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"Spiritual But Not Religious" - A Big Cop Out?

— Filed under: People & Culture
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Image by lisadragon via Flickr

"I'm spiritual, but not religious."

It's a phrase heard all the time these days. It refers to feeling connected with some higher power, but resisting organized religion. This has led to an acronym (SBNR) and a Facebook page. SBNR has been alternatively described as "Burger King spirituality" (have it your way) and "going on a spiritual walkabout". According to a recent Newsweek poll, 30% of Americans now refer to themselves as "spiritual but not religious". In England, only half of the citizens call themselves Christian.

So why is organized religion proving so unpopular these days? Certainly, daily news stories about the Catholic abuse scandal have added to an already growing disillusionment with the church in general. There is also a perception that religion espouses hatred, which is wholly unacceptable for most people in the age of tolerance for diversity. As Lady Gaga tells the Times Online:

"... there’s really no religion that doesn’t hate or condemn a certain kind of people, and I totally believe in all love and forgiveness, and excluding no one."

We are exposed now to more information than at any time in history. In the past, our belief systems would have been shaped by relatively tight-knit communities with uniform concepts of religion. Now we're meeting new friends online who come from different countries, and perusing websites with strange and foreign information. As a result, people are picking and choosing the things they want to believe, often combining tenets of different religions together to form something that feels right to them.

Religious symbols

Image via Wikipedia

This syncretization is not without criticism, however. D.J. Williams points out on his blog:

"... if your belief in God is taken from various religious beliefs that you glean from and combine based on what appeals to you, doesn’t the God you end up with inevitably end up looking a lot like, well... you?"

SBNR is also blasted as self-centered and destructive for society. Some, like James Martin, a Jesuit priest and magazine editor, feel that it leads to a general lack of concern for the greater community and a disinterest in altruism and helping others, due to it's innate focus on the self and lack of connectedness that you would find in organized religion. SBNR proponents respond that it's exactly that spirituality that connects them to the community.

The Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral in England, Mark Hocknull, recently published a letter criticizing the "fuzzy faithful" who ascribe to SBNR, explaining that spirituality by definition involves the community, and is "far from being our possession or an individual personality trait."

Finally, some believe that SBNR is just a cop out, an easy way to avoid taking a stand and avoid being truly spiritual. David Mills expounds in an excellent article that the phrase is used to establish superiority over those who have chosen a specific religion. He goes on to say that SBNR is simply dressing up a group of beliefs, and calls it "just materialism in a tuxedo". About the word 'spiritual', he says:

"It’s a warm and fuzzy word. It’s a cute cuddly bunny word. It’s not like “religion.” That’s a cold and forbidding word. It’s a screeching preacher with bad breath word."

So is all this criticism of SBNR warranted? Is it in some way responsible for the decline of the community? How do you identify yourself?

MrShaw's picture

Lady Gaga spouts....

I had to laugh at Lady Gaga's statement that "there’s really no religion that doesn’t hate or condemn a certain kind of people". Correct me if I am wrong but the fundamental's of most religions is Love, Peace and Tolerance?

Reading this article was amusing if a little sad, because it strengthened my opinion that quite a lot of today's famous, those that we would hope will serve as role models and spokespeople of our generation to the next, have little connection with reality.

The article itself is written a sycophantic fawning manner perhaps to ensure that the subject in question, and the readers continue to provide the writer with a pay cheque.

Lady Gaga is quoted as saying "A little MDMA never killed anyone". Errr, wrong. It hasn't killed a lot of people, but there has been death's reported. She also reports that she controls her thoughts with prescription medication, she believes tattoo's have power and she would like to die on stage.

She goes on to state that she wanted to buy her father a "Godfather" car, so she bought him a Rolls Royce. I am secretly hoping she is sued for that comment by Rolls Royce, although Robert Mugabe has been spotted in one.

To be honest the only reason I read the article was to answer the question that has be bothering me since I first heard about her - Is she a hermaphrodite? The article states not, gutted.

So as the one of the worlds most influential people takes time out to prove she is just another person, she has indeed done so, but not one that could be counted as a beneficial role model.

Trubble's picture

which article

MrShaw wrote:
The article itself is written a sycophantic fawning manner perhaps to ensure that the subject in question, and the readers continue to provide the writer with a pay cheque.

the lady gaga article or this one?

MrShaw's picture

Which article....

The lady Gaga article .......I am not a fan, but I guessed you gathered this already!

Nadnum's picture

Lady Gaga, one of the most

Lady Gaga, one of the most influentials, to whom? To her fans? Of course...!

MrShaw's picture

Influence.....

Nadnum wrote:
Lady Gaga, one of the most influentials, to whom? To her fans? Of course...!

Read the meaning of influence. It will give you a better understanding. She has been named the 5th most influential person in the Time Magazine Poll. Over 5.3 million votes were registered for the Top 10 candidates. I doubt that all these people were Lady Gaga fans. Perhaps some of those people believe her to be influential because of her fame, whether it be good or bad. also it is likely that her influence is to grow in the future because of her fame.

Bob Geldof is an extremely influential man, despite his music. Check him out.

Nadnum's picture

I've never considered

I've never considered celebrity as a good role model. It would be a surprised if she said otherwise. I do agree with the writer that SBNR is a coup-out.It corrupts your soul. If you embrace one religion, it should be because you believe in it, it's like having something to guide your life so you wont get lost. You'll know what you live for and what to do with it. I say no SBNR!

timedesign's picture

"I had to laugh at Lady

"I had to laugh at Lady Gaga's statement that "there’s really no religion that doesn’t hate or condemn a certain kind of people". Correct me if I am wrong but the fundamental's of most religions is Love, Peace and Tolerance?"

Erm... Well, that may be true, but i can't think of one. The one that I am most familiar with (Catholism) has a god that commits genocide (old testament), cheerfully condemns gays to hell, is complicit in the spread of HIV (stance on contraception) and writes off the souls of those who worship idols (bad luck Hindus). Lots of love, peace and tolerance there.

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Matthew 10:34

And while i'm on the subject, orginal sin. which total bastard thought that one up?

MrShaw's picture

Peace

Buddhism, Hinduism? Judaism? Islam? The church of MrShaw? ;)

I think Original Sin comes from Christianity, but is debated within the many forms of Christianity I am sure. I know that I am guilty :)

Anonymous's picture

religion and people

It is true that almost all modern religions condemn a group of people or other and that even though their principles are based in peaceful values, most of the times their followers misinterpret the real theme of their own faith due to fanaticism.
Although I agree with most of this SBNR I want to point out that Hinduism has come to be a religion only in modern times and only due to westerners wish to label the religion/culture of those in South Asia. What some of the southern Asians practiced before the label "Hinduism" came to be evolved from following Vedantic teachings. According to the Vedas any practice that brings you to the goal of life that is freedom of mind and soul from the ego and karmatic boundaries and tunes you to the wholeness of consciousness is worth pursuing. In Vedic thought the only goal of life worth pursuing is self realization and union of mind and soul with the "whole consciousness", and, whatever method takes you there matters less than getting there.

Winston Smith's picture

Value of religion

timedesign wrote:
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Nevermind the other quotes which are all about love and forgiveness! There's probably a reason that verse is not often quoted by Christians.

Check out this article:
http://integrallife.com/node/58694

Not sure about the website in general, but the article is still interesting. I thought the best quote was: "But when we face religious fundamentalism with scientific fundamentalism and dismiss religion altogether, we are also dismissing history's greatest source of liberation, compassion, and transcendence—the powerfully transformative practices and interpretations of spiritual reality that form the esoteric core of all the world's religious traditions, east and west."

Perhaps you haven't experienced these "transformative" experiences, but many people have... so it must hold some value for the world...?

MrShaw's picture

Angela...

Yeah I read Angela's Ashes, and that's all I needed of Catholicism! ;)

Anonymous's picture

@timedesign

I think Lady Gaga's statement is true to a some extent. I believe most religions preach love peace & tolerance BUT It's one thing preaching/knowing the fundamentals and another in practicing the teachings.  

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

gaga

Hahaha what a nut case. I mean i'm pretty nuts and so are you but Gaga. WTF!

There is nothing more helpless and irresponsible than a man in the depths of an ether binge.
Hunter S. Thompson

Lore's picture

Religion

"Correct me if I am wrong but the fundamental's of most religions is Love, Peace and Tolerance?"

You're wrong. Within the very first book of the Christian/Jewish Bible, Genesis, God's favoured creations (Adam and Eve) have not only been judged for doing what God knew they would do (because if God is omnipotent then God knew Eve would be seduced by the snake and that Adam would acquiesce to Eve - and if God not only knows and sees all, but also creates and plans everything which happens, then God planned for Adam and Eve to eat the apple and be cast from Eden) but they're also punished for doing something they didn't understand the consequences of.  A baby puts a penny in its mouth, do you leave the baby on the side of the road? It doesn't know any better - neither did Adam and Eve. So in the very first book of the Christian/Jewish Bible God has condemned his favoured creations for doing what he not only knew they would do, but what he planned for them to do.

The Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) have holy books which damn, condemn and judge from pretty much the get go. And I'm not saying that the pagan faiths are much better in that regard. Zeus practically delighted in tormenting humanity, all of the Gods were prone to fits of rage and anger in the texts, often without any kind of real provocation beyond some silly mortal daring to challenge them. Many of the very old faiths don't even have a concept of heaven - there's only a bleak, dank pit where one's soul rots for all eternity once one dies. 

I've read the holy books of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. I've found more about stoning people to death, waging wars against nonbelievers and what one will be punished for than I have about love, peace or tolerance. I've read a lot of holy books actually, being that I am somewhat fascinated by religion and I've found very little about this love, peace and tolerance which you seem to think abounds.

But I will say this - the bits about love are exceptional. My favourite quote from the Quran is: "He who has saved one man, it is as if he has saved the world".

And in that one simple line I see all the love that has ever existed. How simple is it to only save one life in some small way? By feeding someone, or loving them, or teaching them or merely letting them know they are not alone in life? And though one might be hard pressed to find a cohesive message within the Quran (or the Bible or the Torah or whichever holy book you may be reading) beyond "worship God" there are exceptional messages that stand out from the page. Save one life. Just one. Make a difference.

Of course, I don't believe the scriptures of any religion are historical fact and don't ascribe to any of them. I'm a dirty-footed pagan who is both spiritual and religious. :D

Winston Smith's picture

Spiritual but not religious

Lady Gaga aside... I have often identified myself as spiritual but not religious, without realizing that it was becoming so popular. Or so controversial... despite all the criticism, I still think it's a fair statement about oneself.

PenyuSepi's picture

No, not exactly...

Gah. These cases of mass misunderstanding break my heart.

Alright, fair enough, everybody might know a few of those people who've carefully crafted their persona and designed an eloquent spiel to make themselves appear 'deep', and it includes the words "spiritual but not religious". Sure, there are people who use this concept in all kinds of self-absorbed ways. But how the hell can anyone be so quick to judge every person who's ever used this phrase as equally flaky? How is it not painfully obvious how flawed that generalization is?

Organized religions all have their hidden bits of wisdom and good guidance, as well as their various branches of corrupted practices & twisted beliefs. But to honestly reflect about life and beyond, and then take little bits of advice from different ancient teachings because you find they resonate with you... is that a cop out? It seems pretty dense of DJ Williams if he assumes that everyone who claims to be spiritual not religious is actually trying to design their own appealing god to worship. I can imagine why he would think we're all vain if that's what he believes we're doing. And we're not all saying it just to be popular within a multi-religious social circle either.

I didn't think so many would jump on board with this whole 'you guys are cop-outs, have a backbone and pick a religion' deal. I hope at least some people recognize that being spiritual but not religious does not necessarily mean you don't have any firm beliefs & values that give your life meaning, or that your character is lacking some sort of honour because you don't pledge loyalty to a specific crowd, or that you'd be any less wise than someone who found what they need in a pre-existing set of beliefs that happens to be a widespread practice.

I think, in some metaphorical sense, religions kind of like useful tools, originally meant to aid us in a bizarre world, to help us be stronger, deal with the difficulties we'll face, & show us the meaning in life. All of us live in different circumstances, so it makes sense that some people would find a certain tool more helpful to them than another, or that we might often be better at using the tools our family taught us about. And it also makes sense that there'll always be some people who take a tool and use it for something stupid. Or violent. Or both. And I also think that in the natural course of humanity, there will always be those of us who have found that none of the tools are as well-crafted for us as they could be, so have started shaping our own. I think that condemning this — saying it is a self-righteous practice of the weak-minded — would be akin to saying the same thing about the first humans who decided that using sharp stones to cut open a carcass worked a bit better than their teeth.

Niesey's picture

Well said!

A very thoughtful and thought-provoking response PenyuSepi. I've used the "spiritual but not religious" label for myself in the past, but I found I'd most often use it when talking with my religious friends and family. It was one of those things I'd say to somehow convince them (and maybe myself) that I wasn't a totally immoral heathen. Over the years I've come to separate myself from this label, and just say that I don't have a religion. I feel a deep sense of peace and awe being surrounded by nature, but haven't had that kind of feeling in any house of worship.

PenyuSepi's picture

I say, this topic needs a forum.

@Neisey:

Hah! Yes. I liked the way you described this! It's exactly that. And it's that peace and awe that lures me out camping and hiking and canoeing and all that. I don't actually seek to be immersed in nature because it's healthy for my body — I do it because it feeds my soul with sunshine. And it always feels like there's something deeper hiding there that our society has no words for and has probably completely forgotten, if we ever did know about it. It amazes me how a lot of the classical poets like Blake seemingly noticed (and so early on!) that 'civilized peoples' were being led astray by the concept of spiritual faith, and thus their poems would so often scorn this, and go on to talk about 'God' in some truer sense of the meaning, alive in the trees and the flowers and the creatures.

I know poets can be misunderstood, but that's the sense I get from them, and hence why I love them so much. (ex. Kalil)

(1794) Will Blake wrote:

I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And `Thou shalt not’ writ over the door;
So I turn'd to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore,

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be:
And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.

Niesey's picture

Nature poets

I've often been drawn to poets that write about the power and mystery of nature. Henry David Thoreau had many. Like this one:

"I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright."

timedesign's picture

yeah, that Blake one is a

yeah, that Blake one is a good'un. Try this one:

They do not live in the world,
Are not in time and space.
From birth to death are hurled
No word do they have, not one
To plant a foot upon,
Were never in any place.

For with names the world was called
Out of the empty air,
With names was build and walled,
Line and circle and square,
Dust and emerald;
Snatched from deceiving death
By the articulate breath.

But these have never trod
Twice the familiar track,
Never never turned back
Into the memoried day.
All is new and near
In the unchanging Here
Of the fifth great day of God,
That shall remain the same,
Never shall pass away.

On the sixth day we came.

Edwin Muir

PenyuSepi's picture

i've never read that one.

oooh. wow. That last line actually gave me chills.

D.J. Williams's picture

Just to clarify...

I didn't actually say that everyone who is SBNR is trying to design their own appealing God to worship - just that it inescapably works out that way. If you become the final arbiter of truth on what God is like, then you inevitably end up with a god in your own image.

PenyuSepi's picture

That wasn't the issue.

That wasn't the issue. Whether you're saying it's created as a result or not, you're still assuming that walking your own road with this automatically involves designing a 'God'. Did you consider that a lot of people have spiritual beliefs that don't involve a supreme being at all?

timedesign's picture

Sorry PenyuSepi, can you give

Sorry PenyuSepi, can you give examples of spiritual belief that doesn't have a supreme being?
I only ask cos the only thing I can think of is the gaia hypothesis, which in the end concerns some greater consciousness or 'being'.

PenyuSepi's picture

Anything that falls under the definition of atheism...?

Wikipedia wrote:
“In Western culture, atheists are frequently assumed to be exclusively irreligious or unspiritual. However, many religious and spiritual belief systems — such as some forms of Buddhism that do not advocate belief in gods — have also been described as atheistic.”

...which would mean quite a few belief systems would fit into the godless category.

Zen would be one... and all other divisions of Buddhism that haven't been taken over by bodhisattva worship. Taoism is another one, even though a common Western inability to comprehend a religion without a god often leads people to conclude that by 'tao' they really must mean 'God' or something. Then there are sects of animism that don't believe in supreme beings.

In my original post I guess I was really just thinking about all the various people I've had discussions with who believe in many spiritual qualities of human energy & the rest of our universe, but definitely not in an ultimate being or god.

This is all grounded in the understanding that someone who believes the human consciousness won't die with our body, or that we just exist in some form besides our body, doesn't mean they believe in a supreme being. But if you think that really does mean they believe in a supreme being, and that this understanding needs to be challenged — be my guest. :)

Winston Smith's picture

God's image

Well, aren't we all "the final arbiter of truth on what God is like" to ourselves? I mean, my idea of God is different from yours, and is different from someone else's. To a certain extent, your internal idea of what God is like is always going to reflect your personality.

D.J. Williams's picture

Perhaps

...in the sense that we all decide what we believe. However, that's not what I was attempting to get at. My point is this. What I believe about God is based upon what he has revealed about himself through the Bible. I believe that the Bible's testimony is true and trustworthy in its claim to be the self-revelation of God (which, I'm sure, could be another discussion altogether, but let's just take it at face value for now). Therefore, my beliefs about God must submit to the authority of Scripture. So, when Scripture says that all humanity is under the just wrath of God because of our sin, I may not like that fact - it may make me squirm - but I cannot jettison it because it disagrees with my sensibilities. I must accept God on his own terms, not mine, because I believe he has spoken objectively about himself.

However, if you choose and glean from various religious traditions, you by definition place your authority above the truth claims of each, deciding for yourself what God is like. If you encounter a revelatory claim about God in Christianity you like (say, for example, that God wants us to love our enemies), you accept it, but if you encounter a revelatory claim about God in Christianity you don't like (for example, his promise to punish sin by eternal damnation), you reject it. There is no higher authority that you are accountable to in your understanding of God. There is no check against making a God in your own image.

The difference, as I see it, is a matter of authority. Does our approach to God's revelation (and we cannot know God unless he reveals himself to us, whether through creation (what theologians call general revelation) or direct communication (what we call special revelation, i.e. Scripture), have built into it a system for checking ourselves against our natural tendency to self-worship?

PenyuSepi's picture

I think I agree with Winston.

D.J. Williams wrote:
What I believe about God is based upon what he has revealed about himself through the Bible.

The way I see it, that's fine. But doesn't it mean there was already a conscious choice on your part to believe in a God who wants you to obey his word as written in his book? And therefore your character has decided that the true version of God has that sort of authority? Which would mean, at least in that first step, you've decided “for yourself what God is like”... even if you then choose to accept all the other descriptions provided beyond that.

opit's picture

God in your own image

I trust you note that is Biblical - though stated the other way around.

Anonymous's picture

Copout? No, a searching for something missing in religion.

I have many friends who have spent their entire adult lives in spiritual development. My only regret is not having started sooner and even more earnestly as it has brought a great inner fulfillment personally. I see that those around me have appreciated it and benefited from my practices as well. If I had left my spiritual growth to only beliefs and good works, it would have left me with beliefs and a history of good works, but also a deep inner lack that nothing in religion ever filled. In fact, it was the utter disappointment from seeing the hollowness of religion as it exists that brought on a feeling of despair and hopelessness that was only finally turned around by finding a way to spiritually regenerate.

After awhile, I began to see that religions DO have a good deal of valuable truth, but they all had completely lost the means to actualize that truth in human life. The history of religions, after their founders's messages had been distorted and turned upside down through the passage of time, translations and wrong interpretations, is a self-evident exposé of this fact. Religions would regain their value and status if they focused on spiritually regenerating people first, yet not a single religion today can honestly claim to achieve that. They are all too superficial, focusing on activities, thinking, suffering. No wonder people are running away!

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi astutely pointed out in his book "Science of Being and Art of Living" that the purpose of life is the expansion of happiness. The Founding Fathers of the Republic and many great philosophers recognized this. All human life is made more bearable by the ability to act rightly, achieve aspirations, and enjoy the fulfillment, but although that may bring some joys and contentment, dwelling in the field of action doesn't bring happiness. The truth is, happiness comes from within, and deep happiness only comes from deep within. Everyone can have it, but so many live life as if in poverty when the inexhaustible treasure of happiness is just hidden beneath the surface. Many even deny it exists on the basis of never having found it.

To become truly happy you have to first properly learn how to transcend the surface level of life, learn how to effortlessly turn your attention within, to transcend the level of your thoughts, and contact your pure inner being. You have to become familiar with that inner being through regular practice of transcending, and float in that pure unchanging silent eternal BLISS. This automatically purifies your physiology, heart, and mind of all stressful conditions, and when those stresses are completely removed, your experience of that pure being within becomes so clear, and your body becomes so purified, that the light of God within is completely captured by your awareness and becomes the perpetual guiding light of your daily actions. It is a great overwhelming awakening that is unmistakeable. Then you are really spiritual. Then you bask in and radiate the grace of God in your environment. Then you are worth something to yourself and your community, truly a great treasure to those around you. The laws of nature become your servants rather than your tormentors and executioners, and good luck surrounds you. Then life is radiant and really worth living. That is spirituality. Everything else people say about spirituality is just talk and misunderstanding of and searching for the true nature of spirituality. Everything.

Don't waste time on talk, go for the direct experience. You may even find yourself appreciating the deeper values of religion again.

PenyuSepi's picture

It's not about happiness.

Well, what you're describing is in danger of sounding too close to one of the most appealing elements of any organized religion: the promise of some ultimate, heavenly reward as a result of dedicated practice. I would firmly disagree that life is about attaining that kind of perfect happiness. I think intense sadness is just as valuable, and any pursuit that aims to avoid pain altogether is a bad idea. We tend to despise suffering so much that the importance of feeling it is lost on us. The pursuit of some unimaginable contentment — does that help us? Or does it just trap us into a never-ending hunt for that better-ness, leaving us blind to the awesome stuff we could be feeling now if we weren't still wanting more? And what about the people who really have 'reached' some perpetual state of 'bliss' which seems more like a strange, disconnected delusion?

I for one would never want to live in a state like the one you described. I live to experience the full spectrum of human feeling, and I look for advice in order to feel every colour to its fiercest, fullest potential, not to learn how to stay suspended in the oranges and yellows.

You're right that many people are looking for advice about how to live well and haven't found the guidance they need in organized religion. But I think a lot of people who avoid religions still fall into traps set by new-age-type instructions that have cloned & disguised many of the unfortunate misguidances that some religions have developed over the ages. The sense of 'bliss' you might absorb from someone who has found religious/spiritual peace is probably not 'happiness', but a great understanding of the beauties and weaknesses of humanity, and a strength to accept anything life might throw at them.

Whether we follow a religion or not, I think that if we want to make this a better world and live fuller lives, it's important that we collectively start to recognize the elements of any kind of spiritual method (and any other aspect of our way of life, actually) that will trap us, and try our best to just stick with the parts that can really cultivate wisdom and growth.

It'd do us some good to try, anyhow.

Anonymous's picture

Not about happiness?

Thank you, I completely understand your perspective and your sincere and deeply felt desire. It is where I was 40 years ago, on the brink of adulthood, looking for meaning and purpose in my life.

Understand this: Whatever you put your attention on, that will grow in your awareness. That is an immutable law of nature.

There are many ways to bring on different types of suffering and misery. Eat improperly, avoid sleep, take drugs, work until you drop for someone who doesn't care about you, flush all your money down a toilet, treat your spouse badly, and so forth; basically committing crimes against yourself and society. If you wish to really feel some pain, do something to get yourself thrown into a jail in some brutal dictatorship and you will have all you can stand. Whatever makes you...uh...happy. See, there it is again, you can't avoid it, nobody at the bottom of their hearts truly wants to live a miserable life. Ah, but that is not what you meant, right? It IS what I meant. Somehow, it is always a search for happiness, something more, even if it doesn't appear to be on the surface.

Suffering IS against the natural inclination of life. Look at all the people trying desperately to get out of misery and suffering and misfortune. Some risk their lives merely on the hope and chance of finding something better. Many spend their fortunes to alleviate their misery. So many will never get out of it in this life, like those trapped inside minds they can't control, or bodies that do not respond, while tormented by their plight.

I had had enough of my suffering and wanted something more, something better out of life when I began searching. But I'm a very practical person with an engineering mind. I can't stand the mushy mood-making, sloppy thinking, and fanciful invention of jargon of new age people, just like I couldn't stand the mind numbing stuff in church (8 years of daily morning mass in school). I wanted something that worked, something that proved its value by the results. I wanted something REAL. I was looking for LIFE.

Listen to me now. Listen very carefully. From what you said, you have obviously misunderstood (as nearly everyone does) what the reality of spiritual attainment is: it is, most simply, being totally ALIVE. And as I understand what you said, that is exactly what you really desire, even though you do not yet know the full extent of what being totally alive encompasses. You can't until you get there. That is where some faith is needed. Without faith, you are truly lost. But like Reagan said: trust, but verify.

Spirituality is not an issue of avoiding pains and sorrows; nobody can avoid those, some of that comes to everyone through the course of life. We can't avoid the loss of those we love, we are influenced by the vicissitudes of the environment we live in. But all that, ALL of it, is on the surface of life, but not at the core of life. A spiritually full personcan still encounter all sorts of pains and sorrows and slings and arrows of daily living. The difference is that while those pains and sorrows are clearly felt, they will never dominate or overshadow the constant flow of inner bliss.

Moreover, that inner state of bliss is also the source of infinite energy. And knowledge. Yes, knowledge, because ALL knowledge is structured in consciousness, and full knowledge is structured in full consciousness. Misunderstanding arises from partial knowledge. "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Think about it: no consciousness, no knowledge.

True spiritual development is actually not a matter of having less of life, it is getting MORE of life itself, being more alive, fully awake senses, mind, intellect, and ego. It is developing greater wakefulness, expanding the faculty of intelligence, expanded the container of awareness, unfreezing emotions, gaining total freedom of spirit, full control of mind and body. It is learning to aligning yourself to the laws of nature that bring "good luck." (Ignoring them is to rely on random luck.)

This bliss I'm talking about isn't meant to be experienced for its own sake, it is for making life complete. Until you have that bliss in your life, you will not EVER feel complete, there will alway be a gnawing recurring sense of lack, of something essential that is missing. And like a treasure right under your feet I was talking about, it isn't meant to stay there, it's meant to be brought out and used. It isn't something foreign either, it is the very fountainhead of life, the driving force of life. It is disconnection from that which causes so much problems and lack of real satisfaction in life.

Spiritual development is about mastering all aspects of life by first owning the core of life from which all the various aspect arise. Spiritual mastery IS knowledge, power, and bliss. It's living 100% outer experience of living, and 100% inner Being. It is living the full spectrum of life. It is the full integration of living in bliss while engaging powerfully in the world, consciously making a positive difference and influence in one's environment.

It may sound like a very lofty ideal, and it may take time and practice to get there, and not everyone will reach that highest level of total realization in this life, but that sure doesn't make it an unworthy aspiration at all. Any view further up the mountain is better than lower down.

Spiritual realization isn't achieved by a path of suffering and toil and dying. The path is an ever-increasing joy to travel. Life just gets better along the way. This is the confirmation that the path is RIGHT. One doesn't have to wait for some results or give up anything of value, one gains along the way. That is the experience of those who have progressed on the real path of spirituality. And traveling this is automatically put into motion through a little bit of regularly transcending the mundane world of the senses and thoughts and experiencing one's own inner being, then getting back into action.

This is absolutely NOT suspension in some dreamy delusional yellow and orange garden of eden. Everyone follows their own instincts of what is real, what is not, as they should. After my experience with religion, I always questioned and examined every step of the way I tread. They were always my choice. I would wholeheartedly take the same path again.

There is no happiness in smallness, and suffering and misery are due to smallness of awareness. Spiritual realization is having 200% of life, 100% outer and 100% inner. So you see, spirituality is actually what everyone wants. Even if they want fullness of emptiness, they will find that desire satisfied, too.

Anonymous's picture

Ouch!

Ouch! I stumbled upon this site this lovely Sunday through a link in the CNN article about SBNR. I consider myself to be SBNR. I was enjoying the discussion until I came to the posting by Not about happiness?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 05 Jun 2010 - 1:33pm. Perhaps he or she could better demonstrate his/her spiritual maturity with compassionate acceptance and love rather than self-rightous preaching.

PenyuSepi's picture

The vagueness of our language and the arguments that ensue.

@Ouch! — Thank you for sharing that.

I have great respect for anyone with a strong desire to help others, but when you're trying to help someone, it is dangerous to sound condescending. It doesn't usually inspire many to listen, and makes people doubt whether someone capable of patronizing them is really someone they'd do good to learn from. But I think now I understand a bit better why so many people have lately developed disdain for certain trends of attitude & conviction exhibited in a few individuals among the SBNR crowd.

Being compared to "where I was 40 years ago" was not completely agreeable, and I'm unsure whether the perspective I took was anywhere close to being "completely" understood. Many other parts of this motivated me to stand up and thoroughly respond, if only to help the rest of the world realize that not all 'spiritual and non-religious' people reason this way, but convoluted mixtures of advice & seemingly contradictory explanations are too difficult for me to decipher. And I really think a lot of this disagreement is just rooted in the ambiguity of the word 'happiness' or 'bliss', as opposed to what I think Anonymous 2:33 might be trying to describe — which I think wouldn't get across to most people if you call it 'constant inner bliss'. I'd recommend describing it as maybe 'strength' or 'wisdom'. But any word you pick will mean different things to different people, and unfortunately I think this spawns a great deal of the arguments about these indescribable abstract things.

Steve's picture

It's true the English language is vague.

My apologies for less than perfectly clear expressions. If my compassion didn't come through, it's my fault. It was not at all my intent to be condescending.

However, I stand by my description of spirituality. Maybe there was too much compacted into it, but even though its just a few brush strokes, its mostly the essential outlines of the whole picture. It took me many years before the picture was clear enough to me to express it, so one post somewhere isn't likely to really enlighten anybody else. Misunderstandings are inevitable in any language, but after rereading your response to my general post there seems like more to your response than just innocent misunderstanding.

You said you wanted to "experience the full spectrum of human feeling." But then you turn around and scoff at the most exalted sublime experience a human can have, denigrating it as "a strange, disconnected delusion".

No one can know the taste of food before sampling it. Its not wise to salt served food before tasting. Likewise its not wise to discount something you admit you don't understand. So be careful not to "stand up and thoroughly respond" by salting another's words with distain and summarily dismissing a subject offered that you don't know. It really insults the one offering it.

I had the great fortune to know the most astute, perceptive, intelligent, and practical down to earth person I've ever met or ever heard about, yet he clearly spoke from and lived very matter-of-factly a state of bliss all the time. It was at times very strange and challenging to be both earthbound yet higher than the clouds—to the ends of the universe, actually, but he was absolutely not disconnected, nor delusional. Not at all. He truly lived and understood everything in between the extremes. Did he miss something in life? I doubt he missed anything at all. He sure did it all, having travelled around the globe numerous times to dozens of countries and directing a worldwide organization of many thousands. His constant underlying theme of daily life was bliss. He could be hot, he could be cold, but it was always on top of bliss. He died a completely fulfilled man.

You're right, most people have no idea what bliss really is. A biochemist might say, oh, its just some endorphins in the brain making you feel good. Although chemically there must be some unique thing going on there, the chemicals are created as a result, they are not the cause. The cause is something beyond matter. That doesn't make it unreal, just more elusive to understand. Intelligence can form matter, but matter doesn't create intelligence, only a sloppy intellect would conclude that.

In the Upanishads it says: "these beings are born of bliss; they are sustained by bliss; into bliss they eventually merge." The meaning is that all of life, all beings—human and otherwise—have bliss as their life force. That's not meant to be philosophical musing, it is a direct cognition of reality by those who could see it and live it.

Many people have experienced flashes of bliss. They often describe it as the highlight of their whole lives. Henry David Thoreau, for instance. A few great people have completely stabilized it. To live a life established in bliss is to be plugged into infinite energy, 24 hours a day. Resting is for repairing the body, nothing more. Deep sleep never overshadows or stops the flow of bliss, it is continuous, perpetually there. So, yes, I meant exactly "constant inner bliss," more subtle than the level of emotions or intellect, not abstract qualities of wisdom or moral strength. Those qualities also have their source in bliss, but they appear at the level of mind and intellect.

Is this religious belief? No, its Vedic science, the science of consciousness, open to study and verification by those earnestly and patiently seeking the truth.

Is it "new-age"? No, those people took a few words of Vedic wisdom and wrapped their babble around it.

Is it in danger of sliding back into religion? All depends on what people do with it in the long corridor of time. Spiritual knowledge always gets lost in due time and that brings on another age of suffering in the name of religion until the knowledge is revived yet again. Nothing new under the sun. But when correct understanding of spiritual knowledge suddenly rises again amidst the shambles of the past twisted understandings, its seen as "new". Its always open to validation, but it requires sincere and repeated inquiry. Doubt is the quickest way to loose it.

I wish you well.

PenyuSepi's picture

It was innocent actually.

No, I wasn't actually scoffing at the idea of a heightened state of experience, I'd only taken issue with your description of it. The Upanishads weren't created in English, and I would take the same issue with whatever translator thought 'bliss' was an appropriate word to embody what the scriptures were getting at there. For me, (and unless I'm horribly mistaken, a great percentage of the population as well) bliss is synonymous with happy feelings, and if I'm experiencing sorrow, I will be at that moment not happy, because that's the point of it. Such is the nature of sorrow if you're going to stay open to really feeling it. But if the friend you spoke of as your example could actually be simultaneously shot in the chest with grief amidst some atrocious tragedy, and yet still constantly in 'bliss', then your idea of what the word bliss means must be a world apart from mine, that's all.

Steve's picture

terms of understanding

If by description you mean using the term "bliss", well then the problem is in the term, for which no one has come up with an even remotely close English substitute. In Sanskrit it is called "ananda" and the only single word that translators have come up with is "bliss".

My friend said it was continuous ananda through all the various activities and emotions of the day, even through the deepest sorrows of tragic loss, and even through the experience of deep sleep where there is no thought or feeling. So it is something much more basic than emotions, and constantly there, literally 24-hours a day, not metaphorically speaking. A kind of background exhilaration from an underlying flow of infinite energy. The lights never went out, the screen of consciousness never went off even when all activity stopped. Indeed, a completely unfamiliar experience for most people, but not something alien, just hidden due to the nervous system having too much static noise to pick it up. Fatigue, stress and strain on the system will just cover it up if it isn't stabilized. So it is extremely delicate and requires removing the stressed conditions from the system and culturing it to get it started but once the experience is stabilized, it is permanent, never lost through all the thick and thin of life.

timedesign's picture

http://spokensanskrit.de

http://spokensanskrit.de translates 'ananda' as: delight, happiness, pleasure, joy, beatitude, sensual pleasure, sensual joy, cheerfulness, delightful, pleasing and enjoyment.
Those old Indian dudes don't seem to have been that bothered about noun/adjective differentiation.

Apparently, 'mama bhraataa jiivitasaMzaye vartate' translates as 'It is doubtful whether my brother will survive.' which might come in handy someday, you never know.

Steve's picture

And by translators I meant

And by translators I meant the three scholars I know who speak Sanskrit.

Steve's picture

Ånandad dhy eva khalv imani

Ånandad dhy eva khalv imani bhutãni jãyante
Ånandena jãtãni jivanti
Ånandaṁ prayanty abhisaṁviśhantīti

From bliss, indeed, all these beings originate;
by bliss they are sustained;
towards bliss they move;
into it they merge.

Taittiriya Upanishad 3.6.1

Hindi also has bliss as one meaning of ananda

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

Personally

Personally i believe religion is the root of all evil.

Rob Wallace's picture

Sorry but...

I find this topic tedious. But that's just me. I know, why don't we all, regardless of our beliefs and dogma/no-dogma, (Wait, isn't no-dogma actually dogma?) ... why don't we just step back from the computer, go outside, and do something nice for somebody -- better still just make a phone call to a friend and be nice.

Sheeeeeeeeeeeesh.

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

good idea

Whats your number? Fancy an ice cream?

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

String theory

I believe there is a scientific explanation for spiritualism. One purpose of the LHC http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Large_Hadron_Collider is to explain or research String Theory. String theory predicts possible extra dimensions of spacetime. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super-string_theory

Could our spirit guides be living in one of these dimensions? And do you think they have x box 360's as well?

timedesign's picture

What is 'spirtual'?

i might be missing something, but if someone described themself to me as spiritual, i would have no idea what they meant. i presume it's something about a belief system, but as to what that is, i'm totally mystified.

MrShaw's picture

Is that spirituality thing catching?

I always imagine a 60's lady ( young in the 60's, not 60 years old, which is actually the same thing....now I confuse myself), flower and tie-dye skirt, heavily stoned on some sort of natural earth juice to be spiritual. Hey free loving woman, can I have some free loving? I'll pay. :)

Steve's picture

That free love and flowers

That free love and flowers stuff is about as far from spirituality as you can get. And it also has nothing to do with any belief systems, those can PREVENT spirituality, because they just keep one's attention on thinking, thinking, thinking.

Developing spiritually really means, simply put, being more alive, more awake to the full depth of life, being fully connected to the source of life so you can live and enjoy life more fully. It encompasses developing the innate faculty of intelligence (as distinct from stuffing your head with information), integrating mind and body and heart, thinking with your heart and feeling with your mind, and, above all, drawing on the reservoir of energy, creativity, and intelligence deep within you and bringing it to bear on daily living. Of course, trying to do all those things separately will drive you mad and leave your goal unreached. Nobody tries to help a tree grow by trying to deal with the thousands of individual leaves, they just water the root. The best way to accomplish all this is through a single simple technique that actually does it all simultaneously, which I discussed in a reply below to Opti.

Enjoy.

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

Feel the love baby.

Steve wrote:
That free love and flowers stuff is about as far from spirituality as you can get. And it also has nothing to do with any belief systems, those can PREVENT spirituality, because they just keep one's attention on thinking, thinking, thinking.

I completely disagree. Just another opinion from someone else who has been doing to much thinking, thinking, thinking.

Steve's picture

Re:feel the love baby

The_elusive_STEALTH wrote:
I completely disagree. Just another opinion from someone else who has been doing to much thinking, thinking, thinking.

Completely disagreeable, with no cogent thoughts of his own,
Jester launches a STEALTH spitball attack from behind,
then lurches his spaceship around and hits warp speed!
and elusively disappears back to his free love baby and his hooka
to await his next target.

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

g1mp

You would write better sci-fi than spiritual non-fiction.

opit's picture

Hot topic

I do wish Anonymous at 12:33 had self identified. That was one of the best overall explanations I have encountered : and I've chased a few.
To me Religion is a set of beliefs and values adopted by a number of people which they agree to recognize as Authority and Truth. My immediate reaction runs along the lines of "Get a Life !"
There is a great deal of difference between leaders and followers : and the followers are always bitching about it.
I need things that work for me. 'Understanding' and 'belief' are ways of living : not abstracts for others. If you can not internalize a belief system - and why should you ? - it is only a sign that something is being lost Both from the viewpoints of the sender and the receiver.
I call myself a Christian because that is the religion I was indoctrinated into : and it works for me. But : I recognize the Story of Jesus as one of a man - and if he wasn't one WTF is the point ? - who scoffed at men 'programming' other men and saying it was the 'Word of God'.
Right. That's why the whip came out in the temple and he called the area reserved for selling approved 'Sacrifices' a 'Den of Thieves.'
Sounds about right.
The only reason to continue 'religious' thought is the hope of making a better world. If we don't have a medium to accomplish this...can it happen by itself ? I grew up in a culture where kids in the classroom learned 'Duck and Cover' because the Emergency Measures Organization was teaching preparedness for a nuclear attack. About all we learned was that adults were insane. That and something was drastically wrong with the way things were being handled.
But going to Cloud Cuckoo Land of the Swamis had its risks. I met people absolutely twisted by their explorations into metaphysics. And I retrenched and retreated a certain amount. But I started one habit that I recalled as being promoted by a Roman Catholic priest who had explored Buddhism ( and this was not Dogma, obviously ). He used Constant Prayer. It was recommended to me many years later by a Charismatic Christian.
I will say this. Eventually I noticed a change in my views. And some things at which I previously scoffed seemed unaccountably plausible.
Biofeedback is a much more secular title for the practice of reviewing where we are going in our lives. It only means we need to be mindful of setting our internal directions : because it's like driving a car. "Where you look is where you go."
That rather makes the Law of Attraction have some background, doesn't it ?
And I have not been able to make meaningful distinctions between Meditation, Prayer and Biofeedback. The one distinction that seems wrong is when you externalize 'God'. If 'The Kingdom of God is Within You'... better you don't screw up your directions.

Steve's picture

Re: hot topic

Hi opti, I presume you were referring to my post, although it is showing 1:33 on my screen.

Your observation about externalizing God is well placed. Putting God out of reach and inserting some intermediary between you an God is essentially a crime of starvation. Externalizing God is the reason the world has endured so many conflicts.

That phrase 'The Kingdom of God is Within You' is one of the most fundamental understandings of all time for humanity. I've looked it up in all the major Bible translations online and in almost every case it is translated with the same exact and unambiguous meaning. Yet, whenever I've asked an authority on Christianity to explain it, whatever they said, the answer somehow preserved their authority, and offered absolutely no direct connection to experiencing God other than talking to Him/Her or some sort of vague "feeling the presence" mood making (not criticizing, just calling it what it is—on the level of moods.) When you look in other religions, they also have references that say essentially the same thing: God is within you.

If God is truly omnipresent, you can find God within, you don't need to go to church to find Him. If you can't find God within you, you sure won't find Him in church either.

The most direct way to "realize" God must be the most valuable. But what is it? There is absolutely no point in going the route of a Swami (unless someone feels inclined, but few do). For the vast majority of people it would be a mistake to try to be like that. One should feel the path is natural and right and fulfilling. There are so many desires to fulfill and things to work out before one could naturally live the life of a Swami. But not all, so we don't discount the sincere ones who do go that way.

What is there for the rest of us? We have to engage in the world. Yet we all at some point feel that there is more to life than just being in the world. What is know about the full range of human experience is that there are three fields of life:

1) the physical world of matter and space that we contact through our senses;
2) the subtle world of mind (thinking), intellect (deciding), and ego (sense of "I-ness" or self);
3) the Transcendental field of life, beyond the first two.

Most everyone is familiar with and mostly agrees the first exists. Some are more familiar with the second than others, and within that second are found the three distinct states of consciousness of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep which is the general extent of most people's experience of life.

The transcendental field is a universal and unified ground state, a "world" from which the other two worlds arise, yet is least known and least understood by most. Indeed, if you don't know a world even exists, it's easy to think it doesn't. Scientific research has identified it's physiological correlates as a fourth major state of consciousness, completely unlike waking, dreaming, or sleeping, and a crucial difference to improving the other three states when regularly experienced.

The Transcendental state of consciousness is most simply described as being wide awake but without entertaining specific thoughts, a state of restful alertness. But that doesn't do it justice. It is THE source of intelligence, energy, creativity in human life. What makes it so beneficial to directly experience is that those qualities get drawn out and infused into the other states of consciousness, like colorless sap rising up from the unseen root, nourishing the whole tree.

The Transcendental field of life has been experienced and described and extolled by many of the greatest people of all races, cultures, and times. The Kingdom of God within is one name given to it. Lao Tzu called it The Tao. The rishis of India called it Brahman. And many more expressions.

The Transcendental field is not "God" as commonly defined, it is the Kingdom of God (important distinction). Nevertheless, if you could experience the Kingdom of God, well, that's obviously a good place to hang out and make connections. And that's your personal business how you get along once there. Such personal relationships are best kept private. But I digress. The important thing is to get inside there first.

OK, suppose you don't like such religious sounding mumbo jumbo. Lets step on the secular side of the aisle. If you were a theoretical physicist, and you were also very familiar through direct experience with the qualities of the transcendental field, you would recognize a strong correlation with recent Unified Field theories. Indeed, world renowned physicist John Hagelin, PhD, says the Transcendental field IS the Unified Field.

The Unified Field is generally called such because it is considered the single undivided source of all expressions of natural law being explored by science and exploited by technological development. Like the root that gives expression to all the branches, leaves, flowers and fruits. So if you could directly access that by some simple technique, you'd be plugging into the power that drives the entire creation of the tree.

Science has shown a lot of ingenuity in using all sorts of equipment and sensors to probe and measure the most fundamental expressions of the Unified Field, but it cannot touch the Unified Field. There is no way to measure it! So how to get to it? Are we left standing outside with theory only? No. (Unless you are one of those that can't go beyond the fixation of instrumental measuring).

The fact is, the Transcendental field is right here all the time. Like a movie screen, you are not even aware of it while all the action is going on. But it becomes revealed as soon as the action stops, and therein lies the both the "measuring apparatus" and the process—bring the thinking process to a stop. That sounds like deep sleep, or worse, non-existence! For the sake of understanding, we can conceive that one might not necessarily fall asleep or turn to non-existence in that theater before the movie ended (depending on the movie), and thus still be wide awake, yet experience only the screen, no movie.

OK, its easy to wait until the movie ends to see the screen, but, if you ever noticed, trying to stop your thoughts is quite a different matter. This is where a technique comes in. A mental technique. For lack of a better term, it is called: "meditation". I suppose if it was called something like JingJu it might sound less scary and less religious, but those who can get over the term, you're ahead. Meditation to me is as much a religion as bathing. It's a technique. Although bathing has been done as a religious activity, nobody thinks of bathing as religious (although some could use a little more bathing religion).

But there is now a critical point to understand: there are thousands of types of meditation, don't for a second believe they all produce the same result. Scientific meta analyses of the various changes in brainwaves of people practicing different mental techniques, including different forms of meditation, have shown that there are very clearly defined differences in brainwaves during different practices. And also after.

This is important because when someone clearly experiences the Transcendent during meditation, it produces a distinct brainwave pattern signature (alpha, primarily), marked by a higher degree of coherence, of harmony with the various areas of the brain, which lingers after the meditation session stops. This is not found with most forms of meditation and points out that they don't all bring you to that all-important experience of the ground state of human awareness.

First of all, biofeedback, which does produce some alpha brainwaves, doesn't show much promise in these brainwave studies because it relies on having your attention on some outward sound, and secondly, who wants to be dependent on electronic gadgetry when a purely mental technique works better? So I dismissed that.

There are basically three fundamental categories of meditation: concentration, contemplation, and Transcendental Meditation as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Concentration is holding a thought, like treading water in one place, which fatigues the mind in hopes it will slip into the Transcendent. With fatigue the mind becomes dull, the experience is essentially lost. Contemplation is more common; it is letting the mind dwell on some idea and going with that idea, like swimming around a lake.

Transcendental Meditation is like diving to the silent unmoving bottom of the lake. It involves learning a specific sound that is known to be suitable for the individual but has no meaning, and how to properly use that sound properly to effortlessly and naturally bring your awareness to deeper and deeper levels until you reach the silent Transcendental field. Its a unique sort of mental Judo that actually utilizes the mind's natural tendency to wander to take the attention deep within in an effortless way.

Pick your meditation wisely. Beware those who use the studies on Transcendental Meditation to claim the same benefits with their meditation. Like using Ferrari specs to sell bicycles. It's a widespread deceptive practice. Check the references, if they give them at all.

After having tried all three types of meditation, I recommend you learn Transcendental Meditation and just dive straight for that deep experience. It's the real deal. When you come out of your first TM session, you'll know what I mean. Recent studies show that just after 2 months of regular TM, you're brainwaves in meditation are at the level of what it normally takes 20 years to achieve in other traditional meditations. It's why there are thousands of Buddhist monks in Thailand and Japan that have learned it. But anyone can, even kids. Business execs use it for blowing off the stress of work and getting more clarity of thinking. Students find it makes studies and peer interactions easier. Many people learn because of the massive amount of documented health benefits. And, yes, religious people find it deepens their understanding and faith.

You can find out a whole lot more at tm.org.

Be sure to check out the recent findings on brainwaves, fascinating stuff if you like that sort of thing.

MrShaw's picture

TM information

Thanks so much for this information. Fascinating stuff. I am intending to look into Transcendental Meditation. I believe its worth the time to see what benefits it has for me.

Steve's picture

Interesting stuff

You're welcome. A personal anecdote: when my dad opened his eyes after his very first TM session, he turned to me and peacefully said, "Now I understand why you've been so interested in this for so long." After a few month of regular meditation his blood pressure went back to normal and he didn't need medication. My mother also started at the same time. In a few weeks her symptoms of stroke due to stress cleared up. They were both impressed and continued their daily meditation.

Everyone has their own individual results from TM but the universal underlying theme for those that meditate regularly is, the enjoyment of life just gets better.

Good luck!

MrShaw's picture

Why TM?

Just out of interest is there a particular reason that you have directed readers to www.tm.org? Also what are the reasons that you have not registered account on this website?

Thanks.

steve's picture

Re: why TM.org?

Hi MrShaw, that site is the best place to start finding out more about TM and where to contact a qualified teacher of TM. To get the benefits requires learning the technique properly, and that is only possible through a properly trained teacher. Recent studies verify that point. Its easy to learn and do but you gotta do it right. There are also links to various other aspects of the organization that teaches TM. For instance Maharishi University of Management in Iowa is a highly acclaimed fully accredited institution where all 1600 students meditate, the Maharishi School there is awesome and is a model for over 100 schools implementing TM around the world, there are links to the massive amount of research on TM, links to health enhancing modalities, business programs, a rather interesting blog section, current events and so forth. So you can choose what is most interesting to you. Mainly it is the easiest place to locate a teaching center nearest you.

I haven't registered on this site because I don't generally have time for writing on forums (was up way too late responding), and I don't care about fame. I somehow stumbled on this article (first visit to this site) and just had to say something about what I know. I could have just kept silent but something impelled me to open up this time. I could say a whole lot more on all the subjects on the front page, they all beg for solutions to the intractable problems they present, and there are good solutions. The down side of it is that it inevitably draws naysayers and if I don't respond to criticisms (some people say the darnedest things), it looks like I don't have a legitimate response, and if I respond, it takes a lot more time. I'm just not into that arguing.

I've been thinking for some time to write a book on the subject of spirituality. It would be more useful to reach a wider audience and to lay out a comprehensive picture, but haven't found the time. I'm not a writer by profession, I just want people to awaken their potential and enjoy life more. Words are needed to convey understanding but learning how to draw on our inner source of creativity and intelligence and bliss is the single most important thing to do to make life better, for ourselves and our environment. If I point others to how to get there quick, I'm in essence helping make my world a better place. That's my motivation. The world is my family.

If you'd like to converse privately I would respond to that. Would registering facilitate that?

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

Sounds like something a

Sounds like something a friend of mine was sucked into. Meditation is wikid don't get me wrong. But it should be taught for free to better everyone not to make some guy rich cause he can "teach you how to de stress you life" How much is it to do TM Steve?

Dave's picture

It's free...

Dude, it's completely free. Did you even go to the website? It's non-profit. A lot of people here shooting from the hip without thinking first or bothering to do any research about things they don't understand in the slightest. Learn first, then speak.

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

is it

I dont stand corrected. i had a brief look. there is something similar here in nz but costs a fricken bomb. Looks really similar to be honest.

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

Maybe you should read

Maybe you should read the web site. I does cost.

Course feesLearn More

Tuition for the four-month TM course
(which also includes a lifetime of free follow-up):

* Adult course fee: $1500
* Full-time student: $750
* Couples who learn together: $1500 + $750
* Children under 18 (if learning to meditate with a parent): $375

Scholarships are available for those in financial need.

See here http://www.tm.org/learn-meditation

MrShaw's picture

It's not free

Dude, it's not free, did you visit the website? And non-profit does not mean something is free, it means they are not making a profit, after paying for overheads, teachers costs, advertising etc. More to come on this.

Dave's picture

I'll be the first to admit

I'll be the first to admit when I'm wrong. I was wrong, it's not free. Sorry for my brashness.

You could argue that although the classes from this particular organization aren't free, that TM in general certainly is.

Steve's picture

It was at one time taught for

It was at one time taught for free. The number of people taking that free offer didn't suddenly rise but stayed about the same, and those that started were more likely to not value it simply because it was free. Should Apple build everyone a free iPad or iPhone or iMac? If that iGadget was for free, the gadget would be the same awesome gadget, but would you value it the same?

Its a popular myth that somebody's getting rich from TM teaching. I know for a fact it just isn't true.

"The best things in life are free" is well ingrained in our culture. Take water, for instance. Falls from the sky free as can be. It's collected most everywhere. Pure drinking water can be found in public places, and you can get it brought right to your kitchen and bath. However, if you want it delivered pure, SOMEBODY has to make that happen with building purification plants, pipes, pumps, and all that. So SOMEBODY has to pay the delivery costs. Would you work to build a water delivery system for someone else and not expect to be financially supported?

Knowledge that isn't paid for or sought after isn't appreciated the same. We've seen that right here in this forum. So the price put on learning TM is mostly a delivery price as there are many costs, and also to distinguish it from the lesser and the real junk meditation techniques that are worthless, maybe even harmful. The more affluent countries pay more, and some of that goes to subsidize teaching in poorer countries.

The David Lynch Foundation [www.davidlynchfoundation.org] is raising funds to pay for teaching students, homeless people in NY, Native American tribes, and other groups who can't otherwise afford it. The biggest donor is the director of the most successful hedge fund in the US. He's been meditating for many years and credits TM for his success. One of the auto companies has been funding a school TM program in Detroit for many years. An entire school system in Brazil is waiting for funding to teach all the students, teachers, and administration. if you fit in one of those categories you might get lucky, but the waiting list of school systems and organizations hoping to also start resolving their many problems with TM where nothing else has worked is quite long. If government leaders had the courage and national interests first, they'd fund these projects because there is already plenty of evidence that doing so would bring a net long term savings in reducing crime problems, substance abuse, educational problems, health care costs, and employment problems as those kids become adults. Those cost savings alone would wipe out the national debt, even as huge as it is.

Already there are health insurance companies offering discounts to TM meditators because statistically they have a much lower likelihood of needing medical services, by about half after around 2 years of regularly TM. The military makes TM available to returning soldiers with PTSD, so does the Veterans Administration, and it is proven the most effective treatment. Just recently the military signed up to start a TM program for officers in training.

There have been some remarkably effective prison programs in various countries, taught for free. In Senegal years ago EVERYONE in the prison system—wardens, guards, and inmates—learned TM when a businessman paid to see how it would work. I personally know teachers who taught there. Even they were astonished by the power of TM to transform hellish prisons into something they described as more resembling a country club atmosphere. After several months of everyone doing TM, the prison officials started to close prisons and admitted they were afraid they'd loose their jobs because the recidivism rate became so low, so they didn't recommend to the government officials that the government support it. Funds ran out, teaching stopped, eventually the turnover brought things back to the hellish state it once was.

Nothing else has ever come close to achieving these kinds of improvements in lives. So it is a valuable thing to have, and once you learn TM, you have it for life. There are no maintenance fees. You don't need anyone else to continue. There are more things you can learn to accelerate the basic technique but they are optional.

The fees for instruction are tiered for individuals by their status as student, family, young children, like that. For those that are financially tight there are various payment plans, loans, and occasionally some grants, usually given by wealthy meditators. You could even negotiate some sort of way to work off the instruction fee if the teacher thinks you are sincerely wanting to learn. They will do whatever they can to help people learn.

Yes it would be great if it were all subsidized. But don't EXPECT others to give you something this valuable for nothing. Its a privilege. You must deserve it.

So if you are still wondering, go to www.tm.org and find your fee category.

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

Thanks a lot but

This is not a forum for selling you're TM gig.

Steve's picture

I'm not selling

I'm informing. In my first post I didn't even mention TM specifically. Don't think I did in the second either, but I didn't go back to look.

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

Thanks a lot but

This is not a forum for selling you're TM gig.

MrShaw's picture

Perspective.

I have spent the last few hours reading all I can with regards to the TM organisation, and re-read your posts. There is a lot of information with regards to the organisation founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

I can't argue that the technique is beneficial for health, as it has been attested by many a lot more qualified than I. It has also been noted though, that meditation can also be detrimental to health. This has been documented in the links I have attached below.

What has risen time and time again in my mind is the near cult-like status this organisation has to it's members. As TimeDesign has pointed out, you guys are very defensive of your organisation. And defence seems to been something the organisation has had to do on a regular basis.

Claims were made in the 1990's that the Maharishi had real estate holdings, schools and clinics worth over $3 billion dollars. This has been repeatedly denied by members claiming that it was the organisation that owns the property. This may be the case, but I am at a loss as to how a "Non-Profit" organisation could come to own such riches in property, or how they can justify this and still claim to be non-profit. Surely to amass this amount of wealth would mean that at some point a profit was made?

False advertising has been levelled at the organisation from several countries, stating that people had been enticed with the offer of training in skills which could be used to apply for skilled employment, only to find that they were first required to complete a 3 month Transcendental meditation course, and then on completion of this course were sent away without receiving the very training they signed up for.

It has been stated that the scientific results proving that TM results with regards to brain waves, metabolic rate, oxygen consumption etc. are exactly the same results that would be produced by relaxing and other types of meditation.

The levitation theories proposed early in the inception of TM have long been subdued, however it may still be claimed that this is still achievable, with enough meditation.

The Maharishi effect is said to "causes changes in a fundamental, unified physical field, and...those changes radiate into society and affect all aspects of society for the better". Research into this particular claim, and the evidence to support has shown that they are fabricated and the effect has had no benefits to society. A study by Fales and Markovsky at the University of Iowa, in 1977 stated that it believed TM facts are subject to methodological flaws, vague definitions, and loose statistical controls.

It is suggested that the Mantra given to each student is kept a secret because the same Mantra is given to thousands of people, perhaps based on there age. Therefore, if the Mantra was shared among general society, the foundation itself would no longer be necessary.

There is reports that several attempts, some successful, have been made to gain government grants from several countries to implement schemes varying from assistance in reducing crime through to attempts at bringing about World Peace. It was claimed that it was possible to have the costs of your Trascendental Meditation costs paid by the UK Government. I wonder if the average tax payer is aware of that in the UK.

As to your posts, I will not argue about the fact that they are well-written. I will ask what it is you are stating within them though, and why you felt the need to be on the defensive before a question was really asked of you. It feels as if your view point is so strong that it can't be wavered, there is no humour and understanding. Surely from a long-time subscriber to meditation you are able to deal with the everyday questions of the cynical, allowing the truth to present itself? I also fear that your posting really are hiding something, or that the true facts remain hidden from yourself.

I would urge anyone that has the intention of taking up meditation to spend some time researching the costs, the benefits, the negatives and the history, and draw up your own conclusions. I have attached below some links for your own reference.

http://www.tm.org/learn-meditation

http://www.skepdic.com/tm.html

http://www.answers.com/topic/transcendental-meditation

http://minet.org/news94sm.dtp.0.html

Johann's picture

Good post, thanks for doing

Good post, thanks for doing all that research. I'm one of the guys that timedesign called out as "defensive". I don't know Steve from Adam, and I could care less about that TM.org outfit. Sounds for all the world like they're a bit shady. I was defensive because I thought timedesign was attacking meditation in general, although I could have been wrong...

There's nothing harmful about meditation. Sure, the organization mentioned above may not be completely above-board, and I don't think you should pay for "meditation training". But meditation in general, surely there's nothing wrong with that? I've tried it many times... it's quite simply the removal of all thoughts, and the focus on one idea - "the mantra". It doesn't have to be some specific dogma. You can meditate on nonsense words if you want.

I just want to draw a distinction between TM.org and the general practice of meditation.

timedesign's picture

yeah, wow. you've been doing

yeah, wow. you've been doing your homework MrShaw.

Kind of makes me feel bad about blathering on about the first thing that pops into my head.

A bit :)

Steve's picture

my perspective

MrShaw wrote:
I can't argue that the technique is beneficial for health, as it has been attested by many a lot more qualified than I. It has also been noted though, that meditation can also be detrimental to health. This has been documented in the links I have attached below.

Close analysis shows that the "harm" papers are all uncontrolled studies, some not on the Transcendental Meditation program at all. In some, the claim of harm is based on unfounded speculation with no evidence. For a complete review and rebuttal of these studies, I direct you to this site maintained by one of the most respected researchers on TM:

http://www.TruthAboutTM.org/truth/IndividualEffects/DoesTMDoAnyHarm/inde...

MrShaw wrote:
What has risen time and time again in my mind is the near cult-like status this organisation has to it's members. As TimeDesign has pointed out, you guys are very defensive of your organisation. And defence seems to been something the organisation has had to do on a regular basis.

Defense is a completely natural reaction in the face of offense. There are all sorts of people with different irrational fears and agendas attacking this organization, some of them bordering on madness. I recall in 1996 a big church was spreading rumors that a local group of meditators was sacrificing babies. I was there at the time. We all had a good laugh over hearing that one, but at the same time it was clear that some local PR and tours were needed so they didn't come in the middle of the night with torches and nooses. No mention of that on those critical sites.

Maharishi's house in Holland was raided by the local police on the suspicion of distributing illegal drugs a couple years ago. Absolutely nothing illegal was found, but the mayor was excoriated in the press for spending €10,000 on the basis of believing accusations from a tiny local opposition group funded by the Bishop of Aachen. No mention of that on those critical sites.

In the 1980's the German Federal Ministry for Youth, Family and Health government lumped the TM organization in with some youth cults operating in Germany in a critical report that brought the issue into court. That report was written by a private religious organization and not questioned by the government. The TM organization sued and the ruling thoroughly exonerated the TM organization of all charges. No mention of that on those critical sites.

http://www.TruthAboutTM.org/truth/LegalIssues/GermanCourtCases/index.cfm

It's hard to prove but Jimmy Carter was reported as having personally approved CIA spying within the organization, possibly at the prodding of his church leaders. They infiltrated and were caught spreading doubt, fear, and disinformation in a deliberate attempt to destroy the organization. It took years to weed them out. No mention of that on those critical sites.

President Chissano of Mozambique was organizing to have Maharishi Ayurveda health care and herbal products available in his country. He got a credible death threat to stop it, don't know from who but pharmaceutical interests would be most likely as they were pushing hard to get their drugs in the country too. No mention of that on those critical sites.

We laugh and tell stories about these and many more adventures over lunch. But why does it happen?

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." —Arthur Schopenhauer, Philosopher (1788-1860)

As things approach the third stage, there will be less need to be so defensive. Through it all the organization survived, almost single handedly through Maharishi's skillful guidance, and is finding much wider understanding and acceptance now where previously there was none.

MrShaw wrote:
Claims were made in the 1990's that the Maharishi had real estate holdings, schools and clinics worth over $3 billion dollars. This has been repeatedly denied by members claiming that it was the organisation that owns the property. This may be the case, but I am at a loss as to how a "Non-Profit" organisation could come to own such riches in property, or how they can justify this and still claim to be non-profit. Surely to amass this amount of wealth would mean that at some point a profit was made?

There were around 6 million people who took courses and paid fees. There were also many large outright donations. These are not legally classified as profits as no shares exist and no dividends, revenue sharing, or other forms of profit were distributed. This was all frequently audited and approved by various tax authorities.

From what I've heard, others handled finances while Maharishi directed how to use the funds. He never touched money. He was astoundingly astute at picking real estate investments, able to negotiate dirt cheap prices through which the organization collected a lot of properties which were usually used for expanding the organizational activities. When some property was sold, it often fetched many times more than the purchase price. $3 billion? Maybe some journalist's uber high napkin estimate (and subsequent writers keep repeating it), but it sure isn't anywhere near that now, and I suspect some of that estimate included privately owned but rented properties, such as a $100 million (valued 1999) facility, and a privately owned high-end housing development for a meditator community. Perception, perception, perception.

Real estate was needed to build academies, schools, make a local presence for teaching activities, and so forth. This was all part of building up the organization. Religions do it, companies do it, governments do it. I found it fascinating but never found anything sinister in it.

I also find it strange that people expect the organization to be poor and give everything away. What possible good will that do?

MrShaw wrote:
False advertising has been levelled at the organisation from several countries, stating that people had been enticed with the offer of training in skills which could be used to apply for skilled employment, only to find that they were first required to complete a 3 month Transcendental meditation course, and then on completion of this course were sent away without receiving the very training they signed up for.

All the advertisements I've seen were always very open about TM being an integral part of the programs. I heard Maharishi discussing launching programs like this and he was always intent on helping poor people with these kinds of programs. That's ALL he talked about, how to help people, that was the purpose, to uplift them and give them some means to create their own wealth. It was an amazing lesson in help-thy-neighbor. It didn't always work out, not enough response sometimes, but too often there was evidence of sabotage by missionary organizations connected with the government who must have felt their influence on the populations was in danger. The Catholics were more organized in their attacks. The Protestants were often helped by the CIA, it was found.

MrShaw wrote:
It has been stated that the scientific results proving that TM results with regards to brain waves, metabolic rate, oxygen consumption etc. are exactly the same results that would be produced by relaxing and other types of meditation.

I again direct you to one of the most knowledgeable researchers on TM. http://www.TruthAboutTM.org/truth/TMResearch/index.cfm

You can contact him with questions not answered on the site. Check out his art gallery, too, nice stuff. He's retired, paints at the beach.

The most recent meta-analysis comparisons of various types of techniques, particularly the brainwave comparisons, haven't been posted yet.

There is a German inventor of the most advanced and highly sensitive (and portable) brainwave machine made that recently was approached to see how TM showed up on his machine. He was highly impressed, finding broad coherence front to back and side to side, had never seen anything like it. And he'd seen quite a few brainwaves over the years. He is excited to collaborate with researchers on TM studies. With this new level of measuring sensitivity, much more distinctions are being discovered. This is still an emerging field of research, but clearer distinctions are already evident. You can't fake brainwaves. Stay tuned. ;-)

MrShaw wrote:
The levitation theories proposed early in the inception of TM have long been subdued, however it may still be claimed that this is still achievable, with enough meditation.

I once heard Dr. Brihaspati Dev Triguna, a nationally honored Ayurvedic physician, say with all earnestness that he had personally seen two people in India floating in meditation. Up near the ceiling. There have been accounts in every major civilization of people levitating. Sts. Joseph of Cupertino, Italy, Francis of Asissi, Theresa Avila are the most cited in Europe. Joseph was particularly well known, having floated in front of the pope and many heads of state. Ah, those Italians, always showing off. In Russia there are accounts of floating monks. India and Tibet are filled with stories of floating rishis and swamis and such. The Australian Aborigines are said to have runners that would barely touch the ground. If you'd like a compendium of levitation accounts from around the world, read "The Complete Book of Yogic Flying" by Craig Pearson, Ph.D, found at www.mumpress.com/ The book has numerous personal accounts of experiences of spiritual awakening to higher states of consciousness.

It should be pointed out that the point of practicing levitation is the more rapid development of brain functional integration and the corresponding experience of bliss and freedom. Actually floating will be the sure indication of achievement of complete mastery over natural law. The theories haven't been subdued, only the broadcasting. Maharishi was seen floating several times by different people; he was particularly hoping others would float, too. Some day, when the atmosphere is more pure.

MrShaw wrote:
The Maharishi effect is said to "causes changes in a fundamental, unified physical field, and...those changes radiate into society and affect all aspects of society for the better". Research into this particular claim, and the evidence to support has shown that they are fabricated and the effect has had no benefits to society. A study by Fales and Markovsky at the University of Iowa, in 1977 stated that it believed TM facts are subject to methodological flaws, vague definitions, and loose statistical controls.

Here's the rebuttal by the lead researcher on several of the Maharishi Effect studies:
http://www.TruthAboutTM.org/truth/TMResearch/NewStudies/MaharishiEffect/...

MrShaw wrote:
It is suggested that the Mantra given to each student is kept a secret because the same Mantra is given to thousands of people, perhaps based on there age. Therefore, if the Mantra was shared among general society, the foundation itself would no longer be necessary.

As if all the magic is in the mantra. Such logic completely ignores the necessity of learning how to use the mantra correctly, which is why a knowledgeable teacher is needed to direct you in the proper use of it, during your beginning phase and at any time thereafter, and answer your questions. Not having that personal instruction is like kids taking the keys to the car and driving off without ever learning how to drive. There are plenty of mantras floating around the internet, you have complete freedom to just go pick anything and start "meditating" if you want to do that. I'm telling you it is a waste of time, but you don't have to take my word for it.

MrShaw wrote:
There is reports that several attempts, some successful, have been made to gain government grants from several countries to implement schemes varying from assistance in reducing crime through to attempts at bringing about World Peace.

Sounds like its worth a try to me, absolutely nothing else has worked! Absolutely nothing else. The arms industry doesn't like the idea of world peace, though. The assumption that this doesn't work is based on the experience that nothing has worked before. If Edison had worked on that basis, we'd still be without light bulbs. Everything else tried to alleviate the darkness of crime and international conflicts haven't succeeded because they were all methods of dealing with darkness. TM simply switches on the lights (metaphorically speaking). For many it is so confoundingly simple they just can't believe it enough to give it an honest try and see what happens. A peer reviewed publication printed a study showing reduction of conflict and included a forward saying they couldn't find any flaw in the study but they couldn't believe in the premise, so they would have to review their own recommended methods used in the study to see why that result showed a clear correlation. That's scientific thinking? Go figure.

MrShaw wrote:
It was claimed that it was possible to have the costs of your Trascendental Meditation costs paid by the UK Government. I wonder if the average tax payer is aware of that in the UK.

I haven't asked the average tax payer there, buy, hey, there's your chance to learn for free!

Seriously, though, I think they'd be more concerned about the enormous expenses of sending troops around the world and taking care of what comes back.

MrShaw wrote:
As to your posts, I will not argue about the fact that they are well-written.

I'll give all credit to Maharishi for his infinite knowledge, compassion, and patience in teaching me the content well.

MrShaw wrote:
I will ask what it is you are stating within them though,

I'd need something more specific than that to reply.

MrShaw wrote:
and why you felt the need to be on the defensive before a question was really asked of you.

I think it has to do more with the way posters were responding to me. Your questions were respectful, so they deserve a respectful answer. I hope I succeeded. Other's remarks can't be taken seriously.

MrShaw wrote:
It feels as if your view point is so strong that it can't be wavered, there is no humour and understanding. Surely from a long-time subscriber to meditation you are able to deal with the everyday questions of the cynical, allowing the truth to present itself?

Well I get snarky when I stay up late. My apologies. I'm feeling kinda burnt out on this forum stuff. It's waaay too late. But when you know something is true, its natural and right to stand up for that truth.

MrShaw wrote:
I also fear that your posting really are hiding something, or that the true facts remain hidden from yourself.

I have no ulterior motives here. I felt compelled to write, I said what I know is true, and I'm satisfied if at least one person finds some illumination that turns the direction of their life in a more direct path to fulfillment of their aspirations, whatever they may be. I'm not getting anything else from it.

Anyone who gives knowledge hopes that it inspires someone. The workings of that or any other karma are unfathomable. The human intellect can't comprehend the impact of every thought or word on the environment. As you sow, so shall you reap. Its a law of nature. Sooner or later the fruit of actions come back.

To avoid making ANY mistakes and having them bounce back to smack us we can only strive to completely align ourselves with the infinite intelligence in nature and go with nature's flow. That is also another perspective of spiritual development. We are all coming from different directions, but we are all heading for the same destination whether we realize it or not. As humans we have come a long way in spiritual development. But there is more, and an easy way to become more. I was just trying to point that out to whoever would listen. You never know, it may be all that someone needs to slip into enlightenment.

Winston Smith's picture

Heckuva rebuttal

Wow, can't say I agree with everything you said, but I have to commend you on the way you said it. That's a very complete and convincing rebuttal. I just have to ask - why the fixation on the organization and the Maharishi? Shouldn't the truly enlightened TM devotee eventually move away from thinking about the organization and the yogi all the time, and just focus on the meditation itself? I think the constant mention of & deference to the yogi makes people think of fanaticism, which is why you get such a strong negative reaction from people who consider themselves free-thinkers.

Steve's picture

Fanatics, free thinking and the wild west

Well I got a strong negative reaction in this forum even before I even said the word "meditation" at all. Notice that I started these posts talking only about what spirituality means. That was all I wanted to say. Other people brought up the subject of the organization, not me, and started vilifying Maharishi, and of course they dredge up the internet's worst slanted views. If I didn't reply, it would look like I was admitting there was no other side of the story. If Maharishi or the organization did something sinister, I'd run away, but I just haven't found that to be true. At the risk of seeming fanatical, I think it's right and just to stand up and point out those highly skewed criticisms as being at the very least just as fanatical as apparently I appear to some. [Sorry if this formatting isn't allowing paragraph breaks.]

I don't see any reason to move away from the organization. It's a great community, and my experience and others' is that group meditation actually does make for deeper more sublime experiences in meditation, which makes for stronger benefits. There is clearly something to it we know from direct experience, regardless of what naysayers on the internet say. People who normally meditate on their own and then join a group meditation notice it even more.

We've all heard someone glowingly recall, "My dad always taught me that....(whatever)" or "My mom always said....(whatever)"? Does anyone consider that fanaticism? Why not? It is essentially the same thing. Its based on knowing, respecting, even loving that person they quote, and finding some truth in the quote. When Westerners hear someone talk with great respect about any outstanding teacher, let alone one the stature of Maharishi, all sorts of negative notions of personality worship or cult followings or hypnosis pop up in peoples' minds. They so often judge it on the situation—the mere relationship—completely ignoring the integrity of the teacher. It's so easy to generalize and assume the worst.

This is nothing new. Every great teacher or leader who gets on stage gets some of this treatment. In Japan they say that the nail that sticks up gets hammered. Socrates was forced to drink poison. Jesus got crucified and many of his apostles (fanatics?) got something similar. Martin Luther King and Gandhi got shot. Galileo was thrown in prison, and only recently did the Catholic Church apologize. Some people just envy or fear truly great people, those with integrity and authority in their field of knowledge.

In the far east, teachers have traditionally been treated with great respect. This is the proper way to learn from a teacher: be respectful, ask, study the response, ask about the next point, ask more, keep asking until all questions are satisfied and it all fits together and makes sense. This respectful student/teacher relationship goes both ways and is highly enriching and completely natural. It's an ancient and great tradition.

Unfortunately this tradition just doesn't exist to nearly the same extent in western culture, partly because the prevalent indigenous wisdom in the West is much more superficial (education emphasizes more the absorbing of information) and also the teachers sometimes don't deserve it. Just look at how some students regard and treat their teachers and professors.

So that may be why people generally are hypersensitive about any whiff of an appearance of fanaticism or worship or whatever. Nevertheless, it is right to say that Maharishi stands as the world's foremost authority on Vedic science and knowledge, consciousness, and spirituality, so he deserves the credit, and future generations will give him that; but I don't think about him all the time. I do my meditation and go on with my life and my business, as do others. I've had many fantastic life experiences. I'm shaped by my past, I live in the present, and consciously create my own future. I've shared a little about Maharishi so people can have a broader picture of the situation. The man isn't important, the knowledge of how to spontaneously and naturally make life better is what it's all about, as Socrates exhorted: "Know thyself."

Free thinking is the kind of term that means different thing to different people. Whatever it means, it shouldn't be an excuse for sloppy or lazy thinking or hasty inaccurate judgements based on preconceptions and appearances. Certainly not that everyone is like that, but it's a wide open philosophical wild west where the lighter the color of your hat, the more suspicious you look, and anything looking like a sheriff badge is used for target practice. Lord help you if you wear white clothes and come from the East.

So your point about people's perceptions is well taken. Thank you for pointing it out. Now we'll see if someone calls me out for a gunfight for mentioning Socrates three times.

timedesign's picture

Not my words. I've taken out some of the citations for clarity.

In 1957, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi began a series of world tours during which he introduced and taught his meditation technique.[8] In 1959, he founded the International Meditation Society and, in 1961, he began to train teachers of the technique.

May 1950...Hubbard found himself the leader of a growing Dianetics movement. He became a popular lecturer and established the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where he trained his first Dianetics counselors or auditors.

Scientology asserts that people have hidden abilities which have not yet been fully realized.[109] It is believed that increased spiritual awareness and physical benefits are accomplished through counseling sessions referred to as auditing.

(TM) teaches that, through the power of meditation, one is able to gain various "signposts" of spiritual progress, such as the powers of levitation and invisibility, walking through walls, colossal strength, ESP, perfect health and immortality, among others.

Scientology has been surrounded by controversies since its inception. It has often been described as a cult that financially defrauds and abuses its members, charging exorbitant fees for its spiritual services.

By 2003, fees in the US were $2,500. In Bermuda, where fees had been kept below the international average for many years, a 2003 directive from TM Movement headquarters to increase prices from $385 to $2,000 was partly responsible for the suspension of TM instruction there. A former instructor was critical of the fees for excluding ordinary people and making TM something exclusively for the wealthy.
In 2009, fees in the US were reduced for a one-hour-a-day, four-day course to $1,500 for the general public and $750 for college students. Fees in the UK were also reduced, and a tiered fee structure introduced, ranging from £290 to £590 for adults, and £190 to £290 for students, depending on income. The Maharishi was criticized by other Yogis and stricter Hindus for charging fees for instruction in TM, who contended that it was unethical, amounting to the selling of "commercial mantras".

some of Hubbard's writings on this remote extraterrestrial past, included in confidential Upper Levels, are not revealed to practitioners until they have paid thousands of dollars to the Church of Scientology

The movement also teaches, for additional fees in the thousands of dollars, "advanced techniques" of Transcendental Meditation, introduced by the Maharishi in the mid-1970s when new enrollment in Transcendental Meditation collapsed.

The high-ranking OT levels are made available to Scientologists only by invitation, after a review of the candidate's character and contribution to the aims of Scientology. Individuals who have read these materials may not disclose what they contain without jeopardizing their standing in the Church.

Chryssides says that TM teachers claim that the results promised by the Transcendental Meditation technique will not occur unless a trained Transcendental Meditation teacher chooses the mantra for the student.
TM meditators are instructed to keep their mantra private. Robert Oates writes that this is a "protection against inaccurate teaching".

The Church of Scientology and its many related organizations have amassed considerable real estate holdings worldwide, likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

By 1998, the global TM organization had taught an estimated four million people, had 1,000 teaching centers, and owned property assets valued at $3.5 billion.

Maharishi Vedic Education Development Corporation, the organization which oversees teaching TM in the U.S., is non-profit and tax exempt.

Scientology is legally recognized as a tax-exempt religion in the United States and some other countries

the Religious Technology Center (RTC), supervises the application of Scientology tech and owns the trademarks and service marks of Scientology.

The terms "Transcendental Meditation", "TM", and "Science of Creative Intelligence" are servicemarks owned by Maharishi Foundation Ltd.

David G. Bromley of Virginia Commonwealth University characterizes Scientology as "a 'quasi-religious therapy' that resembles Freudian 'depth psychology' while also drawing upon Buddhism, Hinduism and Gnosticism."

Irving Hexham, a scholar of New Age and new religious movements, describes the TM teachings as "pseudoscientific language that masks its religious nature by mythologizing science".

A 2007 U.S. government-sponsored review of research on meditation, including Transcendental Meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, mindfulness, and others, said that firm conclusions on health effects cannot be drawn, as the majority of the studies are of poor methodological quality.
The review used the Jadad scale to assess quality of the studies using control groups and Newcastle-Ottawa Scale for the others. The quality assessment portion of the 2007 review was published in 2008. The article stated that "Most clinical trials on meditation practices are generally characterized by poor methodological quality with significant threats to validity in every major quality domain assessed".
A 2003 review that looked at the effects of TM on cognitive function said that many of the 700 studies on TM have been produced by researchers directly associated with the TM movement and/or had not been peer reviewed.

timedesign's picture

The thing is, I don't

The thing is, I don't actually care about TM at all. But I am deeply suspicious of people who claim to have all the answers, be it about music or literature or football or politics or religion.

MrShaw's picture

I'm done with this subject....

Before I do sign off on this once and for all, here is some further reading, in contrast to the www.truthabouttm.org.

http://www.behind-the-tm-facade.org/transcendental_meditation-harmful-ab...

http://knappfamilycounseling.com/tmdangers.html

http://www.meditationtruth.com/my-problem-with-transcendental-meditation...

http://trancenet.net/

http://www.inplainsite.org/html/transcendental_meditation_tm.html

http://www.davidwantstofly.com/filme/filme/produktionen/2010_david.php
(A forthcoming film, made in the same vein as Michael Moore, as far as I can tell.)

Another perspective I do respect is quoted below.

All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.

If you have a particular faith or religion, that is good. But you can survive without it.

Sleep is the best meditation.

Dalai Lama

timedesign's picture

well, correct me if i'm wrong

well, correct me if i'm wrong (i'm sure you will) but TM seems to be to be a massive amount of self obsorbtion. a concentration on personal happiness and self-forfilment. if i may go so far, spirtualism (of which TM is an off-shoot) is a rejection of traditonal religion for something more narcissitic and masturbatory. and god knows i dislike traditional religion, but even in it's dogmatic bigotry, i find it more paletable.

personally, the less time that i spend on ruminating upon my personal state of mind, the better i feel. i'd prefer to go and bake some bread instead.

according to a statistic i've just made up, 87% of yoga teachers have body issues.

oh, and pedants, apologies for the spelling. :)

Steve's picture

correcting you

timedesign wrote:
well, correct me if i'm wrong

OK, you're entirely incorrect. Better stick to playing in the bakery.

Johann's picture

sorry man but you're

sorry man but you're completely wrong. in fact your comment betrays that you don't know anything at all about the topic. i can't even understand what you were trying to say by calling it narcissistic and masturbatory. how is meditation narcisstic? instead of being paranoid you should try to learn something more about it

timedesign's picture

jeez, you guys are defensive.

jeez, you guys are defensive. maybe you should go and develop your innate sense of intelligence or something.

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

Duck and cover.

The bible just a big fat manual on how to duck and cover.

Trubble's picture

Huh?

Huh?

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

without religion

"Without religion, we'd have good people doing good things, and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

I think it was Dawkins, but he might have been quoting someone else, I don't recall off hand.

Kuncen's picture

Submit an article!

With the depth and insight (and length) of some of these comments recently, you guys should really consider submitting an article for publication on the front page. Register for an account first, and then click the link at the bottom of the Categories menu. Seems like the logical next step... ;)

Kuncen

opit's picture

Religious 'Authority'

I tend to think my reaction to 'Christianity' as often promulgated leads somewhat to a rant about following the example of authoritarianism shown by the Pharisees who knew Scripture...and made a GOD of it. When that attitude leads to murder - as a practical judgment of their affair with the Roman governor - it shows things have become so twisted so as to defeat original purpose.
Calling such Fundamentalism 'Christianity' is worse than just a Lie - because it obscures the very irreverence for cant and dogmatism Fundamental to using insight and compassion to inform 'humane' and compassionate attitudes.
http://www.religioustolerance.org/chrcarddoc.htm is part of a very interesting site maintained by people of goodwill...and differing - on the surface - basic 'faiths'.
I chose the Protestant example because the word 'Protest' refers to dissent on the subject of clerical authority as a societal ideal : even though the narrower sense rejects the concept of Temporal Authority of the Pope. Blogging Against Theocracy is somewhat of an interest for the reason that I take it as a truer framing of the idea of Christ than can be honestly framed by any Religious Authority. I don't think they do Anarchism well : the very charge they brought against Jesus - Blasphemy - shows that.
As to TM...metaphysics isn't something I commonly pontificate upon. I will note, however, than even the Scripture Spouters admit that Spirit promises 'gifts' to those who orient upon Love - and that Prayer and Reflection is the gate to such.
Obedience to the 'Will of God' ? That IS Obedience.
And for the hatemongers who cite cautions against 'witchcraft' : that relates to the practitioners in Egyptian courts and their like who played games of illusion - perhaps even hypnosis - upon the credulous so as to appear agents of 'Gods'. I like headbangers whipping up suspicion little more.

opit's picture

L. Ron Hubbard

I can't say that I've done research into source materials the way some of you have - but Scientology is both recognized as a cult and source of subversion. It's been almost 50 years since I first saw the book talking about 'clearing' and 'engrams'. My first reaction was that it was highly organized puffery. Indeed, early magazine articles about Hubbard emphasized he was embarrassed with adultation.He could not get people to understand that he had written a satire - a spoof - about the trends of religions to adapt the culture of the times to attract followers.
But I read some of his space operas. He had a wonderful sense of the ridiculous and irreverence. Anyone knowing about Korean brainwashing techniques and the cult of Moonies - which employed a controlled 'macrobiotic' diet and group immersion - can understand it should have been an irresistible topic for a 'send up.'
The 30's were a decade that saw a lot of shakeup of the status quo as new 'spiritualism',mystic and magic ideas came from England. It wasn't just Eckankar and Rosicrucianism, either. Satanists had a subset of secret societies compatible with Thugee or mafioso. Bonesmen, anyone ?

John Farnham's picture

What is Important ?

This is a repost of a letter I received on Care2 internal mail.

WHAT IS YOUR ROPE TIED TO?

You may have heard of the man who decided to repair the roof of his
house. The pitch was steep, and to be safe, he tied a rope around
his waist and threw the other end of it over the top of the house.
He called his son and asked him to tie it to something secure. The
boy fastened the safety rope to the bumper of their car parked in
the driveway. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

But a little while later, his wife needed to run a few errands with
the automobile. Unaware of the line securing her husband, she
started the car and proceeded to drive away. The rope immediately
tightened and jerked the man over the roof and into thin air. Now
before you become alarmed, let me assure you that this never really
happened. But I chuckle at the image of the poor guy sailing over
the top of his house like Evel Knievel without a motorcycle.

This story, factual or not, points to a great truth. It is a truth
about where we place our security; about those things to which we've
tied our safety lines. What is your rope tied to?

Think about it. What do you depend on to keep you from disaster? Is
your rope tied to a good job? Is it tied to a relationship with
somebody you rely on? Is it tied to a company or an organization?

In her wise and sensitive audio LESSONS IN LIVING
(http://tinyurl.com/3vyjufo), writer Susan Taylor tells of
discovering how unreliable some of our safety lines really are. She
tells of lying in bed in the early hours of the morning when an
earthquake struck. As her house shook, she tumbled out of bed and
managed to stand underneath an arched door-way in her hall, watching
in horror as her whole house tumbled down around her. Where her bed
had once stood, she later discovered nothing but a pile of rubble.
She lost everything - every button, every dish, her automobile,
every stitch of clothing.

Susan huddled, scared and crying, in the darkness. In the pre-dawn
morning she cried and called out for help.

As exhaustion set in, she thought that maybe she should be listening
for rescuers rather than making so much commotion. So she grew still
and listened. In the silence around her, the only sound she heard
was the beating of her own heart. It occurred to her then that at
least she was still alive and, amazingly enough, unhurt.

She thought about her situation. In the stillness, fear abandoned
her and a feeling of indescribable peace and happiness flooded in,
the likes of which she had never before known. It was an experience
that was to permanently change her life.

In the deepest part of her being, Susan realized a remarkable truth.
She realized she had nothing to fear. Amazingly, whether or not she
was ever rescued, whether she even made it out alive, she sensed she
had nothing to fear.

For the first time in her life she understood that her true security
did not depend on those things in which she had placed her trust. It
lay deep within. And also for the first time, she knew what it was
to be content in all circumstances. She realized that, in an
ultimate sense, whether she had plenty or hardly enough, somehow she
would be all right. She just knew it.

She later wrote, "Before the quake I had all the trappings of
success, but my life was out of balance. I wasn't happy because I
was clinging to things in my life and always wanting more. My home,
my job, my clothes, a relationship - I thought they were my
security. It took an earthquake and losing everything I owned for me
to discover that my security had been with me all along . . .
There's a power within us that we can depend upon no matter what is
happening around us."

She had tied her rope to the wrong things. It took a disaster for
her to understand that those things are untrustworthy. So she let go
of the rope and discovered peace. She found that her true security
was a power within - dependable and sure.

What is your rope tied to? And what would happen if you found the
courage to let go of it?

-- Steve Goodier

Share this on FaceBook and Twitter / Post a comment / Read more
http://stevegoodier.blogspot.com/

__________

Do you BLOG? Feel free to use articles you enjoy on your favorite
blogs. And thanks for mentioning www.LifeSupportSystem.com.
__________

P.S. I can relate to the husband who asked his wife, "Will you love
me when I'm old and senile?" She said, "Of course I do."

sumit's picture

call for English to Hindi translation, material collection, Hind

For the English to Hindi translation, wildlife, biodiversity, forest, Hindi original writing/proof-reading/editing/subtitling, content writing, material collection for book, magazines etc….

91-9425605432   India, Bhopal, sumit

yuri's picture

SBNR

Instead of respecting others beliefs catholic get out of their way to critisize people. Is that a part of the catholicism. I don't understand why they are so judgmental. These acts are the reason why i didnt become an active religious member anymore. they should think what they say first. One thing i know is that, critism isnt a part of god's teaching! no matter what religion or a person believes in. 

Seize the skull!
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