Thursday, November 04, 2021

Two former Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment students charged with first degree murder

A school yearbook from 2013 contains photos of the two 16 year olds charged as adults with first degree murder, whose families are known to be part of the meditator community in Fairfield, Iowa. 

The Des Moines Register reports:

A southeast Iowa town is reeling after two high school students were charged with first-degree murder in the death of their Spanish teacher.

Police confirmed Thursday that human remains discovered Wednesday in Fairfield's Chautauqua Park were those of Nohema Graber, who had been reported missing earlier in the day, according to a news release from the city of Fairfield posted on Facebook.

Graber, 66, had taught Spanish at Fairfield High School since 2012. Police allege two students at the high school — Willard Noble Chaiden Miller, 16, and Jeremy Everett Goodale, 16 — are responsible for her death.

Both have been charged with first-degree homicide and first-degree conspiracy to commit homicide and will be charged as adults "based on the circumstances and their ages," according to the news release.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

New PTSD studies: TM as a "black box" - what's inside?

Recent studies claiming that Transcendental Meditation is effective in treating PTSD, and that it provides other benefits, treat TM as a “black box.” As with many similar past studies, researchers fail to consider that this method of meditation instruction contains several hours of other information, which creates a context of expectation of life improvement, a structure or habit which will improve life, and an authority who provides the assurance that TM will unfailingly produce those changes. These inadequacies in the design of these studies would be obvious, if all aspects of instruction in the TM program that have never been opened for examination by the TM teaching organization were properly studied and controlled for by independent researchers.

Another research study, this time on using TM as a method of treating PTSD, has just been published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress. The study, “A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of Transcendental Meditation as Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Veterans,” purports to show that “Veterans with PTSD who practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique showed significant reductions in PTSD symptom severity.” A widely circulated press release issued by Maharishi International University announced this study, headlined with the “Transcendental Meditation effective in reducing PTSD, sleep problems, depression symptoms” claim. It includes the same sort of ubiquitous bar chart that’s been seen in TM promotional efforts since at least the mid-1970’s.

It should be noted that while the data analysis performed in this study showed significant positive changes with respect to PTSD, insomnia, depression and anxiety, there were no significant changes on the measures of anger and quality of life, the last being one of TM’s traditional selling points. More notable is the way in which this study, as with many others performed with the participation of the Maharishi International University (MIU) research faculty, relies on a vague if not inappropriately inaccurate description of Transcendental Meditation, as if it were solely a method practiced inside the mind and contained no other significant aspects, doctrine or belief that might in some way affect behavior which would then produce these results, among some people, for some limited period of time. 

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Demystifying the Puja, part 3: Misleading everyone for decades about this ritual’s true nature and purpose

The Transcendental Meditation instruction ritual, the puja, should be viewed in the context of a half-century long attempt to deliberately mislead the public, institutional and governmental authorities, and prospective meditators about the nature and purpose of the TM program. This misrepresentation is evident in the organization’s own descriptions of the nature of the puja, and the obvious conflict between its insistence that this ritual is somehow “secular” when its function in Indian spiritual culture, which is TM’s origin, is unambiguously a religious one.
The Transcendental Meditation puja table. The
framed image is a registered trademark/service
mark held by Maharishi Foundation Liechtenstein 
in the United States. Photo by the author.

Read this series from the beginning - Introduction.


Part 1 of this series: Establishing authority and dominance over the meditator

Part 2 of this series: A religious transaction with the divine

Throughout more than 50 years of the teaching of TM in the United States, the TM organization has never provided a coherent and reasonable explanation for the presence of this ritual in each and every instance of TM instruction. The organization, and the allied David Lynch Foundation (DLF), have refused to set aside the puja when teaching TM in public schools. If the ritual were, as they claim, simply some method of honoring some past tradition, teachers could perform it at home, without the presence of the meditator they’re instructing, and without the meditator providing tangible offerings of fruit, flowers and handkerchief. But that option has never been accepted by the DLF or the organization, for reasons that have not yet been divulged.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Demystifying the Puja, part 2: A religious transaction with the divine

The Transcendental Meditation organization has consistently misrepresented the meaning and nature of the puja, TM's instruction ritual, for half a century. Recently, a new document has surfaced explaining, in detail, the puja's meaning in the context of the spiritual traditions of India. This ceremony is a religious transaction in which the prospective meditator is a co-participant, making offerings to the divine. These offerings are represented by the items set out on the puja table, for each of which, it’s alleged, the meditator will receive a blessing in the form of the advertised benefits of TM. These offerings include the fruit, flowers and handkerchief brought by the meditator.

Read this series from the beginning - Introduction.

Some of the TM puja offerings.
Photo by the author

Previously, part 1 of this series: Establishing authority and dominance over the meditator

The inclusion of this ritual, and the organization’s unwillingness to ever remove the ritual in certain settings where it has been problematic such as public schools, completely invalidate their claims that TM practice, including its teaching, is entirely secular and scientific in nature. The TM organization and its teachers have evidently always falsely insisted, to the point of absurdity, that the ritual is not religious because there is no explicit object or deity of worship. But that is not the only measure by which a practice may be considered religious. 

The puja ritual, according to the interpretation taught in TM movement schools in India, involves an exchange of value with a divine entity as a required means of gaining benefit from the method the meditator is about to learn. There is nothing secular nor scientific about this performance, and that is true even if the participant has no knowledge or understanding of what is taking place. The specious claim that the prospective meditator need only witness the performance of the ritual, or that it is only to “honor” an alleged tradition and its history of teachers, is negated by both the requirement that the meditator bring certain items to be used in the ritual, and the meaning of the ritual to the organization and its insiders, as is clear in this new document: that it is performed for the new meditator’s eventual benefit.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Demystifying the Puja, part 1: Establishing authority and dominance over the meditator

The Transcendental Meditation instruction ritual, the puja, is much more than just some “simple thank-you ceremony.” Its most important purpose is that it provides a certain unusual experience to the new meditator, of reverence and devotion, that they will remember. It’s intended to create an expectation for, and to reinforce the supposedly life-changing benefits of, the meditation itself. It is an expression of power, legitimacy and dominance of an inherently supremacist religious tradition over the new meditator, and also serves as a reminder of that dominance and authority to the TM teacher. 

The brass tray used in the Transcendental
Meditation puja. 
Photo by the author.

puja, in my opinion, serves two purposes that are not clearly disclosed to new meditators beforehand. The first purpose, in my view, is that it’s intended to establish a certain kind of imbalanced power dynamic between the TM hierarchy and the new meditator, who I will call the “initiate” as that, and calling the instruction process “initiation,” were the historical terms used by TM teachers during the height of TM’s popularity in the 1970’s. I believe that “initiation” is actually a more accurate term for the process of TM instruction, as aspects of the closed-door, supposedly private process in which a “secret” mantra is imparted to the meditator, are analogous to the kind of induction ritual common among fraternities or secret societies.

The puja is performed after the prospective meditator arrives to be instructed in this form of meditation, but just before they are given an allegedly personally selected mantra, that’s simplistically chosen by the teacher on simple criteria of gender and age.  It’s at this point in the 6 day long TM instruction process that a subtle bait-and-switch becomes evident. TM is sold as if it were any other skill that involved an instructor: the initiate simply pays to learn something they would otherwise not know. But there are other elements inherent to TM instruction, geared toward making the “initiate” - not simply a student - into a devotee of an allegedly centuries-old “tradition” that was exemplified by a deceased, divine “Guru Dev,” whose image is a central element of the puja setting. The ritual and the rhetoric surrounding it places the initiate as something other than a customer or trainee. The initiate’s position is that of submitting to some higher authority, which is cast as being the present representative of some ancient tradition.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Introduction: Demystifying the Puja, a 3 part series

The Transcendental Meditation instruction ritual, the puja, establishes for new meditators the dominance and authority of TM’s founding tradition and organization, and satisfies a traditional religious belief that the benefits of TM will only come by way of a tangible offering made to the primary, supreme divine beings of Hinduism. In an effort to maintain an illusory image of TM in which it’s a scientific, evidence-based practice having no religious foundation, TM teachers always misrepresent the purpose and nature of this aspect of TM. They deny this ritual’s religious origin and nature, it is in fact central to the teaching and practice of TM, and it is much more than what they call it, “a simple thank-you ceremony.”

Camphor flame, part of the puja.
Photo by the author.

Instruction in the practice of Transcendental Meditation always involves the performance of a ritual, an expression of devotion that’s clearly of a religious nature. This puja is rooted in Hindu or Vedic spiritual practice, of the religious culture of India which is the source of everything associated with TM and its founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The presence of this puja as well as other religious aspects of TM, a religiosity that’s consistently denied by TM teachers and the organization, once resulted in an injunction prohibiting TM instruction in public schools in one region of the United States. A case currently active in Chicago seeks a similar outcome in the aftermath of a program that attempted to offer TM in public schools there.

Given the controversial nature of this ritual, TM teachers and promoters of Transcendental Meditation have always avoided describing it in any detail when discussing the process of teaching TM. They insist that TM is “not a religion” while the culture that surrounds TM and its teaching are saturated with a sanitized, irreligious at first glance, Hindu, or Vedic, doctrine. In a futile attempt to squelch free and public discussion of these aspects of TM instruction, TM teachers tell meditators not to discuss any aspects of personal instruction, including this ritual, with friends and family, while many of these details have been available online for almost three decades. A nondisclosure agreement has also been a part of TM instruction for many years.

Monday, February 15, 2021

You can't spell TM without SCI

A formal reckoning with attempts by the David Lynch Foundation (DLF) to place Transcendental Meditation programs in public schools, defying the fact that a Federal court injunction prohibited TM instruction within them on Constitutional grounds, is long overdue. The flaws in the Malnak v. Yogi opinions, leaving unaddressed the possibility that TM could be completely separated from a formal course in the so-called “Science of Creative Intelligence,” have been deliberately misunderstood and exploited by the DLF and the TM organization for years. The suggestion that TM promotion and instruction in public schools would be permissible if the words “Science of Creative Intelligence” were never mentioned is simply ridiculous; TM is the practical element of SCI and doctrinal tenets of SCI of a religious nature are present throughout TM promotion, preparation and instruction. 

Northern District of Illinois courtroom.
(Library of Congress photo)
Since the puja, the ceremony which is always performed before individual TM instruction, occurred on Chicago school premises (as the DLF has insisted that it must), in some fundamental way the DLF was organizing its own prayer services on school property; whether they were understood to be religious by students is irrelevant. The organization mandated a puja performance to satisfy its own priorities, based in its own SCI doctrine, with respect to TM instruction. 

The religiosity of what the David Lynch Foundation and its allies have attempted to do, rooted in the doctrine of SCI, is obvious, and the District Court’s phrasing in its Malnak opinion over forty years ago is still very appropriate here:  “the proposition needs no further demonstration.”

Monday, September 28, 2020

Maharishi's many euphemisms for "God"

The TM organization has for almost a half-century now denied the religious nature of its methods and doctrine, almost to the point of absurdity. The fact of the matter is that almost all of the TM promotional material - books, websites, the content of introductory lectures - is littered with various synonyms for, what people in much of the world call “God.” More specifically, the underlying system is that of a Vedic, or Hindu, cosmology, and there’s a central concept of supreme divinity or ultimate reality in the TM subculture that they repeat under many alternate names. 

From a TM organization, in India, video. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva
behind Maharishi and his guru, Brahmananda Saraswati.

That supreme being in Hinduism is a triad of deities known as the Trimūrti: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer, and Shiva the destroyer. Direct references to the Trimūrti are not common in TM culture, but they can be found, as in the video image above, and as in this excerpt of an address given by Maharishi in 2007 referencing a phrase that’s contained in the puja that’s the central ritual of TM instruction, in which the Trimūrti are mentioned in Sanskrit. I’ve emphasized the relevant parts here:

We are fortunate to perform Puja to Guru Dev because in Guru Dev we have the reality of Krishna—reality of Total Knowledge is embodiment of Total Knowledge. "Gurur Brahma, Gurur Vishnur, Guru Devo Maheshvarah, Guruh Sakshat Param Brahma, Tasmai Sri Gurave Namah." Guru Brahma—Guru is the creator. Guru Vishnu—Guru is the maintainer. Guru Devo Maheshvarah—Guru is eternal Shiva, absolute silence. And Guru Sakshat Param Brahma, and Guru is the summation of the three, diversity, and unity. Tasmai Sri Guruve Namah. That is why we bow down to Guru Dev. Bowing down to Guru Dev is in essence, in reality, subjecting ourself to that eternal unified state which is the be-all and end-all of existence.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Update: Chicago lawsuit against TM public schools program expanded into class action

Plaintiffs bringing legal action against the David Lynch Foundation (the DLF), a Chicago Public Schools district, and the University of Chicago, seeking redress as a result of the so-called "Quiet Time" program to introduce TM into public schools, have amended their complaint, making it a class action lawsuit.

Puja table set up for TM instruction.
The framed image is a registered trademark/service mark
held by Maharishi Foundation Liechtenstein in the United States.
Photo by the author.

Previously, from August 2020:

Lawsuit in progress: David Lynch Foundation abandons TM "Quiet Time" program in Chicago

Here's the relevant part of the amendment which was filed yesterday.

A. Class Definition(s)
94. The (b)(2) Injunctive and Declaratory Relief Class consists of:
All persons who are CPS students, CPS teachers, parents or legal guardians of CPS students directly associated with any CPS school facilitating the “Quiet Time” program, or any other program involving the practice of “Transcendental Meditation.”
95. The Three (b)(3) Sub-Classes consist of:
All students who attended a CPS school during a period when the school facilitated the “Quiet Time” program.

All teachers at CPS schools who were required to accommodate, endorse, facilitate, or enable the “Quiet Time” program at a CPS school where they were employed at the time.

All parents and legal guardians of students who attended a CPS school during a period when the school facilitated the “Quiet Time” program.

This is apparently the second class action lawsuit brought against organizations attempting to offer TM in public schools. In 1975 a California school district was the target of a class action for offering TM as an English elective, for credit, and as part of a physical education program. The suit was dismissed as moot after the school district declared that they would never again offer or recommend such courses.

The three defendants have not yet replied to the complaint, except to successfully challenge a demand for an immediate temporary restraining order.

The amended complaint may be viewed and downloaded, here.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Lawsuit in progress: David Lynch Foundation abandons TM "Quiet Time" program in Chicago

A lawsuit has recently been filed against the David Lynch Foundation (the DLF), a Chicago Public Schools district, and the University of Chicago as a result of the Transcendental Meditation organization’s effort to orchestrate what it called a “research study,” to demonstrate what they have claimed are the benefits of TM for high school students. The plaintiffs bringing this action include the student, parent and substitute teacher who testified at a Chicago Board of Education hearing one year ago. They alleged that, to participate in the program, students were required to participate in the TM initiation “puja” ritual, which had already been found to be religious in nature in a previous Federal court case. They also alleged that students were coerced in various ways to participate in the program and that class time was wasted on meditation. All of these activities were running under the “Quiet Time” moniker, the somewhat generic, obfuscating title that the DLF has given to its advocacy of TM in both public and private schools.

Puja table set up for TM instruction.
Fruit, flowers and handkerchief are generally provided by the prospective meditator.
Photo by the author.

Read the original story here at the TM-Free Blog, from August 2019:
Chicago Tribune reports on allegations made by high school students, that they were coerced to practice TM  

The plaintiffs, who also include an advocacy group and an association of local churches, asserted that they were deprived of their rights by the DLF, the public school system and the University of Chicago, by violating the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The suit seeks redress in the form of an immediate restraining order against these three institutions, and various injunctions against the teaching of TM in Chicago public schools. The broadest of these requests is for “a declaratory judgment that facilitating, establishing, implementing, or reimplementing the “Quiet Time” program, or any other program involving the practice of “Transcendental Meditation,” within or through any CPS school violates the United States Constitution.” Finally, the suit seeks to obtain “compensatory damages for the mental anguish and emotional distress suffered in connection with the constitutional deprivations suffered at the hands of the named Defendants.”

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Leslie's story: "The Truth Pissed Me Off"

This is another unsolicited, contributed story from a former TM meditator, Leslie (not her real name). She points out the habits that TM critics are quite familiar with: pervasive narcissism, isolation, avoidance, and dependence on others to live a life that's supposedly "without stress." Ultimately, for some, living with a long-time meditator, who's living a lifestyle centered on TM and adopting the movement's pervasive belief system - a lifestyle and belief that TM's proponents consistently maintain, does not exist - may be hazardous to your health.

Stock photo, not the contributor. (Shutterstock)
I learned TM in 1999 after meeting my husband-to-be, who was a long-time meditator and "Siddha." Soon we got married--and I moved from the U.S. to Europe where he lived. We would meditate together every day during the entire length of our marriage--15 years. 

We never joined any of the advanced programs due to the fact that we never had the funds to do so (or I should say, I never joined because he had already taken those advanced programs long before we met). But we started to get very interested in the developments in Fairfield, Iowa and the "Global Country of World Peace." We would have moved to Iowa if we had the funds. In a way, we had been in the "fringe" of the movement, just meditating on our own. My ex-husband did not practice the Siddhi program very often, and when he did, I never saw him do the yogic flying or even hops, only twitches in the body. He never told me any details about this program due to his "secrecy" vows. Through him, I learned about the many fantastic benefits of moving up on the Consciousness ladder, and he often described how "superior" he was in his physical perceptions, his creative power and his ability to read people--attributing those to the TM and Siddhi program, leading me to aspire to one day be able to take the advanced courses and move toward "Cosmic Consciousness."

During the entirety of our marriage, the theme of "living without stress"--one of the promises of TM--was prominent. It was his life goal and he made sure he did his part--he quit his job as soon as I moved in with him, letting me do all the hard work to bring home the bacon. Since then he never held any meaningful jobs for more than a short period of time. After 15 years of this, I was anything but "free from stress." However, "thanks to" the daily meditation, I felt I could go on with this lifestyle because it was helping me de-stress and forget about life's struggles. After all, we lived a life rather isolated from the rest of the world and felt "free" in our own world. But I developed a serious physical illness because of frustrations of not being able to develop a meaningful career for myself due to the need to support his creative career. I also had bouts of depressive episodes, burnout and suicidal ideation. Sometimes I would have outbursts of anger due to this internal frustration, but was gaslighted and my feelings dismissed.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Allen Ginsberg on Maharishi: "he sounds inexperienced or ignorant and unfamiliarly authoritarian"

There's this widespread misconception about the basic nature of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, that shows up in a lot of news reporting and reminiscing about him, even in his New York Times obituary, where they say, "he was often dismissed as a hippie mystic."

What doesn't seem to have been mentioned very often is that the yogi detested "hippies." His politics, as much as he ever expressed them, were quite illiberal and entirely supportive of the "establishment," and he maintained ties with right-wing, Hindu nationalist politicians in India. Here in the US, many of his followers were of that class that are today often called the "one percent" - celebrities, businessmen, and billionaires like Oprah Winfrey ($2.7 billion) and Ray Dalio ($18.7 billion). (That's why I often call TM "the favorite meditation technique of the om percent.") Maharishi's fabled ashram in Rishikesh was paid for in 1963 with a $100,000 donation (almost a million in today's dollars) from tobacco heiress Doris Duke ($1.3 billion at her 1993 death).

Girish Varma with India defense minister, and former
president of the BJP, Rajnath Singh, August 2019
The not-so-obvious political leanings of the founder of TM are still relevant today, when it turns out that his nephew and apparent heir to the TM movement in India, Girish Varma (aka Brahmachari Girish Ji) spends a lot of time hanging out with politicians of the ruling party in India, the Hindu supremacist/nationalist, right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Rather than obscuring or avoiding mention of those connections, as they used to, today all you need to do is follow Varma's Facebook to see the photographic evidence. In this photo he's meeting with the defense minister, congratulating him on his party's recent election victory.

With all that in mind, here's philosopher and poet Allen Ginsberg's description of his brief meeting with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in January of 1968. This was published in the London underground newspaper, The International Times, and this article was reprinted in other underground and alternative newspapers in the following months.

The Maharishi and Me
by Allen Ginsberg

International Times, #26, Feb 16 - 29, 1968
Fifth Estate, #54, May 16 - 31, 1968

Allen Ginsburg in 1979.
Dutch National Archives -
 Wikimedia Commons
I saw Maharishi speak here January 21st and then went up to the Plaza Hotel that evening (I’d phoned for tickets to his organization and on return telephone call they invited me up, saying Maharishi wanted to see me)… so surrounded by his disciples I sat at his feet on the floor and listened while he spoke.

At a previous press conference I’d not been at I heard he’s said all sorts of outlandish things like poverty was laziness and I saw in “IT” (International Times, an English underground paper) his equatory communism—weakism. So after I was introduced I sat at his feet and literally started yelling at him… spoke for half an hour almost, challenging, arguing… all in good humor though his business managers and devotees gasped with horror occasionally. But I never got impolite and he stayed calm and rather sweet so no harm.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

It's time for... Transcendental Meditation Commenter Bingo!

This bingo card is culled from, and inspired by, comments on the TM-Free Blog Facebook page in recent months, and also from my experience online over the past 25 years. Particularly that free square in the middle!

This card is mostly based on the comments from meditators defending TM, but two squares are from the Christian, "TM will steal your eternal soul and cause demonic possession" sort of viewpoint, to which we don't subscribe nor support.