A system of meditation by which a person can achieve or reach a fourth state of consciousness, or the transcendental consciousness. Transcendental meditation, or TM as it is often referred to, gained a widespread following in the 1960s and 1970s in the United States and western European countries although it his a very ancient background.
The technique employed in TM is cited in the Vedas sacred writings going back as far as 1000 BC. Over the centuries it has been transmitted by such men as the 8th century Hindu philosopher Shankara and the 20th century sage Guru Dev (meaning Divine Teacher) who taught Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Maharishi, graduating in 1942 in physics from Allahabad University, spent two years in a Himalayan retreat and then begun teaching TM about 1955 in India. Since he has traveled throughout the East and West promoting his «World Plan» for the training of teachers to spread TM and the Science of Creative Intelligence which seeks to integrate all knowledge.
In technique TM differs from other systems of meditation involving neither concentration nor contemplation. Maharisi claims it can only be learned through the personal instruction of a qualified teacher. A student is given a personal mantra and instructed in the use of it while meditating twice daily for about twenty minutes. The mantra is meaningless, and is not chanted verbally or mentally. It is void of all religious significance.
The meditative technique requires no specific postures or times. But, ideally it is usually done in the morning and early evening. It requires about twenty minutes.
The regular use of the mantra is the vital principle of TM. According to Maharishi such use enables the practitioner to reach a state of consciousness that is a field of Being, pure creative intelligence, or pure thought. Thoughts rise effervescently from the depths of the mind like bubbles in a bowl of water. Thoughts increase in size until reaching the level of conscious awareness. Maharishi likened the mind to an ocean which is active at the surface but still on the bottom.
TM, it is said, allows the practitioner to reach thoughts at their origination points which promotes more creative intelligence. It is here that one encounters the True Self, because the individual is in a state of restful alertness in which no mental activity occurs. It is called a fourth state of consciousness because it differs from the common states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, and from the states of altered consciousness.
In such a transcendental consciousness state, there seem to be no boundaries between the subject and object, they become one. The first experience is one of emptiness that becomes silent joy.
Others have described this transcendental consciousness state as ridding oneself of the of all chattering thoughts and jostling impressions which invaded the surface of the mind. Some say the practitioner is like a deep sea diver going to the depths of the ocean, only in TM one reaches the depths of the mind. In this pure consciousness one experiences the fundamental aspects of the true self. It is at this point others say they have reached enlightenment, Nirvana, the One, or the Infinite. But, in strict TM terms, this is the source of unlimited energy and «creative intelligence.» When the experience increases in strength it can effect all aspects of human life.
It has been reported, as with other forms of meditation, that physiological changes do occur in practitioners. Changes include the lowering of respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, and lactase (a chemical in the blood associated with strenuous activity and stress). With decreased stress some persons have reduced their alcohol consumption and drug dependency. Other persons report over all health improvements. Also, an increase has been shown in more synchronized alpha brain waves. This is said to result in an increased mental capacity bringing an improvement in work and artistic abilities.
Practitioners are said to be able to achieve three higher states of consciousness with practice. The fifth or cosmic consciousness, as defined by Maharishi, is a «transcendental consciousness maintained with the three states of ordinary consciousness in a permanent awareness of the True Self. In this state of Self Realization, the ego and identity continue to function, but one defines one’s self from within rather from the external world.» Such a state of consciousness is only reached when one is permanently and totally free from stress.
The sixth state of consciousness, according to Maharishi, is a glorified global consciousness in which the practitioner becomes aware of the «finest levels of existence, but not the absolute. The more subtle values of all things are perceived, and everything seems composed of and pervaded by pure light.»
The unity consciousness, or «Unity,» is the seventh state of consciousness, as it is called by Maharishi. It is characterized «by absolute awareness of the external world, or experiencing
one’s essential unity with all that is.»
Maharishi claims that through TM these states of consciousness can be reached within a few years as opposed to many years or a lifetime of practice in yoga or Zen.
Other differences between TM and traditional Eastern meditative teachings are that there is no renunciation of the ordinary world in order to achieve these enlightened states. Maharishi recognizes the importance of well being and living in the world, but not being attached to it. TM does not embody the doctrine of maya, which holds «that the relative, phenomenological world is an illusion and only the absolute is real.» Maharishi claims, «the illusion lies in the relationship between absolute and relative.»
It is estimated that in the mid-970s TM had about a million practitioners. Maharishi lectured, wrote books, and made videotapes promoting TM. He founded the International Meditation Society and the Maharishi International University based in Iowa and Switzerland. Most practitioners reside in the United States, Canada and West Germany. A.G.H.