That man cannot live indefinitely in the spiritual vacuum of secular humanism is being quietly demonstrated in a novel way in public high schools across the United States. Just ten years after the Supreme Court decision made de jure the de facto secularization of the American public school system, legislators and school administrators are looking to a new religious practice to help control their restive student changes. This new religious practice is called Transcendental Meditation, as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Amazingly enough, Transcendental Meditation (TM) has already achieved a semi-established status in Illinois: the State House of Representatives on May 24, 1972, passed a resolution by representative “Bingo” Bill Murphy, HR677, providing among other things “that all educational institutions, especially those under State of Illinois jurisdiction, be strongly encouraged to study the feasibility of courses in Transcendental Meditation and the Science of Creative Intelligence on their campuses and in their facilities.…” A similar resolution, ACR66, has been introduced into the California State Assembly by Oakland assemblyman Ken Meade. But it remained for the federal government to be the first to appropriate funds for the spread of Transcendental Meditation; a National Institutes of Health grant provided $21,540 for training 130 high school teachers as instructors in the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI) at Humboldt State College, California, during August, 1972. (SCI is the doctrinal and TM the practical aspect of the system of yoga taught by the Maharishi.) As a result of this federal generosity, TM is being taught in high schools in a considerable number of states not previously reached.

Science Or Religion?

The organization promoting TM, the Student’s International Meditation Society/International Meditation Society (SIMS/IMS), insists in its publicity that SCI is a “science” and that TM is not a religion or a religious practice. Only on this basis has SIMS been permitted to teach the integrated SCI/TM course in public high schools across the country. But the less widely publicized yet authoritative writings of the founder and head of SIMS, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, contradict this non-religious view of TM and bear out the judgment that TM is a variant of Hinduism.

Although he is best known to the general public as the ex-guru of the Beatles, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi deserves to be taken quite seriously as a religious leader in view of the worldwide organization he has developed in the last fourteen years. Since his first visit to the United States in 1959, his organization has trained more than 250,000 persons in TM in the United States alone. Currently more than 15,000 new meditators are initiated monthly at some 200 strategically located centers in this country. Fees of $35, $45, and $75 respectively are collected from high school, college, and adult initiates. From these figures it appears that the Maharishi’s organization receives over half a million dollars a month, or well over six million dollars annually, from this source. SIMS is a non-profit, tax-exempt educational organization incorporated in California.

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Campus Impact

The initial appeal of TM was to college students, and instruction has been offered to students on nearly every campus in the nation. Campus chapters of SIMS are said to be active at more than 1,000 U. S. colleges. Interest in TM later broadened to faculty and beyond with the publication of scientific research supporting claims that TM is physically relaxing, mentally tranquilizing, and helpful in reducing drug abuse. SIMS has made a remarkable penetration of the academic and scientific communities on the basis of such research, which indicates that during the actual practice of meditation, TM markedly reduces body metabolism and increases alpha brain-wave production. A variety of mental and psychological benefits such as improved memory, superior motor control, and a more integrated personality have also been claimed on the basis of the work of various researchers.

SIMS has founded a university called Maharishi International (MIU) to preserve the purity of the teaching of TM and to sponsor further research. In cooperation with MIU, SIMS sets up the courses in SCI for colleges and high schools. An SCI course is even designed for elementary schools. The first SCI course for university credit was taught at Stanford in 1970 by SIMS national director Jerry Jarvis. At the university level the SCI course covers a variety of speculations about human consciousness and its alteration along with the basic writings of the Maharishi. The “laboratory work” for the course is always the same, the practice of TM. Such a course has been offered for credit at about fifty schools, including Yale, the University of Colorado, and several campuses of the University of California.

Symposiums on the Science of Creative Intelligence held since 1971 have drawn the sympathetic participation of a number of scientists and men of letters, including such notables as Buckminster Fuller and Marshall McLuhan. The importance of these meetings should not be underestimated, for they add impetus to a remarkable convergence of the world views of twentieth-century Western science Eastern religion. The Maharishi himself as a yogi, i.e., one who has attained union with God, and as the holder of a bachelor’s degree in physics is a kind of prototype for this convergence.

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In the public high schools, SCI courses complete with initiation into TM have been offered for regular credit in New York, Massachusetts, Florida, and California. Officials of the San Francisco public school system are now considering the use of TM in their high schools. As a result of the National Institutes of Health grant for training 130 SCI course teachers, high schools in many states are presenting TM to their students on a non-credit or extra-curricula basis.

The initial basis for the adoption of TM in the public schools was primarily the claim that it is an effective drug-abuse control measure. A Harvard study by Benson and Wallace of 1,862 meditators found that after twenty-one months of meditation, use of marijuana dropped from 80 per cent to 12 per cent of the group, and use of LSD dropped from 48 per cent to 3 per cent. Dr. Benson, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, has acknowledged that this research is inadequate, because it doesn’t take into account those who stop meditating and continue drug use or those who would have stopped drug use anyway. He has begun a more extensive study to correct this bias. SIMS, meanwhile, publicizes such studies as conclusive evidence of the effectiveness of TM in drug-abuse control. Dr. Leon Otis of the Stanford Research Institute has said that SIMS is in too much of a hurry to publish preliminary or unsubstantiated data about the results of meditation. Because of the severity of the drug problem in many schools and in the military, however, TM has appeared to be an attractive solution to administrators.

As a drug-abuse control measure TM has made a surprising impact in the Army. Major General Franklin M. Davis, Jr., became a meditator and promoted TM for controlling drug abuse while he was director of military personnel policies in the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army in 1971. His successor in the job, Brigadier General Robert Gard, became a meditator in 1972 and has included TM in the Army’s alcohol and drug-abuse program.

TM is presented by SIMS representatives as a non-religious technique for developing as a person by following a thought to its subtler levels until the field of thought is transcended in the Source of all thought or “Being.” To do this one sits in a relaxed position, with eyes closed, and silently repeats a Sanskrit word called a mantra. Knowledge of the mantras is secret and a would-be meditator receives his own individual mantra only by being initiated into TM by a SIMS instructor.

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The introductory lectures emphasize the scientific research indicating that TM alters the physiology and psychology of the meditator in apparently desirable ways. SIMS representatives strongly deny that TM has any relation to religion at all. This is simply untrue: every instructor knows and honors the tradition of Shankara, the Hindu tradition to which he owes his knowledge of the mantras. But the roots of the practice in the Vedic tradition of the monist Hinduism of Shankara are ignored in favor of a modern, scientific image. By this means people are drawn in who would otherwise be hesitant to become involved in a religious practice. That the Maharishi perfectly understands this situation is indicated by his comment in Meditations of the Maharishi that “not in the name of God-realization can we call a man to meditate in the world of today, but in the name of enjoying the world better, sleeping well at night, being wide awake during the day” (p. 168).

TM as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi really is, of course, a form of yoga.

In an article “Meditation Is Metatherapy” appearing in the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology (Vol. 3, No. 1, 1971), Daniel Goleman from Harvard said that “TM, like most yoga systems taught in the United States, traces its roots back to the tradition of which Patanyali’s Yoga Sutras is the classic statement.” Now “yoga” is a Sanskrit word for “union,” and the final object of yoga is union with God. A yogi such as the Maharishi is one supposed to have attained union with God or “God-consciousness.” For a yogi to teach any lesser study than that of “God-realization” or yoga would be absurd. But the Maharishi is quite willing to call his discipline by other names if that will help modern men to accept it.

It is quite true that many persons practice TM merely for its psycho-physical effects while ignoring its spiritual implications. But the religious aspect is present, nevertheless, from the beginning of meditation in the initiation ceremony at which the meditator receives his mantra. The candidate for initiation is told to bring an offering of flowers, fruit, and a clean white handkerchief to the ceremony. In a candle-lit precinct permeated by incense, he is invited to kneel before a picture of Guru Dev, the Maharishi’s dead master, while his initiator, also kneeling, presents the offerings and sings a song of thanksgiving honoring the departed masters of the Shankara tradition of Hinduism. This ritual specifically imposes the forms of worship in the offerings, the kneeling posture, and the hymn to the tradition of the dead masters. When it is understood that every one of the masters is considered to be a realized expression of divinity, the idolatrous character of the ritual becomes obvious. The title Guru Dev applied to the Maharishi’s teacher, for example, may be translated “Divine Leader.”

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Worship Tradition

In his definitive commentary on the first six chapters of the sacred Hindu text the Bhagavad-Gita, the Maharishi makes his attitude toward the tradition of Shankara clear:

The holy tradition of great masters which is responsible for reviving the teaching after every lapse, has captured the minds and hearts of lovers of Truth in every age. It is not merely held in high regard, but has come to be actually worshiped by seekers of Truth and knowers of Reality. A verse recording the names of the greatest and most highly revered masters has not only inspired seekers, but has been a joy even to the fulfilled hearts of realized souls passing through the long corridor of time [Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad-Gita, p. 257, emphasis added].

The verse referred to is, of course, the verse that the instructor sings in the initiation ceremony.

The Christian attitude toward this ceremony with its homage to the pictured image of Guru Dev and the hymn to the divinized tradition may be summed up by this passage from the Book of Leviticus: “You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image … to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God (26:1, New American Standard Version).

Influence Upon Educators

While it is thus readily established for a Christian audience that TM is a religious practice, further evidence may be needed to convince school administrators who have been presented with apparently sincere protestations of the religious neutrality of TM. Consider the way in which TM is presented in this excerpt from a letter sent by the Berkeley SIMS center to the parents of students at area high schools: “TM is a natural, easy, systematic and scientifically verifiable technique. It is not a religion or philosophy, nor does it involve withdrawal from life” (emphasis added). SIMS instructor Jack Forem in the introduction to his book Transcendental Meditation describes the Maharishi’s lecturing on this point as follows: “He emphasized that he was not espousing philosophy or religion, or offering something to believe in or accept on faith. Rather, he said, transcendental meditation is a practical technique, based on verifiable, scientifically validated principles” (p. 3).

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In striking contrast to statements like these of the religious irrelevance of TM stands the body of the Maharishi’s published writings. In Meditations of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Maharishi says, “Transcendental meditation is a path to God” (p. 59). In reply to a direct question recorded in the same book, “Is this meditation prayer?,” the Maharishi answers, “A very good form of prayer is this meditation which leads us to the field of the Creator, to the source of Creation, to the field of God” (p. 95). The glaring contradiction between SIMS leaders’ public denials that TM is a religious practice and the Maharishi’s written acknowledgement that TM is a “path to God” and a “very good form of prayer” at least raises some question about the veracity of these leaders. In response to probing at this point, SIMS representatives attempt to repudiate this particular book because of its disarming frankness about the religious aspects of TM, but its view is consistent with that of the books written by the Maharishi and distributed by SIMS. In the Science of Being and Art of Living, for example, the Maharishi writes, “The key to the fulfillment of every religion is found in the regular practice of transcendental deep meditation” (p. 254).

In reality the only basis for the claim that TM is not a religious practice is that faith in the teachings of the Hindu tradition from which TM springs is not a prerequisite to the practice of TM. But the irrelevance of the argument that defines a religious practice in terms of its faith prerequisite becomes apparent when it is discovered that the Maharishi considers meditation itself to be the way to faith for the faithless:

Meditation is a process which provides increasing charm at every step on the way to the Transcendent. The experience of this charm causes faith to grow.… Moreover the practice of transcendental meditation is such that it can be started from whatever level of faith a man may have, for it brings faith to the faithless and dispels the doubts in the mind of the sceptic by providing direct experience of Reality [Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad-Gita, pp. 317, 319; emphasis added].

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As a matter of fact, there comes a point at which faith becomes essential. In his comment on chapter 4, verse 39, of the Bhagavad-Gita, the Maharishi states that “the Lord [Krishna] names faith as a prerequisite to knowledge” (p. 316). The content of this faith as set forth in this repetitious yet novel commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita is the monist Hinduism of the Vedic tradition of Shankara. In this essentially pantheistic system, everything in the universe is held to be a manifestation of the One or the Absolute. The Absolute is attributeless and ineffable but may be characterized for practical purposes as impersonal consciousness or “Being.” Man’s purpose is to attain to direct, conscious experience of the unity of the Absolute or “God-consciousness” at all times. TM itself is a means to this end.

The Truth Claim

The practice of TM leads first to “Transcendental-consciousness” and then to “Cosmic-consciousness.” The transition to “God-consciousness” is accomplished by means of pure devotion to God, devotion of which man is virtually incapable until he has attained “Cosmic-consciousness.” This pilgrimage is likely to take many years, but if it is not completed in this life it will be taken up in the next, for the doctrine of reincarnation is integral to the Maharishi’s teaching. The Maharishi and SIMS insist that TM is compatible with all religions, but it is apparent that this system of self-salvation is incompatible with all the historic creeds of the Christian faith. Not only does it constitute a system of salvation by works rather than by grace, but it denies the personal nature of God as the ultimate reality and fails to acknowledge the role of Jesus Christ as the Way to the Father.

So despite the openness of SIMS to receive as meditators persons professing other faiths, the faith of the Maharishi has an ultimate and exclusive truth claim just as other religions do. In his commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita again, the Maharishi states that “the Lord [Krishna] declares that realization of the state of all knowledge is the only way to salvation and success in life; there is no other way” (p. 228; emphasis added). The “state of all knowledge” is, of course, realized by the practice of TM alternating with normal activity. The Maharishi considers that this knowledge has been lost to all of the great religions of the world and that they should therefore accept his teaching.

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The contradiction between the public statements of the Maharishi and his representatives and the published writings of the Maharishi suggests that the teaching of the Maharishi has two levels: a public or exoteric teaching and a private or esoteric teaching. The two teachings are logically incompatible, but both serve the purpose of spreading TM. In Science of Being and Art of Living the Maharishi makes some shrewd observations on how to spread the message of TM as efficiently as possible. He writes,

Whenever and wherever religion dominates the mass consciousness, transcendental deep meditation should be taught in terms of religion.… Today, when politics is guiding the destiny of man, the teaching should be primarily based on the field of politics and secondarily on the plane of economics.… It seems, for the present, that this transcendental deep meditation should be made available to the peoples through the agencies of government [pp. 299, 300].

The Apostle Paul was willing to become all things to all men in order to save some, but his Gospel was always the same in its blunt presentation of Christ crucified and risen again. The Maharishi’s opportunism in presenting TM under different colors is in marked contrast to the attitude of the Apostle, but it does explain the presence of dual levels of teaching. The exoteric teaching can vary according to circumstances while the esoteric teaching remains the same. It is apparent why an organization wishing to use the agencies of government to spread a religious teaching in the United States must deny the religious character of that teaching. Constitutional provisions and existing religious prejudices would close off governmental channels immediately if the religious character were admitted.

A passage from the Bhagavad-Gita and the Maharishi’s commentary on it will shed further light on the dual levels of teaching. In the third chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna says to the warrior Arjuna, “Let not him who knows the whole disturb the ignorant who only know the part.” The Maharishi comments:

The inference is that if the enlightened man wants to bless the one who is ignorant, he should meet him on the level of his ignorance and try to lift him up from there by giving him the key to transcending [i.e., TM], so that he may gain bliss-consciousness and experience the Reality of life. He should not tell him about the level of the realized, because it would only confuse him [On the Bhagavad-Gita, p. 224; emphasis added].

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This passage provides the theoretical justification for presenting less than the whole truth to the “ignorant” who have yet to experience “enlightenment” by means of TM. The man of “higher” consciousness is not obligated to tell the “ignorant” the deeper truths of his teaching because the unenlightened couldn’t understand them anyway. But if the “ignorant” are brought to experience “enlightenment” by the practice of meditation, they will be ready to receive the deeper teachings.

It appears that SIMS has followed this procedure to such an extreme that it can be described in all fairness as an esoteric religious body whose exoteric teaching is that its central practice, TM, is not religious, while its esoteric teaching makes it clear that TM is a religious practice. This situation explains the contradiction between the esoteric teachings of the Maharishi meant for the “enlightened” and the exoteric teachings of both the Maharishi and SIMS representatives meant for the “ignorant.”

There is, then, a basic deception in the public denial by SIMS and the Maharishi that TM is a religious practice. The Maharishi’s opportunism as to the means of propagating TM is consistent with the Hindu world-view which insists on the essential unity of all manifestations in the relative world of experience including good and evil, truth and falsehood. The underlying hope of the Maharishi is, he says, that if as few as 10 per cent of the world’s population would practice TM, war would be eliminated for generations to come. This goal is certainly nobler than that of the Watergate conspirators, who engaged in high-level deception merely to retain an American political regime in power. But if the same Providence that exposed the political deceptions of Watergate chooses to deal as severely with spiritual wickedness in high places, the Maharishi’s religious edifice will be as severely shaken by its deception as the Nixon administration has been.

The situation of the Maharishi differs tragically from that of President Nixon, however, for the religious tradition to which he belongs denies him the very possibility of repentance. This is because a yogi, having realized in experience his own divinity, is held to have attained perfection. He does right action spontaneously; there is no external standard by which his actions may be judged. His consciousness, rather, is the standard by which all actions are judged.

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Truth And Falsehood

From the instance in hand it appears that if a lie contributes to raising the general level of consciousness toward that of the yogi, the lie is permissible and will not be acknowledged as a lie. In Hindu theology, this may be reasonable enough, for God is held to be the impersonal Source of all evil as well as of good. But the Christian revelation declares the character of God to be absolute in its truthfulness, and this truthful character merits the total emulation of man as a creature reflecting the image of God. The Maharishi’s words, therefore, must be judged by the standard of the written word of God, which prescribes, “Do not lie to one another” (Col. 3:9).

Since SIMS is aggressively promoting TM in the spiritual vacuum of our secularized school system, appropriate Christian counter action in defense of the truth should begin immediately. Where SIMS representatives have made TM a public issue by involving the state legislature in resolutions encouraging adoption of TM in the public schools, as in Illinois and California, Christian leaders should prepare public statements for the media challenging the SIMS claim to a non-religious status for “Science” of Creative Intelligence courses and Transcendental Meditation. Similar action should be taken at the local level wherever TM is being taught or is proposed for instruction, whether for credit or not. The Congress should be alerted to the constitutional issue involved in the funding of experimental programs in SCI and TM. Finally, court action will doubtless be necessary to dislodge SCI/TM from its privileged status in schools where it may already be strongly entrenched, particularly in Illinois, where it bears the official approval of the legislature.

Proper Response

Christians should use this occasion to ask themselves what they and their churches can do to fill the spiritual vacuum in the schools exposed by the invasion of an alien religious system. It is the spiritual bankruptcy of our educational system that has driven administrators, teachers, and students to a system of yoga to counter the indiscipline and emptiness of student life. Recitation of the slogans of separation of church and state will contribute nothing to filling the lives of our students.

A generation of students ignorant of the Word of God or of the transforming power of the life of Christ in their own or others’ lives has arisen. Creative and legitimate means should be found to fill this vacuum with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The framers of the federal constitution never intended to render American schools a spiritual desert. Church leaders should be sensitive to school administrators’ need for help in encouraging discipline and purpose in the lives of their students. A cooperative rather than an adversary relationship between school and church leaders is a live option. Christians should be alert to the increasing opportunities to present a testimony to the transforming power of Jesus Christ in assembly programs and other activities.

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The lessons the Maharishi has for us should not be overlooked. Let us willingly accept the opportunity before us, but let us be absolutely honest in presenting the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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