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:
- They discourage a personal relationship between teacher and student,
focusing attention on the TM movement and the Maharishi.
- 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.
- They extend the Maharishi's control over the teacher.
- 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.)
- They look impressive to the new initiates, projecting the image of a
- 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.
- 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
minor example of Lifton's principle, "doctrine over
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
"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.
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
"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
"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
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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