Is TM a religion?
First, do I have a hidden agenda?
I'd like to start by saying that I do not have a religious agenda. I am not criticizing TM because it contradicts any personal religious conviction that I hold. I actually don't care that (giving away my conclusions below) TM is a religion. What I object to is that TMers deceive the public about the religious nature of TM in order to not negatively affect recruitment rates.
Bringing the Light of God!
To set the scene, here is an excerpt from the oath that I signed when I became at TM teacher:
It is my fortune, Guru Dev [Mahesh's deceased master], that I have been accepted to serve the Holy Tradition and spread the Light of God to all those who need it . It is my joy to undertake the responsibility of representing the Holy Tradition in all its purity as it has been given to me by Maharishi and I promise on your altar, Guru Dev, that with all my heart and mind I will always work within the framework of the Organisations founded by Maharishi. And to you, Maharishi, I promise that as a Meditation Guide I will be faithful in all ways to the trust that you have placed in me.
Every TM teacher signs that! So why do they tell you that "TM is not a religion"?
Once again, you are being deceived for your own good!
So, is TM in fact a religion? First, it depends on what you mean by "TM." There are two uses of the term:
- TM the relaxation technique.
- TM the spiritual teaching.
When TMers say that "TM is not a religion" they are practicing yet another deception by mental reservation. They are mentally referring only to "TM the relaxation technique." Yet they know that the TM technique is never taught without accompanying indoctrination into "TM the spiritual teaching." As usual, they mean well; they are withholding this information "for your own good."
"TM the spiritual teaching" is an esoteric, dogmatic religious sect, controlled absolutely by its living prophet who proclaims doctrine with ex-cathedra infallibility. I'll go through that statement bit by bit...
TM is an "esoteric" teaching
I call it "esoteric" because TM has different sets of teachings depending on what level of "initiation" a person is at. You learned just a little bit of the actual TM doctrine at the introductory lectures. A little bit more was revealed to you during the "Three Days of Checking Following Initiation". You learned yet a little bit more at residence courses, and also at the meetings that you attended at the TM center. It is all trickled out to you in dribs and drabs.
It's only when you become a TM teacher that the entirety of the TM doctrinal system is revealed to you. That's when you learn that you become "permeated with the essence of divine wisdom" when you perform the puja, for example.
Why do I emphasize the "esoteric" nature of TM? Because it means that you did not fully understand what you were volunteering for when you started the basic TM course. You were not provided the opportunity to learn what TM really teaches before learning TM. You were deceived!
TM is a "dogmatic" teaching
TM is "dogmatic" because Mahesh allows zero discussion of and zero alteration to the doctrines he proclaims.
Anyone who challenges TM dogma will be subject to the TM version of excommunication. In the Roman Catholic Church, excommunication means literally that you are not allowed to take communion. You are thereby completely cut off spiritually, with of course the attendant dire spiritual consequences.
TM excommunication also involves being cut off from spiritual resources. You will not be allowed to receive additional teachings, such as "advanced techniques." If you are a sidha, you will no long be allowed to fly with the other sidhas. You will not be allowed to go to residence courses, which means that you will never release those deep stresses that are keeping you from Cosmic Consciousness. You will get kicked out of MUM. You will not be allowed to become a teacher. Your entire "spiritual evolution" will grind to a halt. So in the case of TM excommunication, also, there are dire spiritual consequences.
Be assured that TMers carefully toe the doctrinal line.
Yes, TM is a "religion"!
TM the spiritual teaching is indeed a "religion" because it is "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs."
Yes, it has all of the above attributes. They just don't tell you.
For example, TM will sell you "yagyas." And just what is a "yagya"? TM will give you a lot of doubletalk, but a yagya is a Hindu ceremony of sacrifice to a god or gods. How many "non-religions" have something like that? (If you're Hindu I absolutely mean no offense; I have nothing against yagyas being religious, what I object to is TM's deception to the public about its spiritual agenda.)
How many "non-religions" have a "Holy Tradition"? Be sure to read the part near the bottom under the heading "THE HOLY TRADITION". Note especially this:
Ego, mind, heart, senses, body and atmosphere having thus become permeated with the essence of divine wisdom, the teacher begins to teach." How many teachers of "non-religions" begin their teaching sessions by permeating themselves with the essence of divine wisdom?
You may find the article "Yes, We Are No Religion!" interesting.
You may wish to read about the lawsuit "Malnak v. Yogi", in which the New Jersey Supreme Court found that (emphasis mine):
Although defendants have submitted well over 1500 pages of briefs, affidavits, and deposition testimony in opposing plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, defendants have failed to raise the slightest doubt as to the facts or as to the religious nature of the teachings of the Science of Creative Intelligence and the puja. The teaching of the SCI/TM course in New Jersey public high schools violates the establishment clause of the first amendment, and its teaching must be enjoined."
People are told that not only is TM not a religion, but that it is completely compatible with all religions. However, one of the secret esoteric teachings, and a core TM article of faith (perhaps the core TM article of faith) is that Mahesh teaches the highest spiritual truth that has ever been taught on this planet!
On my TM Teacher Training Course, for example, I heard an audiotape of a lecture given by Mahesh. Mahesh explained that TM was the highest spiritual teaching that had ever existed. He said that all other spiritual teachings and religions were lesser teachings, and that they were analogous to mere branches of spirituality growing from the main trunk of spirituality, which was the newly revived yet timeless knowledge of TM.
The Constitution of the Universe, Natural Law, has been sunk in the melodious mother tongues of all countries, and in the exalted expressions of the sacred literatures of different religions that continue to echo age after age sanctifying our world through the precious knowledge of the divine will of God.
To decode this you need to understand that only TM teaches the full knowledge of "Natural Law." Therefore only TM has the full precious knowledge of the divine will of God.
Sound like a religion yet?
Mahesh as a "living prophet"
I call Mahesh a "prophet" because he is the only authority for his doctrine. He claims that he has revived an ancient wisdom, but the doctrine of "enlightenment through relaxation" is found nowhere else in Hinduism. He's the only one teaching it. He made it up.
Mahesh is "infallible"
Everything that Mahesh teaches is considered to be infallible truth by TMers. There are no questions about his teachings. None.
TMers will often say that TM is not a religion because it does not demand faith.
In fact, "TM the spiritual teaching" is based completely on faith that Mahesh is in fact a teacher of spiritual truth. Without that article of faith (it's faith because there's absolutely no evidence for it), the whole doctrinal system falls apart.
Advanced TM practitioners certainly display high levels of faith in many unlikely things, as when they believe that hopping about on foam mattresses constitutes "the first stages of levitation". Or as when they travel to far off countries to practice "yogic flying" in a group in an attempt to bring peace to a war-torn region. Or as when they move themselves and their families to "sidha communities" in Fairfield, and buy "vastu" houses there because a vastu house will accelerate their progress toward CC. Or as when they become celibate TM monks and nuns. Or as when they pay for yagyas to be performed to the gods. And as when they start believing in the literal existence of demons.
But despite these strongly held radical beliefs, TMers honestly believe that they have never made any acts of faith. That was my experience also. In retrospect, I certainly exhibited faith but I didn't think that I had faith. This is because the powerful "faith" that is displayed by TMers is unconsciously acquired via trance and suggestion.
Not so innocent!
Another reason that TMers believe that they never take things on faith is that they think that they "innocently" and directly and objectively experience the truth of Mahesh's teachings before they accept them. For example, they assert that a pre-existing faith is not required in order for TM to lead you to quieter and quieter thoughts, with accompanying deep relaxation. They assert that they innocently experienced it in an objective and unbiased manner.
Which sounds good, until you realize that there is no "innocence" whatever about your experiences during TM. You were told before learning TM exactly what your experiences were supposed to be! Then, in the three group meetings following personal instruction all of your experiences that conformed to that expectation were reinforced, while all other experiences that did not conform to expectation were discounted and responded to with reindoctrination (via "checking") into what the proper experience was that you should have.
For another example, after you learned the sidhis you think that you have innocently and objectively validated the truth of Mahesh's levitation technique in your own personal experience. That must be true, because you've never held "faith" that it would work. But, again, there was no innocence at all in your experience. You were told what your experience should be. So you had it. And if you didn't have that experience, then you were carefully coached until you did!
No innocence was ever allowed!
Obviously, I think that TM the spiritual teaching is most definitely
a full-blown religion. But, of course you decide. Does TM
sound like a religion to you?