“Problem is a consciousness state. If you can think outside the realm of the problem, there’s always some level of organizing power that can get things done for you.”Thom Knoles
“No problem.” We’ve all said it on many occasions, and most of us say it, or a variation on it, on a pretty regular basis.
But do we really mean it? And do we know for sure if ‘no problem’ fits the occasion?
In this My Maharishi episode, Thom recounts an interaction where Maharishi Mahesh Yogi held Thom to his word after setting him what seemed to be a relatively simple task.
Thom sums the lesson up nicely at the end and, if nothing else, will get you thinking twice before saying “No problem” again.
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A Force-Five Hurricane of Happiness
Night of the Waxing Full Moon in Switzerland
Flotillas on the Lake
Morning of the Full Moon
Roads Blocked Off
“Maharishi, There’s a Problem.”
“Thom, Stop Talking.”
Head of State
Find the Highest Principle
Problem is a Consciousness State
Jai Guru Deva
My Maharishi – No Problem
[00:45] A Force-Five Hurricane of Happiness
Jai Guru Deva. This will be another story of my interaction with my Maharishi, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, my master of almost 26 years during my learning curve, and still the one in whose consciousness I bask daily.
Maharishi was a delightful, sweet, loving, force-five hurricane of happiness man, but, when you worked with him on a personal basis and if you agreed to a process where you were going to be learning in a direct one-on-one setting with him, he would give you tasks to do, which sometimes seemed a little difficult or impossible. He was also training you, in the process of doing that, and it was a very, very interesting thing from time to time.
[01:48] Night of the Waxing Full Moon in Switzerland
I recall one story that might illustrate this very well. It was a time in about 1976 when there was a group of women, an exclusive women’s course, all doing very advanced, intensive Vedic Meditation up in a town called Melchsee-Frutt, on a mountaintop in Switzerland.
Maharishi had decided for about eight years to live in Switzerland instead of India because it was much easier for Westerners to come to Switzerland and to tolerate whatever marginal changes there might be in a life in Switzerland for a few months of training than it was for them to completely radically change their expectations, dress, diet and climate by going to India.
And so he rather brought himself, an Indian man into the Swiss environment. For about eight years, everything Maharishi did happened in Switzerland and I was there in ’76, being a personal assistant to Maharishi when a very interesting night was approaching.
It was the night of the waxing full moon. Maharishi had a habit on the full moon, in this particular part of Switzerland where he was living called Seelisberg, there was a very large lake, Lake Lucerne. There is a very large lake, and it’s a beautiful lake to see if you ever want to make a pilgrimage to Seelisberg.
[03:27] Flotillas on the Lake
And he liked to have large flagships. These were large ferries designed for carrying hundreds of people from one side of the mighty Lake Lucene to the other side.
He liked to have these boats, large boats. They would be lashed together to make a flotilla of maybe two or three. As many people as possible would be floating together on the lake, in the full moon, very memorable occasions.
Sometimes he would instruct his Vedic chanting pundits to sing and intone the vibrations of the Veda, in Sama Veda or other forms of singing the Vedic knowledge and singing the Vedic vibrations. He would also give lectures and talks, and answer questions.
In the day before all of this was to happen, those of us who were in the know, knew with anticipation that Maharishi would be asking us at the last minute, to organize something really rather spectacular along these lines that I just described.
It took quite a lot of organizing, because in those times, there were people, just like the women who were up in Melchsee-Frutt, at several different locations around the mountainous regions of the German Swiss speaking part of Switzerland. Up to four or five different locations, all going at once on different programs, and they had to be bused into this one particular place where there was a wharf, where they could embark on one of these ships and have this whole experience.
[05:12] Morning of the Full Moon
So it was the morning of the full moon night coming, when Maharishi said to me, “I want the women from Melchsee-Frutt to be invited. They can suspend their program for a day, and come to Seelisberg. We’ll all go together and we can get everybody onto one of these boats”. All of the other courses as well, but other people had the responsibility of getting those other courses of people to the appropriate place for going out on the lake.
Mine was Melchsee-Frutt, the women. So I called the women and gave them the good news that Maharishi had invited them. They were appropriately excited and enthusiastic, but within minutes came up with what appeared to be a problem.
And I have to step back and say, when Maharishi said to me, “Get all the women from that location, they can come in buses and join us in the enjoyable night of full moon awareness.” I had said, “Yes, Maharishi, no problem.” And he looked at me and he said, “Oh, no problem, all right then,” smilingly. But there turns out there was a problem.
[06:32] Roads Blocked Off
The roads in Switzerland are sometimes very narrow. The way that they deal with this in highly mountainous regions is, frequently the road will go in one direction for one hour, and then the road will be blocked off and it’ll go only and exclusively in the other direction for one hour, because the road’s not wide enough for two cars to pass each other, on say, a dangerous corner or a bend with a precipitous fall on one side.
They said that at the hour that we wanted them to come down, the last hour was the coming up hour, and then after that, the road was closed for the rest of the night, and that it was a very rigid road rule.
I thought, well, let’s talk to the local mayor, the equivalent of the mayor, the Burgermeister. I got the Burgermeister on the phone. He spoke a little bit of English and he was absolutely very predictably Swiss and rigid about the timing, that cars could go up at this hour of the failing light, but no cars or vehicles could come down. So if I wanted to send the buses up, I was welcome to, because the last hour of the day was the going up hour, but they wouldn’t be able to come back down again until the next day, which was no good for our purposes.
[08:02] “Maharishi, There’s a Problem.”
I listened to that and I went in to Maharishi at probably 10 in the morning. He was always up from 4:00 AM so at 10:00 in the morning, he’d been up already for six hours. I said, “Maharishi there’s a problem”, and he looked at me and he said, “No.”
I have to give you an idea of the surroundings. There were probably 10 other people in the room with him, all who were like me, doing work with him. He said, “No, you said there’d be no problem.” He said “Go, find out how to change all of this. I want them to come down.” “All right, Maharishi.”
I went back to my room, which doubled as my study, a little tiny room in the chalet in which we were all staying, and thought about it and thought about it. And then I thought, well I’ll call the local police and see what they say. The constabulary who governed the roads. I got nowhere with that and after, about an hour, I worked up the courage to go back in and tell Maharishi.
By this time it was about 11:30 or something in the morning. When I appeared at the door, he looked up at me and he said, “Yes, what is it? Success?” I said, “Well, I’ve tried the mayor and I’ve tried the police, and each one of them has…”, and then I noticed him taking notes. He had a piece of paper and he was writing on it with a felt pen, writing, writing, writing, writing, something quite large. And I thought, oh good, he’s making notes for me to follow.
[09:43] “Thom, Stop Talking.”
Then he, to my great moment of disenchantment, he lifted up the piece of paper and held it up and said “Come, take this”, and written very large on this piece of paper for everyone to see—by this time, probably 20 people in the room, jammed into that room, because the day was getting on—what it said on the piece of paper was, “Thom, stop talking.”
And so I went and collected the piece of paper and there was a little bit of a titter that went through the group. You know, when somebody’s getting in trouble from the teacher, everyone feels kind of embarrassingly relieved that they’re not the one who’s getting in trouble. To give you some context, I was in my twenties, my late twenties.
I took the piece of paper and I went back to my room and I fumed over it. “How could he write such a thing on there? Thom stop talking. I’ve dedicated my life to this,” and I thought, “all right, all right, calm down. What’s he trying to teach me?” I thought about it and I thought about it and I thought, before I storm out of here and have a temper tantrum outside, or even leave here for good, I’m just going to meditate, one last time.
[11:02] Find the Highest Principle
So I sat and did my mantra effortlessly and went way beyond everything and forgot where I was for a moment and all of that. Very beautiful, delicious, deep transcendence meditation. And then I came out and I remembered that I had this thing I had to do and the day was getting on.
And then in that quiet moment at the end of meditation, I remembered a lecture that he had given once, where he said, “You know, as meditators, we have the principle of always going to the highest first, the highest principle first. The overarching highest principle. All other principles are obedient to that principle. Find the highest, find the grand Unified Field theory, find the theory of everything and everything will be obedient to that.” I thought, “why is this thought coming to me?”
But it was really coming to me. I was remembering perfectly, an entire lecture he had given on the subject. I kind of shook that off, and then it hit me, and I thought, “highest first, huh?”
I looked up in the telephone book. Back in those days, there was this thing called a telephone book, which had all of the telephone numbers for governments, for individual people, and so on. The White Pages. Big, giant, thick books that were supposed to contain every phone number there was.
This was back in the days of landlines, most of you can’t remember, a telephone was a thing that was hooked up by wires into the wall, wires that went into the wall of the room you were in and you had to talk through it. It was nothing you could carry around in your pocket.
[12:51] Head of State
I looked up the Prime Minister or head of state, whatever they call him, of Switzerland, who was a man at that time. I called the number of the head of state of Switzerland and a woman answered. She spoke beautiful English and I explained to her the situation, and she said, “Wait a moment. You’re those people, who are up in Seelisberg, there are thousands of you all learning from an Indian man, is that right?”
And I said, “Yes, that’s right.” And she said, “You have such a great reputation. Everybody’s so nice. Nobody gets involved in drugs.” Drugs were a big problem in Switzerland and all over the West in those days.
“Nobody gets involved in drugs, and there aren’t any wild parties or any drunken revelries or anything like that going on. We’ve only heard such great reports from all the citizens of Switzerland in your area. Wait one moment, let me find out what can be done.” And she went away.
About three or four minutes later, she came back to the phone and she said, “I’ve spoken with the head of state and he said you can go ahead and send your buses up there. All arrangements have been made at the local level, and there’ll be no obstruction from the Burgermeister.” I called and verified that, and was able to send the buses up to collect the women, to bring them down to the night’s festivities.
[14:20] Problem is a Consciousness State
And it all worked beautifully and when they arrived, finally, and got onto the boat after I’d ushered all of them, I think there were 300 of them or some number like that. I walked over to Maharishi and he was sitting down already, and there were thousands of people between these two or three boats all listening to him.
He pushed the microphone away and he said, “Yes, what is it?” And I said, “Maharishi, I got it done. I talked to the Prime Minister of Switzerland”, and he looked at me and he goes, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, no problem.”
And that was my lesson of the day. First of all, be careful what you say to a highly enlightened saint when you say, “No problem.” And secondly, in fact, there is no problem. Problem is a consciousness state. If you can think outside the realm of the problem, there’s always some level of organizing power that can get things done for you. Jai Guru Deva.