Monday, August 12, 2019

TM in Chicago schools: Letter to the Chicago Tribune editor

This is a letter, thus far unpublished, that I submitted to the editor of the Chicago Tribune as a followup to their story reporting the allegations that have been addressed to the Chicago Board of Education about the so-called "Quiet Time" program - actually, the Transcendental Meditation program - implemented in Chicago public high schools by the David Lynch Foundation and the University of Chicago.

(More: "Chicago Tribune reports on allegations of high school students coerced to practice TM," August 10, 2019, here at the TM-Free Blog)

The point of this letter is to make it clear, that the aim of the David Lynch Foundation in introducing TM into schools is not merely some innocuous effort, allegedly directed at some of this country's most disadvantaged schools and students,  to improve young people's lives. It is instead, part of a means to implement a baldly religious agenda, of a group that at its core is obviously a religious sect, to remake the world into what they call, "Heaven on Earth." They seek to achieve this outcome by getting as many people as possible to practice a very specific form of meditation that will, as if by magic, transform the planet from a state of relative chaos to their concept of an orderly "peace." 

This agenda is even part of the full name of the David Lynch Foundation, the rest of its name being, "for consciousness-based education and world peace." Both those aspects, explanations of which were purged some years ago from the Foundation's website, are religious concepts that are drawn from the Vedic scriptures of India and sanitized of explicitly religious content for a receptive Western audience, that has often been deliberately misled by the implied falsehood that there's some broad consensus in the scientific community in support of this practice.  The religiosity of the "puja" ritual integral to the teaching of TM, and the mantras having associations with Vedic/Hindu deities, are details that are simply the tip of the iceberg, when the grandiose "let's take over the world" aspects of the TM movement - that are not well known or obvious to outsiders - are considered.


To the Editor:

The basic problem with Transcendental Meditation is that it’s being taught and promoted by an organization of people who believe that, if enough people regularly repeat in their minds a special mantra, delivered in a special, private, ritualistic way - “we select only the suitable mantras of personal Gods,” TM’s founder, “Maharishi,” once said - the entire planet will be transformed into a state of “Heaven on Earth.” Thus they work to ensure that as many people as possible practice this particular brand of meditation, by means that include the questionable ethics of avoiding full disclosure of their goals and methods.

The basis for this belief, among insiders, is openly sourced to the spiritual culture of India, including the Vedas and other scriptures central to what we call Hinduism. That isn’t “scientific,” it’s an aspiration common among many religions. Despite that obvious fact, for more than a century, some Hindu fundamentalists (including “Maharishi” himself) have falsely cast parts of Vedic scripture as both scientific and as ancient precursors of modern scientific achievements. Decades ago, they deliberately recruited students who were trained in the scientific method. That tiny cohort, who’ve now been practicing TM for nearly a half century or more, have provided a veneer of Western scientific legitimacy that has gained them attention, respect and stature in secular culture that they don’t deserve. There’s no broad scientific consensus supporting the alleged benefits of meditation, or of TM in particular; like the tiny number of scientists who deny climate change, they don’t represent the authentic state of scientific consideration of their claims for TM. 

Thus we see institutions like the University of Chicago placing their reputations and dollars behind TM, along with public figures and cultural icons, who create undeserved legitimacy for a small sect of religious fundamentalists, and their practices.

Vital information and criticism that includes these facts about TM, including court opinions ruling against the teaching of TM in public schools, have been freely available for more than 25 years. Evidently, many in positions of responsibility, for whatever reason, have avoided the labor of basic research that should be mandatory whenever presented with some allegedly beneficial product or method that seems too good to be true. Given its history, the proponents of TM should never be allowed access to schools, prisons, employers, governments and other environments where the ability to decline consent may be compromised through coercion.

Mike Doughney

I co-coordinate “The TM-Free Blog,” a group collaboration founded by former practitioners of TM who are critical of the TM organization and its methods.  Since 1995, I’ve also maintained a website that’s supported that effort, that includes documentation of the organization’s teachings and methods that are otherwise unavailable to outsiders.


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