Myth #11: When learning Transcendental Meditation you undergo a religious ceremony

When you are instructed in the Transcendental Meditation technique, you indeed witness a short, traditional Vedic ceremony performed by the teacher — as a preparation for teaching (the student does not participate, he or she only witnesses). It is not a religious ceremony (no one is worshiping or being worshiped). It is a way of honoring the ancient tradition of meditation teachers who passed this knowledge down through the ages.

The Sanskrit word "puja" means "to honor;" it doesn't mean "to worship"—it is not a prayer. The puja procedure is a traditional performance of Vedic or Indian culture, used for many circumstances and occasions throughout India: people perform non-religious or secular pujas to honor teachers, guests, elders, musicians, literary figures — anyone who inspires respect. For example, on Mahatma Ghandi's birthday, secular pujas are performed all over India, with elements of invocation and offering, and attended by people of all religions and no religion. During India's Independence Day celebrations, candlelight may be offered and ceremoniously waved before a map or flag of India — another example of a non-religious, secular puja.

There are also religious pujas used for honoring deities; the language and offerings are similar to the secular pujas, but the context and intention is very, very different.

Nowadays, people seem more respectful and willing to accept ceremonies and protocols from other traditions — and that's what the puja is: an ancient, traditional ceremony from another culture, which uses some of that culture's traditional language of adoration. You might say that the TM program puja is performed in a sense similar to doctors taking the Hippocratic oath* — no worship is involved, it's traditional and ceremonial.

Yet the ceremony serves the vital function of keeping the TM technique connected to its source in the Vedic tradition. This timeless tradition of knowledge and the comprehensive understanding of consciousness that Maharishi revived from this tradition is the basis of the TM technique's effectiveness. TM instructors teach the technique in the way that has proven effective, using the ceremony as a preparation to teach.

If you're into ceremonies, you'll enjoy it. If you're not, it's very brief.

Religious leaders on the TM technique

More about the TM program's instruction ceremony (puja)

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Myth #11: When learning Transcendental Meditation you undergo a religious ceremony.

Myth #12: Transcendental Meditation is a form of Hinduism

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Hippocratic oath, still used by many Western medical schools as part of the symbolic ceremony of becoming a medical doctor, begins, "I swear by Apollo, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath...."

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