My Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Walnut Tree

“You can’t stop someone from behaving according to their level of consciousness. Someone’s level of consciousness always dictates their behavior.”

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Episode Summary

While Maharishi Mahesh Yogi spent thousands of hours teaching his students formally, often it was the day-to-day life situations that provided the most profound teaching moments.

In this, another instalment of the My Maharishi series, Thom shares a delightful anecdote of a picnic in Switzerland that gave rise to one of Maharishi’s most famous sayings, “You can’t stop someone from behaving according to their level of consciousness.”

Enjoy this short but sweet episode.

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Episode Highlights


Out in the Field



The Numbers Game



A Picnic in Switzerland



A Photo Opportunity



A Trivializing Gesture



Don’t Expect Mangoes From a Walnut Tree



Consciousness Dictates Behavior


Jai Guru Deva


My Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Walnut Tree

Out in the Field

[00:00:00] I’d like to tell you another story about my time with my Maharishi, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. And I’d like to preface this by saying that this was a man who was famous to hundreds of thousands of people, known by millions of people, during the prime years of his teaching activities.

[00:01:08] I had the great, good fortune, as did hundreds of others, of being able to spend individual time with him in a variety of scenes and scenarios.

[00:01:18] The way that Maharishi worked is that he would train you for a particular period of time and then he would send you off to the field, as he called it, to teach. And then after a period of time teaching, many months or so, you would have to come back and spend time with him. And it wasn’t hard to come back and spend time with him, it was a sheer delight.

[00:01:39] And so one was always thinking, “How quickly can I get back there?” In my own case, I would have a certain number of people to teach assigned to me. “And when you’ve taught this many, then come back.”

The Numbers Game

[00:01:51] And he and I had this little thing going, where every time I was about to leave his presence, I would say to him, “When would you like me to come back?” And he remembered that the last time he gave me a number, I achieved the number. And so the number of people I had to teach kept going up as the years went by and I did my very best and did achieve those numbers.

[00:02:16] One of the reasons I was able to teach so many thousands of people was because I was highly motivated to get back to see Maharishi, and I did have this number of people I had to bring into the teaching put before me, before I could enjoy another period of time with him.

A Picnic in Switzerland

[00:02:32] One of these times, which is a very fond memory for me, Maharishi, at the end of about 1970, left India and moved to Europe. And he spent some parts of his time in Europe in Spain training teachers in Majorca, some parts in Italy, training teachers there in Italy, it was all for teacher training.

[00:02:57] The reason was that his ashram, his little ashram in Rishikesh, India, had become too small to accommodate the thousands of people who were applying to take teacher training with him. And then he eventually ended up for about eight years living in Seelisberg, Switzerland, on a giant cliff face, looking down a thousand feet onto Lake Lucerne in a very beautiful part of Switzerland. He was based there for quite a few years.

[00:03:29] During one of these times in Europe, Maharishi asked a few of us if we could have a picnic, and he just wanted to have a change of scenery I think. So we went off into the woods and forests of the mountains of the Alps and laid out a blanket.

[00:03:49] And he had his special food that was cooked by his cook, placed in those little Indian tins called Tiffins. And the rest of us did our best with baguettes and things that we picked up from the Swiss parts. 

A Photo Opportunity

[00:04:04] And while we were sitting there having our picnic one day, a group of local hikers came through, local people, and one of them recognized Maharishi from various press reports.

[00:04:18] Maharishi had become very famous for a reason that he didn’t find all that impressive to him. But he’d taught four boys from Liverpool, singers in a particular band had learned to meditate with him, the Beatles, and so when all of that publicity came out many years before this, many people identified his face, he had a very distinctive face, with those celebrities. He himself had become a celebrity too.

[00:04:46] And so then they asked as they came walking past, one of them recognized him, and there were about five or six people, and the impression I received was that they were in a family and they were speaking Swiss German and one of our Swiss members of our party was able to translate.

[00:05:04] They asked, “Would we be able to take a picture of ourselves with Maharishi, a group photo.” And so it was asked of him and he said, “Sure, why not?”

A Trivializing Gesture

[00:05:15] And so they all gathered behind him and, in their hiking boots and all of that, and Maharishi was sitting on his blanket, and someone got up to take the picture and then, one of them had a camera.

[00:05:29] And then when the picture was being taken, one of them did the little naughty thing of putting two fingers up behind his head, like putting the little horns behind the guru’s head. And I saw this and I went, “No, don’t like that.” But then the photo was snapped and then Maharishi said, “Good, everyone happy? Done. Good.” And off they went.

[00:05:51] So then after the photo was taken, I was a little bit shocked because I didn’t think that was a very respectful thing to do in a photograph with Maharishi, to put your fingers up behind his head. And so I apologized to him and I said, “I’m sorry that you had to experience that. They made some kind of a trivializing gesture.” It was just trivializing. That’s all, it wasn’t rude or anything. It was just trivializing.

Don’t Expect Mangoes From a Walnut Tree

[00:06:17] And he looked at me and he said, “Do you think that it was not a good thing?” I said, “It wasn’t a good thing.” He said, ” Do you think it was a shame?” I said, “Yes, it was a shame. They missed a great opportunity to get something more from you than just a picture where they were doing a trivializing gesture.”

[00:06:36] He said, “No, you see, here’s the shame. It’s a shame to be surprised when a walnut tree produces walnuts.” He said, “Were you expecting mangoes from the walnut tree?” I said, “I don’t know what I was expecting.”

[00:06:55] He said, “No, it’s good to have accurate expectations. See the walnut tree only knows how to make walnuts. If you sit under the walnut tree and you’re thinking, ‘Why aren’t mangoes coming? Why aren’t mangoes coming?’ You can’t enjoy the walnuts. When it’s just walnuts, enjoy the walnuts, but don’t get yourself all shamed by expecting mangoes to drop from there.”

Consciousness Dictates Behavior

[00:07:17] He said, “It’s always good to remember this. You can’t stop someone from behaving according to their level of consciousness. Someone’s level of consciousness always dictates their behavior.”

[00:07:28] And I found that lesson really went to heart. He said all this very smilingly, even though it was a very gentle, gentle chiding of me. But he said it all very smilingly and he used opportunities like that to teach those who around him, who were interested in learning. It’s one of my fondest memories, the picnic, and the story of the walnut tree.

[00:08:01] Jai Guru Deva.

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