Lies My Guru Told Me
(For my own good, of course)
By Michael D. Coleman, Ph. D.
Recently I have been "listening in" to an on-going dialogue among three friends who have been sharing stories of their time with Maharishi. This made me realize that even 25 years after leaving the TM Movement, I have not come clean with myself and with others about the lies Maharishi encouraged me to believe and required me to tell others.
This is an open letter to anyone within the TM movement who is beginning to feel that they must be "crazy" because of the dissonance between what they are aspiring to and what the TM movement actually seems to be doing. It is also for everyone who has left the TM movement to validate your
Let's begin with a short catalogue of lies with a brief commentary on each. I will give a deeper treatment of several. There are too many lies, with new lies coming out each year, to comment on them all.
- TM is a simple, scientific technique. It is simple, but it certainly is not "scientific". It is a Hindu method of meditation in the Tantric tradition. The point of this lie is to hide its Hindu origins and nature so that other religious traditions won't be threatened by it. It is called "scientific" because in our present time, the label "scientific" is a powerful sales gimmick.
- The Mantras are meaningless sounds. Meditators are kept in the dark about the actual meanings, and even some TM teachers are. The Mantras are names of Hindu deities and the longer mantras are a silent prayer saying that "I bow down to such and such deity." This is very significant to all Christians, Jews, and Muslims because their religious creeds do not allow them to "bow down" to the images of any other gods. Here's what Maharishi said in 1955, quoted from Beacon Light of the Himalayas, a book the TM movement has suppressed for the past 40 years: "For our practice, we select only the suitable mantras of personal Gods. Such mantras fetch to us the grace of personal Gods and make us happier in every walk of life."
- The Initiation Ritual is a "scientific procedure." This one should be laughable on the very face of it. It is a Hindu religious ceremony where the TM teacher chants the names in the history of the Hindu religious tradition and gives thanks, and then bows down to the Guru. See numbers 1 and 2 above for the reasons we lie about it as "scientific."
- TM is a faster, simpler, easier, more effective method to achieve enlightenment than methods of other religions. TM seems to be easier in the beginning than some other forms of meditation. However, Maharishi has been teaching TM for almost fifty years and so far no one has become enlightened that we know of. Based on the now observable long-term results, there is no evidence that TM is better or quicker than any other form of meditation be it Buddhist, Sufi, Christian or secular.
- Maharishi is a perfect Master. This is the biggest lie and one that I will deal with in detail below. Additional claims are that he is a life long celibate, that he never makes mistakes, that only he can enlighten the world, etc.
- Advanced practices of the TM Siddhi Program are teaching meditators how to levitate. I will deal with this one in detail below, but simply put, these techniques have been taught for over 25 years and no one has ever flown and no one ever will. What is actually occurring is that practitioners are encouraged to practice self-deception together in order to keep the delusion going. The TM Siddhis are nothing more, and nothing less, than a modern version of "The Emperor's New Clothes." This can be demonstrated scientifically if anyone is interested in conducting a true scientific test.
- Because we learned meditation from Maharishi, and our lives improved from it, we owe something to Maharishi. We owe absolutely nothing to any teacher. This belief has been used to make many of us co-conspirators in the lies. I was a professor of philosophy for 18 years and my students don't owe me a damn thing. I was paid for my work with both money and status. Maharishi has been adequately paid for his work with both money and status. You don't owe him anything. If you are serious about your own personal quest for enlightenment, you owe it to yourself to live and speak the truth, as you understand it.
- The disciple should "surrender" to the Guru. This one is tricky because it is true, but it is a truth that can be used to deceive. In any significant spiritual or secular endeavor, the student needs to surrender to the knowledge and instruction of a master to make good progress. In the beginning, the student's ignorance and willfulness can hinder the learning process. On the other side the master must act according to the highest ethical standards. If the master is at all unscrupulous, the student is very vulnerable to abuse from the master's sexual, money or power desires. I will discuss this in greater detail below.
"A man repays his teacher badly if he remains forever a student." Nietzsche. I think there is a corollary to this as well: "No selfless teacher would require that his student remain forever a student."
- Only some TM Program can save the world. This is an extremely shifty lie. It changes its form almost every year. At one time we needed 1% of the world meditating, then only the square root of 1%. One year we needed Vedic pundits; another year we needed thousands of yogic "flyers." As I am writing this Maharishi wants people to invest millions in bogus bonds to build palaces to house yogic "flyers." The essence of this lie is quite simple at its basis. Only Maharishi can save the world. No other religion, no other secular group, can have any influence.
The brilliance of this lie is that in one stroke it appeals to both the highest aspirations and the basest weaknesses of people within the movement. It appeals to one's authentic spiritual desire to be a benevolent presence in the world, while it panders to one's egotism that only you can save the world. In addition, quite by design, it requires one to surrender to Maharishi's power and to send him ever-increasing money.
Truth Can Be Messy and Painful
I have a dear friend who was raped by her father between the ages of 11 and 16. Should she be thankful that her father raised her, clothed her, looked out for her, taught her, loved her, and protected her from the outside world (if not completely from him)? Should she be angry that he raped her and forced her into a conspiracy of silence and shame? As I have watched her healing over the years, it seems that all of the above are ultimately necessary. However, her healing could not even begin until she was assisted in breaking the conspiracy of silence and shame.
In a similar way, should I be thankful that Maharishi taught me to meditate and gave me my early spiritual instruction? Should I be angry that he involved me as a co-conspirator in many of his lies? Should I be ashamed that I was duped as much as I was? Probably all of the above are necessary. To bring my healing to a conclusion, I must break completely the conspiracy of silence and shame that I carry.
Sex and Control
I am ultimately going to claim that Maharishi's motivation is not simply to enlighten the world. I am going to point out that he is highly motivated by fame, money and power, even more so as time goes on. His insecurities about maintaining his power and money will show up as an increase in paranoia and greed within the TM movement.
In the context of this claim, let's analyze the restrictions on sexual behavior, both for the disciples and for the master. Celibacy, while no doubt a serious spiritual practice, can also be used as a method of control.
Kramer and Alstad cover this topic well in their book, The Guru Papers, 1993. The following are quotes or paraphrases from this highly recommended book.
"To control a person sexually is to have control over a basic aspect of human life. Sexuality is a deep power in human beings that underlies attraction. Attraction is the capacity to command attention, which is one key to personal power. Thus to exercise sexual control is to have real power over individuals and society as a whole…"
"Gurus do many things to ensure that their disciples' prime emotional allegiance is toward them. In the realm of sexuality, one of the prevalent ways control is exerted is through promulgating celibacy…"
"Celibacy, or at least the image of it, is the easiest route for a guru to obtain this power of being the central emotional focus for large numbers of people."
"Celibacy undermines coupling when presented as a higher state than sexual intimacy. This, in effect, gets people in couples to surrender to the guru rather than to each other."
What If The Guru Isn't Pure?
"When a religion is transplanted from a conservative culture to a more experimental one, its leaders are no longer constrained by tradition. The West's looser mores make sexuality practically irresistible for foreign gurus from rigidly patriarchal cultures in which the sexes were separated and closely monitored. The availability of sexy, adoring female disciples is a temptation few (if any) can resist. Without deep cultural constraints against it, sex scandals go with the occupation of guru because of its emotional isolation and eventual boredom. Disciples are just there to serve and amuse the guru who, after all, gives them so much. The guru's temptation is exacerbated by the deep conditioning in many women to be attracted to men in power." Kramer and Alstad, The Guru Papers
Is it even possible to tell the truth about Maharishi's earlier sexual indiscretions? Is it necessary? Maharishi had sex with at least two women disciples in the 1970s that my friends know. There may have been others.
- Most people within the movement literally cannot believe this, for reasons I will outline below.
- The women who had the sexual connections do not want to go public. Like victims of incest they are embarrassed, ashamed, and feel used. These are not feelings you like exposed to a larger public. Like rape victims, they will be accused of either lying or of seducing Maharishi.
- For many of us, we think "so what?" because of our own sexual indiscretions. Yet, in the service of "no more lies," I need to mention this in this writing. If this is an issue to you, check it out. Above all, if you think that Maharishi is "perfect," then check it out.
The Enlightened Man Can Make No Mistakes
"Who are you going to believe--me, or your own eyes?" Groucho Marx
This is a most interesting claim, and so clearly false in every historical instance that we can check on, and certainly in the immediate "checkable" history of Maharishi. In the early 1960's he claimed we would have enlightenment within 5 years if we simply meditated 20 minutes twice a day
and didn't change anything else. Then in the late 60s we needed to do "rounding", then become teachers of meditation, then become celibate, then follow a special diet, then put special oils on our bodies, take special supplements, get special massages, learn "siddhis", practice siddhis
regularly in groups (more on this later), pay thousands of dollars for some pundits to perform "yagyas," then live in special architecture, then get 40,000 people together doing the siddhis, then pay $1,000,000 to have a 30 day course with Maharishi and get a little personal attention.
To make just one simple point: Was he wrong when he told us that we only had to meditate 20 minutes twice a day for an enlightenment that we would achieve in 5 years? Was this just a "sweet truth" to get us on the spiritual path? Is there a point at which a "sweet truth" becomes a self-serving lie? Just where is that point?
The Yogic-Flying Hoax
Hitler once said that a leader should tell enormous lies so that people will believe him. Since everyone tells small lies, when the leader tells an enormous one, the average man knows that he could not tell such a lie, and therefore what the leader says must be true.
At a financial conference in 1991 I once had an opportunity to watch a master hypnotist work a room of about 100 people who were all well-educated, high achievers. The hypnotist was brought in as the evening entertainment.
He stared at us with piercing eyes, undulated his dark bushy eyebrows, and proclaimed that we would soon be under his power. He led us through some relaxation exercises and then
told us to touch the tip of our index fingers to the tip of our thumbs, explaining that we would not be able to pull them apart. A number of people in the audience could not do so. He then chose about 10 of the latter, and brought them to the stage. He required them to do a number of small
tasks, and, based on their responses, he dismissed five of them back to the audience. Now he had five subjects that he felt confident he could control and he began his serious work.
First, he told them there was a phone in their shoe and it was ringing. Each took off his or her shoe and answered it. He told them the sort of conversation each was having and they acted out their side of the conversation. When he told them the conversation was pornographic, each became offended by their "caller." Then he had everyone but one person go to sleep and he worked that personal individually for a while making that him do ever more ridiculous and humorous things.
I don't understand the phenomenon of hypnosis, but I think I recognize several parts that are necessary for a successful hypnotic act. First, it seems necessary that he tell us with absolute conviction that we will all be under his power, though only a small number actually will believe him. Second, he knows there are degrees of hypnosis, and he is only ultimately interested in the ones he can "control." So a master hypnotist, like a master false teacher, will continually test his subjects, requiring them to do ever more ridiculous things, so he can quickly reject the ones that he cannot control enough.
Only much later, did I connect the hypnotist's act with what I went through in the winter-spring of 1976-1977 when I attended a set of courses that taught us how to have super-normal powers called "siddhis." I came to this particular course to be on a spiritual retreat, and because I could get that time off from my job. I had no idea that I was going to watch a master hypnotist at work.
Prior to our learning the siddhi techniques, a couple of "senior siddhas" joined our group. They were not allowed to practice the siddhis in our presence during group meditations until we also learned them. We could, however, hear them thumping in their rooms in private while practicing their "levitations." The excitement was palpable that we were going to witness something miraculous. However, when we got the "technique", which is merely thinking a sutra, like a private prayer, in the quietness of deep meditation, I was deeply disappointed. I had often done private prayers in the quietness of deep meditation without achieving any immediate or spectacular effects. Remember Groucho.
At our first group session to practice the siddhis, I sat in the back and kept my eyes open to watch what happened. The scientist in me was open to see a demonstration of levitation if it were to occur. The floor was entirely covered with foam pads, which in turn were covered with sheets so that we would not hurt ourselves when we "came down." What I saw was the "senior siddhas" starting to jump about while in the full lotus posture. Soon almost everyone else in the group copied their behavior. Nothing more. Only three of us refused to jump that first session. Still, I distrusted my own experience. I thought that something must be going on that I don't see. Remember Hitler.
My brother and I questioned some of the jumpers about their experience. They all felt that they were lifting off but admitted to some "effort." I listened as Maharishi told us how to speak of it, repeating over and over that we "lift off," "move forward," and "come down." Soon that is how everyone spoke of it. Finally, some small voice asked, "But Maharishi, it feels like I am putting effort into it." "Yes, yes, there may be some effort in the beginning, but we lift off, move forward and come down. Some effort doesn't matter. We lift off, move forward, and come down."
I proposed a simple scientific study to prove some degree of levitation (which was all anyone was claiming, remember there is "some effort" in the beginning.) I proposed setting up a scale with a running tape on it recording weight, and have the proposed siddha make the scale get lighter by even a few pounds without the tape showing it got heavier first, in other words, to prove some "lifting" without an equal and opposite amount of "jumping." No one was interested in such a study. Not then. Not now.
With the permission of the movement, H.K. and I ran a controlled study for 30 days to see if any of the "siddhas" could manifest the siddhi of "seeing something hidden from view." No one could demonstrate results above random chance. Suddenly no one was interested in further study and both H.K. and I dropped it. The movement was decidedly not interested in publishing our results.
The "scientific" study that was promulgated to the public after this course was a chart of one person's brain waves, showing synchronicity, as proof that the siddhis work. In logic we call this a non sequitur. Professional illusionists call this diversion, i.e. to keep the audience from seeing the trick, divert their attention elsewhere.
I wish I could report that I remained immune to the conditioning while I was there. After a while the social ostracism got to me, and I started doing the technique and jumping too. I gave myself the excuse that it was much more fun than just sitting there. Only one man remained throughout the months in total integrity and refused to jump; he spent his entire time waiting to lift off which, of course, never occurred. I kept telling myself there must be something more, it can't be as big a lie as it seems to be. However, once I got home and was instructed to tell other people that we were learning to fly, something finally broke in me. I simply could not say this, and I certainly didn't want anyone I knew to see me jumping in imitation of levitation. This decision, of course, removed me from the "stage." I could no longer be part of the TM Movement if I wouldn't participate in this lie.
Twenty-five years have passed. Everyone is still making "some effort," and no one in the TM movement is willing to do a true experiment. In fact, the diversions, the lies, only get bigger and more unproveable. Now it is claimed that if 1,000 meditators get in a room together and practice self-deception about learning to fly, that they will create a "coherence" and protect us from whatever is the current ill in the world.
There is a certain beauty to the "levitation" lie. Unlike Maharishi's sexual misconduct, which can be easily hidden, and the enormous lies that are unproveable one way or another, this is an obvious lie that can be checked out by anyone at anytime. Find a "siddha" and watch him "levitate." If you think you are a "siddha," get on the scale and prove it.
Giving Up "The Dream" Is Hard To Do
When I was forced to leave the movement, I found that it was a very painful breakup for a number of reasons that I will explain below. Fear of this hidden pain no doubt influences our willingness to accept the lies. Since leaving the movement is a huge change in one's life I would like to discuss it in several ways.
Imagine that you know a rich heiress who is beautiful, young and a bit lonely. She has a great desire to help the world but is not sure just how. She meets a rich international banker who has devoted his life to charities that are working on overcoming world hunger. He is handsome and charming and articulate and he woos and marries her. He takes her to grand balls, he showers money on her, he influences her to give large sums of money to the charities he supports, and charities in turn put her on their boards where she has power, influence and honor. She describes herself to you as "deliriously happy." She says that it is the first time she really felt that she had a "soul mate," the first time anyone has ever loved her "unconditionally."
After a while, among her friends, some quiet gossip begins about her husband. People are surprised at his apparent ignorance of certain key events in international banking. He is often away on "banking business" for extended periods of time "overseas," but one of your friends is certain she spotted him in a nearby city with another woman. Your friend, the heiress, is still "deliriously happy." Do you tell her your suspicions? Do you doubt your suspicions, and accuse yourself of "being jealous?"
Time goes on and it is confirmed that he has more than one mistress. It becomes suspicious that he is not a banker at all. It is possible he is taking part of the donations that his wife is giving to charity, and using that money to shower her with gifts as well as support his lifestyle and his mistresses. Do you tell her now? Does she want to hear this?
Finally, you and her friends become aware that he is asking for ever bigger contributions to his charities. "Millions are dying of hunger every day," he pleads, "and only your contributions can save them. Every day that you wait, thousands more die." You become very concerned that she will
give away all of her inheritance. You tell her that her husband is a con man and an adulterer. She is shocked and confused and doesn't believe you.
She immediately goes to her husband and confronts him with the evidence that you gave her. He is not the least bit defensive, and apologizes that he had to keep some things from her for her own safety. "You see," he explains, "much of my work has to be done in secret. Certain governments use starvation as a political weapon, so when we raise money for these people it needs to be kept quiet. Those women are my underground staff. I had to keep this a secret from you for your own good. If these governments knew what I was doing, or even knew that you knew, our lives could both be in danger. In fact, several of my key people were just caught and will be executed in the next few days. Only if I can come up with $1,000,000 in two days can I save them. Unfortunately, I don't have liquidity in my Swiss bank account for five days due to their exchange rate restrictions. I was thinking about asking you for a loan for a few days, but I really didn't want to get you involved in
Does She Give Him The "Loan"?
If I discontinue this story here, what ending will you write for it? What will it take for her to see his lies? At what point does she subtly become a co-conspirator in keeping the truth from herself? There is something very big, very important to her, which she will have to give up for her
finally to see the truth. The key question I want to ask you is: Why does she not want to see his lies? Because she would have to give up "THE DREAM."
By The Dream I mean the illusion that the con man created within which she has now found happiness and meaning, and around which her life is organized. Inside The Dream she is unconditionally loved. She has a soul mate that understands her and shares her deepest longings to help the world. Her contributions matter to the world, and her help keeps people from dying. She has prestige and honor, both from a husband who is well connected and handsome, and from the boards that she now serves on.
Now imagine that you have found a guru who is enlightening the world. He teaches you to meditate and you are "deliriously happy." You have never met anyone who seems so happy, contented and wise. In the beginning he answers all your deepest heartfelt questions. He is obviously a most unusual man, capable of working 16-hour days, building an enormous organization, being an indefatigable teacher, all to help enlighten the world. He asks nothing for himself.
He teaches you "inside knowledge" and trains you to tell only the "sweet truth:" he teaches you to not tell everything because the students are not "evolved enough" to know yet. You are proud that he trusts you with this "inside knowledge." He gives you positions of power and prestige. He brings out new knowledge every year, and new projects to save the world. He emphasizes that only he can save the world, but only with your help. You are excited about building a heaven on earth.
When does the first crack appear? Is it when you hear that he has not been sexually pure and has had sex with some of his female disciples? No. That could not be possible because he is an enlightened man and he can make no mistakes. This could only be a malicious lie.
Do you notice that he puts his name and picture on everything? If this was an ordinary man, you could suspect that he was concerned about "name and fame." But no, an enlightened man is beyond ordinary ego needs.
Does it bother you that he requires more and more money for courses, for massage and oil treatments, for building projects? These are all for the enlightenment of the world, you tell yourself. Maharishi is beyond all desires for money. An enlightened man is indifferent to where he lives. It does not matter whether he lives in luxury or squalor. If Maharishi lives in luxury it is because he needs to protect himself from "negative vibrations" so that he can do the good he needs to do for the world.
Are you concerned that you have been given a technique that supposedly gives you supernormal powers but you can't manifest any? Are you ashamed that this indicates your own lack of spiritual progress? Do you tell yourself that you "feel" some lightness and some inner peacefulness so you must be making some progress? Do you justify continuing in spite of no results because you are now told you need to do this to protect the world from some calamity?
Do you even notice when threats begin to circulate in the form of bad things happening to teachers of TM who don't do Maharishi's bidding? (Example: On August 13, 2002, the Maharishi Channel had a question and answer session with John Hagelin and Bevin Morris. A questioner recounts how a wealthy Yugoslavian Yogic Flyer was told by Maharishi to "fly" with others in a group but refused to do so. Then one day he woke up penniless. John Hagelin responds that the movement is developing a website to gather this sort of "supporting material.") Do you even suspect that this is a form of manipulative control?
Do you ever wonder if a Vedic Kingdom is the best form of government? Have you ever read any history about how kingdoms function? Does it make any sense that "God created a perfect constitution in the Vedas?" Have you ever read this "perfect constitution?" Do you wonder about how a Vedic Kingdom would co-exist with a Democracy? Are you aware that Maharishi runs the TM Movement like a Vedic Kingdom, viz. as a dictatorship with one man having absolute unquestioned control over everything? Is this your idea of a perfect world?
Do you ever notice paranoia in the movement? Have you heard that some members of the community are having their letters monitored? Do you ever wonder if this paranoia actually comes from Maharishi? Would you be afraid if others saw you reading this letter? Can you even discuss and debate these points inside the TM Movement?
What Is The Dream That You Are Unwilling to Give Up?
Will you pay $1,000,000 to do a one-month course with Maharishi rather than giving up The Dream that he has created for you? How much will you pay for a Yagya rather than giving up The Dream? Have you ever read Martin Luther's condemnation of "Indulgences?" (During the Middle Ages the Catholic Church was selling expensive religious ceremonies, called "Indulgences," to permit the wealthy to buy their way into heaven. Even the Catholic Church now admits that this was a corrupt use of clerical power aimed only at making money.)
Does it concern you that teachers who have worked for the TM Movement for 25 years or more don't make enough to afford proper dental work, let alone have any health insurance or retirement plans? Do you think Maharishi cares about this?
"The deeper one surrenders to an authoritarian structure, the harder it is to detach from it because one's identity becomes wrapped around that context - one's emotions, beliefs, images, worldview, relationships, etc. In fact, the group, with the authority figure at the center, becomes the foundation of all meaning, intimacy, and even possibility for the future.
"Leaving a group after having surrendered to it often puts one back into confusions and lacks paralyzing self-doubt may occur many things previously believed now seem the opposite of what they were. What seemed right and good then appears wrong and malevolent now. The guru's seeming unconditional love was really about wanting unconditional power; his selflessness was egomania in disguise; his purity was corrupt.
"The burning questions in one's mind are: "How could I have been so taken in?" The difficulty of leaving is compounded by the reality that doing so rarely feels good initially. Instead there's bewilderment, anger mixed with depression, and self-blame.
"Those in the inner circle or high on the organization's rungs have an even more difficult time unhooking. Most have achieved more power and feelings of special ness than they ever had before or could on their own. Each becomes a minor authority to those below.
"The stakes in believing or not believing in the authority are very high. The followers' fears of going back to a life that could be even worse than before give the guru more power over them. This is similar to an addict's fear of returning to the drab, dull life the addiction was trying to alleviate." Kramer and Alstad, The Guru Papers
"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Lord Acton
"Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others." Winston Churchill
"Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it."
The truth is that Maharishi needs you, but not in the way that you think. He needs you as an income source. Not only does he get money from you, but he can count on you to get money from your friends as well. He needs you as a worker bee for his projects. To hide your low and relatively powerless status, he will give you fancy titles (but not the income or the power that goes with such a title. He retains all the power and all of the income for himself.) Finally, he needs your acclaim to feed and maintain his own egomaniacal vision: that only Maharishi can build the perfect Vedic Kingdom on earth.
Because of his selfish desires, there are two key elements on your path to enlightenment that you will never receive from him.
He will never teach you the technique of being free from a manipulator's power, because then you could be free from him. There is a part of you that is a weakness, a flaw, or a wound, that permits a manipulator to use you. Until you work on that part of yourself, you will never be enlightened, and
your work for the good of the world will always be precarious, and subject to abuse.
He will never teach you how to come into your own creative power. When you come into your own power, you will find that there are many teachers and gurus, and thousands of people and groups that are doing good works on this earth. You will in fact become one of them.
I was once complaining to my brother about all the ills that have come down through history from religious organizations like the Catholic Church. Religious organizations have fostered religious wars, "crusades," sexual repression and perversion, sectarian battles, intolerance, etc. "How can
these organizations be the instruments of God?" I asked. He invited me to consider the mother hen. See how the mother hen will do anything; she will even give up her life, to keep anyone from attacking and breaking her eggs. But the whole point of her protection is for the chicks to break out of the eggs from within. Like that, in the big picture, religious organizations are Mother Hens. They protect us while we need the protection. When you no longer need that protection, you will be willing to go through the pain and struggle of breaking out from within.
May God Bless You and Keep You.
Michael D. Coleman, Ph. D.
Huntington Beach, CA
(Article used with permission.)