The Ultimate Path to Becoming a Vedic Meditation Initiator

“One of the most important things in our tradition is the creation of a succession. This is why the knowledge is here now. It’s here because there was great, great diligence in maintaining word-for-word process-for-process integrity in how to bring this knowledge to somebody.”

Thom Knoles

Episode Summary

We celebrate this, the 100th episode of The Vedic Worldview, by covering one of Thom’s favorite subjects, Vedic Meditation Initiator Training.

Building on the last episode, Become a Teacher of Vedic Meditation, Thom explains why his training is the ultimate path for anyone considering becoming a Vedic Meditation Initiator.

While there are many more trainings available than there were just a few short years ago, many of which offer a simpler or more convenient path of learning, Thom explains that it’s their convenience that makes them unsuitable for anyone serious about becoming an Initiator. 

He describes the 10,000-year-old tradition that has given us access to the wisdom behind Vedic Meditation in its purest form, and his commitment to maintain that purity.  

If you’re serious about becoming a Vedic Meditation Initiator, you can find out more about Vedic Meditation Initiator Training with Thom Knoles.

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Episode Highlights


Vedic Meditator Initiator Training 2023, Rishikesh, India



‘Creative’ Initiator Training



The Masterful Approach to Initiator Training



Shankaracharya – The Teaching Tradition



The Most Memorable Camaraderie



Bypassing Shoddy Guesswork



A Long Line of Wisdom



Does This Sound Like Something I Would Do?



The Opposite of Knowledge



The Balance Between Purity and Accessibility



The Danger of the Ever-Repeating Known



We Want to Be Change Designers



Initiator Training is Not for Everyone



The Most Precious Thing



You Deserve Plan A



This is How It’s Done



Diligence About Integrity



I Learned His Thinking



Check Here. Don’t Check.



Align Your Thinking With the Enlightened Mind



Jump the Hurdles You Need to Jump



You Are a Bright Star


Jai Guru Deva


The Ultimate Path to Becoming a Vedic Meditation Initiator

[00:00:45] Vedic Meditator Initiator Training 2023, Rishikesh, India

Jai Guru Deva. Welcome to Episode 100 of The Vedic Worldview. I’m Susan from Thom’s management team.

In this bonus episode, Thom continues his discussion about Initiator Training by answering a question from a live retreat audience about his Initiator Training Program.

Initiator Training 2023 to be held in Rishikesh, India is now open for applications. Visit Thom’s website to learn more. Jai Guru Deva

[00:01:16] ‘Creative’ Initiator Training

 One of you, on the way in, said they were very eager to do Initiator Training and missed out the previous year, COVID year, and then missed out last year because they hadn’t the prerequisites in place, and wanted to know, “Could I go on one of these other Initiator Training programs?”

Evidently, Initiator Training has developed some different meanings and I’ve heard recently, even some people who I’ve never heard of before and who’ve not met me, are holding what they call Initiator Training.

Some Zoom and some, “Stay home. Don’t bother with rounds. Stay at work. You know, every night you do a little bit of study and at the end of it all, as best as I can remember, someone else’s memory of some mantras that were written down on a napkin in a cafe, and you’ll be a Vedic Meditation Initiator.”

It’s astonishing to me, the creativity. Meditators do get creative, and so I want to spend a few moments talking about what Initiator Training actually means.

[00:02:47] The Masterful Approach to Initiator Training

It means that you certainly learn how to teach what it is that I teach, but when you learn, you want to learn it the way that I learned it, you want to learn it the way that it was taught by my master and by his master and the master before that and the master before that.

You want to learn it, and at the end of going through all of the prerequisites, and going through the 12 weeks of training, and all of the very diligent testing, you’ve been made into a purpose-built person who can, just contact with you for four days and you can deliver the whole teaching.

The fundamental first, how to meditate, and then, after that, layer after layer after layer of knowledge.

[00:03:55] Shankaracharya – The Teaching Tradition

Additionally, when you learn Initiator Training properly, then what happens is the tradition itself recognizes you. Guru Deva had a successor, had three successors, who he nominated one after the other to be the King of the Yogis.

The third of those is now in silence and retirement. He was only 13 when Guru Deva dropped his body in 1953, and so the seat right now is empty, but the Shankaracharya elect is there in India, Swami Kailashanand Giri ji, someone with whom we are very close and he gives his blessing to anyone to whom I give my blessing.

When you graduate, you’re not just somebody who took a 200-hour course in something, you are somebody who is officially a member of the Vedic tradition, the Shankaracharya tradition, the highest tradition in all of India, recognized by 1.3 billion Indians as being the teaching tradition.

All other traditions are vassal to that tradition. There is no other tradition higher. And so to be a member of that, and to be somebody who has a piece of paper with my signature on it saying that you’re that, this is a very important qualification.

[00:05:46] The Most Memorable Camaraderie

This is not like one of those 20-hour Yoga Teacher Training courses that you can do on Zoom while you’re folding your laundry. “I’m a Yoga Teacher.”

So there won’t be any laundry folding. There won’t be any, you know, music in the ear, distractions or anything under my training. It is arduous and it is joyful and it is very challenging.

And it is the most memorable camaraderie ever you’ll recall in your lifetime, with a group of people who’ve been handpicked by me to be trained by me and with my colleagues, my colleagues who have year after year after year, assisted me in bringing this to the world.

[00:06:55] Bypassing Shoddy Guesswork

One of the most important things in our tradition is the creation of a succession. This is why the knowledge is here now. It’s here because there was great, great diligence in maintaining word-for-word process-for-process integrity in how to bring this knowledge to somebody.

How to keep the mantras from simply being a word written on a cafe napkin to… true story… to it being a sound. Mantra is not a word. It’s not ink on paper. It’s a sound. It’s a sound and without its proper intonation, without its proper context, without knowing the reason why different mantras are suitable for different people, without understanding all the knowledge about it, the teacher is just doing shoddy guesswork.

And when shoddy guesswork gets passed along, it’s also part of Nature. Nature always, evolution always creates those members of a species who don’t evolve. They don’t end up actually being able to get evolutionary traction and they disappear on the sidelines.

[00:08:27] A Long Line of Wisdom

This is not that. This is the main stream. That’s why for 10,000 years, the same knowledge passed down generation after generation after generation after generation, up to today, we can trace our lineage back all the way to the beginning, teacher by teacher.

This is a very rare thing, even in India. Any great Guru in India, all you have to do is look up and see who was their Guru, who was their Guru’s Guru, and if it stopped somewhere about a hundred years ago, the writing’s on the wall.

If it doesn’t find a stream into this tradition somewhere, then it may be some new, good beginner tradition. We consider anything less than 5,000 years old a beginner, because by 5,000 years ago our tradition was already the tradition of knowledge that was recognized and still is today.

And so becoming an Initiator of Vedic Meditation is a jolly business and a serious business.

[00:09:53] Does This Sound Like Something I Would Do?

We have to look at it as something that, if we’re going to embark on that, and we should, everyone needs to just answer the question. “Am I called here or am I not called right now?”

Maybe someday my old friend, Rocky, who I keep looking at the back there, might eventually come on the training, which he and I have been contemplating for about 20 years. He already looks like one of the masters of our tradition. So, I mean, he’s managed not to get on teacher training, but the look is climbing all over him already.

And so each of us as meditators, we just have that charm thing. “Does this sound like something I would do?” And if the thought is, “Probably not,” then leave it alone for a while.

But what we don’t want to do is, “I wonder if there’s some kind of cheap cracker-jack way of getting those mantras without having to go away for 12 weeks of training and all the prerequisite works and being tested by those slave drivers. Somewhere, some way I could get away with a kind of version of the 20-hour or whatever, 200-hour fold-your-laundry, watch-on-Zoom technique.”

[00:11:34] The Opposite of Knowledge

There’s always a dynamic when knowledge has to move forward. Then it has two things that are in check with each other, the purity of a teaching, right? Keeping it very pure, but if it’s so pure and so isolated that no one ever learns it and nobody can find it, then it’s not satisfying that criterion of being knowledge.

It has turned into the opposite of knowledge, which is secret. The secret. The secret place in the secret cave in the Himalayas where nobody but a handful know. This is not knowledge which is for action. It’s being kept too insular.

On the other hand, in order to bring it forward, it has to be made relevant. We have to find ways of expressing the knowledge that meet the need of the time. But if we turn it into a market-driven thing like, “Hey, can you put that Initiator Training thing on an app? Cause sometimes I’m driving. I want to get my Initiator Training while I’m driving, or I might be riding the subway or it could be on a plane flight. Maybe while I’m showering, you know, listen to… Isn’t there an Initiator training app yet?”

[00:13:11] The Balance Between Purity and Accessibility

This would be making the whole thing market-driven. If it’s market-driven there are no students. It means that those who want the knowledge know better than the providers of the knowledge, the way in which the knowledge should come and they govern it.

And then the purity disappears. So without purity, and then without social relevance, it’s not really knowledge that’s going to have traction in the world. There has to be a combination, and to get that dynamic right, is a very careful, constant watchfulness in vigilance by the custodians of the knowledge.

“How do we keep it pure and also make it accessible without making it impure?” Too accessible, you start shedding things. You know, “Don’t bother with residential. Don’t bother with the one month of giant rounding. You know, who can do that anyway? I mean, you know, I have my job at Wendy’s. I, I can’t…”

[00:14:24] The Danger of the Ever-Repeating Known

If we can’t figure out how to make the sacrifice that’s needed and take that leap into the unknown, and when you go beyond the point of no return, you’re in the sweet spot. The ever-repeating known seems to be safe. In fact, it’s a dangerous place. The ever-repeating known smacks of stagnation and stagnation attracts carrion eaters, scavengers, rot, fungus, and all of that.

And so the destruction operators begin gathering around something that is just repeating and repeating and repeating and repeating.

The Dene Tribe here… one of my daughters has married into the Dene Tribe and they have a method where you can capture an eagle or a carrion eater, or even a larger predator, like a mountain lion. All you have to do is go out in a wide-open-spaces area and walk around in a big circle, about the size of this room, and just walk around and walk around and walk around.

And what happens is the birds of prey start to gather, and then they start circling around and you just keep walking around looking like you don’t know what you’re doing. If you walk around looking like you don’t know what you’re doing, but just repeating the known over and over, and the big predators, the mountain lions, notably here, they’re watching the birds because that’s an easy kill. If the birds are already circling, there’s something down there that’s going to be easy.

And this is how, when traditionally, for thousands of years, when the Dene or the Hopi wanted to take a cougar, then they could draw the cougar out of its hiding place by just doing the ever-repeating known out in the open.

[00:16:48] We Want to Be Change Designers

You see how it works? When you’re doing the ever-repeating known, you don’t have a plan for change, you’re going to be someone who reacts to change whenever it comes. You’re a reactor.

Change is coming. If you wish to design the change, you design the change, you satisfy the demand that Nature has for change occurring with regard to you. If you design the change, the change happens in the way that you design it.

You design it in advance of it being required of you. You design the change in advance of it being required of you. If you simply wait until it’s required of you, a tsunami of change will come and you won’t have any say in its design, you’ll only be able to react to the existing wave of change.

We want to be change designers. We don’t want to be reactors to change. Change is inevitable, inexorable, uncompromising. Never stops, ever, for a moment. Not stopping.

Change happens in two directions, deterioration or progression. This is an evolutionary phenomenon. Either you behave in ways that are going to receive support, because progress is the theme, progressive change, or you behave in ways in which you’re guaranteeing disintegration. You’re going to disintegrate.

Integrate is one thing, disintegrate means the other thing, coming apart. And so change is that which we have the invitation to have input into.

[00:19:14] Initiator Training is Not for Everyone

Initiator Training is not for absolutely everyone at absolutely any phase of life. For me, it was something from a very tender age. I didn’t feel so tender at the time, but I had my 17th birthday in Rishikesh, India. Not with my parents there holding my hand. No, I traveled around the world with Maharishi and ended up, and it all happened, from that time on was the cascade for me.

By the time I was 20, I had already initiated 1000 people. 1000 by the time I was 20. By the time I was 25, I had initiated 3,500 people.

That was partly to do with the time. Meditation had just suddenly become, it had captured the public imagination and there were more people asking to be taught than we had teachers for. It was a very, very interesting time to be alive and to be one of those.

[00:20:34] The Most Precious Thing

And training with my master was the most precious thing of all for me, the most precious thing. If, while Maharishi was alive, years into my teaching practice, he did give me the beginnings of the opportunity to assist him with training Initiators. I didn’t do that much, but I did some things.

Then he gave me more responsibilities and then he gave me more responsibilities until eventually he gave me the responsibility of holding the entire course.

But if, while he was alive, I thought, I can’t even imagine it, but I thought, “Well, I’ll set up my own teacher training program that doesn’t involve him and I’ll water it down a little bit so it’s more suitable for people who are stuck at home and… You know we’ll see if we can make it more acceptable to the market.”

It’s inconceivable to me, while he was walking on the planet, for there to be anybody else beside him, he always held the last days of the course training. Even when I would hold an entire course, the last week or two weeks, he would be there. And the idea that I would make it a show about me instead of about him, it’s just inconceivable to me.

[00:22:09] You Deserve Plan A

My point is, while this body [Thom’s body] is still here, don’t go for plan B. This is Plan A.

This is Plan A, and I can train you to be financially self-sufficient, to be a teacher of supreme knowledge. I can help you understand how to provide it at your own level. It may not be that thousands come to you. That’s not what’s needed for everybody.

You might be somebody who specializes in teaching a handful of a particular constituency, and small numbers could also be very bountiful. If we have a dedicated following of even a small number of people, not everybody is going to have thousands of initiations to their name, but whatever it is…

“You deserve the best, never feel unworthy or not justified in having the best. I tell you, this is your heritage, but you have to accept it. You have to expect it. You have to claim it. Doing so is not demanding too much.” Those are words from Guru Deva.

[00:23:42] This is How It’s Done

And whether you think I’m the best or you think the, whatever Zoom, the iPhone version of IT is the best, it’s very telling to someone like me, and this is why, when we have our teachers’ conventions every year, we frequently get applications from people we never heard of.

They want to come in Vedic Meditation Initiators’ Special Convention, and appear on the scene, and I can’t recognize somebody who I had nothing to do with their training.

And now we’re beginning to get meditators who are showing up, who want to sit in on, I initiate somebody, or my colleagues initiate somebody, and there’s that four-day phenomenon. Day one initiation. Day two, day three, day four, we always have a four-day format.

And sometimes the meditators sitting in the room are very diligently writing notes, who’ve been, you know, it’s open invitation to anyone who’s learned Vedic Meditation. And we’ve learned that some of those people are actually people who took the iPhone method of Initiator Training and they didn’t get properly trained, and so they’re coming to the meetings of the people I trained or to my meetings and sitting down and quickly taking notes. This is how it’s done. This is how it’s done. Because whoever it was, didn’t train them.

[00:25:18] Diligence About Integrity

And how do we know what mantras they were given? I had nothing to do with it. And so this kind of watering down thing, it’s all good information because, as life progresses, we need to know who is it that has a diligence about integrity and who is it that has some price on their integrity.

And it’s a good thing to know. Just a good thing to know. No judgment needs to be made about it. You can just relax. I’ve always found that a few numbers of very diligent people is bountiful.

[00:26:05] I Learned His Thinking

In various times of my career, when I was with Maharishi, there were some shocks that came in. Somebody who was once a famous teacher of Maharishi’s had decided that they were going to teach some other method and had sent out a newsletter to about a million meditators, saying, “This other method is now better than the one you learned under Maharishi, and I’m teaching it.”

This was somebody that Maharishi himself had made famous. And when that news was brought to Maharishi, he just laughed and laughed. Did we get that audio of him laughing? We should play it sometime. Maybe we can play it tonight.

He just laughed and laughed and laughed, and, at the end of all this he said, “How many meditators do we think we’ll go there?” Somebody said, “Probably 250,000.” He goes, “Good, good. Good, good. The broom is active. The broom is sweeping away all those who weren’t really serious about their practice. Beautiful. Beautiful. Broom. Love it. Jai Guru Deva.”

He said, “Now we have the small core of those who are going to move forward seriously. Fantastic. We couldn’t take all that.” He was, “Just like exfoliation. Get rid of all the dead skin. Beautiful feeling, all light and all of that. Great news. What else news? What else… are great things happening in the world today?”

That was his reaction to it and I learned how to think like him. That’s what he trained me to do. I learned his thinking.

[00:27:54] Check Here. Don’t Check.

And that’s why, 20 years before he dropped his body, in my final meeting with him, he said, “What do you need to check with me?” I was just about to go home to my home in Australia at the time and I said, “You know, various kinds of organizational things, or whatever.”

And he said, “In all such cases, you’ll check here and then don’t check,” pointing at his heart. “Maharishi. Thank you. Thank you. I will do that. I’ll check and then I won’t bother you with the details.”

He said, “How long have you been coming?” I said, “About 25, 26 years, something like…” “Oh,” he said, “It’s a long time. Did you get it?” “Yeah, I got it. I got it.” “Good. What else?”

“When should I come back to see you?” He looks at me and he says, “Come back means what?” This is the way he would get me into a trap. And I said, “Come back means I come back to be with you.” He said, “I thought you said you got it.” And I said, “I did get it.”

Then he took his beads and he said, “Then, you know, it’s not about this.” Thumping his chest. And I said, “Yes, I know that.” He said, “Then check here. Don’t check.” Pulled a rose out, handed it to me. “Jai Guru Deva.”

Big smile, final big smile, and then he turned and started talking to somebody else. That was my opportunity to either start crying and get another 10 years of busy work or accept the graduation and walk for the door.

[00:30:05] Align Your Thinking With the Enlightened Mind

Now I’ve told this story before, and then what I found was somebody heard it, and they said, “Well, that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve been meditating for 15 weeks and I heard about the 200-hour Zoom, iPhone Initiator Training. I’m just going to check here and not check.”

It’s not the same story. It doesn’t have the same gravity. Quarter of a century versus quarter of a year. Different story. We don’t take that unless it’s given to us. If the Master says to you, “Check here and don’t check,” then you do that.

If the Master hasn’t said that to you, you don’t do that. You check, you keep checking because checking means you’re aligning your thinking with that enlightened mind.

And this is what Initiator Training is all about. To align your thinking with the enlightened mind. And then when you become a teacher, you move with that degree of confidence and certainty and camaraderie, and that collegial… the whole college of Initiation moves with you. You’re part of a thing.

[00:31:43] Jump the Hurdles You Need to Jump

And so I wanted to address these points because in front of all my closest… you’re my closest meditators. Where’s everybody else? Everybody was invited to come. Thank God we didn’t get a hundred thousand people, but everyone was invited to come. You came and great congratulations to you for that.

You might be thinking, “There’s no way I would miss it.” Even better, but there was a trial in getting here. This is, even the last 20 miles of it, this is not an easy place to get to. It’s like a little, sometimes not even mentioned on a map. And here we are in that place, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of somewhere.

So you jumped the hurdles you needed to jump, you made the arrangements you needed to make. When people said, “What, you’re going there? Really?” You said, “Yes, I am. Be quiet.” And you came, you made it happen. And here you are reaping the benefit of it. So I wanted to share these thoughts about Initiator Training with my closest meditators.

That’s you? You’re my closest meditators. It’s a small club. It’s a small club and invitation is open to it, but relatively few actually come. You have to self-nominate to walk in here. And it says something about you that you decided to do that.

[00:33:27] You Are a Bright Star

So those are my thoughts about Initiator Training. It’s not just, “You add this to that, do that, and then do your hand movements in a certain way and, you know, learn some things on a napkin and go and teach the world. Thanks.”

And you don’t know, Exploring the Veda. Exploring the Veda, it’s now been taken by thousands and thousands of people. It’s my course on how all of this knowledge came to be and what it all means. About 80 hours of listening, and you can’t do it driving your car, folding your laundry.

And Mastering the Siddhis, and all of these prerequisites we have for Initiator Training, they stand you in very good stead so that when you take the training, you are far more knowledgeable than the meditating community with which you’ll be interacting. 

You’re a bright star. I think that’s enough about all that.

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