2005-07-16 15:46:30 UTC
I am posting the following article here because
the staunch defenders of the TM movement and its
policies who hang out here would almost certainly
like that it never be seen by a Usenet audience.
As a former TM teacher, and as a person who held
postions with the TM movement such as State Coor-
dinator and director of the Western Regional Office,
I have also taken the liberty of marking (with *****)
several outright lies in the article below, all told
by TM movement representatives.
Wallace's statement is patently untrue; no such
"agreement" was ever asked of me or anyone I know.
Common non-teacher meditators have indeed "gotten
into trouble" for going to see other teachers, such
trouble including being denied admittance to TM
courses, denial of applications to become teachers
themselves, and being banned from TM centers perm-
anently. There is NO "due process." When you're
banned, you're banned, and that's that.
This editorial raises some good questions, questions
that the TM organization should, but never will,
deal with honestly. - Barry Wright
July 14, 2005
The Fairfield Ledger
A tale of two gurus
Could the Transcendental Meditation movement learn a thing
or two from 'the Hugging Saint'?
By Erik Gable
Rick Archer had been practicing and teaching Transcendental
Meditation for nearly three decades when he first met Mata
Amritanandamayi, the Indian holy woman known to her followers
as "Amma" or "the Hugging Saint."
He didn't see any conflict between going to visit Amma and
his regular practice of TM in the men's dome at Maharishi
University of Management. In fact, Archer recalled, his
experience during his daily meditations actually improved.
But a few years later, after a meeting in which two TM
movement officials questioned him about his involvement
with Amma's group, Archer's dome badge was revoked.
He had run afoul of a university policy discouraging TM
teachers from seeing gurus other than Maharishi Mahesh Yogi,
and he was no longer welcome during group meditation.
That policy has been a source of division and even fear
among members of Fairfield's meditating community. Although
Amma has visited Mount Pleasant every summer for the past
four years, Archer said "fear and paranoia" leads some
Fairfield residents to skip her local appearance and drive
to Chicago to see her -- because they're afraid they'll get
kicked out of the dome if the wrong person sees them in her
But TM movement leaders say the policy is necessary to
preserve the purity of Maharishi's teachings. They also
say the rules are nowhere near as draconian as many people
This issue came up repeatedly during a community meeting
last summer hosted by TM movement leaders. Robert Keith
Wallace, an M.U.M. trustee and the university's first
president, fielded several questions about reports of people
being banned from the domes after visiting other spiritual
***** Wallace said TM teachers all agreed when they became
teachers not to see other gurus. ***** In an interview last
year, he compared the situation to a Coca-Cola salesman
being seen drinking Pepsi.
But movement leaders say Amma is not their enemy.
"The university's policy on any other teacher of meditation
or self-development is neutral," said M.U.M. executive vice
president Craig Pearson, "meaning we don't endorse other
people, we don't criticize other people."
At the same time, Pearson said, the university doesn't want
people practicing meditation techniques other than TM in its
"The essential core thing that we have to protect is the
purity of that practice," he said. In addition to the cere-
monies that earned her the nickname "the Hugging Saint,"
Amma offers her own meditation technique.
The standards are stricter for teachers than for rank-and-
file meditators, Pearson added. ***** While teachers aren't
supposed to be seen going to other gurus, he said, non-
teachers aren't likely to get in trouble for being seen
in another guru's presence. *****
***** "Just going to see somebody else, there's no problem
with that," he said. *****
***** And in any case, Pearson said, "there's always due
Archer -- who says he had good experiences with Maharishi
and doesn't wish the movement any ill -- doesn't question
M.U.M.'s right to decide who can and can't meditate in the
"They're entitled to set whatever standards they want," he
But at the same time, some say the movement hurts itself
by discouraging involvement with other gurus.
"I feel they lose the respect of a lot of people," said
Archer, "and they also box themselves in and run the risk,
which I think has been to a great degree realized, of
becoming very cult-like."
"I think it tends to isolate the TM movement," said Mark
Petrick, one of the people who organized Amma's visit this
year. "I think the TM movement becomes less and less
relevant to the life of the community when it closes itself
off to experiences that many people have found valuable in
Petrick, a former M.U.M. faculty member, said he left the
movement because he felt it was "a little too closed, a
little too cultish."
Pearson, however, rejects the C-word.
"I think a common definition of a cult is that people try
to control the behavior, and the comings and goings and
even the finances of the members of the cult," he said,
"and there's nothing of that associated with the univ-
ersity or the practice of meditation in the golden domes."
* * *
The larger question, though, is whether Amma's popularity
in the Fairfield meditating community is a symptom of
problems within the TM movement itself.
Take a look, for example, at how Amma's admirers describe
her. Without exception, they paint a picture of a humble,
down-to-earth woman whose charitable projects make an
immediate difference for people in need -- a far cry from
the TM movement with its trappings of monarchy and its
seemingly endless string of grandiose schemes.
"More than anybody I've ever seen, she really does what
she says she does," said Bob Hoerlein, a member of the
local Amma group.
"I guess the thing that people respect," said Petrick,
"is that the things she does are very concrete and they're
serving enormous numbers of people."
Petrick contrasts Amma's down-to-earth mission of helping
the poor with Maharishi's promises of world peace and
supernatural powers like levitation.
"There's no pie in the sky with her," he said.
The upper ranks of the TM movement are filled with "
excellencies" and "highnesses." For $1 million, you can
take a course that entitles you to become a "raja," or
king, in the Global Country of World Peace. And every so
often, you can see white stretch limousines driving
around Fairfield with the Global Country's golden flag
fluttering in the breeze.
It should surprise no one that such airs of royalty don't
go over well in America -- which, after all, fought a
revolution to get rid of its monarchy.
But they also contrast sharply with the tales of humility
told by Amma's admirers, who say she's been known to
carry bricks on her head and jump into sewers to work
alongside her followers.
"She teaches by example, I think, that we're all created
equal and that you don't have the big important people
and the little peons," said Archer.
Amma's humanitarian efforts -- building homes for the
poor, funding hospitals, coordinating tsunami relief --
contrast just as sharply with the TM movement's
fundraising campaigns, which promise world peace but
never seem to make a concrete impact. The latest TM
campaign is an effort to build 3,000 "peace palaces"
around the world, with a price tag of $3 million each.
The total is a staggering $9 billion -- which could
build a lot of hospitals.
Faced with a choice between an organization that builds
homes for the poor and one that builds palaces, it's no
wonder many people would rather give their money to the
If Maharishi's organization dropped some of its airs,
it would be less likely to lose followers to Amma or
any other guru.
The TM movement can crown all the kings and build all
the palaces it wants, but it could still learn a thing
or two from a humble Indian woman who travels around
the world giving hugs.
(Erik Gable is assistant news editor of The Fairfield Ledger.)