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Transcendental Meditation or TM is a trademarked meditation technique introduced in 1958 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi that involves the mental use of specific sounds, called mantras.[1] According to Maharishi, the technique enables the practitioner's mind to "transcend" to a state of "restful alertness," without the concentration or active thinking of other techniques.[2] The practice is said to have been taught to over 6 million people in a paid course involving about two hours a day over a seven-day period. Research has been done on the effects of this meditation technique on mind and body, ranging from investigating its effects on cardiovascular disease to studying the physiological and psychological correlates of so-called "higher states of consciousness" purported to result from its practice. The Transcendental Meditation technique is one aspect of "Maharishi's Technologies of Consciousness," which are the experiential side of Maharishi Vedic Science. [3]


In 1957, at the end of a festival of "spiritual luminaries" in remembrance of the previous Shankaracharya of the North, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (or simply "Maharishi" to followers) inaugurated a movement to "spiritually regenerate the world." From that point in time, the Transcendental Meditation technique has spread throughout the world.[3] Maharishi's publications during this period include Beacon Light of the Himalayas (1955),[4] Science of Being and Art of Living (1963), a translation of, and commentary on, the first six chapters of the Bhagavad-Gita (1965), and the long devotional poem Love and God (1967). [5]

In the early 1970s, Maharishi launched a "World Plan" to establish one Transcendental Meditation teaching center for each million of the world's population, which at that time would have meant 3,600 TM centers throughout the world. Since 1990, Maharishi has coordinated his global activities from his headquarters in the town of Vlodrop in the municipality of Roerdalen in the Netherlands.

Maharishi founded Maharishi University of Management, which began offering classes in 1973 in California and relocated to Fairfield, Iowa, USA, in 1974. He has also founded a number of schools around the world. He inspired the founding of Maharishi Vedic City in southeast Iowa and the Natural Law Party, a group of political parties in many countries, most of which have been dissolved, the U.S. branch having closed on April 30, 2004.[6]

The movement says that more than 6 million people worldwide have learned the Transcendental Meditation technique since its inauguration,[7] For nearly eight years, Deepak Chopra was one of Maharishi's most prominent spokespersons and promoters of Maharishi Ayurveda or alternative medicine.[8] Political leaders who practice TM include Joaquim Chissano [4], former president of Mozambique.

Procedures and theoryEdit

The Transcendental Meditation technique is practiced for twenty minutes twice a day while one sits with the eyes closed.[9] Jonathan Shear, professor of Philosophy at Maharishi University of Management, writes that a distinguishing feature of this meditation program is its lack of effort as contrasted with techniques involving concentration, or those involving contemplation or active thinking.[10]

Maharishi teaches that the Transcendental Meditation technique comes from the ancient Vedic tradition of India. The simple sound used in the technique, the mantra, is given to the meditator at the time of instruction, a process which requires a fee after introductory presentations ($2,500 as of 2006),[11] and generally takes five to seven days. Paid instruction begins with a puja, which concludes with the presentation of the mantra to the student, and continues with further instruction on the technique and theory.[12][13] The mantra itself is kept private by the organization, which often requires agreement forms to this effect be signed, and emphasizes that the procedure for using the mantra is very important, and can only be learned from an authorized teacher.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Maharishi has said that Transcendental Consciousness is experienced via dhyana, a Sanskrit term which he equates with Transcendental Meditation.[14] While dhyana is often characterized as involving concentraton or contemplation, Transcendental Meditation instead makes use of the "natural, expansive response of the mind." Maharishi says that concentration is a mistranslation of dhyana and that meditation that uses concentration results in a failure to transcend.[15]

Theory of consciousnessEdit

Maharishi's theory of enlightenmentEdit

According to Maharishi's theory of enlightenment, there are seven major states of consciousness, of which the first three are commonly known. The last three states fulfill the definition of Enlightenment - the ultimate goal of long-term practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique:

  • Dreamless sleeping state of consciousness
  • Dreaming state of consciousness (REM)
  • Waking state of consciousness
  • Transcendental Consciousness is said to be a fourth major state of consciousness, distinct from waking, sleeping or dreaming. When the mind settles down during the Transcendental Meditation technique, a state of "restful alertness" is experienced. Thought becomes quieter and quieter, until the mind is no longer bound by thoughts or perceptions but experiences awareness awake to itself alone. This state is an experience of "am-ness", or "Being", the unbounded pure consciousness that is at the source of thoughts and feelings.[16]
  • Cosmic Consciousness, the fifth state, is said to be the state of "enlightenment" which results from alternating the experience of Transcendental Consciousness and activity in our daily lives. Through repeated practice, the nonchanging state of Being in TC becomes permanently maintained along with waking, sleeping and dreaming. This all-inclusive state - "cosmic" - is marked by a peaceful, nonchanging restful state inside while one is actively engaged in the constant change which occurs in life.[17]
  • God Consciousness is said to be the state where the unbounded awareness of Cosmic Consciousness is accompanied by refined sensory perception during waking, sleeping and dreaming - where the full range and mechanics of creation are appreciated at a sublime, subtle level. This perception leads to a devotion and love for creation and its creator ("God").[18]
  • Unity Consciousness, the seventh state, is said to be the perception that all aspects of life are nothing but expressions of Being, or pure consciousness. All of the diversity in life, from the gross to the subtle, is seen as the self-interacting dynamics of Being. The outer and inner realities of life are bridged in Unity Consciousness. One sees the Self in all aspects of creation.[18]

Research on "higher states of consciousness" Edit

A number of studies have been done to identify the physiological correlates of what is referred to as Transcendental Consciousness (TC) experienced during the Transcendental Meditation technique, and also during activity, which is referred to as Cosmic Consciousness (CC). The initial studies of the physiological correlates during the Transcendental Meditation technique were published in the early 1970s in Science, American Journal of Physiology, and Scientific American.[19][20][21] This research found that the Transcendental Meditation technique produces a physiological state called "restful alertness." During the practice of the technique the physiology becomes relaxed, as indicated by significant reductions in respiration, minute ventilation, tidal volume, and blood lactate, and significant increases in basal skin resistance, yet EEG measurements showed that the physiology was alert rather than asleep. These early studies termed the state of Transcendental Consciousness a state of restful alertness. Later studies focused on episodes of "pure" TC during TM practice, and found several common physiological markers for the state, including reduced breath volume or apparent breath suspension, high alpha EEG coherence, and decreased heart rate, as compared to the remainder of a TM meditation period.[22][23][24]

More recently, several studies have been done on individuals who report experiencing Transcendental Consciousness in activity or sleep (CC). A study published in 1997 in the journal "Sleep" found greater alpha and theta EEG power but no difference in delta EEG power in long-term TM meditators reporting episodes of "higher states of consciousness" during sleep compared to controls.[25] A study published in 2002 in Biological Psychology found distinct EEG patterns in the 17 "enlightened" subjects as compared to two matched control groups. In addition, using a measure called choice-contingent negative variation, the researchers found that the subjects' brains responded more efficiently during tasks.[26] A followup study on the same three groups of subjects that used content analysis to characterize and classify their subject experiences found that the group reporting an experience of Transcendental Consciousness during activity had unique subjective experiences. This was characterized by an ongoing experience described as unboundedness. "My self is immeasurably vast . . . on a physical level -- not just restricted to this physical environment," reported one subject. And another said, "It's my Being. There's just a channel underneath that's just underlying everything. It's my essence there and it just doesn't stop where I stop."[27]

Research on the Transcendental Meditation technique Edit

Medical indexes, such as PubMed, show that over 200 studies have been conducted on the Transcendental Meditation technique. The universities and medical centers where this research has taken place include Harvard Medical School, Yale Medical School, Stanford University, Princeton University, MIT, Purdue University, UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Berkeley, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan Medical School, and the University of Texas.[28]

Range of studiesEdit

A number of studies have reported finding a positive correlation between Transcendental Meditation technique and various health benefits, including reduction of high blood pressure,[29] younger biological age,[30] decreased insomnia,[31] reduction of high cholesterol,[32] reduced illness and medical expenditures,[33] decreased outpatient visits,[34] decreased cigarette smoking,[35] decreased alcohol use,[36] and decreased anxiety.[37]

Some studies indicate that regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique leads to significant, cumulative benefits in the areas of mind (Travis, Arenander & DuBois 2004), body (Barnes, Treiber & Davis 2001), behavior (Barnes, Bauza & Treiber 2003). One study showed reduced arterial wall thickness in African-Americans with high blood pressure. (PMID 10700487).

A 1971 survey by Leon Otis found that a significant percentage of those who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique experience adverse effects such as anxiety, confusion, and depression.[38] Other researchers have found that the Transcendental Meditation technique has no side effects.[39]

Research funding from the NIH Edit

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has spent more than $21 million funding research on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on heart disease[5]. In 1999, the NIH awarded a grant of nearly $8 million to Maharishi University of Management to establish the first research center specializing in natural preventive medicine for minorities in the U.S.[40]

The research institute, called the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention, was inaugurated on October 11, 1999, at the University's Department of Physiology and Health in Fairfield, Iowa.[41]

Research in medical journals Edit

Although a paper published in the The Lancet, in 1977, demonstrated that the Transcendental Meditation technique had no effect on blood pressure in patients[42], more recent long term studies indicate that the TM technique does in fact seem to impact the heart and circulatory health in hypertensive patients.

In 2005, the American Journal of Cardiology published a review of two studies that looked at stress reduction with the Transcendental Meditation technique and mortality among patients receiving treatment for high blood pressure[43] This study was a long-term, randomized trial. It evaluated the death rates of 202 men and women, average age 71, who had mildly elevated blood pressure. The study tracked subjects for up to 18 years and found that the group practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique had death rates that were reduced by 23%. The review was funded in part by a grant from NIH's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Also in 2005, the American Journal of Hypertension published the results of a study that found the Transcendental Meditation technique may be useful as an adjunct in the long-term treatment of hypertension among African-Americans.[44]

In 2006 a study published in the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine found that coronary heart disease patients who practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique for 16 weeks showed improvements in blood pressure, insulin resistance, and autonomic nervous system tone, compared with a control group of patients who received health education. The researchers concluded that the Transcendental Meditation technique may be a novel therapeutic approach for the treatment of coronary heart disease.[45]

The American Heart Association has published two studies on the Transcendental Meditation technique. In 2000, the association's journal Stroke published a study that found that on average the subjects engaged in daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique reduced the thickening of coronary arteries in hypertensive adults, thereby decreasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. After six to nine months, carotid intima-media thickness decreased in the group that was practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique as compared with matched control subjects.[46]The association's journal Hypertension published the results of a randomized, controlled trial in which the group practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique had reduced blood pressure in a group of older African-Americans.[47]

Also in 2006 a functional MRI study of 24 patients published in NeuroReport found that the long-term practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique may reduce the brain's response to pain.[48]

Effects on the physiologyEdit

Research has suggested that practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique has specific effects on the physiology. During meditation, these changes include decreased respiration rates, blood lactate, and basal skin conductance levels,[49] as well as increased coherence and integration of brain functioning.[50] These changes suggest a restful yet alert state. Studies suggest that this state of physiology promotes regulation of cortisol and other hormones associated with chronic stress, showing reduced baseline cortisol (a hormone associated with stress) and a healthier regulation of serotonin (a neurotransmitter associated with mood).[51]

Research on cognitive function Edit

A paper published in 2001 in the journal Intelligence reported the effects on 362 Taiwanese students of three randomized, controlled trials that used seven standardized tests. The trials measured the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique, a contemplative meditative technique from the Chinese tradition, and napping, on a wide range of cognitive, emotional and perceptual functions. The three studies ranged in time from six months to one year. Results indicated that taken together the Transcendental Meditation group had significant improvement on all seven measurements compared to the non-treatment and napping control groups. Contemplative meditation showed a significant result in two categories, and napping had no effect. The results included an increase in IQ, creativity, "fluid intelligence, field independence, and practical intelligence.[52]

A paper published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 1978 found no effect on school grades.[53] In contrast, other studies show improved academic performance, for example, as indicated in the British Journal of Educational Psychology, and Education. [54] [55]

In 2003 a study in the journal Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift reviewed ten randomized, controlled trials that looked at the effect of the Transcendental Meditation technique on cognitive function. Four trials showed a significant effect on cognitive function, while the remaining trials showed mixed results. Study authors Canter and Ernst noted that the four positive trials used subjects whom had already intended to learn the Transcendental Meditation technique and attributed the significant positive results to an expectation effect.[56]

Transcendental Meditation controversiesEdit

Relationship to religion and spiritualityEdit

Controversy exists as to the relationship the Transcendental Meditation technique has to religion. Official Transcendental Meditation websites state that the TM technique is a mental technique for deep rest and for contacting what is described as a field of unlimited potential. These sites state that the TM technique does not require faith, belief, or a change in lifestyle to be effective. [6]

On the other hand, Maharishi calls Transcendental Meditation "a path to God," [57] and in his teaching often makes references to "God" or a creator. [58] Transcendental Meditation program websites seem to indicate Maharishi makes no references to the TM technique as a religious practice, although he does describe himself as a spiritual leader. Kelly Zellers and Pamela Perrewe in their discussion of “The Role of Spirituality in Occupational Stress and Well-Being,” in Handbook of Workplace Spirituality and Organizational Performance, delineate religion and spirituality, and describe spirituality as broader than religion, a search for higher power, the sacred, and defined for some as God. They describe meditation, yoga, and the TM technique, one form of meditation mentioned, as spiritual and describe all three as coping strategies people may employ in business and in life in general.[59]

Clergy have opposing views when assessing the compatibility of their religions to the TM technique and programs. Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila, believes as he outlines in his 1984 pastoral statement, that the TM perspective conflicts with Christianity. For example, unlike the Christian idea of God - a personal god caring for every individual – Cardinal Sin understands the inner reality one reaches through the TM technique to be impersonal. Man, as described by TM philosophy, is capable of increasing levels of perfection, but is not considered born in Original sin, a foundation of Christian doctrine. Pain and suffering as redemptive, another foundation of much Christian thought, is lacking in TM theory.[7] Cardinal Sin also noted the belief that mantras used in TM are apparent invocations to deities. No information on mantras exists on official TM web sites, probably because the selection of mantras is private. Information as to which mantras are used in the TM technique is controversial.

At the same time, some clergy find the TM technique to be compatible with their religious teachings and beliefs. These include Rabbi Allan Green who finds Transcendental Meditation and its philosophy to provide insight into his work as a rabbi, [60] and Rabbi Raphael Levine who discovered that TM theory contains many of the same insights found in the teachings of Hebrew Prophets.[8] Father Adrian Smith, a Catholic priest, describes Transcendental Meditation as compatible with any religion because of pertinence to human nature rather than to religious virtue.[61] Father Basil Pennington, a Cistercian monk, believes that the deepest self described by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as the Absolute is known to Christians, and is the same as "our God of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”.[62]

An early controversy on the use of the Transcendental Meditation technique in the schools arose in 1979, when the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court decision in Malnak v. Yogi (592 F.2d 197) that a curriculum in the Science of Creative Intelligence, which included the Transcendental Meditation technique, could not be taught in New Jersey public schools because it violated the Establishment Clause [55] of the First Amendment, which creates a wall of separation between church and state. [56] The lower court, under Judge Meanor, based the ruling in part on the brief puja ceremony involved in Transcendental Meditation instruction and also on the fact that the Science of Creative Intelligence dealt with issues of ultimate concern, truth, and other ideas analogous to those in well-recognized religions. Because the ruling centered around a curriculum in the Science of Creative Intelligence, and because the Wallace v. Jaffree decision in 1986 allows for quiet time/meditation with a secular purpose, instruction in the Transcendental Meditation technique has continued in public charter schools, despite comments like those of sociologist Barry Markovsky, who felt that in teaching the Transcendental Meditation technique in the schools, there might be an undercurrent of religion. He labeled this as “stealth religion." [9] [63][64] Principals of public charter schools, Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse in Detroit and the Fletcher-Johnson School in Washington, D.C., note that in their views the TM technique is not religious. They point out the benefits of the technique, one of which is to help to relieve stress in their students. [10][11]

Cult issues Edit

Critics suggest that the TM technique and related programs display cult–like tendencies. Numerous research studies on Transcendental Meditation have found that human development in practitioners of Transcendental Meditation is directly opposed to cult–like behaviors and tendencies.

Diverse groups such as Catholic groups like The Little Brothers and Sisters of the Sacred Heart, as well as Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Rosicrucian’s, the Church of Scientology, and Transcendental Meditation were named as cult/sects in France in 1995, in The Parliamentary Commission on Cults in France generated by the National Assembly of France. By 2005, the Prime Minister of France noted that although the government must remain vigilant in combating so-called cults/sects, the earlier parliamentary report of 1995 was less applicable in part because many small, widely scattered, less identifiable groups had formed. He went on to advise that identification of possible cults/sects not be decided on by referencing lists compiled for identification of cultic deviances, but instead recommended an update of ministerial instructions, and the use of criteria developed in consultation with the Interministerial Commission for Monitoring and Combating Cultic Deviances (MIVILUDES). Finally he noted that labeling a group as a cult/sect stood in opposition to “respect for public freedom and Laïcité (separation of Church and State.)” report unofficial English translation

Literature has been published that discusses Transcendental Meditation and cult-like behaviors, including Michael A. Persinger's 1980 book TM and Cult Mania. [65]. In 1987, an article in the Washington Post noted that the Cult Awareness Network, held a press conference and demonstration in Washington, D.C., charging that Transcendental Meditation is a cult. Steve Hassan, editor of two books on cults and a former follower of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, is quoted in the article as saying that TM may have cult like tendencies. [66] Both The Cult Observer and The Cultic Journal have published articles on TM. [67].

Researcher David Orme-Johnson,[12] who has authored over 100 studies related to the Transcendental Meditation technique (most of them peer-reviewed), argues that the Transcendental Meditation organization is not a cult. He notes that research shows that the Transcendental Meditation technique itself produces effects in practitioners that are the opposite to those found in people who allegedly become involved in cults. He cites, as examples, dissertations done at York University and at Harvard whose outcomes indicate greater autonomy, independence, and innovative thought, as well as increases in creativity, general intelligence, self-esteem, and moral reasoning to levels that indicate mature, independent, principle-based judgment. Cult followers allegedly operate on the opposite — blind faith, and adherence, usually rigid, to arbitrary rules and authority. Orme–Johnson goes on to note that cults are generally characterized as closed systems, directly opposite to the Transcendental Meditation organization, which submits to the rigors of scientific testing, continues to encourage research by independent universities and research organizations (to date, 209 universities have conducted research on the Transcendental Meditation program), publishes consistently in peer-reviewed journals, and participates actively in scientific conferences worldwide. [13]

Lawsuits Edit

Kropinski v. WPEC

In a civil suit against the World Plan Executive Council filed in 1985,[68] Robert Kropinski claimed fraud, psychological, physical, and emotional harm as a result of the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs. The district court dismissed Kropinski's claims concerning intentional tort and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and referred the claims of fraud and negligent infliction of physical and psychological injuries to a jury trial. The jury awarded Robert Kropinski $137,890 in the fraud and negligence claims. The appellate court overturned the award and dismissed Kropinski's claim alleging psychological damage. The claim of fraud and the claim of a physical injury related to his practice of the TM-Sidhi program were remanded to the lower court for retrial, and the parties then settled these remaining claims out of court.[69]

Butler/Killian vs. MUM

Two lawsuits were filed as a result of a stabbing at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa on March 1, 2004[70] The family of the murdered student and a student who was assaulted earlier in the day have sued MUM and the Maharishi Vedic Education Development Corporation. Their separate suits, filed on Feb. 24, 2006, allege that the twice-daily practice of Transcendental Meditation, which the university requires of all students, can be dangerous for people with psychiatric problems. They also charge the university with failing to call the police or take action to protect students from a violent, mentally ill student.[71][72]

Consciousness and the unified field Edit

Maharishi has taught that the Transcendental Meditation technique allows the mind to contact an underlying field of existence. This underlying field has been characterized by teachers of Transcendental Meditation as being the same as a hypothetical unified field described by physicists.[14] For a short time in the 1980s, the Transcendental Meditation technique was referred to as the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field.

The relationship between the mind and physics is a matter of dispute among physicists. Heinz Pagels, the executive director of the New York Academy of Science, wrote a letter stating that the philosophical claims of the TM organization willfully distort scientific truth.[73]

TM Alternatives Edit

In response to what they feel is a high course fee to learn TM, some former TM teachers offer instruction on their own. They include TM Independent in the UK and Natural Stress Relief (NSR) in Italy and the USA. TM Independent says that it is their goal to make TM available at an affordable price. The Natural Stress Relief web site states that the technique they offer is comparable to, but is not, Transcendental Meditation. It also states that NSR has published two papers showing the effectiveness of  transcending in peer-reviewed psychology journals.


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External linksEdit

Further readingEdit

Template:Transcendental Meditation

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