The Unbounded Experience of Sitting Down With: John Hagelin
By Bob Belinoff
Dr. Hagelin is a quantum physicist, educator, author and public policy expert. He is responsible for the development of a highly successful grand unified field theory based on the Superstring.
His scientific contributions in the fields of electroweak unification, grand unification, super-symmetry and cosmology included some of the most cited references in the physical sciences. Dr. Hagelin received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He is currently Director of the Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy and Professor of Physics at Maharishi University of Management.
A compact halfback of smiling human energy, Dr. Hagelin speaks in fully formed sentences, paragraphs and even pages. He has a clean settled look, for a quantum physicist, an engaging ever-present smile.
We talked outside the ballroom at the USC Radisson across the street from where he and David Lynch had presented a program the night before on Creativity and the Brain.
Bob: Words like “fields” and “subtle energy” are becoming more and more a part of our vocabulary. Are we beginning to become comfortable with a vocabulary to describe an invisible world – making this invisible world more approachable for more people?
Dr. Hagelin: It is happening, and it has been happening for a while from probably 1917, with the introduction of the wireless telegraph by Marconian scientists. At that time we started to shift into an invisible world pervaded by fields which underlie and connect us all. This is an age where every child has a cellular telephone or some type of mobile device, and everyone is wired together in an increasingly obvious way. The idea that there may be invisible fields that can communicate from one person to another and one form to another is becoming very commonplace, particularly among young people.
Bob: Meditation is a kind of ancient personal technology involving energy and the human potential to access it. Is this access available to everyone?
Dr. Hagelin: Meditating is easy, but it is a very delicate science. Even in our age, right now, there are techniques of meditation that are very powerful, and there are others that just are not. It is a subtle thing, the process of transcending.
Bob: Would you explain, please?
Dr. Hagelin: It is subtle because as natural as it is for human awareness to expand and experience unbounded-ness, it is, of necessity, an effortless process, because any effort, any exertion, even any intention will engage the mind. All of that involves mental effort and mental effort is the opposite of unbounded awareness in which the mind is completely still.
Anything you do that engages the mind, tends to steer the mind, even creative visualization, all systematically prevents transcending from happening.
Bob: The key to Transcendental Meditation, as I understand it, is the mantra. What is the technology of the mantra? How does that work to get us to a place?
Dr. Hagelin: That is a good question. There are really two aspects to Transcendental Meditation. One is the mantra, the sound, the vibrational quality of sound, and the other is the technique and how to use it properly. Firstly, what is unique about a mantra, at least the category of mantra that is used in Transcendental Meditation, is that it has the following crucial properties: it is a sound that may or may not have a meaning, but the meaning is not important; it is a sound that is experienced by the mind as increasingly blissful at deeper levels of thought and finer levels of the thinking process.
Bob: Finer levels of the thinking process?
Dr. Hagelin: Every time we have a thought, that thought goes through a process of gestation. There is a mechanics of the formation of a thought. It does not take very long, fortunately, or we would be tongue-tied all of the time. A thought does begin as a very abstract impulse, almost a swell on the surface of the ocean of consciousness. That swell becomes like a rising wave, more and more concretely defined, more narrowly isolated, more specific and precipitated until you can almost hear that thought and then can speak the thought.
Most people do not know this very simple but important fact about the mind. It is always moving. It is not moving randomly, but always moving in the direction of greater interest, greater charm, greater satisfaction, more bliss, more and more expansion, more evolution, more happiness, more fulfillment.
Bob: More stuff, in some cases……
Dr. Hagelin: Yes, as long as the stuff brings satisfaction. The mind is always moving in the direction of greater happiness. The moment I get boring, the moment I talk too long, you are going to start to notice the person sitting over there. It is just always inevitable because the mind always wants the most. If the mantra is getting more satisfying at deeper levels, once you taste that, your mind will automatically go in that direction, and in a matter of moments you can go from this very limited consciousness at the surface of thought to this unbounded ocean of pure, universal bliss.
The other half of the equation is that you have to use the mantra correctly because, for example, concentrating on it will only keep the mind sharply localized which is the opposite of the de-localization and expansion of comprehension to become unbounded, which is the nature of universal consciousness, the nature of pure consciousness.
Bob: So, the mantra then becomes a cue to the mind? The mind has to get used to the idea that it is a prod. It is a cue to go deeper?
Dr. Hagelin: An enticement. It is like a sweet fragrance. “Where is that coming from?” You just go there.
Bob: But it has to be trained to recognize it, to respond to it?
Dr. Hagelin: Not really training. You do not have to be trained so much to smell a Cinnabun that is cooking down the hall. Your mind and attention just go there.
Bob: You mentioned this constant desiring. Is the mind constantly desiring some sort of satisfaction?
Dr. Hagelin: Always.
Bob: Is the material world that we have created around us, which is so abundant in material goods, sort of a physical manifestation of this desire?
Dr. Hagelin: Absolutely.
Bob: A perversion of it to a certain degree?
Dr. Hagelin: Yes, a trivialization.
Bob: All around us we see more and more stuff, more and more books, more and more tapes, more and more digital everything. This is just a physical manifestation of a quest for God?
Dr. Hagelin: Yes, it is a natural expression of the desire for fulfillment, but it is not really looking in the right place because you can have the most beautiful statue in the world and it will be pleasing to a degree, and it will hold your attention for a certain amount of time, certainly not forever, not even for a lifetime. Pretty soon, you are going to wonder, “Well, what am I going to buy next?” You will continue to look outward and pursue the next bigger desire and fulfill the next bigger desire; but you know desires that can be fulfilled in this world in that way are never big enough to bring permanent satisfaction. The mind will always get ready for the next step of growth.
Bob: Which is?
Dr. Hagelin: Turning the attention within, not the negation of all that, but turning the attention within to discover that the mind expands very quickly and happiness becomes very concentrated, very fast. In the field of bliss consciousness, pure consciousness, unbounded awareness is more blissful by far than any imaginable bliss in the relative world, in the sensory world. So, that is where the mind gets ultimately satisfied, the discovery of the reservoir of pure bliss within, the bliss that comes from expansion, from growth.
Bob: You’re saying if we just keep expanding the mind, this is a solution?
Dr. Hagelin: Expanding is part of evolution. You fall in love with somebody and there is an immediate expansion. What was one really, becomes a bigger whole, the wholeness of two. It is exhilarating. It is intoxicating, that expansion and evolution. Expansion of happiness, expansion of knowledge, expansion of power, it is built into the very essence of life which is to evolve and to grow but that ultimately gets satisfied only in a permanent way with infinity. The mind would never be content forever with anything finite.
Bob: What is it then we are ultimately pursuing?
Dr. Hagelin: Ultimately infinity is the true birthright of human life and the only thing in life that is permanently fulfilling. That is why it is so sticky. That is why enlightenment is possible. Enlightenment is the permanent realization of one’s unbounded universal essence. That sticks with you so that during sleep, during dynamic activity, during dreaming, during anesthesia, you are never lost to the unbounded-ness of your inner bliss, your inner reality, the nature of the self. It is sticky because it is so satisfying that the mind just gets absorbed in it and ultimately never lets it go.
Bob: You talk about a kind of gradual awakening through more and more people meditating. Is there enough time for incremental change? Things seem to be moving pretty fast, the mega systems – from pharmaceuticals to oil to war - are massive, they seem to be in control and they’re rolling down hill. I do not see that incremental change is possible to turn things around in time. Can you respond?
Dr. Hagelin: Whether the transition from a purely material world, a world infatuated with materialism will take place in an evolutionary way or a revolutionary way, I do not know.
Bob: You are on a mission to make meditation a part of education. In presenting a spiritual technology from the East, are we skating on thin ice…perhaps facing the same problems that fundamentalist Christians are facing in trying to introduce prayer in schools?
Dr. Hagelin: We have been skating on that ice for quite a while. There has been a tremendous amount of inertia in parts of the country, more than others, about meditation in the classroom or even Transcendental Meditation in the classroom possibly because it is identified as coming from a system with its roots in the Vedic tradition of India, and our xenophobia clicks in immediately. Yet, at the same time, Transcendental Meditation is certainly the most widely practiced, extensively researched and broadly prescribed of any meditation technique in the world today.
Bob: And taxpayer dollars are funding some of that research, is my understanding.
Dr Hagelin: Yes, the National Institutes of Health have poured government money, taxpayer money, millions and millions into research and application of Transcendental Meditation to reduce high blood pressure and associated heart disease. The Veteran’s Administration hospitals reimburse us for instruction in TM because it is the only thing they have found that inoculates soldiers against post-traumatic stress syndrome and the debilitating effects of combat stress. The government has a foothold in it, a small one, but not yet when it comes to the public schools. Fortunately, we are slowly emerging from that era because meditation has gone mainstream and scientific.
Bob: How so?
Dr. Hagelin: You can stand up today in front of the PTA in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. You can say this program of meditation which can be taught, at least this program, maybe others, can be taught in a scientific way without any philosophical baggage, without any reference to anything that what would be uniquely Eastern, and the result will be that Mary and Johnny will do better at school. They are not going to suffer from the debilitating effects of stress and high blood pressure, which has now become a childhood illness, or ADHD, and if they have ADHD, that syndrome is reversible.
Bob: The yoga movement has opened up a lot of pathways into public education. Can Consciousness-based Education, be seen as part of the yoga movement?
Dr. Hagelin: There is a natural association, in a sense. I certainly would not object to such an association. Meditation really is a part of what is traditionally called yoga. There are the so-called eight limbs of yoga or eight practices of yoga, the third of those eight is what we call yoga today, yoga postures, yoga asanas, physiological balance and health through these types of physical activities.
Another aspect of what was traditionally yoga is transcendental meditation, called dhyana. There is another aspect, a more advanced practice of meditation that is also traditional yoga and by traditional, I am referring to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. There is something called ‘sunya’ which is harder to describe than it is to do it, which is described by Patanjali as the simultaneous application of dhyana, dharana and samadhi or concentration, meditation and transcending. He dedicates one quarter of his book toward describing that practice.
Bob: Many people who want yoga in schools believe it must be accompanied by a spiritual component. Your approach seems to me to be a scientific-based entry point.
Dr. Hagelin: That is a good way to put it. I do not believe in the separation of spirituality and state or spirituality and school. Religion, yes, absolutely. I do think the state probably does not have any business in promoting a particular set of beliefs over another, but spirituality in the sense of the holistic development of life, and the holistic development of the brain, this is crucial to education and belongs in the school.
Bob: Here in California, we have thrown fast food as well as sodas out of schools, in Los Angeles in particular.
Dr. Hagelin: Isn’t that something? I just heard that. That is wonderful. California really always leads the way.
Bob: Why do you think that is the case?
Dr. Hagelin: The space is different here. For one thing, the country was first settled in the East, and there are people who sunk their roots very deeply there and have lived there for twelve generations. Those who have a little bit more of a pioneering spirit, those who are the early innovators, they moved west. There are certain, I suppose, remaining genetic predispositions to innovation here in California. California has a bit of an unstable environment, with the fault lines, earthquakes and so forth. It takes a certain kind of person who can deal with that and live here.
There is always a frontier, let us put it that way, in physical systems. In the United States, that frontier has always been and continues to be California.
For more information please see TM.org or maharishipeacepalace.org.
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