Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Lies of TM 1: The Effortless Lie

Most people generally think of a part of interior methods of self-improvement as a search for, or way to come to a realization of, who we truly are. As Robert Burns opined"

"If only we could see ourselves as others see us."
Alas, few of us have this insight. Meditation is often seen as a way to see ourselves honestly, with the objective lens of truth. A way to uncover our true nature.
But what happens when the meditation teacher or guru lies to us and lies to us about our meditation and then we accept these lies as part of the way we think?

One possible answer: if we accept what we are told without critical examination and simply believe what we were told, we're doomed to repeat the lies we were given as if they were true.

I've found a number of such lies in my own examination of the Transcendental Meditation program and the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. So I'd like to share them with you and explain why they are important and give some lineal, experiential and textual reasons for why uncovering such deceptions is vitally important.

This can be especially helpful if you never even realized you were lied to in the first place.

The first of these "lies" or deceptions about Transcendental Meditation (TM) that I'd like to talk about is the idea of effortlessness. It is often claimed that TM is "effortless" and that this somehow makes it superior to other forms of meditation that are not effortless and often (according to TM Org dogma) involve "straining".

First of all, it's important to understand what effort and effortlessness mean within the context of traditional meditation. At the end of any path, the goal of meditation, meditating on some thing (a mantra, the breath, etc.) is accomplished and after that point one just merely has the intention to go into meditative absorption (or samādhi) and one can effortlessly enter that state: 1) when one desires to do so and 2) for as long as one wishes to. Before this point is attained one will need "props" or "supports" (Skt.: ālambana), as the sage Patanjali calls them, to dualistically interact with in order to fabricate briefer, earlier levels of meditative attention.

Until one reaches the point of being able to enter samādhi at will and for whatever duration, one has not reached the point of meditation being effortless. In fact, if one is still relying on some technique or method (like TM) one is not at the level of true effortlessness. Actually the Sanskrit word Patanjali uses for meditation technique, prayatna, means "with effort"!

So the claim that Transcendental Meditation is somehow superior to other forms of meditation because it is effortless is a lie. And a prominent one at that. The TM Org has consistently used this lie to imply that it's form of meditation is superior to all other forms of meditation out there. The honest truth is, TM is dualistic form of meditation, not a nondual form of meditation and therefore it must rely on some sort of prop, all of which require some modicum of effort.

Mastering meditation means mastering the fine art of balancing ones attention. If meditation, esp. in the early stages becomes too lax, one simply falls asleep, a common defect in TM. The Buddha described this as like tuning a lute: you don't want the strings too tight or they'll break, nor do you want them too loose. You want them "just right". When a culture of faux-effortlessness becomes your dogma, there's always the danger (and I've seen this in many TMers) one will try to cultivate 'effortlessness' and fall into being too lax.

Both Hindu and Buddhist meditation masters warn on the dangers of loosing the correct balance and simply becoming lazy. If one is trained to fear balancing one's attention (or the fear becomes institutionalized), there's even more of a danger of falling into laxity. Yogis (real yogis that is) describe this laxity as distinct from lethargy. Laxity is actually considered an obscuration to realization of the goals of meditation. And actually subtle laxity is considered the worst kind of slackness. One knows one is falling into subtle laxity when you have uncultivated pauses in the breath, a known (and believe it or not actually heralded) effect during Transcendental Meditation. What yogic wisdom tells us is this type of obscuration guarantees we will be unable to truly obtain a formless (and thus truly effortless) absorption.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Innerkids.org vs. TM?

A non-sectarian "Buddhist" meditation has had a very successful school meditation program called Innerkids (innerkids.org).

Mysteriously, Innerkids website was taken down last week by hackers. Then, all of the sudden a NEW group hits the net called "Smart Method Kids", but it uses TM. Is it the TM Org in disguise or just a school using TM? Probably just coincidence.

According to the web site, kids using meditation watching the breath can create STRAIN and FRUSTRATION for them! Ouch, breath awareness sounds PAINFUL! We should avoid it at all costs! I mean, who would want their kids to STRAIN. They could get hemorrhoids or something.

As their website claims:

"The ancient, venerated Vedic Tradition of meditation prescribes different practices at specific stages of development in the child’s life. Because very young children are still integrating their inner world with the outer world around them, they may find it difficult to practice a meditation that requires them to sit still or inhibits their natural inclination to know and discover. Attempts to settle a child through directing their attention to breathing or trying to create inner silence may instead cause strain and frustration for the exuberant, growing child.

One technique of meditation that has been successfully introduced to many middle and high schools throughout America and around the world is the Transcendental Meditation technique. Based on the broad spectrum of scientific research on the effectiveness of the TM technique for students, [1] educators have felt confident that the Transcendental Meditation program is a safe and reliable practice to help children cope with stress and improve learning ability [2] and behavior [3]. Over 140,000 school children around the world have learned the TM technique in the past three years."

Prepare to be assimilated. Don't worry, it's Vedic, it won't hurt you! (actually TM is a tantric meditation method, but these people who are teaching it, don't seem to even be aware of the difference)

140,000 (!!!) other kids have learned it in just the last three years all over our Big Blue Marble and you don't hear them complaining, do you?

Check it out at:


Of course TM hasn't really been shown via any independent research that I'm aware of to be beneficial for kids. The only research I've seen was done by TM True Believers where the kids were coached on what their benefits would be. And then they asked them how they felt after they were indoctrinated on TM. Imagine that!

The "strain" word is a mantra long heard in Transcendental Meditation circles to attempt to demonize other meditation techniques which use balanced attention. Certainly from the perspective of people who learn to practice a balanced form of attention, lax, unbalanced attention just means your more likely to fall asleep. It's actually considered a defect in most forms of meditation, including mantra meditation (like TM).

Maybe there is something to independent research on Transcendental Meditation that shows 50 some per cent are not actually meditating at all, they're asleep! That's one of the disadvantages of not learning the nature of ones own mind and how to (properly) regulate attentional skills.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Transcendental Meditation kicked out of schools

Transcendental Meditation was recently removed from a school in Australia when it was discovered it was a Hindu form of meditation:

'Community' complain about school meditation

EDUCATION Queensland says the community and not teachers are responsible for complaints the led to meditation classes being banned at Beerwah High School.

A spokesperson said teachers were invited to take part in a voluntary transcendental meditation program trial to access its benefits as a tool for relieving stress and potentially contributing to students’ well-being and learning outcomes.

The trial was not a response to any incident of violence and bullying at the school.

“In response to (community) concerns, the school held community information sessions in July to provide details of the program, its benefits and how the school was managing the implementation of the initiative,” the spokesperson said.

“As a result of the level of concern expressed by the Beerwah community, the principal, in consultation with the regional office, decided the meditation program would not continue at this stage.”

However, the woman who took the classes, Wendy Rosenfeldt, said teachers were responsible for the complaints and their concerns centred around religion.

“Some teachers went to the (education) department with misinformation from the internet,” she said.

“The department never contacted us about what it was actually about.”

She said TM was non-religious meditation and she hoped the program would resume once teachers were better informed.

Ms Rosenfeldt said along with helping to reduce stress and the incidence of bullying, TM improved the IQ of practitioners and led to better grades.

She said it had also proved beneficial to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and was used in schools around the world.

The school's P& C president, Sharon Vonhoff, believed the program had merely been postponed and was confident it would resume once “ill-informed” teachers were educated about TM. 

“The feedback (from participants) has been absolutely positive,” Ms Vonhoff said.

“They're very, very happy - it's been totally beneficial.”

Some 35 teachers at the school were being taught TM, reported to be the most widely researched and one of the most popular meditation techniques, with some five million practitioners worldwide.

With what is understood to be the enthusiastic backing of the school's principal, Iqbal Singh, the program was to involve Year 9 students.

It was hoped the bulk of students would continue mediating until the end of Year 12 and beyond.

The TM group conducting the program wanted to produce a research paper on the exercise which it hoped could be used to entice other schools to introduce it.

Teachers from all grades were invited to take part in the program, which would not have cost Education Queensland a cent as it would mainly be funded by US-based TM organisation the David Lynch Foundation - named after its legendary filmmaker founder.

News of the program's demise came as the Daily learned of numerous complaints by parents to the school about their children being bullied.

Monday, September 14, 2009

TM research not what we've been lead to believe!

"With regard to transcendental meditation’s claim of “508 scientific studies”, only 24 (3%) of these were randomised controlled trials and of these, at least 6 were published by lead-authors employed by transcendental meditation- (TM)-linked institutions, primarily the Maharishi University of Management. Such links naturally raise questions about conflicts of interest and objectivity in the reporting of results, particularly in the light of the strongly commercialised nature of the TM technique.

Of the 24 studies of TM, 22 were clinical trials and 2 were physiological trials assessing effects after brief training giving 37 comparisons. The author was the trainer in one study, while in 5 studies the author was employed by an institution that had formal affiliations with the TM organisation. TM was compared to low credibility controls in 19 comparisons, to moderate credibility controls in 4 instances and to high credibility controls in 14 instances. Sample size ranged from 20 to 250 participants, sample size per treatment arm ranged from 10 to 78. Drop-out rates varied from 0% to 55%. In 13 studies the statistical methods were inappropriate or not clearly described and in 16 studies the author’s conclusions were not supported by the analysis and results. "