Saturday, December 31, 2016

last few hours of 2016 plus one second

It's been a long journey. Having learned TM in 1968, I quit in 1978, I wrote on this Blog for a while in the early 21st century (!) and now it all seems like a memorable film. For some I knew, TM seems to have done some substantial damage, or rather, Mahesh's misuse of TM seems to have done some substantial damage - for others, maybe not so much — who can say for sure.

The follies of youth? There were plenty of very mature, very respectable, well-established adults along the TM way since 1968. Some had qualms, some decided they had wasted time, some remained. All had something to say and I listened. Folly, it seems, is not exclusive to youth.

Although this Blog contains a lot of criticism of TM and Mahesh by yours truly, when I reflect, I prefer to remember the good times with wonderful friends and, here and there, the actual benefits I thought I received. Yes, there were dark times and very questionable "benefits". In the past, I've pretty much reflected on the dark times, a caveat for those who perhaps had their own questions and were looking for reinforcement, clarification, justification or something else entirely.

For me, TM/Mahesh set me on a course of seeking, looking for some sort of resolution to that niggling suspicion that there was something I hadn't yet found that I ought to keep looking for. After nearly a decade of sifting through the Yoga Sutras (yogadarśana), word-by-word, I concluded that Patañjali and Mahesh were on different paths, in different countries, going in different directions totally unaware of one another. Further reflection lead back to the place where I had begun in 1964 and I once again turned to the teachings of the Buddha. Now, quite the opposite of 1964, there is an abundance of material freely available.  Maybe, sans TM/Mahesh, I wouldn't have had the drive to pursue my curiosity. Who knows!

I think my primary thoughts with some 6.5 hours (and that one extra second) remaining in this very troubled year of 2016 focus on one particular thing: take that niggling feeling just a little more seriously.

Happy 2017. Make the most of it; do what you can for yourself and then for others. 


Wednesday, July 06, 2016


one of our readers has sent us his TM story:


by Dave H.

When I tell my friends that I once was involved with a cult, their eyes get wide and their response is generally, “You?” And then they want the details.

So I tell them that I was one of those people who got caught up in Transcendental Meditation when it was sweeping the U.S.A. in the 60s and 70s. I explain the initial meetings, the Puja ceremony, the post initiation checking meetings, etc. I even tell them that for awhile, TM actually brought me some benefit.

I was never one of those uber-movement types, although I did attend a residence course or two in Fairfield, Iowa, where I was introduced to “rounding” and the whole TM thing took further root. Had I not awakened, I could have easily been drinking the Kool-aid.

Then MMY announced that we could all learn to levitate and the Sidhis program was launched. The shock of it forced me to examine what I had become involved with and thankfully, the critical thinking I had learned in college began to kick in. Levitating? Becoming invisible? How could I belong to an organization that advanced such thinking and demanded high fees for the “knowledge?”

I immediately stopped doing TM and promised myself I would never think my mantra, “Shirim,” again.

But it wouldn’t go away. For over a decade that pesky mantra would creep into my thoughts: waking, sleeping, dreaming. At first I gave it no notice, just shutting it off whenever it would appear. But after many, many years of putting up with it, combined with all of the wacky stuff coming out of the TM movement, its continued presence became a major concern for me. I wanted it gone.

I consulted with a therapist, a very capable person, but not experienced in cults. He suggested that I pretty much do what I had been doing, shut it off when it showed up in my thoughts. But that was not good enough for me.

I live in a very beautiful part of Southeast Minnesota, an area with 300-foot bluffs and an incredible paved bicycle trail system. One weekday summer morning I walked out a couple of miles on the trail. Not many people out there that early in the morning. I stopped on a bridge and decided to shout Shirim as loud and as many times as I could. It was strange how guilty I felt for even thinking about doing this. Guilt and fear manifested themselves, as if something really bad would happen to me. That’s how deeply the movement hooks had gotten into my psyche. 

But I did it. I shouted that mantra out into the light of day, loud, clear and often. Then I came back a couple of days later and repeated the experience. And then a third time.

It didn’t happen overnight, but after a couple of weeks I noticed that the mantra and I were no longer joined at the hip, and its encroachment into my life began to diminish. And today, it doesn’t show up at all.

When I read of all the junk that the true-believers in the TM movement accept as truth … Jyotish, Yagyas, Sidhis and such … I am so blessed to have my once-abandoned critical thinking skills and pleased that the mantra no longer has power over me.

And all I had to do was shout it into the atmosphere.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review: "The Secret of the Mantras" by Richard Blakely

I just finished reading "The Secret of the Mantras" by Richard Blakely, and I highly recommend it.  This memoir of a baby boomer growing up in the U.S. and moving to France in time for the student uprisings of 1968 includes a 3-month TM Teacher Training course in Rishikesh, India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Beatles. 

What a fun read!  What a witty sense of humor Blakely exhibits as he confesses his own foibles, as well as the foibles of TM life.  Of particular interest to readers of TM-Free Blog may be the following revelations:

- In 1968, Mahesh gave new initiators three mantras, chosen by age.  (Nowadays there are about 16 mantras, chosen by age.)

- In 1968, Mahesh taught initiators only the Sanskrit and the hand gestures for the exotic ceremony preceding TM instruction.  (Nowadays, initiators must also memorize the English translation and the emotions one is attempting to experience during the rite.)  

-  In 1968, students meditated for hours non-stop on courses.  Due to the emotional unraveling of some Westerners, Mahesh added yogic stretching.  (Nowadays, short meditations are alternated with yoga stretches and breathing exercises.)  

- In 1968, Mahesh taught that TMers shouldn't force themselves to change habits such as smoking, drinking and meat-eating if they found the change stressful.  Mahesh said that with continued meditation, unhealthy habits would automatically fall away.  (Nowadays, "advanced" TMers are encouraged to take up vegetarianism, celibacy, early bedtime, silent meals, etc. etc.)

This last point particularly catches my attention.  I find Mahesh's level of hypocrisy? extent of unclarity on fundamental principles? unfathomable.  Whatever could he have been thinking, either then or now?  What kind of teacher is this?  

Saturday, January 09, 2016

The Dream Tiger

Several decades ago, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi gave the following comment (paraphrased here) on one of my courses:  "If a person has a dream that a tiger is chasing him, it doesn't help him at all that under his pillow he has a gun.  A waking-state gun is no protection against a dream-state tiger.  Likewise, if a real tiger is attacking, it doesn't help that in one's dream, one has a gun." Mahesh was trying to illustrate his teaching that what applies in one state of consciousness cannot automatically be transferred to another state of consciousness.

Of course we students already knew a lot about waking and dreaming.  In this lecture, he was attempting to explain three additional states of consciousness to us.  He had told us that if we practiced TM regularly, enlightenment awaited us.  In succession, we would attain "Cosmic Consciousness," then "God Consciousness" and then "Unity Consciousness."  (Historical note:  He later changed the name from "God Consciousness" to "Glorified Cosmic Consciousness.")   These, he said, were increasingly advanced states of "enlightenment."  He was using the tiger metaphor to explain that we shouldn't even bother planning for what we would do once we were enlightened, since once we were in that state, our experience of reality would change so much.

He never said it outright, but we all believed that he was in Unity Consciousness.  (Historical note:   When he announced a few years later that there was a state above Unity Consciousness, called "Brahman Consciousness," we all believed that he was at least in that state.)  I'm thinking over his tiger illustration now, and I wonder if he was not only telling us not to make plans for ourselves in "higher" states, but also that he was in such an exalted state himself that we were in no position to pass judgment on his actions.  That's one of the messages I took away from his lecture.  That anything he did, we should probably believe and obey, because he had a different, higher way of looking at the world.

Did you believe that we should not judge Mahesh according to the rules that the rest of us live by?  Was there ever a time when he did something that you felt critical of, and then reminded yourself, "We can't judge Mahesh by our standards"?     

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Conversation with an Exit Counselor, 1987

I've been cleaning out my files, and I came upon notes from my conversation with an exit counselor back in 1987.  I hope you will enjoy reading some of his comments:

"Of all the groups I have dealt with, some of the most severe casualties have been in TM.  This is in direct contradiction to TM publicity.  Meditation techniques are not appropriate for everyone, because some people have difficulty distinguishing between the inner content and outer content of their minds.  Such people can go into a psychotic state from doing meditation, because these techniques loosen boundaries between the conscious and the unconscious.  For the average person, this is a pleasure, because most people have too many boundaries there.  But for a minority of people, it is dangerous to have the boundary more porous." 

[Editor's comment:  When I saw the film "David Wants to Fly," I had the good fortune to find Dr. Herbert Benson, author of "The Relaxation Response" sitting right behind me!  I introduced myself to him, and he told me a few stories.  Included was, "I observed the course in Fuiggi, Italy.  Since I am an M.D., when I and course participants got off the plane in the U.S., I did sign a bunch of them straight into mental hospitals."] 

"So it was normal for people in TM to "freak out" -- to have highs, lows, get emotional." 

[Editor's comment:  In the TM world, careening highs and lows were considered normal, even positive.  It was called unstressing, and we were told that it meant the person was throwing off old stress.]

I suggested to the exit counselor that TM had a special hook for the average Westerner because it backs up its beliefs with appeals to science.  He replied, "Scientology also bombards people with statistics."  

"If you have a busy, multidimensional life, to sit down for 20 minutes is okay.  But if meditation becomes a goal in itself, it's bad.  It's like fasting.  The first time you do it, it feels good, healing.  But if you continue to fast, it turns on itself.  The mind is similar - it needs information and stimulation.  Without outside stimulation, it stimulates itself.  Thus, inner material comes out.  The person becomes increasingly swallowed up in their inner world, and outside decisions and the outer world become more difficult."

"I feel TM has a callous view of people.  I've treated one of Maharishi's lovers.  She was seduced and abandoned by Mahesh.  She became psychotic.  He promised he would marry her; then she was told, "You're being sent to Switzerland." 

[Editor's comment:  This strikes me as Mahesh being callous, not the TM organization.  But I believe he set the tone, and did make policy for the TMO that was callous.]

"Dr. Herbert Benson's book 'The Relaxation Response' demonstrates that one can create TM-like results without TM.  By any autohypnosis technique, one can do this.  TM's marketing insisted that TM was distinct."

"True scientific research shows that anyone can have a TM-like response.  Almost all psychologists discredit TM research as self-serving and flawed.  For instance, the research on reduced crime is totally without controls, confounding factors, etc.  That research is extremely specious.  All TM research is designed to hook people in.  The TMO allows scientific proofs but not scientific critiques.  When you were in TM, you were only exposed to the research that they wanted you to see."

[Editor's comment:  Is TM research still in disrepute?  I think much less so.  It's being taught in some public schools and veterans' organizations.  And I believe the Surgeon General recently had an amiable discussion with a leading TM proponent.]  

Hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane.  

Monday, November 16, 2015

Book review: "Roots of TM: The Transcendental Meditation of Guru Dev & Maharishi Mahesh Yogi" by Paul Mason

Thank you, Paul Mason, for this book! 

The TM movement has an official story of how TM came to be spread to the world.  That story comes from the mouth of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  But we know that Mahesh loved to embroider stories.  So - what does independent historical research reveal about Guru Dev, Mahesh, and TM?

Paul Mason doesn't give us his personal conclusions.  Rather, he researches and relates the facts, and lets us decide for ourselves.  What I have decided is that the procedure of Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation, of how to think the mantra, is virtually identical to one of the several meditation techniques taught by Guru Dev. 

But other aspects of Mahesh's Transcendental Meditation differ from his master's teachings.  Although Mahesh claimed to revere Guru Dev as "Divinity Incarnate," he disobeyed a number of his guru's wishes, and as the years progressed, altered more and more of his master's teachings.

From Guru Dev's instructions to meditate one hour, Mahesh decreased it to 30 minutes, then to 20 minutes.  From the necessity of sitting cross-legged to the acceptability of sitting in a chair.  From insistence on a straight spine during meditation to the acceptability of slouching.  From no money accepted, as per Guru Dev's strict rule, to a set fee. 

And then there is the choosing of the mantra, which is part of a guru's responsibility.  According to Guru Dev, only a perfect master is qualified to choose a mantra.  Guru Dev said (p. 98), "…[I]t is very difficult to obtain a perfect teacher.  The traditional Indian Scriptures are full of mantra…but until someone will tell which is fit…the pile…will really be next to useless…[O'bserving the energy and inclination of those devoted to spiritual achievement, in accordance to their qualification…the experienced guru…deduces the mantra of one's favored god which would be of benefit to the spiritual seekers."

Maharishi did not dispense the same mantras that his guru did.  Maharishi said, (p. 263), "It is very difficult for me to find what [mantras] he was using.  Because initiation is all in private.  And I was never interested in who was given what [mantra].  I was interested in myself."  

Not holding to Guru Dev's dual criteria for choosing mantras, (see above: aspirant's "energy and inclination" plus "favored god"), Mahesh reduced the criteria to only one: "favored god."  Mahesh explained (p. 259), "The gurus choose from the tendencies, from the cut of the face…I don't go into all these vibrations, botherations.  I ask [the aspirant] 'Which god you like?'…Ask him directly, 'What he likes?' and that is it." 

When he initiated Christians, Jews and Muslims, he could not very well ask, "Who is your favored god?"  And what could he possibly have asked when teaching atheists?!  So he made another change - to assign the mantras by age and sex.  I couldn't find any evidence in "Roots of TM" that there was any precedent for this criteria.  Later, Mahesh simplified the criteria yet again, to choose by age only.  Even in this he was inconsistent.  One year he would use one set of mantras and age; another year he would use another.  On occasion, he even broke these simple rules, for instance when he instructed some initiators to use teenage mantras for all adults, age 20 through 120.

And most paradoxically, was Mahesh disobeying his master by even teaching meditation?  Guru Dev had stated (p. 96), "…[N]ot everyone can be a guru.  Actually only members of the Brahmin caste are in the position to be a guru…."  Mahesh was from the Kshatriya caste, so according to his own guru, he was prohibited from teaching meditation.  (By the way, Mahesh was the secretary at the ashram.  Did you know that?) 

So how then did Mahesh justify teaching meditation?  Page 143:  "I thought, 'What to do, what to do, what to do?'  Then I thought, 'I should teach them all in the name of Guru Dev.  I should design a system, a system of puja [ritual or ceremony] to Guru Dev. ' "  This decision did not follow the letter of Guru Dev's teaching; do you think it followed the spirit of Guru Dev's teaching? 

What went through Mahesh's mind as he made these changes?  Did he tell himself that he was not really changing Guru Dev's teachings?  Did he tell himself that some of his divine Guru Dev's teachings were imperfect?   Did he decide he had surpassed his guru?  Did he rationalize that the changes didn't matter because he was teaching "inferior" Westerners?  What do you think? 

"Roots of TM" helped me understand the fourth possibility more.  As I read, I realized how different Mahesh's world was from the Western world.  I realized that underneath India's veneer of westernization, the traditional Indian ways are vibrantly alive.  It is entirely a different world view from the West's.

For instance, Guru Dev taught (p. 81):  "The man who gives suffering to the cow goes to hell.  [Intermixing of Indian culture with Western culture] has caused ignorance of the Hindu scriptures, that the cow and Absolute Divine Truth are the same.  This devout scriptural knowledge is disappearing."  

Or, on p. 47, Mahesh relates how it is to be brought up properly in an Indian family.  "The children...are told to bow down to your mother, your father, your elders, your school teacher.  It provides a great shield of security and assistance for the child....[as] this later on develops in devotion to Almighty...."

And this excerpt from the chapter "Yoga Teachings of Swami Brahmanand (Guru Dev.)"  Pps. 98-99, (paraphrased by this editor), "The principal teaching of Swami Brahmanand Saraswati was that one should routinely practice a system of [mental repetition of a word of benefit to the spiritual seeker] in order to...realize the purpose of one's life.... Realization comes from doing word repetition....By practicing, sins are destroyed...."

From p. 231, "During his stay in San Francisco, Maharishi received his first press coverage in the USA, and was rather surprised that the meditation had been dubbed a 'non-medicinal tranquilizer.'  His comment was, 'Cruel!  I feel like running away, back home.  This seems to be a strange country.  Values are different here.' "

This book is filled with gems.  Arrange them together in different ways, and many questions can be answered about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, his guru and his Transcendental Meditation. 

Paul Mason is one of the world's leading English-language experts on Transcendental Meditation, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and his guru, Swami Brahmanand Saraswti (Guru Dev).  He has written, co-authored, and translated from Hindi and Sanskrit over seven books on these topics.  He is a former co-editor for TM-Free Blog.   

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Open Thread

TM-Free Blog is back, after a one-month vacation.  

Exciting new articles are coming soon, including two book reviews!! "Roots of TM:  The Transcendental Meditation of Guru Dev & Maharishi Mahesh Yogi" by Paul Mason.  And the updated, second edition of "Robes of Silk, Feet of Clay" by Judith Bourque.

Until then, please feel free to start any TM-related topic you want in the comments section.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

More TM Promises: cumulative, lasting, speedy?

Here is yet another lens through which to view Maharishi Mahesh's many promises.  He told us that regular practice of TM would lead to both continued and permanent improvements in ones life, and that attending TM retreats would lead to exponentially quicker growth.  But what were the actual results?  What were the results for me?  What were the results for you?

Cumulative results?    When I first learned TM, I felt calmer, more productive, more energetic.  Every day I felt better than the day before.  That continued for about 2 months.  After that, even though I kept meditating twice a day, I didn't feel any continued improvement.  I plateaued.  Mahesh promised us that by practicing TM twice a day, we were on our way toward "the unfoldment of our true potential," but after those first 2 months, I didn't notice any additional changes. 

Permanent results?    When I learned the TM-Sidhis technique, sometimes I felt euphoric, at one with the universe, more confident, joyful, loving and energetic.  But when I stopped doing the TM-Sidhis, I went back to feeling the same way I had felt before I had started.  (In addition, when I stopped, I went through a period where I felt emptiness and panic .  It felt like descriptions I have read of people withdrawing from opiates.  I suspect that the TM-Sidhis was activating a brain chemical similar to the one that opiates and addictive behaviors activate).

What about "rounding?"  "Rounding" is the procedure for meditating more than two times a day.  It is done on TM retreats ("residence courses").  In my day, one "round" consisted of yoga postures, then yogic breathing, then TM, then lying down.  Mahesh promised us that rounding exponentially speeded up one's growth.  That is, doing TM eight times in one weekend was supposed to lead to more personal growth than doing TM eight times over the course of four days.  But actually, I never saw any fast growth from residence courses.  I would often get relaxed on retreats, and the relaxedness would continue for a while after I returned.  After a a weekend retreat, I'd be mellow for 3 days; after a six-month retreat, I'd be mellow for about a month.  But after that, I'd be back to my usual self.

What about you?  Did TM fulfill its promises of cumulative benefits, lasting benefits, and more rapid benefits from rounding?    

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Wikileaks, TM research debunking, and more!

Did you know that Wikileaks has insider documents from the TM organization?  To see them, click Wikileaks "Transcendental Meditation" category.

And here is an article that examines a published scientific research study on TM for Childhood ADHD.  It finds over ten (10) examples of defects in the research design.  These ten defects all tend to bias the results in favor of TM.  (The pro-TM head researcher has a Doctorate in Education).  Click here to see the critique:  How to Design a Positive Study: Meditation for Childhood ADHD.

These interesting documents, and many more, are all available on TM-Free Blog.  See the right hand column on the home page (that's this page, folks), for lots of very cool resources.  

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Online Forum for Cultic Studies Researchers/Students

Any researchers or students of cultic studies in the TM-Free Blog readership?  If so, you may be interested in this.  I received an email from the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) on July 22, 2015, stating in part:

During recent annual conferences, ICSA has held a special pre-conference workshop for researchers and students interested in conducting scientific research in cultic studies.  At the 2015 workshop in Sweden, researchers decided to set up an online forum through which they could share notes, plan, and give or receive advice or assistance.  This forum will be open only to academic and clinical researchers and students involved in planning and/or conducting cultic studies research.
 The forum is especially interested in helping students and young researchers.
If you are a researcher/student, please complete a short online survey, which should only take a few minutes of your time.  Even if you are not interested in participating in the forum, please complete the survey.  The information you provide will help the ICSA Research Committee plan for the future.

Go here:

I hope some of our readers will find this forum helpful!