The Causes of Social Disintegration and War :

Maharishi's analysis of the absolute principles of society encompasses not only those that structure an ideal society but also those that account for social disintegration and disharmony. From the most expanded perspective, Maharishi (1967, 1986a) teaches, the fundamental cause of social disharmony of any kind, and of its most extreme manifestation-war-is to be found in the loss of the complete knowledge of life that is restored by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita:

When the philosophy of integrated life restored by Lord Krishna was lost from view, the idea grew that everything which life can offer is present on the obvious levels of existence, and that it would therefore be useless to aspire to anything that might lie deeper than external appearances. Society became dominated by this superficial outlook, insight into Reality was lost, the right sense of values forgotten and the stability of life destroyed. (1967, p. 10)

Here Maharishi makes it clear that underlying the "obvious levels of existence" is an absolute field, which, as we have seen, is the field of pure consciousness. This absolute field is "Reality": It is the essential content of life. The more superficial, relative levels are the different expressions, or modes, of that Reality. Elsewhere Maharishi (1980) speaks of this structure in terms of the analogy of a plant:

There is a level of the sap, which is not green, not white, but completely unmanifest. . . .
Reverberating within itself it comes to express itself in different modes-in terms of green leaf, green stem, white petal. It is reverberating in different terms, in different tones. (p. 9)

Complete knowledge thus includes Absolute, or unmanifest and relative, or manifest levels of life. (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1967, e.g., pp. 105-106, 442). Knowledge of the surface values alone, without knowledge of their source, is partial knowledge, unreliable and misleading at best. Action based on such inadequate knowledge must give rise to mistakes and its attendant suffering. The condition of a society based on such action is clearly depicted by Maharishi: "Tension, confusion, superstition, unhappiness and fear. . ." (p. 10).

The inner mechanics of this phenomenon are explained by Maharishi (1967) in terms of the loss of dharma, loss of the path of evolution. The mistakes made by people in their daily life through lack of complete knowledge produce a cumulative effect in the society:

Calamities, crises and catastrophes in a community or country are caused by the increase of negative forces resulting from the evil deeds of a majority of their people. A high degree of concentration of negative forces, without positive forces to balance them, ends in suffering and destruction of life. (p. 27)

The chain of cause and effect is here traced from "evil deeds of a majority of the people," to the "increase of negative forces," to "a high degree of concentration of negative forces," and finally to "suffering and destruction in life." An evil deed is defined as an action that violates natural law: It deviates from the path of evolution, which is, as we have seen, identified by Maharishi as the path of righteousness. Such an action, it is explained here, creates a negative influence: It enlivens the destructive values of natural law. Many such actions accumulate and concentrate that destructive quality in the society at large. Eventually it breaks out in some form of suffering, which is described as being opposed to life.

Maharishi elaborates on the nature of this breaking point in his commentary on I.13, (which also refers to verse I.12):

The aged Kuru, the glorious grandsire
(Bhishma), gave a loud roar like a
lion and blew his conch, gladdening
the heart of Duryodhana. (I.12)

Then quite suddenly conches,
horns, kettledrums, tabors and
drums blared forth, and the sound
was tumultuous. (I.13)

Maharishi (1967) comments:

"Quite suddenly" gives expression to the way in which nature functions. Nature ensures great flexibility for the growth of good or evil in the atmosphere. But when an influence grows beyond elastic limits, nature will no longer sustain it; suddenly the breaking-point is reached. The sudden burst of the lion roar of Bhishma and the tumultuous noise produced by the whole army symbolized the great cry of nature announcing the breaking-point of the immeasurable evil that Duryodhana and his supporters had accumulated for themselves. (p. 35)

The first point we notice in this description is the "great flexibility" attributed to nature in the growth of good or evil. The ideal path of evolution, as we have seen, is one of progress. When imbalance in the quality of thoughts and actions-in this case predominantly negative-arises, some environmental influence is produced, as described above; if the imbalance continues, the influence continues to grow, as the previous verse states. Here Maharishi explains that such growth can continue without a catastrophic impact on life for some time, and the opportunity to restore balance continues to be available. This is the "flexibility" of nature. There comes a point, however, when the limits of this flexibility are reached, and the accumulated influence suddenly breaks. The image evoked by the term "elastic limits" is clear. As it breaks, Maharishi (1967) emphasizes, it does so according to the principle of "As you sow, so shall you reap" which, as explained in Maharishi's commentary cited above, also "expresses the role of dharma in practical life" (p. 27). Those who have created the negative influence must bear its effects, just as those who create a positive influence reap its rewards.

A second point to notice is that the influence is created in the "atmosphere." It would seem that Maharishi is using this term in the everyday sense according to which we might say "They met in an atmosphere of goodwill" or "The atmosphere was strained." From this perspective, the idea of accumulation of such an influence in the atmosphere becomes easier to comprehend.

In the later developments of his teaching on this principle, Maharishi has framed his explanation of the societal effects of negative or positive thoughts and actions in terms of the concept of "collective consciousness." Maharishi (1978) defines the collective consciousness of a social grouping of any size as the sum of the consciousness of the individuals comprising the group: "When we talk of community consciousness, we merely put together the consciousness of all the individuals who make up the community, or the nation" (p. 87).

The effect created by individuals in the atmosphere described above, could be restated as an effect on the quality of collective consciousness. In particular, Maharishi (1986a) speaks of the degree of "coherence" of collective consciousness as a measure of the degree to which the collective thought and action of society is in alliance with the evolutionary value of natural law (p. 162). A higher degree of coherence in collective consciousness is reflected in the rise of positivity in the society; a lower degree of coherence with the rise of negativity.

Maharishi (1967) extends the analysis of the particular historical situation portrayed in the Bhagavad-Gita to a general principle applicable to all wars, whenever and wherever they have occurred:

Wars in history have resulted from the cumulative effect of aggression on the innocent; individuals continue to oppress others, not knowing that aggression is growing in the atmosphere eventually to break upon them as their own disaster. One reaps the consequences of one's own actions. (p. 36)

Maharishi seems to single out of various conceivable "evil deeds," or actions in violation of natural law, those which "oppress others," which have the quality of aggression, as creating the influence that eventually breaks out as war.

Maharishi (1967) also describes the limit of individual action in a society unbalanced by the negative thoughts and actions of its members:

When the collective karma (action) threatens national destruction, it is beyond the power of the individual to check it; this is even more true when it has reached the ultimate limit and is about to break into catastrophe. (p. 44)

This growing inability to contain the results of collective negative action relates to Maharishi's description of nature's flexibility, as cited above. Maharishi indicates that at a certain point it is beyond the power of any one individual to neutralize the negative influence in the environment due to the collective violation of natural law by the greater society. Once the breaking point of negativity in collective consciousness is reached, the only possible outcome is the outbreak of some catastrophe, such as war.

Although at this extreme point it may be beyond the power of any one individual, no matter how well motivated, to neutralize the collective negativity of society, it is important to place this principle in the context of another great theme in the theory and practice of Maharishi's Vedic Science and Technology. In the past two decades research has repeatedly demonstrated that extreme negativity in collective consciousness can be reversed by groups of individuals creating a strong enough countervailing influence (Orme-Johnson, Dillbeck, Bousquet, & Alexander, 1989; Orme-Johnson, Alexander, Davies, Chandler, & Larimore, 1988). This positive influence is created by individuals who, through practicing the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program in groups twice daily:

. . . enliven pure consciousness, the ground state of natural law, the basic level of all creation, and thereby produce a positive evolutionary influence that permeates all levels of life in the environment. . . .
The result is that tension and negativity are automatically eliminated from the collective consciousness of the local community. The natural law of the land is enlivened. The tendencies of the people begin to be more evolutionary. Violation of natural law declines. Consequently, the accumulation of stress in collective consciousness diminishes. Orderliness and coherence grow in collective consciousness. (International Association for the Advancement of the Science of Creative Intelligence, 1978, p. 5)

By enlivening the total potential of natural law through the group practice of Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program, coherence creating groups have averted war in areas where it is about to erupt, and diminished or even eliminated war in areas where it is already in progress (Orme-Johnson et al., 1988; Orme-Johnson et al., 1989).

In his Vedic Science, Maharishi has thus introduced powerful technologies for collective action at the level of the unified field of natural law to neutralize negativity in society. Nevertheless, in his Gita commentary Maharishi (1967) derives from his analysis of dharma highly practical and timely advice concerning the prevention of war at its basis:

Therefore it is wise for people of every generation to be cautious and not to tolerate an increase of wrong-doing in their surroundings, but to nip it in the bud. For it is the cumulative influence of these small wrongs done by individuals in their own little spheres of activity that produces national and international tensions and leads to catastrophe. (p. 44)

We may notice here Maharishi's phrasing: "small wrongs done by individuals in their own little spheres of activity" (our italics). To use the language of the modern social sciences, the macrosocial is rooted in the microsocial, through the collective, cumulative influence created in the whole social and physical environment by every individual action, however small.

As to the nature of those individual acts, those "small wrongs," we have seen their basis: Actions that violate the evolutionary value of natural law, Maharishi (1967) points out, are those that are not in accord with dharma. Wherever such actions occur, a negative influence is created in the environment. For example, we saw, deviating from one's own dharma produces "a struggle which is experienced as sorrow and suffering . . ." (p. 66). Even more damaging is the loss of family dharmas, since, as we have seen, these dharmas are the basic structural unit of the society:

If the family traditions are broken, people living together do not know how to live in such a manner that their way of life naturally helps each of them to evolve. The result is the loss of the path of evolution and the increase of disorder and chaos in the family. Life in such a family is a life in hell, and those fallen into such a degenerate pattern of life remain off the path of evolution and continue to mould their destinies in wretchedness. (pp. 68-69)

Speaking generally, Maharishi makes it clear that any action which is "wrong"-that is, not in accord with laws of nature that uphold the path of evolution-must create a negative influence in the society and ultimately lay the basis for war or other social calamities.

More recently, Maharishi (1986a) has analyzed this phenomenon in greater detail. He points out that violation of natural law need not be-indeed, usually is not-a voluntary act:

Thoughts and action arise spontaneously. No one wants to suffer. No one wants to be disharmonious. No one wants to do harm to anyone. But somehow, one finds oneself in that difficult situation where one can't avoid doing wrong. (p. 98)

Maharishi teaches, in other words, that when one's awareness is not grounded in the total potential of natural law-the field of dharma, inevitably and spontaneously thoughts and actions violate some law of nature that structures evolution and hence create a negative influence in society. The only solution is to open one's awareness to the experience of pure consciousness, to the level of the total potential of natural law, and think and act from that level. Thought from this level, Maharishi (1986a) teaches, spontaneously takes into account and nourishes all aspects of life (p. 98).

It is the system of education in the society, Maharishi (1986a) points out, that bears the responsibility for making this state of life normal for everyone:

That is why the best education will cultivate a habit of working from that totality of natural law, that field which is our own transcendental consciousness, our own unbounded awareness. When we are developing a habit of spontaneously functioning according to natural law, then we are naturally getting out of that old habit where some negativity could arise. All difficulties, suffering and failures in life belong to violation of the laws of nature. Life according to natural law will always be orderly, evolutionary, and nourishing to everyone. (p. 98)

The field of pure consciousness is described here as "transcendental consciousness" in that it lies beyond the thinking process (please refer to pp. 24-25), and as "unbounded awareness" in that it is beyond-indeed, the source of-space and time.

Although it hardly needs to be emphasized, one may note that the true reality of war is clearly recognized by Maharishi. In his commentary on I.47, Maharishi (1967) remarks:

Arjuna, as a great archer, was aware of the pathetic records of bloodstained conquests in history. He could foresee great damage to the civilization of his time. He could picture in his mind ruins of war everywhere; he could hear within himself the cries of children and lamentations of women, tales of calamity and oppression. Arjuna, a hero with a good human heart, would do anything to hold back from the situation that seems imminent. (p. 82)

There is nothing here of the glory of war. It is seen in its stark reality for what it has always been: a catastrophe for human life in every generation. From the universal perspective, as Maharishi (1967) teaches, war may have its place in the path of evolution: "The event of war is a natural phenomenon. It is a process of restoring the balance between the negative and positive forces of nature" (p. 108). It remains, nevertheless, a path of disaster for those on whom it falls. Hence there is wisdom in following the advice given by Maharishi to prevent the growth of the influence of negativity at its source-to "nip it in the bud." The greatness of the knowledge given by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita, Maharishi emphasizes, is that it provides a simple and practical means to effect such prevention, while simultaneously promoting all that is good in society in the direction of its ideal.

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[Dharma as the Absolute Basis of Society]

[Dharma and Society]

[Social Relationships and Social Behavior]

[The Causes of Social Disintegration and War]

[Fulfillment of Society]