Is Transcendental Meditation (TM) a cult?

Dr. Sandeep Chaudhary, Medical Director of Endocrinology, Scripps Memorial Hospital:

"If anyone is concerned that the TM program might be some kind of religious sect or cult, then just ask yourself: How many so-called cults have been awarded $24 million in research grants by the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, or offer programs verified by research studies in hundreds of refereed medical and scientific journals, including the American Medical Association’s Archives of Internal Medicine?

"How many religious sects have offered AMA-approved continuing education courses for physicians, or teach systematic instruction in a technique that’s regularly featured in brain research presentations at the American Psychological Association’s annual conferences, and highlighted in the American College of Cardiology press releases for benefits to cardiovascular health?

"The distinguished recognition and scientific validation goes on and on."

The Transcendental Meditation program is the exact opposite of a "cult." TM practice involves no beliefs or dogma and no change in lifestyle. Research shows that the practice creates coherence in the prefrontal cortex and improves discrimination, comprehension and focus. It creates self-sufficiency and heightens self-actualization.

"Cult" is a derogatory label some people use to denounce any group they don't like. There are harmful, dangerous groups in the world, but by any objective, rational standards the TM organization is not one of them.

As a meditator recently told me: "When I do TM, I'm just minding my own business. Nothing that I do on my own, in my room, by myself, for my own personal benefit, is a cult. Even doing the group meditations, I am just minding my own business. When you're transceding, you're totally free from anyone telling you what to do or think."

Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies show that TM develops independent, intelligent, creative thinking. The founder of the TM program, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in many ways encouraged personal independence, integration with society, and good citizenship.

Improved Brain Functioning:
TM practice creates brainwave
coherence throughout the frontal regions of the brain, the left and right hemispheres and posterior regions, clearly distinguishing the technique from hypnosis and other forms of meditation. Researchers have long known that most experiences (including hypnotic trance) activate only small, specific portions of the brain. Studies indicate that the Transcendental Meditation technique enlivens and coordinates synchronous brain activity over a wide area — stimulating what neuroscientists call “more efficient, integrated brain functioning.”

Twenty-four separate, peer-reviewed studies on brain patterns of people practicing the TM technique show brainwave coherence, indicating improved brain functioning in daily life. Brainwave coherence is healthy and desirable for many reasons: it is associated with increased intelligence and creativity, improved moral reasoning and self-actualization.

Enhanced Critical Thinking:

According to numerous research studies, the Transcendental Meditation technique creates a more integrated functioning in the frontal areas of the brain — called the prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain responsible for higher-level discrimination and decision making. Also, reaction time is faster after TM practice, and research shows a general increase overtime in creativity, IQ, comprehension, and problem-solving abilities. Those who practice the technique actually become less susceptible to suggestion and control by other people, as shown by increased critical thinking, self-sufficiency and self-concept. People practicing the technique also display increased field independence, which psychologists associate with leadership qualities, self-reliance and independent thinking. (Consciousness and Cognition, 8, 302-318, 1999; International Journal of Neuroscience 14: 147–151, 1981: Cognitive Processing, 11, 1, 2010)

Students of the
Maharishi School (K-12) in Fairfield, Iowa, where the Transcendental Meditation technique is an integral part of the curriculum, are national and world champions at competitions involving critical, creative and innovative thinking.

The cry of "cult!" is based on what's called in philosophy and literature the "pathetic fallacy." In one's mind, an entity called "the TM cult" is imagined and this mental construct is treated as if it really exists. In reality, the TM technique is a benevolent mental practice that people do for their own benefit, and the organization is just a collection of decent, sincere people wanting to enjoy their daily practice and help create peace in the world.

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