Monday, February 19, 2007

Do TMers Have Real Spiritual Experiences?

An important question. And one I believe readers must answer for themselves. I know that I experienced things I can't explain, but which appeared to meet the criteria for spiritual experiences as related in the Indian scriptures.

But I also know that the Transcendental Meditation Orgs – and their master, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – consistently fail to live up to the simplest spiritual truths of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, even Hinduism.

This remains a mystery to me. Please take a moment to share your thoughts on this topic by clicking on "Comments" below.

[A] bad guru can be extremely good for a sincere devotee…. It's the main reason so many bad gurus do good business. They are merely idols upon which sincere devotees project their own divinity, with sometimes seemingly miraculous results.
        --Jody R, Guruphiliac Blog


facedog said...

There are no such things as "spiritual experiences". They are all mental projections of what we imagine is the truth. The truth cannot be experienced. The TM Org sucks but the experiences many, including myself, have had are as valid as any found in scriptures. I remember Maharishi saying that one definition of insanity is when a person does not believe their own experiences are real. That may also be the definition of sanity.

Gina said...

Thanks, facedog, for your input, :)

Per my education, an insane person believes their hallucinations are real, and does not question their sanity. They see and act on their skewed realities.

A sane person questions when they have experiences outside-the-box.

Most cults use methods that induce altered psychological states. This is done through the controlled life style, trance states, hyperventilation, low protein diet that combine to affect our neurotransmitters (see "Brainwashing" by Kathleen Taylor, Oxford University Press).

These altered states ARE real! Are they spiritual? Are they altered neurochemicals? Are they addictive?

These states can be induced through long hours of a Large Group Awarness Training (LGAT) such as EST, through all night Bible Revival sessions with participants speaking in tongues, and through the use of peyote, among others.

IMHO, these experiences (yes, I had them in TM too) are not attributed uniquely to Maharishi, TM nor the TM Siddhis. They could be induced through any number of ways.

IMHO, the fallacy was believing that TM and MMY provided these experiences, that the experiences were "reality," and that some of us became hooked upon the experiences, driving our life directives accordingly, sometimes with tragic results.

Looking forward to hearing others opinions!
Gina :)

Sudarsha said...

Just over 4 years prior to learning about and then being taught TM, I had an experience that disrupted my core belief system. I began searching for something I knew I'd recognize if I could find it.

After learning TM, I had a series of experiences which other Initiators thought were deeply meaningful. They weren't sure what that deeply meaningful thing was, per se, but they were certain it was significant.

I have no idea what any of the experiences meant. I am happy to approach all experience, now or then as simply one of the four foundations of mindfulness (to which I referred in Mantra Part 4).

I can only speak for myself when I say that experiences do not need to have conceptualizaitons/projections of something attached to them.

Padmasambhava's words

As for the innermost advice: no matter what kind of disturbing emotion you feel, look into the emotion and it tracelessly subsides. The disturbing emotion is thus naturally freed. This is simple to practice.

work very well for me whether it's emotion, physical feeling, preference or ideology. It was a long search before these words or words to this effect, but they have served me well.


Anonymous said...

As Face Dog correctly pointed out, most "spiritual experiences" are simple mental phenomenon and therefore would not be spiritual experiences, but samsaric ones. In this case I'm defining spiritual experiences as the experiences a mantra-yogin would have above the heart chakra--but a higher standard or higher definition for "spiritual experience" would be the fine processes above the ajna chakra, after the opening of this center, "the third eye". This places the practitioner of the edge of the subtle intellect, the vijnanamaya-kosha, which is the first level where we begin to really perceive pure consciousness and not some laya or subtle samsaric discursive-thought-free pattern.

Of course you cannot rule out that a TMer could awaken at this level because it's hard to know what previous experience a person has had. But since the techniques for having this awakening are not part of TM or the TM Sidhi program, it's rather unlikely, esp. given the precise instruction and expertise necessary to navigate the realms above this level. A common argument by TMers is that these things will "spontaneously occur", but this is definitely not the case. The Vedic texts describing the mantric path tell us the chance of that happening is one person every thousand years. It would be easier to be hit by lightning.

There are several types of experiences TMers tend to get trapped in. There is an emphasis by the Maharishi on 'bliss this, bliss that' and what ends up happening is many tend to see that as desirable. Consequently they get trapped in patterns of dualistic bliss: they become cosmic heroin junkies.

Another common trap are the siddhis themselves, which tend to produce results outside the spiritual core of our being, the avadhuti or sushumna, and instead directly stimulate the dalas or petals of the crown chakra. One will generally have exeriences for a while, but these will typically subside and leave one stranded with a kundalini imbalance/disorder.

facedog said...

I would consider all such experiences above also to be mental projections and imaginations. They sure sound mental to me. Only the awareness of our own simple existence is spiritual. It takes "two" to have an experience, ie Being cannot be "experienced".

TM and Maharishi gave nothing to any of us. We gave it to ourselves, starting long ago. Like Betty said, we all paid in advance, which I am grateful for since it means I owe no debt of gratitude to MMY... and also no blame.

Anonymous said...

I would consider all such experiences above also to be mental projections and imaginations. They sure sound mental to me. Only the awareness of our own simple existence is spiritual. It takes "two" to have an experience, ie Being cannot be "experienced".

"Think" of it as a different level of being: thought occurs at one level, prana and discriminating intellect another. The higher levels of these are what would be called "spiritual experiences". "Being" or "transcendence" are not experiences per se, because there is no conventional experiencer.

Of course post hoc descriptions of any experience, even "being" or transcendence, will have to rely on dualistic means (typing, speaking, describing) to convey the "non-experienced experience". Unfortunately this dichotomy (of describing the ineffable with words and so on) is often used by TM adherents to fallaciously deconstruct their critics very points.

I'm not implying that this is what you are doing, but it's a common fallacy used as a form of one-upmanship in TM and pseudo-advaita circles when trying to take an absolute point-of-view, while at the same time, rejecting the relative.

facedog said...

I'm no expert in spiritual philosophies, but I would always consider any kind of experience to be "relative". Higher or lower, spiritual or pseudo-spiritual don't mean much to me now. I am fed up with all of them and just want peace. For instance, on my TTC I "saw" a being I considered to be an angel. It was as real as any other person and I saw it while listening to a lecture. It looked like a Hindu god of some kind, although I had no knowledge of gods at that time. More than a year later while eating breakfast I felt a presence behind me, turned and saw the same being behind me just silently looking at me and as real as anybody in the world. The face was angelic, so pure that I could not determine if it was "good or evil". It frighteneed me so much that I screamed, "Get out of here and never come back!" It's been more than 30 years now and so far so good... To me this is not a spiritual experience.

Vaj said...

facedog shared:

"I'm no expert in spiritual philosophies, but I would always consider any kind of experience to be "relative". Higher or lower, spiritual or pseudo-spiritual don't mean much to me now. I am fed up with all of them and just want peace.

It's interesting, the Tibetans actually have a word, "nyams", which means a "meditative experience". It's interesting because what the word also means is "meditation moods" (sound familiar?), failure (to maintain nonduality), transgressor, corruption, corrupted, humiliated, apprehension of other words, it's not necessarily a good thing, just a "sign" or a clarification for ideas you hold. In general they feel they should be taken note of, but not dwelled upon.

Lehmann108 said...

I have had deep, profound, life altering experiences through the practice of TM and especially the TM-siddhis program. The greatest irony though was that I left the TM movement because of these experiences. The clarity of intellect that arose with the "awakening" of pure consciousness to its unbounded nature made it abundently clear that the TM movement was no longer for me.
MMY presents a valid path for some people to awakening. The key here is "some people". But the human mind in bondage perverts everything into a conceptual cult and that is what has become of the TMO for many people. The agenda then becomes keeping the concepts "pure" rather than on authentic spiritual awakening. There are deeply realized people involved in the TM to a greater or lesser degree, but those in power are as ignorant as logs, unfortuately, and actually have "asuric" natures-they produce more bondage than liberation.
MMY is a great paradox. He has a very grasping, controlling, deceptive personality in many ways. In the language of SCI this is his point value. And it is a point value that many people find disturbing and slightly insane at times. But that personality is also awake to its unbounded nature and that Brahman blazes out to those who have the dharma to experience such a thing.
You have to keep your own counsel on a spiritual path. You have to trust yourself, yet also be open to the advice and influence of others. And when this advice is no longer of value, you leave and move on to whatever is next needed. Many of the "official" posters on this blog got badly burned by the TMO/MMY. I understand this and certainly don't deny their experience and agree with many of their comments regarding the TMO/MMY. But many seem to over simplify their TMO/MMY experience into "all bad" and then this gets countered by the TMO/MMY cultist trying to show how TM is "all good." Both sides seem to be in denial regarding the other. MMY is a great paradox. I will always feel fondly towards him because he, personally, and his body of practices was a profound spiritual catalyst for me. But I have certainly moved on.

Anonymous said...

Lehmann 108 -- a very compelling understanding, thanks for posting it. Yes, "some people" have done well with TM. And some, not so much.

You said "You have to keeep your own counsel on a spiritual path." I agree. -- The paradox that is Mahesh can be a tremendous issue, but one that I cannot countenance.

For me, what he has brought to light actually sheds more light on other things that I personally feel are of more worth and, in that capacity, Mahesh has been helpful.

But my own experiences doing TM and its etcetras was the opposite of yours. When I took up another path, I had experiences much more like yours.

I can only wish that TM came with warning labels and exit plans and was as generous to those in need as it has been to Mahesh and his family.

facedog said...

Thanks, Lehmann108. I understand and appreciate your perspective.

Anonymous said...

The real evil here is not the practice of TM, but of the practices that have made their way from the ignorant former country of Tibet. For thousands of years the Tibetans in their odd little costumes have sought to spread their corrupted forms of meditation to the world, having already brought about their own destruction.

It is these Tibetan forms of meditation based solely on concentration, not transcendence, which have corrupted the world's practice of meditation from that of an effortless technique, to one of ardent concentration- resulting in headaches.

So, beware anyone espousing the Tibetan meditations. They will be to a man or woman anti TM, and very pro aspirin.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...


I practiced Tibetan meditation for some years. It didn't include concentration as I understand it. And I never experienced a headache.

In fact, I've never known anyone from another spiritual discipline to complain of headaches. Meditation, as far as I know, is consider a reasonably easy thing to do in all traditions.

I've often wondered about the Maharishi's claim that concentration causes headaches. I think it may be a smokescreen that he raises to deter people from trying other meditations. Even Silva Mind Control, which I found does encourage concentration, did not cause headaches for me.

I'm interested in hearing others viewpoints on this. I'm considering doing a blog post on the whole myth of headaches.


Anonymous said...

I've never known anyone from another spiritual discipline to complain of headaches.

This sparked my curiosity, so I did a Web search. Before you spend too much time busting the "myth of headaches," you might want to do the same. Most of the hits on meditation + headache will be on meditation for relief of tension headache, but I found several dealing with headache from meditating.

There's a bunch of complaints on a chat board here:

I found these quotes on two other sites:

"I also have had for many years severe headache after meditation. The deeper the meditation, the stronger the headache. If headache comes, we put up with it."

"In meditation, do not strain the eyes. Do not strain the brain. Do not struggle or wrestle with the mind. It is a serious mistake. Many beginners commit this grave error. That is the reason why they get easily tired soon. They get headache."

These were just from the first page of hits.

Hope this helps.

Judy Stein

facedog said...

Have to agree with Judy. I have done several meditation techniques other than TM and they all included advice about dealing with headaches.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Well, thanks for the input, both of you. It's not something I've run across, but it appears that it does crop up.


Post a Comment