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.


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Sunday, June 07, 2015

TM Kids "Returning to Ananda" Trailer

For a taste of issues of TM - kids - now adults, see this video trailer of a 20 minute Television Pilot

Click on the link below for trailer of
"Returning to Ananda" by r  of Skwatta Camp Productions

Returning To Ananda (Sizzle) from Déjà Cresencia Bernhardt-Leaze on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

June 2015 ICSA Conference Stockholm

It's that time again - link to : ICSA Annual Conference

The conference is an amalgam of recovery workshops, speakers, research presentations, professional education and connecting with new and old friends.

From the conference website :

ICSA’s 2015 Annual International Conference will be conducted jointly with Info-Secte/Info-Cult of Montreal and Hjälpkällan (Help Source - a support organization for people leaving closed religious movements) in Stockholm, Sweden June 25-27, 2015 (preconference workshops on Wednesday June 24th). 

This year’s theme is Children in High-Control Groups. There will be a series of sessions on the conference theme as well presentations relevant to the needs of mental health professionals, former members, researchers, families, and others.

The conference will take place at the Ariadne Scandic Hotel in Stockholm.  

For more information, the conference program, or to register, Click on the link :

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Conference for Former Members of Groups

Announcement from the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA), a respected organization dealing with high-demand groups:

"ICSA will conduct a conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico November 6-8, 2015.  This conference will focus on the needs of former group members and families and will include a training track for mental health professionals.  Conference sessions will emphasize discussion so participants can address issues pertinent to their individual concerns.

The conference will take place at La Fonda on the Plaza, one of Santa Fe's finest hotels, located in the heart of the old city.

Santa Fe has been chosen in order to give ICSA's western supporters an opportunity to attend a conference closer to home.  It is also a lovely setting for those who come from other parts of the USA, Canada, and the world.

Speakers include some of the cultic studies field's most experienced mental health professionals, as well as former members and family members who will share their experiences.

Attend this conference if you are interested in how psychologically manipulative and demanding groups can hurt people and what can be done to help those who are harmed.  The agenda will address the needs of those seeking help and those who want to help others.  Among the topics to be explored are

·         What helps people leave cultic groups and relationships?
·         Dealing with cult-related trauma
·         Traumatizing narcissism and the psychology of cult leaders
·         Coping with triggers
·         Building relationships and communicating with the cult involved
·         After the cult: who am I
·         Support groups
·         Cults and the suppression of free speech
·         Exit counseling and conflict resolution
·         Spiritual issues in recovery
·         Cults and children
·         Case discussions for mental health professionals
·         Cultic dynamics in sex trafficking

Because Santa Fe is a “daytime” city, we have scheduled 2-hour lunch breaks so that attendees can enjoy walking around old Santa Fe, where there are numerous art galleries, museums, and quaint shops, as well as stunning Southwest architecture.  The hotel will permit the special conference rate 3 days pre- and postconference for those who wish to spend time touring Santa Fe and its environs.  Call La Fonda’s Reservations Department at 1-800-523-5002.

Please tell others about this conference.  We hope you join us!"

Online Information: