The Three Maharishis

by Deepak Chopra: I last sat with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi more than 10 years ago. He left an indelible impression, as he did on everyone. His extraordinary qualities are known to the world. Without him, it’s fair to say, the West would not have learned to meditate.

During the Cold War era a reporter once challenged him by saying, “If anything is possible, as you claim, can you go to the Soviet Union tomorrow with your message?” Without hesitation, Maharishi calmly replied, “I could if I wanted to”. Eventually he did want to, and meditation arrived in Moscow several years before the Berlin Wall fell.

In his belief that world peace depended entirely on rising consciousness, Maharishi was unshakable. The Bhagavad Gita declares that there are no outward signs of enlightenment.

The point is underscored in many Indian fables and scriptures, which often take the form of a high-caste worthy snubbing an untouchable, only to find that the untouchable was actually a god in disguise. For his part, Maharishi had three guises, and perhaps in the end they were also disguises. He was an Indian, a guru and a personality.

His personality was highly quixotic. Over the 50 years of his public life, Maharishi never lost his charm and lovability. He had these qualities to such an extent that westerners took him to be a perfect example of how enlightenment looks – kind, sociable, all-accepting, and light-hearted – when that is far from the case.

His presence was more mysterious than good humour can account for: you could feel it before entering a room. But if you were around him long enough, the older Maharishi in particular could be nettlesome and self-centred; he could get angry and dismissive. He was quick to assert his authority and yet could turn disarmingly child-like in the blink of an eye.

The Maharishi, who was an Indian, felt most comfortable around other Indians with whom he chatted about familiar things in Hindi. He adhered to the vows of poverty and celibacy that belonged to his order of monks, despite the fact that he lived in luxury and amassed considerable wealth for the TM movement.

What gets overlooked is that he viewed wealth as a means to raise the prestige of India in the materialistic West. Maharishi was deeply concerned that he might be the last embodiment of a sacred tradition that was quickly being overwhelmed by modernisation. These two Maharishis are the only ones that the outside world knew.

If you came under the power of his consciousness, however, Maharishi the guru completely overshadowed every other aspect. Nothing could be farther from the truth in Maharishi’s case.

He was venerated by the venerable and considered holy by the holy. His capacity to explain Vedanta was unrivalled, and if he accomplished nothing else in his long life, his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita insures his lasting name.

I was commissioned around 1990 to write a book about him. But even after spending hundreds of days in his presence, one could not capture him, either on paper or in one’s mind.

The enlightened person ceases to be a person and attains a connection to pure consciousness that erases all boundaries. My deepest gratitude goes to Maharishi for showing me that this state of unity exists outside folk tales, temples, organised religion and scripture.

Being Your Purpose in Life: A Chat With Marianne Williamson

by Lisa Aisling Montagu: I first saw Marianne Williamson speak when she had a profound conversation with Eckhart Tolle about what she called “midwifing the new consciousness,”

and she talked about all of the ways in which we can connect with presence in our everyday lives. In this interview, I was able to speak with Marianne about discovering our unity with and relatedness to others, and coming to accept the light of our true being so that we can find our true purpose in life.

You’ve spent many years founding and running non-profit and social enterprises. How did you find your own sense of purpose in serving the community around you?

I don’t think of purpose as something we “find,” I think of it as something we “are.” Language is a limitation here, tempting us to think that our purpose is something separate from, somehow outside our being. As I see it, a human being is both a particle and a wave, both a noun and a verb.

I’ve tried, more and less successfully at different moments of my life, to simply be the highest manifestation of myself. And we’re never at our highest manifestation if we’re thinking only of ourselves. How can someone look at all the suffering in the world, then not give a damn, not get involved, and still go around trying to “find their purpose?” We all have the same purpose: to love and be loved, to be the light that casts out darkness, wherever we are in whatever way we can. It’s not something given to us, but rather something we give the world. It’s not something revealed to us; it’s something revealed by us and through us.

When you spoke with Eckhart to share your teachings, it provided an opportunity for communities of like-minded people to come together. How can building connections to others contribute to finding inspiration?

No cell in the body is intended to exist on its own. Every cell is created to be part of a collaborative matrix, in which it is naturally guided to work with other cells to foster the health of the organ they’re part of. The fullest actualization of any one cell is its relationship to other cells. A cell that has forgotten this — that has been disconnected from its natural guidance system and simply goes off to do its own thing — is called cancer. And that image, that pattern, is what has happened to the human race. We’ve contracted a spiritual malignancy: a forgetfulness that we’re here to collaborate, a sick thought that we’re just here to do whatever we want without regard to a larger whole. And of course that is a diseased condition, whether in the body or in a civilization.

It says in A Course in Miracles not to look to ourselves to find ourselves, because that’s not where we are. Our true being lies not in the reality of our separated, isolated existence, but in our unity with and relatedness to others. So community is simply our natural state. We seek it not only to find others but to find our true selves.

Why do you think that we often repeat the same patterns of struggle in our lives?

Because the ego — the loveless mind — is powerful, insidious, and active within us.

In speaking with Eckhart, you said that “we are a perfect idea in the mind of God”. Knowing this, how can we use this knowledge in our daily lives?

When I’m in a bad mood, I’m not being God’s image of me. When I’m acting like a jerk, I’m not being God’s image of me. When I’m negative or angry or defensive, I’m not being God’s image of me. And knowing that God has a perfect image of me — that my true being is a perfect idea in His mind — enables me to more easily say to myself, “You know, Marianne. This is not who you are. This neurotic woman you’re play acting right now is not the real you. You are lost right now, but God’s image of you remains perfect and changeless behind the dark clouds of your confusion. If you will go into your heart right this second, for one Holy Instant, and pray to be returned to your true Self, you will be shown the path to forgiveness and love.” That’s not theory; it’s a practical tool. And of course it’s a miracle as well.

What practical tools or processes do you suggest to support the awakening process?

Morning practice. Most people get up in the morning and wash their bodies because they don’t want to take yesterday’s dirt with them into the new day. But it’s just as important to wash yesterday’s stress off our minds. A Course in Miracles says miracles are everyone’s right, but purification is necessary first. We need to purify ourselves of the fear, the attack thoughts, the defensiveness fostered by our mortal experience, in order to be truly empowered. “Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love;” we need to release the fear in order to get to the love.

You have said that “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” Why do you think this is the case? Where does that fear come from?

The light of our true being is terrifying to the ego because it is the death of the ego. So whenever we’re approaching the truth, the ego goes, “No! No!” It’s simply trying to preserve itself. Yet it has to die in order for us to truly live.

It literally comes from nowhere, because it doesn’t actually exist. It’s just an illusion of who we are. It’s simply the hallucination of a separate self, what A Course in Miracles calls our “detour into fear.”

What can you recommend on the process of finding forgiveness for people who have brought negativity into one’s life?

I try to remember that if I were in a perfect state myself, then they wouldn’t bother me. That doesn’t always get me right into a non-reactive, enlightened state, mind you – but it starts the process. The work is never about anyone else; it’s always about ourselves. We weren’t created to be at the effect of anyone else’s negativity, so if we are, then it’s not about them but about us.

What are your recommendations on how can people with restricted incomes strive to practice?

Spirituality is an inside job. Forgiveness does not cost money, meditation does not cost money, prayer does not cost money, and love does not cost money. And all of them, by the way, save time.

Where do you think that your spiritual path is taking you next?

Hopefully to greater inner peace on a more consistent basis. I get there, but I want to get there and always stay there.

Why did you decide to get more deeply involved in the political world? What was your inspiration?

A new paradigm, holistic perspective now saturates many areas of our society — from education to business to medicine to spirituality — but our politics seem to be outside its reach. And we can’t afford to turn away from politics; we might not touch it, but it certainly touches us. The increasingly calcified thought forms that dominate it today — based more on the past than the present, more on fear than on love, and more on economic than humanitarian values — threaten to sabotage so much of what makes life beautiful.

I don’t think electoral politics can be left out of the equation when it comes to a serious effort to transform the world. How can we talk about love as it applies to everything except politics? People say they’re trying to be conscious and awake about everything else, but we can’t be selective about what we’re conscious about and still call ourselves conscious! I think that if you know how to transform one life then you know how to change the world, because the world is simply a huge group of people. And that’s why our community should be the last people sitting out the political process. We’re withholding our gifts if we withhold our conversation.

Source: The Huffington Post

Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death by Joan Halifax

In this long-awaited book of inspiring and practical teachings, Buddhist teacher Joan Halifax offers the fruits of her many years of work with dying people. Inspired by traditional Buddhist teachings, her work is a source of wisdom for all those who are charged with a dying person’s care, who are facing their own death, or who are wishing to explore and contemplate the transformative power of the dying process.

Halifax offers lessons from dying people and caregivers, as well as guided meditations to help readers contemplate death without fear, develop a commitment to helping others, and transform suffering and resistance into courage. She says, “Why wait until we are actualy dying to explore what it may mean to die with awareness?”

A world-renowned pioneer in care of the dying, Joan Halifax founded the Project on Being with Dying, which helps dying people to face death with courage and trains professional and family caregivers in compassionate and ethical end-of-life care.
Roshi Joan Halifax, Ph.D., is a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, anthropologist, and pioneer in the field of end-of-life care. She is Founder, Abbot, and Head Teacher of Upaya Institute and Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She received her Ph.D. in medical anthropology in 1973 and has lectured on the subject of death and dying at many academic institutions and medical centers around the world. She received a National Science Foundation Fellowship in Visual Anthropology, was an Honorary Research Fellow in Medical Ethnobotany at Harvard University, and was a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Library of Congress.

From 1972-1975, she worked with psychiatrist Stanislav Grof at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center with dying cancer patients. She has continued to work with dying people and their families, and to teach health care professionals and family caregivers the psycho-social, ethical and spiritual aspects of care of the dying. She is Director of the Project on Being with Dying, and Founder of the Upaya Prison Project that develops programs on meditation for prisoners. She is also founder of the Nomads Clinic in Nepal.

She studied for a decade with Zen Teacher Seung Sahn and was a teacher in the Kwan Um Zen School. She received the Lamp Transmission from Thich Nhat Hanh, and was given Inka by Roshi Bernie Glassman.

A Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order and founder of Prajna Mountain Buddhist Order, her work and practice for more than four decades has focused on applied Buddhism. Her books include: The Human Encounter with Death (with Stanislav Grof); The Fruitful Darkness; Simplicity in the Complex: A Buddhist Life in America; Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Wisdom in the Presence of Death; Being with Dying: Compassionate End-of-Life Care (Professional Training Guide); Seeing Inside, among others. She is a Lindisfarne Fellow and a Mind and Life Fellow and Board member.


Joan Halifax: Compassion and the true meaning of empathy

Buddhist roshi Joan Halifax works with people at the last stage of life (in hospice and on death row). She shares what she’s learned about compassion in the face of death and dying, and a deep insight into the nature of empathy.

Causeless Ignorance

Published on Jan 13, 2015
A discussion explaining why the ‘why’ question cannot be satisfactorily answered.

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