Transcendental Meditation (TM) was first introduced in 1955 by the organization’s founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was born Mahesh Prasad Varma. After serving as a disciple and secretary to Swami Brahamananda Swaraswati between 1941 and 1953, Maharishi established the Spiritual Regeneration Movement in Madras, India in 1957. He began international tours the following year, and the Spiritual Regeneration Movement Foundation was incorporated in California in 1959. The organization estimates that about six million people around the world have learned the TM meditation technique. There has been considerable debate over whether or not there is a religious component to TM. In the U.S. courts have ruled that TM does have a religious foundation, and on that basis the practice has been excluded from publicly supported institutions, such as schools and prisons.
One of the Richmond TM organizers describes the introduction to TM as follows: “the background of the practice is typically included in the introductory lecture(s) prior to learning the technique. So the student will have heard that the technique comes from the India’s ancient Vedic tradition, and that Maharishi was the major disciple of Swami Brahamananda Swaraswati, custodian of the northern branch of the Shankaracharya lineage of this tradition, and possibly also that this lineage was established by the sage Shankara over a thousand years ago. The technique itself, which is described as a wakeful-hypo metabolic state, is taught over several days, usually no more than four, and the instructional technique is the same world wide. Practitioners are given a personalized mantra, a sound that has no meaning that is used during meditation to allow the practitioner’s attention to move from an active level of functioning to a quieter form of mental activity. Participants are taught that learning how to meditate in this fashion changes the repair mechanisms of the central nervous system. In the state of clearer consciousness that they work to achieve, participants are taught that they will feel happier and healthier, along with having a clearer conscience. Once the meditation technique has been learned, it is practiced twice daily for twenty minutes at a time. Twenty minutes twice a day is said to bring bliss and clarity, along with a kinder way to living life. It is recommended that the technique be taught indoors and practiced in a quiet relaxed atmosphere. This aspect of TM is described as similar to the Chinese principle of Feng Shui where everything is arranged in a fashion to promote positive energy along with polarity. Where one practices the technique is completely discretionary, as long as the practitioner is able to meditate thoroughly.
TM organization in Richmond is relatively limited, although one TM teacher estimates that several thousand individuals have been initiated in TM since the 1970s. A local couple currently is responsible for the organizing the TM community. The two have opened their home as the TM center for Richmond. Two different styles of meetings are held, usually once a week, at their apartment where food and meditation are sometimes combined. Individuals who are unfamiliar with TM are introduced to the practice through four, one and a half hour sessions. One of the Richmond organizers put it, “These sessions are just for learning how to meditate properly, so that the practice unfolds effortlessly and the results emerge naturally.” The second style of meeting is an advanced lecture, hosted by the same couple; it is an intellectual forum where reading material is introduced and discussed. The mediator and attendees discuss and work on their meditation technique by covering intellectually challenging material. Topics covered range from Plato’s works, to Taoism. Lectures typically last about one and a half hours
No local address
Richmond TM instructors
Transcendental Meditation website
Profile prepared by Carson Lucarelli