Transcendental Meditation is a copyrighted form of meditation bought to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and enjoys a widespread following partly inspired by its popularity amongst celebrities such as the Beatles. Transcendental Meditation or ‘TM’ may also particularly appeal to Westerners for its ease of practice requiring no adoption of difficult formal positions and no mastery of breathing techniques.
Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (or simply ‘Maharisihi‘) took it upon himself to spread his vision of meditation throughout the world through the promotion of his own writings and the translation of others works. TM has since spread throughout the world with, reportedly, approximately 6 million having followed the movements teachings since its inception.
Practicing TMPractitioners of TM are given a mantra to recite and are initiated in the specific nature of meditation to be practiced at the end of their formal week long training. This and other forms of information are imparted to the practitioner at TM training centres and must not be, the student is taught, passed on to anyone else. This agreement is said to be legally binding in most cases, although it is backed up by spiritual reasoning.
The exact nature of TM is unknown except for initiates, although some persons who have been initiated into the TM group have since imparted their experiences through the media and on the internet. Problematically, this leads to a position in which it is difficult to judge the effectiveness of TM against other forms of meditation and other practices aimed toward developing mindfulness.
TM has come under fire for its ‘cultish’ aspects, particularly in its call for secrecy and its high expense, for what is the teaching of a very basic meditation technique. Defenders, however, may point to the vast amount of research in the U.S. that points to the efficacy of TM in reducing stress and combating the symptoms of many illnesses. This again, however, could be countered by the argument that many forms of meditation have been proven to be effective in addressing stress and illness, whilst very few of them demand large sums of money in order for them to be mastered or make their participants swear a vow of secrecy.The popularity of TM amongst stars such as the Beatles and film Director David Lynch, who has written books about the positive effects of TM on his personal creativity, is enough to credit this form of meditation with worth. However, it is worth considering that TM, like other forms of spirituality that require its adherents to pay money for knowledge (such as the Church of Scientology), is liable to appeal to time starved and status hungry celebrities. In an open criticism of TM the Beatles, once open adherents of and visitors to the Maharisihi, wrote ’Instant Karma’, pointing to the shallowness of spiritual whish offer instant Enlightenment at a price.
At best, TM is credited with making an altered state of consciousness easy to achieve through, apparently enabling one to access a fundamental and universal energy field. At worst it is, like any form of meditation, alleged to have a bad effect on those already experiencing severe mental health problems, exhibit cult like tendencies and charge extortionate amounts of money for its services. Not being able to personally experience, or divulge the secrets of TM, without becoming an initiate does make it difficult to firstly expound its procedures and secondly praise or condemn its practices. Those wishing to find put more about TM are welcome to explore it further, but it is worth considering alongside other options that may appear more convenient financially and more open in their procedures. As there is currently no school of TM in the U.K, however, you may find that the decision has been made for you!