Wednesday, January 19, 2011

TM-Free News Brief, 19 January 2011

Photos of Transcendental Meditation's King and Queen: The promoters of Transcendental Meditation, like David Lynch and his friends, don't feature this basic fact on their web pages when they're promoting TM. But the head of the global organization that teaches TM, a former medical doctor from Lebanon with an MIT Ph.D. named Tony Nader, is today called "His Majesty Maharaja Adhiraj Raja Raam" by those who remain with the organization, which calls itself the "Global Country of World Peace." They earnestly believe that their "global administration through Natural Law," which generally means selling Vedic products and practices produced by their particular sect, will bring about world peace, and their "administration" takes the form of a monarchy.

While the spectacle of a bunch of grown men playing at government but not actually having one in reality might evoke the image of a fading royal family and court in exile, for King Tony, as I call him, it's a 24/7 lifestyle at the TM organization's world headquarters compound in Vlodrop, Netherlands, or a rumored 2-story Paris condo. These photos of Tony, his wife and their kids, are now circulating among some of the TM faithful; they were taken during the organization's celebrations of Tony's and Maharishi's birthdays last week.

Birthday of a King of a "Global Country" that will "Transform the World:" January in the TM movement has long been marked by the birthday of its founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on January 12, and now the movement also celebrates the birthday of its King, er, Maharaja on January 10. Through one of the worlds' most boring, glacially-paced and incomprehensible (to the casual Western  observer, anyway) TV channels - Maharishi Channel 3, delivered over the Internet - we can, at a distance, get an idea of what passes for "celebration" among the kingdom's subjects.

Much of the celebration, outside of the Vedic recitation, Maharishi video-watching, bagpipe-playing and cake-cutting, consists of a bunch of robed guys with crowns telling Tony that he'd make a good deity, and that he's about to lead the world to Sat Yuga which will begin Real Soon Now. In those professions of devotion there were a number of passages in which, for example, a king is called "deity in human form," and the inevitability of world transformation brought about by the existence of his Global Country is simply assumed.  For instance, Bevan Morris invoked the mythical ancient kingdom of Ayodya, ruled by Raja Raam the Great, the seventh incarnation of Vishnu, while implying that the Global Country was the return of that kind of kingdom, in which "suffering belonged to no one."

I'll have a later post here with more of those kinds of details, for now, here are some stills taken from the Maharishi Channel.
King Tony on the throne at MERU, Holland.
Bevan Morris at the Brahmastan of India.
Girish Varma, Maharishi's nephew, and head of TM movement operations in India.
The setting in India, with various "ministers," "Rajas" and other functionaries surrounding Girish Varma.
These are the "Mothers of the World from the Sovereign Domain of Consciousness."
A sampling of "Maharishi's Vedic Pundits" who performed Rajabhishek, the traditional Vedic ceremony of coronation.  
"Royal Bagpipers" who concluded their appearance by playing "Amazing Grace."

Cutting the cake, which was in the form of a "Maharishi Tower of Invincibility."
The audience at the India gathering; only young boys could be seen on the video feed.
"Raja" John Hagelin, in the standard "raja" costume he wasn't wearing at the Met last month.
Eike Hartmann, the movement's "Minister of Architecture," which means he'd probably like to rebuild the planet by bulldozing your house. His tribute to King Tony consisted, in part, of reading from verses 2 through 8 of chapter VII of the Laws of Manu.

Like that image of Guru Dev, only different: The celebration of the January 12 birthday of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi seems to serve as a reaffirmation of the connection between the current TM movement and some stream of the "tradition" that spawned Mahesh and "Guru Dev," whose picture was seen by all meditators when they learned TM. In this vein, the several hours of speech-making, puja, Vedic recitation and Maharishi video-watching also included the presence of His Holiness Swami Vasudevanand Saraswati Maharaj, Bhagwan Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, to use the full title that Bevan used when introducing him. The Shankaracharya is patron of the Brahmananda Saraswati Foundation, which is in charge of the pundit project.

Here's a video still of the Shankaracharya and his entourage. This might be familiar to those who remember the Guru Dev image from their initiation into TM, but wait - who's that guy on the right?

That is, in fact, an armed security or police officer. Times have changed, haven't they?

"David Wants to Fly" Plays in San Francisco: David Sieveking’s masterful account of his journey through and around today's TM movement played at the Castro Theatre this past Sunday as part of the German Gems Film Festival. Check out Gina's review of the film, and her personal reflections of the day, both here at TM-Free, and on her personal blog, Coming to Life. The next scheduled showing in the U.S. is in Cambridge, Massachusetts on March 15, but stay tuned here for updates as we hear about them.

Briefly: Another story about the Gore-Tex family fortune feud I covered last week showed up in the Wilmington, Delaware News-Journal... Looks like at least one TM center, or whatever they call them now, is down to advertising in newspapers for volunteers to handle clerical tasks... Despite the continued prevalence of articles like this one, it bears repeating that the main thing the TM program will "empty" is your wallet, though your mind might follow.

TM-Free News Brief, 19 January 2011. Published irregularly here on Wednesdays by Mike Doughney, who's solely responsible for its content unless otherwise noted.


John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

David says: "Now my personal opinion and perspective: The feeling exists because the continuity of our life experience is in our memory. All creatures have it, we just might be the only ones that have the mental sophistication to speculate about it. It exists dependent on our viability as living organisms and disappears when our body dies and our brain stops functioning. This is what is most logical to me. I see no compelling evidence to believe in an afterlife or reincarnation."

What, then, about the soul?

If we are merely meat bags of complex biological construction, containing a brain-based 'awareness' that constructs elaborate fantasies, modalities, laws--presumably just to pass the time! and then fades away when our life dies--what then about the Other Thing?

It seems to exist outside of the brain, near the heart, and just offers up impulses of emotion that are not couched in language or thought.

I know there is no scientific study available for this thing we traditionally call the soul...can't prove it exists, in other words..and yet in myself anyway, I would definitely say I have a soul.

I have a rudimentary philosophy about what it's doing inside my chest cavity (parasite? symbiote?) (I like sci-fi!) but for the life of me I can't get a decent dialogue going that will help me understand and explain this Other Thing.

What do you think about the Soul?

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

David, I appreciate you taking the time and effort to respond. Rosarytoes, thanks for your insights and very funny comments. It will take me a while to think about all this and respond. In my world, what I think and understand about the mind and the soul doesn't count for much. What counts is how much good attention I can remember to bring to my relations, how much appreciation for the good in my life, to "strengthen the things which remain", as the Bible says,trying to take my opinions and insights with a grain of salt. David, I would be happy to have you write directly to me at my email address, if you think this conversation is too far off topic at TM Free. My address is .

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