What about the claim that TM mantras are names of Hindu gods?
That's a misunderstanding and is incorrect for several reasons.
The mantras in the Transcendental Meditation program are used for their sound value only; that is, as vehicles for transcending. They are not associated with meaning because that would keep the mind engaged in meaning and not readily allow the process of deep, inward settling or transcending.
According to Vedic scholars, the type of mantras used in TM practice are not “names of gods” or words with meaning in any standard sense. These sounds were considered auspicious and used in meditation practice at least a thousand years before any of the many traditional Vedic mantras were given any possible use, meaning or context in Hindu religious worship.
The sounds come from a tradition that used mantras in meditation for their sound effect only, without meaning or reference to anything external. The rather loose association of some of the ancient Vedic mantras with meaning or anything external to the sound was a very late development in the historical timeline of ancient India (Abhinavagupta c. 1000 C.E. — India's medieval period). Such associations would have little to do with the long-standing traditions of yoga, Sanskrit phonetics, Vedanta or the Vedic tradition.
However, there is no consensus among Vedic or Sanskrit scholars that any of the sounds among this ancient class of mantras ever became associated with any standardized meanings. But even if they were, it would be not be relevant to TM practice, which is a mechanical mind/body technique of "transcending" that uses the sounds without reference to any meaning.
If certain peoples ascribed a religious context to specific mantras at some point in time, that does not diminish the original and modern-day efficacy of those mantras as secular, non-religious tools for self-development.
Didn't Maharishi say that the mantras invoke "the grace of gods?"
In his lectures, Maharishi, the founder of the TM program, would often use the Sanskrit word "devata," which some people might translate as "gods." But the word has different meanings, and Maharishi felt that "gods" is a mistranslation. In Maharishi's theory of consciousness, "devata" is more accurately translated from the Sanskrit as “laws of nature” (or, in a different usage, “the process of gaining knowledge”).
Laws of nature are known by the natural sciences to govern the physiology, the brain, and all areas of life — and virtually all these areas of life are found to improve with twice-daily TM practice or transcending. In this way, one could say that from TM practice the laws of nature governing one's mind/body processes become more supportive, because the physiology is more balanced and the brain functioning is more orderly.
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