Monday, April 23, 2018

"they need to... take out the guru crap"

This was meant to be a followup comment, but the comment it was supposed to follow up on was deleted by its contributor while I was writing. Oh well. So I made a full post out of it instead...

"they need to... take out the guru crap"

A perennial suggestion I've heard, in some form, for literally decades. This will never happen, for at least two reasons.

The first of which is what could be called  a term borrowed from the context in which psychedelic drugs were used: "set and setting." The experience of meditation, I think, really does completely depend on the setup, or what they used to call with respect to TM, "initiation."

The "guru" (technically, he's a "yogi") is a central part of the setup, he's an authority figure. So is the real "guru" whose picture is central to the instruction/ritual (puja). The prospective meditator is flooded with an overload of information, much of it metaphorical, bullshit, or both. At instruction, there's also a lot of probably unexpected sensory input, right down to the use of candles and incense. It's supposed to be special, and the fact that most people paid a lot of money for it, relative to an app, book or tape, magnifies its importance.

Photo: BBC - Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on 'Meeting Point',
BBC1, Sunday 5th July 1964
All of this is by design, and as much as the organization denies that belief and ideology are part of the process, they are always present, in some form, from the beginning. The basic "bubble diagram" of the introductory lecture is both a metaphor that I think (from personal experience)  sets up an expectation of what the subjective experience of meditation will be like, and at the same time it's an ideological, if not subtly religious, statement about the nature of the mind.

Second, the long-term goal is to put some people on, and keep them on, something of an escalator of involvement with the TM organization. If you find endless droning Maharishi tapes are what drives you away, be glad! They don't want you around either. But if you're part of that subset of people who like it, think what he's saying is somehow important, feel pangs of devotion and love in the direction of the old man that are then redirected toward the organization... well, then, they really want you to stick around. They want you to meditate no matter what - that's why the so-called "checking procedure" is a flowchart with no way out (in which the meditator gives up meditating). And over the very long-term, they want enough people to contribute their labor and wealth to sustain and grow the organization, for reasons and purposes that are completely opaque to most beginning meditators.

The teaching/learning of TM is just a tiny bit of what the organization is ultimately about. It's intended to be, for some, a recruitment process. All of that is best avoided, whether one goes through with TM initiation/instruction, or not.

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