Monday, September 30, 2013

50 years ago: Then-obscure Maharishi Mahesh Yogi tours Canada

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. Isaiah 8:20

In September 1963 Hinduism in Canada was so outside the mainstream that its practitioners and promoters were regarded as exotic. One of its evangelists spent a couple of weeks training disciples in Parksville, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island before brief speaking engagements in Victoria, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Ottawa before leaving for the Himalayas by way of Europe. As reported by Eileen Learoyd in the Victoria Daily Colonist, September 20, 1963:

Indian Mystic Passes on Wisdom of the Ages

A man from the Himalayas has come to Parksville.

Many have never seen his like before. He has the deep, mysterious eyes of a mystic, and he is reputed to be the greatest living saint in India today...

His name is Maharishi.

He sits in his room at the Island Hall Hotel where he can see an arc of sand and sea and the islands of Texada and Lasqueti rising blue in the sky.

But he doesn't look out the window much. He talks to those who knock at his door, and once a day he leaves his room to speak in the lecture hall across the lawn. He speaks on deep meditation, the evolution of the soul, and the riddle of Maya.

His listeners have come here for two weeks to hear the ancient wisdom that has been passed down from Master to Master in Asia for innumerable centuries.

One hundred and fifty people from all parts of the world have followed him here. They come from Japan, Hawaii, Germany, New York, Australia, Montreal, Los Angeles and Duncan and Regina. They are architects, geologists, housewives, students, actresses, health-faddists, millionaires and those of modest means. They are 18 to 88 years.

Two of the people from New York are colored. The women from Hawaii brought a bower of fragrant leis with them.

The people are interesting, but beside the man from India they pale to shadows.

One feels the force beyond the soft voice, for it carries the kind of authority that only comes from the direct experience of a thing.

Like the Rishis of old, he has spent 13 years in meditation in the austere fasts of the Himalayas. Now he has come "out" to help humanity with a method of meditation formerly kept among the intimates of an ashram.

The soft voice says, "Our real ability is infinite. Meditation transcends thinking, it takes us consciously to levels beyond thinking where we now have the ability to use finer, more subtle faculties of experience.

"You can't shoot the tiger of the waking state with the rifle of the dreaming state."

He speaks of the personal and impersonal aspects of God. "God appears to be changing, but is Absolute, never changing. As hydrogen and oxygen become water, then ice--creation is like a change of qualities. This is the unity of life."

Maharishi likes to laugh with his listeners, but when he speaks seriously he is the Guru, the teacher who imparts his light and knowledge, and then he dominates the room.

Sometimes he seems the lonely recluse that he is. He looks lonelier than anyone we have ever met--perhaps because he knows how little we understand of what he says.

As he said one day, "God watches us at play, with our toys."

Great saint or extraordinary man, he lives the life he talks about.

That's why everyone listens.

Maharishi will speak in the Crystal ballroom of the Empress Hotel Monday at 8 p.m., then returns to India via Europe.
Page 5 of the same edition of the Daily Colonist carried an advertisement similar to that which appeared in the bottom left corner of page 2 of the Calgary newspaper The Albertan for September 24, 1963, reading:

TO-NIGHT

AUDITORIUM


A "MASTER" from India speaks in Calgary. Founder of the worldwide SRM, he flies back to the Himalayas this week.

He speaks on deep meditation, key to the unfoldment of latent faculties of the mind and on the evolution of the human spirit. The glory within each man flowers with this unique method of meditation.

Often called the light and hope of this age, this great saint of India teaches contact of the Inner Being as handed down from Master to Master.

MAHARISHI SPEAKS

at

the

JUBILEE AUDITORIUM

Social Room

Tuesday, 8 P.M. -- September 24
A feature article, anonymously written, appeared on page 3 of The Albertan, September 25, 1963:

Mystic Movement

TOPIC: 'Deep Meditation'

The man with the service-club pin and the well-dressed woman halted at the door.

You don't wear shoes before a saint.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the spiritual regeneration movement, sat cross-legged on a deer skin amidst a pile of newly-delivered flowers which he continuously fingered.

He wore a white robe, a long string of small red beads and the long shoulder-length dark hair was greying around the chin. He regarded the press with glowing dark eyes behind which seemed to lurk hidden amusement.

The well-dressed woman rushed in with a small table. "Somebody donated a coffee table, Master," she said. "There was none in the hotel."

The Maharishi doesn't worry about finances. "If I did," he explained, "I would begin to look down on the poor man." His followers, "thousands" in India, 1,000 in Canada, 116 in Calgary, supply the cash backing.

Tuesday night, the "great saint of India" rented the Jubilee Auditorium.

He came to bring peace of mind, self realization, better behavior, more understanding, happiness and harmony, and unfold latent talents--through a simple system of meditation.

"Thought arises from the deepest level of consciousness," he said in quiet, lyrical tones, "as the bubbles rise from the sea and explode.

Our thinking is so shallow, it is always on the surface of the sea of the mind."

The flowers he holds is the symbol of his message. "It invites every man to enjoy its outer beauty and inner honey."

Every man, he says, has a "word" which is his revealing characteristic. It is born with him and dies with him.

The Maharishi can find that word.

He examines a simple questionaire (name, address, state of health) given to those who wish to be initiated and finds the word vibration to correspond with the vibration of the man who filled the form.

It does not matter who or what the applicant is. Religion does not matter. The Maharishi is concerned only with raising the standard of humanity.

He has taught 60 other persons this power and they, with 1,300 lecturers, spread the word.

Personal questions are lost on the man. (How old are you? "We don't go by age." What area did you begin your work in India? "Big cities.")

The "light and hope of this age" as his followers call him speaks fluent English. He misses a question. "I didn't get you," he says.

Before coming here, he spent two weeks near Vancouver training 110 would-be teachers. "All have come out regenerated."

After leaving Calgary, he will continue east to Ottawa, Iceland, Europe and eventually the Himalayas. "I will go to Russia," he says, "when the government invites me."

Transportation? "I have just been given a four-seater Cessna plane," the Maharishi said, obviously pleased, "so that quickly I go ahead and bring peace to people."
The Calgary Herald of September 25, 1963 ran its own anonymously-written article on the bottom of page 18:

Indian 'Saint' Delivers Message

Meditation 'Key' To Inner Self


From the Himalayan foothills, Maharishi, whose followers consider "the greatest living saint in India," Tuesday night brought his message to the foothills of Calgary.

"Through deep meditation, man's mind can seek the inner spheres of his own personality and find the kingdom of heaven within," he says.

With his black, shoulder-length hair, beard and white robe, he is the traditional figure of the Indian mystic.

A rosary of 108 beads, each representing a prayer, hangs about his neck. Attached to the rosayry is a "picture of my master who left his body 10 years ago."

In his hotel room, he assumes a familiar, cross-legged position on a deer skin on his bed.

Thick perfume from dozens of flowers fills the room. In his hand he holds a rose.

NO MYSTIC

"But I'm not a mystic," he says, in excellent but hardly audible English.

"There is no mysticism in my message. It is a purely scientific way of exploring the glories of inner life through meditation.

Anyone can understand and practise it. It's simply a matter of thinking in terms of the subtle states of thought which are more charming than gross states of thought.

"This increasing charm draws the mind because by its very nature the mind goes to the area of greater happiness.

ONE WORD

"For every man there is one specific word--a word which has the vibration to set loose all his tensions, clear his mind."

Because of time limitations, he has devised a questionnaire and from the answers, decides on the word which suits "each person's level of intelligence."

"Having grasped the practice of meditating of the word--not its meaning, since meaning is static--they meditate morning and night on that word.

"From the first day, they begin to feel free from worries and anxieties."

With the release of tensions, body cells are rejuvenated, and people begin to look years younger, he says.

"And with spiritual regeneration comes happiness, peace, harmony and intelligence."

Founded in 1958, the spiritual movement now has 50,000 disciples in 23 countries, he says.

Calgary has 120 folowers and is the movement's Canadian headquarters, with Roland Umikar, oil company geologist, as president.

Tuesday night, the graduate with a science degree in math and physics who renounced his academic life to meditate and fast for 13 years in the Himalayas, addressed a gathering in the auditorium's social room.

He will make stops at other Canadian cities before flying to India via Europe.
The September 26, 1963 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press included an ad similar to the one in The Albertan, mentioning that the Maharishi would be giving a public lecture in the Oak Room of the St. Regis Hotel on Friday, September 27 at 8:30 P.M. The Winnipeg Free Press didn't regard the Maharishi's visit as an event worthy of a feature article.

The perceptive reader will notice that the Maharishi's movement still had the overtly religious title Spiritual Regeneration Movement--the name under which it was registered in California in 1959--and the technique he taught was called "deep meditation." While the Maharishi stated in his interview with the Daily Colonist that "meditation transcends thinking," the word "transcendental" as a brand name for his movement was nowhere to be found in 1963. It wasn't until several years later, after the Maharishi had figured out how to combine eastern spirituality with western desires for physical health and material success, that the brand name Transcendental Meditation came into existence. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi became famous when he met the Beatles in London in August 1967, and he became their spiritual adviser for a time (the Beatles were topping the British charts in September 1963 with their single She Loves You, but Beatlemania in North America was still several months in the future). The Maharishi died on February 5, 2008 at the apparent age of at least 90.

The Maharishi was being disingenuous when he said that religion didn't matter, when what he was teaching was Hindu meditation. In Vedantic Hinduism (i.e., the school which organized and systematized the Hindu writings known as the Upanishads), there is one impersonal god known as Brahman. Brahman alone is real, and everything else is a dream or illusion, known as maya. As stated by John Ankerberg and John Weldon:

However, Hinduism also teaches that Brahman exists "beneath" this illusory universe. In other words, Brahman resides "in" and "underneath" the material creation. This explains why the goal of Hinduism is to go inward to allegedly discover that one's true nature is part of God or Brahman. Hinduism aims at supposedly revealing one's inward divine nature by "contacting" Brahman through occult practice. The Facts on Hinduism in America (1991), p. 10

Phrases such as "latent faculties of the mind" and "evolution of the human spirit" come from the Hindu belief that sin is not transgression of the law of God (I John 3:4), but is lack of enlightenment and lack of self-realization. The technique of "deep" or "transcendental" meditation involves emptying one's conscious mind and concentrating on the mantra, resulting in an altered state of consciousness leading to enlightenment. If I actually stop to think about it, it seems quite nonsensical that I would have an inner divine nature and yet not know that--and to discover that true nature, I have to enter an altered state of consciousness where I'm unable to distinguish subjective from objective reality. In contrast, the Bible consistently upholds the reality of the material world, even to the point of stating that God--who exists apart from His creation--even became one of us (John 1:14), taking on an actual physical body (Luke 24:39, I John 1:1).

As for the particular word (the technical term is "mantra") given to each man, which he is then to keep to himself, Christian apologists such as the late Ron Carlson have pointed out that the reason for this is that there are only 16 mantras, and they're distributed according to the age of the initiate, which goes a long way in explaining why the initiate isn't to reveal his mantra to anyone else.

The perceptive reader will notice the similarities between the "deep" or "transcendental" meditation technique taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the contemplative prayer techniques being advocated today in Western evangelical Christianity, especially in the so-called "Emerging Church." The similarities--which can include even the promotion of two 10-minute sessions per day--are not coincidental. Contemplative "prayer" is in fact eastern meditation disguised in Christian garb.

For more information on contemplative spirituality and the Emerging Church, I suggest the sites for Lighthouse Trails Research Project, Caryl Productions, and Crossroad. Informative books on contamplative spirituality and the Emerging Church include A Time of Departing, 2nd edition, by Ray Yungen (2006); Faith Undone by Roger Oakland (2007); The Emergent Church: Undefining Christianity by Bob DeWaay (2009); and A "Wonderful" Deception by Warren Smith (2009). I don't know if it's still in print, but The Facts on Hinduism in America by John Ankerberg and John Weldon (1991) provides a good, quick review of the subject. It's also worth visiting the site of the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute.

TM-Free Blog and Meditation Information Network aren't written from a Christian perspective, but they provide useful information on Transcendental Meditation from the perspective of people who were formerly involved in TM.

While the 1963 newspaper advertisements proclaimed the Maharishi as "the light and hope of this age," there's someone who has a true claim on those titles for this and every age, and it isn't the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, but the Lord Jesus Christ:

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8:12

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. John 9:5

I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. John 12:46

1 comment:

  1. One of the most interesting and informative articles I have read.
    John

    ReplyDelete