Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Open Thread for Readers, continued

Commenting for each post automatically closes after 30 days.  Therefore I am posting this today to re-open the system so that readers may continue writing comments.  Thanks, everyone, for your intelligent and caring comments!

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Open Thread for Readers

"Open Thread" means you are welcome to comment about any topic, just so long as it's of relevance to readers of this blog.  Or to ask any question of relevance to readers of this blog.

Heck, you're always welcome to do so, even if the post of the day is about something else.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Emotional Problems Post-TM; Relating to Fairfield Relatives, Part II

[This is Part II of the previous article "Emotional Problems Post-TM; Relating to Fairfield Relatives, Part I" - ed.]

Second topic:  How to Relate to Fairfield TM Relatives
Reader's comment:
"I’d like to get back to some previous comment threads on how to relate to family in TM if you are not in it....
'...I don’t expect my [relatives] to give up TM, and I don’t even try to convince them much or argue with them. But I do want to be able to visit them and find things to do (even if by myself or with other family) that are not completely connected to TM or MUM.  I don't mind spending some time at MUM....
'There is certainly a lot of sensitivity to criticism of Maharishi by most I talk to. 
'I’m curious if others have found ways to visit Fairfield and their TM friends and family comfortably, or if it is always uncomfortable for those who are not part of TM any more (or never were).
'...Finally, I’d add that I’m continuing in my reading and effort to see TM as a new religious movement rather than destructive cult, even if some on this site think this misguided or impossible."

My response:

I don't have friends or family in Fairfield, so I won't respond to the first question.  I hope others have some pointers for this reader.  But I will respond to his/her final comment.

My take on it is that the reader is confusing him/herself by trying to compare apples and oranges.  Religions, whether old or new, are in my opinion defined by beliefs and practices.  Destructive cults, on the other hand, are not defined by beliefs and practices, (no matter how unusual the beliefs and practices.)  Rather, destructive cults are defined by the manner in which a person is drawn into and kept in the group.

There are several models to describe this process.  One of my favorites is this simple model:  A groups is a destructive cult if outsiders are: (1) drawn in my deception, and (2) kept in by mind control.

For example, when a person is given an introductory lecture on TM, is s/he told that if they learn TM, in a few years, they might be celibate, meditate  6 hours a day, spend thousands of dollars on astrology and Vedic rituals, wear beige or scarlet, eat a lacto-vegetarian diet, buy an expensive new house, and be convinced that if they don't do their daily TM program, will be personally responsible for World War III?  

Are they told that on relaxing residential retreats, the extra meditations will put them in a state of reduced critical thinking, where they will absorb quasi-Hindu doctrine?  And that in this state of cognitive vulnerability, they will be told that (sub-standard) research "proves" that TM is the solution to all human problems?         

My suggestion to the reader is to learn more about new religions and also more about destructive cults, and then decide for him/herself what they think TM is.  (It could be both!)  There are other models on what constitutes a destructive cult beside the 2-point one I've reviewed here.  I recommend googling Margaret Singer Ph.D., and Robert J. Lifton, M.D, and Steve Hassan, M.Ed's website as noted above, for other useful models.  Also you could look at websites listed on the right hand side of the TM-Free homepage for a start.

Thank you to all commenters for your many, many intelligent and insightful comments.  Also thanks to all who read TM-Free but do not send comments.  

If any other reader would like their comments placed in this position of prominence as a TM-Free Blog "post," please let us know, and we will try to oblige!

Emotional Problems Post-TM; Relating to Fairfield Relatives, Part I

Recently I saw two readers' comments on TM-Free Blog that caught my attention in that I thought they lent themselves to serious discussion.  

The first one mentioned psychological problems the reader has had since leaving the TM movement.  

The second one asked how others manage the tricky terrain of visiting true-believer TM relatives and friends who live in Fairfield and Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa.

I was surprised that no one responded to these two comments.  Since some TM-Free readers read only the essays, but not the reader comments, I suspect this may have been what happened, and these two topics slipped through the cracks.      

So I hope I have not overstepped these two readers' privacy by reprinting portions of their comments below:

First Topic:  Emotional Problems Post-TM?
 Reader's comment:   
"...My commitment to TM lasted about 8 years....I did not have any acute psychological trauma as a result of the rounding and the indoctrination, and the recovery, although a bit slow, was not traumatic either. But I sometimes wonder if some of my psychological/ emotional difficulties are related to my years with TMO [TM organization - ed]."

My response:  

It is not uncommon for people who have left high-demand groups and have re-integrated themselves into the non-cult world to find that they have emotional problems.  The problems may not seem connected to the group; therefore it may not occur to them that these problems are a result of their time in the group.  If they see a psychotherapist, the psychotherapist may also agree that the problems are due to pre-existing issues.  (Psychotherapists are only slowly being educated on this new field of post-cult syndrome.)  For example, long ago I told my psychotherapist that I walked around in constant terror that the world was about to blow up.  He interpreted it in the standard psychodynamic way.  That is, he theorized that I must be angry about something from my childhood, and that I was experiencing that anger in a disguised form, as fear of the world exploding.  

Then, I met with Steve Hassan, an exit counselor.  Steve asked me, "What did they tell you would happen if you left TM?"  I replied, "Why...they said that if I left Fairfield, I would be 'personally responsible' for World War Three!"  And as soon as I made the connection, the terror went away!

That's an obvious example, but it illustrates my point.  I recommend Steve Hassan's website, and his books.  I hope these help.        

Second topic:  How to Relate to Fairfield TM Relatives
Reader's comment:
"I’d like to get back to some previous comment threads on how to relate to family in TM if you are not in it....
'...I don’t expect my [relatives] to give up TM, and I don’t even try to convince them much or argue with them. But I do....
[NOTE:  Something's gone wrong with this computer program, so I will continue this article as Emotional Problems Post-TM; Relating to Fairfield Relatives, Part II. - ed.]

Friday, May 30, 2014

At Least Maharishi Never Claimed to Be God ???

 At Least Maharishi Never Claimed to be God

That was a comment I made to a former TMer.  I was comparing the teachings I received from Maharishi with the teachings of other gurus who had come from India to the West.  I was suggesting that in this particular area, we former TMers had less recovery work to do than former members of other groups who had been told that their guru was actually God.

My friend replied incredulously, "Never claimed to be God!  Mahesh claimed to be greater than God!"

Oh.  Oops.  Did I miss something?  My friend soon supplied me with the following quotation, from:

The above is not a TMO site.  When and where this conversation took place is not recorded.  Read it and decide for yourself.

"MMY on Role of A Guru
Dr Hagelin: ‘Maharishi, there is a question on the special role of the teacher, the Guru, in gaining the full awakening of enlightenment. The reporter asks, “In every news conference, Maharishi pays tribute to his teacher and to the tradition of Vedic teachers for giving the knowledge and technique of Transcendental Meditation to gain enlightenment. Is the technique of Transcendental Meditation and other advanced programmes sufficient to gain enlightenment, or is there an indispensable role that a teacher plays to guide an individual on the path to enlightenment? And if so, what would that role be?” ’ Maharishi: ‘The role is that the teacher is absolutely woven into this knowledge. And when the knowledge is in our awareness, it is the total teacher that is in our awareness. It says in the Vedic Literature about the teacher, “Na Guror Adhikam, Na Guror Adhikam, Na Guror Adhikam.” There is nothing greater than Guru; there is nothing greater than Guru; there is nothing greater than Guru, because Guru is the embodiment of all that is greatest.

‘Guru is Brahm. “Gurur Brahma, Gurur Vishnur.” These are not the words of adoration; this is the description of the reality of Guru. Guru is on the level of Totality personified. When Guru speaks, it is the Totality that speaks. Words of the Guru are the words of the Veda. Veda is only heard from the Guru. So Guru means the Totality. If one is in the sense of Guru all the time, one is in the sense of total Natural Law and its total organizing power; there is nothing greater than that.
‘That is why Guru is completely natural in our awareness. It is not a matter of anything that is from outside or anything. It is completely natural. It is simple. It is Totality. It is a great thing. One knows it in being that level of relationship. “Na Guror Adhikam”—there is nothing greater than Guru, nothing greater than Guru.
‘Guru Purnima is the Full Moon of the Guru—one day of the year. In the Vedic Calendar, each day is attributed to some Devata, to some special creative intelligence—Sun, Moon, Shiva, Vishnu, and all. There are an enormous number of Devatas, embodiments of the Kriya Shakti. “Kriya Shakti” is the power of action. There are two things, basically: the silence and action, silence and activity, infinite silence and infinite activity, and both in perfect accord with each other. Perfect silence, perfect dynamism: this is Brahm—this is Totality.
‘The Guru is Totality. He has, as it is said in the Vedic Literature and with reference to what Dr John Hagelin just said, “Pripad Asyamritam Divi”. That means three-fourths is Amrit. “Amrit” means eternal. Three-fourths is eternal; one-fourth is juggling around.
‘Three-fourths is eternal. This is what makes us stand on our own feet eternally. We are embedded in the three-fourths of the unmanifest, as Dr Hagelin said. This unmanifest, this Avyakta, is three-fourths, and the manifest is one-fourth. Three-fourths is unmanifest; one-fourth is manifest. The changes take place in the unmanifest. What continues in the field of flow is three-fourths. So the dominant factor is three-fourths of Totality....We are announcing a very, very effective program where the achievements will be a matter of much shorter time. Centuries have gone and in every generation, the wise have been searching for it, searching for it, searching for it. But now, with the blessings of our Master and the spiritual Vedic Tradition of Masters, we are blessed. We are offering ourselves and all our achievements and all our understandings and all our knowledge and all our future programs to the lotus feet of Shri Guru Dev. Jai Guru Dev.’ "

I also recall Mahesh saying on one of my courses, "Guru is greater than God, for without him I would never have met my God."  But then, I also heard Sat Guru Maharaj Ji (aka "the little fat boy," an Indian child-guru who came to the West circa 1973) say those words too.

What do you think?  Was Mahesh just speaking in hyperbole about his own guru - or about himself, or was he actually trying to instill in his followers a belief that he himself was greater than God?  Have you wrestled with the belief that Maharishi might be God?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Regarding Maharishi Yagyas®

(Please note:  This website does not promote, encourage, approve of, recommend, or support the purchase of or the value of "Maharishi Yagyas."  This article is written solely for the purpose of education and discussion. - Laurie)

A friend of TM-Free Blog recently showed me an email he received on January 12, 2014 from one of the branches of the TM organization (TMO).  The email starts with the title "Maharishi Vedic Pandits Creating World Peace."  Excerpts from the email follow:
"We are delighted to...announc[e] a highly beneficial, affordable and exciting expansion to the Yagya program for individuals and families - the Maharishi Special Yagya Program."
My comment:  This seems to me like deceptive advertising.  Where is the proof that the yagyas are "highly beneficial"?  And why do they call these yagyas "affordable"?  I clicked around, and found that they cost from $1,000 to $10,000 apiece.
"Maharishi designed a beautiful series of Special Yagyas for important times in life: Birthdays, Weddings, Wedding Anniversaries, and for the Birth of a Child."
They say "Maharishi designed" them.  Well, Maharishi has been dead for several years, but they're only being advertised this year.  So did he design them after he died?  Or, if he designed them during his lifetime - for the benefit of humanity - why are they only being made available now?  Also, Maharishi freely admitted that he knew only a little Sanskrit.  If so, how could he design Sanskrit rituals?  So what's going on?  Personally, I believe that someone else designed them, but is attributing them to Maharishi because that gives them more credibility.  

The yagyas are called "beautiful," but since donors are not present when these rites are performed, we'll have to take the TMO's word for it.  Also, we'll have to take the TMO's word that these rituals are being performed at all.
"These Special Yagyas bring the blessings of Nature to individuals and families at transitional times when specific, supportive Laws of Nature are particularly lively and accessible...."
Here we have several unscientific and undefined phrases which however have strong emotional resonance.  This style of writing circumvents scientific inquiry, since science requires terms to be defined.  Evocative phrases include "blessings of Nature," "specific, supportive Laws of Nature" and "particularly lively and accessible."
"All funds from this program support the large group of Maharishi Vedic Pandits, which is bringing peace, affluence and harmony to our world...."
According to Wikipedia, in  January 2014 there were 41 armed conflicts on earth.  In 2012, there were 905 natural catastrophes  which resulted in approximately $200,000,000 USD worth of damage.  So to me it seems inaccurate to state that the Pandits are bringing "peace, affluence and harmony" to our world.

But to backtrack, you may be asking, "What is the Maharishi Yagya program?"  Here is the answer, from
 "...the remedial measures one can take to avert problems seen in the birth chart to be coming to the individual.  It is a practical means to help protect us from unwanted influences - such as illness, accidents or loss; and also to support positive influences.  Regular Maharishi Yagya performances help maintain life in balance.
..Maharishi Vedic Astrology expert has seen something in the birth chart; and it's destined for the person.  But some influence could be created to change that destiny - and that's the Maharishi Yagya program...." 
More evocative and undefined phrases.  The above quote sort of explains what a Maharishi Yagya supposedly does.  But it doesn't explain what a Maharishi Yagya is.  Other TMO sites explain that it is a TMO-style Sanskrit chant plus ceremony performed by one or more TMO-trained Indian men.  The many TMO websites are vague, but apparently each yagya takes one day or less. TMO literature clearly states that the more money you spend on your yagya, the more powerful its effect.  They also strongly urge the customer to buy the most expensive yagya one can afford.

How much money is the TMO earning from this program?  A TMO email from December 18, 2013 states that:
"...the National Yagya program is now averaging (i.e., receiving donations of - Laurie) $429,000 USD per month....The whole world is enjoying the blessings of the daily performance...."
That's $5,148,000 a year income for the "National Yagya program" alone.  (The TMO says that the National Yagya program -- that is, the 350 Indian men in Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa who live in pre-fabricated, under-heated homes and earn $100-200/month apiece -- costs $600,000 a month to run.  I'm not sure why it should cost that much.  Anyone have any ideas?)  And there are many other "Maharishi Yagya" programs, which also bring in money for the TMO.

The announcement/advertisement for this new yagya program states that:
"the oral tradition of Vedic chanting has been declared an intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO."  (United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization - Laurie).  
This sounds impressive, but by now I always double-check anything the TMO says.  So I researched the "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" UNESCO project.  Their website states that their list of intangible cultural heritages is made up of those "elements that help demonstrate the diversity of this heritage and raise awareness about its importance."  From 2008-2013, 282 intangible heritages were listed by UNESCO.  Aside from yagyas, other examples of "intangible heritages" included woodcrafting in Madagascar, textile art of Peru, ox-herding traditions of Costa Rica, and Sardinian pastoral songs of Italy.
By the way, payment for these yagyas is legally designated as a "donation," and donations are tax deductible for U.S. tax payers.  All U.S. non-profits must make public their finances, and the financial audit can be found at Statement-12-31-2011.pdf.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Clarification: Yes, you can make comments about old TM-Free posts!

TM-Free Blog has been publishing articles since January 2007.  Have you read any of our older posts?  Some older articles and comments are extremely thought-provoking.  If you've never read any of them, you might find you've missed something excellent.

I invite you to look up old articles of interest to you.  (And no, I don't get a commission if you look up the ones that I wrote!)  To look up posts and scintillating comments about your favorite topic, check out "Blog Archives - Labels" on this page (TM-Free Blog homepage).  Look in the right-hand column, the last section.  Click on a topic of your choice, and all posts regarding that topic will appear in the left-hand column.

If the post is more than one month old, the "Comments" section is closed, and you won't be able to comment directly into that post's comment thread.  However, if you are moved to share a comment, return to TM-Free's most recent article, go to the "Comments" section, and write your comment there.  Just mention title of relevant article (and/or date published) in your comment, so that other readers can look it up if they want.  (To find a post by its date, go to "Blog Archive," in the right hand column, and click open the "Blog Archive" window to find publication dates.)

And, of course, you are always welcome to write about any TM-related topic of interest to you in the "Comments" section, even if it has nothing to do with any post.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

TM-Free Blog requests "flying" memories for study

Did you learn the TM-Sidhi's "yogic flying"?  What was your experience of it?  Some readers have commented that when they learned it, they realized "yogic flying" was a fraud.  When they "lifted off," they were aware that they were propelling themselves with their own muscles, similar to jumping or gymnastics.

But other people report that their subjective experience was the opposite - that it really felt like they were defying gravity, and were being lifted up by something outside their own conscious selves.

I hypothesize that there is a correlation between people's subjective experiences of "flying" and their speed of recovery from TM.  I hypothesize that those who experienced themselves as truly levitating without muscular effort were more suggestible.  Another way of saying that is that they were easier to hypnotize.  Or one could say that their mind/body coordination was more disrupted than those who were able to accurately experience the procedure as a volitional muscle activity.  So I am hypothesizing that their recovery from TM was more arduous.

Mahesh Yogi liked to say that TM and the TM-Sidhis increased mind-body co-ordination.  But I wonder if the opposite was true for some or all - that the "flying" may have disrupted the relationship between the mind and the body, because it trained one to not notice the mind sending instructions to the thigh muscles.

So I am requesting readers to comment below.  What was your experience of "yogic flying"?  And did you recover rapidly from TM's brainwashing and its cognitive, emotional or physical side-effects ?  Or was your recovery slow?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T.M. in Yoga Journal, March/April 2001

Just for fun, I'm sharing with you the results of my spring cleaning.  This week I was going through old magazines, and picked this issue at random to browse through.  Wow!  Maybe it was a slow month at Yoga Journal, because they sure filled up a lot of space with T.M. related stuff.  Maybe the T.M. organization (TMO) public relations department sent out a bunch of "infomercials" (advertisements disguised as news items.)

Here's what I found:

1.  Paid advertisement: "America's Premier Ayur Veda Health Center - Maharishi Vedic Medicine at the Raj. Offering medically supervised programs based on….."  It included a testimonial: "I decided to try The Raj to avoid a lung transplant. It saved my life. Today I can converse without coughing, my heartburn is gone…."

[Since this is the TMO I'm dealing with, I googled the patient's name.  For what it's worth, I found her obituary - she had died of cancer seven years after the advertisement, at the age of 71.  She was treated at The Raj for something other than cancer.  - Laurie]

2.   News note: "A recent study found that ancient Vedic healing techniques….Four patients suffering from diabetes, sarcoidosis, hypertension and Parkinsons….Three weeks of Maharishi Vedic Medicine which incorporates diet, herbs, purification, yoga, T.M., Vedic sound therapy," ["Vedic sound therapy" is the term the article used for chanting - Laurie] and "yaghyas" (sic) which were defined in the article as "a Vedic therapy for restoring the harmony between an individual and the cosmos."   "….Over 18 months, many of the symptoms were reduced and some were even able to lower or discontinue medication. Source: Behavioral Medicine 2000; 26: 34-46."

3. Health article: "Allergy Alert: Stop Sneezing with these Herbal Remedies….Medical Director of Raj Maharishi Ayur-Ved Health Center in Fairfield, Iowa…imbalance of kapha dosha…Director of Research for Maharishi Ayur-Ved Products International says…."

4.  Paid advertisement: "Experience the Youthful Skin Transformation. Our Youthful Skin(™) line contains potent, natural-sourced….$26.95 for sample pack (4-step regimen of 4 lotions)."

5.   Health article: "Bathe in the Elements: Ayurveda prescribes cleansing your body in water, air, earth, fire and space….Ayurvedic 'bathing'….For example, 'an air bath…of deep breathing and focused awareness of the breath…bathes the lungs…,' says a visiting consultant at The Raj, an ayurvedic health center in Fairfield, Iowa…."

6.   News note:  "The Beatles Anthology.…Some consider the Fab Four's personal friendship with the Maharishi to be an early inspiration for the popular rise of yoga and meditation in the West."

7.  First-person story:  This one had no mention of T.M., but it ended with this paragraph, which, considering the heartbreak that sometimes results from following Maharishi, seemed to me ironically  apropros:

"Don't bow down to just a man," [a local guru  - Laurie]  I reply.  "Instead, bow down to your own Self that you recognize inside him.  Then bowing down to him is no different than bowing down before your own higher nature."  My student finally did choose to bow down.  Afterward, he looked relieved.  That's one of the opportunities that gurus provide:  They give us a chance to put aside our selfishness and replace it with surrender and service."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Conference on cults July 2-5

 If you enjoy attending conferences, you may be interested in knowing that the 
International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) will conduct its 2014 Annual International Conference jointly with Info-Cult/Info-Secte at the Sheraton Silver Spring (Maryland), a short subway ride from downtown Washington, DC. 

The theme of this year's conference is "Government, Human Rights, and the Cult Phenomenon." However, talks are by no means limited to this theme.

The program will be varied with numerous sessions pertinent to former members of cultic or other high-demand groups, families, helping professionals, researchers, and others. A track within the program will include sessions addressing aspects of the conference theme of government, human rights, and the cult phenomenon. 

Recent conferences have had about 100 speakers, so there will be much to choose from.

The conference takes place from July 3-5, 2014.  On Wednesday, July 2nd, there will be pre-conference workshops for mental health professionals, researchers, families, former members of high-demand groups, and people interested in educational outreach. 

I attended an ICSA conference many years ago, and greatly enjoyed meeting other former TMers and attending the talks.