Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


On Taking Enlightenment To India

Landmark Excellence: In The Zone Seminar [Online], Mumbai, India

September 18, 2023

"The physical universe is my guru."
...   answering the question "Many people have a guru. Who is your guru?" 
"It's like carrying coals to Newcastle."
... British idiom describing a pointless action (the supply of coal in Newcastle is already greater than anywhere else in Britain)
This essay, On Taking Enlightenment To India, is the thirty second in an open group inspired by Landmark Programs: It was conceived and written at the same time as Language Barrier II.

I am indebted to Reyhan Mehta who inspired this conversation, and to Andrea Talathi and to Dr Beheram Mehta and to Jack Rafferty and to Charles "Raz" Ingrasci who contributed material.

Click to expand Werner Erhard with Swami Muktananda

"Let's face it: it takes more than verve, brass, and a certain daring to take enlightenment to India: it takes balls.".


That wonderful quote is often attributed to an anonymous enthusiast speaking about Werner.


Wait just a minute! Are you being serious? Did I get that right? Did I just hear you say "... a certain daring to take enlightenment to India"?  To "Mother"  India? To Bhārāt Mātā?  If that were so, wouldn't that be like the ultimate irony given that India is where enlightenment comes  from? Wouldn't that be like carrying coals to Newcastle?

Say what you will, but that's exactly what Werner did do. In an act of astonishing chutzpah, he dared to take a brilliantly pragmatic, practical, enduringly getable access to enlightenment to India, one which hadn't been known there before, one which was ideally suited for people who didn't want to spend a long time in an ashram to get it.

India ie Mother India ie Bhārāt Mātā, home to Buddhism which was founded by the monk Siddhartha Gautama aka "the Buddha" in about 500 BC and taken to China from northern India by the monk Xuanzang in about 200 AD; India, home to Zen which the Indian monk Bodhidharma took to China in about 500 AD after it had been in India for a thousand years; India, home to Hinduism and the Hindu pantheon with its not one but three principle gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva (responsible for creating, maintaining, and destroying the universe respectively) among its thirty three gods in total with their 966,000,000 devout adherents; India, home to 200,000,000 pious Muslims; India, home to a plethora of gurus, masters, monks, swamis, fakirs, ascetics, sanyassins, teachers, renunciates et al; India, home to the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads  and many other holy scriptures; India, which has stood steadfast as an elegant, ancient, historic, loved (even revered) source of and custodian of enlightenment for about five thousand years ... and that's  where Werner dared to take enlightenment? Are you kidding me? 

Soon after his experience of transformation on the Golden Gate Bridge, Werner expressed an interest in meeting with transformational figures in India and exploring their cultures and traditions of transformation. Charles "Raz" Ingrasci, Werner's Communication Director and Collaborator who had been initiated into Siddah Yoga  by Krishna Rai aka Swami Muktananda Paramahamsa, suggested Werner should meet with Swami Muktananda, so a visit to India was planned. Werner wanted to meet with other transformational figures also while he was there, so after meeting with Swami Muktananda, he met with Neem Karoli Baba (Dr Richard Alpert aka Baba Ram Das' beloved guru), Ratnakaram Sathyanarayana Raju aka Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Lakshman Raina aka Swami Lakshman Joo (an adherent of Kashmir Shaivism) known by his followers as Lal Sahib whom Werner met with in Kashmir, and Sant Kirpal Singh Ji Maharaj (a spiritual master in the Radha Soami tradition) and more. He also visited the mahasamadhi  tomb shrine of Merwan Sheriar Irani aka Avatar Meher Baba.

Upon returning to San Francisco, Werner invited the est  Foundation to bring Swami Muktananda to the United States on a speaking tour which included Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC, and San Francisco where an enthusiastic audience of two thousand people greeted him at the Masonic Auditorium.

On a return visit to India in 1976 Werner met with various Tibetan lamas living in exile including His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa Lama whom he was introduced to by Swami Muktananda. On his next visit to India in 1977 Werner met with the saintly Mother Teresa in Mumbai, and with the Prime Minister of India Morarji Ranchhodji Desai. Their conversations focused entirely on ending hunger and poverty. Werner had seen and was disturbed by the depths of hunger and poverty in India (hunger and poverty in India made up 40% of the world's hunger and poverty then). That's what inspired the Hunger Project. Werner knew making a difference in India's hunger and poverty would be a tipping point which would make a difference in hunger and poverty worldwide.

Given all his aforementioned experiences, Werner realized how inevitable / how inexorable  it was that his work would be well and widely received in India. Shortly thereafter in 1980 Werner's work in the form of its original flagship program, the est  Training was presented in Mother India for the very first time.
Werner's work is thriving in India today forty years later, still providing a brilliantly pragmatic, practical, enduringly getable access to enlightenment. And it's not just its introductory courses that are thriving there. Its entire collection of Landmark Curriculum for Living programs are thriving there also. And it's not just among its general population of 1,420,000,000 people that it's thriving there. It's thriving among major players in the government of India as well.

Citations for data pertaining to the various disciplines and all transformational figures' full names in On Taking Enlightenment To India: wikipedia

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