Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced the Transcendental Meditation technique in 1955, defining it as a simple, non-religious universal technique for settling the mind, providing deep rest to the body, reducing stress, and awakening the full creative potential of the human being.
The universal and secular nature of the TM technique is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that people of all religions practice the technique and have found it compatible and complimentary to their faith. See Religious leaders on the TM technique.
But non-believers, scientists and staunch empiricists also practice the technique, appreciating its simple, mechanical nature and finding that it works whether one believes in it or not — which is also what hundreds of statistically controlled, peer-reviewed research studies have found.
Science and the TM technique: From the very beginning of his teaching activities, Maharishi described the practice as systematic, repeatable and testable, and therefore scientific — but never as a religion. In the earliest transcripts and recordings of Maharishi's talks, and in the earliest publications, the Transcendental Meditation technique is identified as a practice based on direct experience, not based on faith, dogma or belief.
In fact, the distinguishing feature of Maharishi's message is that the full potential of human awareness can be unfolded in a systematic, scientific way through correct meditation, and therefore it is everyone's birthright to overcome stress and rise to the highest stages of human development, regardless of their personal beliefs.
Maharishi viewed the Transcendental Meditation technique as a way to restore the basic element of human experience that had been all too rare in society, in both the East and the West: direct experiential access to the state of restful alertness, transcendental consciousness — a field which had previously been "shrouded in mysticism."
Certainly the language used to communicate the value of TM practice has evolved over the years. When Maharishi began, there was not a single, peer-reviewed scientific research study on the Transcendental Meditation technique. Wherever Maharishi would speak, he invited scientists in the audience to learn the TM technique and to investigate its effects on mind and body. Soon there were scores of research studies being published and Maharishi could speak credibly in more scientific terms. Noting that "scientific language is the language of our times," Maharishi hoped that scientific validation would be the key to more powerfully establishing the message that "life need not be lived in such stress and suffering."
However, Maharishi and the teachers of the Transcendental Meditation program never shied from emphasizing the spiritual implications of the practice. An oft-stated goal of the TM program is to “realize the spiritual aspirations of mankind in this generation.” There are now hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies validating the benefits of the TM technique, and Maharishi's theory and practice may well be the most highly developed of any scientific approach to understanding the nature of consciousness. Still, there's as much open discussion of the spiritual benefits today as there was 50 years ago; in essence, nothing's changed.
Religious leaders on the TM technique
More about science, religion, and the Transcendental Meditation program
Where did this misunderstanding come from? — the 1955 charter of the Spiritual Regeneration Movement
VIDEO: Is the Transcendental Meditation program a religion?
Myth #1: Meditation is difficult and it takes a long time to get results.
Myth #2: Meditation and relaxation practices are basically all the same and produce the same effects.
Myth #5: The research studies were conducted only by “TM scientists” and are not impartial scientific studies.
Myth #6: Independent scientific reviews show that Transcendental Meditation practice produces no significant health benefits. (On the AHRQ report.)
Myth #7: Yikes! It's a cult!
Myth #8: TM began as a religion, then became scientific to reach more people.
Myth #11: When learning Transcendental Meditation you undergo a religious ceremony.
Myth #12: Transcendental Meditation is a form of Hinduism
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