[L. Hughes, op: NRMs of Indian Origin – lecture 3 – 11/3/99]

Transcendental Meditation (TM) was developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was born Mahesh Prasad Varma in Central India in 1911 (or 1918 according to some sources). After graduating in Physics from Allahabad University in 1940, he studied for thirteen years at Jyotirmath in the Himalayas with Swami Brahmananda Saraswati (1869 – 1953), usually referred to by his title “Guru Dev”. Guru Dev had discovered (or possibly rediscovered) from Hindu Scriptures a simple *japa yoga meditation technique. It is said that just before he died, he commissioned Mahesh Yogi to make this form of meditation widely known. The result is what is now known as Transcendental Meditation or TM. In 1956 Varma took to himself the title maharishi which means “great seer”. The Maharishi brought his technique to the United States and other countries in 1959. In the same year he founded the International Meditation Society. During the next few years the practice of TM spread rapidly, helped in no small way by the involvement of a number of celebrities such as the Beatles and actresses Mia Farrow and Jane Fonda.

Over the following decades the Maharishi initiated a number of additional projects. He founded the Maharishi International University (MIU) at Fairfield, Iowa in 1971. MIU offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the Maharishi’s philosophy. In 1972 he launched his World Plan which aimed at establishing 3,600 meditation centres throughout the world, each staffed with a thousand TM teachers. He predicted that his plan would lead to a significant improvement in the psychological, social and political condition of the world. In 1976 he created the World Government of the Age of Enlightenment, described as non-political but holding authority in the domain of consciousness. It claims to be able to solve the problems of all governments. More recently the Natural Law party was formed in 1992 to give expression to the Maharishi’s political ideas. It has enjoyed very little electoral success. All of the afore-mentioned organisations are administered by the World Plan Executive Council, which though officially unconnected with the Maharishi, is nonetheless dominated by his ideas.

Transcendental Meditation is presented by its promoters as a “simple natural technique which allows mental activity to settle down to a state of increasing inner quietness, producing deep mental and physical rest”. It is taught only by an approved TM teacher for a fee which is roughly based on what a would-be meditator earns in a week. The teaching consists of an introductory session, an hour-long personal initiation ceremony and three shorter follow-up consultations. During initiation the candidate is given a mantra which is not to be revealed to anyone. Thereafter the practice of TM involves the silent repetition of the mantra twice daily for at least twenty minutes.

  1. Physiological: Systematic studies like the above do indeed support the claim that practising TM quickly leads to a deep state of physical relaxation. However, some of these studies also suggest that other forms of meditation produce the same results. Dr. Herbert Benson has already been mentioned in connection with some of the early research into the benefits of TM, much of which was sponsored by the organization itself. In his best-selling paperback, The Relaxation Response, published in 1975, Benson distanced himself a little from his earlier studies. Benson refers to research results which indicate that the same technique that TM uses allied to any sound or phrase or prayer or mantra, brings about the same physiological results. Among alternate techniques known to produce the Relaxation Response in a similar way to TM, are zen and yoga.
  2. Psychological: While supporters of TM are enthusiastic in advancing such claims, some ex-meditators have gone so far as to take the Maharishi International University to court for failing to deliver on promised results for which they had paid thousands of dollars. Instead of “improved memory, reduced stress, perfect health, increased academic ability and expanded awareness” they claimed that they ended up with “misery, beset by anxiety, irritability, rage, guilt and loss of memory .

    Some serious research supports the view that TM can produce adverse psychological effects such as anxiety, physical and mental tension and boredom. Contrary to what one group of researchers expected, these negative results were most marked among TM teachers and others who had been meditating for eighteen months and longer.

  3. Spiritual: The Maharishi speaks about various states of consciousness that the individual experiences as he progress in TM. These include “transcendental consciousness”, “cosmic consciousness” and “God consciousness”. These states are not clearly distinguishable one from another and tend to overlap. Together they involve the mind’s transcending or going beyond itself. As he puts it: “The mind loses its individuality and becomes cosmic mind….Here the mind does not exist, it becomes existence.” temporary union with the Absolute”.
  4. Social: According to the TM organization significant social benefits result from the practice of Transcendental Meditation in concentrated groups of a certain size. Consumption of narcotic drugs and crime generally are said to be significantly reduced. In fact, if a certain minimum proportion of a country’s population can be persuaded to take up TM, it is supposed to lead to a dramatic reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour. This outcome is promised by the “Maharishi technology of the unified field”, a supposedly scientific theory which attempts to apply the language of physics to human consciousness: “…only the square root of one percent of the population of the country (a slightly larger proportion for a country with a small population) practising the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field in any one place in the country is sufficient to fully awaken national consciousness.” As a result “law and order are spontaneously maintained, and administration becomes simple, effective, free from problems, and free from the elements of fear and punishment”. This thesis remains unproven


The TM organisation states that the practice “has profound relevance to religion” . However, it has always strenuously denied that it is itself a religion. Rather, it is “a purely practical technique, which can be practised by anyone, whatever his beliefs or lack of beliefs”. This opinion however, has not been universally accepted.

In October 1977 the U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey ruled that the use of taxpayers’ money to teach Transcendental Meditation and its theoretical counterpart the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI) in New Jersey public schools was a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, on the grounds that TM is religious by nature. This judgement was upheld in the U.S. Court of Appeal in Philadelphia in February 1978. The case had been initiated by the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, an evangelical group based in Berkeley, California.


Every TM beginner without exception is given a mantra or word to be repeated mentally every time he or she sits down to meditate. The mantra is given in the course of the initiation ceremony. The aspiring meditator is told that this is her or his own personal mantra and that it must on no account be revealed to anyone else – otherwise it will lose its power.

The sense of specialness in which the giving of the TM mantra is shrouded might seem to suggest to the individual meditator that he or she alone has been given that mantra and that the TM organization must have dispensed many thousands, even millions of different mantras to corresponding numbers of meditators. The reality, as told by instructors who have defected from the movement over the years, is rather different. A variety of sources suggest that only sixteen different mantras are given to new meditators. Moreover, the mantra one gets is determined solely by one’s age at the time of initiation. The complete list seems to be as follows :

Age Mantra Age Mantra
0 – 11 Eng 26 – 29 Shiring
12 – 13 Em 30 – 34 Shirim
14 – 15 Enga 35 – 39 Hiring
16 – 17 Ema 40 – 44 Hirim
18 – 19 Ieng 45 – 49 Kiring
20 – 21 Iem 50 – 54 Kirim
22 – 23 Ienga 55 – 59 Sham
24 – 25 Iema 60 + Shama

In reality these sixteen different TM mantras are sixteen anglicised versions of just six Sanskrit mantras.

More significantly, these mantras, far from being sounds without meaning as is sometimes thought, have in fact a long history of use in the context of Hindu worship and meditation. Most, if not all, of them are regarded as bija or “seed” mantras and, according to one contemporary authority on yoga – Swami Vishnu Devananda – should be handled with special care: “Bija Mantras and certain mystic Mantras…should not be repeated by those who are not well acquainted with them and with the Sanskrit language”. Vishnu Devananda gives a breakdown on a number of bija Mantras. For example, if one takes the TM mantras Kiring and Kirim together as one mantra (which Vishnu Devananda renders as Kreem): “With this mantra Kalika should be worshipped. Ka is Kali, ra is Brahman, and ee is Mahamaya.” Likewise Hiring and Hirim (alternately Hreem): “This is the mantra of Mahamaya or Bhuvaneshvari. Ha means Siva, ra is prakriti, ee means Mahamaya.” Shiring and Shirim (alternately Shreem) are used in the worship of the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, while Ieng, Iem, Ienga and Iema (alternately Aim) is the mantra of the goddess Saraswati. Agehananda Bharati, a leading authority on tantric yoga, states that the bija mantras Aim and Hreem are used to invoke the goddess shakti in the course of tantric ritual sex. For Hindus and Buddhists generally mantras are much more than words. Particularly within the tantric yoga tradition a mantra is regarded as “a vehicle of salvation”. The peculiar power that mantras have is due to the fact that “they are – or at least, if correctly recited, can become – the ‘objects’ they represent. Each god, for example, and each degree of sanctity have a bija-mantra, a ‘mystical sound’, which is their ‘seed’, their ‘support’ – that is, their very being.” However, it has always been believed in the East that mantras, if they are to be effective, cannot simply be picked up and used haphazardly. An initiation by a qualified guru who imparts the mantra is required.


Every person without exception who wants to learn TM is required to go through an initiation ceremony in Sanskrit with his or her teacher. The would-be meditator is asked to bring along a white handkerchief, some fruit and flowers. These “gifts” are placed on a small table in front of a picture of Brahmananda Saraswati, who in the course of the ritual is addressed with his honorary title “Guru Dev. The text is never translated for the initiates. In the context of the symbolic gifts which the initiate brings to the ceremony, it was concluded by the Courts and by other authorities that “the ‘initiation’, at which the pupil is present, includes, on the one hand, ritual offering with an invocation to Hindu gods in Sanskrit, on the other, the use of a mantra of the name of a Hindu god, in the actual process of meditation itself”.

The notion and practice of diksha or “initiation” is common to Hinduism and Buddhism. A guru or teacher is even defined as “one who gives diksha” to others who are ready to receive it. The competent guru will be able to recognize when a person is ready for a particular rite, and also what kind of meditation etc. is likely to yield the best results for each aspirant.

Offerings of fruit and flowers have for centuries been an integral part of *tantric yoga rituals. The flowers offered by the aspirant are used in that part of the ceremony known as pushpanjali or “flower offering”. Other gifts may also be given, which in modern times can include a cheque. However, the heart of every initiation ceremony is the giving of a mantra. During the ritual the guru whispers the aspirant’s special mantra into his/her ear, having first warned him to keep it secret and not to write it down.

26 Responses

  1. @dialogueireland By the way, the TM organization made no attempt to “subvert” the US constitution. They merely attempted to teach a practice PLUS an interpretation of that practice and got the school districts to pay for it. The courts ruled that, in the context of public schools, that was religious enough to violate the establishment clause.

    On the other hand, TM by itself IS taught for free in many public schools around the country for free via the David Lynch Foundation, and thus far (after 8 years) no cases have made it through the courts. In fact, NBC just did a report on how successful the program has been in San Francisco:


  2. TM teachers train for 5 months to teach TM in a very standardized way. People who say that they were told that their mantra was personalized just for them misheard. TM teachers say that they select a mantra that is appropriate for the person from a relatively short list of mantras using a simple formula, and if they go into detail, say that formula is based on information found in their registration form (Name, sex, age, address, telephone number, comments).

    There isn’t much there to go on, now is there?

    Here’s Maharishi Mahesh Yogi explaining TM and the teaching of TM:

    TM teachers don’t contradict Maharishi on any of the above but people often mishear what TM teachers say, I have noticed.


  3. I have been practicing TM for almost 30 years and i have participated in several semminars that I considered are great because I have gotten a lot of benefits for my health and serenity.
    I have never felt any pressure at all. As for the cult, there are people who are very fanatic to it and decide to do more than just practicing meditation but I think everybody can take what he or she wants, that`s up to everyone.


  4. Interesting comment. The complete opposite of my experience. It must be a varied field with many different kinds of teachers . I have found no pressure what so ever and it to be nothing like a religious practice. I am getting a lot of benefits from the meditation practice after 6 months though. I am pleased I went along. I think people will have to read different people’s experiences and then make up their own mind as it appears our experiences of TM teachings and teachers could not be more different David. All the best.


  5. I took a TM course but only after being assured there was nothing religious about it that could contradict my own Christian upbringing which I didn’t want to impinge upon. I was also assured that my mantra was personal to me. I was mislead on both counts. I questioned the whole initiation ceremony which seemed (correctly IMO) to have been a religious devotee session. I was NOT seeking an alternative religion. I was certainly NOT seeking to mouth a mantra to (an unknown and unwelcome to me) Hindu god. But they took my money and by the time I realised my mistake – I had been conned – it was too late and pointless to seek a return of my money. I was 2 – 3 weeks ‘practising’ when this CULT started to ratchet up the pressure. A young, educated professional in a well paying job, they immediately started to apply light, indirect pressure to get me to recruit others of my ilk I.e. young, curious, articulate, professionals with good earning potential and IMO good potential PR for the ‘movement’. I decided to cut them off which didn’t prevent them from ringing my place of employment on a few occasions. I have since studied characteristics of cults and how they operate and TM IMO use the classic techniques. I will not elaborate here. Read Singer for more info. Even if the TM technique could prove useful (I have no reliable proof to confirm or deny either way) they used deceit and pure salesmanship at every turn to get my money. So I do not trust this organisation and abandoned the TM meditation technique after a few weeks after a bit of inward reflection that didn’t require a ‘mantra’. I would like to conclude that I harbour no malice towards Hinduism and Buddhism etc..I also respect the right to choose your faith and belief structures. Which is why I felt completely mugged and let down by my experience with the TM movement.


  6. Definitely want to allow your comment, perhaps as you have understood the points made you could now answer them.
    We we getting this guff about we are all lovely and we must all agree. TM tried to subvert the US constitution and uses an incremental form of mind control. Hence my intervention. Not a chip on my shoulder just 40 years of awareness. Keep commenting, no censorship here.


  7. One thing I have learnt from experience and research is that the people and groups who are ‘against’ movements like TM and the FWBO and other belief systems, and purport to be about freedom and information and truth are far more vitriolic and condemning and closed to dialogue than the groups themselves seem to ever be. They seem afraid and do not seem at all integrated. I guess when you put up barriers and are against anything its a negative stance. I know they think they are protecting others, which is fine, but I’m not sure they are going about it the right way. Certainly not creating harmony.


  8. Thanks Joy. I’m understanding what you are saying. As the Buddha said ‘Be a light unto yourself’ . We should not take another’s experience as our own. We can only learn from our own path. My findings are similar to your own, I am finding TM more benificial and the effects are more noticeable mentally and physically than shamata meditation in the short term, I’ve only been practicing for 5 months.But I also will use it along with other meditation techniques.It is the world we live in to build and destroy.What side you are on is your personal choice. I have a good feeling about you Joy and thank you for taking the time to comment.I will continue to meditate and learn.Peace and Love to everyone else here no matter what your ideas and ideals.


  9. Well said Barbara.


  10. What a childish comment dialogueireland. You obviously have a chip on your shoulder. I was interested in this website and found this thread good reading until you just posted. Now how is it at all possible to take you or your site at all seriously when you are so one sided and not at all open to others experiences? You are not open to dialogue at all, you just want to throw stones and mock. Pointless and not at all worthwhile. I hope you post this. Anyway, thanks Joy and formydaughterella and all for an interesting read until the site moderator came along. I assume you are increasing violence locally with your prejudice dialogueireland?


  11. Did you bow before the Guru Dev and look for your keyring, before crashing to earth on the Siddhu programme?
    I assume you are reducing violence locally?
    Did you ever visit Rishikesh? Did you note the gods for someone called a cow by the Hare Krishna’s because he was an impersonalist?


  12. Hi Again, Usually when you get a headache it is because you come out of meditation too fast. You might take a few minutes to transition.

    I have found over the years that anything or anyone who is successful in anyway attracts goofy stuff to themselves. Maharishi was incredibly successful, which is unacceptable in many people’s “minds” and so we humans with our animal nature sometimes react, instead of thinking things through.

    I have also studied other meditation practices over the years and have found that TM is just easier for me. But that is my experience. I was also raised in a musical family.

    I started teaching TM in 1972 and have had some very major life experiences that have conveyed to me an understanding of how powerful TM is. But again, that is my experience and each of us in this world have to find what is compatable with our soul.

    After many, many years of study at Universities, graduate degrees, studying and living with Tibetan Buddhist Lamas, living with Maharishi and traveling extensively throughout Europe & North America, I choose to live my life based on my experience and I do not allow others to define my world. Life is too precious and too short to believe what others tell me. The ego is a very pathetic aspect of the human mind and being. I choose my soul and trust what is precious inside me.

    TM saved my life and if I feel to do other techniques I do. But I always come back to TM because of its profound simplicity and for me, simplicity is next to GOD…


  13. Thanks Joy. The only thing I’m finding after reading quite a lot of negative articles, is some doubt creeping in as to the positive effects and benifits of TM. I have previously learnt various types of meditation at Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist centres, and there is no negative research or comments written in books or study papers anywhere I can find relating to there forms if shamata and vippassana meditation. No risk involved , no personal case stories leading to suffering. Why the negative studies about TM? Because it isn’t wholly helpful and benificial? Or because of ‘other’ things in the TM movement that reflect on the meditation side of things?
    I am questioning wether to continue with TM or return to other forms. I am not convinced about the Release of Stress during meditation. I have been getting a slight headache after TM, im not sure why.
    It will be a personal choice to continue made from practice and experience. But it’s great to hear others tales.
    Thankyou all.


  14. It is good the hear that you recognize the benefit beyond someone’s perception and make your world about you and do not bend to the whims or thoughts of others…I still meditate twice a day after over 45 years…and I really believe I am a nicer person….because of it…


  15. Interesting reading. I got my mantra a few months ago and you are correct with it being the mantra you have written for my age. I thought it was based on something a bit more personal than that. But I don’t think the word matters, I read Maharishi said that himself . Love and peace


  16. That is beautiful Beatriz. I am the teacher of TM who commented above and I feel exactly the same way. I just do not do it as a religion but I do it religiously… Also, I was surprise that some people suggest that it is a recitation practice of meditation. As I experience it, the mantra is a vehicle and not the thing itself. Rather, it is meant to lead us in and let us go! And yes, the mantras he writes here are not the mantras I was given by Maharishi. But still, the feeling in my body is one of pain to see anything that is precious not respected. With Warmest Regards..


  17. I have practiced trascendental meditation for 25 years and I can certainly tell you that it has helped me a lot trough my life. I take it only like a daily practice, not like a religion and recomend it to everyone. With trascendental meditation you become a more peaceful, comprehensive and loving being.
    I also want to tell you that the mantras you have here are some of them different to the mantras of trascendental meditation.


  18. One more thing. I have met people who started TM and other who have meditated for 30 years or more but did not meditate properly either because they were taught incorrectly or they didn’t comprehend the directions. I have also met teacher of TM that do not in my perception have any awareness as to what consciousness is about. I wonder who they would be without TM? TM is really a process of learning how to let go of all the things in the mind of creation that surpress the best parts of a human being, like attachment that only serves the EGO…


  19. I am a trained Transcendental Meditation teacher, since 1972 and while I am certain you can understand my heart sinking at seeing some of the Mantras, I might have been given that day so many years ago, I find your explainations and treatment of TM very kind and respectful, which I appreciate. I still teach some, but find I am unable to be inolved in the movement aspects of TM. Still, I feel profound love and great regard for H. H. Maharishi and I personally have realized immense knowledge as a result of the years I have meditated and studied Hinduism and Buddhism. So, maybe one part of my body feels hurt by the publishing of thes mantras, the other feels grateful for how you treated this material…Joy


  20. Derek Allen:

    It’s more like God help us if you ask me. I wonder why you want to surround yourself with so many women? Don’t forget to wear a condom.


  21. Hi,would you please inform one,how to pronounce the 16 TM mantras?


  22. I’m a bit Irish and a bit American

    I have some transcendental dialogue terms.

    Dianetic Visual Engram)>(Visions)

    Dianetic Audial Engram)>(Collective Cosnciousness or Divine(Voice of God) Dialogue.

    ‘Engram.’ can be used for any sensile sense data generative dynamics or cognitive dynamic.

    I want to start a Transcendental Media NightnDay Club

    or a Women’s Evolution VisuaSpiritual Media Friendship Center.

    I am currently writing my second novel with these terms.

    It is quite ‘green’ quite ‘enjoyable’.

    Bod Bless You (with Dialogue)


  23. @ Anne

    There seems to be two lists which you can see here:

    As for whether the letter is an ‘I’ or an ‘L’ I cannot say. I believe the above material came from OCR so there may be some spelling errors.


  24. Hi!
    The mantra for ages 55-59…is that first letter an “I” or and “L”?
    Mine doesn’t really match your list.


  25. Enjoyed this post, however I boughtmt TM mantra when I was 14, and it was pronounsed ahying wich is different from the one on your list.
    Also, the day after the initiation, we had to go back to have it checked. I had minescrewed up, and was asked my birth year in order to have it fixed, but had been told that the instructor had given us unique mantras based on our vibration.
    Also we were told that it would “evolve” over time, and had to return for adjustment every 2 years. I had seen another list in a book about secrets or something, and it had my original one right.
    Thanks again


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