismatic teachers involve narcissistic behavior but probably "most or all" of cult-leaders are narcissists. Good reason to stay clear of cults!

Yes, indeed, there was a weakness is myself that allowed me to be sucked into the power vortex that I perceived emanated from Mahesh. As various posters here in the past have strongly emphasized, we cannot blame it all on Mahesh. We too were complicit. Indeed, that is a very important avenue of inquiry, if not the most important one of all.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Were Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi narcissists? I doubt it.

Not all leaders of the masses have personality disorders, or mental illness. Discerning the ones that do is the tricky part, especially for 20-somethings, who have little experience in the world and disrupted educations.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

I wonder if Mahesh planned/designed the memorial/monument being built to him in India. (see post of the press release). Judging by the design, I would guess he had a hand in it.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Dittos.

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