|If the beliefs and practices that we followed were so ineffective, why then did we persist in them?|
I think you are right in your dismissal of the victim line - at least for me. The beliefs and practices were ineffective, but I think we, or at least I, persisted in them because of the hope that they would become effective in the future.
It is rather like a losing gambler - there are two basic reactions: 1) just to quit and accept your loss; or 2) to not accept your loss and try to make it up, thus risking further loss but possibly regaining what you have lost and then winning some. Maharaji's promise was (and is) so ultimate, so complete, so incredible if it were true, that it was worth any sacrifice to gain what was promised - in other words, option (2) was the better bet. I explained away all ineffectiveness by saying 'Yes, I know it is not working now, but if I surrender a bit more, meditate a bit more, devote myself a bit more, then it will all come together'.
In the gambling analogy, you are playing a game where there is a chance of winning a large sum (say $1billion), but most of the time you are losing small amounts. If you had played for a while, and had lost a fair amount (but a small amount compared to $1billion), would you still play?
The answer is Yes you would, if you believed there was even a small chance of winning the $bn. And that was my position, and why I persisted, even though I was continually losing. You only quit when you realise that there is zero chance of winning the $bn, in other words it just does not exist.
So I believe it is quite logical, the best strategy even, to continue a losing game if there is even a small chance that you will win big time.
Others left long ago, why didn't we?
Because we were mistaken in believing that there was a small chance in the future of the $bn (ie liberation, enlightenment, the whole shebang); those who left long ago simply realised that the small chance was actually a zero chance.
I cannot escape the conclusion that if I did something for such a long time I did it because I got something from it.
Maybe you did, and maybe you didn't it, but I don't accept your conclusion that you must have got something from it simply because you did it for a long time. You could well have got nothing from it, but persevered in the expection of a big payout later. For me, many good things did happen, and I don't see my time with Maharaji as completely wasted (almost, but not quite), but they were pretty small winnings compared to what I lost.