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What the Hell Does "Natural Law" Mean, Anyway?

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Monday, August 14, 2000
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Ever wonder what the "natural law" in the Natural Law Party means?

TM outsiders seem to slide right by this piece of TM jargon, perhaps assuming it means allegiance to some pseudo-scientific rigamarole. After all, John Hagelin, the head of the Natural Law Party-USA is, or was, a respected physicist. Planning a political party around the "laws of nature" sounds like voting for gravity, meteorology, genetics, maybe even psychology. As reasonable as it sounds, however, this explanation is only partly true.

Remember the Natural Law Party was founded by the Maharishi, a Hindu monk (in 1988 or 1992, depending on which TM source you trust).

Most TM insiders eventually learn that "natural law" is code language for Hindu or Vedic Law. After all, the Maharishi not only teaches that the Hindu Vedas are revealed truth -- he teaches that the very sound of the Vedas structure the universe in some mystical way. He and his followers believe Vedic Law to be "scientific" because anyone who attains a sufficiently "evolved" consciousness -- by spending $100,000+ on TM courses -- will verify the "objective truth" of Vedic Law for themselves.(For a bizarre and convoluted explanation of how the Maharishi views Hindu Law as the literal basis of physics and the universe, see Don Krieger's facsimile image of a full-page ad in India's The Sunday Standard placed by the Maharishi.)

The Maharishi refers to Hindu gods as Agents, Forces of Nature, or Laws of Nature. Hence the slogan of the Natural Law Parties of New Zealand and Australia: "If you favour Natural Law, Natural Law will favour you." (For further discussion of the Maharishi's bizarre theology, see "Soma and the Gods.")

As Linda Brittingham, of the U.S. National office for the Maharishi Yagya Program, explained in an interview with trancenet.net in October 1997, "They [Shiva, Lakshmi, Ganesh, and other Hindu gods] are Laws of Nature, impulses of Nature that conduct evolution. There are impulses at every level of nature that keep it intelligent, orderly, progressive."

TM teachers know that "natural law" is inextricably intertwined with the Hindu gods like Indra, Lakshmi, and Ganesh. As part of their four-month indoctrination as TM teachers, they are shown secret videotapes of the Maharishi repeatedly explaining that the sounds of the TM mantras, especially as one approaches "transcendence," supposedly have the effect of summoning very refined "impulses of creative intelligence." In other tapes, he explained that the "impulses of creative intelligence" or "laws of nature" are devas (gods) such as the thunder god Indra, fire god Agni, and so forth. He also explicitly says that in the proper "state of consciousness" repeating the name of "impulses of creative intelligence" in Sanskrit has the effect of creating or summoning the "form." Practicing TM literally is supposed to summon Hindu gods to meditators.

But the concept of "natural law" has a much more specific meaning within the innermost circles of TM: It literally refers to the "Laws of Manu," the smriti or Hindu Vedic law to which every TM teacher must swear allegiance. The Laws of Manu are the principle Hindu smriti, or laws of behavior. The Maharishi refers to the Laws of Manu as the "ideal law for an ideal society." As the Maharishi "explains" the Vedas are self-created before God the Creator. Therefore, he claims, the smriti laws derived from the Vedas must take precedence over any other law -- whether of the Judeo-Christian Bible, Koran, Buddhist Dharma, or other sacred text:

The SHRUTIS are divine revelations which constitute the VEDAS. The SHRUTIS were not formulated by anyone either human or superhuman. They are self-expressed and divinely exposed as impulses of the Absolute to the profound vision of the seers. They bring to light the eternal truths of existence and so they are the ultimate authority of the wisdom of life and the key to its fulfilment on all levels.

From these unchallengeable and irrefutable expressions of divine truth, the sages distilled codes of behaviour for the individual and for society. The codes they prescribed are man-made laws, but entirely based on the authority of the SHRUTIS, bringing to light all the do's and don'ts of behaviour. The codes are called SMRITIS.

-- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, On the Bhagavad Gita

Sacred to orthodox Hindus, most date the "Laws of Manu (Manu Dharma Shastras) as written ca 400CE. Its 2,685 verses codify cosmogony, four ashramas, government, domestic affairs, caste and morality (others date at -600 BCE)." [Hinduism Today, December 1994] The Maharishi, however, dates them at least 5,000 years earlier.

As one might imagine, the laws that Manu wrote around the time of the Code of Hamurabi are pretty raw. Yet the Maharishi has said that the Laws of Manu will be appropriate again when "world consciousness" has risen sufficiently. He is particularly fond of the caste system, which he feels fosters purity of the races and allows those who follow it a simpler life, with more time for meditation.

We'd also like to point out that the Laws were, in their time, quite a step forward by almost anyone's measure. Manu wrested his society's rules out of the hands of a whimsical nobility and created a public "constitution" that protected all levels of society. The Laws are a milestone much like the Magna Carta in that regard. Although we suspect you will find few takers in 21st Century America.

A few highlights from your future -- if the Natural Law Party assumes power:

On Women:

Unclean during menstruation
III.239. A Kandala, a village pig, a cock, a dog, a menstruating woman, and a eunuch must not look at the Brahmanas [highest caste] while they eat.

IV.40. Let him, though mad with desire, not approach his wife when her courses appear; nor let him sleep with her in the same bed.

41. For the wisdom, the energy, the strength, the sight, and the vitality of a man who approaches a woman covered with menstrual excretions, utterly perish.

57. Let him not sleep alone in a deserted dwelling; let him not wake (a superior) who is sleeping; let him not converse with a menstruating woman; nor let him go to a sacrifice, if he is not chosen (to be officiating priest.

207. Let him never eat (food given) by intoxicated, angry, or sick (men), nor that in which hair or insects are found, nor what has been touched intentionally with the foot,

208. Nor that at which the slayer of a learned Brahmana has looked, nor that which has been touched by a menstruating woman, nor that which has been pecked at by birds or touched by a dog

Subservient to their husbands
V.154. Though destitute of virtue, or seeking pleasure (elsewhere), or devoid of good qualities, (yet) a husband must be constantly worshipped as a god by a faithful wife.

156. A faithful wife, who desires to dwell (after death) with her husband, must never do anything that might displease him who took her hand, whether he be alive or dead. 157. At her pleasure let her emaciate her body by (living on) pure flowers, roots, and fruit; but she must never even mention the name of another man after her husband has died.

(A verse in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad reads: "If she does not grant him his desire, he should beat her with a stick or his hand and overcome her saying with manly power and glory, 'I take away your glory.'(VI.4.7))

Abortion as a sin

89. Libations of water shall not be offered to those who ... 90. To women who have joined a heretical sect, who through lust live (with many men), who have caused an abortion, have killed their husbands, or drink spirituous liquor.

Homosexuality as a sin

XI.68. Giving pain to a Brahmana (by a blow), smelling at things which ought not to be smelt at, or at spirituous liquor, cheating, and an unnatural offence with a man, are declared to cause the loss of caste (Gatibhramsa)

175. A twice-born man who commits an unnatural offence with a male, or has intercourse with a female in a cart drawn by oxen, in water, or in the day-time....

On adultery and prostitution

VIII.352. Men who commit adultery with the wives of others, the kind shall case to be marked by punishments which cause terror, and afterwards banish.

357.Offering presents (to a woman), romping (with her), touching her ornaments and dress, sitting with her on a bed, all (these acts) are considered adulterous acts (samgrahana).

359. A man who is not a Brahmana ought to suffer death for adultery (samgrahana); for the wives of all the four castes even must always be carefully guarded.

XI.54. Those who committed mortal sins (mahapataka), having passed during large numbers of years through dreadful hells, obtain, after the expiration of (that term of punishment), the following births.... 58. The violator of a Guru's bed (enters) a hundred times (the forms) of grasses, shrubs, and creepers, likewise of carnivorous (animals) and of (beasts) with fangs and of those doing cruel deeds. 59....those who have intercourse with women of the lowest casts, [become] Pretas [a type of demon or hungry ghost who eats impure substances, pus, insects, and corpses]. 60... he who has associated with outcasts, he who has approached the wives of other men, ... become Brahmarakshasas [a demon].

Charging for teaching the Vedas as a sin

III.156.He who teaches for a stipulated fee and he who is taught on that condition,....

X.61.... adultery,... 62....defiling a maiden,... breaking a vow,... 63.... teaching (the Veda) for wages, learning (the Veda) from a paid teacher,... 67.... intercourse with women who drink spirituous liquor,... an unnatural offence with a man, ... cause the loss of cast.

[Note: Teaching Transcendental Meditation and other Hindu Vedic practices for extravagant fees in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the very heart and soul of the TM movement, are therefore seen as sin by the very Hindu scripture to which TM teachers swear allegiance.]

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