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The Knowledge Techniques, and Maharaji as a Meditation Teacher

Maharaji teaches 'his' meditation techniques, the Knowledge, but how good a teacher of the techniques, as techniques, is he?

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The Techniques

There are four techniques of meditation that Maharaji teaches, which are practised one after the other sequentially, in a given order, in the same meditation sitting. He used to stipulate that a sitting should be no shorter than one hour, giving approximately equal time of 15 minutes or so to each technique. Now he has dropped the minimum of one hour, but still requires the meditator to give equal importance to each technique.

Maharaji used to give the techniques spiritual-sounding and poetic names: Light, Music, Holy Name (or the Word), and Nectar. These days they are prosaically known as number one, two, three, and four. Each technique engages a particular sense: seeing, hearing, kinesthetic feeling, and tasting/smelling respectively.

They are also given very secretively, and at the time of initiation the follower has to make a vow that they will not reveal to anyone what these techniques are. In fact, however, they are widely published on the Internet (including the ex-premie web site). And once you start researching and comparing notes, you find that many gurus and spiritual 'masters' are giving the same, or very similar, techniques. Furthermore, these meditation techniques are standard in a popular branch of Hinduism which started in the mid-19th century (the Sant Mat, or Radhasoami, traditions), and which now has literally thousands of gurus giving these techniques, or slight variants thereof.

Each technique isolates an area of the body which the practioner must concentrate on, using the sense appropriate for that technique.

Maharaji as Teacher

A very interesting phenomenon is this: Maharaji is precise about the physical aspect of each technique; but does not teach, or talk about, what the meditator has to do mentally with each technique. So Maharaji's followers may be doing the same four techniques in the same way physically, but the mental focus differs widely. Some people just concentrate on the highlighted physical spot, in a very one-pointed and exclusive way; others use the physical spot more as a reference point, and try to have a more open concentration around it. Some try to see or sense through the physical object of concentration into an inner world, real or imagined; and some try specifically not to do this!

Maharaji's apologists explain this lack of instruction, except for the physical, as profound and the sign of a true teacher; the inference being that where the meditation takes a person is beyond words and instruction, and so Maharaji leads you to the physical object of concentration, which is a portal into your true being, but no words or explanation can tell you how to go through that portal into the deathless.

Another viewpoint is that Maharaji probably does not himself practise the techniques, has no interest in them for himself or for anybody else, picked them up 'off the shelf' as it were from his father, and that there is nothing remotely meaningful that can be said about how to focus on the physical place each technique pinpoints, so it is best to keep a mysterious silence and hope that it is taken for something deep and wise.

The Techniques and where to Focus

In the first technique, or Light, the sense used is that of your sight or vision, and where to place your hands is specifically stated: the thumb and middle finger of your dominant hand stroke across each eyeball from outer corner to inner, coming to rest with a light but firm touch on the upper inner corner of each eyeball. Your forefinger rests in the middle of your forehead, just above the eyebrow line (your 'third eye'). In the early 70's the mahatmas who gave people Knowledge on Maharaji's behalf, and who performed this technique on them, often used to press the eyeballs hard, in their enthusiasm. Certainly if you do press your eyeballs hard you see swirling colors, and we used to think this was the beginning of the Divine Light, and we were on the way, rather than the neural entopic phenomenon that every child discovers when they squeeze their eyes. I have heard several stories of premies who got detached retinas due to practising this technique, but I have never verified any of these stories. After a while Maharaji told his mahatmas and instructors to give Knowledge the 'gentle way', emphasizing that it was not the pressure on the eyeballs that counted, and the point of touching the eyeballs with the thumb and middle finger was simply to steady them to allow you to focus better.

But where you are to actually focus your sight is and never was stated - do you stare through the colored shapes and blackness behind the closed eyelids into infinity? Do you focus right on the back of your eyelids, trying to make sense of the swirling colors, the 'black light', you see there? Do you actually focus not on what you see, but on a spot on your forehead? Do you turn your eyeballs upwards to this spot, or do you keep a level horizontal gaze? Generations of meditators have asked these questions - the master is silent.

In the second technique, or Music, again where to place your hands is specifically shown: each thumb is placed in the ear and each hand is twisted upwards so that the four fingers of each hand rest on the top of your head, with each thumbtip lightly but firmly in each earhole, sealed with the twisting action. Both of these two techniques - Light and Music - involved holding the arms up at head height, and it was the sign of a devoted and serious meditator to be able to keep them fully up without moving them or trembling for the duration of the techinque (usually 15 minutes for each technique).

But how do you listen to the Divine Music? You are told to listen to what you hear, but what is that? The Sound of the Spheres, or the sound of silence. Or is it a sound like a waterfall? Is that just a physical manifestion of the pulse in the thumbs in the ear, or the trapped air in the closed ear canal? And if it is, do you listen to it, or do you listen through it, trying to find some ineffable celestial sound beyond it? Are you trying to listen to a silence beyond it? Again, most meditators have these questions, but there are no answers from the master.

The third technique, or Holy Name, or the Word, involves following your breath. Many meditation traditions involve watching the breath in some way, but most traditions give clear instructions on how to do this, since in fact you can use your breath in many different ways to create many different mind states. But Maharaji says very little about it. In the early 1970's you were supposed to imagine, or in fact actually hear, the sound of the in and out breath as so-hung: 'so' on the in-breath, 'hung' on the out-breath (so hung up, as one wag said!) This changed in the mid-1970's to a very vague instruction to just 'follow the breath'.

Later, Maharaji's most common instruction while demonstrating the Holy Name technique is to move his hand up and down in front of him as he breathes in and out, the implication being that you are to follow the in-breath and out-breath upwards and downwards (or is it downwards and upwards?) from your nose to the base of the lungs or the abdomen and up again. Another instruction he sometimes gives is that you follow your breath like you are sitting on an inner swing, with Maharaji pushing this swing. This is one of the clearest signs in recent times that Maharaji is still inferring that he is a power inside the meditator helping and guiding their meditation, and contradicts the public pronouncements that he is merely an inspirational speaker.

The fourth and final technique, or Nectar, involves the tongue and the taste sensation. Again, the instructions what to do with your tongue are specific, and is the yogi technique of Kechari Mudra, where you curl your tongue up to the roof of your mouth. Again, in the 1970's the technique was fairly extreme, in that you were encouraged to stretch your tongue back so that it went behind the uvula (that skin flap hanging down at the back of your mouth at the entrance to your throat) and then up into your nasal cavity. The ultimate aim was to connect the tip of your tongue to the base of your brain and become enlightened! But again, after a few years Maharaji changed the technique to a gentler version, where you simply rested the tip of your tongue on the roof of the mouth, and curled it back as far as was comfortable. All references to the uvula and nasal cavity were dropped.

But what you are actually to focus on is not explained. Do you focus on the tip of the tongue physically, or through it in some sense, or do you focus on what you taste? Sometimes you can taste a clear, or even sweetish, fluid; but more often you just taste the normal mucus or saliva in your mouth. The sweet taste we thought was a sign of real progress, and mahatmas used to counsel not to practise while operating machinery in case you got blissed out! I don't believe myself that there is any actual sweet fluid, even though I used to taste it myself. I think it was a manifestation of getting your tongue into strange places disorienting your sense of taste - rather like if your body is in an unusual position (for example hanging upside down for a period) you begin to become spatially disoriented.

As a practising and committed premie I found this lack of precise instruction to be limiting. And even more as one of Maharaji's instructors, someone that he had authorized to teach and reveal the Knowledge techniques on his behalf, since the people to whom I was showing the techniques would have these kinds of questions. I would either have to answer from my own experience as best I could, or state baldly that Maharaji gave no instruction on this point, or make some cryptic koan-like comment, or else just keep a mysterious silence like the master.

The Vow of Secrecy

One thing that has not changed throughout the years, is the vow everyone has to make on receiving Knowledge, not to reveal these four techniques. Of course I took this vow along with everyone else, and I kept it faithfully until very recently. In fact, in the previous version of this article I wrote in April 2004 I described the techniques in general, and not as specifically as in this version. I ended the article with these words:

A final thought is this: I too have been initiated into Knowledge, and made the vow not to divulge the techniques. You will note that I am actually keeping this vow, and not giving the details of the techniques in this article. I am not quite sure why. The vow I made was to Maharaji as the owner of these techniques, and the master who breathed life into them and made them special. I no longer believe that is the case; Maharaji certainly does not own them, nor do I believe that he has some mysterious power, grace if you will, that energises these techniques in a profound way. Thus I consider myself absolved from any such vow, but nevertheless I did make it, and so I am keeping it.

These techniques, or minor variants of them, are given by literally hundreds of gurus (see the literature on the Sant Mat or Radhasoami traditions, links above), and are widely described in many websites. As I say, the vow I made was to Maharaji as the Lord, the Perfect Master, who was for me the 'owner' of the techniques. Such a person with such powers does not, and never did, exist.

[Return to list of articles]    [next article] Last revised November 22 2005

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