Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Visit To Fairfield And The Wacky Auteur

File under: The Siddhi of PR

There's a nice little article in the Washington Post about Fairfield, Iowa, home of the Maharishi University of Management and a sizable population of TM™ers. Thankfully, the article is blissfully free of the Peace Palace™ and Global Country of World Peace™ shilling you normally get with this kind of thing. Even we have to admit that it's probably a pretty nice place to live, although we're equally sure that any bucolic setting would bring the same "sense of peace and positive spirit that [they believe] meditation brings [to] it."

If you're wondering how the TM™ movement was able to afford their own whole freaking town, wonder no more:
The training can be received from specialists in almost any American city and costs $2,500, including four days of lessons and follow-up consultations.
To which we say: phooey! It's a simple pranayama and mantra technique, among the most basic out there. While the Maharishi is a kind of genius in the marketing of spirituality, what he's teaching can be found in the most basic of Vedic-based ideologies. Save your money and find a vipassana retreat. While not specifically Vedic-based, they are free of cost (donation optional) and certainly every bit as effective as what the money-grubbing TM™ers are teaching.

Also this week, pop culture skewer specialists Radar take a look at the Maharishi's most prominent shill in the States, movie director David Lynch. Recently rebuffed in his attempt to inject TM™ into a public high school in Marin, California, he's coming back with a new book about the TM™ movement and a new movie to promote.

Already known as an oddball, Lynch has nothing to lose except the respect of his non-TM™er fans, for most of whom the connection to a world-domination cult led by a Tweety-voiced and crazy old man is probably even too much for them to take.

24 Comments:

At 11/11/2006 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fairfield, Iowa is a great little town with some of the nicest people and some of the worst kinds of human scum. The $2500 price tag doen't help Maharishi because nobody is willing to pay it. Pranayama is not part of the basic TM meditation technique, which just uses a mantra. It's anexcellent technique for most people and Maharishi did not create it any more than She She created his pranayama.

 
At 11/11/2006 7:01 PM, Blogger Geoff said...

My new book is set in Fairfield. It's called "The Maharishi Effect: A Personal Journey Through the Movement That Transformed American Spirituality" (Tarcher/Penguin, 2006). I think that readers of this blog will appreciate the book's critical yet warm portrayal of the TM movement and its members. You can learn more on my web site:

www.geoffgilpin.com

 
At 11/12/2006 8:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Geoff,

I read excerpts from your book and you seem to think it was generally held by TMers that Maharishi is an incarnation of God. I don't believe that, from my experience. I was pretty involved from 1972-1988, became a teacher, lived in Fairfield for five years and never once heard this expressed by anyone. In fact, aside from Maharishi's over-blown and silly ideas about saving the world, etc, the basic understanding of consciousness and self realization are traditional advaita, as I understand it.

Maharishi sits on a nice chair, etc., but noone ever waved a arthi lamp to him that I ever saw or worshiped him, or believed he could do miracles, etc. In fact, when some US teachers did puja to Maharishi many years ago, he stormed out, and has pretty much been anti US ever since.

I think he's gone batty but don't believe he's ever considered himself or been considered a god.

If others know I'm wrong, I'd like to hear about it.

 
At 11/12/2006 4:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, all meditation techniques are the same?

Contrast the brain-wave activity of long-term TMers with the brainwave activity of long-term Buddhist meditators:


http://web.mac.com/lawsonenglish/iWeb/Site/Meditation%20EEG.html

anyone who thinks that all meditation techniques work the same is quite literally an idiot or at least woefully uninformed.

 
At 11/12/2006 6:17 PM, Blogger jody said...

anyone who thinks that all meditation techniques work the same is quite literally an idiot or at least woefully uninformed.

Lawson English is a notorious TM™ shill. I don't have any confidence in any of his material, or the material that has been generated by TM™. There's a clear conflict of interest with all of it.

 
At 11/12/2006 9:25 PM, Blogger TheBlade said...

I think he's gone batty but don't believe he's ever considered himself or been considered a god.


If you take a definition of what 'considered a god' means, that is sufficiently narrow, then, yes, they do not consider him a god.

But in a broader definition, it is true. When you look at the substance of it, they did think the was a sort of messiah. A god in some senses of the word. I was much less closely involved than you were and I certainly even met people who were happy to spread rumors that he personally did miracles. In fact, he was teaching everyone that the people under his guidance were essentially performing miracles (the Flying-Butt-Squad).

Much of what TM taught was by cultivation rather than by explicit instruction. In other words, you might not have been explicitly told that he was a messiah, but you learned it because everyone behaved exactly as if he was.

In fact, when some US teachers did puja to Maharishi many years ago, he stormed out, and has pretty much been anti US ever since.

BTW, the story I heard is that his fit of pique with the US is based on the fact that lawsuits against him succeeded. I'm much more inclined to believe that story than your implication that he was anti-US because a bunch of teachers did some puja to him.

 
At 11/13/2006 12:11 PM, Anonymous facedog said...

I understand what you're saying Blade but don't fully agree. If you had been in the TM movement for a long time and contrasted it with people like Muktananda and the like, you would know how little emphasis was placed on Maharishi as a person. Emphasis was placed on the natural ability of the human nervous system. His techniques are "effortless" because the brain already knows how to transcend. We were never encouraged, pre 1989 when I left, to think of him as our personal Guru, nor was their any expectation that he could or would give an experience.

He got angry at the US when India was angry with the US, blaming all their problems on the CIA. When Jimmy Carter was president, Maharishi began to accuse long time associates of being CIA agents.

Successful lawsuits were filed by the state of New Jersey to keep TM out of the schools, then by ex TMers who followed a Canadian guy who believed he was the reincarnation of Maharishi's Guru Dev, and later by followers of Swami Prakashananda Saraswati, who put full page advertisements in the Fairfield newspaper saying that Maharishi was an atheist! They won lawsuits for having their emotional maturity stunted. Amazing!

Why haven't you scrutinized this Swami Prakashananda Saraswati, Jody. He has the look of a criminal.

 
At 11/13/2006 12:27 PM, Blogger jody said...

He has the look of a criminal.

Come up with the goods, FD, and I'll post 'em.

 
At 11/13/2006 2:12 PM, Blogger TheBlade said...

facedog said:
contrasted it with people like Muktananda and the like, you would know how little emphasis was placed on Maharishi as a person

I could believe that facedog, but it doesn't make the story as good as you might think. To be less directly mythologized in comparison to Muktananda doesn't say that much. It's like saying that one is civil and nonviolent, in comparison with Hannibal Lector. :)

 
At 11/13/2006 2:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not aware of any dirt on Prakashanand. However, the guy claims he was offered the Shankaracharya seat at Jyotirmath, yet, his org is basically a Vaishnavite sect. I think it is questionable that a dualist would be offered a Shankaracharya seat.

 
At 11/14/2006 6:16 AM, Anonymous Guru Deb said...

anyone who thinks that all meditation techniques work the same is quite literally an idiot or at least woefully uninformed.

Not only is Mr. English a hardcore TM shill, he also suffers from ADHD and it doesn't appear TM has helped him one iota (if his endless inane posts of various TM lists are any indicator).

And indeed TM, as a simple, intro McMeditation technique, does produce the same results as relaxation techniques, but also for many people has adverse side-effects. The lowering of metabolic rate is about the same (1% different) from someone who is napping! Not very impressive. But they sure can spin it to make it look like the greatest thing since sliced bread.

What is impressive about TM marketing is their ability to shine shit and sell it at the same time.

And the "Vedic" spin is also just that: spin and lies. TM mantras are actually tantric and well known to exist in numerous extant tantras.

If you want a more sophisticated set of tools to tweak your own consciousness and nudge the world towards a more enlightened place, try the Vipassana course. Shamatha is also being taught for free and is proven to help with ADHD--unlike hyped spiels on TM, which if Lawson English is any proof, simply does not help, even in the long term.

TM research is notoriosly biased and the org has a long history of 'massaging the numbers' on orders from the Maharishi himself. Steer clear of this group and take anything they "publish" with a grain of salt the size of the Bonneville Salt flats.

 
At 11/14/2006 6:28 AM, Anonymous Billy Bob Ananda said...

I'm not aware of any dirt on Prakashanand. However, the guy claims he was offered the Shankaracharya seat at Jyotirmath, yet, his org is basically a Vaishnavite sect. I think it is questionable that a dualist would be offered a Shankaracharya seat.

I believe the "dirt" on Prakashanand was from the era when he was mainly established in the Philly area, before he fled to Texas.

Given Prak's constant tendency to deride other competing meditation salesman, something never smelled right about this guy.

 
At 11/14/2006 8:04 AM, Blogger facedog said...

"I could believe that facedog, but it doesn't make the story as good as you might think."

I wasn't trying to make a good story, just be accurate. It just hasn't been my experience that Maharishi makes himself the central focus of his teaching. When I was a young man I sometimes felt gypped because of that. I wanted to wear special clothes and have an Indian name and worship a man as a god. Why? Same reason I wanted to ride the range with Roy Rogers when I was even younger.


"To be less directly mythologized in comparison to Muktananda doesn't say that much."

I guess I'm not as big a purist as you are. My journeys into false faith, delusion, and religious beliefs-especially the ones I was born into, haven't done me any lasting harm. None of these false ideas have had nearly the destructive power of the "I am the body" idea. In fact I have ended up very near where you stand now. I don't worship my former or my present Guru, but I do remember Maharishi fondly from time to time like I remember the first girl I loved, and I do treasure my present Guru, even though others may mythologize him more than I would like.

I'm just that kind of person and I'm OK with it.

 
At 11/14/2006 10:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The claim that TM produces a state of rest based on metabolic differences was thrown out years ago. Read Keith Wallace's book, _The Neurophysiology of Enlightenment_. As far as the rest goes, I don't get paid to post, so I'm not a shill, by definition, and TM has a very good and noticable effect on my ADHD. Interesting that people have to bring up crippling disabilities (yes, that is meant literally, ask my doctor) in order to denounce someone's posting.

 
At 11/14/2006 11:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do remember Maharishi fondly from time to time like I remember the first girl I loved, and I do treasure my present Guru, even though others may mythologize him more than I would like.

I'm just that kind of person and I'm OK with it.


That is exactly how I feel, both about Maharishi as well as my own present Guru. I have gratitude in my heart for being introduced to meditation at a young age through TM. I even still have a framed photograph of a young Maharishi, which was given to me by the teacher who taught me TM.

I'm in complete agreement, FD, that it was always Guru Dev who was the focus of veneration.



In other words, you might not have been explicitly told that he was a messiah, but you learned it because everyone behaved exactly as if he was.


Blade, you are quite off-base here. You want to believe Maharishi was worshipped as God, or that he encouraged the notion that he is divine, or that insiders/followers secretly believed he was God incarnate, but it is just your projected imagination. He has only ever been regarded as Maha-Rishi, or "great seer" by everyone I know.

I have to admit that despite the craziness and fudged science he has been a real pioneer in bringing wider awareness of meditation in this age - with a little help from the Beatles!

 
At 11/15/2006 10:15 PM, Blogger TheBlade said...

Antarananda said:
Blade, you are quite off-base here. You want to believe Maharishi was worshipped as God, or that he encouraged the notion that he is divine, or that insiders/followers secretly believed he was God incarnate, but it is just your projected imagination. He has only ever been regarded as Maha-Rishi, or "great seer" by everyone I know.


Antaranda, perhaps you need to read what I said a little more carefully. I think you are missing some of the nuances. Everything you said following 'you want to believe' is a mistake.

 
At 11/16/2006 6:25 PM, Blogger facedog said...

The fact remains that noone that I ever knew in the TM movement from 1972-1988 considered Maharishi a messiah. We considered the meditation to be the messiah, and that it worked because it was a natural and automatic process, once you had that key. Maharishi was not the focus because everything we got from him we paid for in advance.

 
At 11/16/2006 8:57 PM, Blogger TheBlade said...

The fact remains that noone that I ever knew in the TM movement from 1972-1988 considered Maharishi a messiah.

More Playing with words IMO. Sure, none of them would have answered 'yes' to 'Is the Maharishi a messiah?', or 'is the Maharishi a god?'. Likewise, not even the most backward peasant in a medieval Catholic country would have answered 'yes' to 'is the pope a god', or 'is the pope a messiah?'.

Every cult has a system of 'deniability'.

The point is that they had mythologized him to the point that their brains were switched off. There was a perception of his infallibility, of a mystical grace behind his most stupid schemes. Their view of him was sacro-mythically inflated. They were blind. I saw them.

Again, let me re-iterate that TM (in contrast with say Muktananda's people) established the mythology by cultivation, not explication. There were all sorts of ways this was done. I've heard of a person who used to be closer to Maharishi that if M. was ever questioned, the person who questioned him was dropped immediately from the inner circle. In cults, people know how to climb the power ladder. It becomes clear what it to be believed and what is not. And it can all be done implicitly, by cultivation.

BTW, antarananda, you have said to me, 'you want to believe...' (your italics). To correct you on your manners as well as on your facts, you don't know what I want to believe, antarananda. That's not a particularly tasteful thing to say in conversation --- I don't hear it often in polite company, but interestingly, I've heard it before from some TM people when their group was criticised. I wonder if it is a TM special pat-putdown. A lot of these groups and cults develop their own rhetorical tools for answering criticism, often with their own characteristic ad-hominem phrases.

 
At 11/17/2006 1:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW, antarananda, you have said to me, 'you want to believe...' (your italics). To correct you on your manners as well as on your facts, you don't know what I want to believe, antarananda. That's not a particularly tasteful thing to say in conversation --- I don't hear it often in polite company, but interestingly, I've heard it before from some TM people when their group was criticised. I wonder if it is a TM special pat-putdown.

I didn't mean any offense, blade, but methinks you are being a tad touchy here.

I have had extensive correspondence with Jody privately as well as publicly, and have always been polite and gracious, even when I strongly disagreed with his views and he was pushing my buttons, so to speak. You may ask Jody whether I have ever been rude or derogatory or displayed poor manners, as you seem to suggest.

I treat all people I have exchanges with, both online and offline, as human beings who deserve respect. Sorry if you misinterpreted my italicization as being rude.



I never was associated with the TM movement in any capacity; I only learnt the technique and used it. I was merely defending Maharishi only out of respect for the good things he has done. I don't practice TM anymore.

From what I have heard, a lot of the power game play that happened was due to petty politics and ego clashes among the inner circle members - which is not a surprise, it's common human behavior and is hardly a sine qua non of a cult.

That's all I have to say. Peace.

 
At 11/17/2006 8:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"More Playing with words IMO"

No, Blade, I think that FD is just tying to say what he/she actually thought and felt at the time, as a very dedicated TMer, who is no longer involved.

Now let us take a look at the notorious cult known as "The Blade", and the cult leader, "David", who is under the delusion that he knows more about the experience of other people than they know themselves. David's technique for giving the impression that he is not narcissistic is to admit that he once was. This admission in his own mind gives him the power to make bold statements about what others fail to understand, but will come to know if only they listen intently to David, known as the Blade.

"cultivation, not explication"

Love the way you put the big words in bold print so we can better receive the transmission of your supreme understanding. Oh yeah, that's the same technique Adi Da uses in his books!

"The point is that they had mythologized him to the point that their brains were switched off"

...as you have done to yourself, about yourself.

"To correct you on your manners as well as on your facts, you don't know what I want to believe, antarananda."

As far as manners go, you have a lot to learn from antarnanda. As far as what FD was saying, you don't know what he believed, do you.

I think its reasonable to think that possibly you are still self-sacro-mythically inflated, which is another way of saying you like to jack yourself off with ten cent words. That sounds narcissistic to me.

 
At 11/17/2006 11:36 AM, Blogger TheBlade said...

antarananda,

I'm sorry for being touchy, and I am impressed with the graciousness of your response.. Something about that phrase 'you want to believe' seems to drive me bananas. :) (Don't try it chuck, it's no good ... I've just vaccinated myself against it.)

anonymous, I can't say the same for you. :) I stopped reading your post after a few lines just because it really isn't interesting, though I saw the word 'narcisisstic' on a scan. One thing you are wrong about is thinking I am very naricissistic. Really, I'm not THAT NARCISSISTIC, and I'm non-narcissistic enough to know that no-one really is sufficiently focused on me to really care whether I am right about that or not. I know it isn't about me, and that long-winded posts trying to shoot me down aren't really important to anyone.

Enjoy guruphiliac, whoever you are, and don't let the presumed narcissists get you down! :)

 
At 11/17/2006 12:13 PM, Blogger CHUCK said...

Hey Blade, don't rope me into this mess. I experienced a heart opening through Jody's kindness to me (I'm not kidding here.)

I have become at least temporarily a more humble and easy going cowboy.

 
At 11/17/2006 12:16 PM, Anonymous betty said...

Bite me, Blade!

 
At 11/17/2006 1:11 PM, Blogger TheBlade said...

Hey Blade, don't rope me into this mess.


Chuck, I'm just clowning with you. Missed the smiley, sorry. :) As regards the mess, keep in mind I haven't read anon's flame. If you don't read the flame, it makes very little mess. Works every time. LOL. :)

betty said:
Bite me, Blade!


Betty, I need proof first that you are a real woman. (You never know what's going on on the internet.) Then we can take it from there if you are still interested.... :)

Hey, lighten up everyone (not sayin' I'm always good example!)

 

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