Transcendental Meditation movement
The Transcendental Meditation movement (also referred to as Transcendental Meditation (TM), "Maharishi's worldwide movement", and the Transcendental Meditation organization) is a world-wide organization, sometimes characterised as a neo-Hindu new religious movement, founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1950s. Estimated to have tens of thousands of participants, with high estimates citing as many as several million, the global organization also consists of close to 1,000 TM centers, and controls property assets of the order of USD 3.5 billion (1998 estimate).
The term Transcendental Meditation movement refers to programs and organizations connected to the Transcendental Meditation technique that were developed and or introduced by the founder. These programs include the TM-Sidhi program, Maharishi Ayurveda and Maharishi Sthapatya Veda. The TM-Sidhi program is an advanced form of Transcendental Meditation and includes "Yogic flying". Maharishi Ayurveda is an alternative system of health care that aims to restore balance in the physiology, eliminate impurities, and awaken the body's natural healing mechanisms. Maharishi Sthapatya Veda is a system of architectural and planning principles based on "ancient Sanskrit texts" The movement also operates numerous schools and universities, offers monastic programs called Mother Divine and Thousand Headed Purusha, operates health centers such as The Raj and Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center, assorted businesses such as Maharishi Ayurveda Products International and several TM-centered communities.
The first organization of the Transcendental Meditation movement was the Spiritual Regeneration Movement, founded in India in 1958. The International Meditation Society and Student International Meditation Society (SIMS) were founded in the US in the 1960s. The organizations were consolidated under the leadership of the World Plan Executive Council in the 1970s. In 1992, a political party, the Natural Law Party (NLP) was founded based on the principles of TM and it ran candidates in ten countries before disbanding in 2004. The Global Country of World Peace is currently one of the primary organizations.
The TM movement has been described as a spiritual movement, as a new religious movement, and a "Neo-Hindu" sect. It has been characterized as a religion, a cult, a charismatic movement, a "sect", "plastic export Hinduism", a progressive millennialism organization and a "multinational, capitalist, Vedantic Export Religion" in books and the mainstream press, with concerns that the movement was being run to promote the Maharishi's personal interests.Other sources assert that TM is not a religion, but a meditation technique; and they hold that the TM movement is a spiritual organization, and not a religion or a cult. Participation in TM programs at any level does not require one to hold or deny any specific religious beliefs; TM is practiced by people of many diverse religious affiliations, as well as atheists and agnostics.
In 1977, the Los Angeles Times reported that the movement said there were 394 TM centers in the U.S., that about half of the 8,000 trained TM teachers were still active, and that one million Americans had been taught the technique.
The movement reached its peak in the 1970s, then began losing followers, reportedly put off by Yogic flying, a technique in which practitioners claim they can levitate.
There are no reliable estimates of the number of TM practitioners. Low estimates give numbers in the tens of thousands, while high estimates in the 1990s gave numbers as high as three million. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 2000s reportedly claimed to have five million followers. A obituary of the Maharishi in 2008 suggested that the global organization consists of close to 1,000 TM centers and four million practitioners. As of 1998, the country with the largest percentage of TM practitioners is Israel, where 50,000 people have learned the technique since its introduction in the 1960s, according to observers and people within the movement. In 2008, the Belfast Telegraph reported an estimated 200,000 Britons practice TM.
Keeping the teaching pure
The Maharishi and the TM movement have valued allegiance and purity of teaching. The “purity of the teaching” according to the Maharishi ensures that the TM technique as it was originally taught is available and effective over time. For example, to help maintain this purity, the Maharishi was committed to ensuring the quality of his teachers, and to establishing physical locations where the technique could be practiced and taught in a silent environment.  Peter Russel says the Maharishi’s desire to bring the TM technique to the world cannot be separated from his desire to continue the teaching of an accessible adaptation of ancient thought to western minds in as pure a way as possible. He says, inevitably over time knowledge is distorted and lost. The Maharishi took steps designed to maintain the integrity of the technique which included video taping his lectures, systematizing the teaching of the technique since even slight modifications can affect effectiveness, insisting the technique not be mixed with even valuable other techniques, since the TM technique is believed to be complete in itself, and separating the technique from other possibly legitimate point of views and practices which might confuse understanding of the TM technique. While small adjustments in the technique may be negligible now, over time a build up of these small changes could create “considerable misunderstanding and distortions of the practice” According to a movement webpage, Bevan Morris, the prime Minister of the Global Country of World Peace, is the "supreme guardian of Maharishi's purity of teaching and purity of purpose".
Robin Carlsen, a former TM instructor, said he had a better alternative to the movement's "fossilized dogma". In 1983, many students at Maharishi International University were expelled for distributing literature for Carlson's meditation seminars, and others were suspended and had their "super-radiance cards", needed for admission to the meditation domes, revoked. Carlsen sued MIU for interferring with his seminars. A TM lawyer said MIU was just asking people to choose between Carlson and the university. In 1992, Albert Miller, a former member, said that participants with doubts were asked to leave.
Cynthia Ann Humes, associate professor of Philosophy/Religious Studies with a special interest in Hindu culture, wrote in 2005 that the Maharishi insisted on maintaining the purity of his teachings. As an example she cites the case of Deepak Chopra. Chopra had been prominent in the movement before a falling out with the Maharishi in 1994. The Maharishi considered him an apostate and a competitor. The "Maharishi National Council of the Age of Enlightenment" prohibited all interaction with him in order to maintain "purity of teaching". Humes also says it is commonly known in Fairfield that one's access to the Golden Dome meditation halls and other privileges can be revoked for attending an event featuring Ammachi, a Hindu spiritual leader and teacher who is revered as a saint.
Scott Lowe's 2010 paper, The Neo-Hindu Transformation of an Iowa Town, says that the Maharishi valued purity of teaching and demanded allegiance from his followers. Those thought to be "off the program" (OTP) were ostracized. This included many people who had moved to Fairfield, Iowa, just to participate in group meditation. The number of sufficiently orthodox practitioners shrank significantly due to the blacklisting.
In a scene depicted in the biopic, Man on the Moon, comic performer and avid meditator Andy Kaufman was asked to leave a TM teacher training course because his performances were incompatible with the behavior expected of a TM teacher.
Practice and tenets
The Transcendental Meditation technique is a form of mantra meditation introduced in India in 1955 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1917–2008). It is reported to be one of the most widely researched and practiced meditation techniques. Taught in a standardized seven-step course by certified teachers, the technique involves the silent use of a sound or mantra and is practiced for 15–20 minutes twice per day, while sitting comfortably with closed eyes.
The TM-Sidhi program was introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1975. Described as a natural extension of Transcendental Meditation, the purpose of the TM-Sidhi program is to accelerate the benefits gained from the Transcendental Meditation technique by training the mind to think from the level of Transcendental Consciousness, the source of thought. One aspect of the TM-Sidhi program, called Yogic Flying, is said to develop mind-body coordination.
Maharishi Ayurveda, also known as Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health and Maharishi Vedic Medicine is considered an alternative medicine and aims at being a complementary system to modern western medicine. It was founded internationally in the mid 1980s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Maharishi's revised system of Ayurveda was endorsed by the "All India Ayurvedic Congress" in 1997. The Transcendental Meditation technique is part of the Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health (MVAH).
Maharishi Sthapatya Veda
Maharishi Sthapatya Veda is a set of architectural and planning principles based on "ancient Sanskrit texts" as well as Vastu Shastra, the Hindu science of architecture. Maharishi Sthapatya Veda architecture is also called "Maharishi Vastu" architecture and "Fortune-Creating" buildings and homes. The system describes itself as consisting of "precise mathematical formulas, equations, and proportions" for architectural design and construction. The TM movement hopes to achieve global reconstruction by demolishing most existing buildings in the world and replacing them with buildings that follow the Vastu Shastra, especially in regard to having east-facing entrances, at an estimated cost of $300 trillion.
Organizations and structure
The organization's "worldwide network" is primarily financed through courses in the Transcendental Meditation technique with additional income from donations and real estate assets. The Times reported in 1998 that the international organization controlled property assets of USD 3.5 billion.
The TM movement, by virtue of its teaching of a meditation technique that is said to promote relaxation, health, and clear thinking while reducing stress, was credited by the New York Times as being a "founding influence" on the "multibillion-dollar self-help industry". According to science writer Sharon Begley of Newsweek magazine, Maharishi and, by extension, the researchers affiliated with Maharishi University of Management helped launch the field of mind-body medicine.
Global Country of World Peace
The Global Country of World Peace (GCWP) is headquartered in Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa. The Maharishi described it as a country without borders for peace loving people everywhere. GCWP aims to "support existing governments and assist them in creating problem free administration for their nation". Through the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs, the GCWP aspires to provide peace creating technologies that also maintain cultural diversity. It is ruled by "Maharaja Adhiraj Rajaraam", also known as Tony Nader.
During the early 2000s, GCWP made unsuccessful efforts to attain sovereignty. They approached poor nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America about purchasing or leasing land to create a sovereign nation, and in one case sought to install a king in an indigenous tribal nation. In 2001, it was reported that the GCWP had been trying for years to make such arrangements in Africa, Asia, and South America. Starting in November 2000, the GCWP began making overtures to the President of Suriname regarding the lease of 3,500 acres (14 km2) of rural land to create a sovereign nation. It offered USD$1.3 billion over three years for a 200-year lease, plus 1 percent of the country's money annually. The UNHCR reported that, in July 2001, the island nation of Tuvalu rejected, after serious consideration, a proposal from the Maharishi Spiritual Movement to create a "Vaticanlike sovereign city-state" near the international airport in exchange for a payment of $2 million a year.
The RAAM, or Raam is a currency and bond issued in 2001 by Stichting Maharishi Global Financing Research (SMDFR), a charitable, Netherlands foundation. It is also the "global development currency" of the GCWP. It was designed to be a flexible currency for national governments to use in the development of agricultural projects with the goal of eliminating poverty in third world countries.
Maharishi Vedic Education Development Corporation
Maharishi Vedic Education Development Corporation (MVED) is a non-profit organization, incorporated in 1993 and based in Fairfield, Iowa. Bevan G. Morris is the acting and founding president of the corporation and Richard Quinn is the director of project finance. It is affiliated with the Global Country of World Peace, of which Morris is the Prime Minister. Heaven on Earth Inns Corp. is a for-profit subsidiary that bought old resorts and urban hotels, operating them as Heaven on Earth Inns.
Its primary purpose is the administration of Transcendental Meditation courses and training instructors in the United States. Courses in Transcendental Meditation are led by TM teachers from MVED. MVED also provides promotional literature to its teachers and centers.
The terms Transcendental Meditation, TM-Sidhi, Yogic Flying, Maharishi Vedic Vibration Technology, Maharishi Ayur-Veda, Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health, Maharishi Sthapatya Veda, Maharishi Purusha, Maharishi Ayur-Veda College, Maharishi Yoga, Maharishi Gandharva Veda and Vedic Sound Therapy, Mother Divine, Ideal Girls School, 24 Hour Bliss, Spiritual University of America, Breath of Serenity, Vedic Science, Vastu Vidya, Time Zone Capital, Council of Supreme Intelligence, and Prevention Wing of the Military are some of the registered or common law trademarks licensed to Maharishi Vedic Education Development Corporation. These trademarks have been sub-licensed to MVED by Maharishi Foundation Ltd., a UK non-profit organization. In addition, the copyrights for the content on the official Transcendental Meditation technique and related web sites are also owned by MVED.
In 2004, a lawsuit was filed as a result of a murder at Maharishi University of Management (MUM) in Fairfield, Iowa. Butler vs. MUM alleged that MVED was guilty of negligent representation and that MVED had direct liability for the death of the student. In 2008, all charges against MVED were dismissed and the law suit was dropped. The case against MUM was settled out of court.
Maharishi Heaven on Earth Development Corp.
The Maharishi Heaven on Earth Development Corp. (MHOED) is a for-profit real-estate developer. It announced in 1988 that it planned to build 50 "Maharishi Cities of Immortals" across the U.S. and Canada. The individual homes would be built using MSV specifications with non-toxic materials and natural ventilation. Its long term goal is to "reconstruct the entire world". One subsidiary is Maharishi Veda Land Canada, whose goal is to develop theme parks designed by magician Doug Henning.
Peace Palaces and health centres
Maharishi Peace Palaces, Transcendental Meditation Centers, Maharishi Enlightenment Centers, and Maharishi Invincibility Centers provide training and Maharishi Ayurveda treatments as well as serving as local centers for TM and TM-Sidhi practitioners.
According to the movement's Global Good News website, there are 23 Maharishi Vedic Health Centres in 15 countries, including Austria, France, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States. The Raj is a health spa in Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa that offers detoxification treatments, diet recommendations, herbs, aroma therapy, deep tissue massage, steam bath, warm sesame oil, and herbal enemas. Treatment includes Maharishi Ayurveda Pulse Diagnosis that a spa spokesperson says can detect imbalances in the physiology. The Maharishi Ayurvedic Health Center occupies a converted 54-room mansion in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Deepak Chopra founded the spa in 1987 and was its medical director. The Maharishi Ayurvedic Centre in Skelmersdale, UK also offers panchakarma detox. The Maharishi Ayurveda Health Centre & Spa Bad Ems, Germany occupies a restored palace. In 2011, the Maharishi Ayurveda Hospital in New Delhi, India received accreditation from the National Hospital Accreditation Board of Hospitals (NABH).
MVED has created educational enterprises such as Maharishi Vedic University and Maharishi Medical Center, and has overseen the construction and development of Peace Palaces in 30 locations in the USA.
Maharishi Foundation, Ltd is a charitable organization headquartered in Skelmersdale, West Lancashire, England. According to its press releases, it is responsible for teaching Transcendental Meditation in the United Kingdom. It holds trademarks that have been sub-licensed to MVED for use in the U.S.
The Maharishi Group is a non-profit conglomerate based in India with operations in over 120 countries. Valued at $700 million, its businesses include Ayurvedic products, educational institutions, solar energy factories, software, organic farming, clothing, jewelry, construction, aviation services, and others.
Maharishi Ltd is a group of "related" UK-based companies including:
- Ayurveda Ltd.
- Fortune-Creating Homes Ltd.
- M S V Homes Ltd.
- Maharishi Education Centre Ltd.
- Maharishi Foundation Ltd.
- Maharishi Organics International Ltd.
Purusha and Mother Divine programs
The Purusha and Mother Divine programs are long-term residential programs that include a reclusive lifestyle of celibacy and meditation. As of 2002, the Purusha program and the Mother Divine program, consisted of 310 men and 100 women respectively, on separate campuses. The Purusha program is reported to consist of four and a half hours of meditation in the morning, and includes, in the afternoon, fundraising and other work connected to the non-profit, Spiritual Center of America. There is group meditation again in the evening. The Mother Divine Program is reported to be similar. Both programs include the reading and study of Vedic literature, Sanskrit and Vedic science. Participation in the Purusha or Mother Divine programs requires a minimum commitment of three months. Many participants have been part of the program for 20 years or more. In the US, the Purusha and Mother Divine programs were located outside Boone, NC, adjacent to the Maharishi Spiritual Center of America. There is also a Purusaha program at an ashram in Uttarkashi, India.
David Lynch Foundation
The David Lynch Foundation For Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace is a charitable foundation based in Fairfield, Iowa, which operates throughout the world. The Foundation primarily funds at-risk students learning to meditate using the Transcendental Meditation program. Its other activities include funding research on Transcendental Meditation, and fundraising with the long-term goal of raising $7 billion to establish seven affiliated "Universities of World Peace", to train students in seven different countries to become "professional peacemakers".
In 1977, the television station KSCI began broadcasting in Los Angeles, California, on UHF Channel 18. The initials stood for "Science of Creative Intelligence", a theoretical aspect of the teachings of the Maharishi. It featured prerecorded presentations by the Maharishi and variety shows featuring such famous meditators as The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Peggy Lee and the Beach Boys. Station KSCI's goal was to report only good news and was intended to be part of a network of stations owned by the Transcendental Meditation movement. It was founded as a non-profit station, but in 1980 it switched to for-profit and by 1986, it was earning profits of $1 million on revenues of $8 million. In 1985, the owners of KSCI, the World Plan Executive Council, loaned $350,000 to help start Maharishi International University in Iowa. In 1986, the World Plan Executive Council sold the station for $40.5 million.
Maharishi Veda Vision, inaugurated in 1998 with three hours of satellite broadcasting in the early evening, was broadcasting 24 hours a day by 1999. It was described as India's first religious television channel. The Maharishi Channel Cable Network, owned by Maharishi Satellite Network, was reported to have moved to Ku band digital satellites in 2001. While providing Vedic wisdom in 19 languages, most of the channel's programming was in Hindi and intended for the worldwide non-resident Indian population. By 2002 it was carried on eight satellites serving 26 countries. It had no advertisement, depending on a "huge network of organisations, products and services" for support. In 2005, it was among several religious channels vying to get space on DD Direct+. Additional channels are broadcast over satellite as part of the Maharishi Open University's distance learning program, which also has studio facilities at Maharishi Vedic City in Iowa. The Maharishi Channel, which originates in the Netherlands, had a pending request for a downlink to India as of July 2009. According to its website, Ramraj TV is being established in India to introduce Vedic principles and practical programmes to the "World Family". As of August 2010, it is only available on the Internet. On a webpage last updated August 2009, they say they are in the process of obtaining a license from the Indian Government for a satellite uplink and downlink.
Maharishi University of Management Press publishes the journal, Modern Science and Vedic Science, and various books in English related to Transcendental Meditation by writers including Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, John Hagelin, Robert Roth, Craig Pearson, Robert Oates, Ashley Deans, and Robert Keith Wallace, as well as works by Bādarāyaṇa, Kapila, and Jaimini in Sanskrit. MUM Press also publishes audio and video recordings of speeches, music, and teaching materials.
Maharishi Vedic University Press has printed books by Maharishi and Tony Nader.
The TM movement has founded educational institutions in various parts of the world including the USA, United Kingdom, Australia, India, Africa and Japan.
Maharishi University of Management (MUM), formerly known as Maharishi International University, was founded in 1973. The campus is located in Fairfield, Iowa, United States. The university is not-for-profit, accredited through the Ph.D. level by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and offers "consciousness-based education" that includes practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. Degree programs are offered in the arts, sciences, business, and the humanities.
Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment (MSAE), located on the MUM campus, is an independent, non-denominational, college preparatory school located in Fairfield, Iowa. The school has an open admissions policy and its curriculum includes the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. The Ideal Girls School was a single-gender college preparatory boarding school in Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa. According to its website, the school was originally chartered in New York in 1996, then set up its campus in North Carolina in 1998, before finally moving to Iowa in 2001 where it received state accreditation in 2003.
The GCWP plans to build the Maharishi Central University campus as part of the World Capital of Peace at the Brahamasthan of America. The goal is to have 200 students from each of the 50 states, totaling 10,000 students, all practicing the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program together at the proposed campus. Maharishi Central University was announced in 2007, and was under construction until early 2008, when, according to founding president John Hagelin, the project was put on hold while the TM organization dealt with the death of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. An April 2010 newspaper article reported that eleven buildings are still sitting unfinished more than three years after construction first started.
Maharishi European Research University (MERU) was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Seelisberg, Switzerland in 1975. Its purpose is to conduct research into the effects of Transcendental Meditation and higher states of consciousness. The original campus was in a Victorian-era hotel above Lake Lucerne. The first chancellor was physicist Larry Domash; David Orme Johnson was the vice-chancellor. Institutions bearing the MERU name have also operated at Mentmore Towers, an estate in Buckinghamshire, England, and at Vlodrop, Netherlands. Notable alumni include Bevan Morris, Ashley Deans, Mike Tompkins, and possibly John Gray. 
The Maharishi School in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, England is the only specialist TM school in the country and has 100 pupils aged between four and 16, and at Limeside Primary in Oldham, half of the teaching staff now regularly meditate. In September 2011, the Maharishi School became one of 24 independent schools in the country to be awarded full state funding as part of the government "Free Schools" initiative.
Maharishi Shiksha Sansthan (MSS) is a registered society which oversees Maharishi Vidya Mandir Schools (MVMS) and Maharishi Ideal Girls Schools located across India. MSS also administrates the five campuses of the Maharishi Institute of Management and the Maharishi University of Management and Technology campus.
The Maharishi Vidya Mandir Schools was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1995. MVMS is affiliated with the New Delhi Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and/or their respective state-school, education boards. Maharishi Vidya Mandir Schools has 148 branches in 118 cities with a total of 90,000 to 100,000 students and 5,500 teaching and support staff.
The Maharishi Institute of Management has campuses in Bangalore, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Indore, Chennai and Maharishi Nagar (Delhi). It was established in India in 1995 and offers several degrees including MBA, PGDBA, MCA, BCA and BBA. The Institute describes its purpose as the elimination of "existing problems in the field of management in all areas of human concern by establishing automation in administration – management supported by the total intelligence of Natural Law.” The Bangalore campus is reported to be an "important centre for computer training and hi-tech learning" in India.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Vedic University, also known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Vedic Vishwavidyalaya (MMYVV), is a public university located in Katni, Madhya Pradesh. Maharishi University of Management and Technology with campuses in Bilaspur and Chhattisgarh, is a private University recognised by the University Grants Commission (UGC). Another school is the Maharishi Center for Educational Excellence (MCEE) which was established in 1999 by its chairman, Girish Chandra Verma.
Maharishi Invincibility School of Management (MSIM) is located in Johannesburg, South Africa and provides secondary education. Maharishi Institute, founded in 2007, is located in the same building as the MISM and provides tertiary education utilizing Transcendental Meditation and the Consciousness-Based educational approach. It its aims as creating economically self-sufficient institutions which provide large scale, free education for students from Grades 11 through the Masters degree level. In 2010, at a global educational summit in Bahrain, the Institute was voted for an award that recognized it as an innovative institution with the potential to significantly improve educational outcomes through adaptable and replicable business models, according to a press release.
At the school in Australia, student awards include the Australian Mathematics Competition and The Victorian Science Talent Search Competition.
There is also an institution called the Maharishi Research Institute in Japan.
About 3,000 TM practitioners are estimated to live near MUM and the Golden Domes in Fairfield, Iowa, US, an area dubbed "Silicorn Valley" by locals. By 2001, Fairfield's mayor and some city council members were TM practitioners.
Just outside the city limits is Maharishi Vedic City, whose 2010 population of 1,294 includes about 1,000 pandits from India who live on a special campus. The city plan and buildings are based on Maharishi Sthapatya Veda, an ancient system of architecture and design revived by the Maharishi. Housing developments outside of city limits are also seeking to combine Maharishi Vedic precepts of design with the latest sustainability technologies.
Woodley Park, Skelmersdale, Lancashire is reported to have about 400 TM practitioners, a meditation dome, and a TM school. There is also a 30-home settlement in Rendlesham, Surrey. There is a housing project in Lelystad, the Netherlands.[dead link]
Hararit (Hebrew: הֲרָרִית) is a communal settlement in Galilee, Israel founded in 1980 by a group of Jewish practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation program. It is the home for about 60 families.
The movement has many residential facilities in India, including a 500-acre (2.0 km2) compound in "Maharishi Nagar", near Noida, and another at the brahmasthan (center) of India, near Jabalpur, plus numerous school and university dormitories.
There are additional small communities in many countries around the world.
Spiritual Regeneration Movement
The Spiritual Regeneration Movement Foundation (SRMF) was incorporated in California in July, 1959. Its articles of incorporation stated that the SRMF's primary purpose for formation was spiritual, and in Article 11 that "this corporation is a religious one. The educational purpose shall be to give instruction in a simple system of meditation". The SRMF corporation was later dissolved.
Students International Meditation Society
The Students International Meditation Society (SIMS) was created in 1965. The UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) chapter of SIMS, which had 1,000 members, was founded by Peter Wallace and his brother Robert Keith Wallace, the first president of Maharishi International University.
World Plan Executive Council
In 1972, the Maharishi announced his "world plan" for a new human future. This plan became the foundation for the World Plan Executive Council (WPEC). WPEC provided courses of the Transcendental Meditation technique and other related programs.[not in citation given] The aspirations of the World Plan were:
- To develop the full potential of the individual
- To improve governmental achievements
- To realize the highest ideal of education
- To eliminate the problems of crime and all behavior that brings unhappiness to the family of man
- To maximize the intelligent use of the environment
- To bring fulfillment to the economic aspirations of individuals and society
- To achieve the spiritual goals of mankind in this generation.
WPEC contained divisions for the introduction of the Transcendental Meditation technique into particular areas of society such as business and industry. This non-profit corporation also purchased a hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey in 1994.
In 1985, civil suits were filed against the World Plan Executive Council and MIU by Robert Kropinski, Jane Greene, Patrick Ryan and Diane Hendel claiming 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 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. Kropinski, Green, Ryan and the defendants settled the remaining claims out of court on undisclosed terms. The remaining suit by Hendel, not included in the settlement, was later dismissed because, per the earlier precedent, the claims of harm and negligence weren't valid, and the fraud claim was barred by the statute of limitations.
Natural Law Party
The political party called the Natural Law Party (NLP) was based on the concept that Natural Law is the organizing principle that governs the universe, and that the problems of humanity are caused by people violating Natural Law. The NLP supported using scientifically verifiable procedures such as the Transcendental Meditation technique and TM-Sidhi program to reduce or eliminate the problems in society. It ran candidates in many countries including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Israel, and Taiwan. The U.S. headquarters of the Natural Law Party have closed effective on April 30, 2004.
In the 1970s, Transcendental Meditation was offered to businesses through and organization called the "American Foundation for the Science of Creative Intelligence" (AFSCI).
The TM movement's US national offices and the College of Natural Law were located in Washington D.C., near the Washington Convention Center, from 1981 to 1987, which also housed a private school, a clinic, and teaching and group meditation centers. Near the end of this period, the Maharishi advised TM practitioners to leave the city to "save yourself from the criminal atmosphere". Robert M. Oates Jr., then the director of public affairs at Maharishi University of Management, said that "People were given to understand it is like living near Chernobyl" because of "the incredible rate of violence". As a result, 20 to 40 TM practitioners put their homes up for sale in an effort to move away from the city.
Connection to Hinduism
The TM movement claims to have roots in Yoga, specifically in the Raja Yoga as taught by Patanjali. Koertge asserts that TM has introduced to the West the "scientistic version of Hinduism" developed in late 19th century Hindu revivalism by Dayananda Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda and others, i.e. the idea that "the Vedas are simply another name for science".
TM has been described in terms of being a "Neo-Hindu" adaptation of classical Vedantic Hinduism, and it is listed as "Neo-Hindu" along with the Self-Realization Fellowship, the Sathya Sai Organization, ISKCON and Siddha Yoga by Neusner (2009), although other authors maintain that it retains "only shallow connections" to Hinduism.
Critics charge that the TM movement is a bastardized form of Hinduism which denies its religious roots and claims a scientific basis for the purpose of attempting to secure government funding for its programs. In their book, Millennium, Messiahs and Mayhem: Contemporary Apocalyptic Movements, Robbins and Palmer identify the Maharishi's teachings that the practice of Transcendental Meditation will bring about Ram Rajya (the rule of God) on earth as a form of progressive millennialism in the Hindu tradition.
Characterization as a cult, sect, or religion
The New York Times reports that Maharishi University says that it is not a religious institution but people who have left the movement refer to Transcendental Meditation as a cult and the University as its training ground. The Israeli Center for Cult Victims comments that TM is one of the active cults in Israel. As for other new religious movements that sprang up in the context of the hippie subculture of the 1960s, there has been debate on "cult"-like aspects, and especially the cult of personality surrounding the charismatic leaders of such groups as the TM movement. Michael A. Persinger in his TM and Cult Mania (1980) selected the TM movement as "an excellent example" for a study of the sociological factors involved in the development of cult-like movements surrounding a charismatic leader. Camille Paglia wrote that TM was the "major Asian cult" of the 1960s. Musician George Harrison was once asked if TM could substitute for religion, to which he replied, "It's not a substitute for religion. It is a religion."
In 1987, the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) held a press conference and demonstration in Washington, D.C., saying that the organization that teaches the Transcendental Meditation technique "seeks to strip individuals of their ability to think and choose freely." Steve Hassan, author of several books on cults, and at one time a CAN deprogrammer, said at the press conference that members display cult-like behaviors, such as the use of certain language and particular ways of dressing. At the press conference former members also said that "TM is in fact a religion for its adherents with the maharishi seen as a god". A former member called the yogic flying training a "totalitarian environment". TM teacher and spokesperson, Dean Draznin, "discounted CAN's claims" saying that Transcendental Meditation "doesn't involve beliefs or lifestyle" or "mind control" and "We don't force people to take courses". Another spokesperson, Mark Haviland of the related College of Natural Law said that TM is "not a philosophy, a life style or a religion."
Author Shirley Harrison says that the method of recruitment is one sign that helps to identify cult, and that TM's only method is advertising. She also says that "none of the other 'cultic qualities' defined by cultwatchers can be fairly attributed to TM." Harrison writes that the Maharishi's teaching does not require conversion and that Transcendental Meditation does not have a religious creed.
In the book Cults and New Religions, Cowan and Bromley write that TM is presented to the public as a meditation practice that has been validated by science but is not a religious practice nor is it affiliated with a religions tradition. They say that "although there are some dedicated followers of TM who devote most or all of their time to furthering the practice of Transcendental Meditation in late modern society, the vast majority of those who practice do so on their own, often as part of what has been loosely described as the New Age Movement. " They say that most scholars view Transcendental Meditation as having elements of both therapy and religion, but says that on the other hand, "Transcendental Meditation has no designated scripture, no set of doctrinal requirements, no ongoing worship activity, and no discernible community of believers." They also say that Maharishi didn't claim to have special divine revelation or supernatural personal qualities.
Marc Galanter, writes in his book Cults: Faith, Healing and Coercion that TM "evolved into something of a charismatic movement, with a belief system that transcended the domain of its practice". He notes how a variety of unreasonable beliefs came to be seen as literally true by its "more committed members". He cites an "unlikely set of beliefs" that includes the ability to levitate and reduce traffic accidents and conflicts in the Middle East through the practice of meditation.
In his book Soul snatchers: the mechanics of cults, Jean-Marie Abgrall describes how Altered States Of Consciousness (ASCs) are used in many cults to make the initiate more susceptible to the group will and world view. He cites research by Barmark and Gautnitz which showed the similarities between the states obtained by Transcendental Meditation and ASCs. In this way, not only does the subject become more reliant on the ASC, but it allows for a weakening of criticism of the cult and increase in faith therein. Abgrall goes on to note that the use of mantras is one of the most widespread techniques in cults, noting in TM this mantra is produced mentally. He says that a guru is usually central to a cult and that its success will rely on how effective that guru is. Among the common characteristics of a guru he notes paraphrenia, a mental illness that completely cuts the individual from reality. In regard to this he notes for example, that the Maharishi recommended the TM-Sidhi program including 'yogic flying' as a way to reduce crime.
In his book The Elementary Forms of The New Religious Life, Roy Wallis describes TM as having moved beyond being a cult to a "Sect". He notes similarities between progression in TM and progression within Scientology (In Scientology progression from "Basic" to "Operating Thetan" and in TM from basic TM instruction to the TM-Sidhi program). He notes that whereas once the initiatory stage was important and the "goal", this now becomes simply a prerequisite for training to higher "powers" or abilities. He argues that this helps facilitate group control over members rather than allowing them to come to their own judgment. Thus this progression becomes a strong form of social control.
Sociologist Alan E. Aldridge writes that Transcendental Meditation fits Roy Wallis' definition of a "world-affirming religion". According to Aldridge, TM has an ethos of "individual self-realization" and "an inner core of committed members" who practice more advanced techniques (the TM-Sidhi program) that may not even be known to the "ordinary consumer of TM".
Reporter Michael D’Antonio wrote in his book, Heaven on Earth – Dispatches from America’s Spiritual Frontier that, as practiced at Maharishi International University, Transcendental Meditation is "a cult, not a culture". D'Antonio wrote that Transcendental Meditation was like the worst of religion: rigid, unreasonable, repressive, and authoritarian, characterized by overt manipulation, a disregard for serious scholarship, and an unwillingness to question authority. For the first time in his travels he found people he believed to be truly deluded, and a physics department teaching theories that were dead wrong. D'Antonio charges that they have taken Transcendental Meditiation and transformed it "into a grandiose narcissistic dream, a form of intellectual bondage, that they call enlightenment".
Clarke and Linzey argue that for the ordinary membership of TM their lives and daily concerns are little — if at all — affected by its cult nature. Instead, as is the case for Scientology, it is only the core membership who must give total dedication to the movement. Former TM teacher John Knapp states that 90% of meditators take an introductory course only, but that for the 10% who become more involved, the members are subject to intense pressure in training centers, MUM and other official venues, where they are tightly controlled, isolated from family and society, and not permitted dissent. Former TM Movement members relate that their mail was screened and their activities monitored by a "Vigilance Committee".
When The Beatles were followers of the Maharishi, money and promotion were sources of tension. Although there was talk of making a film about the Maharishi in co-operation with Apple Films, it was discovered that the Maharishi was independently negotiating with ABC Television in the US to create a TV special featuring the band. Two visits by their business manager to the Maharishi failed to stop him proclaiming that he could deliver the band for a TV show. Their road manager was surprised when he realised the Maharishi was a sophisticated negotiator, knowing more than the average person about financial percentages. Another project involved Four Star Films and Bliss Productions, a company run by Charles Lutes who was the head of the Maharishi's Spiritual Regeneration Movement in the US. It was hoped that The Beatles would appear in it, but the contract was signed without their commitment. Some followers consider the crew's presence to have precipitated the sudden departure of Harrison and Lennon and was the catalyst for their discontent. John Lennon later told his wife that he felt that the Maharishi had, in her words, "too much interest in public recognition, celebrities and money" for a spiritual man. By some accounts, rumors of sexual encounters with female students led The Beatles to believe that the Maharishi was a hypocrite who was abusing his power. However, many of the people who were in India, including Harrison, McCartney and Cynthia Lennon, do not believe that the Maharishi made a pass at any woman.
Beginning in 1989, the movement began naming everything connected to the Maharishi after him, even retroactively renaming already existing entities or concepts. Author Lynn McTaggart says there have been concerns that the movement was being run to promote the Maharishi's personal interests.[clarification needed]
In 2007, a TM movement insider released a large number of movement documents to the whistleblower repository Wikileaks. Part of the documentation exposed an organized and coordinated effort to undermine critical examination of the Transcendental Meditation movement, including references to TM which appeared on the WWW. These efforts also involved targeting comment sections of web pages related to TM movement press releases, whereby TM supporters would insert salutary comments to make it look as if the articles had exaggerated and more widespread acceptance by the public.
- ^ For new religious movement see:
Beckford, James A. (1985). Cult controversies: the societal response to new religious movements. Tavistock Publications. p. 23. ISBN 9780422796309. http://books.google.com/books?id=0pc9AAAAIAAJ.
Parsons, Gerald (1994). The Growth of Religious Diversity: Traditions. The Open University/Methuen. p. 288. ISBN 9780415083263. http://books.google.com/books?id=tlKkZoNPi0oC&pg=PA288.
For neo-Hindu, see:
Alper, Harvey P. (December 1991). Understanding mantras. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. p. 442. ISBN 9788120807464. http://books.google.com/books?id=V8Upy4ApG_oC&pg=PA442.
Raj, Selva J.; William P. Harman (2007). Dealing With Deities: The Ritual Vow in South Asia. SUNY Press. p. 129. ISBN 9780791467084. http://books.google.com/books?id=Ov2oltTLinkC&pg=PA129.
- ^ "tens of thousands": New Religious Movements (University of Virginia) (1998), citing Melton, J. Gordon, 1993, Encyclopedia of American Religions. 4th ed. Detroit: Gale Research Inc, 945–946. Occhiogrosso, Peter. The Joy of Sects: A Spirited Guide to the World's Religious Traditions. New York: Doubleday (1996); p 66, citing "close to a million" in the USA. The three million estimate appears to originate with The State of Religion Atlas. Simon & Schuster: New York (1993); pg. 35. O'Brien, J. & M. Palmer. The State of Religion Atlas. Simon & Schuster: New York (1993); p. 35. Petersen, William J. Those Curious New Cults in the 80s. New Canaan, Connecticut: Keats Publishing (1982), p 123 claims "more than a million" in the USA and Europe. The Financial Times (8 February 2003) reported that the movement claims to have five million followers, Bickerton, Ian (February 8, 2003). "Bank makes an issue of mystic's mint". Financial Times (London (UK)): p. 09.
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