First more on the relationship between Maharishi and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, followed by notes on the Transcendental Meditation movement including comments about one case of a closer relationship between a student and her teacher Maharishi. The case is relevant if one honestly wishes to weed through the information about the organizations mentioned in the session while also presenting a case that may help when trying to understand a number of other eastern meditation and yoga schools.
Quoting the session again, there was:
Q: [...](Craig) [...] Oh, relating back to my first question: If it was to divert attention against Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi, then why did they keep the assassination attempt secret?
A: It wasn't secret from those intended to be influenced.
Q: (Craig) Right... (L) I doubt it would have made any difference to the wider public at all I don't think. (Craig) Well, they kept it secret to keep the organization going, which was in the wrong direction... So, lastly, what is the relationship between Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar?
A: 5th density pact.
Q: (Craig) Are they masters that work with 5th density?
A: Came from... with a mission here.
Q: (L) Well, everybody essentially comes from 5th density, but not everybody comes with a mission. (Craig) Will there be attempts by the consortium to stop Sri Sri Ravi Shankar?
A: Not too likely.
In Maharishi & Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles' Guru
by Susan Shumsky from 2018, there are a few paragraphs regarding this relationship between Maharishi and Ravi Shankar. You will notice I included the first part that explains the history of Heavenly Mountain because Ravi Shankar later bought a part of it.
In 1990, David and Earl Kaplan founded the most profitable business in Fairfield, Books Are Fun, then sold it to Readers Digest for $380 million, and finally bought it back for $17.5 million in 2009. TM devotees for twenty-five years, the twin brothers donated over $150 million to the TM Movement.
In 1993, the Kaplans purchased and developed “Heavenly Mountain” in Boone, North Carolina to house the “Spiritual Center of America” and Maharishi’s 350 Purusha and three hundred Mother Divine course participants. They spent $40 million erecting roads and buildings on 1261 acres. On the adjacent fifty-six hundred acres they founded a TM community. Many families moved there.
David Kaplan had joined the Purusha course, so he lived on the property. In January and February 1999 he became ill and nearly died. Maharishi announced in April that anyone not “one-pointed” should leave Purusha. David claimed he quit Purusha because he’d been in love with Linda for a year, and when he got married, he was “kicked-out of the movement.”269 Though it was widely believed David was blacklisted for impregnating Linda while on Purusha, she claimed she got pregnant right after David left Purusha. They were married that September and divorced six years later.270
David’s ousting (plus the TM Movement’s failure to make mortgage payments and pay property taxes) prompted the brothers to investigate Maharishi. The twins traveled to India and dug up rankling Swamis and Shankaracharyas who, since 1953, repeatedly fought bitter lawsuits in their bid to seize the coveted title Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math (Guru Dev’s office). Those Swamis recycled the same fantastic accusations churning for decades: Maharishi poisoning Guru Dev and stealing his shri yantra, a ruby-studded wealth-bestowing religious object.
And hiding it … where? In his loincloth?
In 2004, Earl Kaplan wrote: “Due to our findings I can no longer support or be associated with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, his ideas, his knowledge, or any of his organizations.”271 In 2005, the Kaplans evicted Purusha and Mother Divine from Heavenly Mountain. Homeowners filed lawsuits against the brothers for reneging on the promised TM community.
In 2011, Heavenly Mountain’s west campus of 381 acres was auctioned off, with a reserve price of $2.48 million, to the highest bidder—Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of Art of Living Foundation. Coincidentally, in the 1980s, Ravi had served on Maharishi’s Staff as Sama Veda pundit, chanting Sanskrit verses in the ancient oral tradition.
Ravi made some stunning claims: that he was Maharishi’s favorite disciple, that Maharishi predicted he would generate the new millennium’s spiritual revolution, that Maharishi wanted him to be a Shankaracharya, that all TM meditators will join his Art of Living organization, and that Ravi is none other than (drumroll) the reincarnation of Guru Dev!
Ravi hijacked the Holy Tradition painting I designed and Frances Knight completed. Ravi substituted himself for Maharishi’s image and hung it in his Art of Living centers. Stunning! See www.divinerevelation.org/HolyTradition.html
Ravi ascribed himself “His Holiness Sri Sri” and claimed to hold an advanced science degree. Reality is he learned TM in Melkote, Karnataka, and attended an advanced course in Rishikesh. When Maharishi invited Ravi to Switzerland, he dropped out of school at age seventeen.
Ravi helped Maharishi build his ashram in Noida, near Delhi, and in 1980 organized a celebration with six thousand pundits. But Ravi became ill, and his father brought him home to Bangalore (now Bengaluru). In 1985, Maharishi asked Ravi to gather students and teach Vedic chanting. Ravi’s father recruited 150 boys. When Maharishi asked Ravi to transfer the students to Noida, he refused. Maharishi never spoke with him again.
Ravi claimed to be a “close disciple of Maharishi,” yet never became a TM teacher. He appeared at Maharishi’s cremation and placed himself prominently before the cameras on the global Internet feed.
Maharishi’s comment about Ravi: “He is dangerous. Sugar-coated poison.” 272
One of the Kaplan brothers is interviewed in a film David wants to fly
by David Sieveking. The description is:
Every filmmaker dreams of meeting their favourite director. So when aspiring filmmaker David Sieveking had the opportunity, he begins his film David Wants to Fly with a trip to the United States to hear David Lynch speak about his passion for Transcendental Meditation, a movement founded by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi-who also inspired, among others, The Beatles and Donovan. Sieveking is granted an interview with Lynch, who encourages him to try meditation for himself, as a means for personal success. Sieveking follows this advice and it seems to work for a bit: he does get financing for his film script, but then his girlfriend moves away to New York. And as Sieveking delves deeper into the Transcendental Meditation organization after the death of the Maharishi, he witnesses an ugly power struggle in the upper echelons of the movement and begins to see TM as a corrupt business and quite possibly a scam. At first, Sieveking is given almost complete access to the organization and the Rajas, or 'executives'; as soon as he starts asking questions, they try to stop his film. The film is an odd and yet engaging combination of personal discovery and doc investigation. Sieveking is the main character in this story, as well as the director; this is often a recipe for a bad doc, but Sieveking uses the technique to his advantage. ...David Wants to Fly ( David quiere volar )
In the movie, David Sieveking visits India with his crew, they attend Maharishi's funeral and there are beautiful pictures from the source of the Ganges at Gomukh
. Less related but good to know, if you wish to have the translation in front of you, is that the song Marie Pohl
and David Sieveking sing at the end is in German and was written by Bertolt Brecht. Its title is Das Lied von der Unzulänglichkeit menschlichen Strebens
which translates as Song about the inadequacy of human planning
. Although well done, some questions could be explored further in other sources.
In the documentary, there are a couple of interviews that indicate Maharishi was less celibate than he was promoted to be. In this regard: Susan Shumsky
It was unthinkable to imagine Maharishi as a sexual being. I’d believed his title Bal Brahmachari (lifelong celibate). Yet several women personally confessed to me they had sexual intercourse with him, or were bidden to. In every case, I found their testimonies credible. One liaison with a Canadian woman spanned more than eighteen months: 1972 to 1974. Two “girlfriends” were with me in Rishikesh, where skin-boys spotted them tiptoeing in and out of Maharishi’s bungalow. I had wondered about Maharishi’s fascination and fawning over Vivian. Now I knew why. (She was one of us six that traveled to Bangalore with Maharishi in 1970, and her affair with Maharishi lasted more than one year.)
One can encounter a similar tale in Sex & the Single Guru
, a collection of email or forum exchanges from 2002 between former personal staff members, several years before Maharishi passed away and 8 years before the movie came out.
In the film, there is also an interview with Judith Bourque author of the short well-illustrated, honest and thoughtful book Robes of Silk, Feet of Clay The true story of a love affair with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the creator of the Transcendental Meditation movement
. Bourque originally from the US east coast has now lived in Sweden for almost 50 years and was married to Johannes Olivegren
, a well-known architect. In her book bout the reasons for participating in the documentary by retelling a dialogue she had with a spectator when the film was screened in Berlin:
Another person sought me out outside the theater. First he needed to know whether or not what I had implied about my relationship with Maharishi in the film was true, down to the letter.
I told him it was. He looked as though he just had to swallow some bad tasting medicine.
“Are you surprised?” I asked.
“I’m surprised at you. It’s so personal…”
“I’m not doing this to hurt Maharishi,” I said.
“But you did,” he replied. “I have been meditating for 32 years…”
He was obviously a devout practitioner of Transcendental Meditation.
I went on.
“You see, when Maharishi asked me to promise not to tell anyone about our relationship, he brought me into his lie. I’ve had to live that lie all these years. What I have found out is that I needed to let myself out of the prison of having to cover for him.”
“So you are doing this for your own sake?” he asked.
“Yes, very much so. And by the way, Maharishi came to me in a dream and asked me to ‘take him out of the closet.’ It is my understanding that he felt he had left some bad karma behind him by dying without telling the truth and that he wanted help with that situation. So I believe that I am actually assisting him to clean it up.”
He and the young woman he was with listened, but we parted on that note. Even though he was upset with me, I was still grateful, seeing our conversation as preparation for reactions that I would undoubtedly meet when this book was released. And he may have seen the karma aspect as my own construct, but the concept of
karma has now become a part of my world view, even though I was not raised with this belief system
In the early chapters, Bourque describes her upbringing and family which becomes important for her understanding of why she later joined the meditation movement and established a close relationship with Maharishi.
Religion also played a role. Judith was brought up as a Catholic and had difficulties with the teachings about sin and damnation. About the last time she went to confession, she wrote:
I told this priest that I could not accept what the church was teaching about sinning and that I felt each person had to figure out for themselves what was right and what was wrong and try to follow that code.
At the end of the book this theme comes up again:
It’s interesting…books and films often start and finish in the form of a circle. The circle of this book is bringing me back to what I said to the priest when I was 16…that I believed we should try to decide for ourselves what’s right and wrong and then do our best to live by that. I have forgotten that many, many times in my life, when I allowed someone I viewed wiser than myself to influence my decisions.
Relating her childhood experiences to what later happened, she writes:
Maybe that’s the problem…that those of us who found Maharishi at the very beginning of his movement and became deeply devoted to him were looking for some kind of parent figure. I was apparently looking for my beloved grandfather. Conny now sees that his need to follow two gurus for a total of 31 years was the result of a subconscious need to find a father figure he could depend on. Gail Tredwell describes a similar dynamic in her book “Holy Hell”. She writes that, at one point during her twenty one years of service to her guru she felt she had found her real mother in Amma, the immensely popular hugging guru. In Maharishi’s movement, our dependency on him was more encouraged than discouraged. Many of us saw him as a divine being, myself included. Our Guru became our God. That didn’t leave much room for personality traits that were less than perfect. Was he perfect or was it we who needed him to be? For me the search for and subsequent attachment to a divine authority outside of myself has often led down the wrong road…a road filled with greater and greater personal insecurity as to what was right and what was wrong for me, what served my personal growth and what didn’t.
A few words of explanation: Conny, mentioned above, is also from Sweden. Initially, he had a close relation with Maharishi, but joined later Satya Sai Baba, until he realized how depraved his guru was and went public by writing a book about it. Later he wrote a book about his time with Maharishi too. A link I found about it was: Conny Larsson's memoir (sect'y to Maharishi) released in Sweden
. Some comments doubted that Conny was for real, but an old friend of his wrote:
I have known Conny since 1970. Reading his deeply touching autobiographi. I have been laughing and crying the last few days, Conny met MMY in the sixties and was his night secretary (Johnny Gray the day-boy) at intervals in the midseventies, the early Seelisbergdays. The book is indeed rekommended, Conny is an artist ....actor and clown and know how to express himself. Also, lots of photos MMY and beatles from around the time they met him and from Rishikesh, photos of Conny and Gray acting skinboys, and of Ingegerd and Sten who tradically took there lives by setting their bodies on fire after being let down by life. Sten in the headquarters in Holland and Ingegerd in Sweden after she lost 20 million $ on kassettetapes develloped at MIU.
I hope Conny will find time to answer Your questions here - he is busy right now lecturing around Sweden, and I can asure You - he is still the good old clown bringing forth a lot of HAHAHAs in the audience
Then there was a mention of Holy Hell: A Memoir of Faith, Devotion, and Pure Madness
by Gail Tredwell
. Its content has been contested by the devotees of Amma
, an Indian lady, and spiritual teacher. I have not read the book and am not very familiar with Amma. How true it really is I do not know, but looking for something that might be useful Tredwell writes at the end what assisted her healing process:
Then I had another breakthrough. Suddenly I was able to distinguish the difference between my spirituality and my unique connection to God through Amma. I realized that over the course of my indoctrination these two urges had merged. Slowly it began to sink in—when I shut that door on Amma, I impulsively closed a door on my entire spirituality. So I began to reconnect with the spiritual life I had been leading long before I even knew Amma existed. This change allowed my heart to open again.
Another important part of my healing process was to turn the focus of attention to myself for a time. I had to uncover the weaknesses and flaws in my character that had attracted me to such a cultish lifestyle and ill treatment. I did this not to blame myself, but to understand why I had accepted the abuse and so willingly turned a blind eye to all the corruption I witnessed and was complicit in. Shifting the focus onto oneself does not excuse in any way the culpability of the abusers, but it does untangle one from their actions. I took responsibility for my life choices, and the shackles of victimhood broke. This shift transformed me from the victim of a guru and of a rapist to a free woman with a sense of responsibility and empowerment. It made me a disciple of life. Now that my mind was free from the sting of emotional pain, I was able to re-visit my life with Amma and begin the long process of trying to make sense out of it all.
Books also played an enormous part in my recovery process. Of all the books I read, The Guru Papers by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad
was by far the most insightful. It helped me wade through the myth and muck, and it shone a bright light on the guru/disciple relationship. It helped me to chisel away the ashram thought conditioning and to clearly see the underlying psychology in what I used to take for granted. I was aghast when I then read my old diaries from my years with Amma. Incidents I had viewed at the time as heart-warming, or perhaps as discipline by the guru, I now saw as narcissistic and manipulative. Whatever residual projections and rationalizations I had carried with me now dissolved. I finally had confirmation of the many doubts I had harbored, and I had answers to many of my unresolved questions. There were rather blatant and simple explanations for Amma’s behavior. I began to see her as someone who exploits people’s inherent desire to belong, to be loved, to find meaning in life, while she behaves like some kind of dictator claiming to be God, not requiring any learning or improvement.
Above, Tredwell mentioned The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power
by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad. On their website, they write:
Exposing the dynamics of manipulation and how cultural factors cage the mind is a doorway to freeing the mind. The Guru Papers shows why people give up their power and how others take it. The book deciphers how people are conditioned by external influences and by belief systems that contain disguised authoritarianism. Chapters depicting the insidious nature of authoritarianism in oneself and in daily life suggest new approaches to resolving or alleviating difficulties with inner conflict, addiction, and intimacy.
Part 1, “Personal Masks,” examines how people are seduced and manipulated. It uses the traditional guru/disciple relationship—the most extreme example of one person’s power over another— to illustrate the dynamics of control writ large. This helps reveal less obvious occurrences. “Guru” can be a metaphor for anyone who is unchallengeable and manipulates others under the guise of “knowing what’s best.”
Part 2, “Ideological Masks,” examines how power is taken and maintained by controlling minds and why people are susceptible to manipulation. Beneath the visible authoritarianism in politics, social structures, and personalities is a far more pervasive, covert mental authoritarianism; it’s hidden in morality, worldviews, and traditional spiritual frameworks. This age-old “social virus” has been part of the structural weave holding societies together. It’s still a prevalent means of social control surreptitiously interwoven and concealed in many aspects of life. Basic problems, both personal and global, are tied to authoritarian beliefs so entrenched they are taken for granted.
From an early age, people are subjected to authoritarian conditioning that gets embedded in the way we think and in the very morality we try to live by—or react against. Once internalized, this programming generates an “inner authoritarian” that becomes intertwined with self-control. This often leads to inner conflict or obsessive drivenness; it also justifies the self-righteous control of others. Unlivable ideals adulating “selfless purity” can undermine self-trust and generate guilt. Self-mistrust induces people to give their power away and look to others for answers, meaning, and even “salvation.” Becoming conscious of how an authoritarian “virus” lives in us helps to disempower it, freeing untapped potential. Authoritarianism is a real obstacle to meeting rapidly escalating challenges because it blocks information and necessary changes. Awareness of the veiled authoritarian underpinnings of much social and self-control can unleash the intelligence and creativity urgently needed for these time
The above description reminds me of The Authoritarians
by Robert Altemeyer but applied more closely to the inner landscape of beliefs.
While Gael Tredwell's break appears to have been followed by a subsequent rebuilding from where she left, Bourque sees the process of gaining independence from her teacher Maharishi as similar to a growth process, like growing up and becoming an "inner" adult. My impression is she still loves Maharishi and is in spite of a number of differences constructive, and mature in her evaluation of her past experience. Perhaps one should say for introduction, that what she writes this in relation to Maharishi can be taken as an example of what might also be valid in similar cases:
From my own experience and from what many of you have told me in your letters, most of us who were too heavily invested both emotionally and financially with our Guru were like these young abandoned elks when we were either pushed away or chose to leave. As the years had passed we had lost contact with life outside the flock and felt afraid, confused, and depressed. Some of us made it, some didn’t. Some were pursued. Some ended up in institutions. Some wrote books. Some actually committed suicide. It seems that those of us who both survived and eventually flourished after “moving out” were those who managed to find support while leaving the fold, either from a new partner, family members, good friends, capable therapists, or organizations that specialize in the study of sects. I have talked with a few who, in spite of working closely with Maharishi, never placed him on a guru pedestal, citing that as the main reason they never went through any kind of separation crisis when it was time to move on.
An important lesson for me has been getting clear on the difference between forgiving and condoning. The experiences you have shared with me have underlined that in spite of his genius at teaching meditation, Maharishi caused a lot of hurt and confusion in many of the women he was intimate with, not to mention all the inner conflicts his “expert” advice created for those who chose a life of celibacy to emulate his spiritual ideals.
Ultimately I think this is a question of whether or not we as devotees are ready to grow up. Part of becoming an “inner” adult is accepting that the parent is not perfect. When my son was sixteen years old, he shared an insight with me. He said, “You know Mom, I always thought all adults were really mature and wise…but now I realize that they aren’t.” I wish I were as smart as he was when I was sixteen.
Many of you who wrote were both grateful and surprised that my story was not more angry and bitter. But you see I left the flock twice. Once in 1972 when I got on the plane that left Mallorca, and again when I first released the book in 2010. So I had 38 years in between to learn about the traffic. I have vented, processed, questioned and re-evaluated. I had to ask myself why I had needed to follow a guru to begin with and then try to find the guru within. In the end, I had to forgive myself and finally forgive him.
Quoting and commenting on what people have written on the subject of sexuality and celibacy, the author writes:
After the first edition of this book was released, someone wrote to me and said that they once heard Maharishi say, “What this movement needs is a few good celibates!” That makes me think that he truly did believe that maintaining celibacy established a particular kind of spirituality that was worth being pursued. He just didn’t feel he needed to pursue it.
And if there are any young people reading this book, I would say, do not let a spiritual teacher decide for you whether or not you should lead a life of heterosexuality, homosexuality or celibacy. The kundalini energy or sexual force is a powerful force that the human race really needs to learn a lot more about, but following the advice of teachers who preach one thing and live another just adds to the confusion.
Your letters have also led me to the following conclusion: that whenever a spiritual movement makes celibacy a general rule or higher principal to be followed by its members, even if the original intention is a “noble” one, trouble follows. It appears that denying our God-given creative force makes it only that much more fascinating for spiritual teachers, and that attempts to control devotees on this subject have often caused serious hurt and confusion.
One could also say that some intentions to control sexuality have been present at most times in history and in most cultures, even if they have not always been upheld. And one might add that a slip for a monk or a Catholic priest is nothing new, but if it turns out to be that hard, why not be more honest about it and change the rules to fit reality rather than embrace hypocrisy.