Enlightenment experiences of Robert Forman

In 2010, Robert Forman wrote a book entitled Enlightenment Ain’t What It’s Cracked Up To Be. It is available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005S0KF8E.

His book honestly describes his experiences of enlightenment including features that don’t match the hype promulgated by the Bhagavad Gita, spiritual traditions, and many gurus. His book title alludes to the fact that his enlightenment did not lead to bliss, unshakeable equanimity, and an end to all suffering.

Robert Forman was a teacher of Transcendental Meditation who had an awakening experience in December 1971 while on his TM teacher training course (TTC) in Mallorca, Spain. For several days on TTC, he felt pins and needles on his skin. Later he felt as though some kind of tubes at the back of his head were opening up; although this was not a classic kundalini awakening, it left him with what he considers to be the classical awakening state.

Robert had significant depression and anxiety issues in the years prior to his awakening experience. He also had depression and anxiety issues for years after his awakening even though the unbounded silence/nothingness had become his identity. Through psychotherapy, he came to terms with panic attacks and not being the person he wanted to be while around his wife and colleagues. Besides being provocative, his book title of “enlightenment ain’t what it’s cracked up to be” was his opinion based on his experience.

A quote from his book: “Behind everything I do now is this bottomless emptiness, so open as to be without end. I have grown accustomed to the fact that this is now me. Not me doing dishes, not the me that is worried or writing a paper, not the me that feels alone or scared or happy. But it is the me that watches and lives and holds it all. I am, strange to say, infinite. And astonishingly, miraculously, the old me is here as well.”

Robert Forman comes with credentials that bolster his announcement that he is enlightened. After TTC he struggled teaching TM, and he struggled working in his father’s business for a while, but he eventually succeeded in education by earning a Ph.D. in Comparative Religions at Columbia University, specializing in the study of mystical experiences. He has been a professor of religions at Hunter College of the City University of New York, Vassar College, Union Theological Seminary, and the New School for Social Research. He has taught courses on mystical experiences and spiritual goals of every tradition. He is the founder and Executive Director of the Forge Institute for Spirituality and Social Change. He is also the author of ten scholarly books on spirituality, mysticism, and world religions.

Dr. Forman agrees with the poet Coleridge and others that spiritual knowledge steers spiritual experience. He states that history, training, and expectations may actually shape the neural pathways that make religious experience, BUT there are some experiences (such as his awakening) which are so surprising and unexpected that the experience could not have been triggered by spiritual knowledge.

To religious/philosophical scholars, the view described in the last sentence above is called Perennialism and leads to the opinion that mystics from different religious traditions can have the exact same experiences. The opposing Constructivism view holds that there is no innate experience free from mental and cultural constructs and also that there is no objective, numinous reality.

Dr. Forman participated in some publicized debates between Perennialism and Constructivism that are known as the “Katz-Forman debates”. Points and counter-points are at the following website https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mysticism/.

Dr. Forman said he knows lots of enlightened gurus and spiritual teacher/leaders, but he doesn’t know any who don’t have “stuff” to work on; if you hear a guru say that he doesn’t have an ego, Dr. Forman advises, “Run!”

Interview links

His interview on Buddha at the Gas Pump is at https://batgap.com/robert-k-c-forman-ph-d/.

His interview at ConsciousTV is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHl0hivK180&t=2887s.

Dr. Forman’s own website is at http://www.robertkcforman.com/about/about.htm.

My conclusion

Even if a state of enlightenment does indeed exist, many gurus and spiritual traditions have exaggerated the merits of enlightenment while not adequately mentioning possible unwelcome aspects of enlightenment. If seekers knew this, they might make different choices in their lives.

The internet age is fostering truth-telling about gurus, spiritual experiences, and spiritual movements. Today’s spiritual seekers have a huge advantage in having access to the inside stories whereas spiritual seekers from the past only had the hype and “official stories without any of the dirt”.

Robert Forman, some gurus, and some spiritual seekers are being much more forthright about their experiences than the “previous enlightened” from decades and centuries ago. It is laudable that they are truthfully revealing hardship in awakening and aspects of awakening that were hidden from previous seekers. Still, the skeptic in me wonders if the truth-tellers are holding back somewhat in order to paint themselves and their spiritual practices in a nice light.

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Plethora of enlightened?

When I wrote my book, I was unaware that there were so many gurus and non-gurus who were claiming to be enlightened. I wrote my book from recollection and reflection, and my recollection was that extremely few people professed that they had become enlightened.

After listening to a bunch of interviews on BATGAP.com (Buddha at the Gas Pump) and YouTube recently, I was surprised to learn that a plethora of TMers and others have spoken out about their enlightenment.

I am willing to accept the possibility that enlightenment exists. Quite a few people speak convincingly about their enlightenment awakenings. However, there are also numerous things that make me skeptical.

In my book and my blog, I have written that there is no proof that a state of enlightenment exists. All of those interviews with the enlightened will be fodder for more musings in future blog posts.

I don’t intend to listen to the hundreds of interviews on BATGAP.com, but I have already viewed some of them. Stay tuned.

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Thoughts on Gopi Krishna

Wikipedia states: Gopi Krishna (30 May 1903 – 31 July 1984) of India was a yogi, mystic, teacher, social reformer, and writer. His autobiography is listed under the title Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man.”

Gopi Krishna’s accounts of his own kundalini activation are respected by many kundalini advocates and spiritual luminaries including Deepak Chopra, M.D.

Gopi Krishna published his first book in 1967 to publicize the benefits and experiences of his kundalini activation which he thought would entice others and help them have a smoother kundalini activation.

Gopi Krishna expressed the opinion that kundalini activation is another step in the evolution of mankind and this evolution would bring great blessings to mankind. Therefore, he thought that his book and other publicity would bring great benefits to individuals and to the world.

The quotes shown below in blue italics are from his book, Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man. The book is available as a free PDF .  It is also available for Kindle Readers at Amazon.com.

(My conclusions are at the bottom of this rather long blog post.)

At the age of 34, Gopi Krishna had a forceful awakening of kundalini and described it in his book in Chapter 1 as follows:  The illumination grew brighter and brighter, the roaring louder, I experienced a rocking sensation and then felt myself slipping out of my body, entirely enveloped in a halo of light. It is impossible to describe the experience accurately. I felt the point of consciousness that was myself growing wider, surrounded by waves of light. It grew wider and wider, spreading outward while the body, normally the immediate object of its perception, appeared to have receded into the distance until I became entirely unconscious of it. I was now all consciousness, without any outline, without any idea of a corporeal appendage, without any feeling or sensation coming from the senses, immersed in a sea of light simultaneously conscious and aware of every point, spread out, as it were, in all directions without any barrier or material obstruction. I was no longer myself, or to be more accurate, no longer as I knew myself to be, a small point of awareness confined in a body, but instead was a vast circle of consciousness in which the body was but a point, bathed in light and in a state of exaltation and happiness impossible to describe.

Gopi was not sure if he had hallucinated or if he had succeeded in experiencing what both ancient and modern sages and ascetics had described. That night he was depressed and fearful. And he when he went to bed at night, he slept fitfully. The next morning, he again experienced an inner awakening during meditation, yet he felt uneasy and depressed during the day.

For the rest of his life Gopi Krishna was captivated by this experience and other blissful spiritual experiences, however his life was also punctuated with bouts of depression, weakness, digestive upset, and near death episodes. Gopi Krishna later concluded that his problems were due to not having a knowledgeable teacher to guide him through his kundalini activation.

A quote from Gopi Krishna’s book, Chapter 3 about some possible bad outcomes of kundalini: The awakening may be gradual or sudden, varying in intensity and effect according to the development, constitution, and temperament of different individuals; but in most cases it results in a greater instability of the emotional nature and a greater liability to aberrant mental conditions in the subject, mainly owing to tainted heredity, faulty modes of conduct, or immoderation in any shape or form. Leaving out the extreme cases, which end in madness, this generalization applies to all the categories of men in whom Kundalini is congenitally more or less active, comprising mystics, mediums, men of genius, and those of an exceptionally high intellectual or artistic development only a shade removed from genius. In the case of those in whom the awakening occurs all at once as the result of Yoga or other spiritual practices, the sudden impact of powerful vital currents on the brain and other organs is often attended with grave risk and strange mental conditions, varying from moment to moment, exhibiting in the beginning the abnormal peculiarities of a medium, mystic, genius, and madman all rolled into one.

A Chapter 3 quote stating that his bad kundalini experiences caught him by surprise: Like the vast majority of men interested in Yoga I had no idea that a system designed to develop the latent possibilities and nobler qualities in man could be fraught with such danger at times as to destroy the sanity or crush life out of one by the sheer weight of entirely foreign and uncontrollable conditions of the mind.

A Chapter 3 quote, about his dark depression:  There was no remission in the current rising from the seat of Kundalini. I could feel it leaping across the nerves in my back and even across those lining the front part of my body from the loins upward. But most alarming was the way in which my mind acted and behaved after the incident.  …  What was more startling and terrifying was the fact that the point of consciousness in me was not as invariable nor its condition as stable as it had been before. It expanded and contracted, regulated in a mysterious way by the radiant current that was flowing up from the lowest plexus. This widening and narrowing were accompanied by a host of terrors for me. At times I felt slightly elated with a transient morbid sense of well-being and achievement, forgetting for the time being the abnormal state I was in, but soon after was made acutely conscious of my critical condition and again oppressed by a tormenting cloud of fear. The few brief intervals of mental elation were followed by fits of depression much more prolonged and so acute that I had to muster all my strength and will-power to keep myself from succumbing completely to their influence. I sometimes gagged my mouth to keep from crying and fled from the solitude of my room to the crowded street to prevent myself from doing some desperate act.

A Chapter 3 quote, about worrying for his sanity: It seemed as if the stream of vitality rising into my brain through the backbone connected mysteriously with the region near the base of the spine was playing strange tricks with my imagination. Also I was unable to stop it or to resist its effect on my thoughts. Was I losing my mind? Were these the first indications of mental disorder? This thought constantly drove me to desperation. It was not so much the extremely weird nature of my mental condition as the fear of incipient madness or some grave disorder of the nervous system which filled me with growing dismay.

A Chapter 3 quote, about keeping his kundalini crisis a secret: No one could even suspect what was happening to me inside. I knew that but a thin line now separated me from lunacy, and yet I gave no indication of my condition to anyone. I suffered unbearable torture in silence, weeping internally at the sad turn of events, blaming myself bitterly again and again for having delved into the supernatural without first acquiring a fuller knowledge of the subject and providing against the dangers and risks of the path.

Commentary from Chapters 3 and 4 by Psychologist James Hillman, about kundalini from a Western perspective: From the psychiatric view, was this experience not a psychotic episode? With this question we come to the heart of a Western problem. We have no other than these diagnostic categories for conceiving states of this kind. Alien and altered states of consciousness are the province of the alienist. Fortunately, Gopi Krishna had another set of concepts (Kundalini yoga) which could place within a non-pathological context what was going on. In so far as the awakening of Kundalini is not limited to the Indian sub-continent only, it is conceivable that some of the experiences described in Western psychiatric interviews could also be viewed as the beginnings of enlightenment rather than as the beginnings of insanity. (I think in particular of epilepsy and of Dostoevsky.) The touchstone, again, is the same: the way in which the personality handles the experience, the integration of it. It is to our author’s credit that he avoided psychiatry, and even medicine, when later he was to go through the feverish experience of being burned alive from within. Again, however, from the viewpoint of modern psychiatry such avoidance is typical of a man undergoing paranoid delusions. How close the borderlines are!

A Chapter 5 quote, connecting kundalini to all religions and spiritual systems: All religious observances, all acts of worship, all methods of spiritual development, and all esoteric systems which in one way or another aim to provide a channel of communication with the supersensible, the divine or the occult, or offer an avenue for exploring the mystery of being, are all means, both effective and defective, to procure satisfaction for this deeply seated and universally present urge. The form taken may be of a heinous bloody sacrifice, a gaping self-inflicted wound, the self-caused blindness of the sun-gazer or constant torture to the body on a bed of nails, melodious chanting of hymns, recitation of prayers, prostration in devout worship, the discipline of Yoga, or any other spiritual exercise; the objective invariably is the occult, the mysterious, or the supersensible in divine, demoniac, spiritual or any other form. From the very beginning the urge has expressed itself in an infinite variety of religious beliefs and creeds, superstitions and taboos traceable to the remotest epochs of man’s existence. The impulse to invest the inanimate forces of nature with intelligence and to credit the spirits of the dead with continued existence beyond the grave, characteristic of the primitive mind and the civilized man’s attempt to postulate an almighty Creator and to offer worship to Him, arose from the same source and owe their existence to the presence in the human organism of an extremely complicated and difficult to locate mechanism, which the ancient Indian savants called Kundalini. Whether the aim be religious experience, communication with disincarnate spirits, the vision of reality, liberation of the soul, or the gift of clairvoyance and prediction, the power to influence people or success in worldly undertakings by supernatural means or any other mundane or super-mundane objective, connected with the occult or divine, the desire springs from the same psychosomatic source and is a twig or branch of the same deeply rooted tree. Kundalini is as natural and effective a device for the attainment of a higher state of consciousness and for transcendental experience as the reproductive system is an effective natural contrivance for the perpetuation of the race. The contiguity of the two is a purposely designed arrangement, as the evolutionary tendency and the stage of progress reached by the parent organism can only be transmitted and perpetuated through the seed.

A Chapter 5 quote, about Gopi not finding a suitable teacher/master and therefore he suffered: Those who talked with dignified reserve, looking very wise and deep, ultimately turned out to be as wanting in accurate information about the mysterious power rampant in me as those of a more unassuming nature who unbosomed themselves completely on the very first occasion without in the least pretending to know any more than they really did. And thus in the great country which had given birth to the lofty science of Kundalini thousands of years ago and whose very soil is permeated with its fragrance and whose rich religious lore is full of references to it from cover to cover, I found no one able to help me.  …  Perhaps it was destined also that I should suffer acutely for years because of lack of guidance and my ignorance, to enable me by suffering to make smooth the path of those in whom the sacred fire will burn in the days to come.

A Chapter 7 quote, lamenting the lack of useful kundalini knowledge: The ancient treatises exclusively dealing with the subject of Kundalini Yoga abound in cryptic passages and contain details of fantastic, sometimes even obscene ritual allusions to innumerable deities, extremely difficult and often dangerous mental and physical exercises, incantations and formulas technically known as mantras; bodily postures called asanas, and detailed instructions for the control and regulation of breath, all couched in a language difficult to understand, with a mass of mythical verbiage which instead of attracting is likely to repel the modern student. Truly speaking, no illustrative material is available either in the modern or ancient expositions to convey lucidly what the objective reality of the methods advocated is and what mental and organic changes one may expect at the end.  …   In India no other topic has such a mass of literature woven around it as Yoga and the supernatural, and yet in no book on the subject is a penetrating light thrown on Kundalini, nor has any expert provided more information than is furnished in the ancient works. The result is that except for perhaps a few almost inaccessible masters, as scarce now as the alchemists of yore, there is no one in the whole of India, the home of the science, to whom one can look for authoritative knowledge of the subject.

A Chapter 8 quote, about Gopi thinking that there were very few masters of kundalini: Accomplished masters of Kundalini Yoga, always extremely rare, are almost non-existent now, and the cases of a spontaneous type, where the awakening occurs suddenly at some period in life, more often than not end in mental disorder, which makes a coherent narration of the experience impossible. Under the circumstances it is no wonder that a detailed account of this strange experience is not available anywhere.

A Chapter 8 quote, about Gopi thinking that mental illness could be due to kundalini: Among the inmates of mental hospitals there are often some who owe their malady to a prematurely active or morbidly functioning Kundalini.

A Chapter 9 quote, about saints not having greater longevity: Even after making full allowance for the miracles performed by them, the life stories of known saints, mystics, and prophets make it undeniably clear that the inviolable biological laws were almost as effective in their case as they are in the case of other human beings, and that they were as prone to hunger, thirst, and fatigue and as easy a prey to disease, senescence, and death as the other ordinary men of their time. Not one of them survived for a remarkably longer span of time than that normally allotted to mortals, say a few dozen years, to demonstrate conclusively the victory of spirit over flesh, nor did any of them completely conquer hunger, thirst and sleep or radically alter the predisposition of the body to age, disease, and decay.

A Chapter 9 quote, about people with psychic abilities often suffering from maladies: It has been observed that at the time of psychic manifestations or physical phenomena in mystics or mediums, signs of faintness, partial or complete insensibility to surroundings, convulsive movements, and other symptoms of organic disturbance are frequently present.

A Chapter 9 quote, about the importance of physical health and strength: The ancient authorities on Yoga, though aware of the important role played by the physical organism in developing supersensory channels of cognition and fully conversant with the methods for diverting its energies in this direction, were far more interested in the spiritual than in the physical side of the science, attached little significance to the biological changes occurring in the flesh as compared to the resulting momentous developments in the realm of mind. The general level of knowledge in those days and the tendencies of the time also precluded the possibility of such an investigation. Even the advocates of Kundalini Yoga, starting with the discipline and purification of internal organs, have failed to give that status to the corporeal frame as the sole channel for success in Yoga, leading to transcendence, as it deserved.

From the very nature of the exercises and the discipline enjoined, it should, however, be obvious even to the least informed that the pivot round which the whole system revolved was the living organism and it was to bring it to the required degree of fitness that the initiates devoted precious years of their lives to the acquirement of proficiency in maintaining difficult postures, in the art of cleaning the colon, the stomach, the nasal passages and the throat, in holding the breath almost to the point of asphyxiation, and in other extremely hard, even dangerous, practices.

From commentary of Chapters 7, 8, & 9 by Psychologist James Hillman, about secrecy of experience:  Our author was strongly moved not to tell anyone of what he was going through, not even his wife. Again, this rigid secrecy is typical of one in the throes of a paranoid delusion. To open the secret is in a sense what we call ‘reality testing’. If it were laughed at, argued away, diagnosed as sick, a whole world would collapse. But more, there is something in the nature of mystical experiences that demands secrecy, as if the archetype behind the events which are in process needs a certain tension in order for it to be fulfilled.

From Chapter 11, about sleep:  I have said a good deal about the working of my mental equipment during waking hours without making any mention about its condition during sleep. The first time I became aware of an alteration in my dream consciousness was during the night in February 1938 when I passed the crisis, tasting sleep after several weeks of insomnia accompanied by a maddening mental condition. I fell asleep that night wrapped in a mantle of light perceptible in the dreams also. From that day extraordinarily vivid dreams became habitual with me. The bright lustre in my head, always present during wakefulness, continued undiminished during sleep; if anything, more clearly apparent and more active during the night than during the day. The moment I rested my head on the pillow and closed my eyes to invite sleep, the first object to draw my attention was the cranial glow, clearly distinguishable in darkness, not stationary and steady but spreading out and narrowing down like a whirlpool or swirling water in the sun. In the beginning and for many months it appeared as if a piston, working in the spinal tube at the bottom, were throwing up stream after stream of a very lustrous fluid, impalpable but distinctly visible, with such force that I actually felt my whole body shaking with the impact of the current to such an extent as made the bed creak at times.

A quote from Chapter 12, about celibacy and strong will:  When accidentally the centre begins to function prematurely, before the nerve connections and links have been fully established and the delicate brain cells habituated to the flow of the powerful current, the result is likely to be disastrous. The delicate tissues of the body in that case are likely to be damaged irreparably, causing strange maladies, insanity, or death. In a grave emergency of this kind the only way open to nature to avoid a catastrophe is to use liberally the ambrosia contained in the human seed and to rush it in a sublimated form to the brain, the nervous network, and the main organs in order to provide the injured and dying cells with the most powerful restorative and food available in the body to save life.  …  It is for this reason that the ancient teachers of Kundalini Yoga, taught by an experience extending for thousands of years, insisted on an exceptionally robust and hardy constitution, mastery over appetites and desires, voluntarily acquired control over vital functions and organs, and, above all, the possession of an inflexible will as the essentially needed qualifications in those offering themselves for the supreme undertaking of rousing the Shakti. An excellent condition of both body and mind, difficult to achieve in the unfavourable environment of modern civilization, is absolutely necessary in an enterprise of this nature to prevent the brain from giving way completely under the unbearable strain. It is not surprising, therefore, that any one who set himself determinedly to the hazardous task of awakening Kundalini before her time was acclaimed a Vira, meaning a hero, and the practice itself designated as Vira Sadhana, or heroic undertaking, even by fearless ascetics themselves, indifferent to physical torture and death.

A quote from Commentary on Chapters 12 & 13 by Psychologist James Hillman, about why some of Gopi’s experiences do not match traditional kundalini descriptions: As our author says, in the standard works of Kundalini Yoga and Hatha Yoga, and Chinese Yoga as well, there are chakras, distinct centres of experience located in the body, each with an elaborate symbolism of colour, number, animal, God, element, and body organ or system. Gopi Krishna did not have these experiences, although he explains how it might be possible for one to have viewed the circles of light as petaled chakras. For him there were no lotuses. We are reminded of his suffering. However, the organic experiences he sensed do correspond with the emphasis in these yogic systems upon physiological reality and upon the changes in vital centres and organs expected once the Kundalini is aroused and the light or breath is in circulation.

A quote from Chapter 14, about lamenting that physicians don’t know about kundalini:  In mentioning apparently minor details I am influenced by the consideration that I should not omit any facts. Transformation of personality is fraught with risks, needing attention to every phase of conduct and careful regulation of activity. If all I have to relate was known but a few centuries earlier, the knowledge properly systematized and applied might have helped physicians to save many persons from the clutches of insanity.

A quote from Chapter 14, about being very weak and eating meat to regain his strength: A sudden idea darted across my now almost delirious mind, and calling my wife to my side, in a weak voice I asked her to serve me nourishment every two hours that day, beginning early, each serving to include in addition to milk a few ounces of well-cooked, easy-to-digest meat.

A quote from Chapter 15, getting healthier and leading a normal life:  We travelled to Srinagar in the beginning of April 1944. Owing to the joint efforts of my wife and her father and the pains taken by them to make every kind of provision for the two-day hilly journey, I reached Srinagar in my then extremely weak condition without mishap. There, surrounded by relatives and friends and nursed with assiduous care by my wife and daughter, I made rapid progress, gaining enough strength in a few months to resume my duties in the office. In the course of a year I grew hardy and strong, able to bear strain and fatigue, exertion and pressure, but I could not overcome the susceptibility of my system to digestive disorders in the event of unusual delay or irregularity in diet. I resumed my old habit of two meals a day, with a cup of milk and a slice of bread in the mornings and afternoons. By the end of the year my appetite became normal and the amount of food moderate, with a small measure of meat as a necessary ingredient. The lustrous appearance of external objects as well as of thought forms and the brilliance of dream images was intensified during the worst period of the last disorder and grew in brightness to such an extent that when gazing at a beautiful sunlit landscape I always felt as if I were looking at a heavenly scene transported to the earth from a distant elysium, illuminated by dancing beams of molten silver. This astounding feature of my consciousness, purely subjective of course, never exhibited any alteration, save that it gained in transparency, brilliance, and penetrative power with the passage of time and continues to clothe me and all I perceive in inexpressible lustre today. Years passed without bringing any new development in me to the surface. Whatever was happening was transpiring within, beyond my knowledge and away from the reach of my eyes. Failing to notice any other change in me except for the sea of lustre in which I lived, and sternly warned by the last awful episode to desist from invoking the supernatural again, I occupied myself fully with the world and its affairs in an attempt to lead a normal life.

A quote from Chapter 17, about kundalini experience leading to “God intoxication” :  I had heard stories of men who, intoxicated with joy to the point of madness on their first glimpse of the supersensory state of existence after the awakening, had been so entirely carried away from earthly life that they found it impossible to come down to the normal level of consciousness in order to attend to the needs of the body; their spirits in unbroken ecstatic contemplation of the fascinating super-sensual realm from the beginning to the end had departed the starved body without even once descending back to earth.

A quote from Chapter 17 acknowledging the possibility of grandiose delusion and over-confidence: Without losing a single day I journeyed to Srinagar by air, relinquishing forever the thought of roaming the earth in the traditional way to effect the regeneration of mankind, a fantasy in my case born from the desire for power, the yearning for mental conquest, which often accompanies the activity of Kundalini in the intellectual centre, causing a slightly intoxicated condition of the brain too subtle to be noticed by the subject himself or by his uninformed companions, however erudite and intelligent they may be.

A quote from Chapter 18, people are mostly normal despite kundalini’s power:  IN the course of time I came more and more towards the normal, while retaining the heightened state of consciousness inviolate, and descending mentally from a state of intoxication to one of sobriety. I became more keenly conscious of the fact that though my psycho-physiological equipment had now attained a condition that made it possible for me on occasions to transcend the boundary rigidly confining the mental activity of my fellow beings, I was essentially in no way different from or superior to them. Physically I was what I had been before, as susceptible to disease, decay, and age, as liable to accident and calamity, as prone to hunger and thirst as I always had been, a normal man in every other way save the alteration in the mental sphere, which by bringing me on occasions nearer to sober metaphysical realities, as astounding and remote from our ordinary conceptions as light is from darkness, had a curbing effect upon the frivolous and vain tendencies of my mind. I had in no way overcome the biological limitations of my body, in no manner exceeded the measure of its endurance and physical capacity, or attained any miraculous powers to defy the laws of nature. On the other hand, my system had grown more delicate.

A quote from Chapter 18, on his near death experiences:  The struggle lasted for nearly seven years. Only the heroism of my wife saved my life. She sold her ornaments and denied herself to the limit to provide the indispensable articles of food needed for my use. I was utterly powerless to prevent her from doing so and had to continue as an impotent witness to her sacrifice. She was the only person who knew all about my condition, and, without in the least understanding the real significance of the development, tortured herself to save me from the pain of violent bodily disorders which invariably followed in the wake of a marked irregularity or deficiency in diet. On no less than three occasions during this period I came back from the jaws of death, not because of any caprice of the mighty energy now inhabiting my body, or owing to any deliberate omission on my part, but because of grinding poverty, lack of amenities, insufficient and unsuitable diet, which in spite of the heroism of my wife and the sacrifice of my two young sons, who often insisted on surrendering a part of their own share to me, could not be what it should have been because of the utter inadequacy of our finances. On such occasions, lying in a state of utter exhaustion on the sick bed, I wondered at the stupendous mystery of fate which allowed one destined to reveal a mighty secret to be distressed and tortured for the lack of a few coins which flowed in streams on every side and were scattered right and left by many on trifles every day. But even in the most gloomy conditions an unshakable conviction always persisted in my mind like a solitary star, gleaming faintly in an otherwise darkly threatening sky, that I would somehow survive the crisis and live to place in the hands of mankind the great secret on which depended the future safety of the race. It was mainly because of this inward strength, which no external source could infuse in me, that I was able to put up a strong resistance even in the most desperate situations with no possibility of help from any earthly source. The evil effects of these serious breakdowns in health, the unavoidable result of destitution, lasted for several months each time and once for nearly two years. During such periods until the body regained the depleted store of vital energy, I lost the sublime moods and for part of the time even suffered from disquieting mental symptoms. But there was no diminution in the vital current or in the radiant halo around the head even in the weakest conditions.

A quote from Chapter 19, Gopi confidently expected the world to change from his knowledge of kundalini: One may ask how all that I can say will have such an effect on the world as to succeed in creating the mental climate that will remove the threat of wars, usher in an era favourable to the establishment of a universal religion, a new world order and a one-world government, with the demolition of racial and colour barriers and the introduction of other much-needed reforms conducive to the unhindered progress and uninterrupted happiness of mankind. The answer is simple, so simple perhaps that many may find it hard to reconcile its apparently ordinary character with the colossal nature of the transformation it is expected to bring about. All the changes I have mentioned will be brought about by the simple device of demonstrating empirically the alteration wrought in the human organism by a voluntarily awakened Kundalini. In every successful experiment the results would be so positive as to leave absolutely no room for doubt and so astounding as to demand immediate revision of some of the most firmly established scientific theories and concepts of today, leading inevitably to the transference of the world’s attention from purely materialistic objectives and projects to spiritual and psychical problems and pursuits.


Gopi felt that many people suffering from psychosis were having a malfunctioning of their kundalini center and this opinion is similar to the feeling of some psychologists who speak of “spiritual emergencies”. In a previous post, I stated that a kundalini crisis should be viewed as mental illness and that the similarity between a kundalini crisis and psychosis is scary for those who think they are on the way to enlightenment via a kundalini crisis.

After Gopi Krishna had his first forceful awakening of kundalini, he alternated between experiences of elation and depression. This seems reminiscent of Bipolar Disorder. His spiritual experiences may have been due to the Bipolar mania that was brought on and exasperated by his meditation. My blog post on “TM and flipping out”  has a quote from a former TM meditator who had Bipolar mania and who cautioned that feelings of becoming enlightened can quickly lead to the chaos of mania.

Although Gopi Krishna was a householder, family man, and employed, he also had some followers during his kundalini crisis. Having followers reinforces the grandiose delusions of mania. Gopi alluded to some of his own grandiose delusions in the second quote shown above from Chapter 17. I wrote about the effects of having followers in the Guru Maniacs blog post.

Gopi’s kundalini crisis was a secret that was kept from most people. For those in whom he confided, he learned to tell his kundalini story in a way that didn’t freak them out. He avoided psychiatry because he knew psychiatry would not accept his experiences as valid. In my post on Guru Maniacs , I speculated that Guru Maniacs are able to adapt to their mania over a period of time. They learn to hide grandiose delusions while benefiting from the increased energy and confidence that comes from mania.

I wrote that highly intellectual people are statistically more prone to mania than average people in this blog post. Guru Maniacs use their intellectual abilities to impress followers. Gopi’s intellectual abilities are apparent in his writing. His vocabulary was vast. Most of his sentences were long and complex. Although his writing was not easy or fast to read, his meaning could be deciphered. Gopi used his intellectual powers to persuade people to accept that kundalini theory is true.

Like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Gopi Krishna believed that spiritual experiences depend on physiology. Gopi wrote that it was important for seekers to be healthy and strong. Gopi felt that his past experience and his strength developed as a wrestler helped him. I agree that all experiences depend on physiology, but I do not believe in kundalini theory. I suspect that future physiological theories will explain the mania of so-called kundalini crises better than kundalini theory. In the first Chapter 9 quote included above, Gopi seems surprised that saints do not have greater longevity and better health.

I suspect that nutritional deficiencies could play a significant role in kundalini crises. Spiritual aspirants often try bizarre diets in an attempt to reach enlightenment faster. Prior to my own kundalini crisis, I had created nutritional deficiencies through periodic fasting and a mostly raw food diet. Diet and nutrition played a crucial part in Gopi Krishna’s kundalini crisis. He wrote that he sometimes didn’t feel like eating and that he had digestive upsets. After being on the brink of death, he changed his diet and ate tremendous quantities of food. He mentioned that meat was an essential part of regaining his health.

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High intelligence, mania, and gurus

All highly intelligent people do not have experiences of mania, but mania is associated statistically to high intelligence and to high creativity.

There are positive characteristics of mania that could include increased confidence, energy, creativity, and intelligence.  These positive characteristics could be exhibited in geniuses and gurus due to mania. However, grandiose delusions and poor decision-making skill are huge negative aspects of mania.

The following links comment on the association of intelligence and creativity to mania:

“All of the characteristic “symptoms” that we see in mania, including seemingly high spirits, heightened sexual appetite, high arousal levels, high energy levels, sweating, pacing, sleeplessness and, at its severest, when the train has run off the rails, hallucinations, delusions of grandeur, suspiciousness, aggression and all sorts of wild, self-defeating plans and schemes, make perfect sense when viewed from the perspective that a powerful need has supercharged a brain inclined to generate thoughts.”   https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/rethinking-mental-health/201206/intelligence-creativity-and-mania

Mood disorders seem be the price of high intelligence and creativity. The author laments that the frequent use of prescribed drugs may be inhibiting benefits to society that might otherwise come from people who have mental illness.  https://wakeup-world.com/2016/08/15/are-mood-disorders-bipolar-price-we-pay-high-intelligence-creativity-scientists-say-yes/

“Research has indicated that bipolar disorder may be up to four times more common in young people who were straight-A students.” https://psychcentral.com/lib/intelligence-linked-to-bipolar-disorder/

 An article that contains anecdotal evidence that intelligence is higher during manic episodes. http://www.bphope.com/blog/is-bipolar-disorder-correlated-with-high-intelligence/

High intelligence and Guru Maniacs

The main symptoms of mania that I often cite are grandiose delusions, over-confidence, and abundant energy. These symptoms fit a “mad scientist” and a “crazy artist”. These symptoms also describe many people having a kundalini crisis and the spiritual gurus that I call Guru Maniacs.

It is no wonder that Guru Maniacs happen to be highly intelligent. They are delusional, but they are very capable of putting on an intellectual extravaganza to attract followers.

Guru maniacs are aware of their intellectual brilliance and creativity, but they are not able to recognize their own delusions and their over-confidence. They wholeheartedly trust that their understanding and experiences are valid.

Because Guru Maniacs are often highly intelligent and highly articulate, they are able to attract followers who don’t recognize grandiose delusions, over-confidence, and dubious intellectual assertions.

There is a mountain’s worth of intellectual spirituality that has accumulated over the centuries. Spiritual knowledge is abstract and unprovable.

There is no proof that a state of enlightenment exists. There is no proof that the spiritual explanations of deep expansive experiences are correct.

The brilliant analysis of gurus has enthralled the intellects of many people, but I think it is like a huge, elaborate building with the weakest of foundations. What good is magnificent elocution if there is no proof of the pudding in eating?!

Despite millions of aspiring meditators and yogis in our modern scientific age, there don’t seem to be any (or hardly any) people who have reached the state of enlightenment.

The Transcendental Meditation movement asserted that enlightenment was based on a physiological state; the TM movement prided itself on conducting research that would help to verify the state of enlightenment (and the benefits of TM), but in my opinion over 50 years of research has failed to verify a state of enlightenment.


High intelligence is not a safeguard to avoid the manic pitfall of grandiose delusions. Actually, people of high intelligence are more prone to mania than people of average intelligence.

Humans have an infinite ability to fool themselves. I have fooled myself countless times. Highly intelligent people fool themselves too.

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Borrowing credibility

When trying to establish credibility, people often try to establish links with other credible people and things.

Psychedelics borrow credibility from yogic meditation
Both psychedelics and meditation can provide experiences of mental insights, great creativity, and ecstasy. A plurality of society thinks that meditation provides benefits without the possible harmful effects that sometimes come from psychedelics (although I don’t agree). Psychedelic studies and psychedelic use gain credibility by providing some of the same benefits as meditation that supposedly take years of disciplined practice.

Rebuttal: Meditation has a risk of harming people, especially the people who are gung-ho about reaching enlightenment. Psychedelics also have a risk of causing harm. Psychedelic proponents don’t gain much by borrowing credibility from yogic meditations.

The theory of spiritual emergency borrows credibility from kundalini crises and yogic tradition
Some commenters on psychotic illnesses think that manic psychoses are actually indications of proximity to enlightenment. The similarity between psychotic mania and some kundalini awakenings seemingly make manic psychoses seem acceptable and desirable to some people.

Rebuttal: Some people from yogic traditions expect that seekers will have a kundalini crisis during the early stages of enlightenment, but there is no proof that a state of enlightenment exists (despite millions of meditators existing in the modern scientific age). The similarities between a kundalini crisis and psychotic mania does not enhance the credibility of spiritual emergencies; rather it brings down the credibility of yogic meditation.

 Spiritual paths borrow credibility from intelligent spokespeople
Since very intelligent and articulate people believe in spiritual paths and proselytize for them, the spiritual path gains credibility. Some intellectuals wholeheartedly believe in spiritual paths and raise their own self-esteem by helping to sell a spiritual path. Intelligent people create beautiful descriptions and logical, complicated arguments for spiritual paths.

Rebuttal: Equally intelligent people are skeptics of spiritual paths. Intelligence doesn’t necessarily keep people from making mistakes. Some intelligent people change their minds. Some intelligent people bounce back and forth on different sides of an issue.

Some people advocate an intellectual pursuit to enlightenment. An enormous quantity of spiritual discourse has accumulated over time which appears to be blather to most people but not to intellectuals who study it. Some people recommend koans and other mental techniques to help the mind to see past barriers. Intellectuals who pursue spiritual matters often say that “I didn’t fully understand it before, but now I get it”, but more future days will likely come with the realization that “I didn’t really understand it before, but now I do.”

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a master at borrowing credibility
Here are some things that Maharishi used to establish credibility.

  • Prominently stating that TM came from the Shankaracharya tradition in India.
  • Giving himself the title of Maharishi to distinguish himself from ordinary folk.
  • Exhibiting knowledge of the Vedic tradition and the yogic tradition.
  • Touting scientific research that indicated benefits from TM.
  • Using scientists, doctors, and educators who vouched for TM.
  • Using celebrities and community leaders who vouched for TM.
  • Using government proclamations that seemed to vouch for TM.
  • Maharishi displayed humility by showing reverence to Guru Dev and tradition.
  • Maharishi had the status of a brahmachari which fit the persona he was portraying.
  • Maharishi’s outer appearance of long hair, beard, and dhoti fit the persona.
  • Maharishi touted TM news coverage in newspapers, magazines, and television.
  • Maharishi demonstrated mastery of diverse subjects.
  • Maharishi displayed a likable personality.

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Comparing a kundalini crisis to the religious experience of epileptics

Scholars have noted that epileptics often have a heightened religiosity. The ancient Greeks described epilepsy as a “divine disease, a visitation from the gods”.

The scientific study of epilepsy-related religious experiences has been marked by differences of opinions and facts. Scientific study is complicated in that religious experiences could occur during a seizure (ictal), after a seizure (postictal), or between seizures (chronic interictal and acute interictal).

Epilepsy-related experiences could include hallucinations, depersonalization, derealization, dreamy states, out-of-body experience, ecstasy, and insight into life’s unity/harmony. These experiences are particularly likely to engender religious interpretation and are also the same kind of experiences that people have in the manic episodes of a kundalini crisis.

The following 3 quotes in red font are from an article at Science Direct entitled “Spirituality and Religion in Epilepsy” by Orrin Devinsky and George Lai. The article is available at https://www.epilepsybehavior.com/article/S1525-5050(07)00436-2/fulltext

“Differentiating genius from pathology may be most difficult regarding religious ideation and experience. Who is touched by madness, who by spirits, and who by both?”

“Similarly we can diagnose a psychotic disorder if there are nonreligious delusional ideas and characteristic hallucinations and negative symptoms. But how can we distinguish the physiology or validity of a religious experience in someone with epilepsy or psychosis from that of a religious sage? We can’t.”

“The nature of religious experiences lays open the question as to how many other religious figures could have had epilepsy. For example, Moses’ experience was one in which he saw a burning bush unconsumed by the fire and heard God’s voice. A medical explanation might attribute his experience to a temporal lobe ecstatic seizure with visual and auditory hallucinations.”

The following 3 quotes in blue font are from the Neural Substrates of Religious Experience by Jeffrey L. Saver, M.D. and John Rabin, M.D. The PDF is available at http://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.1176/jnp.9.3.498

“Patients who have culturally acquired explanatory systems of a religious character naturally tend to interpret any ictal experience as possessing religious significance. Studies have demonstrated that experiences that are personal, important, negative, and medical, like most seizures, are particularly likely to be interpreted in a religious framework.

“Deep similarities are readily apparent between these intellectual auras and alterations in the experience of reality that are a common feature of intense, nonepileptic religious experience.”

Only a small percentage of epileptics (in the neighborhood of 4%) have epilepsy-related religious experience. However, some scholars have postulated that these relatively-rare religious experiences throughout history have had major impacts on the world.

“A substantial number of founders of major religions, prophets, and leading religious figures have been documented as having or suggested to have epilepsy (Table 1).”

 Here is the list from the article’s Table 1: Saint Paul, Father of Catholic Church; Margery Kempe, 14th century Christian mystic; Joan of Arc, French saint; St. Catherine of Genoa, Christian mystic; St. Teresa of Avila, Catholic saint; St. Catherine dei Ricci, Catholic saint; Emanuel Swedenborg, founder of New Jerusalem Church; Ann Lee, founder of the Shaker movement; founder of Mormonism; Fyodor Mikhailovitch Dostoievsky, Russian novelist; Hieronymous Jaegen, German mystic; Dr. Z (Arthur Thomas Myers), prominent in Society for Psychical Research; Vincent Van Gogh, hyper-religious artist; St. Therese of Lisieux, Catholic saint; and the prophet that can’t be disparaged by anyone without danger of retribution.

Here is a case report of “Hyperreligiosity in a Patient with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy” that is available at https://www.hindawi.com/journals/crinm/2015/235856/

On examination, he was uncooperative. He was constantly making religious remarks, saying “God is with me and I do not need doctors or medications.” He would interpret every question asked to him as questioning his faith and at times attempted to convert doctors and staff to Islam. He believed everyone around him was preventing him from obtaining salvation. His family stated that he had a generalized tonic-clonic seizure two days prior to being hospitalized and after the generalized seizure he started having increasing religious thoughts. The wife called an ambulance because she was frightened by his excessive religious speech.


 There are physiological correlates to all religious experiences and peak experiences. I propose that a kundalini crisis and epilepsy-related religious experience have some of the same physiological parameters.

Just as Guru Maniacs have impacted many people, it is postulated that some epileptics with religious fervor have had major impacts on the world. If a charismatic person has mania or religious fervor, LOOK OUT WORLD!!!

A kundalini crisis brings danger to life. The benefits in a kundalini crisis of increased energy and confidence do not out-weigh the harm of delusions, emotionality, and poor decision-making. The similarities of a kundalini crisis and epilepsy-related religious experience are scary.

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Communications from God

When someone claims that God spoke to him or her, listeners can have polar opposite reactions. Some will think that the person is seriously deluded, while others will think that the person is a highly evolved spiritual person who can help others find God.

During my kundalini crisis, I felt that many mysteries of life were unveiled to me. My thoughts during my kundalini crisis were so powerful and intense that I had no doubt (at that time) about the truth of my realizations. Although I never heard God’s booming voice during my kundalini crisis, I felt that there were messages from God. Now that 27 years have passed since my kundalini crisis, I believe that I was severely deluded during my kundalini crisis.

Based on my experience, I propose and extrapolate that others who think that God has spoken to them have also been having grandiose delusions. This was the gist of my post on Guru Maniacs.

Some spiritual seekers are inclined to accept what a guru says if the guru says the message came from God.

People are attracted to Guru Maniacs who claim messages from God because:

  • people are captivated by the charisma and eloquence of a Guru Maniac
  • the Guru Maniac has an ability to articulate God’s message in a way to enhance his own stature
  • the Guru Maniac wholeheartedly believes that God spoke to them and even the Guru Maniac doesn’t know that he himself is deluded
  • the Guru Maniac is putting on a show when he speaks and the Guru Maniac is capable of showing or hiding different aspects of his personality
  • followers of Guru Maniacs have peak experiences, kriyas, and mystical experiences which convince them that the Guru Maniac knows what he is doing.

In 1959, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi gave a talk about his conversation with Mother Divine. The transcript of this talk is at http://www.maharishiphotos.com/divine.html and also at http://soos.me/vedic-nectar/maharishis-conversation-with-mother-divine-1959/ .

After the Science of Creative Intelligence came out in 1972, the public relation aspects of the TM movement did not mention God or deities, but the inner circle of the movement and hard-core seekers were aware of the religious and devotional aspects of the TM practice.

People who were very active in the TM movement for decades seemingly bought into Maharishi’s ability to hear from God and also hoped to have their own experiences of God.

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TM shenanigans

The Merriam-Webster provides these definitions of shenanigans: 1 : a devious trick used especially for an underhand purpose. 2a : tricky or questionable practices or conduct.

There are many more Transcendental Meditation shenanigans than the ones mentioned below. These are the shenanigans that quickly come to my mind.

  • The TM movement used to say that it took 5-8 years to reach CC and that a person would know that they were in CC just as anyone knows they are in the waking state of consciousness. This statement enticed people to meditate regularly and seemed to back up the boast that TM was the best meditation technique.
  • The TM movement said that the practice of rounding would make growth to CC faster although there is no proof that anyone has ever reached CC.
  • TM teachers were encouraged to sacrifice their jobs and family to teach TM full time for the sake of the world. Consequently, many TM teachers remained financially poor, and many did not have normal family lives.
  • The TM movement told TM-Sidhas to move to Fairfield, Iowa to do group program and then their future well-being would be taken care. There was no financial safe-guard.
  • If TM meditators see other gurus, they often are ostracized from the TM movement. Fear of being ostracized kept some on the straight and narrow TM path.
  • The TM organization has a non-religious message for the general public, but another message for the inner circle and for hard-core seekers. The TM movement gradually entices some TM meditators to go down the TM rabbit hole that borrows much from Hinduism, is cult-like, and is often hard to escape from.
  • The cost of TM instruction has gone up and down over the years. Many people (both inside and outside of the TM movement) think that the cost is exorbitant now and that it should be lower.
  • The TM organization has abruptly made changes in the structure of TM centers over the years that were insensitive to the needs of TM teachers.
  • The TM movement gave special treatment to celebrities and large donors. The movement sometimes withdrew special treatment as soon as the money stopped flowing from donors.
  • Fancy titles to stroke egos have been given to some people who worked full-time in the TM movement (e.g. Governor, Executive Governor, Governor General, Raja). The title of “His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi” fits into the modus operandi of using titles to create an impression of greatness and credibility.

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5 to 8 year plan to CC

From a blog post at https://tmfree.blogspot.be/2009/12/transcendental-meditation-and-tm-sidhis.html dated December 24, 2009:

About 1965, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi promised that “TM, 15-20 minutes twice a day, will make you enlightened in 5 to 8 years.” Yet, around 1975, he introduced the TM-Sidhis program, whose purpose was to speed us on the road to enlightenment. Well, it’s now been over 30 years since people started practicing the TM-Sidhis, but I still haven’t heard of many people getting enlightened.

Why did Maharishi state that meditators would reach Cosmic Consciousness (CC) in 5 to 8 years? One or more of the following reasons may apply:

  • At the time, Maharishi thought that this statement was true.
  • Maharishi knew the statement was not true, but said it in order to attract more people to TM and to keep them regular in TM. The specific prediction of 5 to 8 years created the impression that Maharishi was enlightened and that he knew how to help others become enlightened.
  • Maharishi thought himself to be enlightened and that he could help others to become enlightened. He visualized the stir he would create bringing lots of enlightened TMers to a Kumbha Mela celebration.
  • Maharishi had grandiose ideas of what he could do, and he longed for the acclaim he would receive from being responsible for the enlightenment of individuals, world peace, and promulgating Vedic ideas.

Here’s another excerpt from an internet forum at https://www.mail-archive.com/fairfieldlife@yahoogroups.com/msg142264.html dated October 24, 2008:

Humbolt-Question: “Um, Maharishi you say within 5 to 8 years, one that practices TM regularly would become Cosmically Conscious…Ah, I don’t know if that’s,…ah specific time”.

 Answer by MMY on mp3:  “That has been the experience of hundreds of people around the world…………(laughter) that has been the experience, the experience, even though it’s not, it’s not principally right to allot some fixed time for Cosmic Consciousness. Principally it’s not right, but, that has been the, the common experience around the World.”

 Fast forward to Fuiggi, Italy auditorium, MMY “You could meditate a million years and not reach CC unless you come to these courses”!  Heard by myself.

 And later Charlie Lutes recounting some stories of MMY, he asks MMY, “MMY some people are thinking they’re going to reach TM in 5-to-8 years”,(paraphrased).

 Answer according to Charlie-“Let them think that, at least they will meditate that long”.

 Hey, for what it’s worth…:-) I still enjoy TM regularly, but I must confess after 40 years I’m still no where close, Ha, Ha!


The concept of enlightenment is the greatest spiritual incentive of all time. After hearing about the concept of enlightenment and after experiencing some altered states of consciousness, some people are willing to go to the ends of the earth to reach enlightenment.

The 5 to 8 year plan helped to keep me and others hooked into the TM movement for years. I and others continued to devote our lives for enlightenment long after completing 8 years. Our wishful thinking that a state of enlightenment existed around the corner kept us hooked.

At other places on this blog, I have explained some of the reasons that I no longer believe that a state of enlightenment exists.

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Dye the cloth

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi taught that the benefits of practicing Transcendental Meditation accumulated over time. The analogy to clarify this accumulation was called “dye the cloth”. Here is a link that has a transcript and video of a 1972 talk by Maharishi in Houston, Texas in which he uses the “dye the cloth” analogy.

Briefly described, in order to dye a white cloth to be yellow the cloth is dipped into a vat of yellow dye and then hung out in the sun which fades the cloth. Then the cloth is dipped into the dye again and put into the sun again but this time the cloth doesn’t fade quite as much. By repeating this process numerous times, finally the cloth becomes colorfast.

The TM technique was like infusing Pure Consciousness into the mind, and activity was fading most but not all of that infusion. Through regular practice, the mind would eventually hold onto Pure Consciousness even while in activity.

The accumulation of benefits was supposed to lead to enlightenment. This was a main principle of the TM movement and helped to keep me and others practicing TM regularly twice a day.

However, this analogy and description did not fit my experience. I did benefit from each meditation in relaxation, energy, and alertness, but the benefit did not accumulate over the months and years. I say this in retrospect; when I was a TM teacher, I believed that I and others were accumulating benefits even when it was not apparent.

Contrary to the theory that benefits gradually accumulate, some traditions and people state that there can be a dark night of soul before enlightenment. Thus, if a seeker feels great or if a seeker feels terrible, they can fool themselves into thinking that they are on the verge of enlightenment.

Another way to describe the TM benefit was through releasing physical stresses in the body. Maharishi taught that we accumulated stresses in our physiology and that thoughts in meditation were an indication that stress had been released. One would be enlightened after all stresses had been released.

Another way to describe the accumulation of benefit involves the awakening of the kundalini energy center. I don’t know how often that Maharishi spoke about this, but here is a link to a 1970 transcript. I and other TM teachers may not have directly heard Maharishi speak about kundalini, but we were aware of this theory by talking with each other. Kundalini energy was supposed to move up the spine and activate parts of the body. Enlightenment was the result of kundalini energy activating energy centers in the head. To facilitate the upward rise of kundalini energy, I and others would meditate with an upright spine while sitting cross-legged or in full lotus.


These theories enticed me and others to meditate regularly and to go on courses in order to speed our growth to enlightenment. Although there was an immediate benefit from practicing TM, I did not experience an accumulation of benefit over the years of practicing TM.

I doubt that a state of enlightenment exists. I overdid meditation and related spiritual activities; this led to my kundalini crisis/mental health problem. I suspect that many other meditators and religious people have overdone their spiritual pursuits.

I and others have gone on a wild goose chase in which we think and hope that we are either enlightened or we are close to enlightenment.

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