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Nandkishore Brahmachari, the yogi's closest assistant, speaks to Anuradha Dutt

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's personal assistant for the past 20 years, Nandkishore Brahmachari knows him perhaps more intimately than anyone else. He speaks about the many projects initiated at Maharishinagar, the ashram at NOIDA, as well as the controversies that have catapulated [sic] the yogi to centrestage. Excerpts from the interview.

You are the Maharishi's closest associate, are you not?

Student, actually. I've been greatly influenced by his philosophy and I feel that it can help revive Indian culture. The whole. world's, in fact.

What was the purpose of creating the ashram at NOIDA?

The aim was to have 10,000 brahmin boys live in a Vedic cultural milieu for their own self-development, and also to have a very big centre for ayur- vedic medicine. This is because we have seen that allopathy [Western medicine] and modern medicine are not very beneficial. Over 300 studies of TM have been done so far.

According to media reports, the boys have left, or been transferred, after the strike at the ashram.

They had gone on vacation. The session has now resumed. At the beginning of January, another 2000-2500 boys will be coming. Maharishiji wants that 10,000 boys should meditate together. Individual awakening illumines one's path in life.

Is the government assisting him? Or is it opposing him?

One can't say that the government is against him. But one feels that it has very little knowledge of all this. Our government is more influenced by western thinking. Here, 95 per cent of the funds in the sphere of medical care are spent on allopathy. Yet, 80 per cent of the. people prefer ayurveda, and only 20 per cent turn to allopathy. Only four to five per cent of the funds are spent on ayur veda. This shows that the government is unduly impressed by modern medicine.

Why did the Maharishi decide to return to India?

For 30 years, Maharishiji propagated and established in the world the benefit of TM in the spheres of education, health, commerce, rehabilitation and government departments. But Maharishiji felt that the science of creative intelligence was really Indian. Not that it is necessary to propagate it in India alone. But then, India is his country and veda is the source of the science. India should experience the full benefit of this science, as he felt he had done enough for the other countries, and that its propagation elsewhere should be from here. With this aim in mind, Maharishiji decided that he should spend more time in India.

Why did the government decide to launch income tax raids on the Maharishi's properties in and around Delhi?

These income tax raids are an example of outdated practices. The British government used to raid the people. It used to oppress the people.

What is the reason for the raids?

Their wrong policies.

What are they looking for?

I don't know. I was not there. Those who were searching must be knowing.

What did they find?

Nothing. What can they find? I've been with Maharishiji for 20 years. And I know that here and abroad, his accounts are fully kept, of every paisa. People in India might be keeping accounts in Switzerland. But our money is coming to India from Switzerland.

Here it's topsy-turvy -- these raids. There's a proverb: 'andher nagri chaukat raja, take ser bhaji, take ser khaja'. What's happening is that they don't even leave those people alone because of whom some spiritual good can come to the country. They don't leave the common people alone either. By whom do they want the. national good to be accomplished? By which principles? By the. police, the military? This can never be possible.

It is being speculated that the raids are due to the Maharishi's proximity to Ram Nath Goenka, Indian Express proprietor.

I'll tell you about that. Maharishi had called Goenka to him when he heard about his son. At one time Maharishiji had great expectations of Goenkaji. About five or six years ago, Goenkaji has been a freedom fighter and done a great deal for the country. But we do not agree with his newspaper's policies. Because, when the country was not free, the editorial policy might have been of a certain kind since the aim was to remove that government. But now, when the government is a popularly elected one, these policies are not right.

Not only his paper but other papers too lack a sense of nationalism. They publish negative news but not the type of news that can help the country progress. And their source of news, apart from local agencies, are the foreign news agencies. Their training is western.

Is Goenka close to the Maharishi?

Why won't he be? After all, Maharishiji does have feelings of love towards him. But will he not have the same feelings for Rajiv Gandhi? He loves India. And whoever tries to work for this country, he cares for them. They can all come to see Maharishiji. This is not a political organisation that we can stop them. Maharishiji will import [sic] knowledge to whoever seeks it.

He has regard for a man who did so much in the freedom struggle. But he does not agree with his anti-government policy. Maharishiji is concerned with people who can develop the country, whether it's a Goenka or whoever. But the people of the Opposition should not obstruct the popular rule. Otherwise, democracy cannot yield full results. If Goenkaji were to be told this, he would say that newspaper editors are independent. They have nothing to do with this.

Does he visit the Maharishi now?

Very rarely.

Apart from the Maharishi's links with Goenka, there is some controversy over how the children at the Veda Vigyan Peeth were being treated.

Absolutely wrong. We give them food and shelter and everything. We. spend crores of rupees on them [millions US?]. Then how can people say we ill-treat them?

What motivated the reports?

The stress and strain in the country. People hear something from somewhere and write about it.

The reports say some boys died because of ayurvedic research.

The multinationals must he inspiring some of the reporters to discredit ayurveda in the world.

Are the ayurvedic medicines that are being made here exported?

They are getting the machines right now.

Are the medicines prepared in the ashram complex?

Not right now. We are getting the machines.

Nothing is being sold or sent abroad?

Yes, we do send, but not in bulk or for the treatment of diseases. For food value. Not medicines because that is governed by laws in each country. [For nonTM readers, this is a flatout lie. TM began shipping bulk herbal preparations in the mid-eighties for treatment of ayurvedically diagnosed disease.]

Licences are needed.

Licences are needed. We are establishing hygienic conditions in which all the ayurvedic medicines can be made.

There's another charge, that much of the land acquired by the ashram is far in excess of what the UP laws permit.

Everything is according to the law. We have not done anything illegal. And six or seven years ago, when we started our project here, one of the NOIDA officials came to us and wanted to sell one of the complexes to us because they did not have enough money at that time.

You're saying all the land has been acquired as per the rules?

Absolutely legally.

But a single institution/party can purchase only upto [sic] 12-and-a-half acres of land directly from the seller.

Everything is legal. Other- wise, how could we register it? We don't do anything illegal. The. government has many projects. For instance, it acquires land for a motor company. Is the motor company the need of the country? Or the company might be on strike for 365 days in a year.

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Creation has two sides: intelligence, which is the cause of everything, and the manifestations of intelligence, which are the physical and psychological features of the everyday world. Because Transcendental Meditation directly approaches intelligence, rather than the manifestations of intelligence, it solves problems by introducing harmony and well-being at the most basic level, and not by dealing with problems themselves. That's why it is so effective.

Consider this example: The gardener supplies water to the root of a tree. That water, that nourishment, then reaches all parts of the tree - leaves, branches, flowers, fruit - through the sap. We can think of the sap as analogous to intelligence and the green leaves or yellow flowers as analogous to the manifestations of the intelligence. The leaves and flowers are the intelligence of the sap, after it has been transformed. So intelligence - like the leaves and flowers of a tree - appears as the many different forms of manifest life. Those manifestations include every aspect of existence, from the material and physiological, through the psychological, intellectual, and spiritual. All of those features of life come from transformations of intelligence. In meditation, we directly meet this essential intelligence. Therefore, we have the possibility of nourishing all of its other levels, and thus all levels of manifestation, in a way that is harmoniously related to the whole universe.

How is Transcendental Meditation different from the various other forms of meditation?

Maharishi: The basic difference is that Transcendental Meditation, in addition to its simplicity, concerns itself only with the mind. Other systems often involve some additional aspects with which the mind is associated, such as breathing or physical exercises. They can be a little complicated because they deal with so many things. But with Transcendental Meditation there is no possibility of any interference. So we say this is the all-simple program, enabling the conscious mind to fathom the whole range of its existence.

Transcendental Meditation ranges from active mind - or performing mind - to quiet mind - or resting mind. In this resting mind, one has purity and simplicity, uninvolved with anything other than the mind, uninvolved with any other practice. In Transcendental Meditation, because we deal only with the mind, we nourish all expressions of intelligence.

The mind meditates, gains Transcendental Consciousness and brings about transformation in different fields of manifestation. All fields of life, which are the expression of intelligence, are nourished or transformed and made better through experiencing Transcendental Consciousness.

The mind, of course, is always concerned with other aspects, such as the physiology of the body, the environment, and the whole universe for that matter. But since Transcendental Meditation deals only with the performance of the mind, from its active states to its settled state, it remains unconcerned with those other aspects, though it deals with them all, because intelligence deals with them all. -- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, unknown interview, copyright presumablyheld by Maharishi Vedic University, The Maharishi Foundation, or another group within the TM family.

Cults come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Categories of cults that are recruiting successfully today include:

Eastern meditation: characterized by belief in God-consciousness, becoming one with God. The leader usually distorts and Eastern-based philosophy or religion. Members sometimes learn to disregard worldly possessions and may take on an ascetic lifestyle. Techniques used: meditation, repeated mantras, altered states of consciousness, trance states.

Religious: marked by belief in salvation, afterlife, sometimes combined with an apocalyptic view. The leader reinterprets the Scriptures and often claims to be a prophet if not the messiah. Often the group is strict, sometimes using physical punishments such as paddling and birching, especially on children. Members are encouraged to spend a great deal of time proselytizing. (Note: included here are Bible-based neo-Christian and other religious cults, many considered syncretic since they combine beliefs and practices). Techniques used: speaking in tongues, chanting, praying, isolation, lengthy study sessions, many hours spent evangelizing, "struggle" (or criticism) and confession sessions.

Political, racist, terrorist: fueled by belief in changing society, revolution, overthrowing the "enemy" or getting rid of evil forces. The leader professes to be all-knowing and all-powerful. Often the group is armed and meets in secret with coded language, handshakes, and other ritualized practices. Members consider themselves an elite cadre ready to go to battle. Techniques used: paramilitary training, reporting on one another, guilt, fear, struggle sessions, instilled paranoia, long hours of indoctrination. -- Captive Hearts, Captive Minds, Lalich and Tobias, Hunter House, 1993.