Support Our Sponsors -- Support Us!

Ad Info

Back | Top of Article | Independent Research Home Page | Forward

THE PUJA, cont.

The problem with performing the ceremony of gratitude to the teachers themselves is that most of the "teachers" mentioned in the puja chant have been dead for thousands of years, see Jarvis Deposition at 1003, and the last "teacher" mentioned in the chant has been dead for nearly a quarter of a century. Dead people are incapable of communication with living human beings unless one believes in the existence of a soul which continues to exist after the death of the body.

As stated earlier, no words of gratitude or thanks appear in the English translation of the puja chant. The chant clearly is labeled "Invocation" twice. An invocation is the invoking or calling upon a spirit, a principle, a person, or a deity for aid. Funk and Wagnalls New Standard Dictionary 1290 (1949); The Random House College Dictionary 703 (1973); Websters New Collegiate Dictionary 444 (1960). The chant clearly invokes the spirit or deity of Guru Dev:

Skilled in dispelling the cloud of ignorance of the people, the gentle emancipator, Brahmananda Sarasvati [Guru Dev], the supreme teacher, full of brilliance, Him I bring to my awareness.

Offering the invocation of [to?] the lotus feet of Shri Guru Dev, I bow down.

(emphasis supplied).

Defendant Jarvis states in an affidavit that it is his personal understanding that the puja is merely a ceremony of gratitude to the tradition of past teachers and that similar ceremonies are performed in a number of secular contexts in India. While the court of course accepts these statements as accurate reflections of defendant Jarvis' personal understanding, the court also must note that defendant Jarvis made no claim of knowledge in the matter of Indian customs. See Jarvis Deposition at 908, 1020. Defendant Jarvis, when asked if he knew what the Sanskrit word "puja" meant, replied. "[n]o, I don't know what the word 'puja' means except to interpret it as a ceremony of gratitude." Id. at 935. Directly on the heels of this reply, defendant Jarvis was asked if he were familiar with any puja "other than the one that is performed by the teacher at the time that a mantra is assigned." Id. Defendant Jarvis answered: "No." Id. In his affidavit, defendant Jarvis also states that he believes that only "3 or 4 ex-teachers" of the more than 7,000 TM teachers in the United States believe that the puja has religious significance. Jarvis Affidavit P. 18.

Defendants also rely on affidavits of two professors of religion. The affidavits are virtually identical and will be treated together. Neither professor practices Transcendental Meditation and presumably has never witnessed a puja; both professors state that they have read the English translation of the puja chant which appears above. Each professor concludes that in his opinion the Puja is not a religious ceremony.

Neither professor offers any textual analysis of the chant. Neither professor offers any analysis of the performance of the ceremony, except to note that each student is present and brings a handkerchief, fruit, and flowers. Rather, the professors offer a broad generalization that "[i]n India, many secular activities begin with a puja ceremony or ceremony of gratitude." Rao Affidavit P. 12. The professors then state that secular pujas are part of the cultural life of India. Rao Affidavit 12. While the court, of course, accepts these generalizations, they shed little or no light on the religiosity or lack thereof of the puja conducted in the presence of New Jersey high school students because there is no indication that the puja performed for the high school students was similar to "secular pujas" performed in India. The only similarity, stated by the professors, between the "secular pujas" of India and the TM puja is that some secular pujas involve the use of flowers, fruit, white handkerchiefs, incense, and rice. Rao Affidavit P. 13; Harned Affidavit P. 20. Neither professor states that it is common in these "secular pujas" to sing a chant in Sanskrit, a language which has been dead for thousands of years. Neither professor stated that it is common in these secular pujas to sing a chant which includes the words "To the glory of the Lord, I bow down again and again." The court's statements of what does not appear in the professors' affidavits should not be interpreted as an indication that the court is rejecting any representation of fact contained therein. For the purposes of this motion, the court accepts representations of fact (as distinguished from legal conclusions and arguments) appearing in the professors' affidavits. The court points out the lack of precision in implicitly comparing the TM puja to the "secular pujas" of India merely to demonstrate the lack of utility of these generalizations as an aid in determining the question before the court.

The professors ultimately base their opinions that the puja is not a religious ceremony on their beliefs that religions should be defined subjectively, the keystone being whether or not the participants in the ceremony intend the ceremony to have religious significance. Harned Affidavit P. 21; Rao Affidavit P. 15, 22. This subjective approach to defining religion and identifying religious ceremonies may account for the failure of the professors to address themselves to the actual performance of the puja and content of the chant. Under the professors' approach, the content of the ceremony would be immaterial if the participants sincerely believed and intended that the puja have no religiosity. As will be developed later, this subjective, or "contextual," approach to defining religion and identifying religious ceremonies is unacceptable as a legal standard under the first amendment. See pages 52-59 infra.

Defendants also rely upon the deposition testimony of three clergymen who practice Transcendental Meditation and who went through a puja in receiving their mantras. Although defendants offered the clergymen as "fact witnesses" and specifically denied that the clergymen were testifying as experts, defendants now seek to rely on the opinions of the clergymen. See F.R. Ev. 701. Over the objection of plaintiffs' counsel, each of the three clergymen testified that in his opinion the puja was not a religious ceremony. None of the clergymen implicitly or explicitly held himself out as having extensive knowledge of any religion but their respective denominations. All three clergymen disclaimed knowledge of Indian culture and history and Hindu religion and philosophy. All three clergymen indicated that they accepted representations made to them by their teachers that the puja was a ceremony of gratitude which must be attended by them in order to receive a mantra. All three of the clergymen stated that they did not view the puja as important; one of the clergymen characterized the significance of the puja to him as "trivial," although he also stated that the puja may have had a significance, unknown to him, to other persons. The lack of importance attached to the ritual of the puja may account for the hazy recollections of two of the clergymen. At the time of his puja, none of the clergymen had seen an English translation of the puja chant. A few weeks prior to his deposition, each of the three clergymen was sent the above-quoted translation of the chant by defendants or by defendants' counsel. At his deposition, each of the three clergymen testified that the reading of the translation did not change his opinion that the puja was not a religious ceremony.

In addition to the deposition testimony of the three clergymen, defendants rely on the affidavits of two teachers and eleven high school students of the SCI/TM course who state that they do not understand the puja to be a religious ceremony. Like the clergymen, neither the teachers nor the students claim any qualifications as experts in religion or anything else; they offer statements that they do not understand the puja to be a religious ceremony. Neither the teachers nor the clergymen nor the students offer any reasons for their understandings or lack thereof. While the court accepts the statements, these unexplained statements cannot be determinative of the religiosity of the puja for reasons set out infra at 52-59, especially in light of the fact that the opinions of the clergymen, teachers, and students are based on facts in the record.

Defendants seek to analogize the puja chant to the Hippocratic Oath. The analogy is not convincing. First, nowhere in the Hippocratic Oath is "the Lord" invoked. The only mention of gods in the Hippocratic Oath occurs in the opening phrase: "I swear by Apollo Physician, by Asclepius, by Health, by Panacea, and by all the gods and goddesses. making them my witnesses...." C. McFadden, Medical Ethics 431-32 (5th ed. 1961). Moreover, the gods mentioned in the Hippocratic Oath are creatures of mythology, inhabitants of a dead religion. Those responsible for administering the oath are neither priests nor trained by priests of these ancient gods, but laymen. In contrast, the puja is sung at the direction of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a Hindu monk. The words and offerings of the chant invoke the deified teacher, who also was a Hindu monk, of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In the chant, this teacher is linked to names known as Hindu deities. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi places such great emphasis on the singing of this chant prior to the imparting of a mantra to each individual student that no mantras are given except at pujas and no one is allowed to teach the Science of Creative Intelligence/Transcendental Meditation unless he or she performed the puja to the personal satisfaction of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi or one of his aides. Aaron Deposition at 682. See Jarvis Deposition at 834. Needless to say, neither Hinduism nor belief in "the Lord" constitute a dead religion. Both of these beliefs are held by hundreds of millions of people.

[ top ]


Back | Top of Article | Independent Research Home Page | Forward

Please address any questions or problems you encounter on this site to jmknapp53@gmail.com.

Except where noted, entire contents Copyright ©1995,1996 John M. Knapp. All rights reserved. See our full disclaimer. Trademark notices.