Saturday, June 13, 2009

Was Transcendental Meditation's founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, enlightened?

This essay is another of my trips down memory lane. The topic today is "Was Maharishi enlightened?" This has been a crucial issue for me, because one of the linchpins that have held my entire TM belief system in place for years was the conviction that Maharishi was enlightened. The way I've thought about it is this: If he really was enlightened, then by definition his life would be in accord with the will of God. Therefore, if he was enlightened, it didn't matter that he lied, or that people (including myself) got hurt, or all those other things that made the TM organization so troubling. Because, if he really was enlightened, his thinking, understanding, decisions would all be in accord with God's Greater Plan. Even if I felt that his decisions were terrible, it was just due to my lack of broader insight. Even if there were lies and casualties along the way, God must have felt it was necessary for the greater good of the Great Plan.

Have other people struggled with these issues?

Here are some of the questions I've puzzled over in my attempt to unknot this mystery that affected my life for so many years:

Was Maharishi enlightened?
Did he say he was enlightened?
Did he hint that he was enlightened?
Did he want us to believe he was enlightened?
Did he believe he was enlightened?
What the heck is "enlightenment" anyway?
Does such a thing as "enlightenment" exist?
Was Maharishi's teachings on "enlightenment" the same as other Hindu or Buddhist teachings on it?
Did I used to think he was enlightened, or not? Why?
Do I think, now, that he was enlightened? Why?
How can a person tell if someone is enlightened?
Are supernormal powers a proof of enlightenment?
Did I ever see Maharishi exhibit supernormal powers?
Did I ever hear rumors of Maharishi exhibiting supernormal powers?
If I saw or heard of him exhibiting supernormal powers, what did I make of it at the time? What do I make of it now?

So many questions still floating around. Has this issue been part of your healing path, of un-knotting the puzzle? Of "clawing your way, millimeter by millimeter, out of the TM mindset" as TM-Free contributor Sudarsha calls it?

So, here are some of my memories and musings on a few of the questions above about Maharishi and enlightenment. I invite readers to contribute their own thoughts on the topic.

(1) Did Maharishi ever say he was enlightened? In my eleven years in the TM world, I heard him hint at it a few times. Once, at M.I.U., about 1980, he said that we should do whatever he told us to do because "I am in constant communion with the Absolute." That was the clearest I ever heard him on his status.

I remember on TTC Maharishi telling us about a TM prison program. Someone got up and said, "Maharishi, you're wrong." Maharishi bristled and demanded, "I? I am WRONG?!" in a tone indicating that it was absurd that he could be wrong about anything. Maybe because an enlightened person is never wrong?

I remember Maharishi bursting with laughter as he told us about the businessman who explained his philosophy of life to Maharishi. "HE was telling ME his philosophy of life!" he laughed, implying that it was hilarious for an unenlightened person to think they could instruct an enlightened person on how to live.

Then there were two poems he wrote. Does anyone aside from me know of this first poem that he wrote to Guru Dev? I'm quoting it from memory. The first verse went something like this:

"Love has set the heart on fire,
Hatred puts all fire out,
(Sorry, I can't remember the third line)
Hatred is poison for a godly sprout."

And the last verse went something like this:

"To my Guru Dev this is dedicated,
To Him who led me on a fortunate trail,
(And I can't remember the third line),
Strength to lift the all-repressive veil."

Then there is Maharishi's poem "Love and God." (This poem was put to music by Rick Stanley and is on one of his albums.) Maharishi waxes, like a mystic, about his relationship with God:

"...God my love,
Light of my life....
Thou art one,
The one becomes the many,
As one seed appears as many leaves....
In Thee I rest,
In Thee I dwell....
Lord, Thou art the goal in me,
My Lord, my love, my God."

(Again, this is from memory, so my apologies for any errors.)

He also said, "If it weren't for my Guru Dev, I would never have met my God."

The two poems, and his comment about Guru Dev, seem to me sincere expressions of a person with first-hand experience of God, or of enlightenment.

I remember in the summer of 1971 at Humboldt State College, someone asked Maharishi if it was true that the only thing standing in the way of enlightenment was the physical stresses in a person's body. Maharishi said yes. The questioner then asked if it was true that an enlightened person could manipulate the physical universe in any way they wanted. Again Maharishi said yes. The questioner then asked, laughing, if Maharishi would please remove the physical stresses from his body. Maharishi replied, laughingly, something like, "But then I would be depriving you of your free will, to reap the consequences of your own actions." Maharishi's response indicated to me that he did have the ability to manipulate the physical universe in any way he wanted - in other words, that he was enlightened.

(2) Did Maharishi have supernormal powers? Here are my first-hand experiences: I remember that when he entered a room, I felt a sort of magnetic force. When he looked around the room, I felt a magnetic light-energy fall on whomever he looked at. Once, my boyfriend gave Maharishi a flower. Afterwards, as he walked back towards his seat, the people whom he passed looked like they felt a wave of energy come from him, like a residue from Maharishi. I felt that energy when he sat down next to me. I also remember that on my TM Teacher Training course, Maharishi asked those of us who were having difficulty memorizing the puja (Sanskrit ceremony) to stand up. He looked around at all of us standing, and I felt energy pass through me. After that, I was able to memorize the puja easily. That ability to memorize continued for about 5 months, even back home at college. I also remember that one time, when I sat very near Maharishi, I felt overcome by something - power or energy or bliss or unconsciousness.

(3) What do I make of those experiences now? Maybe Maharishi had supernormal powers, maybe he was enlightened. Or maybe it was a matter of expectations or placebo effect or self-hypnosis. Or maybe it was transference.

(4) I have heard quite a few rumors (second and third hand) about Maharishi's superpowers. For instance, I heard that once, when his helicopter was running late, he made the clouds move by pointing his finger at them. Also, I read on TMFree that he told Doug Henning that he could heal Doug of cancer (but if he did so, then Doug would have to be born another time. Hmm, is this or is this not consistent with Maharishi's comment, above, that he wouldn't remove a person's stress because it would interfere with a person's free will?) Then, there was the friend of mine who told me that she had broken her leg, and after she talked with Maharishi, her leg started healing rapidly. And I heard that someone once asked Maharishi, "You say that enlightened people have supernormal powers, but can you prove it?" The story goes that Maharishi nodded, and then did something-or-other for about 30 seconds. The questioner said, "Thank you!" with great conviction. The second half of this rumored story is that this interchange between the questioner and Maharishi was videotaped, and that when the you get to the section after Maharishi nods, the tape has a 30-second outage. Another story I heard was that Maharishi was once in a car driving down the street somewhere in Africa, and as he drove past a stranger, he remarked, exhibiting precognition, "That man is going to be very helpful to us in spreading TM in Africa." I also remember in the book "A Hermit in the House" that Mother Olsen wrote that the room that Maharishi stayed in had a strong sacred energy in it. And I remember that sometimes someone at a TM symposium would lecture in a foreign language, and the rumor was that if someone asked Maharishi if he wanted a translator, that Maharishi would say, "No," because he had the ability to understand all languages since he was at home with the source of all languages.

These were all rumored stories. Were any of them true? I don't know. And if they were, what did it mean?

So those are some of my thoughts. Please share with us your comments, memories and musings on this topic, below!

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