The Myth of Transcendental Meditation
Recently Hollywood’s celebrated filmmaker David Lynch launched a unique program to rid America’s at-risk youngsters from stress-related problems. The new program—-though it’s an old one—is called Transcendental Meditation or TM. Gracing the New York press conference were the Beatles pop stars Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr and a host of other entertainment bigwigs. The conference theme was: Change begins from within. The whole scene smacked of a Christian convention aimed at rescuing today’s twitter generation. The intent was good but the content of the program was not.
Transcendental Meditation is an Eastern meditative practice popularized in the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Beatles made it famous in the west after attending Maharishi’s lectures in the 60s. Once dismissed as the hippie mysticism the meditative practice had influenced Mike Love of the Beach Boys to Clint Eastwood and Deepak Chopra. Today TM is a billion-dollar new age philosophy industry that has followers from the boardroom to the beaches. The practice has anchored deep in much of the western world posing an immense challenge to traditional Christianity’s approach to solving social and spiritual problems.
In many ways, Lynch feels that America’s at-risk youths best bet to get out of their cycle of stress is to simply meditate. Somehow, the eastern Hindu practice seems to beat the stress much more effectively than Christian alternatives. Something seriously is going wrong with the way the western world is shifting to eastern solutions to deal with moral issues. Either Christianity is failing to address the subject or westerners have abandoned Christian foundations and are seeking new age ideas to deal with the pervasive moral decadence, and in particularly Lynch’s case, America’s at-risk youths have a better chance with Hinduism than Christianity. That’s where the issue boils down to finally.
It is critical to understand why an eastern practice, exclusively an Hindu practice, seems to better address western ills, when Hinduism and its celebrated teaching of TM has not significantly addressed India’s social and spiritual illness. Put more simply. How come not many Hindus in India do not believe in TM and only the westerners are finding something unique in it. We must apply the test of empirical evidence to see whether a philosophy or teaching has addressed its own progenitors.
Think of Yoga, another eastern, Hindu practice now a multi-billion dollar industry so famous and apparently people seem to be benefiting out of it. An honest examiner has to ask, why yoga has not done anything significant in the Hindu India. Why has it not addressed the mental and social ills in India? Why is it popular in the west but not in the east?
It’s the same deal with TM. It is more famous in the west than in its homeland.
Lynch, who established the David Lynch Foundation to “create peace and harmony between people of all ages and backgrounds,” is a devotee of TM. According to his Web site, Lynch believes every child should be given the opportunity to have one class period per day in which to “dive into himself and experience the field of silence.” He also believes TM is “the path by which people can reach the enormous reservoir of intelligence energy that is within all people.”
Paul McCartney, the Beatles star has been practicing TM for 40 years and so were many other high-profile rock stars.
I am of eastern origin and have lived to see Hinduism at its core. An average Indian has no clue of what TM is and neither has he benefited out of it.
TM may sound appealing and may even appear to be the pill that cures all our ill but the truth of the matter is, this meditative practice comes with serious concerns. Westerner’s and Christians in particular would be better off if they only knew what TM is and what it does.
So what is TM? What does it entail?
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
Joe Kellett, a former TM teacher puts it more deeply in his website suggestibilitydotorg, “TM is just trance combined with suggestion. You are told that your mental activity will become reduced and that you will experience deep relaxation. Then the TM teacher induces a trance in you, in which you merely act out those suggestions. The TM teacher also teaches you how to induce trance in yourself and thus attain trance-induced relaxation on your own.”
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.
The fact that TM is portrayed in scientific terms seems to give it credibility. This is TM’s major public relation stunt. It’s the belief that TMers produce powerful “good vibrations” from their meditations and yogic flying. And a powerful but small percentage of humans are enough to mediate and solve global problems through the sheer power of “good vibrations”.
Again this sounds purely as mumbo-jumbo. Kellett refutes this idea in his website. He writes, “For example, in 1993 four thousand TMers moved to Washington DC and did their meditating and flying there for two months. TM propaganda asks us to swallow the idea that it has been “scientifically validated” that this created a “field effect of consciousness” that directly caused a 23% reduction in crime!” He explains that there is a difference between “correlation” and “cause and effect. “In other words, just because two things happen in succession it doesn’t mean that one caused the other. But TMers really believe that the ME has been “scientifically proven”, and that it can give us “Heaven on Earth.””
To imagine a small band of meditating people emanating good vibrations attempting to solve global problems is preposterous.
I strongly believe that from the cultural and historical viewpoint TM has not drastically changed India’s struggle with numerous social evils. It’s a total fallacy that TM has mental and spiritual benefits when it has failed to spread the same goodies to its native citizens. For Christians in particular TM represents a paranormal and cultic experience. It stems from pantheistic eastern religion of Hinduism which does not address the fundamental questions of humankind.
TM is an old Hindu hat with some post-modern feathers to it. It’s appeal is in its exotic mysticism and it’s dangers far outweigh its good.