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Whose Puja Is It, Anyway?

By now both TM critics and true believers have become accustomed to the public availability of the once "hyper-secret" TM Puja, or initiation ceremony, over the Web.

Well, it's high time the other shoe dropped.

Most TMers, even TM teachers, believe that the Puja was written by the Maharishi himself. Or perhaps it is a secret ceremony passed down for generations by the "Holy Tradition" that the Maharishi claims to represent.

Tain't so.

Many, if not most, TM initiators had some trouble with the Puja translation the Maharishi gave us on Teacher Training. "Hey, this is supposed to be a Science -- not a Religion! " But we made our rationalizations and carried on. Fact is, all our hand-wringing was for nought. The deck was stacked. We never had a chance to make an informed choice.

The translation we were handed was thoroughly sanitized.

Even when we thought we were being told the esoteric truth, we were being lied to!

But the real shocker is that it appears the Maharishi cobbled together scraps of Sanskrit poetry to create a "Hindoo ceremony" to wow the Western crowd. He took selected verses of

  • Trotakacharya's famous guru paramparA,
  • selected verses from the gurustotra that every Indian who studies with a guru knows by heart,
  • and for good measure added a short middle verse used by Sanskrit students for recitation practice -- which invites Shiva and Shakti to take up residence in the performer's heart.
As you'll see below, he simply snipped out the verses that might be most obviously offensive to the Western sensibility.

If there's one thing the Maharishi's Puja isn't, it's secret. All the verses are readily available to anyone growing up in India's rich spiritual culture. An Indian student might very well learn them as part of public school education.

So why were TM teachers sworn to lifetimes of secrecy?

Perhaps the Maharishi concocted the entire Puja -- and he didn't want to share his embarrassment with the world. After all, since he was not born a Brahman and therefore could never become a swami, the Maharishi was never a member of the "Holy Tradition" himself. Most likely he was never privy to whatever secret rites Swami Brahmananda Saraswati taught. According to the very Vedic Law he touts, he commits sacrilege by teaching bija mantras -- a sin he compounds by charging money for his teachings. (See below for information on Guru Dev's successor, the current Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, his revered place in the "Holy Tradition," and his dark revelations about the Maharishi.)

Or perhaps it was a marketing move. If only he was the source of "secret" knowledge, he was guaranteed a virtual lock on mantra meditation in the West.

Most likely of all, the Maharishi always had the religious agenda he announced in Beacon Light of the Himalayas, back in 1956: To bring as many souls as he could to his Lord. But having discovered that Westerners were somewhat skittish about converting to Hinduism, he attempted to hide the Puja's purpose in order to gain converts through this magical ceremony.

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TM critics and believers alike have wondered for years where the Maharishi fits into Shankara's lineage. After all, he is not a swami, and so can not be a member of the "Holy Tradition" -- yet claims that he and all TM initiators teach in its name. And what happened to Guru Dev's Shankaracharya seat after he died?

For a full discussion of the Shankaracharya succession by a student of advaita vedanta and Shankara, see http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~vidya/advaita/ad-today.html. The article talks about Guru Dev (Swami Brahmananda Saraswati) and his highly respected successor Swami Satchinand Swaroop. Swami Swaroop received the unique honor of presiding over both the North and South Shankaracharya seats. For a frank discussion of the current Shankaracharya's opinion of the Maharishi, see Robert Kropinski's lengthy interview beginning at http://www.minet.org/Documents (shank-1 through 5). One of the most respected spiritual leaders in India, he opines that the Maharishi was nothing but a servant who received no instruction from Guru Dev, that he is forbidden by Vedic law to teach mantras or instruct in meditation, that the techniques the Maharishi teaches -- especially the sidhis -- are dangerous and useless, and that the Maharishi himself may have been involved in the death of Guru Dev. A must read!

True Meaning of the TM Puja

Ask pre-1970 TM Teachers, and they'll tell you that the Maharishi severely changed his story about the TM Puja when he began claiming that the TM initiates did not participate in the Hindu Puja.

Old SRM teachers were instructed in the secret reasons why TM students are required to bring fruit, flowers, and handkerchiefs to the Hindu initiation ceremony -- which is what the TM Puja is.

The white cloth stands for the offering of the soul of the initiate, the flower for the blossoming of the Lord's presence in the initiate's heart, and the fruit for the offering of all the fruits of future actions -- literally all material wealth, success, happiness, and so forth.

The Puja -- as practiced in the TM movement -- is a religious ceremony meant to tie the soul of the initiate with Guru Dev, the Maharishi's long-dead teacher Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, and ultimately to Mahashiva as the true teacher/guru.

How did we ever believe the student was not involved in the ceremony? They are required to supply the major offerings -- the fruit, flowers, and handkerchief, they are required to hold a flower, they are required to be present, and they are asked to kneel at the end.

If you were to stand in front of a Catholic altar, were required by the priest to bring sacrificial offerings, required to hold a palm frond while he recites prayers, and finally were asked forcefully to kneel down to a picture of Jesus -- wouldn't you be a participant?

For the full text of the TM Puja see http://www.trancenet.net/secrets/index.shtml#ht.

To see former MIU professor Anthony Denaro's report that the Maharishi understands TM initiates to have become Hindus, see http://www.trancenet.net/personal/index.shtml#denaro.

A good discussion of what it means to be a Hindu: http://www2.eu.spiritweb.org/Spirit/Veda/nine-questions.html. The short version: "You are a Hindu if you believe in karma, reincarnation, the existence of God everywhere in all things, and the existence of beings that are on a greater evolutionary path than ourselves." By this definition, formulated by Gurudeva Sivaya Subramuniyaswami of Hinduism Today, most of what the Maharishi taught us was Hinduism. (See "Soma and the Gods" for some of his more idiosyncratic beliefs.)

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Note this version of the story that the Maharishi also tells, as if it were secret of the "Holy Tradition," rather than a popular folk tale in India:

On the occasion of Shrii Shankara Jayanti, I decided to post the popular stotra on Shankara known as ``toTakaashhTaka.'' The hymn is so called because it has been composed in the difficult but beautiful meter called toTaka. There is an interesting history associated with this stotra. Anandagiri was one of the less scholarly disciples living with Shankara at Sringeri. But Giri, as he was called, was extremely devoted to the Achaarya. Giri would always engage himself in the service of his Guru. Once it so happened that Shankara was about to begin his usual morning discourse on the upanishads and the other disciples started reciting the shaanti paaTha. But Giri was absent because he had gone to the river to wash his Guru's clothes. So Shankara asked the other disciples to wait for Giri's return. But Padmapaada, who was obviously proud of his erudition, said, "Giri is a dull fellow. He really does not deserve to learn the shaastras. What is the point in waiting for him to join us?"

Shankara decided to humble the pride of Padmapaada and other disciples. Out of sheer compassion for Giri, the Achaarya blessed him with the knowledge of the shaastras, making use of supernatural powers to do so. As a result, Giri became a learned scholar instantaneously. Returning from the river, he composed the toTakaashhTaka, eight verses in praise of his Guru. The other disciples were struck with wonder to hear him extemporaneously compose the ashhTaka in the difficult meter. Giri also composed another work, again in the toTaka meter, called the ShrutisaarasamuddharaNa. Due to the grace of the Guru, Giri became a knower of all scriptures, and he earned the respect of Padmapaada and other disciples. He came to be known as toTakaachaarya, because he was an adept in composing verses in the toTaka meter. He became one of Shankara's four most important disciples, and was later entrusted with running the JyotirmaTh at Badari.

-- The above story is from the Shankara digvijaya of Madhava-Vidyaranya, translation and commentary by anand hudli

The advaita paramparA

These are the famous advaita guru paramparA verses, which salute the prominent gurus of advaita (nondualistic Vedanta), starting from nArAyaNa through Sankara and his disciples, up to the AcAryas of today.

Not secret.

Freely adapted from an extraordinary site at http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~vidya/advaita/advaita.html, compare this to the opening verses of the Maharishi's Puja. Bold verses are included, nonbold were snipped out.

nArAyaNam. padmabuvam. vasishTham. Saktim. ca tatputra parASaram. ca
vyAsam. Sukam. gauDapadam. mahAntam. govindayogIndram athAsya Sishyam. |
SrI Sam.karAcAryam athAsya padmapAdam. ca hastAmalakam. ca Sishyam.
tam. troTakam. vArttikakAramanyAn asmad gurUn santatamAnatosmi ||

sadASiva samArambhAm. SankarAcArya madhyamAm.
asmadAcArya paryantAm. vande guru paramparAm. ||

It is typical of advaita that the first guru is called nArAyaNa (vishNu) in the first verse and sadASiva (Siva) in the second, deleted verse.

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The toTakaashhTakam

Archived at ftp://jaguar.cs.utah.edu/private/sanskrit/totaka8.itx

Here from the traditional toTakaashhTakam, are verses composed in honor of Adi Shankaraachaarya. Compare to the Maharishi's "secret" version.

sha.nkaraM sha.nkaraachaaryaM keshavaM baadaraayaNam.h |
suutrabhaashhyakR^itau vande bhagavantau punaH punaH ||

I offer obeisances again and again to shrii Veda Vyaasa, the author of the Brahma suutras, who is none other than Lord VishNu, and shrii Shankaraachaarya, the commentator on those suutras, who is none other than Lord Shiva.

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(a)vatar: incarnation
bhava(m): Lord
bhavani: Lady, consort
bhuja: snake, cobra
gaura(m): white, glory
(g)endra: king
hara(m): garland
hridaya: heart
karpura: camphor
karuna: compassion, God of Compassion
namami: I bow down
ravinde: participle of adorn
sada: always, ever
sahita(m): together
samsara: world, creation, earth
sara(m): essence
vasanta(m), vasati: to stay, dwell

*Online Sanskrit dictionary

*Online Yoga glossary

Popular verses for Recitation

The middle section of the Maharishi's Puja appears to be taken from popular verses used by sanskrit students for recitation practice: ftp://jaguar.cs.utah.edu/private/sanskrit/shloka2.itx.

It might be considered a cross between the "Lord's Prayer," the "Pledge of Allegiance," and "See Dick and Jane."

Not secret.

Currently the Movement translates it thusly:
White as camphor, kindness incarnate, the essence of creation garlanded with BRAHMAN, ever dwelling in the lotus of my heart, the creative impulse of cosmic life, to That, in the form of GURU DEV, I bow down.
But a more accurate translation is:
White as camphor, the avatar of Karuna, god of Compassion, adorned with the garland of the Serpent King, ever dwelling in the lotus of my heart, to the Lord and Lady, Shiva and Shakti together, to them I bow down.
This translation is based on the Movement's own vocabulary sheets, supplied to TM teachers in training on TTC. Note that Guru Dev, the Maharishi's teacher, isn't mentioned at all.

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The gurustotra

The final piece of the Maharishi's Puja puzzle, is the gurustotra, archived at ftp://jaguar.cs.utah.edu/private/sanskrit/guru_1.itx. It's memorized by nearly every Indian who follows a guru. Any guru. Again the Maharishi appears to have simply edited out verses likening the guru to God, promising him control over the student's worldly possessions, and the like.

Not secret.

akhaNDamaNDalaakaaraM vyaaptaM yena charaacharam.h .
tatpadaM darshitaM yena tasmai shriigurave namaH .. 1..

Saluatations are to that guru who showed me the abode-- the one who is to be known--whose form is the entire universe and by whom all the movables (animals) and immovables are pervaded. (l)

aGYaanatimiraandhasya GYaanaaJNjanashalaakayaa .
chakshurunmiilitaM yena tasmai shriigurave namaH .. 2..

Salutations to that guru who opened the eyes of the one blind due to the darkness (cover) of ignorance with the needle (coated) with the ointment of knowledge. (2)

gururbrahmaa gururvishhNuH gururdevo maheshvaraH .
gurureva paraM brahma tasmai shriigurave namaH .. 3..

Salutations to that guru, who is the Creator, Sustainer, and Destroyer and who indeed is the limitless Brahman. (3)

sthaavaraM jaN^gamaM vyaaptaM yatkiJNchitsacharaacharam.h .
tatpadaM darshitaM yena tasmai shriigurave namaH .. 4..

Salutations to that teacher who showed me the one to be known, who permeates whatever that is movable and immovable, sentient and insentient. (4)

chinmayaM vyaapi yatsarvaM trailokyaM sacharaacharam.h .
tatpadaM darshitaM yena tasmai shriigurave namaH .. 5..

Salutations to that teacher who showed me (by teaching) the pervader of all three worlds comprising the sentient and insentient. (5)

sarvashrutishiroratnaviraajitapadaambujaH .
vedaantaambujasuuryo yaH tasmai shriigurave namaH .. 6..

Salutations to that guru who is the sun to the lotus of Vedaanta and whose lotus feet are made radiant by the jewel of all Shrutis (Upanishhads). (The guru is established in the vision of the Shruti and is the one by whom the Shruti blossoms forth.) (6)

chaitanyashshaashvatashshaantaH vyomaatiito niraJNjanaH .
bindunaadakalaatiitaH tasmai shriigurave namaH .. 7..

Salutations to that guru who is Awareness, changeless (beyond time), who is peace, beyond space, pure (free from raaga and dveshha) and who is beyond the manifest and unmanifest (Naada, Bindu, etc.) (7)

GYaanashaktisamaaruuDhaH tattvamaalaavibhuushhitaH .
bhuktimuktipradaataa cha tasmai shriigurave namaH .. 8..

Salutations to that guru who is rooted in knowledge that is power, adorned with the garland of Truth and who is the bestower of the joy of liberation. (8)

anekajanmasampraaptakarmabandhavidaahine .
aatmaGYaanapradaanena tasmai shriigurave namaH .. 9..

Salutations to that guru who by bestowing the knowledge of the Self burns up the bondage created by accumulated actions of innumerable births. (9)

shoshhaNaM bhavasindhoshcha GYaapanaM saarasampadaH .
guroH paadodakaM samyak.h tasmai shriigurave namaH .. 10..

Salutations to that guru; the perennial flow of wisdom from the one rooted in the vision of the Shhruti dries up totally the ocean of transmigration (saMsaara) and reveals (teaches) the essence of all wealth (the fullness, freedom from want). (10)

na guroradhikaM tattvaM na guroradhikaM tapaH .
tattvaGYaanaat.h paraM naasti tasmai shriigurave namaH .. 11..

There is nothing superior to knowledge of truth; no truth higher than the truth, and there is no purifying austerity better than the truth; salutations to that guru. (11)

mannaathaH shriijagannaathaH madguruH shriijagadguruH .
madaatmaa sarvabhuutaatmaa tasmai shriigurave namaH .. 12..

Prostrations to that guru who is my Lord and who is the Lord of the Universe, my teacher who is the teacher of the Universe, who is the Self in me, and the Self in all beings. (12)

gururaadiranaadishcha guruH paramadaivatam.h .
guroH parataraM naasti tasmai shriigurave namaH .. 13..

Salutations to that guru who is the beginning and the beginningless, who is the highest Deity and to whom there is none superior. (13)

tvameva maataa cha pitaa tvameva . tvameva bandhushcha sakhaa tvameva
tvameva vidyaa draviNaM tvameva . tvameva sarvaM mama devadeva .. 14..

Oh God of all Gods! You alone are my mother, father, kinsman, friend, the knowledge, and wealth. You are to me everything. (14)

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