Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Regarding Maharishi Yagyas®

(Please note:  This website does not promote, encourage, approve of, recommend, or support the purchase of or the value of "Maharishi Yagyas."  This article is written solely for the purpose of education and discussion. - Laurie)

A friend of TM-Free Blog recently showed me an email he received on January 12, 2014 from one of the branches of the TM organization (TMO).  The email starts with the title "Maharishi Vedic Pandits Creating World Peace."  Excerpts from the email follow:
"We are delighted to...announc[e] a highly beneficial, affordable and exciting expansion to the Yagya program for individuals and families - the Maharishi Special Yagya Program."
My comment:  This seems to me like deceptive advertising.  Where is the proof that the yagyas are "highly beneficial"?  And why do they call these yagyas "affordable"?  I clicked around, and found that they cost from $1,000 to $10,000 apiece.
"Maharishi designed a beautiful series of Special Yagyas for important times in life: Birthdays, Weddings, Wedding Anniversaries, and for the Birth of a Child."
They say "Maharishi designed" them.  Well, Maharishi has been dead for several years, but they're only being advertised this year.  So did he design them after he died?  Or, if he designed them during his lifetime - for the benefit of humanity - why are they only being made available now?  Also, Maharishi freely admitted that he knew only a little Sanskrit.  If so, how could he design Sanskrit rituals?  So what's going on?  Personally, I believe that someone else designed them, but is attributing them to Maharishi because that gives them more credibility.  

The yagyas are called "beautiful," but since donors are not present when these rites are performed, we'll have to take the TMO's word for it.  Also, we'll have to take the TMO's word that these rituals are being performed at all.
"These Special Yagyas bring the blessings of Nature to individuals and families at transitional times when specific, supportive Laws of Nature are particularly lively and accessible...."
Here we have several unscientific and undefined phrases which however have strong emotional resonance.  This style of writing circumvents scientific inquiry, since science requires terms to be defined.  Evocative phrases include "blessings of Nature," "specific, supportive Laws of Nature" and "particularly lively and accessible."
"All funds from this program support the large group of Maharishi Vedic Pandits, which is bringing peace, affluence and harmony to our world...."
According to Wikipedia, in  January 2014 there were 41 armed conflicts on earth.  In 2012, there were 905 natural catastrophes  which resulted in approximately $200,000,000 USD worth of damage.  So to me it seems inaccurate to state that the Pandits are bringing "peace, affluence and harmony" to our world.

But to backtrack, you may be asking, "What is the Maharishi Yagya program?"  Here is the answer, from maharishiyagya.org.
 "...the remedial measures one can take to avert problems seen in the birth chart to be coming to the individual.  It is a practical means to help protect us from unwanted influences - such as illness, accidents or loss; and also to support positive influences.  Regular Maharishi Yagya performances help maintain life in balance.
..Maharishi Vedic Astrology expert has seen something in the birth chart; and it's destined for the person.  But some influence could be created to change that destiny - and that's the Maharishi Yagya program...." 
More evocative and undefined phrases.  The above quote sort of explains what a Maharishi Yagya supposedly does.  But it doesn't explain what a Maharishi Yagya is.  Other TMO sites explain that it is a TMO-style Sanskrit chant plus ceremony performed by one or more TMO-trained Indian men.  The many TMO websites are vague, but apparently each yagya takes one day or less. TMO literature clearly states that the more money you spend on your yagya, the more powerful its effect.  They also strongly urge the customer to buy the most expensive yagya one can afford.

How much money is the TMO earning from this program?  A TMO email from December 18, 2013 states that:
"...the National Yagya program is now averaging (i.e., receiving donations of - Laurie) $429,000 USD per month....The whole world is enjoying the blessings of the daily performance...."
That's $5,148,000 a year income for the "National Yagya program" alone.  (The TMO says that the National Yagya program -- that is, the 350 Indian men in Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa who live in pre-fabricated, under-heated homes and earn $100-200/month apiece -- costs $600,000 a month to run.  I'm not sure why it should cost that much.  Anyone have any ideas?)  And there are many other "Maharishi Yagya" programs, which also bring in money for the TMO.

The announcement/advertisement for this new yagya program states that:
"the oral tradition of Vedic chanting has been declared an intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO."  (United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization - Laurie).  
This sounds impressive, but by now I always double-check anything the TMO says.  So I researched the "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" UNESCO project.  Their website states that their list of intangible cultural heritages is made up of those "elements that help demonstrate the diversity of this heritage and raise awareness about its importance."  From 2008-2013, 282 intangible heritages were listed by UNESCO.  Aside from yagyas, other examples of "intangible heritages" included woodcrafting in Madagascar, textile art of Peru, ox-herding traditions of Costa Rica, and Sardinian pastoral songs of Italy.
By the way, payment for these yagyas is legally designated as a "donation," and donations are tax deductible for U.S. tax payers.  All U.S. non-profits must make public their finances, and the financial audit can be found at www.vedicpandits.org/pdf/BSF-Audited-Financial Statement-12-31-2011.pdf.

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