Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Maharishi's meeting with Hindu supremacist, right-wing political leaders

The close relationship between Maharishi and his successors, and some of India’s Hindu supremacist political leaders, has been hinted at from time to time. Even as far back as 1968,
Paul McCartney and John Lennon were warned that Maharishi was connected with right-wing politicians there.

Destruction of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992.
Image from video of an October 2016 meeting at the
TM organization's Vlodrop headquarters.
Meaning of "Jai Sri Ram"
An essay written in 2006 by an Amsterdam teacher who did liaison work for the Embassy of India in the Netherlands reveals that two of India’s most controversial right-wing politicians met with Maharishi in the early 1990s. This meeting occurred around the time that both of those political leaders directed the violent and deadly destruction of a prominent Muslim mosque in Ayodhya.

A brief story in the India Post of June 13, 2014, partially attributed to a TM teacher, suggests that there’s long been a relationship between the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, and Maharishi’s organization.

In 1992 Modi is said to have been among a political delegation from India that Maharishi invited to MERU, Holland to meet with him. Modi was allegedly already practicing Transcendental Meditation at that time. After the visit, Maharishi is said to have commented that Modi would some day bring about some very good changes.

Without corroborating evidence from some other direction, it’s difficult to take such a statement seriously. But in fact, there exists an eyewitness report of such a meeting with a political delegation, at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s residence in Vlodrop, Holland, around that time.

This essay describes a meeting in which two Hindu political figures met with Maharishi in the early 1990s, possibly the same 1992 meeting. If Modi was present, he likely wouldn’t have yet been a significant enough figure to have been noted by this writer. It was written by Shreeniwas Aiyer, a business teacher in Amsterdam who passed away in 2014. Aiyer wrote, in 2006, that he did liaison work for the Indian diplomatic mission and was sent to Maharishi’s “MERU” headquarters by the ambassador, as the then opposition leader in the Indian parliament was arriving for a visit there.

I’ve excerpted the relevant portions of Aiyer’s essay and omitted his personal commentary, which you can read in the full text which follows at the end of this article.

One day the ambassador asked me if I would visit the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Centre as the then opposition leader of the Indian parliament Mr. L.K. Advani was arriving for a brief visit. … Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s headquarters are located in a tiny little beautiful and picturesque Dutch village on the border of Germany and Holland. Traffic being heavy the chauffeur took a diversion and drove through Germany because there are no speed restrictions in Deutschland. I reached a bit late and Mr. L.K. Advani was already in.

L.K. Advani was the opposition leader in the lower house of the Indian Parliament from 1990 to 1993. He joined the Hindu nationalist, right-wing, paramilitary organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), at the age of fourteen. Advani had held various positions with the currently ruling Hindu nationalist, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its predecessors since the late 1950s; he is credited with orchestrating his party’s rise to power between 1984 and 1998. During that time, he organized the Ram Rath Yatra, a political, religious procession to organize support for the building of a temple to the Hindu deity Rama on the site of the Babri Masjid, a Muslim mosque, at Ayodhya. (Narendra Modi, then a BJP organization secretary, was reported to have facilitated this yatra.)

The yatra triggered religious violence in its wake, with riots in cities across North India. Two years later, around the time of this visit with Maharishi, the Babri Masjid was demolished by Hindu nationalist mobs, to be eventually replaced with that Rama temple. In the ensuing violence, over two thousand people would die.

As I went in I was surprised to find Mr Ashok Singhal had accompanied Mr Advani, the man alleged to have masterminded and behind the demolishment of the Babri Masjid. It was interesting to meet the so-called ”Indian Khomeini.”

The comparison of Ashok Singhal with Khomeini is quite appropriate, both of them being politically powerful theocrats. Singhal was the president of the Hindu nationalist, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) for over twenty years, and is widely believed to have been the architect of the destruction of the Babri Masjid. Both he and Advani were present on the day of the mosque demolition. Singhal was later present at Maharishi's funeral, in 2008.

This event was part of the religious, political movement to create a “Hindu Rashtra,” the elimination of the Indian secular republic and its replacement with some vaguely defined Hindu state. As is often true in that sort of regime hostile to secularism, the institutions of the dominant religion would always have certain rights and privileges that would be denied those of other religions, or the irreligious.

Singhal has been widely quoted, referring approvingly to what he heard from another of India’s religious figures: “Sai Baba told me that by 2020 the entire country will be Hindu and by 2030 the entire world will be Hindu.” The consequences of such a transition for religious minorities would clearly be disastrous, given that the acquisition of a religious minority’s property through terror and violence was demonstrated by the destruction of the Babri Masjid. Later, a court decision, decades later under a BJP majority government, handing that property over to the deity, Shri Ram Lalla Virajman, legitimized the taking of property that was once a mosque.

Mr. L.K. Advani went in and returned after a few minutes, after this it was Mr. Ashok Singhal’s turn to have the darshan. When he returned, he was beaming with enthusiasm, like he had just seen God, the Paramatma himself. Now it was my turn, I was summoned by the million dollar Guru.

He, ‘the great sage or Maharishi’ was sitting on a massive throne-like settee bedecked with velvety cloth, decorated on all sides, surrounded by a beautiful variety of flowers. He smiled from under his shaggy beard and in his squeaky voice asked me a few personal questions in Hindi. It is mind boggling how people of north India just assume that you speak Hindi and start rattling off in Hindi. I kept replying in English.

Aiyer has described the kind of power relationships that such religious leaders, who seek to eliminate secularism and democracy and replace them with a religious dictatorship, demonstrate in these kinds of meetings. The politicians are in awe of, and subservient to religious authority, as he says here, coming away as if they “had just seen God.” 

[Maharishi] told me how he wanted to promote the Vedic culture and that he wanted the Indian [diplomatic] mission to promote his plan. He asked me about the ambassador; I told him that the ambassador could not be present... [he] began to talk in detail about how he would eliminate all weapons from the face of this earth. He requested the missions’ help in promoting his Vedic agenda. I was tempted to tell him that Indian missions would not promote any particular religion as it would be against the secular nature of the Indian constitution, but I did not want to interrupt him so I let him have his say.

What Maharishi and his movement call “Vedic” is identical to what others call “Hindu,” one instance of the ubiquitous word substitution that he used to attempt to cast his repackaging of Hindu philosophy and theology as something purified and scientific. He seeks to offer some ancient version that he uniquely discovered and recovered from before it was all corrupted into something identified as religious and “Hindu,” or so he would like us to believe.  

But there is actually very little difference, at their cores, between the Hindutva, Hindu nationalism expressed by the likes of Advani and Singhal, with their objective to establish a “Hindu Rashtra,” and Maharishi’s “Vedic Science” which
seeks to establish a “Vedic Government” in India and every nation. The Maharishi rendition is a bit more explicit, as in this excerpt from his 2001 book, “Ideal India,”

Ideal India, footnote, page 380
where he explained his vision for what he saw as India’s future. His proposed “perfect government” is anti-secular, anti-democratic, hostile to religious pluralism, and entirely based on a specific theology. By stating that “every Hindu, every Muslim, and every Christian is always being created and governed by Veda” he is demanding that everyone acquiesce to the inherent dominance and supremacy that comes with the assumption that a concept only relevant to one religion, the Veda, governs everyone.

This faux universalism has been leveraged to obtain the support of secular liberals, and even clergy of other faiths, all over the world. That support has been used to grow and sustain a Hindu fundamentalist sect that is one part of a political movement in India that has the objective of creating what would effectively be a theocratic, single-party dictatorship there. The significance of Maharishi’s efforts over the past few years is that he succeeded in gathering a few individuals who were once trained in the scientific method to provide a flimsy veneer of support for his assertions. This tiny group, relative to any implied broader scientific consensus that does not exist, manufactured a facade of dubious scientific research, with which to attempt to sell his sanitized version of Vedic religious culture around the world and then, back into India. Personal benefits, and claims that TM practice would result in “world peace,” were devices to encourage participation in a movement with distinctly different, actual goals and purposes.

The insistence by TM teachers, and their organization, that Transcendental Meditation is in no way religious hinges on the fact that an affirmative belief in anything is not required in TM instruction. That doesn’t negate the fact that Maharishi created a worldwide movement, primarily for religious and political purposes that have only become obvious recently. In this movement, Western practitioners of Transcendental Meditation are often useful pawns through their unwitting support of Maharishi, his organization, and David Lynch’s foundation, all of which shares these objectives.

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