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Mahrishi Mahesh Yogi: 1917-2008
posted by Xurando (61 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 

posted by CitrusFreak12 at 6:38 PM on February 5, 2008 [9 favorites]


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posted by RussHy at 6:39 PM on February 5, 2008


Uh oh. David Lynch is gonna be pissed!
posted by Brittanie at 6:46 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wonder if today's social climate could foster conditions for such a guru to rise to the prominence that he did in his heyday.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:49 PM on February 5, 2008


Who'd have thought, back in '68 when the Beatles went to India and hung out with him, that he'd have outlived Harrison and Lennon both?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:54 PM on February 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


I wonder if today's social climate could foster conditions for such a guru to rise to the prominence that he did in his heyday.

Doubtful. Britney don't go see no gurus.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:55 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


A life well-lived, I suspect. Though the whole hopping-meditation thing was a little weird. Not to mention meditating for world peace.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:55 PM on February 5, 2008


Sexy Sadie, what have you done?

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posted by jonp72 at 6:56 PM on February 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Try to realize it's all within yourself. No one else can make you change. And to see you're really only very small, and life flows on within you, and without you.
posted by Dave Faris at 6:56 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wonder if today's social climate could foster conditions for such a guru to rise to the prominence that he did in his heyday.

Madonna's chief Kabbalah instructor seems to have gotten good press since they hooked up.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:58 PM on February 5, 2008


Madonna's chief Kabbalah instructor seems to have gotten good press since they hooked up.

When he's driving a parade of Rolls Royces in a packed Astrodome, then I'd say he's risen to that level.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:59 PM on February 5, 2008


Britney don't go see no gurus.

I think it's only a matter of time before she goes Scientologist. Just a free test with that tin can contraption and she'll be jumping on the couch next to Tommy Boy.
posted by jonmc at 7:02 PM on February 5, 2008


she'll be jumping on the couch next to Tommy Boy.

That's a frightening image.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:03 PM on February 5, 2008


Perhaps, but her jumping will be more compelling to watch, I guess.
posted by jonmc at 7:05 PM on February 5, 2008


Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
posted by ericb at 7:06 PM on February 5, 2008


The press given the Beatles and the Mahrishi probably opened the eyes of a lot of us who were kids in the US at that time... hmmmm, we said...there ARE other cultures...

for kids stuck in the backwaters of small towns... that connection was significant....

and...


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posted by HuronBob at 7:14 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


The press given the Beatles and the Mahrishi probably opened the eyes of a lot of us who were kids in the US at that time... hmmmm, we said...there ARE other cultures...

...and they were generally as filled with bullshit artists as our own.
posted by jonmc at 7:16 PM on February 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


for kids stuck in the backwaters of small towns... that connection was significant....

Absolutely. I was a kid (11 years old, at the time) way into the Beatles, and following their journey was my first real glimpse, via the media, of India and things Indian.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:19 PM on February 5, 2008


jonmc, try a bit of silence instead of that next beer. While any popular guru like this is bound to have gaping flaws (like any human), there is some merit in their movement. I'm not personally fond of TM (been taught a variant) because no matter what its adherents claim, it is a small fraction of the bandwidth available to humans. But all the same, it helps people find some kind of sense within themselves and develop into a purpose driven life. Certainly, there are better methods to approach the Divine (especially ones that don't cost $2500 up front), but no one really knows about these things until they take a risk and try to experience something outside of their same habitual framework.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:23 PM on February 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


I seem to recall the section dealing with the yogi in the novel Paperback Writer going something like this:

"It's Transcendental Meditation. It's where you rise above your teeth."

"No, it's Transcendental Meditation. It's where you think you rise above your teeth."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:24 PM on February 5, 2008


Absolutely. I was a kid (11 years old, at the time) way into the Beatles, and following their journey was my first real glimpse, via the media, of India and things Indian.

Funnily enough, flapjax, I was 11 too. I remember not being impressed by their Indian adventure, but Lennon's rejection of it all and his embrace of New York City began my own obsession with that city.

As the man said in an interview once: "It's just like Liverpool, only larger. In both cities, you have to walk around with your back to the wall to avoid someone coming up on your blind side."
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:26 PM on February 5, 2008


Burhanistan, my central point is that there are hucksters everywhere and religions of all kinds have more than their share. IIRC, The Beatles left him because they found out he was more interested in chasing women than achieving enlightenment. If he was some bible-thumper, I doubt there'd be apologias for it.
posted by jonmc at 7:28 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


jonmc, fair enough, and I don't mean any personal attacks. I think part of my point there was that he had aspects of the huckster, but I can't write his movement off solely because of his flaws. All the same, I don't espouse it, I just find it interesting that there is good mixed with bad.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:39 PM on February 5, 2008


I think it's only a matter of time before she goes Scientologist. Just a free test with that tin can contraption and she'll be jumping on the couch next to Tommy Boy.
posted by jonmc at 10:02 AM on February 6 [+] [!]


No, no, you've got it all wrong: she's going to convert to Islam. You heard it here first.
posted by BinGregory at 7:44 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


he had aspects of the huckster, but I can't write his movement off solely because of his flaws

oh agreed. I wouldn't write off all of Christianity due to Jim Bakker, either.
posted by jonmc at 7:48 PM on February 5, 2008


Naw, I heard that on several blogs linked from deenport.com first. But there's no corroboration there, and that Pakistani in question might be a Christian (not the cross on his chest).
posted by Burhanistan at 7:48 PM on February 5, 2008


No, no, you've got it all wrong: she's going to convert to Islam.

Do they make midriff-baring burkhas, or even better, burkhinis?
posted by jonmc at 7:49 PM on February 5, 2008


Please, let me pay you $2,500 for the privilege of learning how to "levitate".

TM is as ridiculous a con as anything Scientology ever came up with.
posted by Tube at 7:51 PM on February 5, 2008


TM is certainly a con, but it takes methods from older systems that actually have some efficacy. Maybe muckster might have some words about this..
posted by Burhanistan at 7:53 PM on February 5, 2008


I am sorry he died. (.) Although in his theology, "dying" is no big deal.

My best friend does TM. Does good for him.

If you have an Internet connection, you can find plenty of anti-TM sites around. MMY had some of the same weaknesses other Hindu gurus do (and did). 1. An obsession with power, often, unfortunately, manifested sexually. and 2) presenting age-old Vedic wisdom as brand-new snake-oil medicine. (I was involved in one of these quasi-Hindu cults in the Seventies.)

TM's distinction was very odd, though, having to do with establishing world peace though mass meditation, and, more strangely, massive buildings.

And, yes, the David Lynch thing in Germany ("invincible!"- a popular TM word) was strange.
posted by kozad at 8:30 PM on February 5, 2008


TM in a nutshell (save yourself some dough):

Sit in a chair, close your eyes, and repeat a word to yourself in time with your breathing. Pick your own, or choose from this handy list.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:37 PM on February 5, 2008


anotherpanacea, I think they teach that you don't even sync your breathing with the syllable repetition. That's what makes the disconnect, or trance, occur. One is just kind of in an idle mental state with not much true awareness of the body. It's relaxing to a point, but it is not healthy in large doses as it is akin to making yourself go to sleep when you have energy and need to do things.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:41 PM on February 5, 2008


Fuck you Mike Love...
posted by Duncan at 8:48 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Practitioners of TM often felt a lightened sensation in the wallet chakra.
posted by Tube at 8:50 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Burhanistan: he had aspects of the huckster, but I can't write his movement off solely because of his flaws

jonmc: oh agreed. I wouldn't write off all of Christianity due to Jim Bakker, either.


Jim Bakker didn't found Christianity. Writing it off because Jesus was a huckster (or schizophrenic) would be much more analogous (and IMO, accurate).

I'm not really sure if writing off a philosophical or theological movement due to the personality of the leader is a good stance or a bad one; but I think in a lot of cases if you examine what the leaders are teaching, you'll find that it goes beyond hypocrisy in to the realms of outright absurdity.

People can *not* fly using only their minds.

We can not achieve world peace simply by prayin... er... meditatin... er... sitting around wishing for it.

And we can not end poverty by giving ludicrous amounts of money to people who would rather spend it on extravagant homes, cars, and prayer towers/meditation centers.

Honestly, I only wish his death meant the end of his con.
posted by vertigo25 at 9:09 PM on February 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyone flesh and blood who claims to know the way to 'Enlightenment' is a con man. There are no exceptions. None of us know. At best they're educated guesses, and at worst they're blatant lies. Not a good range for certainty here. There's ultimately only the lie you want to pretend is true. Since no two people can harbor the same exact belief system, it's like everyone's bought their own raffle ticket for the afterlife, and only one of us can be right.

I think that's why The Holy Bible rants against gambling and prostitution so much: it hates competition. I say this and still consider myself a Christian. You do the math.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:15 PM on February 5, 2008


What is this math that you speak of?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:19 PM on February 5, 2008


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posted by Lynsey at 10:14 PM on February 5, 2008


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posted by Lillitatiana at 10:21 PM on February 5, 2008


Stripping the Gurus: The Sixth Beatle, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

We thought we weren’t doing anything wrong, because we were told it was often necessary to deceive the unenlightened to advance our guru’s plan to save the world.

Maharishi Mahesh was a mixed blessing. He was most definitely a cult leader, a typical cultic narcissist of the variety written about in Len Oakes' excellent book, Prophetic Charisma. He also appeared at that amazing time in the last mid-century, when young Western musicians were changing history with their songs about sex, peace, consciousness altering drug experiences and civil rights. Into a heady social shift away from post WWII rigidity in the USA and Europe came this Indian character who bonded with the Beatles. Out of that immediately came songs bringing attention to a vision of life that wasn't totally engulfed by the gross materialism of the time.

Like all the cultic gurus before and after him came the scandals of sexual abuse, grandiose self-pedestalizing, ridiculous claims to superhuman powers, misappropriation of funds, hypocritical gross materialism and cult believers with their various unresolved issues and wounds, hoping for transcendence of one kind or another.

All the flaws said, Maharishi was an interesting portal through which mid-century Western kids went East or became interested in the wonderful vortex of mystery (said with an Indian English accent), which is India. The previous Eastern cultural ambassador, Gandhi, had been assassinated just as India had broken its colonial shackles in 1948. Because Maharishi was associated with the Beatles and George picked up the sitar, that was the music portal through which all of the amazing cultural offerings of The East poured into the West. Shortly after that Ravi Shankar made his Western debut at the Monterey Pop Festival Just after that the Beatles went to Rishikesh to learn TM.

All of a sudden anything to do with India became allied to anything anti-war, anything rock and roll, anything alternative, anything hippie, anything spiritual. Circle skirts with Rajasthani block prints were in, Hindu incense, which had up until then been unknown was available in every head shop. Kashmiri paper mache boxes, brass elephants, cotton kurtas were all over the place. After Maharishi every guru of every kind came in on his marigold carpet, Sri Chinmoy, Chogyam Trungpa, Swami so and so, Baba this and lama that.

What was surprising to me, heading to India by accident in 1975, was how much the mainstream, old-fashioned and in many ways quite socially conservative Indians were mortified and embarrassed by this. They wanted nothing to do with these silly hippies, druggie types, this ridiculous, lopsided pedestalizing of their supposed culture, written about scathingly by Gita Mehta in her book, Karma Kola. Westerners had their mystical fantasy of India just as Easterners had they Dynasty version of America. Cartoon versions of the other's reality. And I think it was hard for many Indians to comprehend how gross materialism could be, actually, gross, that it was something young Westerners could sanely want to leave or transcend.

As messy as the miscomprehensions were I do think the previously blindered West got to know more about the East, India specifically, and both hemispheres benefited in myriad ways over the decades. Spurred on by the Hollywood myth of Shangri-La and the magic of The East, I think Maharishi was initially a benevolent ambassador to the West, if somewhat of a caricature image of a guru. Hard to take seriously. But before him India was largely part of that great unknown Out There for most the people in the USA. And to the Brits I think India was relegated to the nostalgia of Former Colonial Empire.

Strangely enough I think Maharishi's appearance in the West, connected with the Beatles, had quite a catalytic and wonderful impact. Sad to hear about the cultic abuse at his ashram though.

All said and done, I wish him peace. शांती and केवलं प्रेम तवावश्यकमस्ति
posted by nickyskye at 10:30 PM on February 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


I miss the Beatles. :(

Oddly enough, MMY founded a university in my home state, as noted in this tune by Greg Brown.

If the floaters come to your town, your town, your town,
Floaters come to your town,
You might wanna stick around.


Clearwater, Florida needs a Greg Brown.
posted by flotson at 10:42 PM on February 5, 2008


PS-- As jonp72 notes, Sexy Sadie is about MMY.
posted by flotson at 10:45 PM on February 5, 2008


My dot is withheld with reservations.

One can be a gifted teacher, and have something important to teach, and still be a dickhead. One can even teach others not to be such dickheads, and still be a dickhead oneself.

He had a huge impact upon Western culture, and for all of his personal flaws, and the flaws of his system, I think we're the better for it. Without his early influence, other deeper, better thinkers would have flown over our heads.

Nowadays, no one needs to spend $2500 to learn how to meditate when there are kind, patient and wise people all over America who just can't wait to teach anyone who's patient enough to learn. But if the Mahrishi didn't popularise it, they'd be a lot harder to find.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 10:55 PM on February 5, 2008


Just another guy who done Mia Farrow wrong. Or maybe not.
posted by bigskyguy at 11:16 PM on February 5, 2008


One can be a gifted teacher, and have something important to teach, and still be a dickhead. One can even teach others not to be such dickheads, and still be a dickhead oneself.

Wait, is this the Bobby Knight tribute thread?
posted by the christopher hundreds at 12:01 AM on February 6, 2008


I did the whole TM course back in the 70s with my family.

I'd say: it didn't fully take; it wasn't a fake; nor was it entirely all it was cracked up to be; I sort of liked the Maharishi but I pretty soon felt he had some fakey aspects.

And the whole levitation/Doug Henning thing was sad and stupid.

Still:

.

on the balance, an interesting life with many positive aspects.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:45 AM on February 6, 2008


So the Maharishi goes into a dentist's office. The dentist tells him he needs a filling and prepares an injection. The Maharishi refuses it: "I transcend dental medication."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:47 AM on February 6, 2008


Just think about what wouldn't have been without him. No Maharishi, No Jesus Children of America. And what kind of America would that be?
posted by BinGregory at 3:28 AM on February 6, 2008


Anyone flesh and blood who claims to know the way to 'Enlightenment' is a con man. There are no exceptions.

oh, i disagree. strongly. i think many people know the way to their own enlightenment. those people may not seem terribly enlightened to others, but they've found something--meditation, drugs, prayer, 12 step groups, flying spaghetti monsters, whatever--that makes a difference in their own lives. sometimes they get excited enough about it to proselytize. and if they're excited enough, and charismatic enough, it becomes a movement. and sometimes a faith. and sometimes it's because they really, truly, have found a way to their own enlightenment. and sometimes it's a con.

i thought the maharishi was strange. and wonderful. he was excited enough and charismatic enough that he captivated the beatles. that was enough for me.

.
posted by msconduct at 4:14 AM on February 6, 2008


No MMY, No Sri Chinmoy, No Mahavishnu Orchestra!
posted by BinGregory at 5:12 AM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Alas, Orientalism.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:39 AM on February 6, 2008


Does TM really cost $2500 today?!? I enrolled in the course in 1987 and it cost $400, but being a student I paid only $100. I liked the practice, but realized you can get a mantra in any devotional book on Indian religion. Additionally, in NYC, where I lived at the time, there were a great many places to learn meditation for less than $100.
posted by zorro astor at 7:48 AM on February 6, 2008


(My parents learned meditation from one of the Maharishi's students back in the day. They never bought into the cult of personality, thank goodness.

Oddly, my Long Island Jewish grandmother — in her 50s or 60s and working as a children's librarian — was very taken with the guy. She and my grandfather went to one of the workshops to see what sort of exotic foolishness their son had gotten mixed up with. This was all before I was born, but later on she'd talk about the teacher in the same pleasantly star-struck tone she'd use for concert pianists or politicians' wives who she'd seen in restaurants. He was a very nice young man, and he'd given her a picture of the Maharishi and her very own mantra — and no, she said with a bit of a grin, she wasn't allowed to tell me what it was.

My dad still meditates. He says it's good for insomnia. He taught me how when I was four or five and going through one of those clingy phases where I needed five stories and ten trips to the bathroom before bed.

So yeah, I know I'm supposed to see this whole thing as a pernicious cult. It does astonish me that people would spend $2500 to learn a technique that you can teach a sleepy toddler in ten minutes. But whenever I hear about the Maharishi, I don't think about the Rolls Royces or the sexual impropriety or whatever — I think of my grandma trying her damndest to stay modern and cosmopolitan back in the seventies, and I can't help but smile. I'm actually kind of sad he's dead.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:52 AM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


See ya sexy Sadie.
posted by fixedgear at 8:43 AM on February 6, 2008


The mantra they give you is supposed to be secret, but someone sued TM in the 80s I think and they've all become public record because of it. You can google it of course.
posted by zorro astor at 10:26 AM on February 6, 2008


The mantras are assigned by age and sex, mostly. Some groups claim it doesn't matter which one you recite as long as the reciter keeps the same one to avoid "confusing the nervous system".
posted by Burhanistan at 10:27 AM on February 6, 2008


It was a good run Sadie, I doubt we will meet again.
posted by Senator at 11:05 AM on February 6, 2008


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Maharishi was an awesome person with a dry a wonderful sense of humor. He all too readily admitted that he was human, fervently believing that we were all capable of a much greater good, chiefly among them was love for one another. He believed that TM was one of the ways of connecting with God but certainly not the only way. This was a stark contrast with evangelical christianity. My brother in law, Charlie Donahue (Dept. of Philosophy UMASSD) was his right hand man, and told me that when the Beatles visited, Mia Farrow was there also and having a bad trip. The Beatles tried to help. The result was the genesis of their song "Sexy Sadie". A lot of the WHITE album was derived from that visit. Television's "TAXI" had Andy Kaufman the comedian, who was also heavily involved with early TM in the US. It was surreal to go over to Charlie’s ghetto and see Andy hanging out.


An interest in Maharishi led to a interest in Swami Vivekananda, who toured the US during the early part of the 20th century. This enlightenment led even further; down the yellow brick road, to a very enlightened Ramakrishna. My favorite story was when Vivekananda met Ramakrishna and asked the proverbial question, the usual "Mahashaya (Venerable Sir), have you seen god?" The instantaneous answer from Ramakrishna was, "Yes, I see God, just as I see you here, only in a much intense sense." God can be realized," he went on; "one can see and talk to Him as I am seeing and talking to you. But who cares? People shed torrents of tears for their wife and children, for wealth or property, but who does so for the sake of God? If one weeps sincerely for Him, he surely manifests Himself."

Charlie left TM with the "flying" stuff and got a PhD in logic (dry to say the least) I learned TM for $25 and received my secrete meditation word from him. It seems to me that the sound of the word changes with time as I forgot precisely how to pronounce it. Slowly filling in lost memory with what I thought my sound was. This process created a unique secrete sound of my very own. There were a lot of great things that spun off the movement.

Hinduism IMHO, is just a great map for living a life directed toward the divine. Culture in the Western World, makes converting to Hinduisms, as an adult, a hard switch. Wicca; in my inconsequential belief, is the closest and easiest jump to make while still retaining the expansive view of life and the world.
posted by Rancid Badger at 11:56 AM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


While in this thread, I thought of pointing out the meaning of the word, mantra, which is so connected with the type of meditation Maharishi brought West.

It intrigues me that in the Christian tradition is the statement,In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.". And: In the Hindu tantra the universe is sound. The supreme (para) brings forth existence through the Word (Shabda). Tibetan Buddhism turned one mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, into an entire religion. An interesting take on Maharishi's TM and use of mantra.

I was wondering why sound and a spiritual experience of the origin of the universe were linked. Perhaps that part of the brain that experiences the divine or sense of cosmic union is near the part of the brain that experiences sound in blissful or deeply pleasurable or reassuring ways? The concept of a kind of trance music, chanting sound and language are combined in the "seed syllables" of mantra. Maybe the repetition of the heartbeat in utero gets imprinted as connected with a sense of the meaning of origin and that's why mantras are repeated rhythmically? Speculating and wondering of others here thought about that kind of stuff too.

In looking up info while writing this comment, I came across this article, Perceived Reality: Sound, In 1966, astronomers discovered a microwave radiation that is cosmic in scope and has been there ever since the birth of the universe. This surely is not sound, nor music in the usual sense, but there is an all pervading vibration in the heavens that began with Genesis, the birth-cry of the baby universe, as it were. This is a notion that would have seemed strange and unacceptable to the physicists of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Can't help thinking the concept of mantra is onto something meaningful in a number of ways.
posted by nickyskye at 1:31 PM on February 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


Disappointingly, Terry Gilliam had just chosen him as a surprise replacement in the lead role of "Doctor Parnassus".
posted by Shotgun Shakespeare at 9:14 PM on February 6, 2008


Uh oh. David Lynch is gonna be pissed!

Actually, not really. "It's like a man is in a car and the car is old and the man gets out of the car and rolls the car into the water into a lake."
posted by Dave Faris at 8:09 AM on February 7, 2008


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