|Journeys: Mike Roark|
|Date: April 24, 2004|
Of Babies and Bathwater|
(a quick personal take on a time with Maharaji)
This morning I got up from a wonderfully rich meditation session, sat down to answer a few emails, opened a link sent by an active premie friend, watched a recently made two minute clip of Maharaji, continued my browsing over to the ex-premie.org site, and decided to post a short story of my own (as a sort of overdue personal rite of passage).
My research for this effort led me to a box in the garage labeled ‘Mike’s Memorabilia’ where I found a file containing, among other things: old copies of The Divine Times weekly, the complete words to Arti, a letter from Shri Sant Ji Maharaj congratulating me on receiving knowledge, my first photo of Maharaji, the ‘Five Agyas’ list and other stuff. The front page of the 27 October 1973 (England) Divine Times read: ‘NOW IS THE TIME FOR MANKIND TO UNITE’ ‘DON’T MISS THE BLISS’ which was heralding the Millennium festival in Houston. An interior page included this quote from Maharaji: ‘THIS YEAR, THE MOST HOLY AND SIGNIFICANT EVENT IN HUMAN HISTORY WILL TAKE PLACE IN AMERICA’.
In November of 1970, Maharaji announced: ‘I AM THE SOURCE OF PEACE IN THIS WORLD. ALL I ASK IS YOUR LOVE, AND WHAT I CAN GIVE YOU IS SUCH PEACE AS WILL NEVER DIE. I DECLARE I WILL ESTABLISH PEACE IN THIS WORLD.’
Very seductive stuff. What happened???
Maharaji arrived in America at the front end of the tidal wave of baby boomeritus. Us boomers had the notion that we did not have to be content with just a better life but to, within our lifetimes, sort of achieve the most radical and astonishing global transformation this world had ever seen. And here was this charismatic, Indian kid that seemed to be able to answer any question, called himself the only ‘Perfect Master’ of our time and spoke of the same grandiose visions that have helped to guide the evolution of our generation.
Oddly, he served to help fulfill a need for many of us that were looking for parental figures, family and tribe, as well as offering answers to many of our burning questions about the nature of existence.
And he seems to have remained pretty true to the form of my generation over time, scaling back the original vision and staying in tune with the evolving narcissistic boomer culture of tasteful self-absorption and comfort seeking.
I have moved on and I am not bitter (though perhaps a little bittersweet).
Guru / devotee relationships can be a lot like intense love affairs; and intense love affairs typically end badly. Fortunately for me, before the affair ended, I had realized that the one I really loved came from within myself and then actually, was myself. For many years I have known that Maharaji (as my guru) had his existence in my mind. I mean that he became a way for me to objectify the best within myself and then follow it with a feeling of devotion. The Maharaji culture provided me with a methodology to utilize and focus my earnestness and get extraordinary inner experiences. These inner experiences eventually took me to the point that the naiveté that had sponsored my devotion to Maharaji was exhausted. By then, I had the internal foundation in place to just move on and go from there.
Maharaji’s tradition of meditation utilizes time-tested and sturdy techniques distilled from other traditions. These techniques, when combined with earnestness and discipline, do yield good results (as do any good techniques that help to focus within and serve to drop you off at the other side of the doorway of inner silence).
Of course it is easy to look back during the time of my involvement with Maharaji and see the mistakes (‘lila’) that were made by him and his big, happy (and sometimes not-so-happy) family along with my own mistakes and delusional outlook that required a well-honed ability to rationalize all sorts of ridiculous behavior and ideas. But hindsight is always 20/20 and it is my own hindsight after all. I take 100% responsibility for my life ‘with Maharaji’ and I have proceeded for many years without regret and anger.
I will make the observation that I do not see the generous heartfelt love and openness (that typically and spontaneously flows out of those that have grown past their own needs) manifested and shared among the premies. I continue to be not so impressed with many of those that have ‘stayed’ with Maharaji through the years, particularly within the ‘inner circle’. I have been around other communities that exhibit much more love and compassion between the ‘members’. I believe that the aura of exclusivity and secrecy around Maharaji produced and (from what I can see) continues to breed some pretty pathetic dependencies and pathological behavior / elitist mindsets. Additionally, I find that the practice of Knowledge, as taught, lacks as an integral approach to life / growth and does not really deal with many lines of human development. Obviously, no one has cornered the marketplace on truth and reality.
And although I don’t think I will ever have another ‘guru’ in my lifetime, there are many from whom I continue to learn.
I am grateful for my close friends met during those years in the premie community (many of whom are now accomplishing great things).
Life is quite good for me and I have had more love, joy, and adventure than I could have ever imagined. I don’t spend time speculating on what would have happened if my past had taken another route. I am continuing with my thirty-year plus practice of meditation and am very excited about the possibilities of growth and expanding experience in all developmental aspects of my life. In my own case, however, I have had to sort of unlearn the techniques of Knowledge meditation and consciously discard much of the attendant baggage to be able to continue to grow in my exploration and deepening of awareness.
I want to be clear that what I have expressed here is pretty general and exclusively my own take, and I would not pre-suppose for anyone else to see or experience things as I do.
So, in closing:
Bholey Shri Satgurudev Maharaji, Ki Jai Bholey Shri Jagat Jnani Shri Mata, Ki Jai Bholey Shri Ananda Kanda Bal Bhagwan, Ki Jai Bholey Shri Hriday Samrat Shri Bhole Nate, Ki Jai Bholey Shri Vishnapati Chakrapati Samrat Shri Raja Ji Maharaj, Ki Jai Bholey Shri Sache de bar, Ki Jai Bholey Shri Hansa Bansa, Ki Jai
Jai Satchitanand sisters and brothers and don’t throw out the baby,
PS, if you have read this far, my apologies for those that are not boomers and for whom some of my references and vocabulary are cryptic.
PPS, I would love to hear from any of you friends from the old country that read this.
an addition to my ‘Journey’:
After I posted my Journey, I received several responses in Forum 8 that encouraged me to post some more of my reflections. I feel my own experience to be a little different from most of the sentiments expressed on the ex-premie.org. Most of what I have to say about the process that I have been through with Maharaji and Knowledge is positive.
Clearly many of us have had legitimate, profound and transformative inner experiences while involved with Maharaji. Also clearly, Maharaji’s world is a very mixed bag that has been unnecessarily destructive to many. But I am as curious about the ‘revisionist’ perspective of many ex-premies as I am about Maharaji’s. Just as I think it is silly to engage in a ‘book burning’ mentality to eliminate the voluminous materials wherein Maharaji is depicted as something far different from how he is today; I think it is ridiculous for ex-premies to disavow the legitimate internal and joyful experiences that they had while practicing Knowledge.
I’ve seen the premie culture go from the wild, whimsical, intense personal workshop-style environment of the early 70’s to the sterilized, held and lock-step processing. The presented message is now disparate from the current of actual devotion (motivational speaker vs. Satguru). After I started coming to grips with the realization that I had to disengage myself from Maharaji in order to grow, I periodically attended his programs over a few years when it was convenient as a way to ‘check in’ and verify my understandings. I have continued with a committed practice of meditation though I haven’t continued to use the ‘Knowledge’ techniques.
Early in my process of my disengagement, I studied the history of Maharaji’s spiritual tradition and the process he has presented as a way of life. I put together a bibliography from ‘Indiological’ lore that traced the evolution of the meditation techniques ‘taught’ by Maharaji over the centuries. I also developed a more objective sociological and psychological view of the path of ‘satsang, service and meditation’. For me, this analytical approach was a further step towards reclaiming my intellect as my tool, rather than an integral part of myself from which I was trying to disassociate.
A bird’s eye view of ‘Maharaji’s World’ shows primarily a closed culture / cult derived from the Indian-based traditions of devotion to a spiritual teacher (‘guru yoga’ / ‘bhakti yoga’) that also incorporates introspective disciplines (meditation and concentration) along with the external disciplines of satsang and service (‘Karma Yoga’). When practiced diligently, this formula yields an encompassing form of discipline. Without this encompassing culture, the experience of the premies would not have been powerful and transformative enough to sustain the Divine Light Mission / Élan Vital culture over time.
One thing for sure, the process becomes pretty ridiculous in a hurry without the discipline of meditation.
Typically in ‘Guru Yoga’, there is a (supposedly) evolved spiritual teacher that radiates inner beauty or is somehow so charismatic to someone that they hook up in a guru / devotee love thing. Historically, gurus can be known for being less than well-rounded characters and sometimes can be really sociopathic. Just because someone is qualified to be a ‘spiritual teacher’ doesn’t mean that they are necessarily well integrated and realized in all or many lines of human development. But whatever the case is, this spins off many predictable dynamics including the process of submission to the guru with the accompanying ego deflation, which can give rise to other types of development and is often to good effect. This can get interesting when played out in the midst our (American) democratic, home of the brave culture. In the event the guru has authentic clarity and profound experience, the conditions are enhanced for the devotee’s opportunity for learning, growth and experience. Devotion can also be purely a powerful placebo effect based on projections and transference on the part of the devotee. Yearning for the best from the guru and believing the best of the guru, the devotee projects their expectations on the guru and then uses that vision as their guiding light. Expectations are based on aspirations. For them, the guru becomes the personification of their own best. This makes it possible for the guru to ‘deliver’, whether through actual clarity, conscious transference, solid teachings or by the devotee’s earnestness alone. In large programs, the crowd amplifies this dynamic. Demand and supply. The devotees often take their inner experiences as confirmation of the legitimacy of the guru, and continue the cycle; instead of realizing that their experiences could have happened a number of different ways through their own focus and earnestness.
The guru / devotee dynamic is similar to love affairs that begin with intense, heartfelt hope and romance, that over time is replaced with lower intensity love along with a more realistic view of the lover. Long-distance love affairs can frequently outlast hometown love affairs, in that disillusion takes longer to set in. The vast majority of premies have never had the chance to have a private conversation with Maharaji despite the fact that they have truly given much of their lives in the name of devotion. Most premie mythologies about Maharaji are protected and enhanced by distance and lack of personal contact, as it was for me. The more inaccessible he was, the more I was able maintain my view of him as I wanted him to be.
Also, Maharaji speaks about spirituality in very general terms, with the frequent use of allegories. This makes it even easier for listeners to interpret, project and convert what is said into ideas that are profound and meaningful (to them).
I don’t pretend to understand what Maharaji experiences or does not or that I know what he knows or does not. But I am saying that our experiences as devotees do not have to be particularly denigrated because they were not based on what we thought they were. Earnestness is the most powerful driver engine for inner realization. It just becomes difficult to continue the charade after our internal hype becomes clear.
In the early years, Maharaji took the Guru dynamic to another level; not just a powerful spiritual teacher, he billed himself (and let himself be billed) as the only living Perfect Master, was compared to Jesus and all manner of deity. He wasn’t just a motivational speaker trying to give people a way to deal with their problems. The culture around Maharaji, at least in the beginning, undermined the pursuit and expectation of wealth and worldly success for premies. In the name of devotion, many premies spent their entire surplus and not-so-surplus income on traveling to programs, even to the point it became difficult to hold down jobs. Part of that underlying mythology was that as premies, our lot was to forever be poor, humble devotees ‘at his feet’, on the path of liberation. Exercising our will and intellect was frequently written off as ‘mind’ and making effort outside of overtly devotional pursuits was a waste of time. The operational mode was not to: load up with the confidence and creativity that Knowledge brings and then go forth and prosper. In another vein, premies tend to feel pretty special when fortunate enough to be hanging with the only living Satguru in the world (not to mention God manifest). This myth, and the ‘spiritual egotism’ that goes along with it can be pretty difficult to walk away from. During the period of time that the 'guru yoga' thing really ‘works’, it provides a fast track for deep internal growth (if combined with meditation practice).
about satsang and community
For years, I lived in a city that held satsang programs seven days a week. I faithfully attended these fascinating free-for-alls that were as much like intense personal workshop sessions as they were ‘spiritual’ discourses. I remember listening intently to premies that so sincerely presented almost every possible perspective from total lunacy to high-level inspiration and artistry. I used these sessions not just to soak up the underlying inspiration, but also to hone my discriminatory tools (although way too much got through my bullshit filter at the time). I remember going home feeling uplifted and focused. When the Maharaji culture changed to where the run-of-the-mill premies lost the opportunity to speak at programs, a huge hole in our growth process started to open up. Speaking sincerely about spiritual experiences and ideas to groups of people hung us out there to face criticism and correction, a good thing. Our speaking experiences ranged between the blissful flow of verbal profundity to the embarrassment of realizing that you have nothing but crap to offer. But despite all of the issues, it was a big part of the growth process.
In the early 70’s, I was young and impressionable and the Divine Light Mission crowd provided a community for me. I developed some good friendships with many and the ashram set-up mirrored family style living to an extent. There was a ‘house mother’, a ‘house father’ and people living, eating and sleeping under the same roof. For me, it was a kind of trippy, communal family substitute that I know that was the same for many others. The ashrams had their fair share of clearly dysfunctional and lonely kids that probably benefited much from the structure although others got pushed deeper into their pathologies.
Cliques and class structures developed based primarily upon leadership roles within the organization and proximity to Maharaji. This was exacerbated by practices like reserving the front program seating for the inner circle faithful and big money contributors.
For me, local satsang programs in the early days were fun and wacky and big programs were colorful and interesting. I found something far more cohesive, earnest and honest about those times. I was openly following an Indian tradition, not the materialistic and predictable world I grew up in; Guru Maharaji was a guru yelling about liberation and world peace, not a motivational speaker speaking about happiness and fulfillment; I was young and anything was possible, not middle-aged and sensing my mortality; money didn’t matter, and retirement was not an issue. I am not saying it was right, just that it was exciting and had an odd sort of integrity as a system.
I felt a bit horrified and sad during the last Maharaji program I attended. First we were shown a cheesy video with slow motion shots of Maharaji and his family to a background of devotional music with words something like: ‘you are my master, you are my everything’. Then Maharaji came out to a standing ovation and spoke in a way that reminded me of Deepak Chopra. I sensed a lack of integrity and a huge disconnect in the room. The thing that bothered me most (besides the awful music and the way the subliminal message didn’t match the overt message) was, in general, the premies seemed lackluster and not particularly happy at all. If these people, many of whom have now practiced for over thirty years, are not lit up by now, when is it going to happen? I personally never cared so much about the dichotomies related to Maharaji’s message versus and his wealth and lifestyle (not a popular perspective on the ex-premie website), but to see practicing, devoted premies exhibiting no greater happiness that twenty years ago is truly disturbing to me. They can argue that I’m wrong but it isn’t really so hard to get a good read about someone’s internal experience. It comes out in bearing (eyes, smile, stride, etc) as well as the confidence, openness, love and compassion that emanates and is expressed. It also comes out in the conversations that I continue to have with my practicing premie friends and acquaintances (sorry guys). It used to be said that you can’t judge a master by his devotees but after thirty years, I completely disagree. Perhaps it is the best criteria.
Serving others is a great thing. Besides being helpful to others, it wears down the servant’s narcissism and can help to open the heart. I think ‘service’ becomes kind of standard operating procedure and a way of life for genuinely happy people. One of the things I was greatly attracted to when I approached Maharaji was the notion of putting Knowledge and realization to practice through service to humanity.
For example, in 1972, Maharaji created Divine United Organization (DUO) as the ‘practical service arm’ of Divine Light Mission. It’s branches included:
· Shri Hans Productions: a publisher of magazines that “show not only the suffering of the world, but also the way out for all of humanity”
· Shri Hans Humanitarian Services: a “free health care clinic in New York which treats all causes of illness – mental, physical and spiritual”
· Divine Sales: “recycling stores which provide inexpensive merchandise to the community’ and an ‘import-export exchange worldwide and markets its own biodegradable products”
· Shri Hans Educational: “a school based on the growing love and awareness of human beings who have received Knowledge” and
· World Peace Corps: for “any and all practical service to humanity”
Of course the end game was world peace through the propagation of Knowledge, because how can there possibly not be peace when everyone is practicing Knowledge? Our main part was to help in this process, but early on Maharaji also seemed to have a grand and diverse humanitarian vision beyond performing the selfless service related to his estates and personal needs. The original humanitarian vision was integral to his work and very attractive to many of us that wanted to save the world.
His original vision seems to have fallen by the wayside, at least with regard to scale.
My decision to support Maharaji’s work financially after I stopped working directly for him helped me see the situation more clearly when I was offered front row program seating after a particularly large donation. A huge turnoff.
But as an integral part of a spiritual practice, ‘service’ became a way to fully encompass a devotees waking hours, when not meditating and satsanging.
Meditation was the heart of the whole Maharaji experience for me and if I hadn’t had great meditation experiences, I would have walked away very quickly. Before meditation becomes more of a journey into silence and bliss, it can really stir the subliminal pot of the psycho-emotional layers. The ashram actually provided a kind of safe-haven for me (as well as my people outside of the group) as I stirred my inner cauldron while processing my exceptional and transcendental experiences. For most of my ashram time, I did menial work, a perfect background in which to be preoccupied and sometimes dysfunctional during the day. The vow of celibacy kept me away from other ‘distractions’. It was great to float away and I did. I tend to remember powerful inner experiences with great alacrity, and here’s one: I was sitting in the crowd during one particular evening of a Hans Jayanti event outside of Orlando and I started to have an unusual experience. After a feeling of ecstasy had built up inside during Maharaji’s talk, I noticed that my breathing had slowed to a whisper and then it ceased completely. I was familiar with my breath slowing to a greatly reduced level and even stopping altogether for a period of time during meditation practice, but I was not used to having it happen with my eyes open and in an interactive state. When my breath stopped completely, my eyes closed and I ‘fell’ into what I can only describe as an indescribable state of ‘non-dual awareness’. When my eyes opened, my breathing immediately re-started and I felt waves of bliss. Then they closed and, in unbroken consciousness I returned to the non-dual and so on, back and forth several times. Eventually, I kept my eyes open and stuck with the bliss of my interactive world. This happened to me in the context of my mental focus on Maharaji while he was speaking. I can’t doubt the legitimacy of the ‘inner’ experience itself because it did happen, I experienced it fully and I remember it well. I have my opinion of what happened during this and hundreds other powerful experiences, but even today I do not feel that I can know the process for certain. Here are a few options:
1) Maharaji was fully conscious of what was personally happening to me and he consciously imparted that experience to me (i.e. super conscious satguru Maharaji with god-like grace)
2) He was not consciously aware of what I was experiencing but served as a divine channel. My focus on and love for him enabled me to open to what he was channeling (i.e. standard ‘Guru Maharaji’s grace’)
3) He was feeding off the love of the crowd but was not consciously aware of what I was experiencing. My focus enabled me to zero in on what he was feeling and there was a transference brought about by my focus and openness (i.e. standard guru / devotee relationship where the guru is capable of being a kind of ‘portal’)
4) He was just sitting there with the awareness that anyone performing to a large, adoring crowd would have. My own trust, need and earnestness for a profound inner experience enabled my inner experience (i.e. standard guru / devotee relationship where the devotee eventually wises up) and
5) My experience was unrelated to my surroundings (highly unlikely).
Answer #4 makes the most sense to me for many reasons, in large because my experience has grown and deepened since going my own way and that I’ve had many powerful transcendental experiences both before and after Maharaji. The thing is, it gets very murky when trying to figure out the whys and causes of subjective inner experiences. I know that I experienced what I experienced, but I am not sure exactly how it happened. There is a problem here that I think is endemic with many premies (and I am not referring to self-delusion). The problem is that premies identify these powerful experiences with Maharaji both consciously and subliminally and this identification keeps them coming back. Meditation can bore into the layers of conscious, subconscious and unconscious mind where mental imprinting can then happen at many levels. The resultant mythologies become very tough to shake. I think Knowledge meditation increased my capacity for critical and creative thinking and improved my intuitive faculties. When I realized that the meditation and the deeper awareness that I was accessing within myself was actually my 'teacher', Maharaji became extraneous in that role for me.
I, along with many others, practiced Knowledge with devotion in conjunction with the totality of that culture, had wonderful inner experiences and learned much. Because these experiences were fueled in part by wrong assumptions doesn’t mean that the experiences were invalid, since at the core of these experiences was love and transformation. I just had to sort things out a bit by trying to understand the delusion versus the essence (i.e. babies and bathwater). Despite the positive things, I did not leave the group having become an integrated or gloriously complete person in any way. I have needed some good luck along the way while serious working on myself to integrate my internal perspective with a healthy interpersonal / ethical life. Of course, this work is a life-long process. I think Maharaji was possibly so steeped and programmed in the guru game from birth that he did and may still actually believe that he is the only living ‘Satguru’. This is pure speculation on my part. But anyway, he was my ‘oracle’ for a time and I had many great insights and derived many benefits. I have no ill will for Maharaji or those around him (excepting certain eight-balls).
I like what I am and I recognize that my experience within that world played a big part in that.
Footnote about my influences and process:
Although I grew up in Christian surroundings in the US, I studied eastern spiritual traditions and had contact with other 'gurus' and teachers prior to meeting Maharaji. I was a big reader of western philosophers, particularly the existentialists. I had two near-death experiences in my teens that had a profound effect on me. My baseline philosophic structures pre-dated my involvement with Maharaji. At this point in life, I have a pretty good academic perspective on most eastern traditions with a particular fondness for the non-dualist school of Vedanta (a la folks like Sri Nisargadatta and Ramana Maharshi). I have also been trying to keep track of the explosive advances in the emerging field of neuroscience and cognitive science for many years (vis-a`-vis authors that include Restak, Rose, Dennett, Ornstein, Gardner and others). I have also studied much of the scientific data related to the effects of meditation (like what is offered by the Himalayan Institute, Monroe Institute and Centerpointe Institute) and done some of my own experimentation in that vein. I really like the work of current systems philosophers like Ken Wilber and Don Beck and have many, many other influences, most of them modern. Most New Age stuff gives me a bad rash.
I have tried to look at the Maharaji phenomena as objectively as possible and have mused about it in first person, second / third person as well as thought about the ‘interior’ as well as ‘exterior’ aspects of both. In other words, the ‘interior’ of the first person involves the subjective (experiential) side of the individual and the ‘exterior’ aspects of first person relate to the objective side of the individual (as from the outside looking in). An example of first person interior would be the feeling of bliss, and the first person exterior would relate to the heightened exchange of certain neurotransmitters in certain parts of the brain during the feeling of bliss. The ‘interior’ / subjective side of the second / third person perspective would involve the subjective ‘cultural’ aspects / shared experiences of the group and the ‘exterior’ / objective aspects of the group would relate to social structures created and the like.
So what becomes our basis of proof in looking at the subjective matter of what gives meaning and value to our lives? Can the validity of our experiences be judged alone by how it is manifested in the integrity of our lives, actions and relationships and the social circumstances that are created? Can our intuitive sense about the clarity of someone’s words about their own subjective experience ever be a good basis for acceptance and belief? Can we only trust that which is based on the inherent qualities of love and compassion?
I do know that getting to a comprehensive and intelligent world-view necessarily involves complexity and the ability to hold pluralistic viewpoints. I tend to distrust any philosophical perspectives that attempt to oversimplify and boil things down to right/wrong fundamentalism. I also think there is a great deal of value in the type of tradition Maharaji represents and my view is that every tradition has value; but that some traditions are more ‘valuable’ than others.
Footnotes about Meditation:
Meditation and internal (‘spiritual’) growth does not have to preempt and negate any human evolutionary line of development. Growth and evolution in all directions and human capabilities (including but not limited to intellectual, psycho-sexual, emotional, interpersonal, physical, etc) tends to expand our worldview, completeness, sense of compassion and experience of love.
Meditation provides a tool whereby awareness can eventually transcend (and yet include) the five senses, internal biofeedback, cognitive events and emotions. A disciplined, legitimate practice of meditation technique leads to temporary states of consciousness that first serve to let us know these experiences exist. The continued practice of meditation over time can permanently expand awareness (which has the ability to transcend and include previously experienced states and levels).
The process of meditation is a process of self-discovery. In meditation, we do not experience that which does not form a portion of what we are. The focused practice of meditation typically brings about increased energy and creativity.
Real meditation is a departure from the course of ‘rational’ ideas and philosophy to understand the world within and outside of us. In meditation, internal silence is opted for over an egocentric view of the world, thinking and the sense of control that we can mistakenly hold so tight. Meditation can be a radical act of trust and letting go and opening to a world that we have not created or yet experienced and do not control. It is an experiential act of exploration and can become an acknowledgement and experience of our own connectedness with a ‘greater’ sphere of existence.
We can get used to creating, justifying and defining our inner life and feelings. In meditation, it becomes clear that we neither create the pleasurable world within inside ourselves, nor require a justification for the experiences we have, nor necessarily need to define and conceptualize what has happened.
All conscious experience also occurs within the human body as distinct internal biological processes. Our experiences and the corresponding biomechanical events are effectively 'two sides of the same coin' and inseparable. Human perception occurs within the body's nervous system. Perception is primarily driven by conditioned responses that are either/or a combination of 1) hard-wiring (genetic) and 2) applied conditioning (behavioral). Conditioned responses are memory driven. Memory occurs not just as cognitive data storage but as many types of generalized dynamics (both mechanical and electrodynamic) throughout the body. These dynamics show preferences (‘recognition’ of energy and material states) via frequencies and other boundaries to 'similar prior states'. This brings about inertia (stasis) and limitation (suffering). In other words, there is a dynamic tendency for conditioned responses to remain the same, once patterns, rhythms and circuitries have been established within our circuitry.
We tend to use the same modes of problem solving and conceptual thought processes to look at all different types of problems. This becomes clearly apparent with older people that have become 'set in their ways' of thinking / perceiving. Their neuro-pathways (with the corresponding and same chemical processes) have become like 'super-highways' within their brains and the possibility for original ways of thinking / perceiving is history. Limiting concepts and modes of perception, through repetition, become entrenched in perception. Concepts often become self-fulfilling prophecies. Thus, the ability to travel the more scenic and interesting 'footpaths' of the brain gets lost without the stimulus of some cataclysmic event or loss. One of the aims of meditation is to undo conditioned responses within the field of experience (nervous system) towards achieving a state of clarity and freedom.
The work of meditation occurs partially by a different sort of repetition when properly applied, can be particularly effective in uprooting self-limiting modes of perception that were created originally through repetition themselves.
Communicating a description of inner states, particularly out-of-the-ordinary states, is a subjective endeavor. The ‘scientific’ perspective and the ‘experiential’ perspective will always be two sides of the same coin, completely different yet inseparable. For example, say a scientist studies an EEG report analyzing the altered brain wave patterns of a subject meditator. The scientist is viewing and intellectually assimilating the scientific data and the meditator subject is having an experience in consciousness (whatever it might be). Which perspective is more valid, the scientist or the meditator? Can one perspective be more valid? Which perspective is easier to communicate? The meditator’s physiology is doing something different from normal as confirmed by the EEG, but probably he is not aware of the empirical goings on (delta brain waves, reduced heart and breathing rate, heightened exchange of certain neurotransmitters in his frontal lobe, etc), just his momentary experience in consciousness. When he learns what was happening on the physiological level, does his experience change? The issue of first, second and third person perspectives also lends complication to the communication conundrum and these perspectives would have to be dealt with separately (in lieu of trying to muddle them all together) towards the presentation of cogent viewpoints.
So, in the first person, we look out from behind our eyes. And then we can become more aware of the consciousness that is looking out from behind our eyes. The ‘subject’ looker can become the ‘object’ seen, and so on, going ‘inside’.
There is no way to know for certain what will happen to our consciousness after physical death. We don’t usually even know what happens to our consciousness during sleep, inasmuch as our awareness is typically rendered ‘comatose’ during deep sleep (we probably wouldn’t even ‘know if we were dead’ in that state). But then again there have been times (usually when on a meditation ‘binge’) that I’ve experienced unbroken conscious awareness during deep sleep as well as during dreaming. So subjectively, yet authoritatively, I can say that I have experienced that. But unless someone has experienced the same, there will never be a way to adequately communicate what I have experienced, nor would I ever recommend that anyone try to believe my descriptions.
Here is one description of the experience of ‘sitting meditation’: It is the practice of freeing consciousness from everything except itself, to the greatest degree possible. For example, we ‘expend’ the currency of our consciousness during the waking state with our:
Senses / contact with outside phenomena: through sight, sound, touch, smell and taste
‘Feelings’ / internal biofeedback: through drives (like sex drive and territorialism); conditions (like sense of balance and pleasure / pain); and needs (breathe and hunger)
Cognition / thought (through recollection, conceptualization and imagination)
Emotions (like anger, love, etc through pre-programmed responses to learned and inherent cognitive structures)
So say I am sitting quietly. My eyes are closed (no sight); my ears are ‘closed’ (no sound); I am still and the ants are not biting (no touch); I do not have bad gas (no smell); and I am not eating (no taste). Then, I am not too horny, etc. (no sex drive awareness / other drives); I am not about to fall over (no balance warnings / other conditions); and I have eaten (no hunger / other needs). Then the slippery stuff, I cease remembering events (no recollection); I am not solving problems (no conceptualization); and I stop imagining things (no imagination). If the cognitive events have shut down, the plug is automatically pulled on the emotions. Then what??? Still conscious???
Most would say that they wouldn’t want to know what. But that is either because they haven’t ever been there or have forgotten what it is like to be there.
Pin-drop inner silence becomes beautiful. And that beauty usually carries over into the activities of the day. But this doesn’t mean the fullness of sense, feeling, thought and emotion is lost in any way. It does seem that the pain associated with these things is highly diminished, though.
For some meditation brings images of goal-orientation, like ‘straining for enlightenment’, ‘earning liberation’ or other ways to insure expectation and pain. For some, meditation is a way to relax, experience more fullness in the moment as well as provide an avenue to ‘inner worlds’.
Footnote about the ideological background of Maharaji’s tradition:
For centuries, Indian culture, has included the practice of devotion to a living spiritual teacher, meditation and other practices used by Maharaji and his tradition. ‘Hinduism’ is a veritable cornucopia of belief systems that initially sprang out of the Vedas (it’s initial scriptures codified as four books: the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yagur Veda and Athara Veda). Subsequent writings were annexed as ‘scriptures’ over a period of hundreds of years to yield scores of pithy Hindu scriptural tomes. For example there are 108 Upanishads considered to be ‘important’, 18 of which are generally acknowledged to be ‘principal’. About 1000 or so years after the Vedas were written, the Mahabharata (a chapter of which is the Bhagavad Gita) and the Ramayana epics were written and also became a pert of the ever expanding vast body of Hindu scripture. The net result (along with a few other factors) is that the ‘religion’ of Hinduism has become more of a extremely diverse culture with a huge buffet table of ideas, practices, and philosophies, where people tend to selectively take what they want and leave the rest. When someone like Buddha came along (circa 500 BC or so) and did not tie and reconcile their teachings to Vedic lore (although it may have looked and felt much the same), new religions rather that a new sects sprang up. Maharaji’s tradition grew up in this vast, chaotic and multi-faceted religious background.
The Knowledge techniques taught by Maharaji have been around for centuries and used in practically every contemplative tradition in some form or another. For example, the original main written texts of the tantric school of ‘Hatha Yoga’ (not the westernized exercise systems commonly referred to by that name) was apparently codified sometime after 1000 AD vis-a`-vis the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Goraksa Samhita, Gheranda Samhita and Siva Samhita. These texts all describe the Knowledge techniques with reasonable accuracy. These techniques show up (all or in part) in most garden-variety traditions of Hinduism and Yoga (including Tibetan Yoga), as well as the mystical / contemplative schools of the world’s main religious traditions including Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam and Christianity (as well as many modern derivatives of these). ‘Karma Yoga’ is a traditional Indian path of selfless service and the integration of wisdom with action. The notions of selfless service, community, spiritual discourse, monastic dwelling and other aspects of Maharaji’s tradition are shot through every major religious tradition as well.
I welcome criticism, comments and additions to what I have written.