Transcendental Meditation“Life finds its purpose and fulfillment in the expansion of happiness” - Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
July 6th 2014, Day 4
After Nicole set me off with the following message, I made my way towards Venlo.
Ich wünsche Dir Zeit
Ich wünsche Dir nicht alle möglichen Gaben,
Ich wünsche Dir nur, was die meisten nicht haben:
Ich wünsche Dir Zeit, Dich zu freun und zu lachen
und wenn Du sie nützt, kannst Du etwas draus machen.
Ich wünsche Dir Zeit für Dein Tun und Dein Denken,
nicht nur für Dich selbst, sondern auch zum Verschenken.
Ich wünsche Dir Zeit, nicht zum Hasten und Rennen,
sondern die Zeit zum Zufriedenseinkönnen.
Ich wünsche Dir Zeit, nicht nur so zum Vertreiben.
Ich wünsche, sie möge Dir übrig bleiben
als Zeit für das Staunen und Zeit für Vertraun,
anstatt nach der Zeit auf der Uhr nur zu schaun.
Ich wünsche Dir Zeit, nach den Sternen zu greifen
und Zeit, um zu wachsen, das heißt, um zu reifen.
Ich wünsche Dir Zeit, neu zu hoffen, zu lieben.
Es hat keinen Sinn, diese Zeit zu verschieben.
Ich wünsche Dir Zeit, zu Dir selber zu finden,
jeden Tag, jede Stunde als Glück zu empfinden.
Ich wünsche Dir Zeit, auch um Schuld zu vergeben.
Ich wünsche Dir: Zeit zu haben zum Leben!
Ich wünsche Dir alles Gute und nur das Beste, Nicole.
I had been to Venlo in the past, but that was just to change trains on my way South somewhere probably. Today I walked right through it and was amazed by the amount of Germans that were there. The city was almost bilingual with advertisements for fish, fries and hamburgers in both Dutch and German. Although I arrived quite early, the fat snacks and fish were consumed in manifold. I sat down on one of the many squares and had myself a toast with goat cheese and vegetables. I sat there for about an hour and let my thoughts rush through my head. I saw couples arguing, people getting drunk, young girls taking photos of each other and talking about the latest shoes they bought. I saw guys talking on the phone, head upright, big arms and shoulders with a lot of bare skin so show off. This was my country, I belong to this people. The waitress was a student, working for some money to spend in the bar tonight. Or so I thought. As I saw all these people living their lives, I thought I could see right through them. I thought I knew what motivated them to do the things they did. Probably nothing. They just do as they have done for many years and will do forever more. They are part of this system we call society and they just go with it without ever thinking about breaking with it. The truth is, I don’t know. And never will I know. These people live their lives like every other human. I see them just these couple of minutes, most of them even shorter and think I know what they are like. I think I know what occupies their minds and hearts, namely food, clothing, love and sex. But I cannot know who they are, what they think or why they do the things they do. Each and every one of them carries a story. By coming here on foot, I placed myself outside this society. I don’t really belong to it anymore. It made me aware of my own behavior and downsides. I always thought that I was unique, but seeing all these people, it turns out I am not so different at all. These people don’t know my story, nor will they ever. Who am I to think about them as having no story? Who am I to judge them? This realization opened my eyes. Further to be broadened when I would arrive in Budapest, three months later.
A good two hours later I sat on the bank of the Maas. I was overthinking an hour long phone call with Anouk. How could I have been so stupid not to see what I was doing when I caused all the trouble? How could I be so stupid to let go of what we had? As I was thinking and blaming myself, I saw a very traditional Dutch couple cycling by. Both wore the same jacked, the same pants and rode the same bike with the same bags on it. He rode a couple of meters in front of her, as if she was not fast enough. The distance between them was not increasing though, so they travelled at the same speed. ‘Why did they not ride next to each other?’ Maybe they just had nothing to say to each other. I had seen this scene before. The Dutch like to ride their bikes and men are always a bit faster than women at these occasions. Anouk and I promised each other very early in our relationship that we would never end up like this. When we saw unhappy couples, or couples like this in the streets we would always say, ‘’Let that never be us.’’ We didn’t want to be together just because we were too afraid of being alone. Seeing this couple made me realize that we, or she, had actually made this promise come true. So amidst the deep sadness I felt, a feeling of pride arose. It wasn’t much, but just enough to make me swing my backpack on my back again and continue my way towards Istanbul. Towards whatever ending this trip might have. I then decided I would never compromise on love. It is never to be taken for granted, it is either all or nothing, no in-between would be acceptable for me.
I pitched my tent in the woods somewhere that night and knew that I was awaited somewhere next day. I would pay a visit to the Transcendental Meditation group in Vlodrop.
July 7th 2014, day 5
It might be useful to give you a short introduction on the TM movement. As the movement describes itself on its website:
Transcendental Meditation is the purest, simplest, and most effective form of meditation the world has known. It is the pure technique of transcending – settling to the simplest, most powerful state of awareness – untainted by any mind control or thought process. TM allows your mind to settle inward beyond thought to the most silent, peaceful level of consciousness – your innermost Self.
So the Transcendental meditation itself is just a technique anyone can use. To learn this technique however, you need to follow courses and practice under guidance of an authorized teacher. This is where the movement itself comes in. The technique has been made available to all by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918-2008). The last years of his life, he lived in Vlodrop, The Netherlands. His movement bought a big, old monastery there in 1984 and started construction works on the compound. It was to be the international headquarters of the movement, called MERU (Maharishi European Research University). As soon as they started to demolish the old monastery, trouble came. The local politics didn’t agree on their plans and declared the monastery building to be a monument, making it impossible to demolish it. There has been a lot of discussion on whether or not this building actually could be declared a monument, but the government was not willing to review their decision. And so it is now that amidst of a compound full of Indian looking white houses, a half demolished and abandoned monastery stands.
Vlodrop was more or less on my route and, knowing this story, I thought it interesting to pay them a visit. I was awaited by Charles and Elsa at the gate of the compound. The entrance was guarded and immediately it became clear to me that not just anyone could walk in here and look around. Charles and Elsa run the national Dutch secretary of the movement, and basically had nothing to do with the MERU center. But they knew their way around and took me to the Staff dining hall for lunch right away.
The compound is a weird piece of The Netherlands. Upon entrance, the first thing one sees is the big monastic building, wrapped in banners displaying the plans for the area once the old building is gone. To the right of the building is the dwelling of late Maharishi. It’s all wood and guarded by two huge elephants of light. He lived there till his death in 2008. We walk along the left side of the monastery and pass some tents which host an international conference. Swami’s and so-called Rajas (kings) flock the place and seeing their bright colored clothing between the white, according to the Sthapatya Veda build buildings, almost convince me of being in India. An aerial picture of the place shows the outline of the plan and makes clear why the monastery is in the wrong place. The most important idea of this style of building is the conviction that the entrance of a building should always be on the east, towards the rising sun.
Before entering the dining hall, Charles warns me not to leave my walking pole out in the open next to the door, as was my habit. ‘’It is a beautiful pole, and a lot of people here would like to have such a one. And in this place people do not always remember that some material products might actually belong to someone. There is a mentality of sharing everything, sometimes to a too great extend if you ask me.’’ So I hide my pole behind the door and take my backpack with me.
Over the rice and corn, we start our conversation about the organization and Charles’ and Elsa’s roles in it. They have been part of the organization for quite some years and have raised their kids in the community as well. In Lelystad that is, where there are members of the organization living together as well. We speak about the basics of the meditation technique and soon it becomes clear to me that Charles is a well learned man and has a lot of knowledge about everything regarding the TM. As he starts to explain the very basics of the human mind and with that the basic ideas of TM, I lose him within minutes. Once lunch is over, I am happy to find my pole where I left it and we take a short tour over the compound. In a couple of days the new video archive would be finished. Now, a lot of people are working very hard in order to get it completed. The new building will store all the video footage of the organization. The building is earthquake proof and will be well guarded. It is not only storing the video footage of Maharishi himself, but also all the television shows which are now being recorded. Elsa tells me the organization have their own television channel. ‘’They make programs every day to put some counter weight to all the suffering and violence we see on tv normally. They try to bring positive news. Not only of the organization, but from all over the world. We see too much sadness in the media now, with this channel, we hope to change that a bit.’’ It remains unclear to me where I need to go in order to find the broadcasts of this channel.
Charles elaborates a bit on the issues regarding the monastery; When the organization first moved here, they were allowed to take the building down. Soon the hassle with the local government started and once it seemed finally done and settled, it turned out there were endangered species of bats living in the monastery. Over the years the building got used less and less and now the bats are causing trouble for the movement. ‘’Why are you still staying here, with all the drama that is involved in trying to build this complex?’’ I ask him. ‘’Well, we are here now and apparently it is our karma to go through all of this. It makes no sense to do anything else. And besides, we don’t even have the money at the moment to demolish the monastery. So we do not really need the permission now. It can wait a couple of years. In the end it will come, that’s what counts.’’
As we stand in front of what used to be Maharishi’s dwelling, stories start to come. Maharishi would work 24 hours a day, or close to it. In order to see to his need, there were three shifts scheduled around him. One of his sons served him close and lived for a couple of years on MERU. Maharishi would work with his community in Asia in the very early morning, to continue working with the European continent and work till very late in the night to serve his followers across the ocean. Charles’ son would continue the telling of stories about their guru in the evening, but now we stepped in the car and made our way to Vlodrop city where Charles and Elsa ran the national secretary. They live in the old town hall right in the middle of the small town. A beautiful location, but I wondered how they did acquire this building.
Charles and I retreated to the practice room and he started a very thorough introduction upon the central dogma’s and convictions of the organization. The sun was out and shining on the large single glass windows of the room, soon I found myself fighting the sleep. Since I was the only one in Charles’ audience, I could not afford it to fall asleep and did my best to get every word he was saying and asked questions to make sure we had some kind of interaction going on. It was too much to remember everything. What I do remember is the enormous amount of scientific evidence the organization has for their founders’ ideas. Everything, for the meditation practice itself, to the effect of practicing in a group, is supported by the findings of scientific research. After three hours of listening I am completely numb. Charles decides that it is time to take me to his son. He and his wife need to practice. They are doing the advanced program, which means doing the Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali. ‘’What do you mean by ‘doing the stura’s’’’, I ask him. How could one possibly ‘do’ a book? ‘’We practice them, we learn them by heart and practice the yogic flying he describes.’’ I am not sure what to make of this. ‘’You are actually trying to fly?’’ ‘’Well, yes, we are. I mean, we know we do not actually fly, but just trying to get there is a wonderful spiritual practice. Maybe you could compare it to you walking to Istanbul. It is far, a lot can happen, you don’t really know if you will make it. But does it matter? I don’t think so, the road itself will bring you a lot. So although we do not actually fly, the practice itself is very spiritual.’’
David and Tegan live in a sort of holiday home in a park close to Vlodrop and have some space for me to pitch my tent. They are in there late 20’s early 30’s and both work in a small internet company they have founded with other people from the TM. They build websites mainly for other TM members and can make a living that way. My arrival does not distract them from what they are doing and I am making arrangements to meet my friend Eva tomorrow. We haven’t had time to say goodbye yet and she does not matter travelling all the way from Amsterdam to one of the most Southern towns of Holland. For me it means changing my route so we pass through Susteren, from where she can take a train back to Amsterdam. When everything is settled, David finished cooking dinner (which he did while continuing working) we went to table and shared stories about our experiences with gurus. It was comforting to hear that although he has a very different guru, the stories and experiences are much the same. What interested me the most was how the organization dealt with the passing away of their leader. There was no one who could take his place, so there was to be found a different way of running the organization. ‘’Maharishi himself, didn’t own anything. When he was young and just starting his organization, he met a business man who told him never to sign anything himself. If he wanted to be honest and credible, he should not get involved in these things. So Maharishi took this advice by heart and never ever signed anything again in his life. Officially, he didn’t own anything. That was a great plus when he passed away.’’ David said. ‘’But of course, it did not answer the question how the organization should be run. Now, there is a lot of bureaucracy involved in the keeping together of the organization. We are doing better now, but still, it is not perfect. A real leader cannot be replaced.’’
After dinner we took a little stroll through the woods and the fields surrounding the park while a faint sun was shedding its light on a few horses grazing in the distance. We came to speak about David’s brother who is a purusha (litt. Man) in the TM monastic order. It is said to be an very intense program and involves at least ten hours of practice every day. Only single man can partake in the program. David himself did it a couple of years, but decided it was not what he wanted for the rest of his life. It is quite expensive to live there and one needs donators to be able to pay for the stay. What the program itself does actually mean remains unclear to me, as David finds he cannot say too much about it. If I ask him more about this idea, he changes subject and leaves me with a lot of questions.
After a day full of listening and talking I am tired. It is a different tiredness compared to how I felt the previous days. The physical body is not tired, but the mind is, it is just too much to remember, too much to write down. How do all the other guys do it? Are they walking the whole day with a bloc note in their hands to write down exact words spoken? I pitch my tent, and look forward to having company during my walk tomorrow.
To be continued…