Transcendental Meditation

(T M)

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Transcendental Meditation is an Eastern meditative practice popularized in the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Born in India in 1918, Maharishi (which means "great sage") was a disciple of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati (or "Guru Dev") before he began teaching in the West as a Hindu holy man. As part of a series of world tours, Maharishi first came to the United States in 1959. The T M movement has become the largest and fastest growing of the various Eastern spiritual disciplines that have taken root in the West.

The simplified and Westernized set of yoga techniques that Maharishi has introduced and marketed in the West is presented to the public as a nonreligious practice designed to enable a person to make use of his / her full mental potential while at the same time achieving deep rest and relaxation. T M claims to offer people absolute happiness, perfect bliss, and "restful alertness" through a technique that requires a minimum of meditation, twenty minutes twice a day.

The claim that T M is not religious, that it is merely a scientific technique, has been questioned by Christian and secular observers alike. Maharishi and his carefully trained instructors assert that the benefits of T M can be enjoyed without compromising one's religion. Critics of the T M movement argue that transcendental meditation is essentially Hindu religious practice in disguise.

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An initiation ceremony is required of all novice meditators. T M instructors contend that this is merely a secular ceremony of gratitude. The religious nature of this ceremony (called the puja), however, is quite clear. The participant is asked to bring flowers, fruit, and a white cloth and to bow before the image of Maharishi's late teacher, Guru Dev. The puja is a Sanskrit hymn of adoration and worship, although its meaning is not revealed to the novice. The initiation ceremony, therefore, is by Christian definition the worship of false gods. From the perspective of T M, the puja is intended to alter the consciousness of both instructor and novice so that the mind is opened to the influence of the "great masters."

At the time of initiation, the candidate is given a supposedly secret mantra, a Sanskrit word or syllable, which is claimed to have special vibrational qualities and which is regularly used by the meditator thereafter. T M instructors state that the matras are merely "meaningless sounds." However, an examination of the source of the mantras, the Hindu religion, reveals that these sounds are the code names of deities. Therefore, the repetition of a mantra constitutes an act of worship.

The use of a mantra is one of the standard means of inducing the classical mystical experience of God - consciousness or unity. The twice - daily routine of T M is said to enable the person to achieve an altered or "transcendental" state of consciousness with the goal of ultimately reaching "enlightenment." Its objective is the elimination of all consciously directed thought, an emptying of the mind. Like all Eastern mysticism, T M involves the negation of the mind and an increased reliance on subjective feelings.

Transcendental Meditation is in reality a form of pantheism. It does not teach the existence of one eternal, personal God, the Creator of the universe. It is part of the monist tradition in that it teaches belief in the essential oneness of all reality and therefore the possibility of man's unity with the divine. The practice of T M itself leads the meditator toward the idolatry of selfworship because of the identification of the self with the higher "Self" of the creation. In short, T M promotes an experience involving the loss of one's distinctive identity under the false pretense of a scientific technique.

R M Enroth
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

D Haddon and V Hamilton, T M Wants You! A Christian Response to Transcendental Meditation; D Haddon, "Transcendental Meditation," in A Guide to Cults and New Religions, ed. R M Enroth

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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