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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25, No. 3. 1962.

His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and a method of Meditation — My Impressions

page 5

His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and a method of Meditation — My Impressions

I hate to be kept waiting. When I was ushered into the presence of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, I had been waiting for three and a half hours, sitting in a dark and narrow corridor. I was bored, irritated and sceptical.

Just over an hour later I was ushered out again. I felt calm, relaxed and full of energy.

Meantime for the price of an afternoon, six flowers, three pieces of fruit, a white handkerchief and a week's wages (net), I had been initiated into the Maharishi's method of meditation, and yoga.

The Maharishi is a small, unprepossessing Indian with greasy hair. His most arresting feature is a placid face. He wears a plain white robe of some sort, a couple of strings of beads, and bare feet. His voice is thin, soft and, high-pitched, and he ends each line with a squeaky little upward inflection.

He was flanked by an organisation named the Spiritual Regeneration Movement, consisting of a number of youngish people, several of whom are known to many students.

The initiation ceremony was comparatively simple. After we had sorted out sacrificial offerings into the correct piles, where the envelopes containing the "week's wages" were completely anonymous, the Maharishi entered and began the ritual.

After a candle had been lit, he offered flowers (presumably symbolic of all the sacrifices we were making) to a large picture of his "master", hanging above the altar.

We stood in attitudes varying from awe to stupor as he muttered quietly, making motions with the candle, lighting a joss-stick, burning some incense-like substance in a silver vessel decorated with a swastika, and finally prostrating himself before the altar.

When he rose his face was bland. He told us to leave the room and we would be called back individually to receive a word on which to meditate.

In the next room, I sat in my place in the uniform rows of chairs set facing a plain pink wall, and waited. I could hear hushed movement and whispering going on behind me as my fellow-initiates were received one by one.

When my turn came, the Maharishi motioned co me to sit down next to him. There was a short silence, then he said, so quietly I could barely hear him, "You will say this after me: hanginimah".

I said hanginimah. I continued to say it for about a minute.

"Under your breath," he said then. I repeated it under my breath.

"Now mentally, with your eyes closed."

I obeyed, only squinting furtively at him for a moment to see what he was doing. He had his eyes closed also, but I had the feeling that he was aware of my glance.

Finally he said, "Now you will go outside and continue to repeat the word mentally, letting it come and go without effort, never forcing It to remain in your mind."

The next initiate hurried in and I was shown out.

In the outer room filled with rows of chairs, I deliberately sat in front of an open window. The cold fresh air was slightly tinged with the smell of fish and chips floating up from a nearby restaurant, and this combination effectively blotted out the gusts of thick, incense-laden air which escaped from the Maharishi's office each time the door was opened.

I closed my eyes and thought of hanginimah.

The next thing I remember, the Maharishi was standing over us asking how we felt. I said truthfully that I felt relaxed. I felt as though I had been there for hours, although it had only been about fifteen minutes: maybe I fell asleep.

The Maharishi had to go; he had a lecture to give. I heard him say to one of the girls at the desk, "They will meditate for ten minutes in that room, then go home," rather as a soup manufacturer might say "Bring to the boil and simmer". I had to go too, but the rest of my group was led into the inner room to finish meditating.

As I passed the Maharishi, I noticed that for street-wear he had wrapped a piece of brown cloth around his white robe and was pressing a large yellow dahlia to his chest.

The cool air of the street revived me enough to let me analyse my feelings. I was peaceful yet alert—perhaps because my duty was completed? I also felt tremendously, unusually energetic—which could, I suppose, be caused by an afternoon of sitting still.

On a personal questionnaire we had filled out before the ceremony, we were asked what we hoped to receive from the meditation. They suggested peace of mind, self-realisation, and development of latent faculties. I checked self-realisation, feeling like a four-year old asking Santa for a locomotive.

I am convinced of this, at any rate, that whatever else the experience meant to me, it did not hold any element of self-realisation.

Possibly I did not persevere long enough ... Possibly I was not in a suitable frame of mind. It was made clear to us, in any case, that we could follow up the initiation with further experiences if we wished.

The others in the group ranged from sceptics to deeply-convinced advocates of the Maharishi's philosophy. One woman tucked fourteen pounds into her white envelope and carried six expensive blooms; there were also two men who sacrificed a pound each and confided that they had found their sacrificial flowers on a vacant lot on the Terrace.

It is likely that the woman who had sacrificed quite a lot actually did gain more from the initiation end meditation than the two men, who were evidently collectors of this sort of thing. It is sure that the hours of waiting and the money served as a deterrent to many of the more light-hearted and idly curious.

Candidly, I went along to decide whether this thing was a fraud or a genuine religious and philosophical mission.

I thought that the weekly wages bit was rather indicative of the former, and then this opinion was reinforced by the very evident interest displayed in the approximate income of the initiates by both the Maharishi and the Spiritual Regeneration Movement. I now think that the money serves a practical purpose as an integral part of the mental preparation for the meditation. It is also, however, a very lucrative little business, from someone's point of view. What happpens to these funds? I would even like to know what happens to the fruit, and to the white handkerchiefs.

For myself, I am extremely happy that weekly wages are nonexistent.