Yesterday evening while viewing YouTube videos, I found several videos about Transcendental Meditation (TM), including some featuring Maharishi Mahesh Yogi himself. It really is a simple technique and it’s outrageous that they charge a thousand dollars or more to teach the basic technique. I don’t think I paid more than about $30 to learn it.
I think I always had my doubts about the need to keep the mantra a close secret and to never utter it out loud. I can understand the sacredness of a mantra that’s passed down from a respected and revered teacher to a devoted aspirant that have a relationship that goes back months or years but I wonder about the sacredness of a mantra I’ve received from someone I’d just met and whose teachings and lineage I know nothing about. Generally, a teacher will give an aspirant his mantra only after he knows the student well and feels he is ready to begin that practice. A mantra given only after the student has forked over a non-refundable fee is another matter entirely.
In regard to the secrecy of the TM mantra, I remember the look on my TM teacher’s face when I jokingly suggested that perhaps all of us in the group might be using the same mantra. As I recall, her jaw dropped and her eyes opened wide as if I’d somehow discovered their secret. A few years ago I did find a web site that revealed the criteria being used at that time for selecting a mantra for a student which was based on their age at the time they began TM. I’ve since found other sites that have collaborated this information. At the time I had no idea how on target I was.
It turned out that my secret TM mantra is actually a bija (seed) mantra for Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning, music, speech, and the fine arts. Of course, 42 years ago it was a strange word that had no meaning to me but now I’m more knowledgeable about meditation, mantras, and Sanskrit. Since my TM mantra is supposed to be a meaningless word, does that mean the mantra is no longer effective?
I really don’t find TM to be much different than many meditations techniques I practice now. Silently chanting “So Ham” or “Om namah Shivaya” really isn’t much different than repeating “Aing.” The biggest difference is that now my meditation is part of a yoga practice so my body and mind are probably in a more relaxed and receptive state to receive the benefits of the meditation. That could behind many of the stories I’ve heard about people (over 40%) having headaches or other problems as a result of doing TM. Perhaps they were not adequately prepared to enter that spiritual and mental state.
It seems as though the pro-TM sites are offshoots of the TM organization and they’re all nearly identical in content. I’ve come across a lot of information by people who used to do TM but quit for a number of reasons. I won’t insinuate that TM and the Maharishi’s organization might be a scam that I would think that anybody who’s ventured into Yoga philosophy and texts, would see right through it. It seems that the Maharishi took just a small piece of Yoga and packaged it for ignorant Westerners. In Patanjali’s eight limbs of Raja Yoga, TM would be starting at Dharana, the sixth limb and moving toward Dhyana without attention to the Yamas, the Niyamsa, Asana, Pranayama, or Pratyahara in preparation. Is TM supposed to be a shortcut to Samadhi?
It’s my feeling that a good meditation practice does not exist in a vacuum. My meditation practice, such as it is, is built upon a yoga practice that includes asana, pranayama, and the study of yoga philosophy. I’ve only tried some of the Buddhist meditation techniques a couple of times but there seems to be study and training for them as well.