Saturday, January 13, 2007

Letter to San Rafael School Board..or.. How TM Lures the Young and Vulnerable

The David Lynch Foundation retracted their 2006 grant to Terra Linda High School within two days of receiving their copy of this letter which was circulated to the San Rafael School Board, the Marin Independent Journal, key offices of the David Lynch Foundation and Transcendental Meditation Movement. Relevant links, in green or blue, are embedded within the online letter.

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by Gina Catena, M.S.

San Rafael City School District
310 Nova Albion Way
San Rafael, CA 94903

cc. San Rafael City School Board members
Marin Independent Journal

16 October, 2006

Carole Ramsey, principal of Terra Linda High School (TLHS), deserves acknowledgement for her efforts to improve student life, reduce stress and increase academic success at TLHS through the David Lynch Foundation grant for Transcendental Meditation (TM) in public schools.

Given my family history, it was surprising to see two consecutive Marin Independent Journal cover stories about Transcendental Meditation’s introduction to Terra Linda High School.

As a TLHS parent, and someone whose life has been profoundly affected by TM, I am uniquely qualified to express concerns about this program presented to our community. The TM presentation on October 12 at TLHS was sophisticated and convincing. However, the presenters did not provide full disclosure of the TM program. Repeatedly, they insisted that TM is not a religion. They skillfully dodged specific questions regarding TM instruction, methods and follow up. In the interest of full disclosure of the TM program for TLHS, I offer the following.

I speak from over forty years and three generations’ of family involved with TM. The Spiritual Regeneration Movement (SRM) is the founding organization to promote TM in the western hemisphere. The TM program promoted to TLHS is presented as non-religious. I beg to differ. TM as originally taught by SRM's spiritual organization is identical to that offered through the David Lynch Foundation.

The Transcendental Meditation community of Fairfield, Iowa is as-if my extended family. The intentions of TM's recruiters are noble, as are those of any True Believer. I harbor no ill will toward individuals in the TM Movement; in fact I love many of them. They truly believe what they present, justifying conscious deception by their belief that recruiting others is ultimately in the others' best interest. TM's presenters at TLHS frequently referenced Maharishi's elementary and high school in Fairfield Iowa. To this day, some graduates of their lauded Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment (MSAE) request my guidance as they strive to function in the real world, outside of their protected meditation community. Maharishi Schools have been established elsewhere in the world also.

I believe full disclosure is mandatory for programs promoted in our public schools.

Scientific documentation of medical benefits from deep rest grew in the seventies. Between 1970-1972 Robert Keith Wallace, PhD and Herbert Benson, M.D. published landmark scientific studies on the benefits of Transcendental Meditation. Benson subsequently separated from Wallace. Benson documented identical benefits experienced through traditional forms of Christian and Jewish prayer. Benson published his Relaxation Response” method of stress reduction without the mysticism associated with TM. Short structured rest periods provide health benefits.

Evidence suggests that TM may be more than a catnap. Research indicates that TM may trigger a shift in one's psychological and physiological states. Like a prescription medication, this might be beneficial for the right person in the right dosage. Others experience negative results such as anxiety or nervous ‘ticks’. There have been suicides. In 2004 Levi Butler was murdered on the Maharishi University of Management (MUM) campus, Maharishi's deemed center of enlightenment and tranquility.

TM instructors do not screen individuals prior to instruction. TM is presented as the magic bullet to solve all ills for all people.

I understand the good intentions of TM presenters, as well as the scripted timing of their unveiling of information. They knowingly mislead by omission of information. I know this because as a teenager in the 1970’s, I helped introduce Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and Science of Creative Intelligence to two schools. We succeeded introducing the program into Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, California in the early 1970's. Their school district later terminated the program.

The TM program experienced exponential growth in the 1960s and 1970s through targeting vulnerable college students with the Students International Meditation Society (SIMS). Most of those early meditators left the organization. TM’s orchestrated resurgence once again targets vulnerable youth, through university and high school campuses. Of the many who begin TM, a few may adopt the full lifestyle.

At October 12th’s presentation, Ramsey repeatedly referred to the “trained TM instructors” who would instruct our youth in TM. Formally, TM instructors are known as Initiators or Governors of the Age of Enlightenment because, according to Maharishi, “they govern in the realm of consciousness.”

When the projected Terra Linda High School students learn TM through a seven-step procedure, the new Initiate will bring an offering of fruit, a white handkerchief and flowers for step #4, a private Initiation ceremony. The Initiator will perform a puja ceremony upon an altar to the deceased "His Divinity Shankaracharya Bramananda Swaraswati of Jyotir Math" otherwise known as Guru Dev, Maharishi’s spiritual master. The Sanskrit puja offers obeisance to Guru Dev, Hindu deities, and a lineage called the Holy Tradition of Spiritual Masters from whence this teaching supposedly descended. According to TM teachings, TM's Initiator is the living embodiment of this ancient spiritual lineage.

What secular stress reduction technique has a Holy Tradition? For this reason, in 1979 New Jersey's Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Transcendental Meditation and the Science of Creative Intelligence are too religious to be taught in the New Jersey public schools, partially because of the puja ceremony required for TM instruction.

During the puja ceremony, the new initiate will hold one flower, quietly observing the Initiator perform the puja ceremony with burning camphor and incense, culminating with a bow to Guru Dev’s altar. With a gentle wave of one arm, the Initiator will invite the new initiate to likewise bow down to Guru Dev.

The new initiate will receive a secret mantra. The mantra is derived from the name of a Hindu deity. This word is never again to be repeated aloud by the meditator. Some common mantras are: Enga, Ema, Ainga, Shiring, Kirim, Sham. There are others. An early step of thought control is to teach one to keep secrets ostensibly for one's own benefit.

During the subsequent three meetings to elaborate upon the TM practice, new initiates will meditate together. In a relaxed semi-trance state, the brain readily absorbs information. The TM teachers will explain Cosmic Consciousness, God Consciousness and Unity Consciousness as evolutionary states of consciousness that can be achieved after long-term practice of TM. The Science of Creative Intelligence and costly TM-Sidhi program will be mentioned as options for advanced training at a later date. According to TM teachings, The TM-Sidhi program provides paranormal powers of invincibility such as friendliness, compassion, inner strength and levitation.

A TM-club could appear to be a positive peer support for those desiring a wholesome lifestyle and to associate with others of common values. For more vulnerable teens, this peer group’s idealism and group dynamics may prove seductive. A percentage of them will likely increase their involvement with programs at the local TM center. TM centers offer advanced meditation programs and residence programs to achieve deeper rest and release of stress along with a community of caring supportive other meditators. As one becomes further involved, he or she will learn life style guidelines to enhance their growth of consciousness. Such lifestyle guidelines include the use of unscientific Maharishi Ayur-Veda medicinals, Ghandarhva Veda music, Maharishi Jyotish astrology, and architectural guidelines for enlightened household construction called Sthapatya Veda. These advanced programs are optional, but highly lauded and encouraged. Coercive persuasion is subtle and slow.

A few may choose to attend Maharishi University of Management to study Vedic Science, or join the Thousand-Headed Purusha or Mother Divine programs –monastic branches of this "non-religious organization." Some may participate in programs, such as the Invincible America Course currently held simultaneously at Maharishi University of Management in Iowa and in Washington, DC, whereby groups of Sidhas (advanced meditators who have learned techniques for achieving paranormal powers) meditate together and also “levitate” together for hours daily. Maharishi teaches that these group meditations provide waves of coherent consciousness throughout the world, to generate world peace.

Group meditations, rather than political activism, would solve global problems. The devout may relocate to Maharishi Vedic City Iowa, where all is orchestrated according to Maharishi's fantastical Laws of Nature, beneath the golden banner for Maharishi's Global Country of World Peace. Purchases in Vedic City are made with their own currency, the The Raam.

Those with more time and money may opt for further expensive and prolonged meditation courses to become Rajas. Golden crowned Rajas are assigned a geographical domain to support consciousness expansion on Earth. Raja "training" costs one million dollars.

There is a history, albeit repressed, of some participants having psychotic breaks and other negative results from prolonged periods of deep meditation on TM sponsored courses.

Alcohol and tobacco come with warning labels. TM lacks a warning label. Full disclosure is imperative when introducing a new program to our public schools.

TM promoters well-intentionedly reveal only stress management information in introductory talks. The more elaborate teachings are carefully hidden in the beginning. They believe that people “are not ready for the full revelation of knowledge. When consciousness has expanded from experiencing the profound bliss of TM, then we slowly reveal more.”

Some may benefit from fifteen – twenty minutes’ daily catnaps. Others may fall sway to a deeper commitment to this method of consciousness expansion. I observed more than my fair share of others’ psychotic breaks, familial destruction and financial devastation by good-hearted people who committed their lives to the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation.

For the students' protection, please consider my family exposure to more than forty years of Transcendental Meditation's global growth as the disclosure label to this program coming to TLHS. In my opinion, if anyone wants to make a fully informed decision to learn TM, then go right ahead. However, I still maintain this does not belong in our public school system.

David Lynch’s sponsorship for Transcendental Meditation is as well intentioned as Tom Cruise’s enthusiastic endorsement of Scientology.

In the interest of full disclosure,

Gina Maria Catena
early Child of the Age of Enlightenment through Transcendental Meditation as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Mother of three TLHS alums
San Rafael, California

2 comments:

Tamas said...

It seems that this TM is not as systematic as it is said by its followers.
They say this is the true yoga and they explain a few things in a unique way like the 8 limbs of yoga.

The truth is that this system is good for some people but not good for others. Their technique can release the stress for some people but it can not give continuous development. People following the TM and TM-Siddhi program can not make progress after a while, they are stuck in the progress. TM organization can really give many nice things, like gandharva veda, ayurvedic medicines. In spite of that something is missing from this bunch of their techniques. There are many good things but they can not describe them in the optimum and desirable dosage.
The truth is according to my understanding that the problem is that this system is not systematic. It has many nice offering in terms of techniques but because some essential thing according to true yoga is not emphasised as it is needed, they just simply can not garantee continuous progress. One basic problem is that Maharishi never learnt yoga. According to my understanding he gained his state of consciousness vie absorption of the state of consciousness of Guru Dev. He wasn't a student of a yogi but a secretary of a yogi. He doesn't say what he did in the forest after the death of Guru Dev. Maharishi says holy tradition but what he teaches is made up by him according to my knowledge. However, Maharishi doesn't teach devotion, he teaches yoga in which he obviously failed.
Judging the TM from the viewpoint of yoga is very difficult because other called yoga systems has big scantiness too. There are many yoga system which think they offer yoga although they are even worse than TM. This means that other yoga systems reading this should not be happy because they don't have a clear picture about yoga in the case of 95% percentages too.

A true yoga system is not as easy as sitting down for 2-3 hours a day and doing nothing. A true yoga system can not say for people that they have different background and that karma is why they are stuck in progress. This blah is just to cover the lack of clear picture about yoga. A true yoga system can give full knowledge of the self (physiology, habits) where the failures of the individuals can be recognised and corrected via a systematic and conscious work. True yoga doens't offer levitation and enlightenment for everybody who can pay thousands of dollars. Yoga doesn't depend on money. It depends on logical and clear analytic thinking and disciplined hard work. True yoga can offer knowledge of the self and tools to correct ones mistake in his habits and lifestyle and tools to give health for the individuals. True yoga handle the 24 hours as a whole system and aware of the importance of its different parts.

TM can be good but not for levitation or enlightenment. This might be a dream but yoga is not about dreaming but systematically get to know its practitioner and correcting his/her mistakes. Meditation is a higher level of yoga which requires a good preparation of the body and the habits. Throwing meditation to anybody as TM does it can give only higher consciousness as lottery games give it: some gets something but most of them get nothing.
Yoga is not about gambling.

Steps of yoga are can not be handled as limbs of yoga. However, thing is to learn steps of yoga so getting into a yoga club and work on it step by step is not a straigthforward thing. The difficulty is to find a true yoga club. Most of the things which claimes to be yoga are giving aerobic and fitness trainings or some spiritual fog where allegedly called meditation is taught to anybody. None of them is yoga.
Yoga is not aerobic and yoga is not spiritual religion. Yoga is the way for getting to know somebody's weaknesses and eliminating them and parallely strengthening the body and the mind.
TM is not yoga however it contains elements of yoga taught in an improper way lacking the systematic and step by step way which always includes feedback of the current state of habits and physiology.
However other yoga where emphasis are on the asanas are far from yoga at least as TM does it.
If you do different yoga techniques without any continuously checked way then you CAN NOT expect things written in classic yoga sources. This is foolish.
Doing stationary yoga postures and think that is yoga is also a mistake. It can give physical and mental benefits as aerobic or swimming but can not give levels written in classic yoga sources. Both ways are foolish to think that it is yoga although they can give benefits for some people until a certain level in the progress.
Overdoing these things (religious belief in practice regularly some yoga techniques choosen at random) in the desire of gaining superabilities can do harm in the body and in the mind too.

Hope you can find some information which gives some hints about what is yoga and what is not yoga.

With regards,

Tamas


P.S.

My backround in this subject: 14 years of practising TM-Siddhi program including 7 years in the TM centers.
Some knowledge of Amma Ji technique, Sant Mat, Sivananda yoga, Kriya yoga (Yogananda), Iyengar and Satyananda yoga.

I work as engineer in life.

Which seems to give yoga as it should be is the Satyananda yoga from the above ones where the current master is Niranjanananda.
Iyengar is very good for the body specially if somebody wants to get a carrier in the circus. It gets hard too after a while.
Sant Mat and the Kriya yoga has clean technique but they lack of the knowledge of wholiness of yoga.
Sivananda yoga has lost the essence of what was carried by the big yogi Sivananda. I don't reccomend it.
TM is not as bad as it seems from this site but it is cearly not systematic. It is a good try
but it has the lack and inconsistency that comes from the fact that Maharishi is not trained in yoga at least according to my knowledge.
Teaching something without having been trained in it seems to not work in its full glory.
In spite of what I say I am happy to have been in the TM organization. I think I got many nice things, experiences, view for life from it.

If the school wants to be unique and more beneficial for they students than they can investigate juggling spread out by Jason Garfield or judo too. They could be nice and benefical choices.
Having yoga in a school should be asked from Satyananda yoga in my opinion although I don't know do they have this service or don't.


Hari Om Tat Sat.

Sudarsha said...

Hi, Tamas -- Your background is very impressive. I had forgotten about Sat Mat. I had learned that from a teacher back in the late 70's and promptly realized it was too much like TM to be of any further interest. There is simply so much out there. I guess Mahesh had much the same feeling; his A of E program was a curious take-off on some of the things Yogananda taught, things he easily got from people who came to him from SRF.

As well as being the great purveyor of secrets, he was also the great thief of the secrets of others or the secrets others claimed as their own.

One has to be as careful in these investigations as in all else. -- Thank you for sharing.

S

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