Monday, April 09, 2007

REMAINS OF IGNORANCE: Bankruptcy -- Financial and Spiritual

One of the most pressing problems facing current and former TMers I have counseled is financial wreckage -- remaining even long after leaving the Transcendental Meditation Movement.

It is not unusual for TMers to spend hundreds of thousand of dollars on courses, techniques, Ayur Vedic treatments, gems, and more with the Movement. And with current costs running from $2,500 for a beginning meditation technique that takes about an hour to learn to advanced courses that go for up to $1 million, the situation is likely to be much worse for the next generation of TMers.

I've spoken with dozens of TMers who were forced into bankruptcy. And I've heard of hundreds of other cases through third parties.

How do we explain such poor financial judgment? Outsiders, or even TMers who have not attended advanced courses, may never understand the psychological pressure placed on course participants to take advanced courses. Remember, most if not all the Maharishi's courses are announced as a plan for World Peace -- frequently accompanied with threats of world war or other dire consequences if TMers don't step up to the plate.

And most pitches for advanced techniques, courses, and health "consultations" take place when TMers are "rounding," that is when they are practicing many hours of meditation daily. Even just twice daily practice of TM induces trance. And trance increases suggestibility according to many researchers. So selling expensive courses that promise growth toward enlightenment when your marks are in a highly suggestible state is like shooting fish in a barrel.

But we don't have to resort to the "woo woo" factor to observe pressure on TMers for "more and more." And not all pressure comes from the dais from which course leaders extol the glories of advanced courses. On my own SCI course, my course leader repeatedly took me aside to personally exhort me to go on to Teacher Training. She even practiced with me what I could say to my mother to borrow the money from her. "Parents always want the best for children. In this generation, we are fortunate that parents can simply pay for the highest for their children. The knowledge of Maharishi."

Where does all the money come from? From obvious sources like life savings. From forgoing other life goals, like homes and education. From second mortgages. From not filing and paying one's taxes (I know of dozens in trouble with the IRS). From simple begging: More than just families and friends, TMers are encouraged to find wealthy individuals whom they can beg to become "sponsors" of their advanced courses.

And the course fees are not the only sacrifice TMers make for the sake of their spiritual "evolution." They often destroy careers. Many TMers jump from job to job, leaving one each time a new course is announced. The result? A résumé that looks like Swiss cheese in a series of dead-end jobs that should be beneath highly intelligent, talented, and creative individuals like those that chase the Maharishi's dreams. I know: Until I left the Movement in 1995, my résumé had a hole in it nearly every 9 months.

Now, it's true that there are TM millionaires. Some of them were millionaires before joining the Movement. Most of the others became wealthy exploiting cheap, highly skilled labor in the isolated Movement enclaves like Fairfield, Iowa. In either case, they can easily afford the extraordinary costs of honing their spiritual lives on expensive TM courses.

The real worry are the financial hostages of the Movement. Especially the lifelong Purusha and Mother Divine members who are now entering retirement age without money or pension plans.

What a wonder is the legacy of the Maharishi's World Plan.

Does any part of this resonate for you? Do you find yourself in difficult financial straits because of your addiction to TM courses?

Do you have this or similar "Remains of Ignorance"?

Please consider posting your thoughts in the comments below. Just click on "Comments" and type away. Please feel free to remain anonymous. You may help another former TMer with your insights!


REMAINS OF IGNORANCE is an occasional feature of quick hits on life after Transcendental Meditation. It's a reversal of the Maharishi's translation of lesh-avidya. He claimed this was a Vedantic concept: Even after enlightenment there remains some slight residue of ignorance without which one would "drop the body" or die.

I've found that even after I left the TM Org behind, there remain in my mind "alien artifacts," bits and pieces of TM-based myths that still affect me today. I represent my own experience only here. But I've learned from my years counseling TMers that a significant number of others have had similar experiences.

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