MB asks: “I saw an advertisement for transcendental meditation in a church bulletin. What is it and is it acceptable by the Catholic Church?”
No, the practice of Transcendental Meditation is not acceptable. In the Vatican document, “Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life”, Christians are specifically warned against this form of meditation.
“Many people are convinced that there is no harm in ‘borrowing’ from the wisdom of the East, but the example of Transcendental Meditation should make Christians cautious about the prospect of committing themselves unknowingly to another religion (in this case, Hinduism) despite what TM’s promoters claim about its religious neutrality. There is no problem with learning how to meditate, but the object or content of the exercise clearly determines whether it relates to the God revealed by Jesus Christ, to some other revelation, or simply to the hidden depths of the self” (Sec. 6.2).
As proponents of TM explain, this form of prayer is practiced for 20 minutes twice a day where the person uses a manta (a word or sound given to them during the personal interview state of initiation into TM) as a kind of spiritual conduit to instill concentration in the practitioner. This word is usually the name of a Hindu god that is kept secret and never spoken aloud.
Proponents believe that employing this technique “allows your mind to settle inward beyond thought to experience the source of thought – pure awareness, also known as transcendental consciousness (a unique state of restful alertness in the mind and body). This is the most silent and peaceful level of consciousness – your innermost Self . . . .”
It is important to point out that this “Self” does not refer to oneself. As Fr. Mitch Pacwa explains in his book, Catholics and the New Age, it refers to Brahman, the name of the first of three chief Hindu deities who is “the impersonal ground of all being, being itself, from which every other object gets its being.”
The man who brought TM to the West was Mahesh Brasad Warma, a former physics student at the University of Allahabad in India. Mahesh attended a lecture by the recognized guru, Brahmanada Saraswati (also known as the “Guru Dev” or “divine teacher”) and decided to change his major from physics to spirituality. Mahesh spent 12 years as a disciple of Guru Dev who encouraged him to take the teaching to the West.
After Guru Dev’s death in 1953, Mahesh retired to a cave in the mountains. When he emerged three years later, he had changed his name to Maharishi (meaning “Great Sage” or “Seer”) to begin a ministry in India. In 1958, he established the Spiritual Regeneration Movement in Madras with the aim of bringing about the spiritual regeneration of all mankind.
Maharishi began to acquire fame in the 1960’s after Ravi Shankhar introduced the Beatles and other rock stars to Hinduism. It quickly became one of the fastest growing cults in the West.
However, “the Maharishi soon discovered Americans were not interested in Hinduism,” writes New Age expert Johnnette Benkovic in her book, The New Age Counterfeit. “Undaunted, he returned a few years later, changed the name of his organization to one less religious in tone – the American Foundation for the Science of Creative Intelligence – and has sold transcendental meditation as a non-religious relaxation technique ever since.”
But don’t be fooled! Even though it is being sold as a secular technique, “The TM technique and its accompanying initiation rite are overtly Hindu,” writes Benkovic. “The initiation ritual includes worshiping a Hindu deity and the mantra given to the student is the name of a Hindu god.”
The dangers of dabbling in the kind of altered states of mind induced by the practice of TM cannot be understated.
The Irish Theological Commission explains in the 1994 book, A Catholic Response to the New Age Phenomena: “The danger that is not pointed out is that in this state of so called cosmic consciousness people are open to spirit influences without being in control, for they have surrendered to this ‘consciousness’.”
You should forward this blog to your pastor so that he can be made aware of the dangers of TM and can take whatever steps he deems appropriate to prevent its promotion in the parish.
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