Is it a religion?
David Lynch recently was in Iceland promoting TM. I read an interview of Lynch found here: http://maharishi.posterous.com/iceland-news-david-lynch-answers-questions-on
It is easy to go cross-eyed with the TM speak but I want to tease out some significant points. Lynch says in reference to TM:
. . . I saw it as a spiritual path.
. . . Transcendental Meditation is not a religion, it's a mental technique.
. . . It is a scientific and spiritual path. People from all religions practice Transcendental Meditation as well as agnostics and atheists.
. . . Enlightenment does bring complete freedom from the world's strife and confusion. Full potential of the human being is called enlightenment. Enlightenment answers all questions, ends all suffering and all negativity.
So, we can conclude that Lynch believes that doing TM is a spiritual practice, but protests that it is not a religion. What does it mean to be a spiritual practice? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines spiritual as:
1 : of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit : incorporeal
2 a : of or relating to sacred matters
3 : concerned with religious values
4 : related or joined in spirit
5 a : of or relating to supernatural beings or phenomena b : of, relating to, or involving spiritualism : spiritualistic
These all are essentially mystical matters. Note the words "sacred," "spirit," "religious," and "supernatural." These are not words of science but words of religion.
So is the TM spiritual path religious? Merriam-Webster's definitions of religious include: "relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality." That is Lynch. Lynch claims he has meditated twice a day for 36 years. He believes enlightenment answers all questions and TM brings enlightenment. He is religious about TM.
Back to the dictionary: Merriam-Webster's definition of religion includes: "a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith." At least for Lynch, TM theory of enlightenment is a religion, despite his protestations to the contrary. He just doesn't know what the meaning of "is" is.
But TM is a religion fail. In response to the question "Is there a system of ethics connected to the practice of TM"? Lynch says no. Let us not ever forget that. There is no ethical framework to keep those in the TMO honest. There are no rules believers can point to which require that Haglin, Lynch, Morris, Nader, or Varma act in any particular way. I am someone who questions religious beliefs precisely because they are beliefs, not facts. But at least most religions arguably have ethical frameworks to help people to live their lives. Without an ethical framework TM is a religion fail and the movement something to distrust.