1968_05_04--025_SP - Page 1

1968_05_04--023_SP_Guru from Rishikesh

`The Maharishi,' he said, 'tells us man is not born to suffer.' The Maharishi speaks. Leon Auerbach, with hands folded, is organizing a world-peace movement for the Maharishi. Fineberg assured her that everyone did, a suitable one corresponding to his or her particular vibrations. Somebody else wanted to know if the practice required difficult concentration. Fineberg said it was an easy matter of letting the mind drift. Neither was it required to have faith or renounce liquor, women or riotous living. After about half an hour the audience began to get ominously restless. The more openly skeptical got up and left, indulging in discreet grunts of disbelief as they moved toward the mirrored doors. The questions from those who remained acquired a harder edge, reflecting the general opinion that perhaps the Maharishi offered too much, too soon. "But what is your background?" said an argumentative man in the back. "What are your credentials?" Accurately guessing the intent of the man's question, Fineberg said, "It's not important." "But then how can you presume?" "The same way you will," Fineberg said, "when you know." His answers became gradually more Biblical and cryptic as people pressed him about the money. A lady in a large hat accused him of holding out; others asked why the Maharishi didn't give away the secret, as had Christ, or why the tickets at Madison Square Garden had cost as much as $10 each. "Our books are open to the Internal Revenue Service," Fineberg said at last. " . . I'm not involved in that part of it . . . it's not my thing." At which point, moved by Fineberg's distress, a Negro woman in a yellow sweater felt called upon to offer a supporting testimonial. She stood up and proclaimed herself a meditator for six years. "I'd just like to say it works," she said. "I've had experiences beyond my wildest dreams." A few of these she enumerated, her voice falling into the rhythm of a revivalist confession, and she concluded by offering to pass around photographs of her son, also a meditator, who'd been rewarded by being sent to guard an American embassy. Why this was a boon she didn't explain. Fineberg smiled painfully. That kind of testimonial he didn't need, and he abruptly brought the questioning to a close. Tables had been set up in the lobby, he said, and the girls sitting behind them would schedule appointments for initiations. He explained that anybody still involved with marijuana or LSD must wait 15 days, in order to cleanse the nervous system, but they could make appointments in advance. "See Laura if you're on drugs," he said. About 60 people gathered in the lobby, patiently waiting in a double line; among them I noticed several of those who had asked the harshest questions. Standing quietly in a corner, Fineberg smoked a cigarette and watched the procedure with melancholy interest. A girl in a chic pink suit approached him and said, "What if you're afraid of disillusion?" "Cool it," he said. " Wait until friends do it." During the next several days I talked with other followers of the Maharishi in New York, all of whom testified to the sudden burgeoning of the movement. Within the past three weeks, they said, at least 600 people had applied for initiation. The president of a New Jersey insurance company wanted to provide meditation for all of his 150 employees; a woman in the Bronx wanted to buy it, as an anniversary present, for her son and daughter-in-law. '1 emporarily without proper space, the organization then was using the office of an entrepreneur named Kip Cohen, who ordinarily arranged psychedelic light shows for pop concerts. Characteristic of another type I later found prevalent among meditators, Cohen was young, engaging, very articulate and very hip. He had long blond hair and a mustache, and he was just past 26, which depressed him. He'd first seen the Maharishi on the Johnny Carson show, and he'd heard that Donovan and the Beatles were into meditation. "With their endorsement," he said, "I knew the thing couldn't be too far amiss." Born in Shaker Heights, Ohio, he'd attended both Columbia University and the Carnegie Tech school of drama, but neither his privileged origins nor his education had brought him happiness. He'd been through the "Zen thing" in the 1950's and experimented with various drugs. He regarded the drug scene as a necessary but intermediate stage in the expansion of the mind, "like junior high school," but it had left him short of his destination. "You can only blow your head so many times," he said. " . . The trouble with too many kids is that they keep repeating the same course." The meditation he'd found similar to drugs, affording an even "groovier high," but without the debilitating side effects, either legal or physiological. He also attributed to it a source of energy he could rely upon, a clearer mind and a positivism of which he thought he'd lost track. "I know that sounds like a corny bit," he said, "like a television ad or something . . . but what happens is, you begin to dig the infinite." Among all the enthusiasts I met in New York none surpassed Leon Auerbach, who had a new and messianic light in his eyes. I found him in his old office, throwing out papers with light-hearted indifference. He'd abandoned his job as a theatrical agent, he said, and dedicated his life to the service of the Maharishi. The Maharishi on his last passage through New York had asked Leon to organize a world-peace movement, and Leon hadn't known how he could refuse. Vouchsafed a deeper insight into the affairs of men, he'd come to understand that war and poverty proceeded not from the whims of despots but rather from the collective confusion in the minds of the people. "If one person in every thousand meditated," he said, "there would be peace for a thousand generations." He had plans he couldn't tell me about, the moment not yet being propitious, but he hinted that he would confer with those whom he called "the rich and powerful of the earth," hopefully to persuade them to lend money and influence to the distribution of the Maharishi's message. I asked him several practical questions about the extent of the movement and its financial structure, but these didn't interest him. He shrugged and smiled and said I must go to California and talk to a man named Charles Lutes. A world governor of the Spiritual Regeneration Movement, Lutes was the one man in the United States authorized to speak for the Maharishi, and in California the movement had become something very beautiful and very big. I came west on the same plane with Lutes, a stolid, handsome man in his 50's who was by profession a salesman in steel and concrete. He wore a plain brown suit and spoke in a flat and uninflected voice. He lived in the San Fernando Valley, and he'd been in New York to make arrangements for the Maharishi's concert tour this May with the Beach Boys. With a booking agent he'd discussed the relative billings and the design of the posters, and he hoped the singing group would forgo the heavier rock. The Maharishi's message he defined as "the message of the flower," and he thought a hard beat might violate it. Among the Maharishi's followers I found the older and younger generations divided into factions and offering various interpretations of his message. The same factions later appeared among the residents of the ashram, raising the unhappy 25


1968_05_04--023_SP_Guru from Rishikesh
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