Wednesday, October 15, 2014

TM Town Struggles into 21st Century

TM Town Struggles into 21st Century: Mental Health Problems lead Fairfield to Re-Evaluate Core Doctrines


As you probably know, the beloved actor/comedian Robin Williams, who suffered from depression, committed suicide on August 11, 2014.

In the weeks following Williams' suicide, residents of Fairfield, Iowa, USA, home to Maharishi University of Management and to several thousand TMers, have been inching suicide out of the closet.  Researchers noticed that Iowa has a higher rate of suicide than the national average.  And Fairfield has a higher rate of suicide than the average Iowa city.

Fairfield residents have been dragging their feet around suicide prevention for years.  This is due not only to the American stigma around mental illness.  It is also exacerbated by TM official and unofficial doctrine.  Just a few of them are:

- Maharishi disapproved of Western psychotherapy.
- If you saw a psychotherapist, you could be disqualified from attending a TM course.
- TM is supposed to make you emotionally healthy, therefore if you report emotional problems, you are making TM look bad.
- People with emotional problems have been advised to do more asanas or learn the TM-Sidhis, rather than to seek professional help.
- People with emotional problems have been told they are "unstressing" rather than being advised to seek professional help.
- When people have had emotional problems (including hospitalizations and suicides), the TM organization has tended to hide the information or blame the person for being too emotionally unstable to begin with.
- People with emotional problems have been misdiagnosed by TMers as being in higher states of consciousness.

A fascinating report on the blossoming of open discussion on mental health problems in Fairfield is found here:

http://littlevillagemag.com/suicide-in-fairfield-iowa-town-struggles-with-mental-health-awareness/


 "Fairfield Cares," a grassroots organization helping to increase honest conversation about mental health problems of TMers holds meetings and lectures.  And Maharishi University of Management, after 40 years of denying counseling  to their students, are adding counseling to their health services.  However, they state that it is offered as an "adjunct" to TM, since, according to TM doctrine, scientific research shows that TM improves mental health, making people happy and stable.  

The TM organization (TMO) doesn't publicize any of the research which shows that sometimes TM causes or exacerbates mental illness.  Until I discovered TM-Free Blog, I believed what the TMO taught - that every research study ever done on TM showed that TM produces only benefits.  You can find many articles on TM-FreeBlog about emotional problems that some people have experienced due to T.M.  You can find information on the suppressed research on the far-right column of TM-Free Blog's home page.  

What have been your experiences with the TMO and mental health?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Open Thread for Readers

What's on your mind?  Share your thoughts on TM and related subjects here!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Update on Maharishi Vedic Pandits

On January 24, 2014, Hi India, the newspaper serving the South Asian community worldwide, ran a 2-page article on the sorry plight of Maharishi Vedic Pandits residing in a fenced compound in Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa, U.S.A.

On August 30, 2014, Hi India published a second article about the Vedic Pandits. According to this article, (http://hiindialive.com/missing-pandit-brutally-killed/), despite their January expose, neither the Indian Consul General in Chicago, nor leaders of Chicago's Indian community, nor officials in India have initiated any action to help the Vedic Pandits.

Hi India suggests that after the posting of their first report, the following actions should have been taken, but were not:

- The TM university responsible for the pandits should have invested more resources into improving financial compensation and living conditions for the pandits, rather than into damage-control of their image.

And further, that the Consul-General of India situated in Chicago should have done the following:

- sent someone to the compound to take a first-hand look at the living conditions of the Vedic Pandits.

- raised concern about the passports of the pandits being held as ransom by the sponsoring University, and insisted that the passports be returned to the Consul General’s office, in accordance with Indian policy.

- investigated the plight of the "165 missing pandits." (This was a group of 165 pandits that the TM University drove to Chicago's O'Hare airport after the uprising, in order to send them back home. It was never made totally clear if these Indian men requested their return to India, or if, following the uprising, the University picked out the pandits whom they perceived to be "troublemakers," and forced them to leave. Whichever is the real story, it appears as if instead of boarding their appointed planes back to India, many fled the airport in the sub-zero weather and disappeared.)

- engaged with Chicago police and the local Indian community to locate missing Vedic Pandits who may have been wandering around Chicago.

- lodged a complaint with local police, Immigration officials, other Indian Consulates in the U.S. and the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

 - issued a press release about the pandits.

- investigated the recruitment tactics and the contract between Vedic Pandits and their sponsoring university.

- demanded the complete list of Vedic Pandits who arrived, left and are missing from the compound.

- asked for travel and ticket details and matched this information with pandits' arrival (or failure to arrive) at Indian airports.

According to Hi India, the Chicago Consul General failed to do any of these things. The conditions of the pandits at the fenced compound at Maharishi Vedic City remains unmonitored by outsiders. And the "missing pandits," (who speak little English) who fled O'Hare Airport 8 months ago, are unaccounted for.

Well, we finally know the fate of one of those missing pandits. According to Hi India, Ajit Panday, age approximately 23, has been found in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. On August 24, 2014, he was shot to death by an unidentified armed robber at the Big Brother 2 Food Mart in Atlanta, while Ajit was closing up the convenience store for the night.

Ajit was brought to the U.S. by Maharishi University about two years ago. When the University brought him to the airport in January, he apparently snuck out of the air terminal rather than boarding a plane to India. He somehow ended up in Georgia, which is approximately 600 miles (approximately 1000 kilometers) south of Chicago, and entered the underground economy of undocumented workers.

 In their statements, the Indian owners of the convenience store and of the property it stood on shrugged off responsibility for his death, stating that they had cautioned Panday to be careful in the night time.

As for how his countrymen have treated this undocumented man, Panday had been working without pay at the store for more than two months. He worked more than 15 hours per day, 7 days a week. No proper food, sanitation or security was provided in the back room of the store, where Panday lived. The owners claim Panday was a friend who they were helping out by giving him a place to stay, and in return he willingly volunteered his time at the store.  There were insufficient security systems, insufficient security training and insufficient backup at the store.

Ajit Panday's body was still in the mortuary six days after the murder, apparently because his family in India is too poor to ship the remains home. Ajit was the only bread-winner in his family, which consists of a widowed mother and two younger siblings.

The owners of the store state the body is still in the U.S. because the family has failed to give authorization to ship the body.

Ajay Prakash Shrivastava, nephew of the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and head of global operations of the sponsoring Maharishi University, said that he could not trace the family, although all the information is available in office records.

Though Ajit is the first casualty that has come to light, there may well be other Maharishi Vedic Pandits being mistreated somewhere in the U.S.  Not to mention those being mistreated in their fenced compound in Maharishi Vedic City in Iowa.


TM-Free Blog has posted several articles about the Vedic Pandits.  Click on any of these titles to see the TM-Free article:  


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Did Maharishi Teach Different Ways to Do TM?

Readers of this blog who learned TM may recall the importance Mahesh placed on how to think the mantra.  My notes on how to check a person's meditation, which date from approximately 1973, read in part, "...Now this time, when we close our eyes, sit easily, and after about 1/2 a minute begin to think the mantra in the same, effortless way we think any other thoughts."  And, "In this meditation, we do not concentrate; we do not try to think the mantra clearly.  Mental repetition is not a clear pronunciation; it's just a faint idea...Just think the mantra easily, effortlessly...."

In my TM-Free research, I stumbled on an older set of checking notes, from about 1961.  There I found that Mahesh did not tell people to "think" the mantra.  Rather, back then he talked about "listening" to the mantra.  I don't have the notes on hand, but here is my best recollection of what was written:  "Think the mantra easily, and then just follow it down; listen to it as it changes."

Does anyone have an old set of checking notes that they can share with the readers?  Do you think this change is significant?  

Monday, September 01, 2014

New Cult Recovery Support Group in DC Area


The cult recovery group Refocus (http://www.refocus.org) is pleased to announce a new Washington DC-area cult recovery support group.  They meet once a month in Arlington, Virginia.

If you would like to attend the support group, you are invited to contact the co-facilitators, Mary Moore at 703-967-7744 or Marita LaPalm at 734-546-9880 for more information.

I attended a cult-recovery support group for several years, and found it very helpful.


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 freeminds.org, 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: 

http://www.ayurveda-florida.com/articles_ayurvedic_medicine_diet_lifestyle_dhanvantari_ayurveda_center_ayurveda_education_programs/Hinduism/mmy_on_role_of_a_guru.htm

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?