MAKING AMENDS is a regular column of TranceNet, written by "Abraham," the pseudonym of a former TM teacher. Illustration by 72dpi graphics.
1/30/97 -- An Open Letter From A TM Initiator:
What You Should Know Before You Learn TM
If you're thinking about starting the Transcendental Meditation
program founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, there are a few things
you should know that you're not going to read in a book or hear at
a TM lecture. The information that follows will give you a more
complete picture so that you can make an informed decision.
Let me tell you about my qualifications to write this letter. I
learned TM as a college student and subsequently practiced it twice
a day for 22 years. After graduating from college, I studied in
Europe for six months to become a TM teacher and was personally
qualified by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I taught over 250 people how to
meditate, and attended many advanced programs, attaining the status
of a TM Governor. I have also been a faculty member at Maharishi
International University in Fairfield, Iowa. Because I still have
friends and high-level contacts in the TM organization, I choose to
For the most part, I had positive experiences with TM, which is why
I kept up the practice for as long as I did. Nevertheless, in 1993,
after years of inner conflict, I decided to stop practicing TM and
quietly left the TM movement because I could no longer continue in
good conscience. TM is a Hindu religious practice and this fact is
concealed from the public in a deliberately deceptive fashion. And
while TM can be beneficial, some of the people I taught and
encountered experienced unpleasant side effects.
The introductory and preparatory lectures that I gave to the public
as a prerequisite for learning TM were designed to sell people on
the benefits of the practice and ease any concerns they might have.
But, the assurances I gave were superficial, and many of the
explanations were misleading. I deliberately withheld information
from students because I was instructed to by the Maharishi and the
leaders on my TM teacher training course. I even signed a statement
to that effect. Yet I believed I was helping people by teaching
them to meditate.
TM involves the use of a sound, called a mantra, that is repeated
mentally in a particular way. The public is told that mantras are
meaningless sounds that bring about deep rest and allow the mind to
"transcend" thought. When people ask where mantras come from or how
they are chosen, answers are deliberately vague.
The simple truth is that TM mantras are chosen by age. They are
names of Hindu deities that have been used by worshippers in India
for thousands of years to obtain the blessings of the various gods
in the Hindu religion. When Maharishi Mahesh Yogi first began
teaching what he called transcendental deep meditation in India in
the 1950s, the meanings of the mantras were common knowledge; their
purpose and origins were described in his early writings. But
later, to increase acceptance of TM in the West, the Maharishi
suppressed information about the true nature of the mantras. He
began to claim the technique was universal and scientific, not
When I was studying to become a TM teacher, my fellow trainees and
I were not told that we were teaching people how to worship Hindu
gods. As a naive and trusting twenty-two year old, I believed what
Maharishi taught us and assumed the scientific explanations we
received were genuine.
When I instructed people in TM, the mantra and the proper technique
for using it were taught in the context of a ceremony. I told
people that it was a "non-religious ceremony of gratitude,"
performed "by the teacher, for the teacher." I asked people to
bring fruit, flowers and a handkerchief to this ceremony, and
assured them that if they liked ceremonies they would like this
one, and if they didn't like ceremonies, it would be short.
When students entered the instruction room, they found an altar
with a large picture of Maharishi's deceased teacher, Swami
Brahmananda Saraswati. Guru Dev, as he was called, was a prominent
Hindu religious figure in northern India in the 1940s and 1950s,
who held the title Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math. I was taught to
refer to him as "His Divinity."
After taking the fruit, flowers and handkerchief from the student
and placing them on the altar, I gave one of the flowers back to
the initiate. Then, after some information was exchanged, the
I started by dipping a flower in a dish of water, and then began to
chant a lengthy series of phrases that took me weeks to learn. The
phrases were in Sanskrit, the language of Hindu religious
scriptures. While chanting, I performed various motions in front of
the picture involving the fruit, flowers and handkerchief, rice,
water, a candle and incense. Each was sequentially offered to the
picture while I said, in Sanskrit, "Offering ___________ to the
lotus feet of Shri Guru Dev, I bow down." As a part of the
ceremony, I invoked the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva,
respectively the Creator, Maintainer and Destroyer of the cosmos
according to Hindu theology. I also described Guru Dev as someone
to whom "the whole galaxy of gods pray for perfection day and
At the conclusion of the ceremony, I took the flower from the
initiate, offered it, bowed down on my knees before the picture and
gestured for my initiate to do the same.
Yet, despite these blatantly Hindu elements, I continued to
maintain what I and all TM teachers were taught -- TM is a
scientific technique that is not religious and does not interfere
with any religion.
If you are a Westerner and have any respect for Judaism or
Christianity, then you have no doubt already made up your mind
about whether to learn. The ceremony and the technique are
fundamentally at odds with the beliefs and practices of these
religions. If you're still unsure, show this letter to your priest,
minister or rabbi and ask for their opinion. I have yet to meet a
religious leader who endorsed TM once they knew the details of the
ceremony and the origin of the mantras.
Maybe you are someone to whom religion has never meant much. If so,
I'm going to assume that you do care about truthfulness and
integrity. Then you might want to think twice about spending a
large sum of money for a simple mental technique taught by an
organization that persuades people to start by withholding
information and misleading them.
There are many other meditation techniques with comparable results
that do not involve large sums of money and large doses of
Another aspect that you'll want to consider is the effect of the
practice on your physical and emotional well-being. More than
likely, you are interested in TM not for its spiritual side, but
for the scientific research on its practical benefits. It is true
that many individuals have benefitted from the practice while
unaware of its true nature. However, and this is important for you
to know, some have not. I have seen meditation effects ranging from
insomnia and headaches to more serious problems such as
dissociation, involuntary jerks and twitches, and hallucinations.
I even know of people who have needed to be institutionalized; they
had no history or symptoms of mental illness prior to their
involvement with TM.
For obvious reasons, TM teachers deny these occurrences, or claim
they are extremely rare, or explain them away as "normalization."
But they do happen and are decidedly unpleasant. Your doctor and
pharmacist are obligated to inform you about the side effects of
any medications prescribed to you. The TM organization feels no
such obligation. Published research indicating negative effects or
no effects from TM are deliberately omitted from the elaborate
literature on the scientific benefits of the practice that the TM
organization promulgates. And some of the research indicating
positive results is flawed as well, according to a number of
If you don't believe everything I've said, I encourage you to print
this letter, bring it to an introductory lecture, and show it to a
TM teacher to refute. Watch what happens. He or she will in all
likelihood become uncomfortable and start to squirm; these are
things you are not supposed to know, and the teaching method
depends upon your ignorance. Some of the teachers who are more
practiced will try to downplay these religious aspects or will deny
some of these points altogether. Observe their non-verbal reactions
carefully and judge for yourself.
I assure you -- all of the above is true. Anyone who tells you
otherwise is uninformed or in denial. It is also possible that some
TM teachers will lie to you knowingly under the justification that
it is OK to deceive people to bring them to higher knowledge.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has taught for many years that the "wise do
not confound the ignorant," which justifies all sorts of deception.
So perhaps you can understand why, after years of misleading
people, I've written this letter to set things right.
I sincerely hope that you've found this information revealing and
helpful. There is much more to learn about TM at this Web site.
Click here for a full translation of the ceremony (called a puja).
Click here for a discussion of the sources of the puja.
Click here for a list of mantras and their selection procedure.
Click here for an excerpt of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's writings describing the origin of the mantras.
Click here for personal testimonies of negative effects.
Click here for a list of research indicating negative effects.
Click here for a copy of the contract that TM teachers sign.
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