“This is how we can change this world from suffering and negativity to a world enjoying positivity—end of suffering—real peace.”
David Lynch is a filmmaker, musician, writer, painter, sculptor, lamp maker, rigorous scheduler, daily YouTuber, and an internationally-touring supporter of Transcendental Meditation (TM), which he has practiced, twice a day, for most of his life. While Lynch has often bristled at interviews in the past, he’s ebullient when discussing TM and its parallel subjects, including Hinduism, peace-creating meditation groups, and the movement’s founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who he reveres. Lynch and I spoke on the phone, but because Lynch is fastidious about his language regarding meditation, he requested to add some detailed comments by email.
ROSS SIMONINI: Have you considered the current events through the ideas of Hinduism?
DAVID LYNCH: Every major religion has in their scriptures real truths, but they are often hidden because perhaps they were written in a kind of code. All these religions, I believe in the beginning, set out to take people to God-realization. Over these long periods of time it seems the keys have been lost. Because things have been altered or left out, or misunderstood.
Hinduism is one religion that has more Vedic knowledge, but the Vedas themselves are not based on any religion. The Vedas are the laws of nature, and they exist eternally in the transcendent—the non-relative absolute, which underlies the entire field of relativity.
Transcendental Meditation doesn’t have anything to do with Hindu religion nor the Baptist religion, nor the Mormon religion, but the truths found in all these religions stem from the one big truth that we are all seeking, and the answer has always been: it lies within. That ocean of truth, of being, the Self. That’s why they say “know thy Self.” Know it by being it. And how do you be it? You unfold it? And how do you unfold it? By transcending everyday.
In the field of relativity, there are many blocks of time. Down near the smaller blocks of time are the four yuga (or ages). Sat Yuga, Treta Yuga, Depara Yuga, Kali Yuga. Sat Yuga is the longest of these four ages, and in Sat Yuga (also known as the Golden Age) human beings live to be around 100,000 years old, and there is one hundred percent bliss. Treta Yuga is three-fourths the length of Sat Yuga. In Treta Yuga (or Silver Age) people live to be around 10,000 years old, and there is 75% bliss / 25% non-bliss. Depara Yuga is half the length of Sat Yuga. In Depara Yuga (the Bronze Age) people live to be 1,000 years old, and there is 50% bliss / 50% non-bliss. And then there is the Kali Yuga. It is a fourth the length of Sat Yuga.
In the Kali Yuga (the Iron Age) people live to be around one hundred years old, and there is 75% non-bliss and 25% bliss. We live in the Kali Yuga. The Kali Yuga lasts 432,000 years, and we are only 5,000 years into it. However, there are times within the Kali Yuga when it is possible to bring a Golden Age, and this is that time for us! Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has brought out the technologies to make this happen, and we are now in a transition to that Golden Age. How long it will take is up to us. The peace-creating groups are the key. They need to be big enough and set up on a permanent basis and we’ll have it! So I am supporting the peace-creating groups and I recommend that we all do this and start enjoying life. In peace: prosperity in the absence of negativity and suffering.
RS: You believe we can achieve world peace through these groups.
DL: World peace can soon be a total reality. Dynamic peace exists. It just needs to be enlivened. And when you transcend every day with transcendental meditation, you’re bringing in that inner peace, that energy, love, happiness, intelligence, and creativity. This is for the individual. The peace-creating groups, on the other hand, are made up of many individuals sitting close together practicing Transcendental Meditation and its advanced techniques. The group is like a factory then, and the machines of the factory are the human beings. The group practicing these techniques together can enliven this field of peace within so powerfully that it effects collective consciousness in the most positive way.
Collective consciousness then gets just what the individual gets by transcending every day. It gets happier, more creative, more loving, more filled with peace—real peace. This is how we can change this world from suffering and negativity to a world enjoying positivity—end of suffering—real peace.
RS: You’ve written a book in which you liken the work of an artist to fishing for ideas. For you, is meditation a way to try to let go of ideas for a brief moment?
DL: It’s a beautiful question. A beautiful, beautiful question! In Transcendental Meditation there’s no trying and thoughts are part of the thing. People spend long hours trying to clear the mind of thoughts. It’s painful. It’s almost like torture. What they found with brain research is that concentration forms of meditation work like any other form of concentration, like a math problem or a painting problem. It keeps you near the surface and it’s not getting you to the treasury within. But in transcendental meditation, you do it ef… ort… less… ly. When you learn the technique from a legitimate teacher, you will be given your mantra and taught how to use it. Make sure you get a legitimate teacher of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation, then you’ll know you have the real thing, and it will work for you.
RS: You also speak about daydreaming as an essential practices for your work as an artist. Do you ever daydream when you meditate? Or are the two activities completely separate?
DL: The word meditation means different things to different people, but to me, the right way to think about meditation is as a technique that takes you to the transcendent, to the ocean of pure consciousness within, where it all happens. A lot of forms of meditation might give you some benefits but they don’t get you to the deepest level. Laying at the beach in the sunshine, or jogging, or daydreaming, or concentration forms of meditation, or contemplation forms of meditation—these will not get you to the transcendent, that treasury which lies within each one of us.
RS: Maybe because of meditation, your outward demeanor is quite even. So I found it fascinating to watch Lynch One [a documentary on Lynch’s process] which showed how much conflict you went through while making Inland Empire, screaming and stressing out as you tried to make sense of the project’s overall arc. Is this often the process for you?
DL: Well, you just get in it. It occupies all your thinking and you have to pay attention to every detail. It’s a long process, making a film, and there’s many details and they all have to feel correct based on the ideas. But because transcending every day brings you more happiness in the doing, more love for your fellow human beings, more energy for your work, and more flow of creativity, which is many times, problem solving, these things absolutely greatly facilitates the work.
RS: I know you consider Eraserhead your most spiritual film. Do you see all of your work as spiritual in some way?
DL: You can look at anything that way. Or you can look at any piece of work as a political thing. But I just say that about Eraserhead because nobody has ever really seen it that way. I appreciate different interpretations but I have my own interpretation and no one has ever gotten close to it.
RS: Has your relationship to the spiritual changed as you’ve aged?
DL: I like to say it got deeper. Somewhere around fourteen years old I felt a thing that was like a nonreligious spiritual feeling. And that’s when I got off of religion and onto what you could say is a spiritual kind of thinking and feeling. But I didn’t know where that kind of thinking would take me.
RS: I had a similar experience at that age. I wonder if there’s something that happens in development then?
DL: Maybe, because they say it’s all on sevens. Like, the first seven years is one thing; the second seven years is another and the next seven years is another. The emotional body gets going around fourteen, then the mental around twenty-one, and the spiritual at twenty-eight.
RS: Do you study spiritual literature?
DL: No, but I do like to read spiritual things sometimes, like the Sri Mad Devi Bhagavatam. And the the commentaries by Maharishi on the Bhagavad Gita drive me crazy.
RS: Drive you crazy?
DL: In the best possible way. There are hundreds of books on different people’s commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita but none of them have gotten it. Maharishi is an incredible master-teacher-guru. The depth of his understanding of the vedas is phenomenal. It’s all there. You just read it and it’s something that is truly infinitely deep and profound. Nothing is more profound! It’s basic science, basic teaching. Veda means pertaining to total knowledge. Vedas are the laws of nature and they exist eternally and there’s no argument about it. It’s beyond quantum physics. It’s like the whole story, how everything works. It’s just incredible. It’s the real thing and the whole thing. And it’s mind boggling, this set-up for the whole story of the unmanifest and the manifest.
RS: You’ve truly taken on a unique role as a director who widely encourages a spiritual practice. Do you consider yourself a spiritual leader?
DL: I’m just a regular guy, Ross. I never used to talk about this stuff. I don’t even like talking but I started doing it once I heard about these peace-creating groups. And I said, somebody’s got to say something! One thing led to another, and now there’s this foundation and we’re getting TM to lots of people and people’s lives are changing for the good. But mostly I just like to work.