The guru script

Recently, a friend invited me to join her meditation group. The four people in her group meet every week to practice Tai Chi. They start each session with a guided meditation.

She described me to her friends in the group as a person with a lot of experience with meditation who might be interested in joining and leading the sessions. The other people in the group responded enthusiastically.

When I read the email with the invitation, I had one of those “fork in the road” moments.

You know how, in the movies, a character has to make a crucial decision with huge consequences? For example, a person arrives at a Greyhound station and sees two coaches, one marked “Oshkosh” and the other “New York City.” The movie shows the chain of events that occurs when the character gets on one bus, then the other, resulting in triumph or disaster.

I read that email invitation and I flashed back to my years in a fringe religious sect. I recalled how it started—so many young and idealistic people ready to change the world. Maharishi was upbeat and accessible. It was like a big party.

Years passed and fewer and fewer people saw Maharishi in person. He withdrew to a secluded compound and surrounded himself with a small band of true believers. His teachings grew more and more bizarre. In his final years, he occasionally appeared on video, surrounded by vast floral displays and a computer-generated golden nimbus, to rail against democracy and threaten doom.

In the end, Maharishi didn’t turn out well, but how many of us would do a better job? Imagine the pressure he was under—decades of fawning adulation by crowds projecting their hopes on him. The constant drone of sycophants telling him what they thought he wanted to hear. The total lack of normal human relationships. How many of us could survive all that without cracking up?

So, I got that email invitation and I imagined myself sitting cross-legged looking out at eager faces waiting for spiritual insight. I hit Reply and firmly declined the offer.

If I’d taken the other bus, I doubt that I would turn out like Maharishi. I doubt I’d ever have the opportunity. I might have even done some good.

That’s all beside the point. I turned down the invitation to lead a group meditation for the same reason that some people say they don’t want to try heroin.

I might like it.

Posted in: Reason and Magic

Leave a Comment (4) ↓


  1. Lawson English May 31, 2014

    Perhaps you saw a different Maharishi than I did.

    In later years, he played little games with dictators, buttering them up with remarks about how great they were, in the hopes that they would embrace TM for their countries, creating another Joachim Chisano of Mozambique out of the least likely of souls.

    It didn’t work, but he tried.

    Of course, Maharishi turned out very well. He found, at the end, a marvelously humane and sincere successor, willing to wear the requisite gold crown with the appropriate combination of embarrassment and humility. He’s remembered with great fondness by people who never even met him, and yet credit him with being important in their lives.

    And his technique is thriving, being embraced by governmental leaders at the highest level, who in turn champion it to their entire country, such as Brazil, where teh government recently announced that they would hire 48,000 TM teachers, one per public school, so that all 45 million school-age kids could learn TM.

    The scientific research programme he launched in the late 50’s is proceeding and growing stronger, with a nod from the American Heart Association last year declaring that thus far, only TM has the consistency and robustness of research to allow the AHA to say that doctors can recommend it to their patients as a treatment of hypertension.

    The doctor who led that writing team recently spoke at Maharishi University of Management, describing his research on how environmental factors affect hypertension, and announced that he was starting a new study designed to see how TM might ameliorate the short-term effects of environmental stress (air pollution) on high blood pressure.

    New EEG research is coming out from completely independent researchers that shows that unlike virtually every other practice measured, TM indeed helps integrate the entire brain, while all other forms of meditation appear to dis-integrate the area of the brain responsible for sense-of-self from the rest of the brain.

    And of course, the tiny University he founded 40+ years ago has finally been catapulted onto the world stage with a commencement speech by Jim Carrey last weekend that has been described as “poignant,” “inspiring,” “powerful,” and similar terms by literally thousands of prominent and not-so-prominent news sources around the world, with more than a million websites referring to it in one way or another, many linking directly to either the TM website, or to the pages.

    Do try to keep up.

  2. Michael H. Jackson May 31, 2014

    Amazing that you said no! As a former TM’er this is quite meaningful to me. Thanks for posting it.


Leave a Comment