Meditation and Mantras - Paradise Regained?
Good News Magazine
December 1976
Volume: Vol XXV, No. 12
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Meditation and Mantras - Paradise Regained?
D Paul Graunke  

   East is East and West is West, but never the twain shall meet," wrote Rudyard Kipling in 1889. But times have changed. Today East and West are meeting on many levels. For several decades the rendezvous was in the Orient as Middle and Far Eastern countries acquired Western technology and styles and in limited numbers became converts of Western religions. But in the past decade, the rendezvous has also occurred in the West as tens of thousands of students, artists, movie stars, and just plain folks have taken a phenomenal interest in Eastern cultures — particularly Eastern religion and philosophy.
TM Technique. Nowhere is this meeting of East and West better exemplified than in the current rage for Eastern meditation. There are many Eastern meditation traditions, but by far the most popular in the West is Transcendental Meditation promulgated by Guru Maharishi Maheshi Yogi. The key to TM's success is that the meditation technique has been adapted to Western proclivities, and the philosophy and goals have been translated into terms more palatable to the Western mind. This makes it one of the easier meditation techniques to understand and learn — an important consideration for Westerners who are inclined to want easy, instant everything.
   The technique involves the meditator sitting upright in a comfortable position, closing his eyes, and silently repeating a mantra, a few syllables drawn from the Vedas (Hindu holy books) and chosen for the effect of the sound rather than for the meaning. Each meditator is given his own special mantra, and he is not supposed to divulge it to others.
   If the meditator is proficient, his mantra will eventually become so refined that the sound will cease and so will his thoughts. The mind will "transcend" the divided consciousness of everyday awareness and achieve a higher consciousness where one can experience the "pure awareness."
   The theory behind TM, according to literature put out by the Maharishi International University, is that "creativity is the cause of change and is present everywhere at all times. Intelligence is the basic quality of existence exemplified in the purpose and order of change. The single and branching flow of energy (creativity) and directedness (intelligence) is called creative Intelligence.
   "The Science of Creative Intelligence is the knowledge of the nature, origin, range, growth and application of creative intelligence .... The practical aspect of this science is a technique of proven efficacy [Transcendental Meditation] which allows the individual systematically to enjoy increasingly refined states of awareness until its pure state, the field of pure intelligence, is reached."
High Hopes. To buttress their argument, the International Meditation Society (IMS), one of several official organizations that spreads the word on TM, has collected reams of surveys and research reports on the effects of meditation. For example, IMS claims that meditation causes metabolic activity to drop as much as twenty percent during practice, and tracings of brain waves and galvanic skin response indicate a state of calm and alert wakefulness. In other words, TM helps a person to relax.
   But that is only the beginning of its benefits, according to IMS. TM is purported to effect a wide range of positive changes in human health, personality, intelligence and performance.
   TM devotees have high hopes for their brand of higher consciousness. The Maharishi has proclaimed a "World Plan" with such goals as "to maximize the intelligent use of the environment" and "to eliminate the age-old problem of crime and all behavior that brings unhappiness to man."
   To achieve these idealistic goals, the Maharishi has established 3,600 teacher-training centers for 3.6 million teachers in order to reach the world's approximately 3.6 billion people. (The population has since passed the four billion mark.) This formula is based on what TMers call the "Maharishi effect": the belief that one percent of the population meditating will have a salutary impact on the rest. This effect was demonstrated, they say, by a survey of 240 American cities where at least one percent are meditators: crime dropped an average of seven teen percent.
   Clearly their "World Plan" is a utopian vision, a prospect of paradise regained for a meditating world. But can TM really deliver such idealistic results? Is the Science of Creative Intelligence really scientifically based? For that matter, is the Transcendental Meditation experience for real?
Technique Is Not Unique. To answer the last question first: yes, TM is for real. The meditator actually experiences an altered state of awareness or consciousness. But TM has no corner on the market, neither in its technique nor in the experience of. altered awareness. TM is merely one of several Hindu yoga traditions that use mantra meditation. Furthermore, Jewish and Christian mystical sects have used the technique of meditating on syllables or words for centuries.
   Yet, declares one official TM booklet: "Transcendental Meditation is clearly a major scientific discovery. The practice itself is unique."
   What is unique about TM is that it is promoted as part of a scientific discipline — the "Science of Creative Intelligence" — rather than a mystical or religious discipline. This makes good marketing sense. Science is the religion of Western society, scientists are high priests, and computer printouts are holy writ. To be able to say, "Science has proven... " is to bestow the most effective endorsement of a product's authenticity and worth.
   The TM organization is engaged in an extraordinary effort to acquire that endorsement. They have published scores of testimonials and results of laboratory experiments (their own and independent projects) to persuade the skeptical mind, and more experiments under their auspices are in the offing. In addition, the Maharishi has sponsored numerous conferences and seminars to pool experiences, knowledge and faith in TM.
Only a Science? To hear them tell it, scientific correlation of TM's efficacy is certain and substantial; the concrete evidence just keeps piling up. What they don't tell you is that a growing number of independent studies on TM challenge the "scientific evidence" of TM's results. Many scientists have criticized the highly touted favorable reports for using sloppy methodology, imprecise terminology and arbitrary definitions as well as jumping to unwarranted conclusions. They point out that many of the supposed benefits of TM are highly subjective and difficult if not impossible to quantify in terms of numbers, graphs, or waves on an electroencephalogram.
   The "scientific claims" for TM's benefits are hotly disputed. And so is the movement's claim that it is strictly a science — not a religion. Penetrate the outward facade of scientific jargon, and you find that Hindu religious traditions are the foundation and superstructure upon which the TM movement is built.
   The first clues come when you are told to bring a clean handkerchief, some sweet fruit, and some flowers to the initiation ceremony, along with your course fee. At the ceremony itself, the teacher performs a ritual that includes the singing of a song in praise to Guru Dev (the Maharishi's teacher), earlier teachers, and sundry Hindu deities. Then the initiate is given his mantra, chosen from the Vedas, and told not to divulge it to others. If TM is strictly a science, why the insistence on Hindu ritualism? Why bow before a picture of Guru Dev and a representation of the Hindu Trimurti of gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva? Why recite a hymn in Sanskrit? Why select syllables from the Vedas? Why keep your mantra a secret?
   The influence of Hindu religious thought goes far beyond the matter of the initiation ritual. Beneath the Western terminology and scientific jargon of the TM philosophy is a concept of mind and existence also derived from Hindu theology.
   The Maharishi believes in a concept of seven states of consciousness that one must tentatively accept to operate and advance within the TM framework. Dreamless sleep, dreaming, and wakefulness constitute the first three. Transcendental consciousness, the state of pure awareness, is the fourth state and the first one novitiates of TM enter. But to achieve complete enlightenment, the Maharishi believes it is necessary to ascend to the seventh state — Unity with the Absolute. This absolute is defined by some as a mass of undifferentiated, universal consciousness.
   In TM literature, it is called by the quasi-scientific term of "the field of pure intelligence."
Conflict and Challenge. This conceptualization conflicts with many traditional Christian views. In fact, it was the permeation of TM with Hindu theology that has enabled a couple of Christian groups in California to mount successful legal challenges to TM from becoming a required course in public schools.

But TM has no corner on the market, neither in its technique nor in the experience of altered awareness.
   The Bible teaches that enlightenment and spiritual growth is a matter of a state of grace, not a state of consciousness. Spiritual in sigh t comes through the gift of the Holy Spirit, and Christians are to be united with Christ, not an absolute. The Bible speaks of meditation - but it is totally different from TM. In biblical contexts, meditation is focused on God's laws and ways — not a mantra.
   Christ spoke of a unity, a special relationship people were to have with Him and the Father: "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (John 14:23). This is a relationship with personal divine Beings — not an undifferentiated mass of consciousness.
   The Bible speaks of higher knowledge and spiritual understanding coming from Christ through the Holy Spirit — not mantra meditation. The apostle Paul writes of how he strove in order that the Colossians might "have all the riches of assured understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:2-3).
   And to the Corinthians Paul wrote that "we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God.... For what person knows a man's thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God" (I Cor. 2:7, 11-12).
   In summary, the TM meditation technique isn't the same kind of meditation referred to in the Bible. The attendant rituals, ceremonies and mystical teachings of TM are derived from Hinduism and clearly conflict with the Christian concept of worship, existence and growth.
   But TM succeeds — or appears to succeed — where contemporary Christianity so often fails. It fills a spiritual void in people's lives. As innumerable commentators have observed, Western man lives in physical abundance — but spiritual poverty. People are searching for meaning and values on which to build their lives. Many realize that man does not live by bread alone: He needs purposes and goals that transcend the day-today needs of a physical existence. But they have rejected standard-brand Christianity because of real and imagined failures.
   The ultimate challenge for Christianity is to make its teaching relevant to the problems and concerns of this age. It must fulfill its age-old purpose and put man back into contact with his Creator. It must show man why paradise was lost, and how it can truly be regained.
   For a further look at these important issues, read our free booklets What Do You Mean... Salvation? and Why Were You Born? They provide answers that fill the spiritual void so prevalent in the world today.


   The TM meditation technique is not the same kind of meditation referred to in the Bible. Meditation, biblically defined, is not an attempt to produce an "altered state of consciousness." Rather it is an active mental exercise — a pondering or thinking on God's ways, His laws, His greatness, and one's relationship to Him. Following are some examples of this type of meditation.
Psalm 1:1-2. "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. "
Psalm 63:5-6. "My soul is feasted as with marrow and fat, and my mouth praises thee with joyful lips, when I think of thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the watches of the night."
Psalm 77:11-12. " I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; yea, I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate on all thy work, and muse on thy mighty deeds. ".
Psalm 119:15. " I will meditate on thy precepts, and fix my eyes on thy ways."
Psalm 119:23. "Even though princes sit plotting against me, thy servant will meditate on thy statutes.',
Psalm 119:48, 59. "I revere thy commandments. which I love, and I will meditate on thy statutes .... When I think of thy ways, I turn my feet to thy testimonies."
Psalm 119:78. "Let the godless be put to shame, because they have subverted me with guile; as for me, I will meditate on thy precepts."
Psalm 119:97, 99. "Oh, how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day.... I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation."
Psalm 139:17. "How precious to me are thy thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand."
Psalm 143:5. "I remember the days of old, I meditate on all that thou hast done; I muse on what thy hands have wrought."
I Timothy 4:13-15. "Till I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the elders laid their hands upon you. Practice [KJV: "meditate upon"] these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress."

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Good News MagazineDecember 1976Vol XXV, No. 12