Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the man behind TM, was born around 1918, in central India in a nonpriestly caste. Not much is known about his past because he refuses to talk about it. In 1940, he took a bachelor's degree in physics from Allahabad University. Then until 1953, he sought enlightenment under his guru Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, who was then Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath in the Himalayas. It is said that just before the Swami died, he commissioned Mahesh Yogi to evolve a simple form of meditation which anyone could learn and practice. In obedience to this directive, Mahesh hid away in the Himalayas for two years. When he emerged, he started the TM movement, and in 1956 he took the title "Maharishi," meaning "Great Seer."
Potential devotees are assured that they don't have to change their religious beliefs in order to practice TM. Bob Jono and I were impressed by these "scientific proofs" for the validity of TTM, so we decided to take a four-day course at the beautiful Academy of Meditation at Shankaracharya Nagar, Rishikesh. We had to offer fresh flowers, fruits, camphor, a white handkerchief, and a small fee of Rs. 11/- each.
A worship ceremony was arranged in which the picture of Mahesh Yogi's guru was worshiped. The initiator recited Sanskrit prayer, including one the Maharishi has written at the end of his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. This prayer offers worship to the main gurus who stand in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta. The last half of it says: "To Shankaracharya, the redeemer, hailed as Krishna and Badarayana, to the commentator of the Brahma Sutras, I bow down again and again. At whose door the whole galaxy of gods pray for perfection day and night, adorned with immeasurable glory, preceptor fo the whole world, having bowed down to him, we gain fulfillment."
The recitation of the prayers had a soothing effect. They were intended to make us passive and receptive so that the initiator could plan the mantra (bij, or seed) deep in our subconscious mind with the help of psychic forces generated by his worship of these deities.
Controversy over whether the Maharishi's philosophy was "pure science" or religion led the debate into the U.S. court system. Defeated in the district court, he proceeded to take his case to the U.S. court of appeals in Philadelphia. The counsel for TM argued that TM and SCI should be permitted entrance into the public schools as a true science. Oral arguments were heard on December 11, 1978. The presiding judge quoted the follow from TM's initiation ceremony:
Guru in the glory of Brahma. Guru in the glory of Vishnu. Guru in the glory of the great Lord Shiva. Guru in the glory of the personified transcendented fullness of Brahman, to Him, to Shri Guru Dev adorned with glory, I bow down.
Then the judge asked, "What's scientific about that?" Instead of responding directly, the Maharishi's lawyer referred to an affidavit which stated that such ceremonies were sometimes used for secular occasions in India. The court remarked that the effect of that affidavit was to "take a cow and put a sign on that says `horse.'"
On February 2, 1978, the panel of the Appellate Court, consisting of three judges, gave its ruling upholding the lower court's decision agains TM. A thirty-four page concurring opinion was given by one of the judges, which discussed the legal question involved in the case regarding the definition of religion and declared that TM was religion and not merely religious in nature.
The Maharishi could have gone on to the Supreme Court to challenge this ruling and try to preserve the right to teach TM in schools as a true science. Instead, he tried another deception.
The Maharishi decided to sell TM as an established treatment for many ailments and a panacea for public health care. From 1979 onwards this became the chief strategy of the movement. The first attempts were made in America, the United Kingdom, West Germany, and Denmark.
A "society promoting the medical use of TM" was established in Denmark, claiming a membership of forty doctors whose names were not made known to the public. The society proposed that "TM be seen as a valuable supplement to existing medical treatment and an effective prophylactic means to avoid resource-wasting institutional treatment. Clinical research has shown that the method has been useful as a part of a treatment of various diseases, e.g. high blood pressure, asthmatic diseases, (and) over overweight and sleeping problems." The doctors proposed that similar research be done in public health programs to show the good effects of TM and urged that TM treatment be subsidized by public health insurance.
This triggered off a national debate. The question was raised in parliament and the Minister of the Interior, Knud Enggard, presented a report from the health department. The found it strange that a group of medical doctors should recommend one particular system of meditation. TM, which used rituals related to Hindu gods when the same effect could be obtained through the use of neutral systems of meditation.
The proposal was given its death blow by the ethical committee of the Danish Medical Society. A woman who had been prescribed the practice of TM as a medical treatment asked the Committee whether this was correct. The ethical committee said: "It is inconceivable that any doctor would require a patient to receive such treatment . . . .
Even if there are very few who will understand the words of the ritual or the mantra, subsequent explanation of the meaning can undoubtedly cause discomfort or indeed give rise to serious inner conflicts, especially for religious individuals who have been through the process on the assumption that the words used were of a neutral character with no religious associations."
TM couldn't accept the advice of the ethical committee, because that would have meant eliminating the distinction between esoteric and exoteric teachings of TM. If they explained to their "patients" that the mantra was the name of a deity and that puja was idol worship of it, then it would be established that TM was a religion and not a medical treatment. This would imply that TM ought to be sold as a religion, not as a science or as a medical treatment. If sold as a religion, it could claim neither easy acceptance nor state funding.
A Philadelphia judge ruled that it was. However, a religion which uses deception as its basic strategy for self propagation is an irreligious religion. Far from being a religion that can provide utopia, it is a mercenary religion and a mockery of all that is genuine in Hinduism.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has been appealing to all the world governments through full-page advertisements in magazines to allow him to solve all their problems through TM. He is prepared to work for the governments to be paid on the basis of results. He claims that "discovery of the Unified Field of all the laws of Nature ... has raised us to the doorstep of Utopia." Therefore, all problems can be solved through his technology. The simple problem with this claim, though, is that in many of the countries the government itself is the biggest socioeconomic problem. In the Phillipines, then-President Marcos gave a formal invitation to the Maharishi to help solve his problems. Yet popular movements described as law-and-order problems by the rolers are not the ones that need solution; societies such as the Philippines need to be saved from oppressive, tyrannical, exploitative governments. But Maharishi is on the side of the governments - whatever their nature - because they have the kind of money that can pay his fee. The poor - oppressed by their governments - can't pay even the initiation fee, let alone the fee he demands for solving their problems.
How can a religious leader build the edifice of his movement on such deceptions? The Maharishi finds justification for such deception in the Bhagavad Gita: "Those deluded by the gunas of Nature are attached to the actions of the gunas. Let not him who knows the whole disturb the ignorant who knows only the part." Commenting on this verse, the Maharishi writes: "If the enlightened man wants to bless one who is ignorant, he should meet him on the level of his ignorance and try to lift him up from there by giving him the key to transcending, so that he may gain bliss-consciousness and experience the Reality of life. He should not tell him about the level of the realized, because it would only confuse him." That the Maharishi would ask a person to start meditating before understanding the whole religious philosophy is understandable. But to assure a would-be meditator that "we are not a religion" is a definite lie. Such lying and deception are permissible in the Maharishi's religion because ultimately his monistic philosophy doesn't admit the duality of good and evil. Nothing can be ultimately evil in his system.