Transcendental Meditation has been growing in popularity ever since The Beatles first met Maharishi Yogi, the founder of TM. Paul McCartney still appears supportive of Transcendental Meditation, and has continued to promote this practice with another celebrity, director David Lynch.
Check out this interview between Lynch and McCartney. An unlikely combination!
Despite the celebrity endorsements, there are many things about TM that make me uncomfortable.
The main issue is this: Transcendental Meditation is a brand.
So what’s wrong with that? The nature of the modern world is one of capitalism, and if having a strong brand leads more people to learn meditation, then it will be all for the better, right?
Maybe. I won’t dispute the fact that those who pay for TM will get benefits that are real. The thing is, however, that you can get these benefits for free.
Unlike religions (or at least religion in its ideal form) brands won’t give away things for free. But what is it that TM is selling? They’re selling meditation. And what is meditation? Simply paying attention to the present moment.
How can you turn the present moment into a product? We’re in the present moment right here, right now. In fact, it’s impossible to not be in the present moment. Where else could we be?
TM takes a certain form of Hindu meditation and puts a price tag on it. This is why many Hindu organizations take issue with the TM business, and so do I. Lessons on how to practice transcendental meditation are expensive, and you can get the same experience from virtually any other meditation practice.
One way TM does this is by making mantras into something special, something that has a monetary value. When you join TM and pay their fees, you are given your own secret mantra, which you have to keep to yourself. Participants are told they’re not allowed to tell anyone they’re secret mantra, that it has some kind of special power.
The fact is, however, that a mantra can be anything. It’s just a calming sound meditators chant in order to give them a point of focus.
You can try this right now. Sit in a meditation position, and instead of focusing on the breath, chant a word that relaxes you, such as love, kindness, or simply om. After around ten minutes of doing this, your mind may reach such a level of focus on this chanting that you lose your ideas of yourself as a separate entity, and become one with the chant.
The above method is free for anyone to do. I don’t want to put a price tag on something so simple. Yet this is what the Transcendental Meditation company are doing.
I don’t doubt that David Lynch is sincere in his support of TM. Nor do I think using TM won’t have any positive effects. But these effects can be accessed freely, at any time, with the simple act of paying attention.