Exeter, New Hampshire
The Event: Public Lecture
The Title: "All about TM"
I remember sitting in that public library praying about what I should say and how I should say it. There were, along with myself, about twenty-five people in the room when the lecturer began by stating, “The purpose of Transcendental Meditation is to get you in touch with the source of all thought.” I raised my hand and asked, “Is Source with an upper-case ‘S,’ and is it defined the same as the atman-Brahman [God-soul] in Hinduism?” “Um, yes, that’s correct,” replied the woman behind the podium.
Not a Religion?
Many representatives of Transcendental Meditation (TM), founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, claim that TM is not a religion. But the fact is that it certainly is a religion with a definite theology and spiritual practice (meditation).
Part of the problem associated with the claim that TM is not a religion is that it is often presented to the common, everyday westerner in non-religious-sounding terminology (like our example above). When the right questions are asked, though, it can be shown to be nothing else than eastern spirituality.
Another part of the puzzle concerns the actual books written by the Maharishi and TM practitioners. When examined they betray the oft-paraded public image of TM.
Mantras, Meditation, and Worship
TM espouses a meditative technique using mantras. Though sometimes described as a meaningless sound, the mantra is to be recited over and over again, aiding the practitioner in reaching “God Realization,” that is, realizing that one is, in fact, God. “This is the state described in the words: Be still and know that I am God” (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, The Science of Being and Art of Living, p. 302).
In order to become a practitioner of TM, one must first be initiated into the movement. What does this involve? The initiation itself is called a Puja Ceremony. Puja is a Sanskrit word meaning “worship” or “religious ceremony.” The initiate is asked to bring flowers, fresh fruit and a white handkerchief to the ceremony. These are then placed on an altar in front of a picture of the Maharishi. The initiate kneels before the picture and the Puja is sung and recited, wherein occur invocations to the Lord Narayana, to lotus-born Brahma the creator, and to other deities. A series of offerings are then given to the Maharishi, each recited in single turn, and each ending with the phrase “I bow down.”
Of the mantra the Maharishi states, “We do something here according to Vedic rites, particular, specific chanting [of mantras] to produce an effect in some other world, draw the attention of those higher beings or gods living there” (Meditations of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, p. 17).
TM also has a view of Christ. When asked why it is that such emphasis is laid upon Christ’s suffering, the Maharishi answers, “Due to not understanding the life of Christ and not understanding the message of Christ. I don’t think Christ ever suffered or Christ could suffer” (ibid., 123). Further, according to the Maharishi, Jesus is one of many saviors who gave “The message of liberation” (ibid., 124-25).
I purposefully left out one important element from my experience at the Exeter Public Library. There were people of all persuasions attending, including people who claimed to be Christians. Not only does TM offer its solutions to life’s problems in, at first, non-religious language, it does so to people who claim to follow Christ. The mission, then, not only includes sharing the Gospel with people who wholly embrace TM, and with those who have no anchor in any religious waters, but to inform Christians concerning the religious and anti-Christian nature of TM.