Transcendental Meditation technique

The Transcendental Meditation technique or TM is a form of silent mantra meditation,[1] developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The meditation practice involves the use of a mantra and is practiced for 20 minutes twice per day while sitting with one’s eyes closed.[2][3] It is one of the most-widely practiced,[4][5][6] and among the most widely researched meditation techniques,[7] with over 340 peer-reviewed studies published.[8]:p 14[9] Beginning in 1965, the Transcendental Meditation technique has been incorporated into schools, universities, corporations, and prison programs in the United States, Latin America, Europe, and India. In 1977, a U.S. federal district court ruled that a curriculum in TM and the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI) being taught in some New Jersey schools was religious in nature and in violation of the First Amendment.[10] However, the technique has since been included in a number of educational and social programs around the world.[11]

The technique has been described as both religious and non-religious, as an aspect of a new religious movement, as rooted in Hinduism,[12]:p 188[13] and as a non-religious practice for self-development.[8]:p 4[14][15] Over its 50-year history the technique has had high visibility in the mass media and effective global propagation, and used celebrity and scientific endorsements as a marketing tool. Advanced courses supplement the TM technique and include an advanced meditation called the TM-Sidhi program. In 1970 the Science of Creative Intelligence, described as “modern science with ancient Vedic science”,[16] became the theoretical basis for the Transcendental Meditation technique.[17] The Science of Creative Intelligence is widely seen as being a pseudoscience.[18]



The technique is recommended for 20 minutes twice per day.[19] According to the Maharishi, “bubbles of thought are produced in a stream one after the other”, and the Transcendental Meditation technique consists of experiencing a “proper thought” in its more subtle states “until its subtlest state is experienced and transcended”.[20][21]:pp 46–52 Because it is mantra based, the technique “ostensibly meets the working definition of a concentration practice”; however, the TM organization says that “focused attention” is not prescribed, and that the “aim is an [sic] unified and open attentional stance”.[22] Other authors describe the technique as an easy, natural technique or process,[23][24]:340–341[25] and a “wakeful hypometabolic physiologic state”.[26] Practice of the technique includes a process called “unstressing” which combines “effortless relaxation with spontaneous imagery and emotion”. TM teachers caution their students not to be alarmed by random thoughts and to “attend” to the mantra.[27] Scottish chess grandmaster Jonathan Rowson has said that his TM practice gives “a feeling of serenity, energy and balance”, but does not provide “any powerful insight into your own mind”. Laura Tenant, a reporter for The Independent, said that her TM experience includes going “to a place which was neither wakefulness, sleeping or dreaming”, and becoming “detached from my physical self”.[28] Worldwide, four to ten million people are reported to be practitioners.[29]


The TM technique consists of silently repeating a mantra with “gentle effortlessness” while sitting comfortably with eyes closed and without assuming any special yoga position.[24][30] The mantra is said to be a vehicle that allows the individual’s attention to travel naturally to a less active, quieter style of mental functioning.[8]:pp 16–20[31][32] TM meditators are instructed to keep their mantra secret[24] to ensure maximum results (“speaking it aloud, apparently defeats the purpose”),[33] to avoid confusion in the mind of the meditators,[20] and as a “protection against inaccurate teaching”.[34][35]


The Maharishi is reported to have standardized and “mechanized” the mantra selection process by using a specific set of mantras and making the selection process “foolproof”.[20][33] Professor of psychiatry Norman E. Rosenthal writes that during the training given by a certified TM teacher, “each student is assigned a specific mantra or sound, with instructions on its proper use”.[8] The Maharishi said that the selection of a proper thought or mantra “becomes increasingly important when we consider that the power of thought increases when the thought is appreciated in its infant stages of development”.[21]:p 51[36] He said that mantras chosen for initiates should “resonate to the pulse of his thought and as it resonates, create an increasingly soothing influence”,[37] and that the chosen mantra’s vibrations “harmonize” with the meditator, and suits their “nature and way of life”.[38][39] TM students are therefore given a “specially suited mantra”.[12]:p 188[40] Author George D. Chryssides writes that according to the Maharishi, “using just any mantra can be dangerous”; the mantras for “householders” and for recluses differ. The Transcendental Meditation mantras are appropriate mantras for householders, while most mantras commonly found in books, such as “Om”, are mantras for recluses and “can cause a person to withdraw from life”.[41][42][43]

Former TM teacher and author Lola Williamson reports that she told her TM students that their mantra was chosen for them based on their personal interview,[44] while sociologist Roy Wallis, religious scholar J. Gordon Melton and Bainbridge write that the mantras are assigned by age and gender.[12][45][46][47][48][49] In 1984, 16 mantras[12][50][51] were published in Omni magazine based on information from “disaffected TM teachers”.[52][53] According to Chryssides, TM teachers say that the promised results are dependent on a trained Transcendental Meditation teacher choosing the mantra for their student.[41]

Meaning and sound value[edit]

In his 1963 book The Science of Being and Art of Living, the Maharishi writes that words create waves of vibrations, and the quality of vibration of a mantra should correspond to the vibrational quality of the individual. Likewise, religious studies scholar Thomas Forsthoefel writes, “the theory of mantras is the theory of sound”.[54] Author William Jefferson writes that the “euphonics” of mantras are important.[33] Sociologist Stephen J. Hunt and others say that the mantra used in the Transcendental Meditation technique “has no meaning”, but that “the sound itself” is sacred.[32][51] In Kerala, India, in 1955, the Maharishi spoke of mantras in terms of personal deities, and according to religious studies scholar Cynthia Ann Humes, similar references can be found in his later works.[54]:p 63[55]

According to authors Peter Russell and Norman Rosenthal, the sounds used in the technique are taken from the ancient Vedic tradition, have “no specific meaning”,[8][56]:pp 49–50 and are selected for their suitability for the individual.[57] Nevertheless, the Maharishi mentions that sometimes it is beneficial for the Mantra to be associated with a specific meaning in order to suit one’s own private psychological background.[58] Author Lola Williamson writes that the bija, or seed mantras, used in TM come from the Tantric, rather than Vedic tradition, and that bija mantras are “traditionally associated with particular deities and used as a form of worship”.[59][60] According to Needleman, many mantras come from the Vedas or Vedic hymns, which are “the root for all later Hindu scripture”,[20] while the 1977 court case Malnak vs. Yogi accepted the TM mantras as meaningless sounds.[61] Likewise, philosophy of science scholar and former Maharishi International University professor Jonathan Shear writes in his book The Experience of Meditation: Experts Introduce the Major Traditions that the mantras used in the TM technique are independent of meaning associated with any language, and are used for their mental sound value alone.[62] Fred Travis of the Maharishi University of Management writes in a 2009 article published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology that “unlike most mantra meditations, any possible meaning of the mantra is not part of Transcendental Meditation practice”.[63]

Course descriptions[edit]

The Transcendental Meditation technique is taught in a standardized seven-step course over six days by a certified TM teacher.[5]:148–149[24][56]:p 134[64][65][66] Except for a requirement to refrain from using non-prescription drugs for 15 days before learning TM,[20][67] all who want to learn are taught provided they can pay the course fee, which is $960 for adults and $480 for students.[68] The technique is taught via private and group instruction by a TM teacher trained to instruct students and provide follow up.[8] Instruction is given on separate days, beginning with a one-hour “introductory lecture” intended to prepare the student for subsequent steps.[24] The lecture discusses mind potential, social relationships, health, and “promoting inner and outer peace”. The second step is a 45 minute “preparatory lecture”, whose topic is the theory of the practice, its origins and its relationship to other types of meditation.[24][65][69] This is followed by the third step: a private, ten-minute, personal interview, allowing the TM teacher to get acquainted with the student and answer questions.[8][65][70]

According to the TM web site, the personal instruction session takes 1–2 hours,[69] and students are required to bring a clean handkerchief, some flowers and fruit, and their course fee.[12] The initiation begins with a short puja ceremony performed by the teacher. The stated purpose of the ceremony is to show honor and gratitude to the lineage of TM “masters”,[12][71] or “Holy Tradition”[72] that is listed in the Maharishi’s translation and commentary of the Bhagavad-Gita.[73] It is regarded as putting students in the right frame of mind to receive the mantra.[44] The ceremony is conducted in a private room with a “little” white altar containing incense, camphor, rice, flowers and a picture of Maharishi’s teacher, Guru Dev.[44][74] The initiate observes passively as the teacher recites a text in Sanskrit.[72] After the ceremony, the “meditators” are “invited to bow”, receive their mantra and begin to meditate.[39][44][74][75]

On the day after the personal instruction session, the student begins a series of three 90 to 120 minute “teaching sessions”, held on three consecutive days, called “three days of checking”.[5][8] Their stated purpose is to “verify the correctness of the practice” and to receive further instruction.[69] The first day’s checking meeting takes place in a group on the day following personal instruction, and gives information about correct practice based on each student’s own experience.[65] The second day of checking uses the same group format, and gives more details of the mechanics of the practice and potential results of the practice, based on student experiences.[65] The third day of checking focuses on subjective growth and the potential development of higher stages of human consciousness, and outlines the follow-up programs available as part of the course.[4][5][76][77] New meditators later return for private follow-up sessions to confirm that they are practicing the technique properly, a process called “personal checking”.[20] The preferred schedule for follow up classes is 30 minutes, once per week for one month, and once per month thereafter. The purpose of the follow-up, or “checking sessions”, is to verify the practice, give an opportunity for one-on-one contact with a TM teacher, and to address any problems or questions.[8][70] Course graduates may access a lifetime follow-up program which includes consultations, “refresher courses”, advanced lectures and group meditations.[78][79] Advanced courses include weekend Residence Courses and the TM-Sidhi program.

According to the TM organization, TM course fees cover “initial training and the lifetime follow-up” program, while helping to “build and maintain TM centers” and schools in India and around the world.[8]:9[80] The fees also reportedly provide TM scholarships for special needs groups, as well as grants and scholarships through TM’s Maharishi Foundation, a government approved 501(c)(3) non-profit, educational organization.[8]:p 9[69] The fees may “vary from country to country”, depending on the cost of living,[8]:pp 9, 216 and has changed periodically during the 50 year period it has been taught.

The Maharishi has drawn criticism from yogis and “stricter Hindus” who have accused him of selling “commercial mantras”.[81] At the same time, the Maharishi’s “promises of better health, stress relief and spiritual enlightenment” have drawn “devotees from all over the world”, despite the fees.[82][83][84] According to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to World Religions, by Brandon Toropov and Father Luke Buckles, insistence on fees for TM instruction has caused critics to question the Maharishi’s motives; however, “the movement is not, to all appearances, an exploitive one”.[85]

TM-Sidhi program[edit]

The TM-Sidhi program is a form of meditation introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1975. It is based on, and described as a natural extension of the Transcendental Meditation technique.[86][87] The goal of the TM-Sidhi program is to accelerate personal growth and improve mind-body coordination [88] by training the mind to think from what the Maharishi has described as a fourth major state of consciousness[89] called Transcendental Consciousness.[90]

Yogic Flying, a mental-physical exercise of hopping while cross-legged,[91][92] is a central aspect of the TM-Sidhi program. With the introduction of the TM-Sidhi program in 1976 it was postulated that the square root of one percent of the population – that is, at least 0.01% of people in an area – practicing the TM-Sidhi program, together at the same time and in the same place, would increase “life-supporting trends” in that given area. This was referred to as the “Extended Maharishi Effect”.[93][94] These effects have been examined in 14 published studies, including a gathering of over 4,000 people in Washington DC in the summer of 1993.[93][95] While empirical studies have been published in peer-reviewed academic journals[96] this research remains controversial and has been characterized as pseudoscience by skeptic James Randi and others.[97][98]


The Maharishi began training TM teachers in the early 1960s,[99] and by 1978, there were 7,000 TM teachers in the United States.[100] In 1985, there were an estimated 10,000 TM teachers worldwide,[101] and by 2003, there were 20,000 teachers,[102] and a reported 40,000 teachers in 2008.[103] Notable individuals trained to teach the Transcendental Meditation technique include Prudence Farrow,[104] John Gray,[105] Mitch Kapor,[106] and Mike Love.[107]

The first teacher training course was held in India with 30 participants in 1967 and 200 participants in 1970.[108] A four-month teacher training course was also held in the United States that year. The first part was four weeks long and was offered in both Poland, Maine and Humboldt, California with the final three months being held in Estes Park, Colorado. About 300 people completed the training.[109] In 1973, the TM teacher training course consisted of three months in-residence.[110] A 2007 TM web page and 2009 book, report that the TM teacher training course in more modern times consists of six months in-residence,[23] and includes courses in Maharishi Vedic Science, extended meditation practice and becoming the “custodian” for an “ancient Vedic tradition”. Additionally, TM teachers are trained to speak on the Transcendental Meditation program, teach it to others, provide “personal checking” of their student’s meditation, create lectures on related topics, organize and lead advanced TM courses and programs.[111] The Maharishi trained his teachers to “make logical presentations in language suitable to their audiences”, and teachers lead their students through a sequence of predetermined steps.[109]

A 2007 research study reported that details of the training and knowledge imparted to teachers are kept private.[70] In 1976, Janis Johnson wrote in The Christian Century that TM teachers sign a “loyalty-oath employment contract”, saying “It is my fortune, Guru Dev, that I have been accepted to serve the Holy Tradition and spread the Light of God to all those who need it.”[72][need quotation to verify][112] Author William Bainbridge writes that a section of a training bulletin for TM teachers called “Explanations of the Invocation” draws a “connection to Brahma, the Lord of Creation”.[12] A 1993 article in the Ottawa Citizen reported a partial translation of the puja as “Whosoever remembers the lotus-eyed Lord gains inner and outer purity. To Lord Naryan, to Lotus-born Brahman the creator, to Vaishistha, to Shakti, to Shankaracharya the emancipator, hailed as Krishna, to the Lord I bow down and down again. At whose door the whole galaxy of gods pray for perfection day and night”.[113]


Scientists have been conducting Transcendental Meditation (TM) research since the late 1960s and hundreds of studies have been published.[8]:14[114][115] The Transcendental Meditation technique is a specific form of mantra meditation[1] developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and has become one of the most widely researched meditation techniques.[7][116] TM research has played a role in the history of mind-body medicine[117][118] and helped create a new field of neuroscience.[119]

Early studies examined the physiological parameters of the meditation technique. Subsequent research included clinical applications, cognitive effects, mental health, medical costs, and rehabilitation. Beginning in the 1990s, research focused on cardiovascular disease supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.[120] Research reviews of the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique have yielded results ranging from inconclusive[121][122][123][124] to clinically significant.[125][126][127][128][129] More research is needed to determine the therapeutic effects of meditation practices and sources vary regarding their assessment of the quality of research. Some cite design limitations and a lack of methodological rigor,[70][122][130] while others assert that the quality is improving and that when suitable assessment criteria are applied, scientific evidence supports the therapeutic value of meditation.[131][132][133] Reviewers Canter and Ernst assert that some studies have the potential for bias due to the connection of researchers to the TM organization[134][135] while TM researchers point to their collaboration with independent researchers and universities as signs of objectivity.[136]


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