Archive for the The products and programs of “Maharishi” Category

There are some days when I think it should be obvious, that the whole subject of “meditation” has been pretty much exhausted and is now entirely the realm of quacks and snake-oil salesmen. But, to continue the theme of worthless corporate media that I was working with in the last post here, “meditation” is one of those background puff-piece staples of the media, kind of like how every single PETA stunt or press release will get prominent reporting all over, no matter how gross, nonsensical or just plain stupid.

“Meditation,” of course, could mean almost anything. In a lot of cases, I think it’s just a means by which people get permission to take a break from all the things they think are more important in their lives, if only just to take a short nap, or even close their eyes for a bit.

Certainly “Transcendental Meditation®,” the form of meditation I’m personally most familiar with, sometimes seems to be nothing more than a means by which an exotic authority figure plays the role of cosmic daddy and tells his charges to go take a nap twice a day. It might not be just a nap, with all the fabricated exotica of mantras and mental states and all the rest of that baggage. But it seems to me that somewhere around the core of what TM is about is both the exercise of that kind of authority, and the narcissism of the meditator, who often believes that whatever they’re doing makes them healthy, pure and special. With that narcissistic specialness, and the mystique that meditation still seems to carry in Western culture, comes the need to inappropriately proselytize and advertise whatever they’re doing between their ears to the outside world.

Tonight someone tried to post a comment on my previous blog entry. As you can see, I’d made no mention of meditation, breathing exercises, blood pressure, or any of those topics; it was about as far away from that as I could get. The last time I wrote about meditation here was last May! But that didn’t stop the commenter from attempting to post the entirety of a recent New York Times article to the comment thread, without a link to the source. The article, “Can Meditation Curb Heart Attacks?” is the latest in a very long string of promotional pieces that have appeared in the Western press over the last few decades. The subject, as usual, is a research study or two that supposedly supports the claim that Transcendental Meditation® provides unique benefits.

The problem with these claims is that these research studies inevitably involve individuals from the TM movement’s university, the Maharishi University of Management. Every time I see one of these stories go by, I’m reminded of what a TM movement lawyer, Stephen Druker, once told me in person thirty years ago:

We want to make sure that they’re going to protect the integrity of our subjects, because one’s in a very delicate state when one is practicing these. And also that they’ve designed the experiment so that they won’t disturb the meditative state and test something other than what they’re supposed to test. But once the experiment is designed properly, we’re all for as we’ve been for every other phase of the TM program, extensive scientific research.

The research he was talking about at the time was on the TM movement’s claims that they were teaching a method by which people could levitate at will, but what he said, I think, applies to all research in which the TM organization is involved. What does “test something other than what they’re supposed to test” actually mean in practice? I take it to mean that researchers aren’t allowed to design a study that might in the end cast TM in a negative light, or that might even show that TM isn’t everything its promoters say it is.

This particular New York Times article, which unlike a lot of articles on the subject does point out that the researcher quoted in the article is associated with the Maharishi University of Management, still avoids pointing out the obvious: the researcher is a promoter of the very product he’s researching! He himself has been a  meditator for almost two decades, probably three! He is not in any way an objective observer! Here he can be seen in the TM movement’s trademarked beige suit, sporting  the TM movement’s trademarked male-pattern-baldness haircut!

So with that in mind, and understanding that when I see reference to yet another fine batch of in-house TM research in the press, I know I’m looking at a form of spam; spam that’s getting reported all over because the average reporter seems incapable of digging up the obvious fact that the TM organization has been trying to make these sorts of claims stick since the early 1970′s. The claims don’t stick because whatever effect they’re claiming exists is down in the noise, and all the studies claiming such effects almost always involve long-term TM devotees, some of whom have likewise been banging their heads against this wall since the early 1970′s.

So, let’s see. I’m looking at an attempted comment which is clearly, technically, a copyright violation, the full text, beginning to end, of a NYT article; the commenter couldn’t be bothered to simply excerpt the story and provide a link; it’s a comment that’s completely off-topic relative to the entry it’s attached to; and the content is yet another article I’ve seen a hundred times or more. If the commenter thought it was so important that I see yet another instance of the TM organization successfully spamming the media PETA-style, they could have e-mailed me. My e-mail address is in the obvious place if you really have the burning need to serenade me with more of the same-old, same-old.

What’s this? The commenter has signed it with a valid name and e-mail address, so off to Google we go, where I find a reference to the commenter, identified as a “retired VP of Microsoft.” The sender’s IP maps to Bellevue, Washington. I do believe we have a match.

I normally don’t reply to such attempts, but tonight was an exception.

Subject: Re: [Mike Doughney] Please moderate: "WTOP Radio's drinking out of the toilet bowl again"
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 2009 22:22:38 -0500
From: Mike Doughney

Somehow I would have thought a retired VP of Microsoft would know better
than to try to post off-topic spam to a blog comment thread. Then again,
maybe that explains a lot about the state of the web today. Then again,
maybe TM just helps you lose your mind. In any case, your submission is
being ignored.

WordPress wrote:
> A new comment on the post #206 "WTOP Radio's drinking out of the toilet bowl again" is waiting for your approval
> Author : Min Yee (IP: ,
> E-mail :
> URL : http://none
> Whois :
> Comment:
> NOVEMBER 20, 2009, 12:47 PM
> Can Meditation Curb Heart Attacks?
> Richard Patterson for The New York Times Recent research suggests transcendental meditation may be good for the heart.
> When Julia Banks was almost 70, she took up transcendental meditation. She had clogged arteries, high blood pressure and too much weight around the middle, and she enrolled in a clinical trial testing the benefits of meditation.

Seconds later, I get a reply:

Subject: Re: [Mike Doughney] Please moderate: "WTOP Radio's drinking out of the toilet bowl again"
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 2009 19:28:57 -0800
From: Min Yee
To: Mike Doughney

I've not done TM but yoga breathing techniques have helped.
And it has brought down my high blood pressures.
Anyways, its your website.



No mention of having spammed, no attempt at an apology, no nothing other than “Look at me! I do breathing exercises and my blood pressure went down! Ain’t I special! I don’t even do TM!”

So I hope you’ll cut me a little slack if my frequent dismissal of all things related to “meditation” gets under your skin. Incidents like this just reinforce my impression that meditation tends to be the realm of the clueless and socially inept. Even among former vice-presidents at Microsoft. Maybe that explains Windows Vista. Or not.

Crossposted from the TM-Free Blog.

(A statement of one man’s opinion, with quotes from, and links to, published historical references.)

Today is “National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.” Designated by the Center for Mental Health Services of the US government’s Department of Health and Human Services, Awareness Day, among other things, serves to raise “awareness of effective programs for children’s mental health needs.”    

As always seems to be the tendency among those who market Transcendental Meditation, the names of legitimate institutions, federal agencies, and their programs and activities, like this one, are simply devices that they feel free to pick up, use, and abuse, hoping that some of that legitimacy will rub off on them and their promotional efforts. Unfortunately that also seems to be true for this year’s Awareness Day.

I hear that the David Lynch Foundation, along with the Communication Office of the so-called “Raja Hagelin’s Administration for an Invincible America” (boy, that sure sounds legit… pardon me while I stifle laughter) is right now emailing its minions in an attempt to gain both press coverage and word of mouth attention for a webinar that they’ll be running in honor of this Day… tomorrow. On that webinar will be a number of employees of the DLF, the TM movement’s university, and a few other doctors who inexplicably lend their names to this nonsense, specifically to propose TM as if it were something helpful in treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), as part of Lynch’s ongoing efforts to introduce the TM program into schools. It will not be a pretty sight for those of us who are familiar with a few decades of the TM movement’s futile efforts of this nature.

The exaggerated claims for TM often take the form of this one, from the first few pages of The TM Book, which I think sums up, in the broadest sense, the attitude that its promoters exude:

The Transcendental Meditation program changes the quality of life from poverty, emptiness, and suffering to abundance, fulfillment, and happiness.

I’ve emphasized “suffering” in the above quote; it’s where the promise of a uniformly improved quality of life inherent in that quote, a panacea that’ll fix everything that ails you, completely falls apart.

That children and young people who grew up in and around the TM movement, and attended its schools, have suffered from mental illness is a fact. That students at Maharishi University of Management, who are required to practice the TM program, have suffered from diagnosed but untreated mental illness, in one case resulting in a murder, has also been documented. Likewise, the children of long-time, committed meditators have also suffered from mental illness, in one recent well-documented case resulting in suicide.

We know these things are true because the long history of suffering, and tragedy, is a subject of common knowledge among the TM community in Fairfield, and from time to time such things are reported by the media.


1990: Mark Totten

In the late fall of 1990, this obituary appeared in the TM-EX Newsletter:

Mark Totten

Mark Alan Totten, 27, a resident of Building 123 B, Maharishi International University, Fairfield, Iowa, was killed early November 29, 1990 after apparently placing himself in the path of a oncoming Burlington Northern train near the Fairfield depot.

The railroad crew reported hitting a body on the tracks at 2:12 a.m. Totten originally was from the Boston area. He was the son of Norman Totten of Newton, MA, and Peggyann Sekton of Weston, MA.

Mark’s sister Julie later founded Families for Depression Awareness in memory of her brother and others. It’s an organization that, among other things, works to help depressed people obtain or manage treatment for depression, and prevent suicides.


2004: Shuvender Sem

On March 1, 2004, Shuvender Sem, a Maharishi University of Management student, stabbed and killed fellow student Levi Butler in the university’s cafeteria. Sem was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Shuvender Sem’s history of hospitalization for psychiatric problems was reported by the Fairfield Daily Ledger and the Des Moines Register, including the detail that he had not been taking medication for several months before the stabbing:

Prosecution agrees Sem was insane. Fairfield Daily Ledger, June 8, 2005

Prosecutor Virginia Barchman told the judge that in 2002 and 2003, while living in Pennsylvania, Sem had been hospitalized between nine and 12 times for psychiatric problems. She said his illness had usually been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia, which caused auditory and visual hallucinations, acts of violence and paranoia.

Ex-student ruled insane in stabbing.The Des Moines Register, June 14, 2005

Sem drifted from anger to elation before and after the attacks and reported hearing voices in his head.

Before he attended Maharishi University, Sem had been hospitalized between nearly a dozen times in 2002 and 2003 for psychiatric problems.

Sem had not taken psychiatric medications for several months before the stabbing.

Levi Butler’s estate subsequently sued Maharishi University of Management for negligence. In the complaint, this allegation appears: “While at Maharishi University of Management, Shuvender Sem did not take anti-psychotic medications that had been prescribed to control his chronic schizophrenia.”


2008: Nicole Rowe

From Mental health advocates praise new legislation, mourn those lost to suicide. The Gazette, October 7, 2008

Nicole Rowe planned her suicide carefully.

According to her father, North Potomac resident Kenneth Rowe, it happened sometime between the hours of 9 p.m. and midnight on Sept. 13. Nicole Rowe, who had several months before moved to Iowa from her home in Montgomery County to be with her mother, had a long history with mental illness, including several previous suicide attempts.

That night, her father said, she was having problems with her boyfriend, and had recently threatened that she would kill herself. She dressed in dark clothing and made her way to a nearby train track, at a spot where she knew there was a bend in the rail line. She waited for an oncoming train. Then, she threw herself in front of it.

She was 20.

Kenneth Rowe, when asked to describe his daughter, said she was beautiful and intelligent. “She was a really good athlete — she was good at the 800 meters,” Rowe said. “She had a beautiful voice and she wrote beautifully.”

Nicole had a long history of struggling with bipolar disorder, Rowe said. Though bipolar disorders can often be treated successfully with medication, Nicole refused to take it, Rowe said.

As a child, Nicole attended Maharishi School for the Age of Enlightenment, a since-defunct elementary school founded by TM teachers in the Washington, DC area. Her mother, Lisa Stickels, was once an advocate of Transcendental Meditation in public schools. A published account of a meeting promoting TM in schools in 2003 reported that Stickels had practiced TM since 1971.

While advocates of TM are quick to point to the endorsement of doctors and scientists to support their marketing claims – to the point of creating a “” website – the actual attitudes, common among long-term TM devotees and the organization’s leaders, appear to diverge from an endorsement of science and medicine to outright hostility. It is difficult to nail down the existence of those attitudes, and even policies, since they travel by word of mouth, in advanced lectures, residence courses, and other such venues. They do not normally appear in print or on websites. But over time, evidence of this hostility eventually comes to light.  

I once visited Maharishi University of Management. The lobby of one of the buildings there, Dreier Hall, is apparently used for various exhibitions of the movement’s marketing materials. One exhibit that was hanging on the wall there, in mid-2004, was particularly striking. It consisted of two large plastic boxes, in each was a stack of paper representing published scientific studies. A short stack, maybe six inches tall, was labeled “side effects of Ayurvedic medicine.” Another stack, perhaps six feet tall, was labeled “side effects of Western medicine.” Clearly the creator of this exhibit intended to get the point across that the TM movement’s Ayurvedic products are somehow safer and more effective than western medicine. (I, on the other hand, note the obvious – that fewer unintended effects implies less effect of any kind, beneficial or otherwise.)

Perhaps the most spectacular evidence of this hostility toward medical professionals appears in an internal document recently made available to the public by way of, an organization that specializes in the publication of leaked, confidential documents. The “Governor Recertification Course Overview of Policies and Procedures” purports to be a review of the policies presented during the 2005 recertification course for TM teachers. All TM teachers who wished to continue teaching TM under the official auspices of the TM organization were required to complete this course in residence, involving a commitment of a few weeks of time and some thousands of dollars.

The document was written by, among other people, Kingsley Brooks, who was also involved with the movement’s Natural Law Party in the 1990′s. Brooks, at the time he wrote this document, was “Raja of New England,” which along with the role of being one of the movement’s regional managers, involves wearing a golden crown and being called “His Highness.”

In between a considerable amount of mundane administrative detail of a regional branch of the TM organizational structure, this section concerns the operation and promotion of “Maharishi Ayurveda and Day Spas.” Here is a striking reversal: where much of the promotion of TM, particularly to schools, exploits the legitimacy and authority of medical professionals, here the involvement of medical professionals is clearly, strongly discouraged, with a sweeping false and destructive claim that “medical professionals give poison” and the tired old claim that TM is part of a program to “create perfect health.”

Governor Recertification Course. Overview of Policies & Procedures, May, 2005

  • 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
  • Raja Raam’s discovery shows us that without handling consciousness there is no hope of handling health–there will never be total health. And we have the programs for handling consciousness.
  • 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.




The implication that TM is a cure for everything, and that it’s effective for everyone who tries it, has clearly been disputed by many.

The TM movement’s claims that its people are the “supreme authorities on health” and that they “know how to create perfect health” are obviously the kinds of claims one normally hears from quacks and fraudsters, even if they were only made in private. It’s as if the movement’s management actually believes that they hold a monopoly on effective health care.

That the TM movement is, internally and at any time ever, broadly dismissive if not hostile to medical professionals and scientists, while at the same time gaining the endorsement and participation of those professionals, is an important fact in evaluating the marketing claims of the TM organization and the closely allied David Lynch Foundation.

That an organization that works to gain access to schools, has at any time expressed such overwhelming and generalized hostility to medical professionals of this nature, should permanently disqualify them from ever gaining such access.

We may never know, exactly, why mentally ill young people who’ve attended the movement’s schools, or grew up in the movement’s cultural stew, did not seek, or maintain, treatment for depression and mental illness. But we can clearly point out the obvious: such attitudes held against medical professionals, expressed by the TM organization’s management, may eventually serve to undermine the provision of health services to young people who are involved with any part of the TM organization. And that is reason enough to keep the sellers of Transcendental Meditation far away from schools.




Sources and References

TM-EX Newsletter, Fall 1990

Coping After A Suicide. Families for Depression Awareness, 2008.

Estate of Levi Andelin Butler v. Maharishi University of Management et al. Complaint and jury demand. February 24, 2006. From Yahoo group Fairfield Life.

Colleges have varying policies on reporting criminal incidents. Fairfield Daily Ledger, March 9, 2004

Prosecution agrees Sem was insane. Fairfield Daily Ledger, June 8, 2005

Ex-student ruled insane in stabbing. Des Moines Register, June 14, 2005

Judge enters ‘not guilty’ verdict in murder case. Fairfield Daily Ledger, June 15, 2005

Settlement expected in killing at Maharishi school. Intelligencer Journal, January 9, 2009

Mental health advocates praise new legislation, mourn those lost to suicide. The Gazette, October 7, 2008

Genealogy Record For Nicole Rowe. Mark Stickels Family Website, April 20, 2009

Residents advocate meditation in public, charter schools. The Gazette, September 17, 2003

Governor Recertification Course. Overview of Policies & Procedures, May, 2005 – via

This afternoon I’ve finally composed and posted a conclusion to “Thirty Years Later: What was all that about?” my twelve-part retrospective commentary and analysis of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program and other nonsense promoted by a guy who was usually known by the name “Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.”  This is a bit timely this week as two former Beatles and a few other minor luminaries are going to be promoting a concert in New York this weekend that allegedly is raising money to make possible the teaching of TM to school children. This kind of program in public schools challenges the separation of church and state, the TM program and organization having long ago been found to be religious in nature.

For the concluding post at the TM-Free blog, go here. The entire series is archived below the fold.