I am against TM having had a bad experience of it. At the age of 14 I read a book called ‘Tranquility without Pills’ which was all about Transcendental Meditation. I was extremely inspired and set about trying to find someone who could initiate me into the technique. I found someone who could teach me the technique for about £300, and although this must have represented my entire paperound salary for ten weeks I don’t remember being put off by this (and have nothing to say one way or the other on this count).
Anyway, I went along to learn about it and was taught about the different levels of mind and how we normally sought to solve problems on the conscious level of mind which just ended in us going around in conceptual circles. Instead, I was taught, we needed to solve our problems by absorbing into an subtler level of mind.
TM, I was taught, was different from other forms of meditation in which the emphasis was on concentration in that it taught people to reach a subtler level of mind, which wasn’t possible with concentration alone.
I was taught a mantra which I was requested to promise to keep secret (a promise I have kept and I have no particular problem with this either), and I was taught to meditate on this mantra by relaxing into it and allowing it to become subtler and subtler.
Definitely TM induces and extremely relaxing state of body and mind, but it induces mental fogginess. From a Buddhist point of view it is basically training in mental sinking which is a state of meditative concentration in which we have hold on the object of meditation but in which our clarity of it is fading. Mental sinking is a form of faulty concentration and yet is the essence of the practice of TM.
The effect of TM on me was to make me increasingly angry and confused. I started shouting at my family more and more. Eventally after a year and a half or so I decided to give it up without knowing quite why – a decision I am very grateful for.
Subsequently I started going to Buddhist classes and was taught a very simple breathing meditation which has helped me far more than TM ever did. Although the money has never been an issue of me, it is perhaps worth noting that for the Buddhist classes I was only charged £4 per class – significantly less than I paid for TM.
What really was significant for me was that the simple breathing meditation taught to me through Buddhism was far better for me in terms of gaining a sense of clarity of mind than TM had ever been. Also of vital significance was that far from telling me that conscious though was the problem Buddhism taught me to use conscious thought to understand and resolve my problems, both in and outside of meditation.
People need to be discerning customers when it comes to meditation as not all meditations are the same. Any meditation technique can be harmful if practised over-zealously.
If people want a simple meditation that will enable them to develop and maintain peace of mind I would recommend that they try to attend introductory classes on Buddhist meditation which will introduce them to breathing meditation as taught in most traditions of Buddhism.