Transcendental Meditation: Harmless or Cult?

Transcendental Meditation: Harmless or Cult?

What is Transcendental Meditation or TM? And why has it been causing such a stir? Many celebrities do this style of meditation. The list includes The Beatles, Clint Eastwood, Sheryl Crow, David Lynch just to name a few, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of harm in it. You sit comfortably, you don’t need to change your religion or eating habits, it’s easy. But there have been equally compelling accounts of TM being a “cult” by some dissenters.

What is TM?

It is a form of mantra meditation where you sit in a comfortable position and chant for 20 minutes twice a day. In order to do this “properly”, you must take a four-month course with “free” lifetime check ups. It boasts that it is not a religion, you do not have to change your lifestyle or beliefs and the results are immediate.

The cost? $1500 U.S. This is reduced from the $2500 in 2007.

Where did TM come from?

Transcendental Meditation was brought to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi around 1959 during his world tours. He was also known as the “giggling yogi” as he laughed often during radio and television interviews. Transcendental Meditation grew in popularity in the 1970s and is probably what immediately springs to mind when you think of meditating. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi died in 2008.

Benefits of TM

There are many famous people on the transcendental meditation website promoting the benefits of TM as well as more doctors than I can count explaining that TM is the only meditation that has been tested scientifically and doing other forms of meditation will not yield the same results; why the $1500 is worth it; and how the world would be a better place if everyone did TM.

However, independent studies have not found any further benefits of TM than relaxation and health education (see Wikipedia).

The Maharishi Effect and Levitation

Some of the stranger ideas in TM is the Maharishi Effect (ME) which states that if the square root of 1% of the population practices TM, then the entire population will benefit from these effects. The other belief is that humans can levitate through the practice of TM.

TM in schools

In the 1970s, there was a movement for TM to be taught inuniversities and public schools in the U.S. & Canada and some school did start teaching TM. It was taken to court and all classes stoppedbecause of the First Amendment. Even though TM says it is not a religion, it was stopped because it covered the same topics that atraditional religion would.

Although I am trying to give a non-biased account of TM, I must admit, the more I’ve learned the more concerned I’ve become. When I first heard about it. I thought it was the easiest and most accessible form of meditation. Now after doing the research, I’ve found that there are reasons to be cautious. Keep in mind that most people do not go through the “full-system” of TM. They just continue to meditate at home and I still think that meditating at home for a few minutes a day is agood thing, but I wouldn’t pay so much money to an organization for initial training as well as the further training and payments the further into TM that you go.

Of course that is just my opinion. Many see this training as necessary, like the tuition for college or learning to play an instrument. You need good teachers, the TM website says, who have been through a rigorous program to do meditation properly.

I’m just saying to research before signing up for TM and if you feel its worth it, go for it. But, nothing’s stopping you from trying it for a few minutes at home first to see if it’s right for you. And it’s free too.

Here is the TM website www.tm.org
and here are the dissenting sites http://www.skepdic.com/tm.html,http://www.suggestibility.org/

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