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The Religious Underpinnings of the Natural Law Party

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Transcendental Meditation (TM) is the very heart of the Natural Law Party. When John Hagelin or other NLP spokespeople talk about "scientifically proven solutions" to societal problems, they are using code words for the supposed research that TM, founded by Hindu monk the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, lowers blood pressure, improves health, even lowers crime rates when enough of a population practices TM. (For solid scientific research that challenges these contentions, including findings that TM may actually harm some practitioners, see trancenet.net's TM research page. For personal stories, court documents, and published accounts of people who claim to have been harmed by the practice of Transcendental Meditation, see trancenet.net's Personal Experiences page.)

With Transcendental Meditation, the "Maharishi" promised all gain, no pain. Simply repeat a meaningless, albeit secret, sound over and over silently, and you'd get smarter, stronger, healthier, more business success, improve your love life, and bring on world peace.

But best of all, TM wasn't a religion! Anyone could practice it without fear of eternal damnation! This was better than sex!

Never mind that man beneath the dhoti: The multi-billion-dollar organization selling TM served up priests, rabbis, Buddhist monks -- all willing to declare that TM was a mental technique that in no way conflicted with their respective religions.

Problem was, it was all a lie. A deliberate lie. When your TM teacher insisted at your introductory lecture that TM was not religious, he or she was looking you in the eye and lying -- usually without so much as a blush.

Since the 1970s, the Maharishi has touted TM as a secular form of meditation that does not conflict with any religion, philosophy, or governmental system.
Read a time line of the Maharishi's changing language regarding his Transcendental Meditation, Natural Law Party, and religion. There was never a time that the Maharishi, and TM insiders, did not intend to bring Hinduism to America using stealth marketing technology.

In fact, insiders report that TM is secretly a very fundamental form of Hinduism. According to former Maharishi International University professor Anthony D. DeNaro, the Maharishi once snapped, "When America is ready for Hinduism, I will tell them."
In a signed, 1986 affirmation, equivalent to a sworn affidavit presented to Judge Gasch of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia as part of Robert Kropinsky's civil suit, attorney Anthony DeNaro alleges that the Maharishi personally knew of, and was therefore responsible for, the damage being done in the name of his organizations. "[He] was aware, apparently for some time, of the problem, suicide attempts, assaults, homicidal ideation, serious psychotic episodes, depressions, inter alia[among others], but his general attitude was to leave it alone or conceal it because the community would lose faith in the TM movement. Maharishi had a very cavalier, almost elitist, view about very serious injuries and trauma to meditators. His basic attitude towards the concealment of the religious nature of TM was: 'When America is ready for Hinduism I will tell them.'"

The Maharishi incorporated his original movement as a religious organization with himself as its "spiritual head."
The Spiritual Regeneration Movement is incorporated with the words "this corporation is a religious one" and "the Spiritual Head of this corporation who is MAHARISHI MAHESH YOGI, need not be a member of the Board of Trustees, but can be; he shall devote his attention to the spiritual welfare of the members of the corporation and shall have the right to name his successor."

In the Beacon Light, the Maharishi says that he chooses the names of Hindu gods as mantras for his followers -- even though later he and his followers will insist that all TM mantras are meaningless. (In point of fact, every TM teacher knows this to be a lie.)
The Beacon Light of the Himalayas has been suppressed by the TM movement for over 40 years -- even though it contains the Maharishi's first-known writings. Apparently for very good reason.

In the most shocking point for orthodox TMers, the Maharishi admits that any word, even the prosaic "microphone," can be used for meditation. Years later, he and his teachers will insist that not only will other words not work, but they imply that mantras like Benson's famous "one, one, one" may actually cause psychological damage. The TM movement warns that only "official" TM mantras are guaranteed to "be life supporting."

The Maharishi admits directly that the TM mantras not only are not meaningless, they are the names of Hindus gods such as Lakshmi, Saraswati, Shiva. (Read the full list of TM mantras and their meanings.) Nama-Japa is the Hindu religious practice of repeating a god's name. When practiced silently, this is identical to Transcendental Meditation.

As the Maharishi develops in Beacon Light, his dead teacher, Guru Dev or Brahmananda Saraswati, is the object of TMers' devotion. He believes Guru Dev [Divine Teacher] to be the incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva, whose grace alone can lead to enlightenment and salvation.

There is no doubt here that the Maharishi indicates that chanting mantras and performing yajnas (yagyas) are for the express purpose of summoning the Hindu or Vedic gods. Twenty years later he will absurdly insist to his Western students that the Vedas are not religious documents, the Vedic gods are mere symbols for the"laws of nature" [hence "Natural Law" Party], the philosophy of TM is not a religion, and its mantras have no meanings.

When the Maharishi speaks, as he does often in the Beacon Light, of bringing souls to his Lord, he means bringing converts to Shiva just as literally as any tent-revival preacher brings souls to Jesus in the U.S.

The Maharishi's discourse does take one sudden left turn away from orthodox Hindu thought. He casually slips in the idea that spiritual practice will bring about material wealth. To our knowledge, no respected Indian spiritual figure or scripture agrees with this tenet. The belief that holiness and wealth intertwine is as central to the Maharishi's idiosyncratic brand of Hinduism as it is to certain Christian televangelists who insist that "God loves you! and so Money loves you!"

A final note on mantras and their relation to Hindu gods and the Natural Law Party: On December 8, 1980, the Maharishi took out a full-page ad in India's The Sunday Standard. Amidst a long, rambling, and difficult to comprehend discourse on the relationship between TM dogma, quantum mechanics, other sciences, and the Hindu scriptures, the Maharishi writes: "The mantras are the laws of nature in the transcendental, unmanifest, non-changing field at the basis of all creation. They are self-expressed, uncreated, self-perpetuating." TM insiders have known for years that the "Laws of Nature" is code language for the very Hindu deities themselves. In line with traditional Hindu thought, there is no difference between the name (or nama) of a god and the form (or rupa) of that same god. To perform nama-japa, or to repeat the name of a god, is literally to cause that god to appear. This is the truest meaning of the "Natural Law" that for which the Maharishi's political party is named.

Four U.S. courts have found that TM is religious or a religion.
The pertinent language from cases finding TM to be religious:

  • MALNAK v. YOGI, APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY, (D.C. Civil Action No. 76-0341) found that the TM technique, Science of Creative Intelligence, and the TM puja are religious and are to be excluded from being taught in New Jersey public schools. "The teaching of SCI/TM and the Puja are religious in nature, no other inference is permissible or reasonable...although defendants have submitted well over 1500 pages of briefs, affidavits and deposition testimony in opposing plaintiffs' motion for summary judgement, defendants have failed to raise the slightest doubt as to the facts or as to the religious nature of the teaching of the Science of Creative Intelligence and the Puja. The teachings of SCI/TM courses in New Jersey violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment, and its teaching must be enjoined." Judge Meanor, Federal Court, New Jersey, quoted in Paul Mason, The Maharishi, 1994, page 243.

  • Upheld: MALNAK v. YOGI, Nos. 78-1568, 78-1882, UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS, THIRD CIRCUIT, 592 F.2d 197, December 11, 1978, Argued, February 2, 1979, Decided [emphasis added]: "We agree with the district court's finding that the SCI/TM course was religious in nature. Careful examination of the textbook, the expert testimony elicited, and the uncontested facts concerning the puja convince us that religious activity was involved and that there was no reversible error in the district court's determination.

    "Appellants [lawyers for the TM movement] urge that even if the SCI/TM course and the puja are clearly religious, the district court erred in applying the controlling legal precept because the religious effect of the course and the puja was not significant. ... We are not persuaded that the reasoning employed in those cases requires reversal in this case because of the factual differences between a benediction at a non-instructional high school commencement exercise open to the public and the teaching of SCI/TM which includes ceremonial student offerings to deities as part of a regularly scheduled course in the schools' educational programs."

  • MALNAK V. YOGI set an important precedent in U.S. law when it is cited in an epoch-making case forbidding the teaching of Creationist "science" in Arkansas public schools in McLEAN V. ARKANSAS.

  • In Hendel v. WPEC, a federal court rules Transcendental Meditation is a religion and is subject to all the protections and sanctions of religion under U.S. constitutional law. This means it may not participate in public education or political campaigns.

A Roman Catholic Cardinal has said that TM is "not acceptable" for good Catholics or Christians.
In his 1984 Pastoral statement (full text), His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila, states "the Maharishi's doctrine and teaching ... is in open contradiction to Christian Doctrine"; "one cannot be a Christian and a Maharishi [follower?]"; whether viewed as a technique or doctrine, Transcendental Meditation is "not acceptable to a Catholic, or a Christian at that." Cardinal Sin is not a hide-bound conservative who declares that Catholics will find no value in Asian spirituality: " This kind of TM is to be distinguished from various forms of prayer proper to the Oriental religious attitudes, some of which may be acceptable, and even beneficial, if properly scrutinized and used."

Every TM meditator must undergo an "initiaton ceremony" -- or puja -- that involves offerings of fruit and flowers to the Maharishi's dead teacher as an embodiment of Shiva and Shakti (Shiva's female consort).
When new initiates learn TM, they are told by their teachers that they will undergo a short, secular ceremony of thanksgiving to the tradition of teachers who have kept Transcendental Meditation alive since time immemorial.

A description of the puja ceremony: The new initiate is led into an incense-filled room and told to stand in front of an altar that includes a golden-framed portrait of the Maharishi's dead master, Guru Dev. On the altar, the TM teacher has placed rice, sandal wood paste, lit candles, incense, water, and other traditional devotional offerings, arrayed on ceremonial, polished brass trays. The student must have brought offerings of 3 pieces of fresh, sweet fruit, 6 or more fresh-cut flowers, and a new, unused, white handkerchief. If he or she does not bring these offerings, the student will not be allowed into the initiation room to learn TM. Then the teacher proceeds to chant devotional verses in Sanskrit (whose meanings are never revealed to the initiate), ceremoniously waving flowers, sprinkling water, and offering the fruit, flowers, and handkerchief on a special brass tray before Guru Dev's portrait. At the end of the 5- to 10-minute ceremony, the teacher turns to the initiate and indicates the he or she should kneel before the altar. Following this, the teacher begins to quietly repeat the new initiate's mantra and, finally, instruction in meditation begins.

As religious as this bare-bones description gets, it gets worse when one reads the full translation of the puja.. The teacher repeats ritually "To the glory of the Lord I bow down again and again, at whose door the whole galaxy of gods pray for perfection day and night"; to "guru ... in the glory of" the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, "I bow down"; to the "the One, the Eternal, the Pure..., I bow down"; and so forth. For more information, read The Holy Tradition, which was once the primary textbook on TM Teacher Training, containing the Sanskrit text and a sanitized English translation of the puja or "initiation ceremony," discussion of the performance and meaning of the puja, and a brief, probably mythical history of Indian religious figures said by the Maharishi to be "the Holy Tradition" who kept the knowledge of his TM alive for thousands of years.

Beginning in 1977, The Holy Tradition was banned on TM Teacher Training courses, reportedly out of fear of more Federal court cases like Malnak v. Yogi (see above), which found TM to be religious and barred the teaching of TM and SCI in New Jersey public schools.

But even this "official" TM movement translation of the puja is deliberately misleading -- hiding as much overt Hinduism as possible. Compare the two translations of a central verse below:


Currently the Movement translates it thusly:

"White as camphor, kindness incarnate, the essence of creation garlanded with BRAHMAN, ever dwelling in the lotus of my heart, the creative impulse of cosmic life, to That, in the form of GURU DEV, I bow down."

But a more accurate translation is:

"White as camphor, the avatar of Karuna, god of Compassion, adorned with the garland of the Serpent King, ever dwelling in the lotus of my heart, to the Lord and Lady, Shiva and Shakti together, to them I bow down."

This translation is based on the Movement's own vocabulary sheets, supplied to TM teachers in training on their teacher training. Note that Guru Dev, the Maharishi's dead teacher and supposed object of this "secular ceremony of thanksgiving," isn't mentioned at all.

TM teachers were once told that during the puja, they were secretly offering the new initiate's soul and all his or her future wealth and good fortune to the Lord (Shiva).
Ask pre-1970 TM Teachers, and they'll tell you that the Maharishi severely changed his story about the TM puja when he began claiming that the TM initiates did not participate in the ceremony. (Read former MIU professor Anthony Denaro's report that the Maharishi understands TM initiates to have become Hindus.)

Old Spiritual Regeneration Movement teachers (TM teachers from the Maharishi's first, religious organization) were instructed in the secret reasons why TM students are required to bring fruit, flowers, and handkerchiefs to the Hindu initiation ceremony.

The white cloth stands for the offering of the soul of the initiate, the flower for the blossoming of the Lord's presence [Shiva] in the initiate's heart, and the fruit for the offering of all the fruits of future actions -- literally all material wealth, success, happiness, and so forth.

The puja -- as practiced in the TM movement -- is a religious ceremony meant to tie the soul of the initiate with Guru Dev, the Maharishi's long-dead teacher Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, and ultimately to Mahashiva as the true teacher/guru.

How did we ever believe the student was not involved in the ceremony? They are required to supply the major offerings -- the fruit, flowers, and handkerchief, they are required to hold a flower, they are required to be present, and they are asked to kneel at the end.

If you were to stand in front of a Catholic altar, were required by the priest to bring sacrificial offerings, required to hold a palm frond while he recites prayers, and finally were asked forcefully to kneel down to a picture of Jesus -- wouldn't you be a participant?

Today, TM practitioners secretly perform sacrifices to Hindu gods, such as Shiva and Ganesh.
The Maharishi's organizations, the TM movement, Maharishi Ayur-Veda, the Natural Law party all promote performing yagyas -- Hindu sacrifices, performed on special calendar days, that involve making traditional offerings of ghee, flowers, incense, hymns, and more to statues of the Hindu gods Shiva, Lakshmi, Ganesh, and more. [Note: In non-TM Hindu literature, researchers may find the traditional spelling, yajnas.]

Beginning in 1967, the Maharishi began preparing TMers -- who believed they had joined a secular movement -- for the quintessentially Hindu practice of sacrificing to the gods. He wrote at some length about Vedic Karma Kanda [yagyas] in his On the Bhagavad-Gita: "The gross aspect [of yagya] deals with ritualistic performances to please different Vedic gods and win their blessings, while the subtle aspect [of yagya] deals with training the mind to contact higher powers and receive their blessings..... [They deal] with the rites and rituals necessary to establish coordination between the different aspects of individual life: coordination between man and other creatures, between man and the different forces in nature, between man and angels, and between man and God in heaven."

As Linda Brittingham of the National office for the Maharishi Yagya Program explained in an interview with trancenet.net in October 1997, "They [Ganesh and others] are Laws of Nature, impulses of Nature that conduct evolution. There are impulses at every level of nature that keep it intelligent, orderly, progressive."

A former official of the Natural Law Party wrote trancenet.net about the prevalent practice of yagyas within the party to assure success of their candidates:

"This is totally personal, but my co-chair and I went to a Shiva Temple and had puja said for [Natural Law Party presidential candidate John] Hagelin on election day. This is choice. I assume yagyas were said for him during this time, directed by MMY [the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi]. The party is completely controlled by MMY - I don't know what the law is but I know there is a law stating something about foreign involvement in political campaigns."

The Maharishi now teaches that Hindu scripture is not only the only revealed truth, but is in fact the "natural law" of the universe: Chanting Hindu Vedas can summon gods, change the weather, influence governments, and produce other magical effects.
Most TM insiders eventually learn that "natural law" is code language for Hindu or Vedic Law. A fundamentalist Christian may believe that the King James Bible is the divinely revealed truth of God. What the Maharishi teaches is fundamentally more radical. Not only are the Hindu Vedas revealed truth -- he teaches that the very sound of the Vedas predate the universe and even God the creator: The Vedas pervade and create the universe in some mystical way. He and his followers believe Vedic Law to be "scientific" because anyone who attains a sufficiently "evolved" consciousness -- by spending $100,000+ on TM courses -- will verify the "objective truth" of Vedic Law for themselves.(For a bizarre and convoluted explanation of how the Maharishi views Hindu Law as the literal basis of physics and the universe, see Don Krieger's facsimile image of a full-page ad in India's The Sunday Standard placed by the Maharishi.)

The Maharishi also teaches that chanting Hindu mantras over the sick can entice Hindu gods to cure them -- a form of Hindu faith healing.
Charging anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $25,000 or more, "experts" in the "Maharishi Vedic Vibration Technology" mumble traditional Hindu mantras and make obscure hand motions over the affected areas of ill patients. In the October 1999, Vol. 1, Issue 1 of the TM movement publication Relief, TM movement researcher David Scharf, Ph.D., claims average self-reported improvements of "45.35%" for a remarkable list of disorders including: paralysis, pain, cardiovascular problems, dental problems, immunological disorders, benign tumors, Parkinson's Disease, as well as "mental disorders" such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, phobia, even anger -- all within 4 to 5 days. Elsewhere in the publication, the TM movement claims that sufferers report that the "techniques" relieve osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis. It's important to note that all these results are self-reported and that the diseases they are discussing have a large psychosomatic component. It is extremely doubtful that any medical miracles are taking place here. Without scientific, double-blind studies -- measured by medical tests -- it appears the TM movement has stumbled onto the same healing "techniques" that tent-revival-attending Christians have enjoyed for years. Albeit with a price tag of as much as tens of thousands of dollars.

TM movement officials have gone on record as saying that the supposedly secular TM is, in fact, superior to other forms of religion, such as Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, even other forms of Hinduism.
Linda Brittingham, in the interview mentioned above, commented disparagingly on a traditional form of Hinduism that competes with TM -- and obliquely on all other religions: "So many religions or philosophies, if they don't have consciousness, the spirit is gone. It gets lost over time." Linda giggled. "But I'm not sure your friend [an orthodox Hindu] would like to hear that." I couldn't believe that Linda was willing to go on record this way putting TM as superior to other religions. "Maharishi does talk about TM as sort of like a jet whereas other techniques do have some strain, don't deliver the fruit as fast. Although I don't think your friend would appreciate that."

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