Transcendental Meditation

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Alan Smithee, modified 6 Years ago.

Transcendental Meditation

Posts: 310 Join Date: 4/2/10 Recent Posts
In the recent-ish interview with Daniel on "Buddha at the Gas Pump" he made a few small comments about TM, and how it might be dangerous or lead to problems [it has been a few months since I've listened to it, so I can't remember the exact reference].

I've been meditator on and off for years.  Mostly shinkantaza, noting, and scanning.  I flirted with a mantra meditation about a decade ago, but I didn't like how the mantra would sort of get stuck in my head even after the meditation stopped, so that peaceful, silent meditation became difficult to impossible.  So I shut it down. 

I am also a huge David Lynch fan. I've been rewatching Twin Peaks -- and loving the S*** out of it! I can't wait for the new series in 2016 -- so Lynch has been back in my mind recently.  And to think about Lynch is to think about his devotion/dedication to TM.

I don't have any plans to take up TM, but I am deeply curious as to the problems or dangers the practice could lead to.  Any speculations?  Or, Daniel, if you happen upon this post, would you mind clarifying?

I've never formally been trained in TM, so I can't really speak to its method.  Is it basically a samatha meditation seeking to develop concentration jhanas via focusing on the mantra?  What is the mechanism and result, and why might this be dangerous?

Thanks!
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Pejn ., modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Transcendental Meditation

Posts: 20 Join Date: 12/18/11 Recent Posts
Hi Alan,

I started my meditation career some 25 years ago with TM. I meditated according to their schedule 20 min 2 times a day for 2 years.

A side effect I found negative was that I became  a bit uninterested in things, almost dull, after a while. It could of course have been a temporary phase but I quit so I don´t know what would have followed.
 
The most positive side effect, compared to shamata and or vipassana, is that it is a great stress relief.

I don´t know what should be dangerous about it.

The method is a very easy to learn and gentle mantra meditation.
Repeating a mantra silently. Then "ease" it and more like listen for the mantra, lightly touching it.
So it is a shamata meditation. The formless realms came strongly for me within quite sort time. Much more than my current anapanasati method.
Jack Hatfield, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Transcendental Meditation

Posts: 99 Join Date: 7/5/10 Recent Posts
I had much the same experience with TM as Pejn. I did the 20 minutes x 2 for about 10 years. It is just mantra meditation. A mantra is the object of meditation instead of the breath. I think mantra meditation is accepted by most types of Buddhism. I didn't notice any dullness even when I carried the meditation into my work life. I also think it is easier to learn than breath meditation.
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Alan Smithee, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Transcendental Meditation

Posts: 310 Join Date: 4/2/10 Recent Posts
Any success getting concentration jhanas? 

I wonder if a high percentage of daily TM practitioners are getting into deep concentration states, OR, if they are staying at a very superficial level. 

Any nimittas?  Any deep of bliss, joy, etc.?

I gotta say, that if mantras are accepted by most types of Buddhism, I just don't encounter that many people who use it as a concentration object [at least in the hardcore dharma movement].  A lot of breath at the nostrils, a few bellies, a few kasinas or flames, but rarely a mantra.  Why, I wonder? 
Small Steps, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Transcendental Meditation

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Ajahn Maha Boowa, a 20th C. Thai monk used the mantra, "Budho" extensively, if I remember his biography correctly. Also have seen use of the same mantra recommended by Ajahn Chah.

One would think that all roads lead up the mountain, so samatha meditation should be samatha meditation, no matter what the kasina... that sounds like more of an ideal though emoticon

I would surmise that experience, focus and intent of one's practice will have a greater bearing on results than choice of kasina (breath, disc, mantra, what have you).
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Pejn ., modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Transcendental Meditation

Posts: 20 Join Date: 12/18/11 Recent Posts
I found it easier getting "concentration" with TM than anapanasati as a beginner.  (That´s different now.)

I would suspect a lot of TM people get good concentration, but maybe less "vipassana".

Bliss and joy: yes.

I have the impression mantra meditation, as Small Steps mention, is popular among the Thais and that is fairly common for monks to teach it to lay people.

Given that TM is so big in the west, I am surprised that so few TM-people have come here.
Maybe because they turn to the TM-organiation instead for support.

And the Buddhist teaching aimed at westeners comes more from the "breathing and noting"-branches. So it becomes two different "communities".
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Alan Smithee, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Transcendental Meditation

Posts: 310 Join Date: 4/2/10 Recent Posts
So, I found a TM style message board, and asked about jhanas and TM there.  I received a response from someone who claims to have been a TM teacher for over twenty years and a TM practioner since 1970.  

I will post my original question and the reponse below.  But frankly, it doesn't make any sense to me.  What really throws me is this line:  ""I can state categorically that transcending does not involve any form of concentration."  I'd be interested to see what folks here think of it, and what former or current TM practioners think of it.  Also, what do TM people mean when they talk about "transcending." Is there a Buddhist correlation?

On their link about "transcending," they again make the claim:  "Transcending is effortless, simple, natural, and innocent. No concentration or contemplation is needed, and anyone who can follow directions can learn how to transcend."  The effortless thing seems to be a big part of their pitch.  http://www.nsrusa.org/how-it-works.php

My original post: 

"All, 

I purchased the tutorial on how to use your mantra-style meditation a few years back, and I'm considering giving it another shot. 

Since then, I have tried and studied other types of meditation. One such style seeks to develop concentration. Concentration can be develop by focusing on the sensation of the breath as it enters and exits the nostrils, the sensation of the breath at the belly, a kasina disk, a mantra, amongst other things. 

The object is to develop the concentration until it deepens. In the Theravada Buddhist tradition, there is first access concentration which develops [this can feel like one is sinking into a black, deep ocean, or like one is in the middle of an enormous, quiet cave], then a nimitta appears [A disk of light, the brighter the light the deeper the concentration], and then jhanas [deep concentration states]. Absorbtion into concentration states can bring sensations of joy, rapture, bliss, etc. There are typically described FOUR jhanas. Then there are the formless realm jhanas, where one experiences space, time, etc. One can also experience vipassana jhanas during insight meditation. 

My question is: Does mantra meditation, as it is practiced here, lead to jhanas? I am interested in developing deep states of concentration. Concentration is a powerful too with many uses. 

Have any practioners here developed jhanas? When, say, David Lynch talks about using TM to achieve bliss, or wide open awareness, might be be referrring to jhanas? 

Thank you very much"

The Response

"I have heard the term Jhanas before, but have not found a description that makes the term clear to me. Your descriptions also do not help me to understand these practices. For this reason, I cannot evaluate them or compare them with transcending, either through NSR meditation or Transcendental Meditation. 

"I can state categorically that transcending does not involve any form of concentration. When we concentrate on an object, we simply fill our experience with that object. There is no particular value to doing this, except perhaps to interrupt an existing unwanted state of the mind. But note that if something important is going on in consciousness, interrupting it by practicing any form of concentration will only provide temporary relief. Without eliminating the stresses that we have accumulated in our nervous systems, problems cannot be solved, life cannot improve, and our desire for peace and happiness cannot be satisfied. 

"We normally live our life on the level of thoughts, feelings, and actions. For most of us, any large experience or challenge, such as a boss yelling at us, will generate a stress that will further limit the functioning of the nervous system and produce problems in life. Concentration can only produce more intense thoughts, feelings, or perceptions, which all occur only in the mind. But this creates nothing new: we already live our life in the mind and world. 

"Transcending, at first glance, seems also to use the mind, since it involves the mental use of a mantra. But the mental use of a meaningless sound only uses the mind temporarily as part of the inward stroke of transcending. By keeping the mind active, yet without a direction imposed by a meaning, the mind is free to move in the direction of its fundamental desire for peace and happiness. By the end of the inward stroke, which may only take a few minutes, or less, the mind has been left behind and we enjoy a state of pure awareness, pure consciousness. This has been called absorption in the self in some spiritual traditions. 

Note that this inward stroke of transcending is the opposite of concentration: there is no attempt to keep experience focused or unchanging. Instead, the mind is free to move toward greater silence and joy, which is where it really wants to go. It doesn't want to exert energy keeping focused on one point--and such practices are very tiring. 

"Another difference with other paths to self improvement is that the deep rest produced by transcending allows the nervous system to begin eliminating its load of stored stresses (http://www.nsrusa.org/about-stress.php). This unusually deep rest generates the outward stroke of transcending, in which the mind naturally fills with thoughts, feelings, and other side effects of stress release. It is this outward stroke and its elimination of stresses that produces the actual improvements we see in our life: deep refreshment, clear perceptions, greater energy, improved sleep, enhanced relationships, greater productivity, and all the rest of the long possible list of benefits. It does this by eliminating our stored stresses. Concentration simply cannot do this. 

"I'm sorry that this initial response does not directly answer your questions. If you can provide a detailed and clear explanation of Jhanas, I will be happy to discuss their relationship with transcending. I look forward to your reply. "

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Pejn ., modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Transcendental Meditation

Posts: 20 Join Date: 12/18/11 Recent Posts
I also think "concentration" is a bad description for how the mantra is used. But it still involves directing the attention and thoughts to something (the mantra). So in that respect it is similar to shamata-meditation IMO. But it is also very different.

Trancending is when the mantra becomes more and more subtle and then disappears. This is what I associate with the formless jhanas. But I could be totally wrong here.

Effortlessness is key to TM-meditation, I agree with that.
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Alan Smithee, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Transcendental Meditation

Posts: 310 Join Date: 4/2/10 Recent Posts
Pejn .:
I also think "concentration" is a bad description for how the mantra is used. But it still involves directing the attention and thoughts to something (the mantra). So in that respect it is similar to shamata-meditation IMO. But it is also very different.

Trancending is when the mantra becomes more and more subtle and then disappears. This is what I associate with the formless jhanas. But I could be totally wrong here.

Effortlessness is key to TM-meditation, I agree with that.

In samatha meditation manuals where the practioner is asked to focus on the sensation of the breath as it enters and exits the nostrils, it is described that when high levels of concentration are achieved, the breath can seem so subtle that it can appear that they have stopped breathing.  Suppsedly, some practioners can fear that they've stopped breathing.  

I don't know, the whole TM resistance to acknowledging any necessity for concentration seems to motivated more by their sales pitch than anything else ["Effortless!" "So so easy!"].
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Eric M W, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Transcendental Meditation

Posts: 288 Join Date: 3/19/14 Recent Posts
They do have a point, effortlessness plays a part in achieving concentration states. It's impossible to attain even first jhana if you are straining or trying too hard. I think that's what the TM folks are trying to convey.