Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation
   Transcendental Mediation (T.M.) is a meditation practice taught first in the 1940s by Maharishi MAHESH YOGI, a disciple of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati (1869–1953), affectionately known as Guru Dev.
   Maharishi has refused to discuss his early life and little has been discovered. It is known that he was born Mahesh Prasad Varma and that he graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Allahabad University. Beginning in the 1940s, he spent 13 years in silent retreat with Guru Dev. After the death of Guru Dev in 1958, Maharishi started teaching publicly and began to gather disciples. He taught what he had learned from Guru Dev and added some of his own ideas to strengthen the work. His movement began to attract global attention when celebrities such as Mia Farrow, Jane Fonda, and the Beatles became involved.
   In T.M., each student is given a private, indi-vidual MANTRA or sound for silent repetition. The overall strategy of Maharishi is revealed in his book The Science of Being and Art of Living, in which he spells out the groundwork for creating worlds of unmanifest being, with the goal of real-izing God.
   The theoretical base on which T.M. operates is termed the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI); practitioners maintain that their objective is scientific and not religious; the basic technique for SELF-REALIZATION is derived from VEDIC science and technology. T.M. claims that its effective-ness has been scientifically proved in therapeutic settings involving criminals, drug abusers, and alcoholics.
   The technique is described as a simple mental exercise that initiates deep relaxation and rest. It is generally practiced for 15 to 20 minutes in both the morning and evening. Although the technique was inspired by Vedic practices, instructors in T.M. and the Maharishi do not consider the prac-tice to be specifically Hindu, as it does not require either belief in or devotion to a deity. The ben-efits of this practice (lowering of blood pressure, decreased effects of stress, and rehabilitation from dysfunctional habits) are said to have been veri-fied by more than 500 scientific studies conducted at 214 independent universities and research institutes in over 27 countries. The research has been published in scientific journals in India, Europe, Canada, and the United States.
   Transcendental Meditation has received acclaim for improving physiological functioning, developing mental potential, improving concen-tration, improving health, preventing disease, and bringing about positive effects on social behavior.
   In 1977, T.M. announced its SIDDHA program to help initiates achieve paranormal abilities, including levitation of the body. A former teacher of the Siddha program eventually sued the coun-cil, claiming that these manifestations of unusual phenomena could not be achieved. He won a judgment of $138,000.
   T.M. was largely introduced to the West through two organizations, the Spiritual Regen-eration Movement and the Student International Meditation Society. In 1971, Maharishi purchased the defunct Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa, and turned it into Maharishi International University, which in 1974 was renamed the Maharishi Univer-sity of Management [of the Universe]). The school awards bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in consciousness-based education. Currently, almost 800 students are enrolled in programs structured one course at a time in small classes over a period of four weeks. Degrees are granted in science, the humanities, and Vedic science.
   In 1972, Maharishi revealed a World Plan to guide the nations of the world in using the insights derived from the practice of T.M. and the Science of Creative Intelligence. The World Plan includes a wide spectrum of activities for cultural renewal, health, freedom from war, and personal development. Over the last generation, a number of different organizations have been formed to implement the plan’s ambitious goals.
   According to the World Plan Council, T.M. is not a new religious group, but some observ-ers disagree. In the United States controversy arose as T.M. teachers were receiving government funds to teach T.M. in places such as the public schools and the armed forces. In 1978, a federal district court in Newark, New Jersey, ruled that T.M. was indeed a religious practice and could not receive public funds; nor could government agencies promote its teachings and practice. After this ruling, the sharp upward trajectory of growth for the movement fell sharply, though it remains a substantial movement worldwide.
   The New Jersey ruling pointed to the use of MANTRAS as a form of japa yoga; to T.M. initiations, which include traditional religious acts (most of which were never explained to Westerners); and to the acceptance of the movement in India as a form of SHAIVITE Hinduism.
   Millions of people have taken T.M. courses. There are currently more than 7,000 authorized teachers working at 400 teaching centers. As the movement has grown, it has become to a large extent decentralized. In the United States, a Vedic City is being planned on land adjacent to the Maharishi University of Management. The many T.M.-related bodies are described in Web sites sponsored by the global movement.
   During the 1980s the council introduced a line of AYURVEDIC medical products and opened a center adjacent to the university to promote them. The writer and physician Deepak Chopra emerged as a leading exponent of Maharishi’s Ayurvedic (see AYURVEDA) program but has in recent years distanced himself from the organization.
   Further reading: William Sims Bainbridge and Donald H. Jackson, “The Rise and Decline of Transcendental Meditation,” in Rodney Stark and William Sims Bain-bridge, eds., The Future of Religion (Berkeley: Univer-sity of California Press, 1985); Harold H. Bloomfield, Michael Peter Cain, and Dennis Jafee, T.M.: Discover-ing Inner Energy and Overcoming Stress (New York: Delacorte Press, 1975); Martin Ebon, Maharishi: The Guru (The Story of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) (Bombay: Pearl, 1968); Jack Forem, Transcendental Meditation (New York: Dutton, 1974); Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Life Supported by Natural Law (Washington, D.C.: Age of Enlightenment Press, 1986); ———, Transcendental Meditation (New York: Signet, 1968); Paul Mason, The Maharishi: The Biography of the Man Who Gave Tran-scendental Meditation to the West (Shaftesbury, England: Element, 1994).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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