“What’s Enlightenment?” — Q&A with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

The following is an excerpt from Robert Oates’ Celebrating the Dawn, which was first published in 1976 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York.

Q: What’s the goal of Transcendental Meditation?

Maharishi: “The goal of the Transcendental Meditation technique is the state of enlightenment. This means we experience that inner calmness, that quiet state of least excitation, even when we are dynamically busy.”

Q: But activity and quietness seem to be opposites. Isn’t it necessary to sit and close the eyes in order to enjoy the peaceful effects of the TM technique?

Maharishi: “It’s only in the beginning days of meditation that one has to meditate in order to experience that silent, quiet level of the mind, that state of pure consciousness. As we continue to alternate the experience of the meditation with daily activity, the value of that pure consciousness is infused into the mind. The pure level of consciousness becomes stabilized in our awareness, and when that pure level – the state of least excitation – is a living reality even during daily activity, this is the state of enlightenment. This is life free from suffering, life when every thought and action is spontaneously correct.

Q: But how is it possible for the mind to experience two different states at the same time?

Maharishi: “This is the question. How can the mind be both active and silent? How can one have the state of least excitation in the midst of all activity? What we find is that it is the natural ability of the nervous system to live one hundred per cent of the inner value of life, and one hundred per cent of the outer value. It is only stresses and strains which restrict this normal functioning of the nervous system.”

Q: Then it would be necessary to dissolve stress in order to experience the state of enlightenment.

Maharishi: “Yes. And it brings very practical value to life. Even if we forget about ‘enlightenment’ for a moment – maybe that state seems to be inconceivable – still it is our daily experience that the whole value of life is very little if we are tired, if we are stressed. If we think of a morning when we have not rested well in the night, then we feel so groggy and everything just collapses into dullness and inertia. The world is the same as on the other days, but our appreciation of the world is so much less. And with the Transcendental Meditation Technique we have a natural and effective means to dissolve even deeply rooted fatigue and stress. This is the way to unfold full value of life. Even in the first days of meditation we find that our eyes seem to be a little more open, our mind seems a bit more clear. Our feeling towards our friends seems to be more harmonious. And then, as the practice is continues every day, a time will come when we will start living life free from all stresses. We cleanse the awareness of all stresses and strains, leaving the conscious mind completely free in its pure value.

Q: Does this mean that evolution toward enlightenment is automatic as stresses are released?

Maharishi: “Yes. When all stresses are gone, the whole appreciation of life is so much greater. Then the value of every perception, every thought, every action, every feeling will be supported by the full value of that pure awareness. This is enlightenment. It is like the ability to maintain contact with a bank even while out in the marketplace.”

Q: Maintaining contact with a bank – can that analogy be made clearer?

Maharishi: “Maintaining that pure awareness, that bliss consciousness, can be compared to having great wealth. If one is not aware of having great wealth in the bank, and one has only five dollars in the pocket, then there is some pinch about spending even one dollar for a rose. A man could say, ‘Ah, the rose is so beautiful, but now there are only four dollars left in the pocket.’ There is some pinch to the feelings. But if the awareness is open to great wealth in the bank, a dollar is spent for a rose and the man is only faced with the joy of having a rose. No pinch is there. And this is one’s experience in the state of enlightenment. When that pure state of silence and bliss is stabilized on the level of one’s awareness, every activity is supported by that peace and joyfulness. Every activity is the expression of the fullness of life.”

From Celebrating the Dawn by Robert Oates Jr.
Copyright © 1976 All rights reserved