I have a friend who meditates 20 minutes a.m., 20 minutes p.m.. He’s been at it for 30 years. Not that it’s done him a lick of good.
He drives waiters crazy. Zooms up and down expressways like he’s doing the Indy 500. Alpha Male by choice (his profession is politics), he swears TM meditation’s made a big difference in his life.
“I’m mentally alert, intellectually sharp, on top of things because of TM,” he reflects in a moment of 950-caloric dining introspection. “And I tip well.” One thing’s certain: meditation’s an ingrained habit for him; and, as Truman Capote observed of the daily wank for sexual well being: you don’t have to dress up.
I remember back in the 1960s when Transcendental Meditation was introduced at Wayne State’s campus. Initiation for one’s personal “you only” mantra cost $30, along with an offering of a clean folded handkerchief and a piece of fruit. (Bananas were popular among alpha types.)
Meditation – in or out of loincloth – is a very old practice, traced back 4,000 years to Mohenjodaro, a crumble cake of a city in Pakistan. A cylinder found at an archeological dig there shows a figure squatting in pretzel-like posture. (Accompanying hieroglyphic: “Help! Rama-Dama, My poor leg’s gone to sleep.”)
The Beatles made TM meditation a watch-word for Westerners. The group toured India, embraced the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – who died last year age 90 – returned, introducing the tiny bubble of a beaming guru and his light-headed technique to a generation of anti-war, flower-power hippies.
The Beatles romance with TM proved passing fancy. They moved on to more lucrative psychedelic explorations. “Imagine” and “My Sweet Lord” are soulful, songful reminders of their yogic spiritual encounter. (“Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try.”)
My recent Google check brings up 551,000 books, pamphlets, articles about TM, its benefits (levitation, for the aeronautically inclined), its drawbacks (tailpipe exhaust following hours of third-eye overdrive).
Eastern mediative practices – chanting, singing, mantra repetition – and symbols – chakras, mandalas, yantras – are attractive to gays who have forsaken traditional Judaic-Christian monotheistic belief systems.
While many rainbow converts have found comfort in the teachings of Hinduism – watered down for Western consumption – and Buddhist mindfulness, they have also, not too surprisingly, found homophobic attitudes among gurus, leaders and followers.
Gay writer Andrew Harvey tells of his troubling encounter (“Hidden Journey”) with Mother Meera, a 19-year-old “Saint” who possessed so-called mystical powers. Harvey sought to be her disciple, until she told him to drop his male lover and marry a woman. (His gayness came with No Parking Karma Wanted Here!)
The ultra-glamorous Gurumayi Chidvilasanada (who’s said by disgruntled followers to have had a cosmetic, not cosmic, nose job) advises her Siddha Yoga flock that gays are not welcome in leadership roles (with or without nose jobs, one presumes). Gays may, if reverentially discrete, perform “seva” (dedicated volunteer service), buy literature, count religious mantra beads 108 times. Donate freely.
The smart thing to do when guru shopping is to check a spiritual driver’s license before turning over the keys to your convertible (or, wedding party limo). Four of the top swamis past and present – Swami Muktananda, Swami Rama, Sri Kriyananda, Amrit Desai – have each been accused of hanky panky (occasionally sued) by American female followers.
Chogyam Trungpa, who introduced Tibetan Buddhism rituals to America, was a boozing bisexual who regularly hit on male followers. His successor, Osel Tendzin – not ethically much better – is reported to have had unprotected sex with men and women. He died of AIDS-related causes.
One gathers that meditation doesn’t always sit well with some of its practitioners. Om shanti! Om shack me! (Don’t hold your breath.)