Imagine that by just sitting quietly for 20 minutes two times a day and easily chanting a simple, “meaningless” word you can alter your heart rate, lower your stress level, change your thinking, revitalize your physical body, and achieve spiritual bliss. Wow! Sign me up. As overly simplistic as this sounds, it is one of the basic claims that Transcendental Meditation, or TM, has been making for the past 40+ years.
TM is a popularized and simplified form of Hindu practice that was brought to the West by a Hindu guru called Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Maharishi (meaning “great sage”) was catapulted onto the world stage in the late 60’s by the Beatles. Soon TM was all the rage among rock musicians and film celebrities. Its claims to positively affect the physical and mental health of practitioners caused it to be taught in government institutions, from elementary schools to federal prisons. It main PR approach was that it was not a religious exercise, but a mental health discipline—available to anyone.
But numerous studies, and court cases, have proven the deception of this claim. TM is Hinduism pure and simple. A person is initiated into TM through a worship ceremony called a puja, in which prayers are offered to Hindu gods. This ceremony involves making offerings of fruit and flowers to the image of Guru Dev, the mentor and spiritual guide for the Maharishi. Guru Dev (“divine teacher”) is believed to be an avatar, that is a manifestation of the deity. When one is taught to practice TM you are given a specific word to use in your meditation. This is called a mantra. In the early days of TM it was often asserted that the mantra was a meaningless sound. However, it was later discovered that the various mantras were actually the names of Hindu gods or words of devotion to the gods.
TM has waxed and waned in popularity through the years, but it has never disappeared. And although the claims are still made for the health benefits of this discipline, it should never be forgotten that the worldview behind TM is purely that of eastern mysticism, and TM itself is basically a westernized, toned-down form of Hindu worship and spiritual practice.
God: God is an impersonal reality, identical with the universe or ultimate reality. In other words, there is a basic monistic, pantheistic theology present in TM.
Jesus: Rarely mentioned, and basically considered unnecessary.
Sin: There is no original sin. Man’s problem is spiritual ignorance.
Man: Man is essentially divine, although he does not know it.
Salvation: Man’s salvation is achieved through human effort: meditation and worship. The goal is enlightenment, spiritual union with the ultimate reality.
Scriptures: The Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu scriptures.
Truth: Relative and flexible.