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Overview and Comments
3 Days Checking Notes

1 The constant use of forms is unique to the TM movement among eastern spiritual groups, where a personal relationship with one's teacher is the norm. Critics speculate that they serve at least 7 functions:

  1. They discourage a personal relationship between teacher and student, focusing attention on the TM movement and the Maharishi.
  2. They further restrict the TM teacher to a "parrot" role. Virtually every aspect of the TM teaching is either memorized verbatim or conducted from printed forms, books, and videotapes.
  3. They extend the Maharishi's control over the teacher.
  4. They extend the Maharishi's control over the students. Nearly every form must be signed by TMers and usually contain impressive, legal-sounding language that seems to imply legal action if the tiniest aspect of the TM teaching is revealed. (Some critics question the validity of any of these contracts on various grounds.)
  5. They look impressive to the new initiates, projecting the image of a world-wide movement.
  6. They are an additional source of revenue to the TM movement. Teachers or TM centers must purchase these forms from MIU/MUM Press. Photocopying is frowned upon.
  7. They allow for easy collection and storage of information. Files, most computerized, were kept throughout the '70s and '80s on nearly every TMer. The information was said to be used in deciding who would be allowed to go on future courses. Because most committed TMers are convinced that only the TM movement is a valid source of "new knowledge" and "deeper experience (extra meditation periods)" these files held at "National" were a main source of fear and control within the TM movement. With "National's" decentralization in the '90s it's unclear who, if anybody, has access to this data today.

2, 13 Questions are so general that the meditator must say "yes" to at least one or two, giving the TM initiator a chance to praise the meditator as having "a very good experience." Some critics suggest that these and other questions throughout the TM teaching function as Ericksonian hypnosis "yes sets," a series of questions or affirmations that a subject will naturally say "yes" to, making it all the more likely that they will accept interpolated statements with which he or she may not normally agree. A powerful technique of persuasion.

3 Over and over in the Three Day Checking Notes, you will find suggestions that TM is different or superior to other systems of meditation. Here, the Maharishi implies that TM is unique in that new meditators have pleasant experiences from their first meditation. This is the first of many false suggestions: As a rather basic form of mental japa, TM is similar to other oral or mental chanting techniques. Most people will experience as calming these techniques from their first attempts. Remember that the TM initiator has been at some pains during the Introductory and Preparatory Lectures, as well as initiation, to convince the new TMer that other meditations are difficult, even painful, but TM is different. When most meditators in the room find that indeed, their TM is easy and pleasant, this becomes the first great proof that TM "works" -- and by false extension, other meditations do not.

4, 33 The group and individual checking procedures as well as the steps of initiation are unique to TM. Although many if not most meditative traditions practice group meditation, no other employs an "opening and closing the eyes" trance induction to begin. Some naive TMers believe that these procedures are somehow derived from Vedic literature. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The "checking procedure" all use a trance-induction method that eerily reminiscent of the Western hypnotist's classic "Flowers method." As initiators, we used to say that new meditators became "more orderly" after this trance induction -- they quieted down and became more "cooperative."

These checking procedures are all memorized by prospective TM initiators during the TM Teacher Training Course (TTC). Prior to being made teachers, course participants (CPs) are tested by course leaders for absolute, verbatim knowledge of these procedures, their wording, and precise time intervals. CPs must pass such a test three times without mistakes or even hesitations to become TM teachers. According to the restrictions imposed by TTCIII course leaders, they may only be "inscribed in consciousness" -- that is, memorized from dictation -- and may never be written down, in order to preserve the "purity of the teaching."

The group meditation procedure, like the individual checking procedure, always ends with a few choice reinforcements, particularly powerful in the meditator's suggestible state: TM is easy, always take time to come out because you are deeper than you think, any headaches or discomfort you experience are due to your mistake in practice, never the meditation, meditate regularly at home, and so forth. These post-trance suggestions will be repeated literally thousands of times during a TM meditator's career.

It's interesting that this structure of "new knowledge" only being given out after group trance induction will be used from here on out with TM meditators: both on knowledge/indoctrination courses such as SCI and Teacher Training, and experience/trance courses such as advanced techniques, the sidhis, and so forth. On weekend residence courses, the hard sell for new, more expensive courses typically come right after the group meditations.

5 Note that the structure of the Three Nights is extremely deliberate. During the First Night, the question and answer session can be lively and spontaneous, giving new meditators the impression that open discussion will be the norm. Following Q&A, comes the first group meditation. On the Second and Third Nights, the structure is quite different. The initiator briefly handles any spontaneous questions from the floor, but as soon as possible begins the group meditation/trance induction. Immediately afterwards, with the new meditators in a heightened state of suggestibility from the trance, the initiator launches into "new knowledge" of the evening: essentially indoctrination into TM belief systems such as karma, stress release, enlightenment, and other new belief systems.

6 On TM teacher training, initiators were taught to make a big show of circling, checking, and commenting on TMers forms. The Maharishi told us that this would impress meditators and give them the sense that they were receiving personal attention.

Most often, the various circles and check marks had no meaning other than impressing and intimidating TMers. For instance, on the TM interview form, we were told to check a number of areas -- among them, the space on acquaintance with other self-improvement systems. Many initiates complain of feeling intimidated, fearing they either have not enough experience or too much with "other systems." In point of fact, intimidation about avoiding other "systems" will be a constant theme in the new meditator's career with TM.

The only significant mark on the interview form was the circle around the initiate's age. This is the only datum the TM teacher uses to select the "personal" mantra from a list of approximately 15.

7, 9 The discussion of experiences is simply a check list of ever increasing detail to catch the new meditator in a mistake. One question after another is fired at the bewildered neophyte until he gives a "wrong" answer. "Aha," says the teacher at this point, "you've done something wrong! TM works only if you do it right."

Very few TM teachers or meditators look on this obvious ploy for what it is, a con. It looks as if a "deep analysis" of a person's TM problems is going on, when in fact there are only two possibilities to this procedure: either new intiates admit their mistakes publicly, or the TM teacher puts them off until later. Group dynamics being what they are, most new meditators try to appease the TM teacher and avoid prolonged embarrassment by giving the answer the teacher is looking for.

If TM is not working, the meditator must be making a mistake, the Maharishi has told us that the technique is perfect. (Lifton's "doctrine over person.")

8, 29 Another powerful mind control technique is to reframe an everyday experience as significant, magical, and unique to the efforts of the group. The vast majority of people who close their eyes, sit comfortably, and let their minds drift for 20 minutes will experience drowsiness -- whether they use an expensive TM mantra or not. Yet in the Three Day Checking Notes, the Maharishi has reframed this pedestrian experience as somehow profound and unique to TM. Please also note his sage advice, if sleep comes, let it come. What else could one do? Now forever after when the true believing TMer feels sleepy or nods off during TM, not only does he or she feel no guilt -- here is fresh proof that something "powerful" is happening!

10, 17, 26, 28 Many new meditators notice the constant use of nonfalsifiable tautology by TM teachers. Whether an experience is good or bad, it demonstrates "something good is happening," and is further "proof" that the TM technique works. Also see reframing, above.

11 The Maharishi appears to mislead new meditators about TM and sleep. The Introductory and Preparatory Lectures make claims about increased energy and dynamism from TM. Yet, here in the first meeting many new meditators report the need for more sleep, not less. How can the Maharishi redirect initiates' attention from this obvious contradiction? By claiming that the increased need for sleep will only last for a few days, and afterwards they will experience more energy. By that time, the hope is, initiators will have made them "strong" meditators, and they will have bought into TM's stress release model.

The bald fact is, many long-term meditators report feeling chronically tired or needing extraordinary amounts of sleep -- in addition to 2, 6, or more hours of "program" per day. (See the German Study for statistics on a group of long-term meditators.)

12, 27, 38 Dismissing intellectual insight and emotional experience is an important theme of the Three Days Checking Notes -- and in subsequent TM theory. From the First Night, new meditators are told that their TM experience will vary for physical reasons, such as eating and sleeping, rather than for psychological reasons. If you feel anxious during your meditation, it is not because you are worried. It's because you slept too much or too little; you ate too much, too little, or at the wrong time; or, as developed at length on the Second Night, you are "releasing stress." This distrust of emotions and intellect becomes a deep prejudice in long-term TMers -- separating them from their doubts, fears, and discomfort with the TM practice and movement itself. After all, the Maharishi has told you that the TM technique is an ancient practice that works for everybody. If your meditation doesn't work, feel guilty about your body, mind, and soul -- don't question the technique. (Lifton's "doctrine over person.")

14 In the Introductory and Preparatory lectures, the Maharishi has insisted that there are no negative side effects from TM. Yet, a significant portion of both Three Days and Individual Checking Notes are about how to deal with headaches, "blackouts," involuntary movements, and other negative side effects. How does he explain this? By insisting that any such effects come from incorrect practice. Again it's the meditator's fault.

Yet Western research has found that a significant minority of people will experience all of these symptoms when they relax -- no matter what form relaxation takes. The syndrome is known as Relaxation Induced Anxiety, or RIA for short. Once again, the Maharishi misleads new meditators -- yet maintains the illusion that the TM technique "works for everybody." This is why meditators' headaches and other symptoms may persist for years, despite the Maharishi's bland promises that the checking procedure will automatically remove these problems.

15, 18 "The natural process of evolution is obstructed by some individual interception." Translation: Nature wants you to transcend, the process is spontaneous, so if it doesn't work it must be your fault. "Also, he should know that the nature of incorrect use of the mantra is in starting to make an effort which makes the thinking process unnatural." Translation: If it doesn't work it must be your fault.

16 "Stop thinking the mantra -- effort has started." Translation: If you stop meditating, the pain caused by meditation-induced RIA will also stop.

19, 20 Pseudo-scientific explanations abound in the TM movement. In discussing how straining on the mantra can cause a headache, the Maharishi seems to be implying that repeating a mental thought improperly can somehow disrupt the physical brain and cause a headache. A theory not documented in any scientific study.

21 The TMer's first brush with "information control," another powerful mind control technique, comes with the initiator's insistence that new meditators not discuss their experience without the teacher present, because "there may be confusion." (How one can be confused about something so intimate as one's own experiences is never explained.) Over time and advanced courses, TMers will have ever greater demands placed on them to maintain secrecy and not discuss personal experiences without the mediation of a TM movement representative.

22 The long lists of rules given out on the First Night presage the ever-increasing control the TM movement will attempt to exert on the committed TMer: diet, sleep, sex, timely routines, architecture, clothing, drugs and medicine, finances, astrology, behavior, child rearing, physical exercise -- every aspect of a person's life will be governed by TM's meticulous rules for right behavior.

23 Eventually the new TMer will learn that "activity" has a jargon meaning in the TM movement. Only actvity that is "life supporting" is suitable. What activities are life supporting? Over and above the strictures of one's religion and culture, committed TMers are expected to donate time and money to the movement, take advanced courses, practice the "sidhis" (considered subtle activity, not meditation), and other TM-related behavior. But the new initiate naturally assumes that a good round of racketball is what's called for after a deep meditation. With the taboo against "gross" physical activity within the movement, nothing could be further from the truth.

17 A minor example of Lifton's principle, "doctrine over person" comes when the TM teacher admonishes meditators not to judge the results of their meditation by their own experience, but by the criteria the Maharishi has set out. Later, this principle will pervade the TMers entire life: No matter how miserable they feel or what failure they experience, they will be taught to mistrust their own conclusions and accept the Maharishi's doctrine that "something good is happening."

25 "We feel some rest mentally or physically, some general good feeling immediately following meditation." Translation: If you don't find it difficult to repeat a word from time to time and feel good after a twenty-minute nap, the meditation must be working. The Maharishi again reframes the commonplace to make it appear that TM "works."

1 The seed analogy goes something like this: If you plant a flower, you don't go out to your garden and pull it up by its roots to check on its growth. Like that, when you began TM you planted the mantra like a seed in your mind. It will grow and change over time. To speak it out will harm this delicate process and stunt your growth in meditation.

Although some traditions do maintain secrecy about guru-given mantras, the mantras in TM do not fall into this class. Lists of "bija" mantras -- along with their translations -- are freely available throught India. Yet Indians appear to be able do TM just fine. Most likely, the Maharishi is concerned that rivals will still his "trade secrets" and cut into his income.

Many people have remarked on the frequent use of imagistic analogies in TM lectures. For many, these are the most memorable aspects of the Introductory, Preparatory, and Three Days lectures. Some critics point out that the use of vague, imagistic analogies are used in Ericksonian hypnosis to induce absorption and light trance -- highly suggestible states, useful for indoctrination.

31 "Noticing breathing change. Due to mind settling to finer levels of thought. (If doesn't notice, OK, happens automatically.)" Apparently not true. Some researchers report that there is no more change in breathing during TM than during a light nap.

"Sudden deep breath." Translation: a pseudo-scientific explanation for sighing. Western science finds that sighing is caused by an oxygen or carbon dioxide imbalance in the blood gases, which may happen when we "forget" to breath because of distraction, a disturbance in our metabolism (frequently found in exhaustion, depression, and so forth), when we hold our breath, when we relax, or any number of reasons. Far from indicating "refined" breathing, it's the body's attempt to balance the amount of oxygen it receives. (See reframing above.)

32 "Note to initiator: do not make an issue of the draining effect of animals." Here is a trivial example of secret esoteric information withheld from new initiates. TM insiders know that the Maharishi recommends avoiding, and certainly not touching, "lower energy" or "stressed" people, places, animals, children, and so forth. The idea is that they will drain a meditator's energy, which he or see should reserve for their own "evolution." For committed TMers this becomes a taboo against mixing with non-meditators, visiting bars, visiting family, "being in the field (living outside a movement facility)," having sex, eating certain foods, and on and on.

32 "Pass out yellow course outline as people leave. These will be discussed on Third Night." This list of services and "advanced courses" are the first the new meditator will hear about "advanced techniques," "residence courses," "teacher training courses," the "sidhis," and all the other expensive techniques and products that using this "simple mental technique" will entail. (It's not unusual for committed TMers to have contributed significant six-figure amounts to the movement.)

"Jai Guru Dev.34 "Jai Guru Dev." Note that this phrase is not explained to the new meditator at this point. Even though he or she probably has never heard it before. This is usual with TM indoctrination: new phrases and practices are alluded to mysteriously. Curious "seekers" naturally inquire and learn new doctrine under the illusion of self-motivated choice.

In a subtle deception, most TM teachers will translate "Jai Guru Dev" as "Thanks to Guru Dev." In actuality it means "Hail the Divine Teacher." "Guru Dev" is not a name but a title that equates one's guru with the Divine Teacher, (Maha)Shiva.

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