Alternative Health Information

Transcendental meditation

The Transcendental Meditation technique, or TM, is a form of meditation. Proponents have claimed it to be a simple, natural, easy-to-learn mental technique whose regular practice leads to significant, cumulative benefits on all levels of life, including mind, body, behavior and environment.
• 1 History
• 2 Technique and procedures
o 2.1 Stress
o 2.2 The mantra
• 3 TM and religion
• 4 Effects and claims
• 5 Criticism
• 6 Notable practitioners
• 7 See also
• 8 External links
o 8.1 Biography of founder of TM - Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

In 1957, at the end of a big "festival of spiritual luminaries" in remembrance of the previous Shankaracharya of the North, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, his disciple Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (or simply "Maharishi") inaugurated a "movement to spiritually regenerate the world". That was the formal beginning of TM spreading all over the world.
In the movement's initial stages, Maharishi emphasised the spiritual aspects of TM and operated under the auspices of an organisation named the 'Spiritual Regeneration Movement'. However, the requirements of the West made him adopt a more secular approach in the 1970s. He focused on western science both to show theoretical parallels with his thinking and practical verification of the results of TM. The main emphasis was on relaxation, relief from stress, and improved personal effectiveness.
In the early 1970s, Maharishi launched "The World Plan" to have a TM teaching centre for each million of the world's population, which at that time would have meant 3,600 TM centres. Many such centres were established for a time, but not all are operational now. Today, there are TM-centers and facilities all around the world, and over five million people have learned the technique. Since 1990, Maharishi co-ordinates his global activities from the town of Vlodrop in the municipality of Roerdalen in Holland.

Technique and procedures
TM is practiced for fifteen to twenty minutes twice daily while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. In essence, the TM technique comprises the silent mental repetition of a simple sound known as a mantra, allowing the repetition to spontaneously become quieter and quieter, until it disappears and one is left conscious, but without thoughts. This is the goal of the inward stroke of meditation and is called pure consciousness (in Sanskrit: turiya or samadhi; with Abraham Maslow: peak experience). Alongside the settling down of mental activity, the body also settles to a state of deep rest, and this allows for the release of deep-seated stresses from the system. The release of stress is bodily activity, and this increase in bodily activity results in corresponding activity on the level of the mind, i.e., thoughts return to the mind. This is the outward stroke of meditation. After the purification has finished, the inward stroke starts again. This whole cycle is repeated many times during each sitting of meditation.
The way of learning TM is a prescribed procedure in itself, with several lectures and checking sessions. Before the core instruction, the teacher performs a ceremony of thanksgiving to the "holy tradition" that has passed on the knowledge about TM.

In Hans Selye's definition, stress is a neutral concept, simply meaning "load". He distinguishes eustress and distress, roughly meaning "challenge" and "overload". According to Selye, the physical changes during TM are the opposite of the body's reaction to stress. (In common usage, the word stress has taken on a meaning close to Selye's distress.)
In TM-lingo, stress is defined as "structural or material impurities resulting from overload on the physiology", which includes both body and mind. The assumption is that it is possible to purify the physiology completely, and that that is the goal of human life, equal to gaining enlightenment. (Compare Maslow's self-actualization.)

The mantra
According to the TM organisation the mantras are sounds specifically chosen to have a soothing effect upon the individual's nervous system.
There is some controversy as to whether or not TM actually is a religion. The primary argument for TM being a religion is that it involves spirituality, and the primary argument for TM not being a religion is that it does not involve faith or worship.
The TM organization encourages practitioners to keep their mantra private and never to repeat it aloud, since it allegedly has the purpose of moving inwards into the 'refined' levels of the mind.

TM and religion
With regard to religion, Maharishi states that:
• Religion and meditation are both necessary -- "One without the other will not survive."
• Everyone should follow their own religion.
• At its beginning, every religion included transcendental meditation.
• Now that religions have forgotten the technique, they are "like bodies from which the soul has departed".
This presents a more generic picture of TM than is commonly used, also within the TM movement: it can be true only for the core practice, not for the systematized way of learning and teaching, including the "puja" or thanksgiving ceremony. E.g. Jesus would certainly have done this differently, and most probably also have used different mantras.
The above points are gathered from Science of Being and Art of Living, where Maharishi also discusses God, distinguishing between impersonal and personal God.
Maharish's claims have been disputed by others. One U.S. court case -- (Malnak v. Yogi, 440 F.Supp. 1284 (1977), affirmed, 592 F.2d 197 (3rd Cir. 1979) -- whose principal findings have not been overturned by a higher court, found that many of the concepts behind TM were in essence religious concepts. It disallowed any government funding of TM courses.

Effects and claims
The TM movement has referenced many medical and sociological studies (see the TM link for specific results and references). The more basic claims of lowering blood pressure, decreasing cholesterol and strengthening the immune system do seem to be more robustly confirmed. Hans Selye has examined the changes measured in TM-practitioners, and found that the therapeutic effect was clearest in conditions caused by wrong ways of adapting and reacting to stress.
According to the proponents of TM, the practice helps in attaining "higher consciousness", which every human being allegedly possesses in common, and which allegedly interacts with one's daily choices. Proponents also assume that in daily existence, humans of flesh and blood do not stand as close to this higher consciousness as they could. TM therefore basically aims to get closer to this consciousness. Since the higher consciousness allegedly equates to the good, people approaching this higher consciousness should more readily understand, intuitively, what 'good' means and will thus more likely behave well. This leans on a belief that it is desirable to act well, and undesirable to act badly, in line with arguments proposed by Plato's Socrates in Meno and in The Republic.
In the late 1970s the claims for the TM technique and associated advanced "Siddhi Techniques" became more radical and increasingly targeted at existing adherents. Propounded benefits include a measurable decreased crime rate in cities with 1% of the population practising TM, or the square root of that number practising the TM-Sidhis program (this phenomenon being called "the Maharishi Effect"), and extraordinary effects including metaphysical levitation.
The more recent interpretations of TM's significance mostly examine its health claims, such as reduced blood pressure and better concentration. In these areas its supporters can view TM as simply the most effective form of waking relaxation. Some of the contemporary proponents of meditation claim that it can lead to reductions in stress, hostility, illusions and attachments, and can help in treating mental illness.

Critics of TM assert that transcendental meditation consists simply of standard meditation as practised by many religions, and that absolutely no basis exists for anyone to claim that they invented it or spread it. Many cult researchers consider TM a cult, according to them one of the largest of the present day.

Notable practitioners
• Hugh Jackman, actor
• Beach Boys, musicians
• The Beatles, musicians
• Stevie Wonder, musician
• Céline Dion, singer
• Donovan, musician
• Clint Eastwood, actor
• Mia Farrow, actress
• Heather Graham, actress
• Doug Henning, magician
• John Hagelin, physicist, presidential candidate and HiFi designer
• William Hague, former leader of U.K. Conservative Party
• Andy Kaufman, comedian
• David Lynch, film director
• Christopher Reeve, actor
• Howard Stern, radio personality
• Itzhak Bentov, inventor, kundalini researcher, author

See also

External links
• The Transcendental Meditation Program official website
• Scientific research on Transcendental Meditation
• The David Lynch Foundation For Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace