“Millions and millions of people were able to learn the technique of meditation that Maharishi brought from Guru Deva down through the ages, and I had the great, good fortune of being one of those people trained by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, to bring his knowledge of meditation to the world, and to be able to teach it in exactly the same way that he taught it all over the world.”Thom Knoles
Thom’s master, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, is responsible for millions of people around the world taking up the meditation technique we now refer to as Vedic Meditation, but which Maharishi originally referred to as ‘The Grace of Guru Deva.’
What few people realise though, is that Maharishi never set out with a specific intention to share the technique with anyone, let alone share it with millions around the world.
In this episode, Thom shares the origin story of the meditation technique that changed the world, a story that began with a one word thought, ‘Rameshwaram.’
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Sitting on the Banks of the Ganges
At the Feet of Guru Deva
A Thought Appears
Maharishi Breaks His Silence
I Want to Get Rid of the Thought
Lots of Ignorance
Maharishi Went to Rameshwaram
A Tap on the Shoulder
The Grace of Guru Deva
It All Started With Charm
Radiate Life for All to Enjoy
Jai Guru Deva
My Maharishi – The Beginning at Rameshwarame
[00:00:45] Sitting on the Banks of the Ganges
[00:00:45] Once upon a time, in 1955, my teacher, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, found himself sitting on the banks of the Ganges river, we refer to it as Ganga, in the very small hamlet of Uttarkashi in Far North India, in the Himalayas. He had been sitting there for about two years, and in that sitting, he would spend as much time as possible sitting upright just with his eyes closed.
[00:01:25] He wasn’t practicing meditation because he was in that state of Unity Consciousness, the enlightened condition in which one is not in the habit of having thoughts. And he could sit there with his eyes open or his eyes closed, but he just sat in the silence. And why was he doing this?
[00:01:45] At the Feet of Guru Deva
[00:01:45] For 13 years prior to that, he had been at the feet of his master Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, whom we call Guru Deva. Guru means a teacher or remover of darkness, literally. And Deva is D-E-V-A. The A is kind of swallowed here.
[00:02:07] Guru Deva, who was the preeminent undisputed master of all the masters of meditation, yoga, Indian philosophy, and Veda philosophy in India, the Shankaracharya, for 13 years at the feet of his master. And then his master at the end of those 13 years, which flashed by for Maharishi, decided that it was time to drop the body. This is the way we refer to it in the context of these great masters. We don’t say they died.
[00:02:44] When someone can sit in front of an audience of 240 people, look around the room and smile, and then, give a few, lovely epithets to each of the disciples in the room and then, simply at will, keel over, this is what we call dropping the body. And this is what Guru Deva had done two years before.
[00:03:07] A Thought Appears
[00:03:07] At the end of a two-year tenure sitting on the banks of the Ganges, Maharishi discovered an unusual thing. A thought appeared. And as he put it, “One was not in the habit of having thoughts.” A thought appears.
[00:03:26] And the thought was the thought of something, which he knew the meaning of it because it’s a Sanskrit word. He knew what the meaning of it was, but he didn’t know why he was having this particular thought. And the thought was, “Rameshwaram, Rameshwaram.”
[00:03:47] He said that at first, the thought “Rameshwaram” came to him, perhaps three times in a day. And then it began to increase in its frequency up to 10 times a day.
[00:04:04] Maharishi Breaks His Silence
[00:04:04] And those times he had noticed on a few occasions, another master, a Yogi, a renunciate, one of the Himalayan yogis who lives outside, by choice, in an unsheltered environment, by choice, who had been across the river from him.
[00:04:23] And the river there is one that has very few places where you can cross it, and, rocky, rocky stepping stones across the river, a long time ago before any of the footbridges that are extant today were built.
[00:04:38] So he crossed over to this Yogi who had, as he said, the longest hair that he’d ever seen. This man’s hair dragged on the ground behind him, about 10 feet. And the man had a very long beard.
[00:04:53] And even though it was the chilly, bracing, cold water of the Ganges in the Himalayas, this man lived his entire life, clothes free, completely naked. Not an uncommon sight in the holy precincts of Northern India.
[00:05:12] And he approached him and broke his silence. Maharishi hadn’t spoken to anyone in two years. “Excuse me, Baba.” Baba means father. “I’ve been having this thought, Rameshwaram. Do you have any idea what Rameshwaram means?”
[00:05:33] The old master looked at him and said, “It’s the name of a place. It’s about a thousand miles south from here. One of the Shiva Jyotirlinga,” meaning a great temple, a temple of some note to Shiva, “sitting on the Southernmost tip of India. That’s what it is.”
[00:05:59] I Want to Get Rid of the Thought
[00:05:59] Maharishi resumed his silence and picked his way back across the river and sat down on the bank, and spent many more days, mostly in silence, but with Rameshwaram, Rameshwaram, coming to him as a thought with ever-increasing frequency.
[00:06:21] Then at some point, he couldn’t take it anymore. So he crossed the river again. And to his surprise, the old Baba, by this time, had shaved off his entire head of hair and shaved off his beard almost to the point of being unrecognizable.
[00:06:39] Maharishi said to him, “Excuse me, Baba. Why did you shave off all that beautiful hair? It was so natural.” And the Baba said to him, “One more possession to get rid of.” This is the extent to which renunciation had ruled the lives of these ascetics who lived on the river. One more possession to get rid of. “Yes?”
[00:07:06] Maharishi, much younger than the old Baba, said to him. “I want to get rid of the ‘Rameshwaram’ thought. What advice can you give me about how to get rid of it?”
[00:07:19] The old Baba said to him, “If you want to get rid of it, then go there to that place. See what it is, and then forget about it and come back here. But,” he said, “everything south from here is mud.”
[00:07:36] Lots of Ignorance
[00:07:36] What did he mean by that? Mud, it means ignorance.
[00:07:40] You have to realize, Maharishi had been living in an ashram, a commune, a community, based around an enlightened master with whom he had learned and whom he served for 13 years, now in silence for two years on the banks of the river, now bereft of his master, and the old Baba wanted to warn him that when you enter the world, you’re going to experience mud.
[00:08:05] “What does mud mean? Lots of ignorance. You’re not used to it. So go there. See the place. Get rid of the thought and then come back here.”
[00:08:17] Maharishi Went to Rameshwaram
[00:08:17] Maharishi decided that’s it, right there and then, he got up, walked to the nearest footpath, began his trek down the mountain. Finally, after several weeks came to Haridwar.
[00:08:33] Haridwar is one of the Northernmost towns that has a train service, or it did in those days. Hopped on a train from Haridwar and made his way south that thousand miles or so.
[00:08:50] In those times and somewhat true even today, if one spotted the garb of a holy person, the long flowing robes, the long hair, the beard so on, then a train conductor had been instructed by the Indian rail authority, not to request a ticket or a fare.
[00:09:13] They were considered to be people who, the rail authority would donate to them their trip, because they were people who it wasn’t considered polite or proper to approach someone who had renounced all worldly possessions and ask them for the train fare.
[00:09:32] So Maharishi was able to ride from. And he rode all the way down to the small town of Rameshwaram.
[00:09:43] A Tap on the Shoulder
[00:09:43] There, he visited the temple, paid his respects, and was going to turn around, and come straight back up to Uttarkashi, as he had been advised by the old Baba, when, as he was approaching the train station one evening, there was a tap on his shoulder from behind.
[00:10:04] He turned, and the man said to him, “Excuse me.” He said, “You wear the garb of a northerner. Are you from the north?”
[00:10:14] “Yes,” said Maharishi, “I’m from the North.”
[00:10:17] “Do you speak?”
[00:10:20] “I’m speaking to you now,” said Maharishi, “Yes. But if you mean, do I give lectures? No, I don’t do that.”
[00:10:30] Then the man said to him, “Is it not true that in your training, in your culture, becoming a Swami, becoming a Guru, that you’ve agreed that if anyone were to approach you with their palms pressed together and request earnestly that you give knowledge, that you have no choice, but to give knowledge. Is this not true?”
[00:11:03] Maharishi said to him, “Yes, it’s true.”
[00:11:07] “Then,” said the man, pressing his palms together firmly, “I’m asking you now, humbly and worthy. Will you please give knowledge? Because you see, I’m the librarian here, and I’ve booked seven nights of lectures by a celebrated speaker on the subject of spirituality, but my speaker got laryngitis, and he can’t speak. And so I’m out scouting to see if there’s anyone who can give lectures on the subject of spirituality, and then I come across you.”
[00:11:46] Pressing his palms together again, “Now I’m asking you with folded hands. Will you speak starting tonight?
[00:11:57] Maharishi said, “I have to say yes.”
[00:12:02] The man said, “Good. I’ll see you at seven o’clock.”
[00:12:05] The Grace of Guru Deva
[00:12:05] Maharishi turned up at seven and began to hold forth on the greatness of his master, Guru Deva, someone who was one of the best known public figures in all of India. What it was like to learn with him, what he was like to learn under, and some of the lessons that he had learned, and this talk went on one night, two nights, and three nights.
[00:12:37] At the end of the third night, someone said, “Hundreds of us who’ve been coming every night, listening to you, we wonder, is there anything practical that you can teach us, that you learned from Guru Deva?”
[00:12:52] And Maharishi said, “I thought you’d never ask. Yes, there is something practical that I can teach you. I call it ‘The Grace of Guru Deva.’ And what is it?
[00:13:06] “I’m going to teach you a word or sound, a bija mantra, which, when you close your eyes and use it effortlessly, will take your mind from the conscious thinking, layers down into the depths. Your mind will follow the charm of the ever-increasing delight that this mantra provides you, with each repetition of it, until your mind arrives at the bliss that knows nothing other than itself. The one, indivisible, whole unbounded consciousness, state of Being.
[00:13:42] “Yes, I have something practical. Come tomorrow, and we’ll start day one.” And over the next four days, he instructed all of those applicants and supplicants and the technique, which today I refer to as Vedic Meditation; it comes from the Veda.
[00:14:05] Guru Parampara
[00:14:05] So, this was the first instance in which Maharishi trained someone in the techniques that were imparted to him by his master, Guru Deva, who had said that he had them imparted to him by his master, Swami Krishnananda Saraswati, who said that he had had them imparted to him by his own master, and so on, in an unbroken tradition, going back thousands of years.
[00:14:36] There is a tradition of masters of meditation. In Sanskrit, it’s referred to as Guru Parampara, P-A-R-A-M, Param, second part of the word para, P-A-R-A, Parampara. Guru Parampara means the tradition, the unbroken line, tradition of teachers going back to time immemorial.
[00:15:03] It All Started With Charm
[00:15:03] So, here’s an example of a great master following charm. The idea of going to Rameshwaram bubbled up from deep inside of him. When he learned that it was a place and he received the counsel from the old Baba, “Go there and get rid of the thought and then come back.”
[00:15:25] He immediately hopped on, walked days and days, and then hopped on a train and then made his way down there, only to find that the purpose of him being there was actually to intersect with the worthy inquiry that was going to start a process that lasted 50 years.
[00:15:47] The next 50 years, Maharishi taught this technique of meditation and brought it to the entire world, at every point at every juncture.
[00:16:03] From time to time when he had some quiet time, usually on a full moon night, which was the night where you could really get him to answer almost any question, he became rather contemplative, and very, very giving about answering almost any question you could ask him.
[00:16:22] On many full moon nights, I heard him say, “Really, I didn’t intend to start a worldwide movement of meditation. What I intended to do was to get rid of the thought ‘Rameshwaram’ and then go back to Uttarkashi.”
[00:16:41] And he would always say, the ten-year mark, the twenty-year mark, the thirty-year mark, forty-year mark, “I’m actually on my way back to Uttarkashi. I’m going back to Uttarkashi. I’m just, it’s a circuitous path. I’m going the long way back to Uttarkashi.” Got rid of the thought, going back to Uttarkashi.”
[00:17:02] Radiate Life for All to Enjoy
[00:17:02] In the meantime, millions and millions of people were able to learn the technique of meditation that Maharishi brought from Guru Deva down through the ages, and I had the great, good fortune of being one of those people trained by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, to bring his knowledge of meditation, which he’d learned from his master, Guru Deva, to the world, and to be able to teach it in exactly the same way that he taught it all over the world.
[00:17:38] I follow the exact methodology that Maharishi trained me in, and, indeed, in which he trained the many tens of thousands of people that he personally initiated into this practice.
[00:17:51] I’m providing it in the name of Vedic Meditation to all worthy inquirers, and may you be one of those, or if already you are, then greetings to you, and let’s continue to broaden this knowledge and radiate life for all to enjoy.
[00:18:09] Jai Guru Deva.