Book Excerpt - from Transcendental Meditation: The Essential Teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
University of California, Berkeley—November 8, 1966.
A cold wind was rushing up from San Francisco Bay and climbing toward the hills. Huddling against the chill, I noticed some posters still up around campus as I hurried to enter California Hall. When I arrived, the talk had already begun. The large lecture hall was so packed that dozens of people overflowed into the corridor and, like them, I had to listen to the presentation over a loudspeaker.
The speaker's musical voice, with its slight Indian accent, was soft yet full of life, calm but extremely expressive. He was talking about life in contemporary society, noting that "as the rate of progress increases, as the pace of life becomes faster and man's aspirations expand to the moon and the stars, the responsibilities and pressures of life naturally become greater." But, he pointed out, our capabilities are not expanding at an equivalent rate. "Because people have not been able to find sufficient energy and creative intelligence within themselves to meet the demands of life . . . frustration, unhappiness, and lack of fulfillment are increasingly common."
The speaker likened the situation to living in a building in which the walls have begun to crack. If the building is to continue to stand, the foundations have to be strengthened. He proposed the technique of Transcendental Meditation (TM) as a way to restore balance, to give strength and dignity back to human life. He described TM as a simple method by which any individual could tap into the inner source of thought, a "reservoir of unlimited energy, intelligence, power, peace, and bliss" deep within the mind. When a person utilizes this field of unlimited potential, he said, "all aspects of his life flourish, in the same way that the branches, fruits, and leaves of a tree flourish when the roots maintain contact with the field of nourishment in the soil."
Then he took his vision one step further, beyond the individual, and it was this final point that captured my full attention. When people meditate, he said, the deep inner peace they experience creates what he referred to as "a warm air" around them, an influence of harmony and positivity. If enough people in society produced such a harmonious atmosphere, negativity and stress in the environment could be reduced or even eliminated, and world peace could become a reality.
Even as a young man, I had never been nearly as interested in my own happiness as in the well-being of the world, and along with many others, I had done what I could to serve that cause, but clearly it wasn't working. It was the late '60s, there were riots in the streets of American cities, the Vietnam war was killing thousands of people and dividing the country, the Cold War was raging between the U.S. and the USSR (two nuclear-armed superpowers), crime rates were high, and nobody knew what to do about any of it. When I heard the speaker's persuasive argument—which boiled down to the simple statement that individuals who are at peace within themselves create a peaceful world—it made complete sense to me.
It was a beautiful message, and the audience—even those of us standing in the corridor who had not been able to see the speaker—listened intently. After a while, a few people started to leave the hall, and I was finally able to get to the door and catch my first glimpse of His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, sitting cross-legged on the stage on a couch neatly draped with white silk.
Small in stature, with long dark hair and a beard just beginning to turn gray, wearing traditional white silk robes, the Maharishi moved and spoke with an extraordinary combination of gentleness and strength. His words were carefully chosen and his speech, although simple, was highly articulate. He had a quick and lively wit and a
One thing was obvious: He was a happy man. Serene. At peace with himself and the world. He answered every question posed to him—some hostile, discourteous, provoking—with patience and answered thoughtfully and thoroughly. Here was a man who was sensitive to the suffering and confusion of modern life, who could understand it and explain it, yet somehow remain unfazed by it.
At one moment, while discussing a point of philosophy, his intellect seemed to dominate; his voice rose, his bright, clear eyes flashed, and his hands moved quickly and decisively. Answering a different question, he was the embodiment of love, his fingers caressing the petals of a rose, his voice soft and full. He seemed complete in himself, yet totally alert and responsive to those around him.
The Maharishi answered every question in terms of the technique of Transcendental Meditation. He outlined the physiological effects of its practice, explained the principles behind it, and showed the relevance of the technique to whatever specific problems, individual, social, or global, concerned the questioner. He emphasized that he was not espousing philosophy or religion, or offering something to "believe in" or accept on faith. Rather, he said, TM is a practical technique, based on verifiable, scientifically validated principles. It is easy to learn, and has immediate and practical benefits for all aspects of life. And, although it was obvious that it was he who was bringing this message to the world, the Maharishi took no credit for himself, but expressed gratitude to his teacher for passing on to him this "wisdom
of living the fullness of life."
These were my first impressions of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. My first impression of Transcendental Meditation, gained a few weeks later when I took the course offered by the Students International Meditation Society, was that everything he had said was true.
Although I knew almost nothing about it at the time, the movement that had grown up around Maharishi was already international in scope. After thirteen years with his spiritual master followed by two years of seclusion in the "Valley of Saints" in the Himalayas, he had traversed the globe each year, starting in 1957, opening centers
throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, and the technique of Transcendental Meditation that he taught was becoming increasingly well known. But in the summer of 1967, something was to happen that would change the course of history, for myself as well as millions of others.
I was in New York that summer, working for my uncles' hardware company, installing fences throughout the city as a helper with their work crews. One muggy August afternoon after work, when I returned to the apartment I was sharing, I picked up the newspaper, and on the front page was a photograph of Maharishi with the phenomenally popular musical group, The Beatles. When I took one look
at that picture, I said aloud, "My God, it's all going to change!"
And it did. The TM movement had been, up to that point, a small and intimate thing. Those who were involved in it pretty much all knew one another, and when Maharishi came to town, they could spend some time with him. But with the advent of the Beatles, suddenly thousands, and then tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of young people became interested, and lines formed outside TM centers on weekends to learn the practice.
When I moved to Los Angeles that autumn to continue my education, I began to write this book. I created a questionnaire asking people about their experiences with TM, which I placed in centers where TM was taught, and a surprising number of responses began to roll in. All were enthusiastic, and many were quite detailed in describing the wonderful experiences people were having and the changes and
virtual transformations in their relationships, performance at school and work, health, and happiness. I felt, from my own experience, the benefits of meditation, but these responses encouraged me to pursue the rather fantastical idea of creating a book.
I read whatever I could get hold of, which was very little—only Maharishi's two works, Science of Being and Art of Living, and his newly published Translation and Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. Not one of the hundreds of scientific research studies that have come out since then had been published. Most of the material in the first draft of the book was created from my reading of Maharishi's books, from
the replies to my questionnaire and follow-up interviews with some of the respondents, and the tremendous inspiration and knowledge I gained by attending every lecture given by Jerry Jarvis, the national director of the TM movement.
Jerry was an eloquent spokesman for Maharishi, and a deeply devoted student of his teacher. Not only did I attend every talk that Mr. Jarvis offered in the Los Angeles area, whether introductory or advanced, but within a few months I joined a team of young people who had begun to speak about the benefits of TM at colleges and universities in the area. One of these individuals was Keith Wallace, a graduate student at UCLA who would soon publish pioneering studies on the physiological effects of TM in three distinguished scientific journals: Science (the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science), Scientific American, and the American Journal of Physiology.
In the summer of 1968, I attended a program in Squaw Valley, California, 6,000 feet high in the Sierra Nevadas, conducted by Maharishi as the first phase in training teachers of TM. About 750 people were in attendance. I brought with me the fledgling manuscript I was working on, with the desire to give it to him to look at. I soon discovered that he rarely read anything himself, but would reserve the transmission of information for a relationship with his students. Someone would read to him, and he would comment. Others would listen and learn from these interactions.
So, my desire transmuted to an attempt to read some or all of my book to Maharishi. I tried to arrange a meeting through his secretaries and assistants, but somehow it never happened. On the final night of the course, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning (as Maharishi did every night), and at somewhere between three and four o'clock, when he finished his last meeting in the lecture hall and was walking through the dining room toward his own quarters, followed by a train of people trying to get close enough to ask questions as he made his way among the tables and chairs, I stood directly in front of him with my manuscript and boldly said, "Maharishi, I'm writing a book about TM."
He stopped—as he had nowhere else to go—and replied, "Very good!" Then he added, "What is your profession?"
"I'm still a student."
"What is your course of study?"
"Religion and philosophy."
"Then you must include a good chapter about religion!"
"May I show you some of the book?" I asked him.
"When it's fi nished. Meanwhile, you can speak to Jerry about it."
And that was the extent of the meeting. But I felt inspired by Maharishi's interest, and was excited about the prospect of sharing it with him and seeking his blessing for it when it was complete.
In the autumn of 1968, shortly after my 25th birthday, I moved to Ohio, where I'd decided to finish my undergraduate studies. During that year, as I had already accumulated a large number of credits in my major, I was permitted to do a significant amount of independent study. One of these courses involved completing the manuscript for this book. I believe my professors must have thought it quite unusual to have a student proposing to write a 350- or 400-page manuscript for three units of credit, but they gave me the opportunity, and I managed to do it. Toward the end of the year, I decided to switch from my focus on religion and philosophy. I applied to a Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) writing program at Ohio University, and received a graduate assistantship.
In my first semester there, in the fall of 1969, interest in TM began to boom in the Midwest, but there were no teachers living in the area. I had such a strong desire to share the benefits of meditation with others that I took it upon myself to organize and offer introductory talks at universities in a number of different cities. In some of these places, my talk was the first ever given on TM. All the posters had a picture of Maharishi on them, advertising a talk on "Transcendental Meditation as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi," and I suspect that sometimes the audience must have been disappointed to find that the speaker was a graduate student wearing a jacket and tie, rather than a bearded, white-robed yogi from the Himalayas.
Those lectures were frequently attended by 200, 300, or 400 people. And I, a completely untrained speaker who wasn't even a TM teacher, found myself alone onstage in front of those groups in large auditoriums and lecture halls. Looking back on it now, I find it hard to believe that I had the courage to do it, or that the leadership of the TM movement in the U.S. had the confidence in me to allow it. In any case, interest in TM was very high; large courses were held in all those cities, and I found myself returning to each place to meet with the new and continuing meditators, to offer advanced lectures on Maharishi's teachings.
It was my deepest desire to become a teacher of Transcendental Meditation. In fact, on that January day in Berkeley when I received my initial instruction, in the midst of the process I turned to my teacher and asked, "How does one become a teacher of this?"
He replied, "We can discuss that later. Right now let's just continue learning." Which we did. But that desire stayed with me, and grew. It was fueled by my own growing happiness, which I wanted to share with others; by what I'd seen in the people I met who were visibly transformed by their TM practice; and perhaps most of all, by the potential I saw for a better world if large numbers of people could enjoy the benefits of meditation.
So I was thrilled, during the Thanksgiving vacation of 1969 in Ohio, when I received a phone call from Jerry Jarvis, the national director. It went something like this:
"Hi, Jack, this is Jerry."
"What are you doing in January?"
"Yes! I want to go!"
Laughter. "Good! We'll take care of the costs."
I had just been invited to go to India to study with Maharishi, and train to become a teacher. What had held me back up to that point was the money: the round-trip fare to India, and the cost of the teacher-training course itself, which I had never looked into, believing I couldn't afford it. When the exultation diminished enough for me to think clearly, I realized that I had signed an agreement to be a graduate student, receive a fellowship stipend, and teach classes for the duration of my time at the university. I had every intention and desire to go to India, but wasn't sure if I would be able to do so. So I went to the graduate advisor and presented my case like this:
"I love my classes, and I've enjoyed teaching. But I've just had an offer to study in India with a great spiritual master, and I would really like to do it. I also want to pursue my career at the university. What do you think I should do?"
The professor gazed at me with an incredulity that I misinterpreted at first. "There's absolutely no question about it," he said, and I knew the ax was about to fall, that he was about to say, "How can you even consider something so irresponsible as going off to India when you have such a generous fellowship here, and an opportunity to advance your career?" But what I heard was: "The university will always be here. You can always go to graduate school. If you have a chance to go to India and study, how can you even think twice about it?"
I laughed and said, "Oh, all right then, so you would approve?"
"Absolutely! And have a great time. Stop by to tell me about it when you get back."
Early in January 1970, I found myself arriving at the New Delhi airport, about to begin one of the great adventures of my life. In my suitcase was the first draft of this book, which I'd completed in my final undergraduate year, and then hadn't looked at again.
I spent the next three months in Maharishi's academy in the foothills of the Himalayas, across the Ganges from the ancient pilgrimage town of Rishikesh, on a bluff overlooking the great river. The opportunity to meet with such a brilliant, wise, and compassionate teacher three times a day is something one probably doesn't fully appreciate while it was happening. In a completely effortless way, without strain, I sat in front of Maharishi with 176 others from around the world, and absorbed the knowledge so patiently and systematically—and yet spontaneously—offered by this great sage. He used no notes, had no books piled up for reference on the small table in front of him, and showed no videos, slides, or PowerPoints. Rather, for three months, he just talked, and answered all our questions, both practical (about the procedures of teaching, for example) and spiritual/philosophical. It was an awesome display of knowledge.
The word rishi means sage or seer, one who sees deeply into the truth of life, and particularly into the truth of the Veda, the knowledge of life that is expressed in the Vedic literature of India. The term maharishi is reserved for the greatest rishis (maha means great) who not only "see," but who also embody the knowledge and from the deep compassion of their hearts offer it to others so that their lives may be
And what is the knowledge that they embody and convey? That within every one of us lies a vast and largely untapped reservoir of energy, intelligence, happiness, and peace that is our very own deepest, truest self—and that if we can come into conscious contact and attunement with it, our lives will be transformed. We will no longer need to constantly look for happiness and security in other people or in our activities and achievements; we will no longer be tossed about by the ever-changing ups and downs of experience in the world; instead, we will live a life centered in peace and contentment.
During my free hours at the academy, I would haul a chair up to the flat roof of the one-story building I lived in. I brought my manuscript and, amidst the chatter of monkeys and the eerie call of peacocks in the breezy spring afternoons, based on the knowledge I was receiving, began to make serious revisions, deepening the presentation to match the deepening understanding that was growing within me.
I don't really remember how much I was able to complete during the time in India, as the intensity of the course increased as time went on, both in terms of our personal experiences of meditation, and the lectures as well as the smaller training and practice groups that evolved to help us learn. We met in groups every afternoon to practice lecturing and, more important, to master the subtle art of meditation instruction so that we could lead students through the many types of experiences for which they might need explanations and guidance.
We also gradually increased the number of hours spent in meditation, many of us doubling the minimum of four to six hours we had been sitting each day. At one point in the middle of the course, we had a 72-hour meditation. Maharishi told us to take three pieces of fruit to our room; we were to sit, and not lie down, for 72 hours; to meditate straight through—but to eat one piece of fruit each day, in the daytime, so we would know how many days had gone by! The depth of silence and expanded awareness that many of us experienced (and later reported when we returned to our meetings on the fourth day) was profoundly fulfilling.
At the end of the course, I put my manuscript back in my suitcase and forgot about it, as I immediately became involved full-time in the work of teaching and organizing. I had intended to go to California to work with Jerry Jarvis at the national headquarters, but passing through New York, I stopped to visit the new TM center in Greenwich Village. The center leader asked if I would consider taking over the center for one month while he went to an advanced course for teachers in Europe. Glad for the opportunity to immediately begin teaching, I agreed.
He never returned, and I found myself the head of the New York City center, and within a short time, the Area Coordinator for New York and New Jersey, offering courses, lectures, and weekend and longer in-residence courses for thousands of meditators. I also coordinated the activities of the hundreds of teachers who began, over the next couple of years, to return from training courses given by Maharishi in Europe. The number of interested students far exceeded the capacity of the academy in India, so arrangements were made for off-season rentals of hotels in such lovely places as Mallorca, Spain, where those desiring to be trained as teachers could be housed at a reasonable cost.
By this time, I'd developed a strong desire to work more closely with Maharishi. In 1971, when he passed through New York, I had a few moments to speak privately with him. I asked him two things. First, when he inquired about how I was doing, I replied, "I'm doing well, but there are still some moments when I don't feel completely happy or smooth in my behavior."
He smiled and said, "It will only happen when you're tired."
Looking back on this, I can barely believe the naïveté I presented to him, a young Westerner who'd practiced meditation for all of four years, expecting to be perfectly at peace and living in eternal bliss! And I marvel, in retrospect, at Maharishi's ability not to burst out laughing! Nevertheless, his answer has proven to be, over 40 years, precisely true. If I am even reasonably rested, I do feel content, peaceful, and able to deal with whatever comes my way.
But the more important question I got to ask him was: "Maharishi, I would like to come and be with you at the international headquarters."
He looked at me intently and said, "But who will be in New York?"
I immediately listed half a dozen teachers who, in my opinion, were fully capable of running the center. And then with great tenderness and sweetness, he said again, "But who will be in New York?" I understood that he wanted me to stay, and I accepted that.
During the following year, I managed to complete another revision of my book. But not knowing anything about publishing, I simply put the manuscript in a drawer and left it there. One day I woke up with the thought, It's time to do something with the manuscript. And then something happened that will make any would-be author envious. That morning at the TM center, I asked the first person who came in the door: "You wouldn't happen to know anything about publishing, or have any contacts with any publishing companies, would you?"
She said, "I do know one editor, at E. P. Dutton," at that time one of the larger American publishers. She kindly gave me the name of that person.
Later in the day when I had a moment, I called E. P. Dutton, asked for the editor, and said, "I've written a book about Transcendental Meditation. Would you be interested in seeing it?"
She said, "I would be very interested!"
I said, 'I'll send it to you."
"Could you possibly bring it over?"
Within a few days, I had a signed contract for my book to be published.
At this point, I'd been working on the book entirely on my own. Only one person had read it, and that was Jerry Jarvis, who'd read through it and had made a few small suggestions. But I felt: This is Maharishi's teaching, and this is the first book being published about TM; he should have a chance to read it and correct any errors I might have made, or give it his approval.
So I took a leave from my work and went to Europe, where Maharishi was conducting another large teacher-training course. I brought my manuscript with me, and there I was again able to have a private meeting with him in his room. And the most wonderful thing happened. Holding my manuscript in my hands, I said, "Maharishi, I finished my book, and I have a contract to publish it. I would like you
to hear it."
He asked, "Are you satisfied with it?"
I could not lie about it. I had rewritten the book five times. Each draft was completely new. I'm quite certain there was not a single sentence left over from the first version. I had labored with all the love and intelligence in my being to make every phrase, sentence, and paragraph in the book truthful and clear. So I told him, "Yes, I am satisfied with it. But, it's your teaching. I would like you to be satisfied
"Then we'll hear it!"
I said, "Good. May I read it to you?"
He looked at me and asked again, "But are you satisfied with it?"
Again I told him, "Yes, I am."
"Then it's all right."
The way he said that was so definitive, and so deeply appreciative, that I felt he knew the labor I had put in, the effort I'd made to be sure that every aspect of his teaching was presented accurately, and I felt, All right. It's okay.
So then I brought up my second point. "Maharishi, I want to offer your movement all the money I receive for the book."
"No," he said. "You keep it."
I had been firm in my desire to not accept money for the book. I wanted to give it to Maharishi to further his work. So I argued. "I really want to give it to the movement."
He looked at me and said simply, "You keep it."
Yet a third time, I insisted, "I don't need it. I have all that I need."
He told me, "You keep it. You'll need it."
I had heard it said that it is not permissible, once a master tells you something three times, to argue. So I simply dropped the point. And it turned out that I would need that money!
In the summer of 1972, a one-month TM teacher-training course was held at Humboldt State University in California, near one of the world's last great stands of giant redwood trees. I went for some rest and the chance to spend extra hours in deep meditation, but Maharishi immediately put me to work creating materials that were to be used throughout the world in a new course he was developing, called the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI). This was a detailed analysis of the nature and unfoldment of consciousness, uniting the modern, scientific, objective approach with the ancient, subjective but equally rigorous approach of the Vedas. By the time the Humboldt course was drawing to a close, I had not quite finished my work, so I went to him, materials in hand, prepared to turn them over to someone else to complete.
"Maharishi, I haven't finished editing the SCI texts. But it's time for me to return to New York." I was very conscious of the fact that he had directed me to stay in New York only a year previously. But this time he surprised me by asking, "Why go to New York?"
I burst out laughing, and he laughed, too. It was at that moment that my years of working closely with him as part of his international staff, and helping him to train teachers, would begin.
But that's another story.