Request Info > Apply > Visit Us >

evan-photoDr. Evan Finkelstein is one of the legendary and beloved professors in the MVS department who recently retired from full-time teaching. Dr. Finkelstein’s PhD thesis was about the principles of MVS in relation to the scriptures of various major world religions. This continued to be the main focus of his academic research. Students know Dr. Finkelstein as an extremely knowledgeable and fun professor, whose classes were always joyful and full of laughter.

In this interview we asked Dr. Finkelstein about his first and subsequent encounters with Maharishi and the influence that Maharishi had on his life. We further discuss his views on the relationship between TM and religion. Dr. Finkelstein relates his plans for the future and closes with a message to future generations of MVS students and professors.

Q: Where did you meet Maharishi and what was the experience like?

Evan-Finkelstein-and-dad

Dr. Finkelstein with his father after college graduation

The first time I saw Maharishi was in 1967. I was in high school then, and one of the times I was working out with weights in my room, my father knocked on my door and asked if I’d like to come hear this very interesting man on the TV. I didn’t want to – I was in the middle of the work-out, which was very important to me. My father persuaded me to come out and I saw Maharishi being interviewed by Les Crane. I was immediately and totally fascinated by Maharishi: first, because he looked very differently, but even more so because he was so happy! He was smiling and laughing a lot, his face was glowing, and his eyes were sparkling. I was so attracted to him that I completely forgot about the workout. I just sat down on the rug in front of the TV and listened to the interview, delighted. I remember thinking to myself that this man is saying something that is really relevant and important to my life. It made a very deep impression on me.

Two years later, I was in college, and I ran into an old friend of mine. He usually was angry or depressed, but this time, he was smiling! I thought to myself: “Who is this? This is not the person I know.” I asked him if he had won the lottery, did he have a new girlfriend – what happened? He said that nothing was new, but he did learn Transcendental Meditation during the winter break, in NY. My mind went back to the TV interview and Maharishi and I thought to myself: “If this meditation made this often angry and depressed man glowing and happy – I have to learn it, too!” So, I learned TM in 1969. From the very first time that I learned TM, I remember that I began to smile. I couldn’t understand why I was smiling. I didn’t know what was happening, but it was making me happy and that was good enough [laughing]. It made a very deep impression on my life.

Evan-Finkelstein

College years

I naturally became very regular with TM, even though there was no one around me who was meditating. There was no research about benefits back then – just the experience of being happy was keeping me being regular with my practice of TM. After a few months I changed my life plans. If someone would ask me before I learned TM what I wanted to do with my life, I’d say that I wanted to be an actor. But now, I wanted to become a yogi. My new plan was that after graduating from college in Pittsburg I would go and find a master. I knew that Maharishi was a teacher but he was just one of a number of teachers, not yet my teacher. I wanted to go to India, really get into yoga and meditation, and become a yogi.

Then some weeks went by and I was about to graduate. Now, we come to the weird part [laughing]. One night, I had an amazing experience. It was like a dream, but it wasn’t a dream. It was a very unique experience, unlike any experience before or after. I was swimming in a lake, by myself. The water was nice and I looked around and saw the trees and the sun. Everything was calm, warm, and beautiful. I swam around and then I felt a little bit tired. I saw a wooden platform near the edge of the lake and I climbed on it, wanting to rest. I looked up and I saw Maharishi, sitting on a high chair, looking at me. He was beaming bliss, happiness, and pure love. He slowly reached down to me and grabbed me by my left ankle and gently picked up my leg. I noticed that on my inner thigh was something written in Hebrew. I knew how to read Hebrew, but I didn’t understand it. Maharishi seemed to be directing my attention to it, and I was getting anxious, wanting to know what it meant. Maharishi let go of my ankle and said: “Don’t worry, I’m always with you.” That was the end of the dream.

Evan-and-Ellen-Finkelstein

Dr. Finkelstein with his wife

And that wasn’t the interesting part. The interesting part comes a few weeks later when I was in my dorm and someone came to my room. He says that there is a teacher who wants to give an advanced lecture about TM and that there will be a film. I liked movies so I said, “Ok, I’ll go.” The movie started out with a lake. There were also beautiful trees, the sun was coming through the trees and hitting on to the lake—exactly like in that dream I had that night a few weeks earlier! Same trees, same sunshine, same reflection on the lake… I was excited and confused. But then I lost it when I saw the white wooden platform that was in but above the lake, with Maharishi sitting on a chair. Not in a higher chair like in the dream – he sat in a regular chair; but everything else was the same. It was an incredible experience!

After the movie, I went to the TM teacher and explained to him about the dream, and that now I had to go to India. It seemed very clear to me that I was supposed to go see Maharishi. The TM teacher told me that Maharishi was coming to the USA to give a course. Even better, I didn’t have to go to India! The problem was that the course cost some money, but I didn’t have any. I asked my parents, without any hopes because they didn’t have much money and they were very careful about how they would spend it. But, surprisingly, my father immediately agreed to give me the money for the course. He didn’t hesitate for a second!

So, I went to this course and there I met Maharishi for the first time “physically.” I was asking many, many questions and Maharishi really enjoyed them, but other people in the course were getting tired of me. I was getting not such nice notes from some of them [laughing]. But I kept asking because I genuinely wanted to hear the answers and Maharishi was very patient. It became very clear that I wanted to become a TM teacher so I went to the TTC course and became a TM teacher in 1972. Then I started to teach TM.

It’s strange how nature organized for me to come specifically to Maharishi. I was completely open and I could have gone any other place! When this very strange thing happened to me it was very clear to me where I needed to go. It was exactly right, everything just flowed from there. That is how I met Maharishi.

Q: Did you ever meet Maharishi in private?

Evan-Finkelstein-with-his-wife-and-sister

After PhD graduation with his sister (left) and wife (right)

I saw Maharishi in private a few times. At that course in 1971 he was having private meetings for giving advanced techniques. When I came to his room, Maharishi laughed and asked: “What are you pondering now?” He gave me some nice compliments and then he asked me what I liked to do. I told him that I enjoy reading scriptures of various religions. He closed his eyes for a couple of seconds and then told me to read the scriptures and put a correct interpretation and angle of understanding to the various scriptures. He said, “Wherever you feel that the interpretation of the scripture is wrong, you should correct it.” So later on, I did my doctoral dissertation on MVS and Judaism, Christianity and Islam. That was one of the ways that I tried to fulfill Maharishi’s instruction to me.

I’d like to mention one more thing that is very special. Towards the end of this course, I saw Maharishi and I said to him. “It was such a wonderful course and you opened so many doors for me. Is there anything in the world that I could do for you?” He smiled at me and said: “Know well the basic principles of the teaching.” That was a very special instruction for me. I always enjoy going very deeply into the knowledge, into the principles of teaching, it came naturally to me to be a teacher. That is why I went to do an MA and, later, a PhD in MVS. It was very fulfilling.

Q: What was it like to be around Maharishi?

While being with Maharishi, the feeling was like he was your best friend. It was very personal, very intimate, and very warm. You felt loved, accepted, special, appreciated… Maharishi was very happy, calm, joyful, loving, and he radiated great confidence and lively energy. He had all the beautiful qualities that every human being would want to have.

Maharishi-Evan-Finkelstein650x350

Dr. Finkelstein and Maharishi

One time, I wanted to “check him out” to see if he was truly enlightened [laughing], as if I could do that. I looked straight into his eyes. He looked right back at me and I was able to last for about a second. At that point I lost all sense of time and place and when I became aware of where I was again I was sitting with my eyes closed and I was gently swaying from side to side. I opened my eyes, and Maharishi was also sitting with his eyes closed and also gently swaying. I realized at that moment that he was for real. I had experienced timelessness and unboundedness sitting next to him. Whatever I was trying to find out, I got a clear sense of knowing that Maharishi was powerfully enlightened and that he was living what he was talking about.

Q: What do you mean by Maharishi radiating lively energy?

He was radiating a strong feeling of great stability and confidence – that was the kind of energy or power I felt from him. There was such great calmness and love.

Q: How do the TM and religion go together?

Finkelstein-PhD

Dr. Finkelstein’s PhD dissertation

The answer is very simple: religion is like a car, and TM is like an engine for the car. All religion is based upon one’s relationship with the source of creation – with what people usually refer to as God. The purpose of religion is to have as intimate a relationship as possible with God. The idea is to be able to be in great harmony, synchrony with this immense power and love. To be blessed by all of the divine qualities that are part of the divine nature. Love, compassion, wisdom, creativity, tremendous intelligence, energy… When one has a growing intimacy with God, he starts to experience directly these immense powers. With the direct experience of the Divine, one begins to observe the divine qualities in one’s own life; one becomes a “God-realized person.”

TM is a technique that allows the mind to go beyond the boundaries of time and space, beyond relative cause and effect and come to the level of the source of creation—on the level of pure Being, which, in religious terminology, is described as “the presence of God” or “the light of God”. That is the basis of every religion. Without that experience, it is like having a car without the engine.

And, very unfortunately, when people do not have this experience of profound peace and fulfillment growing and unfolding in their lives, then all hell can and does break out in the name of religion. It’s the saddest thing. That which was supposed to bring greatest love and compassion into the world brings the exact opposite. And all of this is because you can’t drive a car without an engine. People, regardless of what faith they may belong to, cannot be genuinely loving, religious people if they are not steadily growing in inner peace and happiness, and compassion for others. The regular and direct experience of pure Being brings these essential qualities into one’s life.

The beautiful thing about TM is that it gives you this experience of pure Being, the light of God through transcending—regardless of what religion you are in, to whatever name you relate that experience. If you are Hindu, it’s perhaps Krishna. If you are Jewish – Elohim. Islam – Allah, if you are Christian– Jesus, who is at one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, if Buddhist – the Buddha Bodhi, the state of full awakening, Nirvana, etc. But once you have the experience, you can live it in the context of your own culture, your own religion. One doesn’t have to switch traditions. Maharishi says that every tradition has the essential truth, but what is missing is the experience of the source of all religions.

Q: What are your thoughts and feelings when reflecting on so many years of teaching?

It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed both teaching TM and going deeply into Maharishi’s knowledge. It was a constant gift for me. I was doing something that I loved, and I and other people were gaining great benefit from it – the whole thing was, and is, wonderful!

Q: What are your plans after your recent retirement?

I will continue teaching, but instead of teaching in the class it will be more part time teaching and distance education courses. But also I’m interested in doing some deep research and writing books, giving talks.

There is this prevailing idea in modern science today, that everything that happens in nature is the result of mindless, random, purposeless accidents. If you have enough time and space then mindless particles and mindless forces working together will eventually create you and me. There are highly respected people in science who think that you can explain everything in life through a materialistic philosophy. They think that everything is material and that consciousness doesn’t have to be involved in nature’s functioning. They think that intelligence, or purposefulness, is not necessarily a part of nature, that everything just kind of automatically, mechanistically, mindlessly, materialistically bumps together and over a period of time something like a highly ordered, complex and highly structured human being or solar system can come out. They think that the same orderly, predictable patterns in nature that scientists themselves discovered isn’t really the result of any intelligence, but is the product of the mindless and purposeless functioning of nature. I find it irrational that intelligent, educated people can come to such a conclusion.

Sometimes I give this example: I have a smartphone, and anyone that sees what it can do can’t rationally come to the conclusion that it is a result of mindless interactions. No rational person would say that. But the creator of the smartphone, the human being, was the result of mindlessness and purposelessness? To me such thinking is just unbelievable. I want to research that topic.

There has been a whole movement called “Intelligent Design.” These are scientists who are showing in a scientific way that is based on well-designed research experiments, not based upon religious beliefs, that it is highly probable there is an actual intelligence in nature. I’m interested in their ideas, because in Maharishi’s teaching, for example, it is very clear that the source of life is Cosmic Intelligence and that there is definitely intelligence, there is definitely consciousness, which does have a plan, it does have a design; it’s not just a matter of a mindless interacting of particles and forces.

I want to explain, in a very rational way, not based upon religious beliefs, the high probability that nature has intelligence, self-awareness, and a plan and a purpose. I think that this can and needs to be done. I feel that some good books need to be written and some good talks need to be given.

Q: How was it to observe your students transformed by Maharishi’s knowledge?

Finkelstein's-class

With his students

Very wonderful. Very nice. Everybody likes to be next to happy, intelligent, creative people. When people are practicing TM and TM-Sidhis, when they are on a good, healthy life style, then they radiate! They are happier, intelligent, more loving, more flexible people. It’s a joy to be around those types of people. And all the transformations that occur as a result of Maharishi’s Technologies of Consciousness and, as a result of his knowledge, move in the direction of greater joy, more happiness, and greater love. This transformation comes about from the regular practice of Maharishi’s technologies and  from living a healthy lifestyle, which is also encouraged in MVS.

I think that one of Maharishi’s greatest contributions to human life was his systematic teaching about the nature and development of higher states of consciousness. He gave a very clear vision of the highest possibilities that any human being could achieve. He brought out the group technologies of consciousness where people practicing his TM and TM-Sidhi Programs together in one place can generate greater harmony and orderliness for any city or nation; and, if the group is of sufficient size, for the entire world. A group sufficient for the world would only need to be about 8000 people. It’s such an amazing and most practical knowledge that also has peer-reviewed, published research studies that show its effectiveness.

Q: What is the role of intellectual understanding in this transformation, in growing higher states of consciousness?

Intellectual understanding is very important. Maharishi, for example, brings out in his translation and commentary of the Bhagavad Gita that if people have experiences of Cosmic Consciousness, if they are witnessing sleep, and they have no understanding of what is going on, it can make them become upset and anxious. They might think that they are actually becoming unbalanced, or that they have some kind of chronic insomnia!

MVS-professors

Maharishi Vedic Science professors with one of the students

Maharishi says that enlightenment is the result of clear experience of the wholeness of life and clear understanding of it, integrated with each other—this is what produces the state of enlightenment. And this is what MVS does: it gives a very clear analysis and deep understanding of nature, individual life and the cosmos, and their intimate relationship. The nature of the whole cosmic process, how diversity comes from unity and yet the unity remains… When one practices the TM and TM-Sidhi Programs, including Yogic Flying, one begins to have more subtle and expanded experiences of this full range of life. When individuals get intellectual knowledge, it supplements, complements and enlivens their experiences, and vice versa. Experience and knowledge work together to produce lasting fulfillment.

Q: Do you have any message for the future generations of students and teachers of MVS?

My advice is to follow Maharishi’s advice: to be regular with the practice of his Technologies of Consciousness and to live a healthy lifestyle; to practice TM and the TM-Sidhis, including Yogic flying, in a large group to bring your own life to greater happiness and fulfillment and, in that way, help bring the whole of human society to greater happiness, peace, prosperity and fulfillment.