Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Transcendental Meditation (TM)

A popular Hindu meditation technique first taught in the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an Allahabad University physics graduate who, in the 1940s and 1950s studied among monks in the Himalayas. Emerging with his teachings in 1958, the Maharishi’s transcendental meditation spread across the United States and Europe by the mid-1960s. Due largely to the endorsements of celebrities such as the Beatles, Jane Fonda, and Mia Farrow, TM became one of the first forms of Eastern meditative practices to receive widespread media attention in the West. Essentially, TM is a streamlined form of the ancient Hindu initiation of bestowing a mantra, or sacred Sanskrit word or phrase, for the pupil to meditate upon for a short period each day.

A number of personal and social benefits have been claimed as a result of meditating. In fact, the movement has cited 508 individual scientific studies conducted since the 1970s, measuring psychological and physiological differences between meditators and non-meditators. The reports laud the physical and mental benefits of transcendental meditation, citing increased creativity, broader comprehension, improved perception, lowered blood pressure, reduced anxiety, and decreased medical visits among the meditators.

In 1977, studies such as those conducted by Fales and Markovsky at the University of Iowa question the validity of claims made by TM studies. Particularly, the analysis examines the phenomenon known as the Maharishi Effect, which asserts the effect advanced TM meditators can exercise over the social serenity of local communities. The scientific work on TM has been criticized within the academic community for methodological flaws, vague definitions, and loose statistical controls. It has been argued that the effects attributed to TM are the same effects produced by any number of yogic and meditative techniques; this places TM in the context of goals and results of traditional meditation.

The TM movement has also been criticized for lifting the time-honored Hindu practice from its religious context, mass producing it as a contemplative quick-fix for western consumers. Critics have argued that TM is disjointed from the Hindu mysticism from which it emerged, as well as from the other great world religions that have emphasized the need for paplines in order to give integrity to spiritual growth or eventual transcendental consciousness. Traditional Hindu mysticism regards meditation as a later stage in the program of continuing spiritual discipline, and passive meditation is considered secondary to active meditation in quality and results. Moreover mantra-diksha, or initiation, is not normally given until the aspirant has proven his or her fitness to engage in meditation. Hinduism also reserves its highest transcendental experiences for those who have properly fulfilled their social and religious obligations.

Criticisms aside, the five million TM participants (as asserted by the program) seem to attest to the everyday value of TM as a simple, natural means of relaxation and a feeling of well being. The method has received worldwide endorsement at every level of society, including support from politicians, scientists, doctors, and members of the general public. Many have brought TM to the pragmatic world of business, asserting its positive affects on productivity, job satisfaction, and employee health in the workplace.


Sources:

Akins, W. R., and George Nurnberg. How to Meditate Without Attending a TM Class. New York: Crown, 1976.

Bloomfield, Harold M., Michael Peter Cain, and Dennis T. Jaffe. TM: Discovering Inner Energy and Overcoming Stress. New York: Delacorte Press, 1975.

Chopra, Deepak, M.D. Creating Health. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1987.

Fales, Evan and Markovsky, Barry. ‘‘Evaluating Heterodox Theories.’’ University of Iowa 1997. http://www.trancenet.org/. March 28, 2000.

Forem, Jack. Transcendental Meditation. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1974.

Hemingway, Patricia D. Transcendental Meditation Primer. Philadelphia: McKay, 1975.

Kory, Robert B. The Transcendental Medication Program for Business People. New York: American Management Association, 1976.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Meditations of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. New York: Bantam, 1973.

Orme-Johnson, David W., and John T. Farrows, eds. Scientific Research on the Transcendental Meditation Program. Collected Papers 1. Seelisberg, Switzerland: Maharishi European Research University Press, 1977.

Kanellakos, Demetri P., and Jerome S. Lukas. Psychobiology of Transcendental Meditation: A Literature Review. W. A. Benjamin, 1974.

Scott, R. D. Transcendental Misconceptions. San Diego: Beta Books, 1978.

The Transcendental Meditation Program. http://www.tm.org/. March 28, 2000.

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