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Article by Wade

Almost eight months ago, I contacted Bob Roth, Vice President of the David Lynch Foundation, and asked him about David Wants To Fly. At that point, I had only seen the trailer.

What ensued was confusing. Roth encouraged me to do what I wanted – write an interview for David Lynch, to be conducted via email. He generously offered to help develop the questions and even pass them to Lynch personally. Needless to say, I was thrilled. Leon Lewis and I were about to launch Conscious Times Online and this would be our big opening story.

My interview questions went through three drafts. I haven’t studied a great deal of journalism and I was initially being overly frank and investigative, especially for someone like David Lynch, a sought-after maverick who owes me nothing. Plus, I discovered that Lynch hadn’t talked to ANY press about DWTF. Conscious Times would be the first. So I worked enthusiastically with Roth, crafting questions that would make Lynch comfortable, convince him that I’m a friend and still extract answers. (In reality, I’m a fan. I’ve got a sizable portrait of Jack Nance’s face tattooed on my leg. Eraserhead remains one of my favorite movies.)

This continued for months and Conscious Times started without the big story. Roth was never elusive or unresponsive. In fact, he met me in person one afternoon at the town square and allowed me to interview him. We delved deep into the TMO, meditation, our lives, and of course DWTF and David Sieveking. That day, he informed me that I have an ‘impressive soul’ but that because DWTF was facing legalities in the U.S. due to slanderous content, Lynch may never do my interview. Why spread the word about the film if no one will see it?

So Conscious Times never got the big interview. I was disappointed but I mostly understood. Though I don’t wholeheartedly agree with Maharishi’s statement (at least most peoples’ interpretation of it), Maharishi once said, “That which we put our attention on grows”.

But then DWTF arrived in the states. I made a last attempt to convince Roth. Nope.

(Side note: I should add that Dr. Fred Travis gave us a fantastic interview, but we’ve never posted it.)

So now, as I predicted, about half of the American students on campus have seen the film thanks to passionate bootleggers. Last night in Dalby Hall in response to demand Roth presented: An Interactive Evening with Bob Roth (addressing DWTF).

This event was requested by Global Student Council several months ago. It was announced Saturday, March 5th to students, staff and faculty via Craig Pearson.

Global Student Council wasn’t aware of the event until it was made public. An academic presentation on MUM’s rotating university course in Southeast Asia, which was planned in advance for Monday evening, was cancelled and is currently postponed until further notice. Arguably, it was inconsiderate to announce such an important event (as evidenced by the packed Dalby Hall and people sitting on the stairs and standing in back) with two days notice, over a weekend.

It is obvious that DWTF is a serious concern amongst the student body and administration. A huge portion of the audience consisted of students who had seen the film. Roth answered questions solely about the film until 9:30 pm and was interrupted several times by audience members. He kindly offered to meet personally with a few people who were unsatisfied at the end of the evening.

This meeting was a great step, but I hope that the David Lynch Foundation and the TMO will now realize how necessary it is to address these concerns from the MUM community – and to do it in a way that is respectful of other involved parties like Global Student Council, Conscious Times, and academic departments. Maybe next time they could announce it two weeks (or more!) in advance and involve Global Student Council, who are adept at hosting clear, time-efficient Q&As with faculty and staff…

However, once again, I was impressed with Bob Roth. He handled several insistent questions from disquieted people with genuineness, respect, and assurance. He even said a couple of things that inspired me, and I’m considerably unmovable. Admittedly, at first I wanted to give him a piece of my mind. (“Now you talk about it! Now it’s a big deal!”)

Knowing the interview will never happen, I’m posting this for closure. In conclusion, I’m wearily confused but not unhappy. The world is what you make of it and blah blah blah. Besides, one day I’ll be a big musician and David Lynch will be like, “Didn’t he want to interview me years ago?….bliss…spirit fingers….”

Moving on.

From a student’s standpoint, the most powerful comment Roth made was “Thirty-five years ago, this organization…all of this didn’t exist. You want to make it better? You take it. Seriously.” [thunderous applause]

Also quite surprising from Roth was, “I deeply enjoyed my time with and have so much overwhelming gratitude for Maharishi…the movement, well…[laugh, applause]…and the thing is – the movement is us!”

Anyway, for those of you who missed it, here’s a sloppy transcript of the more compelling questions/answers. It is important to note that I have not put quotations on most of the following because I may not have captured it 100% correctly. Apologies. Shorthand is stressful and not my gift.

Bob Roth, VP of DLF

NOTE – If I’ve made any mistakes in my summaries, please contact me immediately at Info@conscioustimesonline.com. I will correct them.

.     .     .

Roth: “Your doubts are genuine and fair and should be answered.”

Student stood and asked question about how we can we be sure that all the pundits are contributing to super radiance and world peace. Roth said he will gather that info and get back to him personally.

Rough quote: Lynch never had the intention of suing the filmmaker. He believes in creative freedom and expression. The infamous lawsuit letter was sent by Lynch’s representative without Lynch’s knowledge or blessing.

Bob Roth = 40 + years representing Maharishi and the knowledge.

Rough quote: Sieveking got more interview time with David Lynch then anyone ever before, ever.

“I am not by nature a cynic, but I am a skeptic.”

Rough quote: There was a point when Sieveking went back to Europe, and he and I’s connection started to dissipate, and I heard that he uncovered info that was distressful to him and that he was not happy with the movement. I called personally and said he’s here to talk any time, and to please ask any questions.

A student mentioned that Maharishi once said that 8,000 may not be enough for world peace. Roth said he does not have enough info on the subject, but adds that in engineering there is a ‘safety coefficient’.

“It was a very rough go, when Maharishi passed.” Rough quote: Maharishi gave a lot of responsibility to people, and there was quite a bit of confusion. But what Sieveking filmed was a family spat. He took a moment of hurt and used it as an indicator of quarreling over leadership of the movement. Not true. They are working together beautifully. It’d be like if someone snapped a photo of you and your girlfriend arguing and then said you’re not doing well. It was unfair and taken out of context.

Rough quote: One man thought he would be Shankaracharya of India but was left off of the list of who would be considered for Shankaracharya. This is the man who appeared in the film, and he has been very upset out it for many years. Sieveking should have spoken to the actual Shankaracharya or at least a representative. This was bad journalism. I studied and practiced journalism for years…you have to get the other side of the story.

An older Fairfield community member stood and said, “I wasn’t even aware of a film. I’m trying to extrapolate what the nature of the film is…there appears to be some bias…It just appears to be something that we should not pay much attention to.” People laughed and booed. He reseated himself.

Rough quote: TMX at the time in 1985 was really big. They were really upset and then, after awhile, the organization sort of faded away. But, at the time they had many accusations. But later, with the internet, a few splinter organizations…like TM Free Blog, Down the Rabbit Hole…for the last 30 years, accusations have traveled around the internet: that the movement has three to nine billion dollars, that all the research on TM is bogus because it’s conducted by scientists who practice TM…One of the biggest accusations is that research shows TM has an adverse effect. What Sieveking did in this film is nothing other than going online and finding the people who made these accusations, then videotaped them and pieced it together and made it into a film as if it were a revelation. It’s the same stuff I’ve been hearing for a very long time. It just isn’t journalism.

Rough quote: The movement has an extremely modest amount of money. I know the people who run the finances of the movement. I’m just going to tell you: they’re really good human beings. I trust them. I do not trust the things online.

Rough quote: There is no published scientific research that shows harmful effects of TM. The idea that TM research is bogus because the researchers practice TM…The National Institute of Health has given us 26 million dollars over the years to fund TM, and there is enormous competition for research grants. There is no evidence whatsoever that if a researcher practices TM that it has an effect on the publication. Why? Because it is peer reviewed. If anyone says there is published research that shows TM is dangerous or has negative effects or is in any way not solid, they are wrong.

Rough quote: There are over 100 schools in New York waiting on the list to teach TM to students. More elsewhere.

One student stood and made the point that while there may be no published research on negative effects of TM, that it is coming from people who have learned TM and say that they are distressed, and this shouldn’t be ignored or pushed under the rug. For example, when she first came to the university, after she learned TM she experience significant de-stressing and her TM teacher was not available to her for any kind of therapeutic relationship. Another student raised his hand and said he had a similar experience, others in the audience began to concur audibly. This caused ruckus, and Roth immediately encouraged her to meet him after the meeting and promised he’d reestablish the relationship between her and her teacher, or a new teacher. Also, a faculty member stood and affirmed that the teacher policy has changed recently, and that these types of occurrences shouldn’t be happening. Rough quote: I agree that researchers should start looking at the quality of life rather than people’s brains or pulses. Dr. Rosenthal wants to do more psychological studies. There is certainly room for this research and we hope to progress in that area.

Rough quote: Some of the strongest research ever seen on a non-pharmacological approach to treating bipolar and anxiety: Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Meditation, by Dr. Rosenthal (leading psychologist).

Rough quote: Vedic traditions are absolutely not Hinduism. The mantras are absolutely not Hindu deities. Veda comes from pre-Buddhism, pre-Hinduism, and any attached meaning came afterwards from various cultures. The mantras are selected for their sound quality. They have no meaning.

A student stood and asked about people being blacklisted for seeing other saints, and even being kicked out of dome. Roth: “I don’t know enough about those policies. I will look into it.”

Rough quote: Howard Settle has given 50 million to the global peace initiative, and hired the top auditing firm in the world that audits what is going on in India. Every penny that goes into India is tracked. “There are over 1500 pundits in India.”

At this point, Roth showed a two-minute clip of the Brahmasthan in India that was featured in DWTF depicted as a ghost town. It wasn’t a bustling metropolis, but there were many, many pundits there.

Rough quote: All finances for nonprofit organizations are listed as public information on the IRS website. There is no doubt about where money goes, and how much money the TMO and the movement has. Anyone can go see it.

A student asked about Maharishi shooing away those without any money, as depicted in the film. Roth: “I never had any money. I still don’t. I received great guidance for years from Maharishi, along with many others.”

Why do we in America pay higher fees for TM? “Cost of living.”

A student asked about the supposed Shankaracharya of India – the man Roth claimed ‘never made the list’ and is upset about it – declaring that TM does not help people progress spiritually. Rough quote: If nothing else, it’s very satisfying. But I wouldn’t be doing it, and six million other people wouldn’t be doing it for so many years if it didn’t help them spiritually. All the schools teaching TM to students…all the research…all the bipolar and A.D.D. victims… all the veterans

A student expresses that he wants more transparency in the movement. Roth: “You have my total support for that.”

Rough quote: Some people have means to give a donation of one million that could help to build the infrastructure in India and other establishments, but many who took the Raja training ended up not having to give that full amount. Anybody can get to enlightenment just as fast. Good people who want to bless the world and then in exchange have some honor, great. And 30 million from Rajas is a wonderful help, but in terms of building a campus and community for 2,400 people in Iowa, and building other accommodations and paying teachers…30 million just doesn’t change the world. I have been to Maharishi’s home in Delhi. It is modest. It is an upper middle class home in India. There is no evidence of money going to Maharishi’s family. Maharishi’s ‘Villa’ was established for the purposes of opening communications with the entire world, because India was not supportive in that way, and Maharishi had two very modest bedrooms in that building for himself. They were nice, but modest.

Rough quote: I shared the Judith Bourque book with some reporter friends of mine. First of all, unequivocally, 100% I do not believe it. I’m not asking anyone to believe it or not, but I just don’t believe it. Some of you may know I’m a member of Purusha. As feeling comfortable in that role, I just don’t believe it. She has no corroborations, makes accusations freely…I just don’t believe it.  Not one legitimate newspaper or publication has or would ever run this story because there is no corroboration. Anyone can say anything they want to in this country.

End of transcription.

(Last note: It was I who asked the question about Jed McKenna and counting the ‘enlightened’ for the purpose of measuring the effectiveness of spiritual practices. Although Roth answered it respectfully, a lot of people laughed and thought it was stupid.)