JW: Could you tell us about your path to spirituality? When did you meet
the Maharishi and how did you begin to wish to reach a higher
PM: I was brought up in a Christian family, and my father was a Christian Scientist. Their ideas are intriguing and their code of behaviour sets quite a high bar. But though I found the philosophies attractive I could not make their belief system my own; I wanted something whereby I actually experienced something, and imagination didn't satisfy me. I found that a glass of alcoholic drink gave me an experience so I traded Sunday School for sneaky visits to the local public house. This was the Sixties, therefore it is no surprise that I gravitated to hashish, then to other substances including LSD. I mention this because in all these substances I found experiences that I would describe as spiritual, very spiritual. But within a few years I started to wonder if I could obtain the highs I got from these drugs through some other means. I heard about meditation.
In 1970 I hitch-hiked from England to India & there visited the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, where I was encouraged to learn Transcendental Meditation. Something happened during the learning session and I became incredibly at peace, at one with myself, and my neurosies and hangups just seemed to up and off. I had been directed that beyond thought lies bliss and had experienced the truth of that statement.
I suppose having had this epiphany I was open to the suggestion that there might be higher states of consciousness, but I had no particular interest per se, just in the ability to access the state of absolute stillness within.
It was not until several years had passed that I actually had the opportunity to get close to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
JW: When did you meet Maharishi and were you impressed by him at the
PM: I was neither impressed nor unimpressed by Maharishi as a person; I was always more interested in what knowledge he represented, about his teacher I suppose. His reasoning and his thinking were very different from the teachings I had heard elsewhere, and I was determined to unearth anything that might prove useful out of his repertoire.
JW: Could you tell us what "Transcendental Meditation" is?
PM: The idea is that the mind is always occupied with thoughts, discursive thoughts, and it never seems to give us a chance to properly relax. So, the initiate is given information which will help allow the mind to settle and enjoy the peace beyond everyday thinking. In fact it is quite possible and some might say easy to experience the bliss beyond thought. One is encouraged to meditate twice a day, thus offering regular settling of the mind and body.
JW: Why did the Britsh rock stars - The Beatles, The Beach Boys, etc. - wish
to discover in the teachings of Maharishi? Myabe you could provide
some background as to how Maharishi came to meet The Beatles?
PM: Well, The Beatles had long toyed with matters Eastern, the music, the clothes, etc., etc. In fact by 1967 a good chunk of the developed world's youth were caught in the fashion of things Indian. The Beatles actually went to see Maharishi believing it would be their last opportunity, that he was on the verge of retiring. They had read some Indian philosophy, and here was the chance to hunker down with someone who appeared trained to do the job of talking about meditation, and what's more is he laughed a lot. In fact the press dubbed him the Giggling Guru. Lots of people in those days took recreational drugs, The Beatles were looking for a way to experience some of the highs via meditation.
JW: What attracts Christians to the teachings of Maharishi?
PM: Many Christians are attracted to the teachings of Maharishi, as they appear to be along the same lines as some of the Christian texts. Furthermore, Maharishi was at pains to stress that Transcendendental Meditation did not require anyone to change their religion, merely that if one had a religion, then that religion would be strengthened by practise of Transcendental Meditation. He often quoted the Christian sayings of 'But seek ye first the kingdom of heaven of God and all these things will be added unto you.' (Matt 6:33), and '... the kingdom of God is within you.' (Luke 17:21), pointing out the correlation between Christ's teaching and the ideology behind Transcendental Meditation.
JW: How did the Maharishi's early life influence his teachings?
PM: Maharishi was a keen and intelligent student, who after taking Maths and Physics to university standard, applied to join the ashram of the Shankaracharya of North India, the spiritual adviser of millions. Maharishi spent over twelve years in service of this teacher, Shankaracharya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, and absorbed his intense passion for promoting meditation. The combination of science and religion can be an uneasy mix, but Maharishi has brought out a synthesis of these disciplines, and fascinating it is.
JW: Could you tell us why Transcendental Meditation continues to aid
its practioners, in their quest to reach a higher consciousness?
PM: Those who regularly practice Transcendental Meditation claim that not only does it calm them down, but it also recharges their energy. Further they believe that they contribute to World Peace by their meditation, and contribute to the evolution of their own consciousness by the accumulative practice of meditation. Notwithstanding, practitioners do not claim this method to be exclusive, but accept that others too can attain the goal of this practice by other means, that transcending (going beyond) thought and discovering bliss is a universal reality.
Thank you for your questions.
John Wisniewski is a freelance writer who frequently interviews for Grey Lodge Review and other publications.