Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review: "The Secret of the Mantras" by Richard Blakely

I just finished reading "The Secret of the Mantras" by Richard Blakely, and I highly recommend it.  This memoir of a baby boomer growing up in the U.S. and moving to France in time for the student uprisings of 1968 includes a 3-month TM Teacher Training course in Rishikesh, India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Beatles. 

What a fun read!  What a witty sense of humor Blakely exhibits as he confesses his own foibles, as well as the foibles of TM life.  Of particular interest to readers of TM-Free Blog may be the following revelations:

- In 1968, Mahesh gave new initiators three mantras, chosen by age.  (Nowadays there are about 16 mantras, chosen by age.)

- In 1968, Mahesh taught initiators only the Sanskrit and the hand gestures for the exotic ceremony preceding TM instruction.  (Nowadays, initiators must also memorize the English translation and the emotions one is attempting to experience during the rite.)  

-  In 1968, students meditated for hours non-stop on courses.  Due to the emotional unraveling of some Westerners, Mahesh added yogic stretching.  (Nowadays, short meditations are alternated with yoga stretches and breathing exercises.)  

- In 1968, Mahesh taught that TMers shouldn't force themselves to change habits such as smoking, drinking and meat-eating if they found the change stressful.  Mahesh said that with continued meditation, unhealthy habits would automatically fall away.  (Nowadays, "advanced" TMers are encouraged to take up vegetarianism, celibacy, early bedtime, silent meals, etc. etc.)

This last point particularly catches my attention.  I find Mahesh's level of hypocrisy? extent of unclarity on fundamental principles? unfathomable.  Whatever could he have been thinking, either then or now?  What kind of teacher is this?  

Saturday, January 09, 2016

The Dream Tiger

Several decades ago, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi gave the following comment (paraphrased here) on one of my courses:  "If a person has a dream that a tiger is chasing him, it doesn't help him at all that under his pillow he has a gun.  A waking-state gun is no protection against a dream-state tiger.  Likewise, if a real tiger is attacking, it doesn't help that in one's dream, one has a gun." Mahesh was trying to illustrate his teaching that what applies in one state of consciousness cannot automatically be transferred to another state of consciousness.

Of course we students already knew a lot about waking and dreaming.  In this lecture, he was attempting to explain three additional states of consciousness to us.  He had told us that if we practiced TM regularly, enlightenment awaited us.  In succession, we would attain "Cosmic Consciousness," then "God Consciousness" and then "Unity Consciousness."  (Historical note:  He later changed the name from "God Consciousness" to "Glorified Cosmic Consciousness.")   These, he said, were increasingly advanced states of "enlightenment."  He was using the tiger metaphor to explain that we shouldn't even bother planning for what we would do once we were enlightened, since once we were in that state, our experience of reality would change so much.

He never said it outright, but we all believed that he was in Unity Consciousness.  (Historical note:   When he announced a few years later that there was a state above Unity Consciousness, called "Brahman Consciousness," we all believed that he was at least in that state.)  I'm thinking over his tiger illustration now, and I wonder if he was not only telling us not to make plans for ourselves in "higher" states, but also that he was in such an exalted state himself that we were in no position to pass judgment on his actions.  That's one of the messages I took away from his lecture.  That anything he did, we should probably believe and obey, because he had a different, higher way of looking at the world.

Did you believe that we should not judge Mahesh according to the rules that the rest of us live by?  Was there ever a time when he did something that you felt critical of, and then reminded yourself, "We can't judge Mahesh by our standards"?     

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Conversation with an Exit Counselor, 1987

I've been cleaning out my files, and I came upon notes from my conversation with an exit counselor back in 1987.  I hope you will enjoy reading some of his comments:

"Of all the groups I have dealt with, some of the most severe casualties have been in TM.  This is in direct contradiction to TM publicity.  Meditation techniques are not appropriate for everyone, because some people have difficulty distinguishing between the inner content and outer content of their minds.  Such people can go into a psychotic state from doing meditation, because these techniques loosen boundaries between the conscious and the unconscious.  For the average person, this is a pleasure, because most people have too many boundaries there.  But for a minority of people, it is dangerous to have the boundary more porous." 

[Editor's comment:  When I saw the film "David Wants to Fly," I had the good fortune to find Dr. Herbert Benson, author of "The Relaxation Response" sitting right behind me!  I introduced myself to him, and he told me a few stories.  Included was, "I observed the course in Fuiggi, Italy.  Since I am an M.D., when I and course participants got off the plane in the U.S., I did sign a bunch of them straight into mental hospitals."] 

"So it was normal for people in TM to "freak out" -- to have highs, lows, get emotional." 

[Editor's comment:  In the TM world, careening highs and lows were considered normal, even positive.  It was called unstressing, and we were told that it meant the person was throwing off old stress.]

I suggested to the exit counselor that TM had a special hook for the average Westerner because it backs up its beliefs with appeals to science.  He replied, "Scientology also bombards people with statistics."  

"If you have a busy, multidimensional life, to sit down for 20 minutes is okay.  But if meditation becomes a goal in itself, it's bad.  It's like fasting.  The first time you do it, it feels good, healing.  But if you continue to fast, it turns on itself.  The mind is similar - it needs information and stimulation.  Without outside stimulation, it stimulates itself.  Thus, inner material comes out.  The person becomes increasingly swallowed up in their inner world, and outside decisions and the outer world become more difficult."

"I feel TM has a callous view of people.  I've treated one of Maharishi's lovers.  She was seduced and abandoned by Mahesh.  She became psychotic.  He promised he would marry her; then she was told, "You're being sent to Switzerland." 

[Editor's comment:  This strikes me as Mahesh being callous, not the TM organization.  But I believe he set the tone, and did make policy for the TMO that was callous.]

"Dr. Herbert Benson's book 'The Relaxation Response' demonstrates that one can create TM-like results without TM.  By any autohypnosis technique, one can do this.  TM's marketing insisted that TM was distinct."

"True scientific research shows that anyone can have a TM-like response.  Almost all psychologists discredit TM research as self-serving and flawed.  For instance, the research on reduced crime is totally without controls, confounding factors, etc.  That research is extremely specious.  All TM research is designed to hook people in.  The TMO allows scientific proofs but not scientific critiques.  When you were in TM, you were only exposed to the research that they wanted you to see."

[Editor's comment:  Is TM research still in disrepute?  I think much less so.  It's being taught in some public schools and veterans' organizations.  And I believe the Surgeon General recently had an amiable discussion with a leading TM proponent.]  

Hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane.  

Monday, November 16, 2015

Book review: "Roots of TM: The Transcendental Meditation of Guru Dev & Maharishi Mahesh Yogi" by Paul Mason

Thank you, Paul Mason, for this book! 

The TM movement has an official story of how TM came to be spread to the world.  That story comes from the mouth of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  But we know that Mahesh loved to embroider stories.  So - what does independent historical research reveal about Guru Dev, Mahesh, and TM?

Paul Mason doesn't give us his personal conclusions.  Rather, he researches and relates the facts, and lets us decide for ourselves.  What I have decided is that the procedure of Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation, of how to think the mantra, is virtually identical to one of the several meditation techniques taught by Guru Dev. 

But other aspects of Mahesh's Transcendental Meditation differ from his master's teachings.  Although Mahesh claimed to revere Guru Dev as "Divinity Incarnate," he disobeyed a number of his guru's wishes, and as the years progressed, altered more and more of his master's teachings.

From Guru Dev's instructions to meditate one hour, Mahesh decreased it to 30 minutes, then to 20 minutes.  From the necessity of sitting cross-legged to the acceptability of sitting in a chair.  From insistence on a straight spine during meditation to the acceptability of slouching.  From no money accepted, as per Guru Dev's strict rule, to a set fee. 

And then there is the choosing of the mantra, which is part of a guru's responsibility.  According to Guru Dev, only a perfect master is qualified to choose a mantra.  Guru Dev said (p. 98), "…[I]t is very difficult to obtain a perfect teacher.  The traditional Indian Scriptures are full of mantra…but until someone will tell which is fit…the pile…will really be next to useless…[O'bserving the energy and inclination of those devoted to spiritual achievement, in accordance to their qualification…the experienced guru…deduces the mantra of one's favored god which would be of benefit to the spiritual seekers."

Maharishi did not dispense the same mantras that his guru did.  Maharishi said, (p. 263), "It is very difficult for me to find what [mantras] he was using.  Because initiation is all in private.  And I was never interested in who was given what [mantra].  I was interested in myself."  

Not holding to Guru Dev's dual criteria for choosing mantras, (see above: aspirant's "energy and inclination" plus "favored god"), Mahesh reduced the criteria to only one: "favored god."  Mahesh explained (p. 259), "The gurus choose from the tendencies, from the cut of the face…I don't go into all these vibrations, botherations.  I ask [the aspirant] 'Which god you like?'…Ask him directly, 'What he likes?' and that is it." 

When he initiated Christians, Jews and Muslims, he could not very well ask, "Who is your favored god?"  And what could he possibly have asked when teaching atheists?!  So he made another change - to assign the mantras by age and sex.  I couldn't find any evidence in "Roots of TM" that there was any precedent for this criteria.  Later, Mahesh simplified the criteria yet again, to choose by age only.  Even in this he was inconsistent.  One year he would use one set of mantras and age; another year he would use another.  On occasion, he even broke these simple rules, for instance when he instructed some initiators to use teenage mantras for all adults, age 20 through 120.

And most paradoxically, was Mahesh disobeying his master by even teaching meditation?  Guru Dev had stated (p. 96), "…[N]ot everyone can be a guru.  Actually only members of the Brahmin caste are in the position to be a guru…."  Mahesh was from the Kshatriya caste, so according to his own guru, he was prohibited from teaching meditation.  (By the way, Mahesh was the secretary at the ashram.  Did you know that?) 

So how then did Mahesh justify teaching meditation?  Page 143:  "I thought, 'What to do, what to do, what to do?'  Then I thought, 'I should teach them all in the name of Guru Dev.  I should design a system, a system of puja [ritual or ceremony] to Guru Dev. ' "  This decision did not follow the letter of Guru Dev's teaching; do you think it followed the spirit of Guru Dev's teaching? 

What went through Mahesh's mind as he made these changes?  Did he tell himself that he was not really changing Guru Dev's teachings?  Did he tell himself that some of his divine Guru Dev's teachings were imperfect?   Did he decide he had surpassed his guru?  Did he rationalize that the changes didn't matter because he was teaching "inferior" Westerners?  What do you think? 

"Roots of TM" helped me understand the fourth possibility more.  As I read, I realized how different Mahesh's world was from the Western world.  I realized that underneath India's veneer of westernization, the traditional Indian ways are vibrantly alive.  It is entirely a different world view from the West's.

For instance, Guru Dev taught (p. 81):  "The man who gives suffering to the cow goes to hell.  [Intermixing of Indian culture with Western culture] has caused ignorance of the Hindu scriptures, that the cow and Absolute Divine Truth are the same.  This devout scriptural knowledge is disappearing."  

Or, on p. 47, Mahesh relates how it is to be brought up properly in an Indian family.  "The children...are told to bow down to your mother, your father, your elders, your school teacher.  It provides a great shield of security and assistance for the child....[as] this later on develops in devotion to Almighty...."

And this excerpt from the chapter "Yoga Teachings of Swami Brahmanand (Guru Dev.)"  Pps. 98-99, (paraphrased by this editor), "The principal teaching of Swami Brahmanand Saraswati was that one should routinely practice a system of [mental repetition of a word of benefit to the spiritual seeker] in order to...realize the purpose of one's life.... Realization comes from doing word repetition....By practicing, sins are destroyed...."

From p. 231, "During his stay in San Francisco, Maharishi received his first press coverage in the USA, and was rather surprised that the meditation had been dubbed a 'non-medicinal tranquilizer.'  His comment was, 'Cruel!  I feel like running away, back home.  This seems to be a strange country.  Values are different here.' "

This book is filled with gems.  Arrange them together in different ways, and many questions can be answered about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, his guru and his Transcendental Meditation. 

Paul Mason is one of the world's leading English-language experts on Transcendental Meditation, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and his guru, Swami Brahmanand Saraswti (Guru Dev).  He has written, co-authored, and translated from Hindi and Sanskrit over seven books on these topics.  He is a former co-editor for TM-Free Blog.   

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Open Thread

TM-Free Blog is back, after a one-month vacation.  

Exciting new articles are coming soon, including two book reviews!! "Roots of TM:  The Transcendental Meditation of Guru Dev & Maharishi Mahesh Yogi" by Paul Mason.  And the updated, second edition of "Robes of Silk, Feet of Clay" by Judith Bourque.

Until then, please feel free to start any TM-related topic you want in the comments section.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

More TM Promises: cumulative, lasting, speedy?

Here is yet another lens through which to view Maharishi Mahesh's many promises.  He told us that regular practice of TM would lead to both continued and permanent improvements in ones life, and that attending TM retreats would lead to exponentially quicker growth.  But what were the actual results?  What were the results for me?  What were the results for you?

Cumulative results?    When I first learned TM, I felt calmer, more productive, more energetic.  Every day I felt better than the day before.  That continued for about 2 months.  After that, even though I kept meditating twice a day, I didn't feel any continued improvement.  I plateaued.  Mahesh promised us that by practicing TM twice a day, we were on our way toward "the unfoldment of our true potential," but after those first 2 months, I didn't notice any additional changes. 

Permanent results?    When I learned the TM-Sidhis technique, sometimes I felt euphoric, at one with the universe, more confident, joyful, loving and energetic.  But when I stopped doing the TM-Sidhis, I went back to feeling the same way I had felt before I had started.  (In addition, when I stopped, I went through a period where I felt emptiness and panic .  It felt like descriptions I have read of people withdrawing from opiates.  I suspect that the TM-Sidhis was activating a brain chemical similar to the one that opiates and addictive behaviors activate).

What about "rounding?"  "Rounding" is the procedure for meditating more than two times a day.  It is done on TM retreats ("residence courses").  In my day, one "round" consisted of yoga postures, then yogic breathing, then TM, then lying down.  Mahesh promised us that rounding exponentially speeded up one's growth.  That is, doing TM eight times in one weekend was supposed to lead to more personal growth than doing TM eight times over the course of four days.  But actually, I never saw any fast growth from residence courses.  I would often get relaxed on retreats, and the relaxedness would continue for a while after I returned.  After a a weekend retreat, I'd be mellow for 3 days; after a six-month retreat, I'd be mellow for about a month.  But after that, I'd be back to my usual self.

What about you?  Did TM fulfill its promises of cumulative benefits, lasting benefits, and more rapid benefits from rounding?    

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Wikileaks, TM research debunking, and more!

Did you know that Wikileaks has insider documents from the TM organization?  To see them, click Wikileaks "Transcendental Meditation" category.

And here is an article that examines a published scientific research study on TM for Childhood ADHD.  It finds over ten (10) examples of defects in the research design.  These ten defects all tend to bias the results in favor of TM.  (The pro-TM head researcher has a Doctorate in Education).  Click here to see the critique:  How to Design a Positive Study: Meditation for Childhood ADHD.

These interesting documents, and many more, are all available on TM-Free Blog.  See the right hand column on the home page (that's this page, folks), for lots of very cool resources.  

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Online Forum for Cultic Studies Researchers/Students

Any researchers or students of cultic studies in the TM-Free Blog readership?  If so, you may be interested in this.  I received an email from the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) on July 22, 2015, stating in part:

During recent annual conferences, ICSA has held a special pre-conference workshop for researchers and students interested in conducting scientific research in cultic studies.  At the 2015 workshop in Sweden, researchers decided to set up an online forum through which they could share notes, plan, and give or receive advice or assistance.  This forum will be open only to academic and clinical researchers and students involved in planning and/or conducting cultic studies research.
 The forum is especially interested in helping students and young researchers.
If you are a researcher/student, please complete a short online survey, which should only take a few minutes of your time.  Even if you are not interested in participating in the forum, please complete the survey.  The information you provide will help the ICSA Research Committee plan for the future.

Go here:

I hope some of our readers will find this forum helpful!

Sunday, July 05, 2015

TM's "Enlightenment" Magazine

I was browsing through a recent TM organization (TMO) email, and discovered that the TMO publishes an ezine called "Enlightenment." 

Is this an appropriate name for the magazine?

I have heard that when young Brahmachari Mahesh (later known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) first taught in India, he put up a poster that said, "Enlightenment in Seven Days."  But as I don't remember the source, I'll call this a rumor, unless someone can confirm this in the "comments" section.

I heard from elder TMers that in the U.S., Mahesh promised that doing TM twice a day for 15-20 minutes would lead to enlightenment in 3-5 years.  Again, that was before my time, so can anyone confirm this?

But I can state from my personal experience that when I was instructed in TM in 1971, we were told that TM twice a day would lead to enlightenment in 5-8 years.

Anyone have confirmation of other promises Mahesh made?

I do remember that when Mahesh introduced the "Six-Month Courses" around 1975 (seeking confirmation on date), he said, "One Six-Month Course is enough to enlighten some people, two Six-Month Courses is enough to enlighten most people, and three Six-Month Courses is enough to enlighten a horse!  Ha ha!"  I assume he was joking about the horse, but not about the other things.

Does anyone remember any other promises about when enlightenment could be expected through TM?  By the time I was at my Teacher Training Course (about 1973/4), Mahesh was no longer giving out predictions.

Mahesh pronounced one man ("Andy") enlightened on my Teacher Training Course.  What's the latest about Andy?  Mahesh did or did not pronounce Robin Carlsen enlightened -- depending on your interpretation of his comment, "You are somewhere in the folds of Wholeness."  The last we heard from Robin (on TMFree), the "enlightenment" was a temporary state, and not in Robin's best interest.       

I understand that in Fairfield, there is a club for people who say they have reached "enlightenment."  What's become of that club?  All I know is the worst of the stories, of one young man in the club who has committed suicide.

Now it's "do the TM-Sidhis, eat ayurvedic, get yagyas, listen to chanting, live in a TM house," and some people have been doing all those things for decades.  How's it going?  Is anyone enlightened?

Personally, I think "Enlightenment" is a deceptive name for the magazine, but that's just my opinion. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

New book published: "Roots of TM"

'Roots Of TM: The Transcendental Meditation Of Guru Dev & Maharishi Mahesh Yogi'
(Note:  In book cover photo above, Guru Dev is seated in center, surrounded by some of his close sannyasi [renunciant] disciples in traditional orange robes.  In front of dais, far right, is the young Brahmachari (bachelor student) Mahesh, later known as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  He is not wearing orange because he is not a sannyasi.  Those of his caste are not permitted to become sannyasis. - Laurie) 

Just published: 

by Paul Mason
more than 50 illustrations
304 pages, 234mm x 156mm
ISBN 978-0-9562228-8-6

Paul Mason, the author of "Roots of TM" is a former contributor to TM-Free Blog.

"ROOTS OF TM" enables readers to better understand how and why Maharishi Mahesh Yogi spread the teaching of Transcendental Meditation around the world.

"ROOTS OF TM" provides background information on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his master, Swami Brahmanand Saraswati, (also called "Guru Dev,") and provides a source book of information about their teachings and techniques.

"ROOTS OF TM" is not intended as a general guide to Indian philosophy, nor as a study of the many ancient spiritual practices of India, nor as a mantra handbook.

"ROOTS OF TM" offers information about Maharishi's "missing years," from the time when his master passed away through to the gradual build-up of his stated mission: "Why can't we spiritually regenerate the world through this technique?"

"ROOTS OF TM" contains numerous quotations and rare transcripts of lectures by Guru Dev and by Maharishi. Furthermore, it details the course of events that would eventually find Maharishi lecturing at the Masquers Club, an actor's social club in Hollywood. It also tells how Maharishi came to adopt a businesslike attitude to financial matters, and how he planned to create a headquarters in the Himalayas where he intended to train others to teach Transcendental Meditation.

"ROOTS OF TM" digs deeply into rare materials in order to give detailed profiles of the teachings of both master and disciple, thus affording readers an opportunity to make informed comparisons of both these teachers' methods and their objectives.

Author Paul Mason explains:
"By the mid-1960's the term 'Transcendental Meditation' became fixed after Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had already spread the message of meditation far and wide across the free world. Maharishi then became very famous himself, largely due to his public association with celebrities and in particular the world-famous pop group The Beatles, who in 1968 attended an advanced training course with him in India.

When I traveled to India in 1970, I did so by hitch-hiking from Britain; and, having traveled across many countries, finally found myself in North India. Possibly because The Beatles had done so before me, I decided to visit the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, for 'a cup of cocoa and a chat about philosophy.'  I therefore made my way to the pilgrimage town of Rishikesh, close by the foothills of the Himalayas. Having crossed the River Ganges and climbed up to Maharishi Ashram, I was introduced there to a practice referred to as 'Transcendental Meditation.'

The teaching of this 'Transcendental Meditation' or 'TM' is preceded by a short ceremony called a puja, conducted before a portrait of the ascetic Indian teacher Swami Brahmanand Saraswati, known to TM meditators as 'Guru Dev.'  [Note:  The TM organization says the puja is a 'traditional ceremony of gratitude.'  According to, 'puja' is defined as 'a Hindu act of worship or propitiation.' - Laurie]

Surprisingly, despite the fact that Swami Brahmanand Saraswati was a prominent and influential public speaker, Maharishi's organizations share but scant information about Guru Dev's life story and disclose nothing about his teachings.

Very little seemed to be known about the early life of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi or about the origins and history of the teaching of Transcendental Meditation, so I set myself to discover as much information as could be found.

In the 1990's I was commissioned by Element Books to write the biography of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, which was published as 'The Maharishi: The Biography of the Man Who Gave Transcendental Meditation to the World.'

Later, in 2007, an ambition was fulfilled when a three-volume set of books on Guru Dev was published, all based on my translations of Hindi works on Swami Brahmanand Saraswati.

Then, in 2013, I compiled a book entitled 'Dandi Swami: Tales of meetings with Dandi Swami Narayananand Saraswati, the Guru's Will, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi & the Shankaracharyas of Jyotir Math.'

'Roots of TM' is the distillation of decades of research into the teachings of Maharishi, Guru Dev, and the Shankaracharya tradition."

"Roots of TM" can be purchased through Amazon.
I (Laurie) haven't read it yet, but I hope to read it soon.  I would love to hear peoples' reaction to the book.  Personally, I'm most interested in learning if Maharishi spread the teaching of his Guru Dev whom he claimed to adore, or if he spread contrary teachings.


StatCounter - Free Web Tracker and Counter