A surface definition of Transcendental Meditation pictures it as a natural practice of relaxation for two 20-minute periods each day. During the process, one repeats a word, known as a *mantra*, in such a way that its rhythmic repetition aids the relaxation effort. The promoters of TM present it as a “scientific” practice based on biological and psychological laws. They repeatedly declare that it is a nonreligious activity in which men of all faiths may participate with great benefit.
After initiation and careful instruction in TM, for which one pays a fee, faithful use of the technique reportedly produces near-miraculous results in all areas of life– physical, psychological, social, and spiritual. Advocates of TM present what purports to be research data, and numerous testimonials from politicians, educators, sports and theatrical celebrities, as well as religious leaders, to support their claims.
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However, an in-depth study of Transcendental Meditation reveals that not all of its story appears on the surface. A serious examination of TM materials shows it is more than a relaxation tool. It is a religious activity.
Transcendental Meditation has its root in Hinduism. All of its teachings about reality, God, man, and salvation are from the Vedas, the scriptures of the Hindus. The inclusion of the ritualistic initiation ceremony and the use of the secret *mantra* in TM are in keeping with the mystical practices of the cults of the East. Maharishi, a world leader of TM, explains the benefits of the technique in religious rather than scientific language.
THE ROOTS OF TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION
By definition, then, meditation is emphasized in TM as the best means of “transcending” or experiencing unity with Being. It is clear that Transcendental Meditation is a religious activity in point of origin. Aspects of it can be traced to Hinduism. There are seemingly millions of gods in Hindu worship, but three stand out among them as most prominent. The first is Brahma, the creator of all things material. The second is Shiva, the god of destruction, disease, and death, as well as the god of vegetables, animals, and human reproduction. In Indian thought, death is but a prelude to rebirth. Thus, the god of death is also the god of sexuality. The third is Vishnu, the god of love and benevolence. However, above these is the all-pervading, impersonal god-force, the being called Brahman. The literature of TM refers to Brahman as Creative Intelligence.
Hinduism provides various means for the worship of the gods. These include ascetic practices, ritualistic devotions, and meditation. Meditation has enjoyed considerable attention as a means of worship through the centuries. The main feature of all Yoga is meditation. In Hindu tradition meditation is necessary even for the gods if they are to be united with the Being and thus escape the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
THE TEACHINGS OF TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION
It is manifestly evident that Transcendental Meditation is religious in nature because of the ideals upon which the technique is built. Its theological presuppositions are those of Hinduism. Teachings About God The Maharishi holds that the Being, or Creative Intelligence, is eternal, infinite, unknowable, sexless, and impersonal, following the tradition of Hindu theology. The Being is without attribute, quality, feature, or form. In Hindu thought, a clear distinction is not made between God and His creation.
Teachings About Reality Maharishi holds that all creation is one with Being. He illustrates this pantheistic view by declaring that Being permeates all that exists. Basic reality consists of the relative and the absolute, but they are simply two aspects of one essence. The absolute is that aspect of Being which, in its essential nature while the relative is that aspect in which the Being manifests itself in creation. In the view of Maharishi, Being indwells everything in creation in a way that constitutes the only reality there is.
The trunk, branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit of the tree constantly change, but the sap, which is like Being, remains the same. That which is always changing has no real quality of its own. Thus the world is only an illusion. It just seems to be real. Teachings About Man Thus, in the view of Maharishi, since Being manifests itself in the many forms of life in creation, It dwells in the heart of every man. In fact, man’s soul is one of the great ocean of souls which make up Brahman. Each man needs to know that he is a part of the whole life of the universe. His relationship to universal life is like that of an individual cell to a whole body. Each person must come to experience every being in creation as dear to him as he is to himself.
THE METHODS OF TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION
It is further evidence that Transcendental Meditation is more than just a relaxation technique because not only are its presuppositions religious but so are its methods. Maharishi describes his meditative art itself as that which unfolds the divine in man. The Art of Meditation Maharishi carefully places his own definition on the term *meditation*. It is not to be confused with concentration. That is the reverse of what his technique requires. The mind must be totally passive in meditation.
No conscious effort can be exerted. The mind is simply allowed to naturally “dive” into the great ocean of Creative Intelligence. All activity of human thought, the very content of human knowledge, is in the relative sphere of reality, not the absolute. Therefore, in meditation, the mind is unconsciously infused with the power of Being. Successful living demands a continuous intake of such power.
That suspension of thought is necessary to achieve the sense of unity with Being is illustrated by Maharishi in his discussion of ethics. He recognizes that each of the religions of the world has its code of ethics. However, these are related to the changing cultures of the times. Thus there is no absolute, written standard of right and wrong. Nothing but a mind that is influenced by Creative Intelligence through TM can possibly determine actions in accordance with unchanging ethics.
THE PROBLEMS OF TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION
A serious consideration of these facts, then, suggests that Transcendental Meditation poses questions in the areas of psychology, theology, and sociology. Psychological Issues Possible psychological problems stem from the emphasis on mental passivity in TM. The technique requires that one’s mind be left totally undirected during meditation. Ordinary thinking must be transcended altogether. What transpires in TM is supposedly beyond the level of intellectual comprehension.
For the Christian, the methods of TM are but a revival of the practices which have appeared periodically through history. The technique promotes mystical experiences divorced from either knowledge or reason. Thus TM encourages a passive state of mind which could open the door for demonic activity in the life of an individual.
Another psychological difficulty of TM is that it offers quick and easy solutions to anxiety without going to the root of the problem. It ignores the possible causes of psychological stress, offering only temporary relief. Some research by scholars outside the camp of TM indicates that the benefits which appear to come from meditation are short-lived.
It is Maharishi’s view that Hinduism covers the world’s religions by its giant umbrella. Accordingly, the Hindu is the most religiously tolerant of all men on earth. To him, the Vedas are the oldest of the scriptures. Whatever truth the sacred books of the world contain appeared first in the Vedas. Thus the basic truth of one religion is the basic truth of all other religions. Sociological Issues Due to Maharishi’s bold plans for the propagation of the Science of Creative Intelligence, there are sociological problems associated with Transcendental Meditation. He presents his doctrine as a cure for all the world’s ills, physical, psychological, spiritual, economic, political, social, and even environmental.
The advocates of TM declare an interest in more than merely the health and happiness of individuals. Their ambitions reach no fewer heights than that of changing social institutions. To achieve such purposes, Maharishi proposes to use whatever is in vogue in a society at a given time. This may be religion, education, or politics. What is more suited as a tool for promoting TM in this generation? According to Maharishi, it is politics. Thus his energies are devoted to making TM available through the agencies of government. Already the teaching of TM on an experimental basis is available in some schools of the United States at federal expense.
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