I am good at copy/paste...
The climate of the 60s: America was to question everything, challenge “the system” and the established world view.
Experimenting with sex and drugs, toying with every new or forbidden philosophy. A better world was around the corner – we were sure of it. Soon we’d be, as Arlo sang, “walking hand in hand with every man, sleeping in the sun with everyone.”
Where have all the flower children gone?
Some became followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation (TM) and the Students International Meditation Society (SIMS), an organization that descended on US campuses, recruited kids and cleaned them up, turning them into “upstanding members of society.”
TM gave them a mantra and taught them to meditate.
Hippies turned TM converts, trading in swear words for mantras, tie-dyed shirts for three-piece suits.
Many kids were recruited to become teachers, pulling in still more people.
In 1975, Merv Griffin featured Maharishi (1975 photo right) on his prime-time TV show then started TM himself. First promoted by the Beatles, the giggling guru’s meditation program went mainstream, with courses taught in corporations and schools so that executives could relax and students could focus.
A virtual army of TM teachers covered the globe, with centers in every major city, talks in every suburb. Maharishi said that world peace would happen – better yet, an ideal world – when enough people globally found inner peace by practicing TM.
I was among that army, personally instructing 350 people in the course of six years.
I fell in love with a starry-eyed boy, and we were going to create utopia together.
We preached the message of transcendence: taking the mind inward to bask in its Source, the state of pure awareness, from which all good things spring. We drank of those waters daily. Refreshed from contact with the supreme, we’d return to the world energized for more lectures and teaching.
It was a glorious time. Hope was everywhere. Gone was the contentiousness of our generation. We were avant-garde leaders now, shouting a new message, a new answer, to the world.
Challenging authority became a thing of the past. (Maharishi taught that people should respect it..) Working within the system, we were told we would bring about change, and change would happen by raising people’s consciousness.
Get them all to meditate, and problems would vanish from this earth.
We truly believed it. The idea was radical, new, and to our young minds it made sense.
TM opened a brand-new vista on the future, where troubles, all supposedly born of man’s separation from his pure infinite nature, would spontaneously disappear.
The ex-hippie TM army was passionate: our full love and energy went into achieving Maharishi’s dream for the world.
Recruits who didn’t feel called to become teachers found their way in businesses and vocations, becoming productive members of society. Those from wealthy families supported the movement with gargantuan donations, and received places of influence directly under Maharishi. It was only a matter of time until the world would be transformed and mankind would enter a New Age. Maharishi called it The Age of Enlightenment.
But something happened on the way to paradise.
Slowly and subtly, the tone of the guru’s teachings changed.
What used to be 20 minutes twice a day became hour-long, then 90-minute, meditations. The mantras were reshaped into “advanced techniques,” and chanting and Vedic readings (hymns to the gods) began.
In a bold move, Maharishi began teaching courses in TM-Siddhis, a slew of paranormal abilities which he said humans could develop. Turning invisible was one of the siddhis; levitation was another.
People that took the siddhi training, were told that it would elevate their consciousness. But instead of flying, people were bouncing around cross-legged on foam rubber mats on their posteriors.
Flying is coming, Maharishi promised – keep practicing: frog-hopping is only the beginning stage.
No one turned invisible, and no one demonstrated any of the other special abilities the several-thousand-dollar siddhi course was supposed to teach.
At the time of this writing, 30 years after the inception of the TM-siddhis, no one in Maharishi’s organization has yet demonstrated any levitation beyond frog-hopping.
Meanwhile the movement snapped photos of smiling butt-bouncers (photo right) caught in mid-air and plastered the pictures on posters and fliers as advertisements: “Come learn yogic flying.”
TM teachers who completed siddhi training were called “Governors of the Age of Enlightenment,” because Maharishi said our elevated consciousness would regulate negative tendencies in the world. Governors were told not to reveal to TM teachers or meditators that butt-bouncing was all that was being achieved on the siddhi courses to date.. That would spoil the innocence of the new initiates, interfering with their ability to learn.
For the first time, more than a few disciples started questioning. Why was TM deceitful in its advertising, pretending that people were flying?
Why were we asked to pay thousands of dollars for something that didn’t work?
And how had a simple meditation technique, that was supposed to be all we needed for cosmic consciousness, gotten so complicated?
Originally, we signed on for a non-religious “relaxation technique,” practiced a few minutes twice daily as an adjunct to dynamic activity.
TM had its roots in Hinduism, but we had ignored that.
As teachers or “initiators,” we had to perform a “puja,” a ritual of offerings performed on an altar before a picture of Guru Dev, Maharishi’s master. We were ordered to do this in the presence of every new initiate before dispensing their mantra. We were to kneel down and bow before the picture, making a hand gesture to indicate that the student was expected to kneel down, too.
At the time we teachers convinced ourselves that we weren’t being deceptive. Maharishi said the initiates would understand in time, after their consciousness was raised through meditation. He repeatedly told us that TM was not a religion. As if saying it enough would make it so!
But when the TM-Siddhis started, things got even more religious.
We were instructed to read prayers to the gods after every meditation and to listen to audiotapes of chants to Hindu deities as we fell asleep at night. Maharishi reassured us: the gods are not actual personal entities but “impulses of creative intelligence” that exist within ourselves. The fact that Hinduism anthropomorphizes deities, just signals immature consciousness he said, and that of course was something the movement was far too sophisticated to be guilty of.
The changes in the movement were so gradual that I hardly blinked an eye the day I got my own advanced technique, which consisted of adding the Sanskrit word “namah” to my original mantra. I didn’t quite understand, as I was told the mantras were meaningless sounds that have a beneficial effect on the nervous system. I didn’t know any translation for my mantra “Eima,” but I did know, from the puja, what “namah” meant in English. It means, “I bow down.” Who was I bowing down to, I wondered? Well, it must be a god. “Eima” must be a name for her, and she must be my escort on the path to higher consciousness. Another hidden teaching, obvious only to an advanced spiritual aspirant. I felt privileged and superior to be let in on the secret.
Around this time in the movement, many people started to complain of physical problems, as well as irritability and/or depression..
Once I was assigned to spend the night guarding one meditator who was being sent home from a siddhi course because she was “unstable.” She was being shipped out the following day, and course leaders were concerned that she mig