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Beacon Light of the Himalayas, Notes

1. "Maharshi's Message"
Note the original spelling of "Maharishi" as "Maharshi." Traditionally the trilled "r" of Sanskrit is considered a vowel, and the title for "Great Seer" is pronounced without the first "i." Later, TM members would be told that the spelling was changed for easier English pronunciation. This seems highly unlikely. English-speaking followers of the few modern individuals addressed with this highest of titles, such as Ramana Maharshi, had no trouble with the traditional spelling or pronunciation. Far more likely, the Maharishi changed the spelling in order to trademark the title, much as he did when he changed the traditional "siddhi" to "sidhi," or "yajna" to "yagya."

Note that the author of this discourse did not address the audience using the title "Maharshi." Since he is speaking to many of the followers of Swami Brahmanand Saraswati who knew him as a clerk, Mahesh Varma is using the title "Bal Brahmachari Mahesh," the title of a humble celibate student. Within the year, he will himself inflate his title to "Maharshi Bala Brahmachari Mahesh Yogi Maharaj."

For the orthodox Hindu his new title hovers somewhere in the broad intersection of the blasphemous, ludicrous, and the surreal:

  • "Maharshi," or great seer, is a title bestowed out of respect on the very greatest of India's saints: Veda Vyasa, Patanjali, Shankara. No traveling teacher has any business claiming it for himself.
  • "Bala" refers to the goddess whom this student has taken as his object of devotion, in this case the Tantric Lalita or sexual aspect of Shakti.
  • "Brahmachari" indicates this student is celibate -- not a monk, as he will later claim. Only sanyasis, who take vows and wear the orange robe, may legitimately be called monks. And only sanyasis may become swamis, teaching members of the Shankara tradition. The Maharishi may never teach in the name of Shankara, therefore, since his low-caste birth blocks him from following this tradition.
  • "Mahesh" is both his birth name and a name of the Lord Shiva meaning, "Destroyer (of Ignorance)."
  • "Yogi" isn't truly a title at all, but merely a description of someone who claims to be "united" or enlightened. Not bestowed by any Indian teacher or religious body, this is considered mere boasting by a religious Indian audience.
  • "Maharaj," or "Great King (of the yogis)," is a title for Shiva added to great saints' names.
Even the shortened form that he adopts later, "Maharishi Mahesh Yogi," is more than faintly humorous. Imagine an unordained tent-revivalist stumbling out of the American backwoods, preaching, converting, and collecting money under the name, "The High Prophet Jesus Christ Saint." This is a close English approximation to "The Great Seer Shiva, the Enlightened One." -- later shortened to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
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2. "'handwritten' original"
The handwritten introduction to Beacon Light is the only extended sample of the Maharishi's handwriting that we know of. It may be the only written document that he is sole author of. The Science of Being and Art of Living was co-written by SRM devotees who took random scraps of the Maharishi's talks and dictations and created the finished book. The Bhagavad-Gita: A New Translation and Commentary was largely written by Vernon Katz, a Sanskrit scholar who completed sections for the Maharishi's "approval" in between his nonstop meetings running the TM movement. At the Maharishi's own occasional admission, he does not speak, read, nor write either Vedic nor Classical Sanskrit excepting the odd memorized phrase, such as "yogastah kuru karmani."
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3. "my Lord the Great Swami Brahmanant[sic] Saraswati"
As the Maharishi develops over the course of three days, his dead teacher, Guru Dev or Brahmananda Saraswati, is the object of TMers' devotion. He believes Guru Dev to be the incarnation of Shiva, whose grace alone can lead to enlightenment and salvation. Readers may be interested in the oath TM teachers swear on Guru Dev's Altar and the sources of TM's initiation ceremony. Notice throughout Beacon Light he refers to Guru Dev in the present tense -- despite his being dead for over two years at that time.
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4. "I have found a treasure in the Dust of His Lotus Feet"
Presumably he refers to the sadhana, Transcendental Meditation, which the Maharishi goes on to describe at length in Beacon Light.

Many readers, in and out of the TM movement, may be surprised how often the Maharishi refers to this as "my sadhana," or simply how often he uses the words "I, me, mine." By the 1970s he referred to TM as an age-old technique passed from teacher to student for thousands of years and rarely if ever refers to himself in the first person.

According to numerous sources, the primary technique the Maharishi's teacher taught was meditation on a yantra, a sort of stark mandala that could induce meditative states -- not the infamous secret mantras of the Maharishi.

The current Shankaracharya, Swaroopanand Saraswati, is renowned throughout India as a true disciple of Guru Dev. (Swaroopanand Saraswati has the unique honor of sitting on two of only four Shankaracharya seats in all of India.) As far as the Maharishi's sadhana and mantras go, the current Shankaracharya has said, "He made them up. These are not given by Guruji (Guru Dev). He (Mahesh) was an ordinary clerk." Return to Beacon Light

5. "Shri Guru Deva"
From the earliest days of the TM movement until the early 70s, the Maharishi referred to his dead teacher as "Guru Deva," "Divine Teacher." Around the time that he reorganized his religious movement around secular, scientific lines, he began using the shortened form "Guru Dev." Perhaps to subtly divert his Western student's attention away from the religious "deva" (god)? Perhaps to create a trademark franchise as he did with TM, sidhi, AyurVed, Maharishi, and other altered spellings? Return to Beacon Light

6. "thrilling and Divine presence of the Vedic Gods"
There is no doubt here that the Maharishi is indicating that chanting Vedas and mantras while performing yajnas (yagyas) are for the express purpose of summoning the Vedic Gods. Nothing wrong with that, it is straightforward Hinduism, after all.

Yet twenty years later he will absurdly insist to his Western students that the Vedas are not religious documents, the Vedic Gods are mere symbols for the forces of nature, the philosophy of TM is not a religion, and its mantras have no meanings. Return to Beacon Light

7. "Kerala Maha Sammelan"
Literally, "Great Religious Gathering in the Town of Kerala." Return to Beacon Light

8. "the great Lord Siva and his retinue"
The sitting Shankaracharya is considered a living incarnation (avatar) of the Hindu god Shiva (Siva) as well as Adi Shankaracharya (the original Shankara). Thus worship of the living Shankaracharya and the Maharishi's dead teacher, Guru Dev, is literally devotion to Shiva for the good Hindu. When the Maharishi speaks, as he does often in this discourse, of bringing souls to his Lord, he means bringing converts to Shiva just as literally as any tent-revival preacher brings souls to Jesus in the U.S. Anthony DeNaro, a former MIU professor, alleges that the Maharishi was very clear, in private, that TM meditators are initiated into Hinduism during the puja (TM religious ceremony).
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9. "'Pravrithi Marga' and 'Nivrithi Marga'"
"The Path of Activity" and "The Path of Nonaction."Generally used to distinguish karma(action)- and bhakti(devotion)- from gyana(knowledge)-based paths to Liberation. In this discourse the Maharishi goes at some length to distinguish between paths for the recluse or hermit and the householder or family person.
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10. "Jeevan Mukti"
Enlightened: "One purified by knowledge while still living and therefore freed from the cycle of births." Yoga Philosophy of Patañjali, Aranya, Swami Hariharananda, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1983. P. 483.
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11. "Atmananda"
"Bliss of the Self or Soul."
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12. "a noble, intelligent and befitting inaugural address I can only congratulate His Highness"
We can't help but observe that the object of all this obsequious praise was the powerful, and extremely wealthy, Maharajah of Cochin. Those of us who worked inside the Maharishi's movement will recognize his tactics. Throughout the 40+ years of the TM movement, the Maharishi has fawned over the rich, the powerful, the celebrated -- establishing relationships, and getting money from, figures as disparate as the leaders of Nepal, Zaire, Brazil, Philippines, Mozambique, and several Arab princes; entertainers like the Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Doug Henning, Howard Stern, David Lynch, Clint Eastwood; and wealthy businesspeople like the Zimmerman family (owners of a Southern Californian supermarket chain) and Indian publishing magnates. At least he is upfront about why he's interested in them: He has issued numerous calls to "wealthy individuals" for $100 million US to fund a "Heaven on Earth" project -- that would allow select groups of his Movement to meditate nonstop without having to worry for any creature comfort.
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13. "Asirvathan"
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14. "Satchidanandam"
"Sat + Chit + Ananda," or "Eternal, Bliss Consciousness" is said to be the true nature of the Manifest and Unmanifest Universe. It is also said to be the true nature of our Selves, and realizing this truth is the process of enlightenment.
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15. "Adhyatmic vika is the process to unfold the glories of the soul and to enjoy all aspects of life, material and divine."
Here the Maharishi's discourse takes a sudden left turn away from orthodox Hindu thought. He casually slips in the idea that spiritual practice will bring about material wealth. To our knowledge, no respected Indian spiritual figure or scripture agrees with this tenet.

Yet as you will see in this discourse, the belief that holiness and wealth intertwine is as central to the Maharishi's idiosyncratic brand of Hinduism as it is to certain Christian televangelists who insist that "God loves you! and so Money loves you!" The Maharishi's insistence that wealth implies spiritual attainment and spiritual attainment results in wealth is anathema to the tradition of Shankara, Patanjali, and the other great seers of India.

Note that this technique of offering three or four blandishments or obvious truths to which your audience will agree, suddenly injecting an argument that doesn't logically follow, and then returning to clichés is a powerful technique of Ericksonian hypnosis and mind control, according to a paper in the Cultic Studies Journal. (Reference to come.)
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16. "Anoraniyan"
"He who is smaller than an atom [and greater than the great]." Shiva or MahaShiva, the Cosmic Self.
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17. "I cannot say, for how long in the atmosphere of the present age, we will succeed in holding on to this great and overflowing generosity of Shri Guru Deva."
Translation: "You better buy your mantra today 'cuz they're going fast."
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Another nonsequitar, the Maharishi here introduces for the first time a hallmark of his teaching: that attaining bliss is easy, quick, and certain. These words certainly ran counter to anything his Indian audience had heard before. Today, many, many TMers have meditated for decades without achieving enlightenment or any other supernormal state. Even his teacher, Guru Dev, spent decades pursuing spiritual perfection! Yet the Maharishi will insist for over 40 years that using his special, secret techniques one can easily and quickly become enlightened. In this discourse, his only explanation for this seeming contradiction is the agency of the blessings and grace of His Lord, Bramhanand Saraswati. This explanation drops out of his sales pitch in the 60s, when he insists that it is secret mantras and unique meditation technique that make the difference.
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19. "Shiva-Laksha-Archana Maha Yagna"
A large, public Hindu sacrifice performed to bless and purify a gathering or city. Note that "yagna" is one of the traditional spellings of the TM "yagya" -- which the movement claims are "scientific performances" for "removing obstacles to evolution." In point of fact, they are small, private sacrifices to Ganesh, Lakshmi, Shiva, or other devas. The "scientific" TM movement may charge thousands of dollars for the same sacrifice for which any Hindu temple expects an offering of $25 or $50.
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20. "spirituality is the science"
The Maharishi shows an interest from the beginning of his career of drawing connections between science and spirituality. He was not alone in this. Yogananda and other Twentieth Century popularizers also connected Indian spirituality with the "new game in town."
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21. "If Society is to become great, every man has to become great spiritually."
TMers may note the similarities to the "Social Benefits" section of the Introductory lecture that every TM teacher memorized. Of course, after the Maharishi dropped religious terminology, he also dropped the word "spiritually" from this aphorism.
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22. "pranams"
Religious obeyances.
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23. "Tatwa"
"Tatwa" or tatva is any of the 25 principles of Samkhya philosophy. "Agni-tatwa" corresponds to fire or energy, "vayu" to motion, "akash(a)" space, "aham" sense of Self or "I," "mahat" cosmic conciousness, "prakriti" is the materialized nature and basis of the three Gunas, and "brahma" is the Ultimate Reality.
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24. "Dukham"
Pain or sorrow.
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25. "Asat, Achit and An[an]andam[sic]"
Noneternal, unconscious, nonblissful, or temporary, dull, and painful.
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26. "Sadh[a]na[sic]"
"Direct way": Religious or spiritual ritual, usually expressing devotion to one's personal Deva. This discussion of marching the mind through subtler fields of perception is very similar to material TM teachers memorized for the Second, Preparatory lecture -- expressly denying, however, that TM mantras or practice involved devotion to any Deity.
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27. "For training the mind through sound we can take any word. Even the word 'mike' can be taken."
This may be the most shocking point of the Maharishi's discourse for orthodox TMers. The Maharishi admits that any word, even the prosaic "microphone," can be used for meditation. Later on, he and his teachers will insist that not only will other words not work, but they imply that mantras like Benson's famous "one, one, one" may actually cause psychological damage. Supposedly only the TM mantras that have been passed down for generations in secret are safe. (See Then why use the special TM mantras? Read on!
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28. "For our practice, we select only the suitable mantras of personal Gods. Such mantras fetch to us the grace of personal Gods and make us happier in every walk of life.
The Maharishi admits directly that the TM mantras not only are not meaningless, they are the names of Hindus Gods such as Lakshmi, Saraswati, Shiva. And as he explains, the very reason he uses these mantra-names is not to inspire devotion but to influence these Gods to grant boons and material wealth to TM meditators -- a total perversion of the higher spiritual traditions of India.

In contrast the Maharishi's strange understanding of spirituality, below are selections from Guru Dev's current successor, Shree Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati. In an interview, he explains what Guru Dev actually taught:

Bhagavan Shree Shankara revived Vedic Sanatan Dharma. He said God has six forms. So accordingly, Maharaji (Guru Dev) gave ``upadesh'' (initiation) to meditate upon those forms for the sake of our worship.

Whosoever came to him to become a disciple, he used to ask him which form of God he was in love with. Whichever form the new disciple had an interest in, that form he would explain to the new disciple. [Guru Dev] used to explain, Either you should depend on your own inclination or else, he, after understanding your previous life and which form of God you worshiped then, would instruct the initiate accordingly.

Without having an ``IshTadevataa'' (a personal form of God), no one could have a ``Mantra'' (name of God) from him. The very meaning of Mantra is IshTadevataa (a personal form of God). Therefore, along with every mantra, thinking or reflecting over the form of the IshTadevataa is essential. Therefore, in all the modes of worship, one reflects over one's IshTadevataa before chanting or meditating with one's mantra.

It's like this. Here we have each mantra connected with one god. There lies the bija [seed] mantra. That bija mantra is for that god.

He (Mahesh) made them up. These are not given by Guruji (Guru Dev). He (Mahesh) was an ordinary clerk.

shank_5Shree Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati. Q: Mahesh Yogi claims that he preaches yoga according to the instruction of his Guru. The truth of the matter, however, is that Guru Dev never asked anyone who is not a Brahmin by birth to go and spread his teachings. What is your opinion?

Shankaracharya: This is true. In reality, preaching, initiating, guiding people engaged in spiritual pursuits, is the duty of those who are born in a Brahmin family. If he is a follower of Sanatan Dharma (the Hindu religion), he should not do what he is doing. This is against the orders of his Guru. Moreover, making others write puujya (revered), calling himself Maharishi (a great seer) is totally inappropriate. No assembly of saints has either conferred upon him a title of Maharishi nor has announced him puujya.

In the ashram he was doing the work of typing and writing and translation. Then he became a sadhu. However, he has never practiced yoga.

....He went abroad. First to Singapore. The expatriate Indians there, thinking that he is the disciple of Shankaracharya, received him well and got him a ticket for the United States. After going to America, he brought the Beatles back here. It was rumored that he did inappropriate things with them and that's why they left him and went away.

He later opened many camps and pretended that he could teach people to read minds and levitate. No one, however, succeeded in learning the things he promised. He himself does not know or practice yoga. He does not know anything about those things.

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29. "We have two different sets of Mantras"
From the point of view of traditional Hinduism or yoga, the Maharishi's theory of "two sets of mantras" for married and celibate people -- and especially the danger of practicing "OM" for noncelibates -- is utter nonsense. You will find no such teaching in Shankara, Patanjali, Vyasa, or any other recognized authority. Quite the reverse: Hindus revere the syllable OM, called pranava, as the most holy and universal name for God. In fact, the vast majority of traditional meditative mantras consist of OM, followed by the appropriate bija mantra for one's personal God, followed by namah (I bow down): OM AING NAMAH, OM SHIVA NAMAH, OM SHRING NAMAH.

Beginning meditators may indeed start with OM, adding the Ishtadevata mantra after diksha (initiation ceremony) from the Guru.

This appears to be another case where the Maharishi uses fear to inspire his audience to learn his form of meditation rather than some other teachers.
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30. "If you are not feeling peace and happiness you should be wise enough to doubt the correctness of your devotion, you should be wise enough to think that Your method of devotion is wrong."
Needless to say few, if any, TM meditators experience "every day ... the increase of peace and happiness" assuring "him that he is proceeding towards abiding peace and eternal happiness." Most if not all TMers begin experiencing bouts of "unstressing" within six months of regular practice, as well as during and after long in-residence courses. (See and Would this mean that TM is not the proper path for most TMers using the Maharishi's criteria?
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31. "I hold that the teachings of the Upanishads are the bare truths of Existence and the Eternal Laws of Nature. Every Shruti is perfectly all right, in its correct sense."
Shruti refers to the Vedas, Upanishads, and other Hindu scriptures that the Maharishi believes to be "self-revealed." In his extremely fundamentalist view, these writings are not only no the work of Man, they are the very self-aware blueprint of the Universe itself. Their syllables structure Creation.
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32. "Tyaga . . . Raga"
Tyaga refers to the life of renunciation practiced by Hindu monks. Raga is the life of acquisition practiced by householders. The Maharishi is attempting to explain how householders can become enlightened through his meditation, even though they do not practice renunciation -- according to Upanishads and other Hindu scriptures the first requirement of the spiritual life.
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33. "Nama-Japa or Rupa-Dhyanam" of the Lord
Nama-Japa is the repetition of God's name. When practiced silently, this is identical to Transcendental Meditation. Rupa-Dhyanam is meditative visualization of the form of God, very common in Hindu and Buddhist Tantra.
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34. "Normally it does not take more than one or two weeks for a man to experience the great unbounded joy called Samadhi . . . . and he is sure to feel completely peaceful and happy within about seven days. "
It is hard to portray just how absurd this claim must have sounded to an orthodox Hindu audience. The Maharishi is claiming to offer enlightenment in just seven days! But wait, there's more! With his particular brand of enlightenment, you not only get the Ginzu knives, you get material wealth as well!
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35. "thousands of people in Kerala"
It is extremely difficult to take seriously the Maharishi's claim that he initiated thousands in Kerala. Shortly after this discourse, he began traveling and teaching abroad, because his message was not well received in India -- as he admits in the videotape, "History of the Movement."
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