Yet Another Look At The Transcendental Meditation Paper 84

Editor’s note: Below are two responses to Robert Schneider’s defense of his Transcendental Meditation paper, which Schneider wrote in response to my earlier article about the publication of his paper.  In the first part I respond to some of the general issues raised by Schneider. The second part, from Sanjay Kaul, addresses the statistical issues discussed by Schneider.

I’m grateful for Kaul’s highly technical analysis of the statistical issues raised by Schneider, but I don’t think this case really requires a terribly high level of technical expertise. Common sense actually works pretty well in this case. A trial with barely 200 patients can not be expected to provide broad answers about the health benefits of a novel intervention. As Kaul and others have stated on many other occasions, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” and it is quite clear that the evidence in this trial is not extraordinary, at least in any positive sense.

Questions About Trial Reliability And Data– In his response Schneider tries to skate away from the inevitable questions raised about this paper when Archives of Internal Medicine chose to withdraw the paper only 12 minutes before its scheduled publication time. Schneider can pretend that this incident never occurred, but outsider readers can not help but wonder what sparked this extraordinary incident, and will not be satisfied  until the details are fully explained.

There are additional red flags about the trial. Schneider told WebMD that since the Archives incident “the data was re-analyzed. Also, new data was added and the study underwent an independent review.” Said Schneider:

“This is the new and improved version.”

This is an extraordinary claim, because a clinical trial can not be “new and improved” unless there were serious flaws with the earlier version. What exactly does it mean to say that a paper published in 2012 about a trial completed in 2007 is “new and improved”? (According to ClinicalTrials.Gov the study was completed in July 2007, while June 2007 was the “final data collection date” for the primary endpoint.)

The 5-year delay between the 2007 completion date and the publication of the data is highly suspicious. What exactly caused this delay? The paper hints at one possible source of delay: as Kaul notes below, the investigators refer to the primary endpoint as a “DSMB-approved endpoint.” This suggests that the primary endpoint was changed at some point in the trial. As Kaul points out, it is not the job of the DSMB to either choose or approve primary endpoints. Since the trial was not registered until 2011 with ClinicalTrials.Gov it is impossible to sort this issue out unless the investigators choose to release the initial trial protocol and statistical plan.

Schneider’s response also fails to explain why there is a difference in the number of primary endpoint events between the Archives paper and the Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality & Outcomes paper, since the collection date for the primary outcome measure is listed as June 2007 on ClinicalTrials.Gov. I see no reason why the reason for this discrepancy shouldn’t be explained. Although the difference is only 1 event, it inevitably raises questions about the reliability of the data.

Trial Interpretation– Finally, I am deeply concerned about the way this trial will be used, or misused, to “sell” the brand of Transcendental Meditation in the broadest possible population, ie, everyone. Though the study was limited to African-American with heart disease, here’s what Schneider told the Daily Mail:

‘Transcendental meditation may reduce heart disease risks for both healthy people and those with diagnosed heart conditions. The research on transcendental meditation and cardiovascular disease is established well enough that doctors may safely and routinely prescribe stress reduction for their patients with this easy to implement, standardised and practical programme.’

Meditation may of course be beneficial, but it will never be a cure for heart disease, and it won’t replace other treatments. But here’s what Schneider told WebMD:

“What this is saying is that mind-body interventions can have an effect as big as conventional medications, such as statins,” says Schneider.

It shouldn’t be necessary to say, but the evidence base for statins is several orders of magnitude greater than the evidence base for meditation. Further, there have been no studies comparing meditation to statins. Any claim that meditation is equivalent to statins is preposterous.

To be clear, I have nothing against meditation. Generic meditation is cheap, safe, and even possibly effective. Branded Transcendental Meditation, on the other hand, is a cult, and it is out to get your money. An initial TM program costs $1500, and increases the deeper you get pulled into the cult. Here’s what Schneider told Healthday:

“One of the reasons we did the study is because insurance and Medicare calls for citing evidence for what’s to be reimbursed,” Schneider said. “This study will lead toward reimbursement. That’s the whole idea.”

Here’s the real source of my discomfort with this trial. For true believers like Schneider, fighting heart disease is important only insofar as it can be employed to further the interests of TM. Scientific standards and medical progress are unimportant in the larger scheme of promoting TM.

Read the comments left by Michael Jackson and Chrissy on my earlier post to learn more about the dangers of TM. Or do your own research on the internet.

Here’s Sanjay Kaul’s response:

Power calculation

By convention, the difference that the study is powered to detect (delta) varies inversely with the seriousness of the outcome, i.e., larger delta for ‘softer’ outcomes and smaller delta for ‘harder’ outcomes. This does not appear to be the case in the current study. For the first phase of the trial, the power calculation was based on a 36% risk reduction in death, nonfatal MI, nonfatal stroke, rehospitalization or revascularization (the original primary endpoint). Then, for the 2nd phase of the trial, the power calculation is based on a 50% reduction in a narrower but harder outcome of death, nonfatal MI, nonfatal stroke (the revised primary endpoint). I find it curious that the authors justify their choice of the revised primary endpoint as ‘DSMB-approved endpoint’! Since when is the DSMB charged with choosing or approving trial endpoints?

Incidentally, the Proschan-Hunsberger method refers to conditional, not unconditional, power. To compute conditional power, the investigators had to have looked at data by arm. Thus, some penalty should be paid for the ‘interim look’ in the form of requiring a larger z-score (lower p value) to claim statistical significance. They did not appear to do this.

Strength of evidence

The conventional frequentist approach relies heavily on the p value which tends to overstate the strength of association. Complementary approaches such as the Bayesian inference are available that utilize Bayes factor, a more desirable metric to quantify the strength of evidence compared with p value. For instance, the Bayes factor associated with a p value of 0.03 (observed in the trial) is about 10, which means that at a prior null probability of 50%, there is still a 10% chance of null probability based on the trial results, more than 3-fold higher than that implied by a p value of 0.03. So the evidence falls in the category of at most ‘moderate’ strength against the null.

Another way of assessing the strength of evidence is to quantify the probability of repeating a statistically significant result, the so-called ‘replication probability’. The replication probability associated with a p value of 0.03 is about 58% which is unlikely to pass the muster of any regulatory agency. The FDA regulatory standard for drug approval is ‘substantial evidence’ of effectiveness based on ‘adequate and well-controlled investigations’ which translates into 2 trials, each with a p value of 0.05. At the heart of this standard (or any scientific endeavor) is replication. The replication probability for 1 trial with a p value < 0.05 is only about 50%; replication probability of 2 trials with p value <0.05 is about 90%. In 1997 the rules were changed to base approval on the basis of a statistically persuasive result obtained in 1 trial, i.e., p value <0.001 for a mortality or a serious irreversible morbidity endpoint. The p value of 0.001 is equivalent to 2 trials with 1-sided p value of 0.025 (0.025 x 0.025 = 0.000625 or 0.001). Thus, the current trial results do not comport with ‘substantial’ or ‘robust’ evidence.

Distribution of endpoints

It seems highly unusual that 80% of the primary events were fatal. If true, it means that the subjects were dying either from a non- MI-, non-stroke-related events such as sudden cardiac death or heart-failure death (as in patients with advanced heart failure) or non-cardiovascular events not accounted for by the adjudication process.

Adjusted analyses

Although many have discussed how adjusting for baseline covariates in the analysis of RCTs can improve the power of analyses of treatment effect and account for any imbalances in baseline covariates, the debate on whether this practice should be carried out remains unresolved. Many recommend that the analysis should be undertaken only if the methods of analysis and choice of covariates are pre-specified in the protocol or statistical analysis plan. This is not easily discernible without registration of clinical trials.

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84 comments

  1. You say that “A trial with barely 200 patients can not be expected to provide broad answers about the health benefits of a novel intervention.”

    You also state that TM “will never be a cure for heart disease, and it won’t replace other treatments”. Do you have enough data to assert such a thing?

    • Of course, even the most liberal of readings of Dr. Scneider’s remarks don’t declare that TM is a replacement for every existing therapy in every existing or future cardiac patient, so its pretty much a strawman argument anyway. There are durned few treatment modalities that i am aware of that could be seen as being counter-indicated if you do TM.

      In other words, TM can always be seen as a complementary treatment to modern therapies. Now, it is plausible, at least to me, that TM might be all that is needed for *some* people, but that isn’t all that controversial. Exercise/diet might be “all that is needed” for some people, also. That doesn’t mean that TMers shouldn’t follow a healthy diet, or that people eating a healthy diet shouldn’t do TM.

      It also doesn’t mean that people who take heart meds might not benefit from diet, exercise and/or TM, either. The blog author appears to be rather anti-TM. I am wondering if he has a personal stake here. Many science writers, especially in the medical field, are still angry over the Maharishi Ayurveda lawsuit against fellow science writer Andrew Skolnick many years ago, and this may be influencing his rhetoric.

  2. I don’t mind scientific skepticism based on actual mathematical (statistical) or other flaws that are found to exist in an experimental design, but I object to calling names (“it is a cult” and “dangers of TM”). Both of these pejorative terms are unscientific and incorrect. Publishing these smears in connection with actual published research results is fraudulent and unpardonable. Taking such extreme steps to oppose a method of self-improvement simply because it seems new and too effective for the blogger to believe are shameful. TM is not new; its results have been confirmed by hundreds of replicated studies; it is a course of study whose price can be justified by the rent required by its centers and teacher salaries, not a cult, and all reports of dangers have been explained by independent factors, such as mental illness.

    A Web search will show that the only organizations that claim that TM is a cult or is dangerous are those associated with anti-cult or “deprogramming” experts, who have a monetary stake in such positions, or with people who have had bad personal experiences which alienated them from their own heavy involvement with TM; such people have a strong psychological need and motivation to oppose TM. None of these organizations have real data or good rationales, just positions of FUD (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear,_uncertainty_and_doubt) with which to influence others.

    David Spector
    Former TM teacher
    Current teacher of NSR, an alternative to TM

  3. What do I think?

    I think any person who can’t refrain from referring to the organization that teaches a proposed treatment as a “cult” is showing a certain level of bias, himself.

    • “Cult?” That should be obvious by now. In this case, again, a TM devotee playing the role of “researcher” is actually part of the marketing machine, attempting to spin trivialities and placebo effects into the perfect cure for… well, everything, and as the old man “Maharishi” instructed, trying to use the appearance, but not the substance, of science in the service of salesmen.

      From “The TM Book,” a propaganda piece from the mid-1970′s: “The Transcendental Meditation program changes the quality of life from poverty, emptiness, and suffering to abundance, fulfillment, and happiness.” It’s supposed to fix *everything*! That’s a standard feature of cults worldwide.

      • The same claims could be made about getting enough sleep, eating a better diet, and exercising regularly.

        If enough people in the world were to do those activities, the quality of life throughout the world would improve drastically.

        The only difference is that TM proponents, in addition, often believe in the “Maharishi Effect,” where TM practice can have a positive effect on everyone (and everything) else simply by virtue of the meditator being relatively nearby to the rest of a population.

      • Haha. “Obvious by now.” It should indeed be obvious by and to most people it is obvious that TM is not a cult. I would say, to anyone informed. But the witch-hunt hysterics do continue for some people, such as for the anti-TM activist and haranger of animal rights groups, Mike Doughney, one of a dying breed of people who are true believers in their own negative world view about TM.

        Yes, developing human creative potential and reducing levels of stress in society can indeed solve many if not most of the problems that humans create, and I think most intelligent people realize that.

      • T. H. says: “the anti-TM activist and haranger of animal rights groups, Mike Doughney…” That’s pretty funny! The fifteen-plus-year-old episode to which you refer (easily found by searching my name against Wikipedia) actually involved challenging the fact that Internet domain name policy favors corporations over the speech rights of individuals, the “haranging” of a certain “animal-rights” organization was a mere by-product. The only people who’ve brought up that whole episode over the past decade or so have been TM defenders/true-believers in comment threads like this one, which I guess shows that nonsense attracts nonsense; “animal rights” and “Vedic science” (the supposed system popularized by Mahesh and company of which TM is one tiny part) are equally stupid, in my opinion.

        The assertions that TM is in any way about “developing human creative potential and reducing levels of stress in society” are just two of those silly fictions that’re part of the TM/Maheshian/Vedic revivalist faith. And where are these “most intelligent people” to whom you refer? As I’ve pointed out in an article I wrote last January,http://goo.gl/WFzPc if the people who “like” Transcendental Meditation on Facebook are taken as a sample, it’s unlikely there’s much more than 60,000 people in the U.S. who have any interest in TM whatsoever. Most TM centers in the United States closed long ago, the only remaining facilities cater to long-term meditators and appear to be propped up by wealthy donors that in one case were even leasing space from them for their own personal offices! If anything’s dying, it’s the TM movement in the US which can’t help tripping over its own irrelevance and weirdness.

      • BTW, Mike, I always thought your http://www.peta.com website (for People Eating Tasty Animals) was a hoot and was sad to see that PETA had gotten control of it away from you. The world needs more off-the-wall parody websites, IMHO.

  4. Given that most of the leading experts in the field of cults list the many Transcendental Meditation scams as cultic, everything from meditation suicides and murder, sexual exploitation of students and financial promises for people to become rajas or kings, I’d say that pretty much nails it Mr. English.

    Google is your friend.

    • of course, this raises the question: what defines a cult?

      As for the rest, you appear to have consulted rather distorted websites for your data. If you care to provide links, i can provide observations about the reliability of the information in specific links.

      • Sure Mr. English.

        One of the popular and widely market Transcendental Meditation spin-off scams is their herbal drug company, “Maharishi Ayurvedic Products International” or MAPI which is supposed to lead to perfect health.

        Is it true their product, which was prescribed for a young lady, this “rasayana”, Garbhapal Ras, contained herbs, lead and other heavy metals for her baby, while was she pregnant! Her name was Frances Gaskell, she lives in Maharishi Vedic City north of Fairfield, inside the believer compound. She successfully sued the Transcendental Meditation Organization and won in an out of court settlement for these poisons.

        The contents of this herbal remedy includes mercury, lead, brass and iron.

        Is that reliable?

      • As is his habit, and as I’ve watched him do online for almost twenty years now, Mr. English here omits most of the context and details and only parrots what the TM movement’s professional spokesmen (always men, of course) want the outside world to hear. And since we are talking about a cult here – whether or not you like that word – the fact of the matter is that, with this sort of organization, there’s what the outside world is allowed to hear about according to its leaders, and the actual facts about TM and everything branded “Maharishi” surrounding it that the leadership tries to displace with a lot of nonsense and chaff.

        Here, as anyone who monitors the TM movement’s websites and e-mail lists in depth would know (since all this is out in public), the movement advertises traveling roadshows and consultations both in the U.S. and globally, featuring “experts” in “Maharishi Ayurveda,” also known as “vaidyas.” http://goo.gl/DnnnR http://goo.gl/C9ZMf The individual mentioned above in the poisoning case named, J.R. Raju, is one such “vadiya,” a simple Google search against his name makes it clear he is part of the global Maharishi Ayurveda organization. http://goo.gl/C9ZMf

        It doesn’t matter what some US based movement official says a devotee is or isn’t supposed to do – the bedrock of the movement is the alleged “purity of the teaching,” and that goes for all of the Maharishi branded products including Ayurveda. To get this alleged ancient wisdom in its supposedly purest form, after some decades of having one’s brain and thinking scrambled through long-term practice of TM techniques and rituals, one must consult with the experts from India, which in this “cult” is someone like J.R. Raju.

        Likewise, to get the purest form of the prescribed potions for maximum effectivness, and as demonstrated by the fact that from time to time individuals in the TM mecca of Fairfield, Iowa, have fallen ill from heavy metal poisoning, the actual belief common among devotees is that those versions sold here in the U.S. and made to what would be U.S. standards with regard to inclusion of certain components are ineffective. The versions from India contain those sorts of ingredients, because evidently, in the religion and folklore from which all of this nonsense springs, poisonous heavy metals are no longer poison and are transformed into inert substances once compounded into an Ayurvedic remedy by the right person. http://goo.gl/C4LEC

        This is all the more potentially dangerous for the hard-core dead-ender/true believer in TM, when you consider that TM leadership, including here in the United States, who are generally devoid of any actual medical training, consider themselves experts in the field of health and medicine. They arrange for these tours of so-called experts who, as quoted from that lawsuit, allegedly prescribe crap laced with poisons smuggled in from India by producers beyond the reach of American regulators and law, while saying in internal documents, “We are not going to take help from medical Drs. as medical professionals give poison. So don’t engage any medical Drs. for anything – absolutely whatever it is – even if they are in our Movement family… Hold onto the fact that we are the supreme authorities on health – we know how to create perfect health – we are challenging all governments in world.” http://goo.gl/IZgrz

        Is there some reason why allegedly reputable medical journals are spending even a few seconds considering what the faculty of this two-bit cult college in Iowa regularly pushes out? When the internals of the organization of which this so-called “university” (actually,relative to the global organization, more properly functioning as a propaganda factory) is an integral part, are so far off the scale in irrationality, theocratic nonsense, sexism, and general avoidance of rational thought?

        It would be as if some miniscule, irrelevant midwest Bible college started insisting that its special magical prayer methods with a trademarked name cured all sorts of ills, and because a very few people with credentials, resources and time to cast the most flimsy preliminary studies and marketing surveys as solid research managed to get published here and there over the course of decades, this kind of utter nonsense was taken seriously. The TM organization does exactly this: sticking a thousand guys imported from India in prefab houses in an Iowa cornfield, have them mutter special magic sounds that are indistinguishable from prayer much of the day, and claim that they’re saving the world and bringing about world peace. TM is much the same, the beginner’s version of exactly that practice: thinking very similar and supposedly special magic sounds and calling it “meditation” is, from the seldom-publicized point of view of TM’s promoters, the actual proposed mechanism at the core of this supposed research study. http://goo.gl/YUUUE

      • There’s certainly a lot of truth in what you say. However, one is not *required* to purchase any of the Ayurvedic concoctions, whether distributed by MAPI or obtained directly from India, and since the TM organization officially declares itself a non-religion, they can’t hide behind religious beliefs and practices when they do stupid/foolish things in the “Name of the Master,” even/especially when said things were at the suggestion of MMY himself.

        BTW, while it is true that virtually claims in the TM organization about everything from the effects of meditation on individuals and society to the efficacy of Ayurvedic substances and practices, are taken directly from Hinduism, as filtered by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, his OWN claim is that they are, at least in principle, subject to scientific investigation.

        Mind you, the science done on TM gets conflated with the PR to entice people to learn TM, but one can allow for that by drawing an equivalence between the reliability of studies paid for by pharmaceutical companies with the added caveat that these studies are done by *believers*, not merely people with a financial incentive to make their product/service look good, so experimenter bias, conscious or unconscious, should always be assumed in any study done by TMers.

        However, that said, by the time TM claims pass through the internal vetting of internally published studies, followed by peer reviewed studies performed only by believers, the specific claims within a given study co-published with outsiders have been watered down enough to have some plausibility, even if TM researchers are heard to make cringeworthy statements about the significance of a given study.

        What everyone misses in this specific instance, is that this study, regardless of who is taking calls, was performed by a team of researchers, 3 of whom have apparently never published research on TM before but have a track record of publishing research on hypertension in African-Americans (I can’t find any indication that any of them are or are not TMers, so I can’t assert total non-bias on their part). Additionally, all data gathering appears to have been done by the non-MUM researchers, at a clinic in Wisconsin. While the study will have to stand and fall on its own merits, these facts suggest that you and the original author are engaging in a guilt-by-association attack by hinting that the entire study is tainted merely because the lead researcher is a TM True Believer™.

    • Yes Google is your friend but so is your intellect. You get more results explaining why TM is NOT a cult when you Google TM, so use your mind and consider the sources.

      Who are these so-called “cult experts?” They typically are not academics or scholars, but a fringe group of “cult chasers” who make their living trying to convince people they are in a cult. I doubt that any of them could explain what TM is even to a three-year-old, much less understand the science behind it.

      The people supportive of TM, on the other hand, are people like Dr. Mehmet Oz, Norman Rosenthal, highly credentialed scholars and philosophers (see the TM.org Blog), researchers at the NIH and the Veterans Administration, Oprah Winfrey and so many celebrities — in short, some of the most accomplished people in our society.

      • I also do not think of TM as a cult, although in the last few years it has been edging closer and closer. And you are right that Oprah and Dr. Oz and other highly accomplished members of our society like doing TM.

        One thing I know from having been part of the TM Movement is that as long as these folks have celebrity status, give good publicity to TM and give the TMO lots of money, they will be treated very very differently than those of us who just supported the TMO with our sweat and labor. And if one of those celebrities leaves TM, even on friendly terms here is an example of what happens.

        When Deepak CHopra left the TM movement and struck off on his own, the TM organization sent a letter to all TM teachers who ran the local TM Centers. One of my friends was chairman of the local center and showed me the letter. After some nice words about how the TMO wished Chopra well, it said the directive was that from now on, we do not sell any books by Deepak Chopra in any TM facility, we don’t HAVE any Chopra books in any TM facility, we don’t talk about Chopra or his books in any TM facility.

        Now, at the time, Chopra’s books such as Quantum Healing and Ageless Body Timeless mind were full of references to TM as THE meditation to do – the TMO was cutting its own throat by not only not selling the books, but the official position was to not even have any of his books at all in the TM Centers nor were the TM teachers allowed to talk about Chopra anymore?

        Only those who wrote the letter can tell what their mentality was, but it seemed to be cutting off their own nose to spite their face. Its a little snapshot of behavior that is very commonly found within the TM Movement, which can easily bring those of us who have seen and experienced it to be a bit cynical when people sing TM praises – I mean if TM improves things so much, ought it not improve the behavior of the people who are responsible for bringing it to the world?

        Yet in my own experience TM has had positive benefits, so for me, I had to come to the conclusion that the mantra meditation has benefits, but not to the degree that are claimed by the TMO.

        My opinion only, and I know there are a whole range of opinions from TM is the best-est thing in the world to I hate TM.

      • you DO realize that Chopra had rewritten all his books and deleted every reference to Maharishi and TM from them, right? He even deleted the dedication in everyone one of them and rewritten them to make it sound like he had invented things like the primordial sound technique, by changing the name to primordial sound meditation.

        The decision to bow out of the TM organization had been made months earlier, but he didn’t make it formal until he went on Oprah, after the 10 years of publicity work the TM organization had put into making him a household word, worldwide, and failed to mention TM, or any of the organizations he had helped set up when chatting with her. This was meant to be the start of a world-wide revival of TM, and it fell flat, setting the organization’s plans back 10 years.

        Claiming that the TM organization had shot itself in the foot by removing his books is an amazingly inverted view of what happened. Once he got enough recognition outside of the TM organization, Chopra removed himself from the organization, so the organization responded in kind.

        End of story.

      • The fact that the global TM organization can afford to create hundreds of websites saying the same thing is quite irrelevant. Most would-be critics, I think, really do have more important things to do with their lives than write stuff on the net and not get paid for it.

        As for your attempted libel of “cult experts,” I don’t know of anyone who successfully makes a living “trying to convince people they are in a cult.” Counselors do work with people who have, in many cases, long ago exited cults, but you’re probably not going to hear about that, and all that means is that former members of such groups comprise another set of people who seek out counseling.

        The TM movement has long cultivated the wealthy, influential and clueless. I can’t help but laugh when you suggest having Oz and Winfrey as part of the TM stable of celeb endorsers is a positive thing, all they do is fill the space between commercials with quackery and other such pointless though profitable crap, something Oz has been particularly adept at. Again, the actual numbers might number a handful against the thousands upon thousands of others in those fields who instantly recognize TM as patently ridiculous.

    • There is certainly ZERO empirical evidence for the bizarre negative effects that you mention, John, nor is there even, within any rational framework, anecdotal evidence of these things resulting from TM. All evidence suggest the opposite.

      Not sure who these “leading cult experts” are, but I can refer you to my blog where I address several of the common misunderstandings about meditation, including the rather silly cult myth, which surprisingly is still being propagated by a small handful of Internet crusaders who will probably go to their grave believing in their cause, their long lost cause.

      See: Myth #7: Yikes! It’s a cult! http://meditationasheville.blogspot.com/2010/12/myth-yikes-its-cult.html

      I also refer you to:

      Myth #4: There’s no solid scientific evidence showing meditation really works. http://meditationasheville.blogspot.com/2010/12/myth-theres-no-solid-scientific.html

      Myth #9: Meditation can have bad side effects and make you crazy! http://meditationasheville.blogspot.com/2010/12/myth-meditation-can-have-bad-side.html

      Nonetheless, “a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest….”

      • Nonetheless, “a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest….”

        Tom, don’t you realize that this is exactly what YOU are doing. You might have found URLs that support your claim, but what have you ignored that does not support it? Surely you do not think you are convincing anyone with “a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest….”

        You are as inept with thought stoppers as is Lawson. Perhaps you do not realize that you are an example of what your brain on TM is all about!

      • Let’s all keep in mind here that the commenter above, Tom Ball, is a full-time teacher of Transcendental Meditation, and he, along with his wife Jeanne handles online promotion of TM in, among other places, comment threads like this one, and by way of that cesspool of quackery and snake oil, The Huffington Post. It’s fascinating, the quality of fact-checking you end up with (none) when you’re not paying writers anything, but organized groups with people who have time to spend on such a project can subvert such outlets for their own purposes.

        By all means, let’s all flog our personal blogs and websites here, like my own http://minet.org/ where the oh-so-secret-and-special crown jewels of TM, the mantras, techniques, and the means by which they’re imparted to prospective mediators, have been online for almost twenty years now. I should do something special to celebrate, it’ll be nineteen years next month! But in the meantime…

        Tom points to an article that may be technically correct if one discards context, which is a particular tactic that TM promoters have honed to a fine art. I refer here to the phrase, “TM practice involves no beliefs or dogma.” Those seven words about “TM practice” are technically true. But then, there’s everything else one will be exposed to in the course of learning TM, which may, or may not, become the basis of one’s further involvement with TM, which, for some small though persistent number of people, becomes a rather expensive, depleting, exhausting pursuit of ever more elaborate and ridiculous services and products offered by the global TM organization, which at its core detests evidence-based medicine and science (see graf 5 of my above comment as “mtdswb”). A treadmill best avoided in the first place.

        Here are two examples, of possibly many, that I’ll refer to here, that are in fact dogma that are presented to the prospective meditator, but need not even be retained much less noticed: the idea that the “mantra” dispensed is something very special and “unique” but has no meaning; and the idea that practice of TM by large numbers of people will, by some means not caused by interpersonal interaction – and more like some unknown-to-science effect akin to a radio broadcast transmitter – will have a calming and positive effect on communities and the world as a whole.

        As I wrote in much more detail in “Is it a religion, or a dessert topping?” at http://goo.gl/YUUUE the question is, not, do I as a meditator have to believe anything, but is the organization as a whole engaging in a religious enterprise of which I’m just a small part and, by participating, am I becoming part of the means to their end that is not being plainly disclosed to me? This is a somewhat different, non-Western concept of a religion, that religion is a set of acts or rituals in which one participates – or even, pays for someone else’s participation – and one’s own beliefs or thoughts outside of a purchasing decision aren’t central to it. Conversion of one’s belief system is something separate that may or may not happen later.

        If one notices that the entire point of the TM movement globally is that of Vedic revival – the “revival” of practices, some of them not necessarily revived but instead invented, the point then becomes rather obvious: the point of TM is that it is the first step of getting people to participate in that revival through practice of certain rituals or techniques, even if those people don’t recognize or don’t care that they’re participating in that religious enterprise!

        TM, of course, is just the first item on the intake path, the one for beginners, the first of “Maharishi’s Vedic technologies.” The common theme of these “technologies” is the repetition of certain “sounds” thought to “enliven” certain Vedic devata, or gods depending on your semantic persuasion, of which one’s own TM “mantra” as a repeated thought is the first of many such sounds. For instance, the narrator of one TM movement videotape says, “…the gift of all of Maharishi’s Vedic technologies, such as Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation, TM-Sidhi program, and Maharishi Yagya, through which we access Ganesh’s intelligence, enliven it, to rise above all problems, and establish our life and the life of society in harmony with natural law.” Ganesh, of course, is one of the many Vedic, or Hindu gods, or devata.

        Why is this relevant? If you don’t want to get involved with someone else’s religious enterprise, and participate in something that’s going to change the world by way of a faith-based mechanism unknown to science or rational evaluation for that matter, of course it’s relevant, and it should have all been disclosed to you in plain language before you started – but that never, ever happens here. It’s couched in word-substitutions such as the sub-title of the David Lynch Foundation – “for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace” – both items of which are pseudonyms for religious states of being or points of theology.

        It’s also relevant if one of your criteria for a “cult,” when you’re narrowing down the meaning of that word and not using it as a generic epithet, is a group that’s trying to “take over the world” by nefarious and secret means, even if it’s in a “same thing we do every night, Pinky” kind of way bordering on ridiculous if not absurd. It means that TM leadership, from the dead old man who started the thing rolling on down, really is infected with megalomania (evident from the Wikileaks documents http://goo.gl/NxNum ) and really doesn’t care to develop a sense of ethical informed consent that might include explaining in plain language what terms like “consciousness-based” and “world peace” and “natural law” actually mean in the tradition from which TM and the other Maharishi-branded products ultimately spring.

        The issue of finagled, massaged, reworded, twisted and ultimately occasionally published research initiated by TM devotees and then used as part of the marketing machine is just another example of what is, in fact, ethics-free evangelism of another sort – to get people to participate in a global movement, even if they don’t believe in the actual purpose and underlying beliefs of the movement. Weird, but true – but it explains why after fifty years they’re still trying to obtain some Western, scientific-sounding stamp of approval, to get the numbers they think will bring about some cosmic transformation of the planet by religious means. Obviously, this is not something that reputable scientists should be getting involved with.

  5. TM is the sole sustaining product of the cult of Maheshism. Mahesh, very early in his attempts to gain world-wide recognition for himself, used TM to influence people. He made glorious claims which, after some time, proved to be no more than the sound of a hollow drum. So he replaced the early claims with other claims, on and on. But he made no progress until the Beatles thought he was more than he was – which they quickly discovered was their error and left him. Thereupon Mahesh became increasingly intent upon proving something, inventing expensive course after expensive course and becoming filthy rich. So, he did achieve something.

    I have no argument against TM itself. For some it seems to be beneficial although my observations since the late 60s indicate that that “benefit” can turn into devotee fawning, bowing and scraping in some cases, can result in exaggerated reactivity to pre-existing conditions such as sensitivity to induced trance-like experience (resulting in some cases as psychotic behaviour at the worst) and almost surely puts many people in a position of being preyed upon by the organization for endless amounts of money.

    Those who simply do TM twice a day for twenty minutes at a time seem to be ok with TM; looking at the earliest TM research done by Benson and Wallace in 1972 demonstrated that TM was a short-cut to useful rest. It didn’t “prove” anything, but rest is important and is what is most likely to be accomplishing what TM in the early days of practise appears to accomplish. A lot of appearance is relied upon, but my experience with TM practitioners is that the degrees of accomplishment vary widely. Also it has to be noted that the number of people who begin TM is far, far from those who continue with it. The TM organization does not keep (or certainly does not publish) any information regarding TM drop-out rates. My personal observation suggests that about 75% of those who begin TM quit in the first year. But that is only a guess.

    TM isn’t magical but is marketed as magic beans for which you are invited to sell the family cow to get it. Benson’s “Relaxation Response” is far more safely taught with far more substantially researched results.

    The difference being that Mahesh wanted to use the appearance of science to prove he was right about TM. Not only is that NOT science or what science is about, it is just another desperate attempt by a failing guru-wanna-be to line his pockets by promising anything you want in return for as much money as he (now his organization) can extract.

    And if it doesn’t deliver as promised (or as it appeared to have been promised), then, it’s your fault: you are doing it wrong!

    When a group of trainees on one of Mahesh’s teacher training courses were having a particular difficult time, feeling excessively distressed, he told them “something good is happening” and went on to talk about his latest way to sell TM.

    So, yes. TM is a cult. The cult of Maheshism. It is a dangerous cult in that, if you get hooked into being part of it, the organization will find way after way to prey upon your generosity to give as much money as you possibly can. They will sell you Yagyas (ceremonies performed in India, or at least said to be performed in India) that promise to help you with all your problems. No, not science. TM is one of the new religious movements, one of the many.

    The so-called “science” the True Believers present is no more science than the commercials you see on TV (which actually might have more science behind them than TM has).

    Everything there is to know about TM is available on the web: mantras, how the mantras are given, how TM is taught and, the more you look, the more you will find. Yes, the TM organization makes every effort to get your attention with its slick and glitzy advertising. It is everywhere, so be discerning, be careful, be vigilant and don’t trade the family cow for miracle cures that only work if you buy more and more add-ons to make the miracle cure work.

  6. eh, as always, you can find grains of truth in almost anything posted on the internet…

    OTOH, your comment about the Beatles is out of date. Both Ringo and Sir Paul appeared on stage together recently as part of a fund-raiser for the David Lynch Foundation, which raises money to teach kids TM. Some years before that, Larry King passed along friendly greetings to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi from Sir Paul to MMY during an interview.

    Those bits of recent interaction between the surviving Beatles and TM should be taken by readers as a sign of how lopsided your tirade is on other issues.

    • You do an excellent job, Mr. English, is showing us all how Mahesh taught his people to react to everything. I hope you get your True Believer’s merit badge soon.

      Mahesh famously said: we welcome every question as the perfect opportunity for the answer we have already prepared.

      On the other hand, you ignore anything you do not know how to address, picking and choosing only those areas where you have that previously prepared, predigested, Mahesh sanctioned response meant to draw attention from what’s going on and cast the rubbish of Maheshism is a favourable light.

      This is exactly why TM and the TM organization has become the cult of Maheshism. Thank you for making this so plain.

      • ah, so you think I plan these things out ahead of time. If only…

        Certainly, I go after the low-hanging fruit, but why wouldn’t I?

        Trying to refute, or at least, provide an alternate POV for every point is futile and wouldn’t be read anyway.

      • “Lopsided”? Heaver on one side than another, much like your comments? The thing is, you rather ineptly try to use a thought-stopping word like lopsided so that I will not continue to tell the truth about TM and Maheshism. I really don’t give a monkey’s fart about the junk science the TM organization churns out like useless tat from China. Nor do I particularly care whether your mission in life has devolved to trying to prop up a failing organization full of more holes than Swiss cheese.

        There are sufficient well educated individuals who can see through the swindle Mahesh tried to pull off. Curiously, this swindle started soon after it became apparent to Mahesh that he wasn’t going to get the Beatles’ money. So he started selling anything and everything he could make up. AND, to his dubious credit, it worked. The Beatles are not irrelevant to the sharp turn Mahesh took when he went from just TM twice a day for twenty minutes at a time to what it is now. They were the catalyst.

        But trying to pass off TM as something scientific is offensive. When TM and the TM organization rises to the level of Benson’s open, honest and well-researched and more or less free technique, perhaps I’ll give TM another look. But that would be about as likely as Mahesh spinning straw into gold … he successfully spun a clever trick into having other people’s money; beyond that he became an offensive buffoon peddling magic beans.

  7. It may seem odd to some who have read my comments on this story but I actually do not think of TM as a cult. It lacks one thing that true cults have, which is a strong discouragement of members to stay within the group, as in threatening them with either current life threats of threats of destruction in the life hereafter. The TM people don’t bother with you if you bow out – they generally ignore you.

    • Even more importantly, “membership” is merely defined by whether or not you practice TM. THat includes 2x daily, once daily, once weekly, or just when visiting your more “devout” uncle for his birthday. In fact, I guess you could say that membership is really defined by whether or not you learned through the official organization.

      Just as TM makes for a poor religion, it also makes for a poor cult. There’s not enough to it to actually fit such categories, except for specific individuals, who define it that way by their own behavior. Now, the higher up in the organization you go, the more likely you are to find individuals who have made it their focus in life, but even at the highest level, people aren’t always as gung ho as you might expect.

      Richard Simmons, for example, gives interviews on TV shows about TM, and then the next day you read an article about him attending the opening of the Deepak Chopra Center in Canada. Deepak renounced TM decades ago and rewrote all his books to remove any mention of his teacher, and yet the son of his publicist still works in the TM organization. Mind you, you can hear him cringe a bit when he admits to you who his mom is, but there’s no official TM policy that prevents the son from working for the TM organization while his mom works for a rival “apostate.”

    • Responding to Michael H. Jackson’s note on TM cult:

      “which is a strong discouragement of members to stay within the group”

      Presumably you meant ‘discouragement to leave the group’ ?

      This is a curious aspect of the TM cult/organization. You can get kicked out of the domes (the foam covered area where people butt-bounce under the impression that this is causing the world to be a better place (!)) for all kinds of reasons. I suppose this is considered a bad thing, although I hear that relationships otherwise remain cordial between the in and out crowd.

      What is much more problematic and cult-like is the dependence the cult/organization fosters so that people are afraid to leave because the “outside” world is so terrifying. This brings up memories of the old days when Mahesh used to talk about his time in Uttarkashi. He told the Sadhus there that he wanted to leave and they told him that outside was the land of mud or some such thing.

      To illustrate the huge change in direction that Mahesh took his cult/organization in: in the old days he would invite various “saints” from around his ashram in India to come visit his trainees, sort of showing them off. Mahesh himself liked to hang out with Lacksmanjoola! Now, if you go to a lecture by anyone who is not a representative of the TM cult/organization, you can be banned from butt-bouncing in the domes! There was even a time when Mahesh even sent his own people to go study with someone else. Anathema, now – unthinkable.

      The cult of Maheshism appears to have developed as Mahesh’s own desire for fame increased in proportion to the evidence that TM wasn’t doing what he claimed. Hence the doctored data the cult/organization gets its science guys to churn out to beef up the image of a flailing cult/organization in its death-throes.

      The study in question focuses on women of African descent. Isn’t it curious that this is what the cult/organization has focused on? One would have expected that the glorious nature of TM, as self-proclaimed by the cult/organization and Mahesh himself, would lower blood pressure for everyone who had high blood pressure. Mahesh made a big whoop-tee-doo about “normalizing” at one time. Obviously, he had to abandon that line of mishigas. But people still pay huge amounts of money for the babkes his cult/organization gets away with.

      • the whole thing about butt-bouncing and non-visiting of saints came about as a result of Robin Carlson’s decision that he was competent to advise people on how to improve their butt-bouncing practice (even though,, apparently, he never took the course himself). Rather than play favorites the local TM organization decreed that consulting any and all non-TM advisors was a no-no if you wanted to participate in the practice in the domes. Since the whole purpose of the domes was to create a place where everyone who was practicing the same techniques could gather together in one place and practice, the policy makes sense.

        As implemented, it became yet another culty thing that promotes an us vs them attitude.

        I’m not sure how I would have handled the situation, given the givens.

      • Get Real!

        You are simply parroting Mahesh’s well-worn defence mechanism of stopping discovery by blaming the victim.

        Blame Mahesh! He started this scam when he realized that TM by itself wasn’t going to carry the can! But the old fake wasn’t stupid. He used the façade of “science” to continue to fool people!

      • I am posting my observations as a person who wasn’t there during the incident, based on the timeline and the public statements and actions of the various parties involved. I have no idea if my take on the motivations of everyone concerned is correct, but I see no reason to invent conspiracies when more obvious explanations exist:

        Robin Carlson developed a following amongst the butt-bouncers in Fairfield and they started heeding his advice about their practice while in the domes which were meant to be a place where everyone was practicing MMY’s techniques, not Robin Carlson’s. The local Powers that Be chose to ban anyone and everyone who was hanging out with alternate gurus, rather than just singling Robin Carlson’s followers out.

        shrug.

        I’ve never been asked if I am attending lectures of some other guru when I go hop and the local TM center, so I assume this is a local policy, rather than a national one.

  8. Lawton English has taken people to task for thinking that the study is tainted because only the lead researcher is a TM guy – you must have been asleep when you did your search – ALL of the researchers on this study are TM’ers – I remember Maxwell Rainforth and John Salerno from when I was at MIU (the TM university) in the 1980′s.

    Theodore Kotchen, MD,
    Sanford I. Nidich, EdD,
    Carolyn Gaylord-King, PhD,
    John W. Salerno, PhD,
    Jane Morley Kotchen, MD, MPH and
    Charles N. Alexander, PhD†

    I recognize all of their names from either other TM studies or association with Maharishi University of Management or Maharishi International University as it was known in earlier years.

    • JM Kotchen http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Kotchen%20JM%5BAuthor%5D

      and

      T Kotchen http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Kotchen%20T%5BAuthor%5D&cauthor=true&cauthor_uid=23149426

      may indeed practice TM (I was not aware of this), but their pubmed author search doesn’t show any previous TM-related research.

      likewise with CE Grim http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Grim%20CE%5BAuthor%5D&cauthor=true&cauthor_uid=23149426

      1% of the adults of this country may have learned TM at some time or another in the last 50 years. The odds that 2 or 3 of them randomly ended up in a TM-related study are rather slim. However, are you sure that they’re former MUM professors?

      • I didn’t say they were all MUM professors – I said they are all associated with the TM Movement, meaning they practice TM and promote it in one way or another.

        All you have to do is google the name of the researcher and add transcendental meditation as in: Maxwell V. Rainforth transcendental meditation and see what you come up with.

        If some of the researchers have no ties to the TM Movement and don’t do TM let them say so here on this blog – I am willing to be corrected.

      • in fact, for the three i mentioned, Grim and the two Kotchens, I did just that before I asserted that they had never published any research on TM. It is easy to check research, but impossible to check whether or not they do TM. You said that you recognized every name. I have no reason to doubt you, but you don’t give any proof that Grim or the Kotchens are TMers other than you vaguely remember something about them. The three of them have published many dozens of papers on hypertension in african-americans, but only one paper on TM. Even if they DO practice TM, you’re asserting that they suddenly are going to stop being scientists and start putting their hidden TM agenda first.

        This is a rather interesting case of guilt by association, in my mind. You’re assuming that they must be TMers because you vaguely remember someone with that name. You never bothered to check with your trivial google test, and now are asking ME to furnish evidence that your non-test is incorrect.

        Silly.

        If you are so worried about it, YOU ask them.

    • From the MIU/MUM yearbooks:

      Sanford Nidich, Faculty, Education, 1981, 1988, Faculty, Psychology, 2001-02; Faculty, “Maharishi Consciousness-Based Health Care” 2003-04

      Carolyn King: Faculty, Department of Management and Public Affairs, 1994-95. A C. King is listed on staff in 1975.

      John Salerno: student 1985-91: Faculty, Physiology, 2001-02; Faculty, “Maharishi Consciousness-Based Health Care” 2003-04

      Charles Alexander: Faculty, Psychology, 1985-86 and 1988; Member, Vedic Psychology Club, 1990-91; Faculty, Psychology, 1994-95

      Maxwell Rainforth: Faculty, Psychology, 2001-02; Member, Junior Purusha (the movement’s celibate male group analogous to monks) 1991-92; M.A. Mathematics, 1989-90

      The name Kotchen does not appear in the yearbooks, it’s not clear how much was included in the yearbooks and some students and faculty may have been omitted.

    • Dr. Kotchen is wearing the same kind of gold tie that is part of the standard TM devotee/MUM faculty beige-white-and-gold wardrobe in this video. Make of it what you will.

      • If the only evidence you have that Kotchen is a TMer is that he is wearing a yellow tie in a video, well…

        ok…

        I know what I make of it.

        Mind you, to me, if he wasn’t wearing a yellow tie, it would have been just as convincing as if he was. The fact that he’s wearing a tie out all just proves that he does TM, because all TM teachers wear ties…

  9. As I have said before I am no scientist and can hardly understand the scientific language used to describe the studies done on TM. But I do know TM. And I know a great many people who do or have done TM.

    This is what I know about long term TM meditators meaning those who have done TM for 20 to 40 years consistently.

    These long term TM’ers get sick with colds and flu. Some of them get sick from serious illnesses such as cancer. Some recover and some die from terminal illnesses.

    Some like me develop diabetes. Some, perhaps a lot, have various chronic ailments such as low back pain or arthritis or allergies. A whole lot of them wear glasses.

    Most of them have relationship challenges, some get divorced. Some have financial problems, some go bankrupt. Some lose their homes. Some have trouble with raising their kids.

    Some of the TM’ers I know are the best people I have ever met and others are jack-asses.

    In short, long term TM meditators are just like everyone else, except they do TM, and the hard core ones believe that TM is something really special.

    Given the claims researchers have made over the years for the mental, emotional and physical effects of the regular practice of TM, such as:

    Clearer thinking
    Reduction of cardiovascular risk factors
    Increased longevity
    Reduced blood pressure
    Less use of blood pressure medicine
    Reduced blood pressure in at-risk teens
    Reduced metabolic syndrome
    Reduced atherosclerosis
    Reversal of atherosclerosis
    Relaxation of blood vessels
    Improved quality of life for heart failure patients
    Enhanced longevity
    Useful in treating:
    Anxiety
    Pain
    Depression
    • Reduced stress
    • Deep relaxation
    • Inner peace
    • Improved health
    • Greater creativity
    • Increased efficiency
    • Better relationships
    • Improved sleep
    • Clearer thinking
    • Improved concentration
    • Greater confidence
    • Energy and clarity
    • Reduced biological ageing

    Given these claims for TM, and mind you I took each of these benefits from official TM websites, you would think that people who have been doing TM for 20, 30, 40 years would be in nearly perfect health, with nearly perfect relationships and no financial problems given the healthy happy way one would be living and able to cope with the financial needs of life.

    But it simply isn’t so. TM makes you feel good, it can make you feel more refreshed and it does lead to some very interesting internal subjective experiences of consciousness, but just look at a large number of people who do TM. How do they function? Are they better off and healthier than those who don’t do TM?

    An interesting study would be to have researchers who have absolutely no ties to TM to choose any parameters they want to study – physiological, mental, emotional or whatever, and have one group who does no meditation, another group who does TM, another that does another mantra meditation such as Deepak Chopra’s primordial sound meditation, and perhaps other meditations such as Buddhist meditation and compare results amongst all the groups. That is a study I would love to see.

    I found it amusing that another poster here quoted the old 1970′s TM Book – “The Transcendental Meditation program changes the quality of life from poverty, emptiness, and suffering to abundance, fulfillment, and happiness.”

    My friend Bill recently sent me a revised version of that quote, saying perhaps the TM organization should say:

    “In spite of all evidence to the contrary, we affirm that the Transcendental Meditation program changes the quality of life from poverty, emptiness, and suffering to abundance, fulfillment, and happiness.”

    • “In spite of all evidence to the contrary, we affirm that the Transcendental Meditation program changes the quality of life from poverty, emptiness, and suffering to abundance, fulfillment, and happiness.”

      Absolutely Brilliant!

      There’s an abundance of evidence to the contrary!

      Yes, it’s anecdotal. But a lot of consistent anecdotal evidence about one thing seems to be to be a valid reason to take a very careful look at what’s really going on.

      No, I doubt the TM cult/organization will adopt my take on how wonderful, glorious, gotta-have the TM offerings are.

      Nor are they likely to acknowledge that – all that glitters is NOT gold.

    • My comment seems to have gotten lost.

      “In spite of all evidence to the contrary, we affirm that the Transcendental Meditation program changes the quality of life from poverty, emptiness, and suffering to abundance, fulfillment, and happiness.”

      is brilliant!

      No, the TM cult/organization is unlikely to make the change, despite there being many, many anecdotal claims that absolutely should lead anyone with a functioning brain cell to question the intelligence of falling down the TM rabbit hole.

      Anecdotal claims are not proof. Obviously. But the consistency with which they say the same thing about the TM cult/organization is worth taking into account.

      I suppose the TM cult/organization will no time soon adopt the motto: All the glitters is not gold.

      But it would be one of the first honest moves they have made in “if ever”!

      LOL

    • Your generalizations about the long-term effects of TM do not seem correct to me. I’ve seen a variety of effects in my friends and in myself, but always many benefits from the systematic elimination of stored stresses which is the main effect of TM.

      In my case, I have practiced TM for 42 years, including becoming a TM teacher (I currently teach an alternative technique called Natural Stress Relief, or NSR). Those 42 years were marked by noticeable and documented psychological development and improvement, increased ability to make good choices for myself, a successful career in software engineering with interesting and productive jobs in companies large and small.

      I had a variety of fulfilling personal relationships during that time, culminating with two special love relationships, partnerships that were severed only due to the death of my loved one.

      Currently, I own my second house and am in the process of marrying my current love, whom I knew in high school so many years ago. In my retirement I spend my spare time helping others with their questions about meditation and in distributing the Natural Stress Relief (NSR) course, which I have revised and which is highly successful at teaching anyone transcending for a minimal fee. I am so lucky that my partner shares my interests and practices transcending with me twice a day. TM truly helps solve incompatibilities and problems with peace and harmony that evolve from the inside out.

      I currently spend much of my time learning from spiritual teachers in preparation for my Awakening, which I consider my personal choice and hobby. While I cannot prove it scientifically, I feel sure that my practice of TM has prepared my mind and body for the fulfilled life I enjoy today, and for exciting changes in the near future.

      While I have experienced the direct release of stored stresses through TM in almost every meditation, this process has simply left me feeling stronger and more resistant to acquiring new internal stresses. I have not become a basket case, I have not attempted suicide, I do not worship Maharishi, the holy dollar, or anyone or anything else. I still have limitations and minor bad habits, but I feel TM working on them, too. Personal development is a process, not an instantaneous single change.

      I hope my personal story pokes a small hole in your over-generalization, so no one will be scared off by your ravings from trying TM or NSR for themselves.

      One thing I forgot to mention above is the growth of compassion and love. While I still have a big ego, I often surprise myself by sympathizing with those who say things I disagree with. Whenever I read the anti-TM fora, I find myself feeling sorry for the obsessions I see there, not angry. These are people, like me, who were once devoted to Maharishi and his knowledge, but who simply chose a different and more hostile path when disillusionment struck.

      I love everyone, no matter where they are on their personal path. That is an honest statement, so I might as well make it regardless of the consequences (I know that the last thing an angry person wants to hear is that they are loved).

      • Again, you are looking for something that is not there. I said nothing about the long term effects of TM being negative, I said that long term TM practitioners are like everyone else. In non-TM practicing populations, some do well with life and others don’t.

        It is good that your life has been so fulfilling, but that has nothing to do with the many others who have not led fulfilling lives who have been doing TM for years. My comment was simply that if TM is a amazing and efficacious across so many aspects of human life, one might honestly expect long term TM’ers to do a bit better than many of them do.

        The point being that while TM is as good a meditation as any other, it simply doesn’t live up to the hype.

        On a personal note, I have no anger towards the TM Movement or Maharishi. It is an interesting phenomenon that people who are TM boosters assume one is angry or in some way off balance if they do not also sing the praises of TM and its organization.

        You are some kind of guy – you sing the praise of TM apparently so you can say ‘Hey look here! TM is real good, but you can give me just a fraction of the cost of TM and get an equally good technique.”

        Even an outside observer (meaning one who has never done TM) might think your praise of TM is in your own financial self interest.

        I am simply interested in full disclosure. I admit I used to work for the TM Movement, I admit I still sometimes use my TM mantra and that I have done other meditations, including Deepak Chopra’s primordial sound meditation, which is identical to TM except the Chopra meditation instructors use a different set of mantras.

        In the interest of full disclosure, I just don’t care for the new push being orchestrated by the David Lynch people and the TM people to take the image of TM back to what it was in the 1970′s before the so-called yogic flying program was unveiled by Maharishi without the general public being very very clear on what else the TM movement has in store for them.

        TM is ok and it can be a good thing for people, but so can other meditations at much less cost (as you are so quick to point out), and without getting involved with a group of people who wear crowns and call themselves kings and claim against all evidence to the contrary to have proven technologies for creating world peace.

        If you have ever been at the university in Iowa, as I was you see people just like everyone else – they are worried about their grades, they are hoping to have sex, they are concerned about their finances.

        When I was “flying” at the university, with all the talk from Maharishi about having large number of yogic flyers, I would sit at meals with my friends from Germany, Israel, Quebec Canada, or France. Because I often sat with the folks from abroad, a lot of people assumed I was not American and would openly disparage the Americans there commenting on our coarse behavior and lack of culture and refinement. A group that is supposed to be creating world peace and they can’t even get beyond their old worn out prejudices?

        At this time the TM Movement is dying off – Maharishi’s nephews are pillaging his fortune in India and I wouldn’t be surprised that they start doing the same thing in Europe and America when they get finished in India.

        http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/maharishi-mahesh-yogi-rs-60000-crore-fortune/1/201925.html

        Once the public gets over the current PR blitz by Oprah and David Lynch, public awareness will just fade out.

        And again on a personal note, you are projecting feelings onto me that don’t apply – I have no obsession over telling what I feel is the honest truth about TM and the TM Movement. I notice that you are willing to write long treatises on the benefits and glory of TM, always ending by saying how good your meditation is and that its cheaper.

        When you sing the praises of TM and NSR, its not obsession yet anyone like myself who simply tells my experience and asks for full disclosure I am angry and obsessed.

        I don’t make any money off what I say, but you are trying to by steering those who are interested in TM to do your method instead. I wish I was making money of telling my story about TM.

        You are also dishonest in not dealing with the effects of unstressing on long or even short residence courses – you have seen it and probably experienced it on TTC at least, but you avoid talking about it.

        I will say again, if TM is so great, why did you quit teaching it?

  10. “Lawson English says:
    November 28, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    I am posting my observations as a person who wasn’t there during the incident, … ”

    Oh, you are so innocent, so humble, just an ordinary person trying to prop up the lies the guru churned out like pennies from heaven. Do you get a commission now, or do you have to wait until you reach CC or whatever the current gift of TM is all about.

    Mahesh was a fraud who only ever had one valid thing, the actual method/secret of TM – “as easily as”. He used it as a front to make himself into something people thought was wonderful, but wasn’t.

    Then he used the deception of the appearance of science as a gimmick to sell his glamours lies and made sure that all the results of his faux-science “looked” right, “looked” important and convincing.

    Mahesh sold the imagination to the imagination.

    The article in question here is just the same thing. Let’s see how much money we can get from women of African descent by conning them that by spending $3000 or whatever the current rate has inflated to, that they can have a feel-good miracle cure.

    It’s cynical, disgusting and criminal to use such methods to bilk people out of their resources. I suspect your pathetic efforts to support this kind of cynical, disgusting and criminal activity comes from the actual results of doing TM long after you should have had the sense to quit and run for you life.

  11. Michael H. Jackson: I think your statements, such as:

    “This is what I know about long term TM meditators meaning those who have done TM for 20 to 40 years consistently.

    These long term TM’ers get sick with colds and flu…”

    are pretty clearly claims about the negative long-term effects of TM. It was your negativity that I was responding to. As with most negative people, you are unaware of the full impact your statements may have on others.

    You’ve now made three additional negative attacks, without proof, this time directed at me. Here are my responses:

    1. “…you are trying to [make money] by steering those who are interested in TM to do your method instead. I wish I was making money of telling my story about TM.”

    My particular disillusionment with TM involved the rigidity of its policies, such as the high course fee, which alienate people who otherwise would learn TM and help move our society towards peace and freedom from suffering. I joined the NSR project, and am making transcending instruction available at a price that most people can actually afford. I often get feedback praising me for my work in making the effective NSR technique available in such an accessible and useful form. I do this work because it is needed. At these low prices for the course and for support, I am not making any money. The NSR/USA bank account only contains several thousand dollars, even after six years, which enables special projects when they arise and gives us scalability for our basic costs, which are printing, postage, and CD replication. No one in the NSR organizations draw a salary. We are all volunteers here in the USA, and in our other locations. I don’t need money because I am retired and have only living expenses to pay. But your assumption that this NSR thing is all about making money beautifully reveals your cynical and negative state of mind.

    2. “You are also dishonest in not dealing with the effects of unstressing on long or even short residence courses – you have seen it and probably experienced it on TTC at least, but you avoid talking about it.”

    I have seen unstressing (stress release outside of meditation) on most of the many TM courses I have attended over the years. I don’t talk about it because it is not particularly interesting. Mostly, it consists of people sitting around, looking spaced-out. I’ve even done that myself several times. But at the end of the course, when the metabolism rises again in preparation for returning home to daily activity, all this unstressing stops (except in a very, very few people who have ongoing problems due to mental illness and need to see a psychiatrist–about 10% of the population is mentally ill, and TM meditators are not screened before they attend advanced courses). Unstressing is a good thing, because it results in an even deeper freedom from stored stresses than is created by plain, twice-a-day TM. That is why it is not worth discussing. What you see as a bad side effect of TM I know as a wonderful side effect–wonderful in that it helps transform the individual to higher levels of productivity, creativity, and the ability to give and receive love.

    3. “I will say again, if TM is so great, why did you quit teaching it?”

    I didn’t notice your question the first time, sorry. I quit teaching TM because I could no longer afford to live off of my savings. I had to return to my career in software engineering for practical, financial reasons.

    Then, in the 1990s, I became disillusioned with Maharishi’s new courting of billionaires. I was offended by his elitism in declaring that only wealthy people were worthy of instruction in TM. I could not follow his new wave of mysticism that declared cures for cancer and diabetes, which are not mainly stress-based diseases. I could not agree that it was important for building entrances to face east. I felt it wrong to let go of the happiness of the 1970s focus on bringing TM to the world. And, most of all, I felt that it was self-defeating for his organization to charge high course fees. I discovered that NSR corrected all these problems without sacrificing the purity of the teaching. So I started working for NSR.

    I am happy to answer questions, whether they are about meditation or about my personal life. I regret that we seem to have gone off on a tangent rather than sticking to the topic of this forum and article. We should have done this on a more appropriate website, not one used by medical professionals.

    David Spector
    Natural Stress Relief/USA

    • Thank you David for your explanation of your leaving the TM Movement, it in many ways is similar to my reasons for leaving. On some points we will have to disagree – it isn’t negative in my opinion to say that people who have done TM for years get sick – its just a statement of fact – and was my was of saying that long term TM’ers are just like everyone else, and that if TM really really really does have such positive benefits on the mental, emotional and physical levels then you would expect continued improvement on all fronts in long term TM practitioners, more than that of the general population, and my experiences and observations do not bear that out.

      I don’t lay that off on TM, I am just saying its not the glowing heal-all that the TMO has always claimed it is. You seem to ignore other statements of mine, such as that I think some of the people I have known who are long term TM folks are the very best sort of people. I don’t credit that to TM either. It is just my opinion, but I think TM helps you become more of what you naturally are. If you are a saintly person and you start TM you will be more saintly – if you are an unpleasant person, you will be more unpleasant if you do TM.

      I give two examples – I think Jerry Jarvis is one of the kindest, nicest guys I ever met in the TM Movement – I met him and was around him a number of times in Atlanta, GA. He was open, honest, kind and an all around nice guy.

      Another TM teacher who was the leader of Atlanta when it was the Area Capital was Gene Speigel – my step father and mother stopped doing TM after going on a residence course that he taught. I was on that course to., He was so unpleasant, arrogant and abrasive that my step father said “If that’s the way people behave after doing TM for years, I want no part of it.”

      As to the unstressing, I have seen more examples of it than just being spaced out, and not just on rounding courses. I will leave it at that.

      Its not my business what you do, David, but I wish you could teach meditation without linking it to TM. Whether current or former TM practitioners like it or not, the TM organization has created so much negative baggage that any association with them is going to have to deal with that baggage.

      I encourage anyone to meditate, and I would even say that it is a good thing to do TM, meaning to get one of the mantras that the TM organization uses if you get it from some of the TM teachers/organizations who like you did not like what Maharishi and the TM organization were doing and so struck out on their own. I think the TM mantras are fine, as long as you don’t have to fool with the official TM movement itself.

    • I forgot to also thank you for being forthcoming about the finances of NSR – I know it is not my business and I admit after dealing with the TM Movement for years I am a bit skeptical of meditation and money. Good thing we weren’t discussing Amma!

      I apologize for any personal slight you may have felt with my posts. It was not my intention to insult you and after re-reading my post, I realize one could take it as an insult.

  12. Re: “you DO realize that Chopra had rewritten all his books and deleted every reference to Maharishi and TM from them, right?”

    The letter I referenced was written immediately upon his leaving the Movement – at that time he had re-written nothing, all his books on bookstore shelves were the original editions. End of story.

    • actually, he had already rewritten things, but the new editions (never identified as revised/new BTW) hadn’t hit the shelves yet. What are you suggesting, that the TM organization continue to sell books of someone who has formally left the organization and constantly monitor the books to see when the new versions hit the shelves and THEN stop promoting them?

      That’s a logistical and political nightmare. The fact that you are suggesting that as a practical policy to implement is, well, interesting.

      Easiest is to do what they did: once his stance became apparent (when he appeared on Oprah), implement the new policy. They already knew it was going to happen but allowed the book promotions to be continued until he made his exit public and then gracefully (in my mind at least) stopped promoting them.

    • The blind misleading the blind. The little match girl selling imitation matches. Science either stands on its own feet or it doesn’t. And when it isn’t the best science, it crumbles. The efforts of sincere believers to make that which is not into that which is is both sad and laughable. Science is not about belief and belief is not science. So simple, yet the uninformed persist in repeating the same-old, same-old, expecting a different outcome (for which there is an unpleasant diagnosis).

      • You are, of course, correct. The problem, and it is a subtle one, is that scientists are human, too, and have their own beliefs. In this case, they may believe in the efficacy of TM, and that may affect their interpretation of studies, especially when those studies are not overwhelmingly convincing in their outcome, their statistics, or their design. But the subtlety of this problem is only revealed when we also consider that scientists may be equally biased against the efficacy of TM. The reason this polarity is subtle is that being opposed to TM is the default positions, both of ignorance (the null hypothesis) and of convention (Western medicine formed before TM was known).

        In addition to the consideration of this rather large effect of bias either way, there is the question of whether to admit studies that are not overwhelmingly convincing. Should they be discarded, or accepted with some sort of proviso status? It is clear from the comments here that there are people on both sides of this question.

        As I wrote above, some physiological and medical effects are easy to measure (anxiety) and some very difficult (vascular health). When investigating TM, some effects are directly related to internalized stresses, and hence have a big expected impact (work productivity, social relationships), while others are indirect or have other competing factors, and hence have a small expected impact (the time it takes for standard abrasions or cuts to heal, the number of new dental caries found per unit time).

        When there is controversy about an intervention, research is apt to drag on, year after year, with no clear consensus. I think that’s exactly what is happening with TM. Scientists in favor of it (whether because of mainly personal or scientific conviction), who are in the minority, are motivated to work hard to publish good studies. Scientists devoted only to “good science” (with the just-explained subtle bias against TM), are motivated to challenge the research. Most scientists have other fish to fry and abstain from the fray.

        The result is a good one: eventually the range of actual benefits and limitations of TM will be known with a high degree of certainty. The down side is that such certainty comes at a high cost: it may be fifty or a hundred years or more before this goal of reliable, objective, and accepted knowledge is reached.

        Meanwhile, other events, not scientific in nature, will continue to happen. Celebrities may endorse or decry TM; alternative but similar techniques may be developed; governments may underwrite TM; activists may publicize TM positively or negatively.

        One thing we can be sure of: the future of TM is impossible to predict. For proponents like myself, these are exciting times, poised to get even more exciting.

  13. I think my response to David Spector is the same as buddhanandabhikkhu’s. (gaffaw)

    My guess is that Spector missed Nigel’s comment on purpose. But his long diatribe still does not make TM any more appealing or any different from what it is.

    When many independent researchers compare TM and the Relaxation Response, they might come to similar conclusions: rest is useful in treating many things. Which method gives the most useful rest will not be “proven”, however.

    The TM organization has been trying to fool people with this ignorant notion of “proof” for a long time. Science does not prove, but does research to find the most probably method to address a specific area. BUT it does not say it has found proof. IF many independent researchers can repeat this particular cardio study and IF those researchers find similar results, independent of one another and IF none of them are on the TM payroll and none of their universities or research institutes are affiliated with TM in any way, then maybe they will conclude that there may be something of interest in this particularly limited area.

    Aspirin was discovered in the late 19th century. After over 100 years of research, no legitimate scientist would claim that he or she had “proof” that aspirin did some specifically reliable thing. However, there is “evidence” that, at least in some cases, perhaps many cases, aspirin does X, Y or Z. But evidence is not proof. A lot of evidence needs to be weighed against a lot of evidence. Otherwise it’s circumstantial. Anyone wishing to invest in circumstantial evidence does so at his or her peril.

    When TM has had over 100 years of research (by real scientists not affiliated with belief in TM or money from the TM organization), then, if they are real scientists, they may conclude something similar to what we know now: namely that TM, for some people, for longer or shorter durations of accumulated practise time, allows some individuals to experience varying degrees of rest.

    As many who have been involved with Mahesh and the TM organization have attested, the rest produced by TM has been used by both Mahesh and the organization to sway thinking and bias individuals in favor of evangelizing in the name of phoney science and TM needs.

    • Is this a quote from someone, or did you make that up yourself? I don’t know any working scientist who WANTS to find his pet theory to be wrong, unless, of course, the implications of that theory are unpleasant to them in the first place.

      Scientists, in general, want their theories to be correct, and receive extensive training in methodologies designed to compensate for this experimenter bias.

      • You show à complete lack of knowledge about scientific work Lawson English. I dont need citations, science is all about finding the truth and nothing else. We are all the time occupied by testing hypothesis …. Icecold, !

  14. Well since the debate continues, I would like to ask David Spector to consider this: all right, let’s say TM has some positive effect on the human physiology. It could be said that just the regular practice of extra rest might do the same thing, or that the practice of other meditations might also have the same effects. The implication that the TM proponents make is that there is something extra special about the practice of TM itself that makes all the good accrue from the practice of TM.

    This implies that TM mantras are better or more effective than other mantra meditations – do you believe this is true? If it is not true then TM is no better than any other meditations.

    There is an even more important consideration. TM people have for years credited the practice of TM with a wide range of positive mental, emotional and behavioral effects.

    There are many, many, many current and former TM’ers who will attest to the unpleasant and unconscionable behavior that one routinely experiences at the hands of the people who administer the TM movement, and this type of behavior which is completely at odds with the lofty goals and claimed effects of TM has been remarkably consistent for years, since at least the 1970′s.

    In addition I would remind you of your earlier words about Maharishi himself.

    “Then, in the 1990s, I became disillusioned with Maharishi’s new courting of billionaires. I was offended by his elitism in declaring that only wealthy people were worthy of instruction in TM. I could not follow his new wave of mysticism that declared cures for cancer and diabetes, which are not mainly stress-based diseases. I could not agree that it was important for building entrances to face east.”

    You don’t use these words directly but you imply that Maharishi was arrogant and a liar (about his cures for cancer and the necessity for rebuilding all buildings in the world to adhere to the idea of Maharishi’s interpretation of vedic architecture).

    Given the behavior of the TM Movement’s founder and leader who from your own words was arrogant, elitist and apparently greedy for money coupled with the unpleasant behavior of the TM leaders, how can anyone who is thinking of doing TM going to want to when they see the result of years of TM in the behavior of Maharishi and his lieutenants?

    Given the behavior of these people the assertion that TM is and always has had nothing but good positive effects is indefensible. I understand that you and your students have had positive experiences, how then do you explain the effect of TM in Maharishi and his TM leaders? If you say their unpleasant behavior had and has nothing to do with TM, then that would seem to conclude that while TM may have certain physiological effects, the mental, emotional and behavioral effects are nil at best if not counter productive.

    • You have completely misunderstood the significance of TM mantras. ANY meaningless sound could be used as a mantra during TM. The reason why Om isn’t used is because it is thought to be TOO effective:

      being the simplest of all human sounds (the equivalent of a truncated sign wave), it immediately draws the attention inward as fast as possible, but it doesn’t have any side-effects that are thought to support lifestyles useful for those who have made a career of anything other than becoming enlightened. The specific TM mantras, on the other hand, are thought to have such side-effects and provide support for householder lifestyles as they facilitate drawing the attention inward, aka “transcending.” Advanced TM techniques are similarly misunderstood: they make the “dive inward” towards pure consciousness more shallow, allowing the nervous system to remain active for longer periods at successively “more refined” levels of thinking, rather than simply plunging as rapidly as possible towards pure consciousness.

      Randomly chosen sounds used as mantras in TM, are thought to have unpredictable side-effects during the transcending process, not necessarily positive.

      Whether or not this aspect of TM theory is in some sense “true” from a Western perspective, hasn’t been tested by the TM organization. Patricia Carrington, who devised a technique (clinically simulated meditation or CSM) meant to be TM-like, claimed that her research showed that using different mantras during CSM created measurably different EEG effects in her students, but I can’t find any published meditation research by her that shows this, at least not in the pubmed abstracts.

      • MMY’s decision to raise the price on TM was meant specifically to “court billionaires” because, as he put it, “the rich don’t shop in poor stores,” and it is the wealthy people in society who set the trends and make the policies for the rest of society and, by implication, without their explicit support, it would be almost impossible to get TM accepted as anything other than a short-lived fad.

        Add the David Lynch Foundation to the mix, where the DLF provides TM teachers with a decent salary for teaching large groups of students and other “at risk” populations for free, and you have a recipe to entice wealthy people to feel good about supporting TM instruction to the masses. “The masses,” in turn, see that the rich value TM at the full price, and are more likely to appreciate it than if it were something they could afford to pay for out-of-pocket.

        Jacking up the price of TM, combined with the requirement that all active TM teachers needed to be re-certified (for a hefty fee), made sure that only the TM teachers most dedicated to MMY and his organization would remain affiliated with his organization. This had the effect, intentional or not, of side-stepping most of the issues that arise when a charismatic leader of an organization dies: the main splintering off of independent TM teachers and so on occurred while MMY was still alive. Likewise, by requiring that virtually all people who desired to participate in the administration of the TM organization had to pay a $1 million fee up front (or find someone to sponsor them by paying that fee for them) in order to prove their dedication, again helped defuse the inevitable schisms that form after a charismatic leader’s death.

        These results may have been unintentional and MMY was actually only interested in accumulating personal wealth for his own “nefarious purposes” the last few years before he died a frail old man at the age of 92 (three weeks after his formal retirement), but nevertheless, they ARE what resulted, whether you are willing to acknowledge this or not.

      • Om wasn’t used by Maharishi because he said it would have a negative effect on people who were not recluses which is nonsense. Mantras are a dime a dozen in India, the TM mantras are not more special than any others – try Deepak Chopra’s primordial sound meditation – exact same meditation – different set of mantras – I know – I have tried it.

      • Jackson said:

        “Om wasn’t used by Maharishi because he said it would have a negative effect on people who were not recluses which is nonsense.”

        Mahesh’s first statements about mantras was that “any word will do” – Beacon Light of the Himalayas. He then declared that his method chose only those mantras that brought the blessings of gods! (Yes, we are no religion!) Scientifically or otherwise conning the gods, as the ancient Greeks so often warned us, never turns out well.

        As anyone who can surf the net can find out for himself, Mahesh then went about making up his own sacred mantras bringing/conning blessings from whatever gods he thought might be listening. What’s scientific about that?

        Jackson’s use of “nonsense” is well-used, well-aimed. Lawson is a well-meaning evangelist. But he doesn’t know what he’s talking about most of the time. Like Mahesh, he just makes up nice sound bites as he bumbles along. Not that this is any kind of news to anyone.

      • The Yoga Sutras say that any preferred/attractive object of attention can be used as a ishta-devata during meditation. This term literally translates as “personal god.”

        If you take the literal translation as valid in this context, then people using the word “one” as their mantra during the Relaxation Response, are worshiping the number 1.

        A more subtle interpretation of this phrase in the Yoga Sutras takes “deva” to mean fundamental vibration in the consciousness of the unverse which is responsible for maintaining the order of specific aspects of the universe.

        In this context, an ishta-devata is merely a mental sound whose effects are known to be good -that is, tradition holds that that specific sound is associated with maintaining the order of some specific aspect of human consciousness. The religious explanation is that they are “pleasing to the gods.”

        For example -”Thor likes tall buildings and up-right pieces of metal and that is why lighting tends to strike them so regularly: he uses them for target practice”- is a perfectly valid “explanation” of the phenomenon of lightning. It lacks a certain predictive power, so it isn’t scientific, per se, but it explains one known phenomenon quite handily.

        A non-religious explanation, assuming one is ever required to explain some as-yet-unmeasured “special effect” of specific mantras, is that their use during meditation has effects that ancient religious people associated with the deity that is used to explain their effects. How those effects might work is another question, but until the effects are documented, it’s a kinda useless question, from a scientific POV, sorta like asking why all unicorns are green.

        shrug.

    • Michael, I am very impressed with your questions. They are well constructed, and call for reply. Unfortunately, your hostility toward TM leads you to logical mistakes that contradict each of your conclusions.

      1. “It could be said that just the regular practice of extra rest might do the same thing [as TM].”

      Since this at first glance appears to be a reasonable hypothesis, it deserves to be tested explicitly. I hope that someone does a metastudy on the existing literature on the effects of extra sleep on the physiological and psychological markers that have been studied in TM and NSR.

      I feel certain that extra sleep cannot cause the immediate effects and long-term benefits of transcending, for the simple reason that the TM researchers would have been laughed off of the world stage back in 1969-72 when the first studies (by Benson and Wallace) were published (first as Wallace’s PhD dissertation, then in New England Journal of Medicine, then in Science, then in American Journal of Physiology, then in the Proceedings of the International Conference on Drug Abuse, and finally as a major article, “The Physiology of Meditation”, in Scientific American), and again for every study since, all 600 or so of them. That includes hundreds of well-designed experiments that produce something very different from laughter: serious validation of TM’s many benefits.

      Do you want to kill TM’s claims? Are you really motivated? Then just do this metastudy and show that TM is no better than sleep. Good luck with that.

      2. “…or that the practice of other meditations might also have the same effects.”

      This is just as unlikely. Even accounting for the unusual interest in TM, some scientist is likely to have run even an informal study on, say, Mindfulness, and found the same physiological markers of the fourth state of consciousness (restful alertness), if there were any to be found.

      There are some interesting studies on Mindfulness and other forms of meditation, but they tend to focus on ordinary stress reduction and out-of-the-way hypotheses (increased folding of the lobes of the brain). There’s not much research that usefully overlaps with the research on TM. Scientists tend to focus on measures that confirm or disprove their hypotheses, and Mindfulness and Relaxation Response are not very fruitful for more than a few specific areas of research, just as might be expected from techniques of simple relaxation, which is what they are.

      3. “The implication that the TM proponents make is that there is something extra special about the practice of TM itself that makes all the good accrue from the practice of TM.”

      Yes, and it is called transcending. No other form of meditation creates systematic transcending whenever one sits to practice. For anecdotal evidence, ask a friend or relative who practices TM; that’s easy to do, right? For objective evidence, read some of the hundreds of studies on TM; try to maintain your skepticism in the face of all of the good research that has been done.

      4. “This implies that TM mantras are better or more effective than other mantra meditations – do you believe this is true?”

      Wait, what? Why does it matter whether the effectiveness of TM has anything to do with its choice of mantras? Transcending starts from the thought of the mantra (which is a sound), then rapidly moves through the refinement of that thought to a faint impulse of thought, and then completes in the experience of pure consciousness, in which no thoughts occur. The point is that TM leads to the ability to recognize and experience pure consciousness. This has little to do with the choice of mantra, so long as it is suitable for use in transcending.

      And what do you mean by “other mantra meditations”? There are a few, but they are not well known. The best-known, Natural Stress Relief (NSR), uses a different bija mantra from the same meditation tradition as TM. So what? Again, the heart of TM or NSR is the process of transcending, which is subtle and effortless, and therefore requires instruction. The choice of mantra is a minor technical issue, only of interest to meditation teachers.

      5. “If it is not true then TM is no better than any other meditations.”

      Your reasoning here is “TM is no better than any other form of mantra meditation, therefore TM is no better than any other form of meditation. This is a false logic, plain and simple.

      The practice of TM is no better (in my opinion) than the practice of NSR. The teaching of TM is arguably more thorough, since students attend formal classes in a TM center, from certified teachers. In NSR, people teach themselves from a manual. I always recommend TM instruction for those who can afford it, and who live close enough to a center (bad TM policies resulted in the loss of many centers).

      6. “TM people have for years credited the practice of TM with a wide range of positive mental, emotional and behavioral effects.”

      This “wide range” is not only credited by TM proponents, but also by the scientists who conducted the most careful research. Why do you want to keep ignoring that? It’s the whole point.

      Oh, and by the way, good science is also the point, not the affiliation of the scientists. Bad science will always tend to fail in attempts to replicate by independent groups. Much of TM research is well-replicated.

      7. “There are many…TM’ers who will attest to the unpleasant and unconscionable behavior…of the people who administer the TM movement, …completely at odds with the lofty goals…of TM…”

      There are good and bad people everywhere. I was heavily involved in taking teacher training and other advanced courses in the 1970s; I also worked in many TM centers. Most TM folks I knew were ethical and compassionate; a few were less so. I greatly admire the people who teach and administer TM today; it is some of their policies that I find objectionable and self-defeating, as I stated earlier.

      8. “…you imply that Maharishi was arrogant and a liar…”

      I spent lots of time listening to Maharishi and even interacting with him in person. I found him honest, humble, compassionate, intelligent, and ethical. But that was in the 1970s. In the 1980s he started changing: he steadily raised the course fee, and began introducing pseudoscience and mysticism. I saw no evidence of lying, and a little evidence of grandiosity, but the biggest change was in adding mysticism and elitism. It was these specific changes in his behavior that disillusioned me. Was he getting old and weak in his thinking? Did his advisors give him bad advice and say ‘yes’ too often? We’ll likely never know. But it is clear to all of us followers that he did change, and in a way that alienated the general public, our precious audience.

      9. “…and apparently greedy for money…”

      I’ve never implied this, and do not agree. I never saw him take advantage of the Movement’s wealth to buy luxury, or even much in the way of creature comfort. He was interested, though, in special projects to help India’s spiritual life, and those cost money. I believe he would have done better to postpone them. But that’s just my opinion.

      10. “…how can anyone who is thinking of doing TM going to want to when they see the result of years of TM in the behavior of Maharishi and his lieutenants?”

      This is a good point, and one reason why we set up NSR as an alternative to TM. These people were not, and are not serving the general public well. Their current emphasis is on research and on special projects funded by David Lynch and other wealthy people. These projects (TM in disadvantaged high schools throughout the world; TM to treat PTSD and ADHD, etc.) are wonderful, but they don’t address the needs of the common man and woman, who need anxiety reduction, more energy, better sleep, better productivity and innovation at work, better ability to love and be loved, etc. None of this means that TM is useless! It is just as effective today under the name TM as it was when it was practiced thousands of years ago in India under the name Jnana Yoga. Perhaps more so.

      11. “Given the behavior of these people the assertion that TM is and always has had nothing but good positive effects is indefensible.”

      Nonsense. This is not good logic. Even a murderer could conceivably teach a technique that has nothing but good positive effects.

      12. “I understand that you and your students have had positive experiences, how then do you explain the effect of TM in Maharishi and his TM leaders?”

      TM produces the same beneficial effects as NSR. But you the student are free to live your life any way you like. Neither TM nor NSR is a cult, encouraging or enforcing a specific lifestyle. The leaders of the TM Movement are simply following Maharishi in his final policies befor his death, policies that may ensure that TM will not be successful in its goal to bring peace to the world. However, NSR has the ability to scale up and be successful in this goal, and hopefully will continue to do so. I look to TM for special projects, good publicity, good science, and reaching a few people with its courses. I look to NSR for reaching the rest of the world’s population with a simple, do-it-yourself course of instruction. It’s that simple.

      13. “…while TM may have certain physiological effects, the mental, emotional and behavioral effects are nil at best…”

      Not so. The fact that TM does produce certain physiological effects is the reason it produces a large range of benefits for those who want them. Everyone who practices TM finds that they think better: more focused, with greater creativity and intelligence, and with less distraction from irrelevant thoughts. But what you do with benefits like these are up to you. The TM leaders use their personal benefits poorly, by their own choice, based in their slavish devotion to Maharishi’s policies.

  15. Man oh man – you just prove that anyone can find excuses for anything – the “schisms” that you say MMY prevented are currently taking place in India as his nephews raid the assets of the TM movement and his other followers taking them to court for fraud, forgery, illegal land sales and so forth.

    What you are trying to defend was more ego mania on his part as well as another way of making money.

    The TM organization has more than enough money to pay TM teachers to teach TM for free to school kids, prisoners, etc rather than have the David Lynch Foundation solicit money from the general public but they won’t do it. Why? Because as is their tradition the TM movement takes money, they don’t pay or give money.

    • There are controversial things going on in India -the rest of the world, not-so-much, and even in India, the question is about the authorization to sell specific tracts of land, not the entire set of holdings. Also, the construction of the facilities for group meditation in the relatively remote center of India are proceeding, regardless of any court cases pending about hyper-expensive land in the most heavily developed areas, and THAT has been deemed the most important project of the entire worldwide TM organization for the past 35 years, so anything that doesn’t affect that is superficial, by comparison.

      • You keep on thinking that – Maharishi’s nephews are well known to be as lustful for money as their uncle was – don’t forget the three of them formed the Maharishi Group that owns much of the TM assets – when the nephews get through with pillaging the Indian assets don’t be surprised when they start gutting things in Europe and the Americas.

  16. From Husten’s review of this nonsense:

    “A trial with barely 200 patients can not be expected to provide broad answers about the health benefits of a novel intervention.”

    Sez it all, eh?

    Mahesh was well known for asking if people understood. If even one hand went up (which was sometimes all that happened), his standard response was “see, almost everyone.” Then, he’d laugh. His science is a joke on the well-meaning rubes who are well-meaning but addlepated pawns in his scheme (he’s dead, of course, but his schemes live on like bad breath) to commercialize his brand of hooey!

    Jackson is absolutely right about Mahesh, the TM organization and money:

    “The TM organization has more than enough money to pay TM teachers to teach TM for free to school kids, prisoners, etc rather than have the David Lynch Foundation solicit money from the general public but they won’t do it. Why? Because as is their tradition the TM movement takes money, they don’t pay or give money.”

    Personally, I think this deceitful façade of “science” is nothing but a disgusting money grab to teach TM to these vulnerable groups under the guise of helping.

    Maheshism is about TAKING MONEY FROM THE VULNERABLE, nothing more. Comparing, as has been suggested, the effectiveness of TM and Herbert Benson’s Relaxation Response should be the first step. Why even consider something as expensive and cultish as TM when Benson’s RR is nearly free and might prove to do the same thing, only with actual scientific validation.

  17. NSR/USA stated:

    “I feel certain that extra sleep cannot cause the immediate effects and long-term benefits of transcending, for the simple reason that the TM researchers would have been laughed off of the world stage back in 1969-72 when the first studies (by Benson and Wallace) were published (first as Wallace’s PhD dissertation, then in New England Journal of Medicine, then in Science, then in American Journal of Physiology, then in the Proceedings of the International Conference on Drug Abuse, and finally as a major article, “The Physiology of Meditation”, in Scientific American), and again for every study since, all 600 or so of them. That includes hundreds of well-designed experiments that produce something very different from laughter: serious validation of TM’s many benefits.”

    It’s pretty hard to take seriously someone who clearly is not even aware that Wallace’s work was mostly retracted. That which was not retracted was quickly shown to be false by independent attempts at replication, which failed.

    The only person in these comments who should be “laughed off the world stage” is poor Mr. Spector who never got the news…after several decades.

  18. The original articles are still there, so nothing seem to have been retracted except Herbert Benson, being an honest scientist, he was “retracted” from the TM-organisation early seventies and NOT AT ALL from the scientific community after he continued to test his hypothesis at Harvard Medical School without selling his soul. Here the article from Scientific America http://www.nature.com/scientificamerican/journal/v226/n2/pdf/scientificamerican0272-84.pdf
    . The more scientific high impact articles can all be found on the net. THIS is the way of the true Scientist Herbert Benson ass. Professor still at Harvard Medical School, , Lawson English!!
    All the best Hansen B U, MD, PhD, Associate Professor at the Medical Faculty of Lund University, Sweden

    • So, you’re saying that the original research done by Wallace and then by Wallace and Benson was never retracted by either author nor by the editors and publishers of the various journals where their research was published. However, Benson went on to assert, and continues to assert, that his technique has the same effects as TM in all respects, while Wallace continues to assert that there are measurable physiological differences between TM and Benson’s technique and has published research on what he claims are apparently unique aspects of TM practice.

      You assert that Benson is a good guy while Keith Wallace is a bad guy, based on their respective assertions.

      Does this sum up your stance?

  19. What a lot of jabbering about some feckless effort to make TM look legitimate! Amazing.

    Larry Husten’s analysis of this nearly useless “study” ought to be sufficient for anyone who can make intelligent decisions based on fact and reason.

    Holistic medicine, that is, real science that also considers the probably of the effectiveness of meditation and diet and exercise, is fine. I don’t know any medical professionals who rely exclusively on medication alone. But the propaganda trying to support the vapid claims of this marginally interesting paper are disturbing and underlie the concerns many professionals express with respect to the influence cult mentality has on diminishing mental and physical health. As far as the mental health of the TM propagandists is concerned, this ought to be obvious to nearly anyone capable of understanding Husten’s analysis and purpose of this “brief” in general.

    • Actually, Keith Wallace was a post-doc at Harvard. His UCLA thesis in physiology, The Physiology of Transcendental Meditation, had been published in Science before he ended up at Harvard working with Benson as his post-doc advisor.

  20. One of the problems with TM and movements like it is that people assume the leader is in a state of enlightenment and thus can do no wrong, in this case, whatever Maharishi said was taken to come from a consciousness that was completely in tune with the Universe and that in fact it was Universal Mind speaking through him – that’s why most of us were willing to believe his “yogic flying” was a reality since we could not imagine him lying or even going out on a limb with something that could not be proven – 37 years later no one levitates and the science is shaky on even many, but not all claims about the TM technique

    We might have gotten a clue on the occasions he was heard praising Adolf Hitler as a great leader who had been unfairly maligned by the Allies – kind of like the time he schmoozed with Ferdinand Marcos also praising him and Robert Mugabe.

    That is why I say you can’t take these studies in a vacuum – the energy of any creator infuses itself into the creation be it a house, a painting, a song or an organization. Thus even tho many like to say just look at the technique not the people who teach it, I think its good to do both. TM can be beneficial – but other meditations don’t have the controversy or the baggage TM does. I would encourage anyone to do any meditation other than TM at this point.

    • MMY was raised under British rule, and like many Hindus of his era, was very anti-British. The current Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath, for example, was deemed a terrorist by the British for his constant violence against British citizens. Some years after India gained independence, he ended up a disciple of MMY’s teacher, and since he didn’t accept his teacher’s nephew as a worthy successor, he moved on to a different teacher. Years later, he was tapped to become successor to his and MMY’s teacher and his years as a “freedom fighter” are considered a positive thing.

      Read the formal history of the Irgun, where the cold blooded murder of British soldiers in captivity is justified because their captors “had no choice” but to kill them because their political demands were not met.

      The British were less than popular with the civilizations they had conquered over the years and MMY considering Hitler to be better than the British and their allies had portrayed him, isn’t all that big a stretch.

      As for smooching up to various dictators, he was trying to convince them to embrace TM at the government level. Just as the American government finds it easier to deal with right-wing dictators than with unruly third-world democracies, MMY was hoping that by playing kiss-ass to the same people, he could get them to unilaterally institute pro-TM policies.

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