The Transcendental Meditation technique is not a religion of any kind, because to learn and practice it there's nothing that one is urged to believe or follow — no change of lifestyle, no faith-based ideology, no dogma, no philosophy. It's a simple, natural technique for directly experiencing the silent, peaceful, inmost field of one's Being — reducing stress, providing deep rest to the physiology and creating more coherent, integrated brain functioning.
While the collective body of religious practices known today as "Hinduism" constitute one of the world's great, venerated religions, there are many reasons why the TM technique is not Hinduism — nor can the technique accurately be said to have "Hindu roots." Just because the TM technique comes from India does not make it Hindu, anymore than a tree that grows in India must be a Hindu tree.
Where did the TM technique come from?
The Transcendental Meditation technique came from the ancient Vedic (VAY-dic) tradition of knowledge. The Vedic tradition is the oldest continuous tradition of knowledge on Earth, known by scholars to be at least 10,000 years old.
People sometimes assume that the Vedic wisdom is strictly a cultural or religious tradition, relevant only in India. But in the same way that Newton’s laws of motion are not English or Christian, nor Einstein’s theory of relativity German or Jewish, the Vedic tradition contains knowledge and information based on laws of nature that are true and universal for all people, all cultures. The Transcendental Meditation technique is the scientific discovery of a simple, mechanical, mind/body process that has proven natural and beneficial to every human nervous system.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi revived this timeless technique of "transcending," which had been long lost to society even in India. The unique meditation technique that Maharishi introduced would not have been found among the various practices commonly known in India when Maharishi began his teaching activities in 1955. It is therefore not a technique that could have been derived from Hindu religious practices.
Although yoga and meditation became associated, over the centuries, with the great religious traditions of the East, yoga and meditation themselves are considered by many scholars to be much older than these traditions, with origins buried in antiquity.
Even the word "Hinduism" is a relatively new term, popularized by the British ruling class and used loosely as an umbrella term to include pretty much everything associated with the ancient Indian and Vedic cultures.
From Maharishi's perspective, the Vedic tradition contains practical knowledge about consciousness and health care that's as scientific and useful as modern physics.
Americans are embracing, en masse, universal aspects of Vedic knowledge (meditation, asana, pranayam, ayurveda, etc.), which are being practiced by people of all religions. Such applications of Vedic knowledge require no change in belief anymore than utilizing Einstein's equations requires one to be German or Jewish.
Religious leaders on the TM technique
Questions about the mantras and their traditional origins
More about science, religion, and the Transcendental Meditation program
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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