Transcendental Life

This 2007 article is as appropriate now as it was then.
This is reposted from the “Transcendental Meditation archives” of website for cult expert, Rick Ross. (Forgive me, having trouble inserting links today.)

Background to the essay : A San Francisco newspaper contacted me for this essay when the David Lynch Foundation” was trying to bring TM to Bay Area schools. However, the paper’s executive reviewers decided the article was inappropriate. This also commonly happens to essays about Scientology.


Transcendental Life

“John Lennon was shot because he began recording music again, despite Maharishi’s instructions to maintain a private life.” Randy explained on the morning of December 9, 1980, following Lennon’s murder, while I aligned spiritual necklaces of brown rudraksha beads, coral and gemstones in our store’s golden display case. Randy’s devotion to Maharishi made him a reliable source of “higher knowledge.” Bizarre as that sounds to me now, in 1980 divine retribution for ignoring Maharishi’s vision seemed perfectly plausible.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, giggling guru to the Beatles was my parents’ spiritual Master. He and his Transcendental Meditation (TM) Movement influenced my family through three generations over four decades.

Secret initiation ceremonies honor Maharishi’s Master, Guru Dev, with chants of obeisance to a holy tradition mythically originating in Northern India. A new “Initiate” carries an offering of fruit, a white handkerchief, and fresh flowers for ritualized placement upon an altar during private meditation instruction. When teaching this “non religious method for rest and release of stress,” my parents explained, “Maharishi teaches this spiritual practice in scientific terms because we live in a scientific age. People will accept it that way. Through TM we connect with God inside ourselves in pursuit of Cosmic Consciousness.”

Devotees meditate together for four to eight hours daily inside Maharishi Enlightenment Centers around the globe and in Iowa’s hallowed Golden Domes, practicing secretive techniques for levitation, invincibility, and friendliness. Maharishi inspires personal enlightenment and world peace for all time, beginning with today’s introductory fee of $2500.00.

In padded white rooms devotees sit cross-legged upon sheets of high-density foam, provided for protection when falling earthward after failed levitation attempts. When pressed down, the special foam rebounds upward.

Maharishi always favored the wealthiest amongst us for their contributions. The Beatles, Beach Boys, Donovan, Gore Family (of Gore-TexR), Deepak Chopra, Zimmermans, Kaplans, Settles, and other wealthy devotees generated global enlightenment partially through financing real estate for Maharishi Universities, Peace Palaces, herbal products and Peace Assemblies with thousands of meditators.

TM instructors are “Governors” or “Ministers” of the Age of Enlightenment, because “they govern in the real of consciousness.” Lofty golden-crowned Rajas are spiritually responsible for large geographic regions, having paid one million dollars for their “raja training.” TM’s spiritual communities exchange the “Raam” as legal tender for purchased goods, to avoiding the use of tainted currency from the outside “world of ignorance.” They claim not to be a cult.

Believing with my well-intentioned loved ones, I watched devotees donate entire trust funds, become psychotic, and decline needed medical treatment in favor of Maharishi Ayur-Ved (R) medicinals. A few committed suicide. Our leaders taught us that hardships were brought upon ourselves. No one blamed over indulgence in trance-like meditation or a circuitous theology. After all, no one drank Kool-Aid(R).

“The world is as you visualize it. Meditate to perform spontaneous right action. You will do less and accomplish more until eventually you do nothing and accomplish everything from the source of unbounded pure awareness within.”

In 1988 my children and I left our mediation community to enter the real world, where parents are held accountable for child negligence and suicide motives are questioned. In the real world, no supreme authority holds the key to the universe.

Young adults raised in the TM Movement continue to arrive to my San Rafael home as they struggle to function outside their controlled Ayur-Vedic lifestyle. We alternately laugh and cry over shared histories, incomprehensible to outsiders.

One recent October evening in San Rafael, my heart raced with a quiet rapt audience in the auditorium, listening to a sophisticated presentation for a pilot stress reduction program. The David Lynch Foundation selected Terra Linda High School to grant $175,000 for a Transcendental Meditation(TM) club. I wished they had chosen a school elsewhere, so I would not have to come forth. My only thought was, “They cannot have these kids.”

Onstage before me, my former cult community unfolded in promotional film clips of Iowa’s TM community. I gasped to watch my old friend teaching at the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment. Marilyn is my son’s godmother; I was her maid of honor. Marilyn’s Maharishi teaching job offers no medical benefits; she cannot survive on their stipend. She had confided fears about speaking her mind, lest her beloved community ostracize her. Her son had only recently spent a weekend with me, preparing to enter the outside world. He had previously learned to fear outsiders who “live in ignorance.” Not surprisingly, San Francisco’s warm accepting folks shocked him.

At the high school presentation, David Lynch foundation presenters failed to mention that twenty-minutes-twice-per-day may create an addictive state, leading to dependence upon prolonged meditation, or that increased group involvement may potentially become a suffocating group dynamic. They explained, “Transcendental Meditation(TM) is not a religion.”

Did the secretive initiation ceremony, higher teachings of God Consciousness, or mantras derived from Hindu deities cause the New Jersey Circuit Court of appeals to declare TM a religion in 1979? After educated objections, legal threats and my letter to the school board, the Lynch Foundation withdrew from my children’s high school.

Now David Lynch promotes his book, “Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity,” explaining that creative ideas come during his daily TM sessions. The famed producer fails to mention proper Transcendental Meditation(TM) instruction, “Pay no heed to arising thoughts. Gently return attention to the mantra, allowing the thoughts to leave. You will transcend beyond thought to pure Being, the source of all thought and creativity.” Since Lynch heeds thoughts in meditation, he practices TM improperly. Does he quietly brainstorm twice daily, while receiving spiritual accolades for large donations to spread Maharishi’s teachings?

I cannot help but wonder, between creative film endeavors, if Lynch experienced the lifestyle of those committed to the method he promotes.

Copyright © 2007 Gina Catena.

Gina Catena is an early “Child of the Age of Enlightenment,” raised in the Transcendental Meditation organization. She and her children left the Transcendental Meditation Movement twenty years ago and quietly recreated their lives in San Rafael, California.


1 thought on “Transcendental Life

  1. buddhanandabhikkhu

    The organization that Mahesh set in motion became increasingly bizarre in direct proportion to it own failing promises, claims and possibilities. The more it became obvious that Mahesh’s most recent greatest thing to save humanity was nothing more than a scam for more money to keep the organization afloat, the more strange and bizarre the organization became and the more strange and bizarre Mahesh’s teachings became after that. It was like a dog chasing its tail.

    I well remember those people who had no compunction whatsoever as they went about trying to manipulate others by proclaiming that they knew what Mahesh wanted, demanding, as they did so, that we fall into line accordingly – self-styling themselves in the process as greater that us “unwashed” whose only purpose in life was to follow.

    While there is some genuine worth in the “secret” of TM: returning to the object of meditation as effortlessly as one is aware of any thought arising … what Mahesh did with this “secret” is appalling. Far better to engage in something safe like Dr. Herbert Benson’s Relaxation Response.



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