Transcendental Meditation: from illumination to suffocation

Many remember the founder of Transcendental Meditation (TM) as the guru of the Beatles, the Beach Boys or the self-help guru Deepak Chopra himself, among other celebrities. But Susan Shumsky, the result of her twenty years of bonding (six of them working within Maharishi’s direct staff), offers a very different image.

In general, people do not identify Transcendental Meditation with a destructive sect. In other moments I have spoken in this same space of the impulse on the part of the filmmaker David Lynch in the application of the MT in traumatized people, as well as of its extension towards the free schools of the United Kingdom.

In its beginnings, at the end of the fifties, it was spread as a technique to be practiced twice a day in one’s own home, so that anyone could do this meditation. First of all, there was no obligation to change the lifestyle or the vision of reality, the practitioners simply hoped to practice and that their life would change.

They would arrive in our country at the beginning of the seventies, as a result of the school of instructors that they celebrated on the island of Mallorca.

Transcendental Meditation, according to themselves, “is a new Hinduism. It is the announcement of a new spiritual era; it wants to make the sick West aware of the saving forces of self-realisation through meditation”.

Shumsky, who is now writing new age self-help books, acknowledges that his meditation practice during his years of bonding gave him “something previously unknown: the true happiness of inner peace […] my meditation experiences were only edifying and wonderful.

He also admits that he was fascinated by Maharishi, “his charismatic aura and hypnotic personality. All this progressively led him to the team of Maharishi’s direct staff in Europe.

During his years in Transcendental Meditation, “I endured an incredibly intense emotional roller coaster that ran from heaven to hell.

I was like the administrator of some kind of “ego surgery” and Maharishi alternatively made me feel like the most important person in the universe, saving the planet, or the most despicable, useless and worthless worm. These emotional alternations led her to be exposed before an audience of 400 members of the group or to witness the emotional and spiritual mistreatment that Maharishi could deploy.

The first public problems around Maharishi began to appear around 1979 in Amherst, Massachusetts. Although two years earlier they had already lost a lawsuit confirming that Transcendental Meditation was a religious group, it was no longer “a true science” as they repeatedly insisted in its publicity.

And a year later, in Sweden, the Society for the Promotion of the Medical Use of Transcendental Meditation had its request to include TM in health care systems rejected.

But it was in Amherst that Maharishi brought together 2,600 meditators for a World Peace Assembly. There he made the incredible claim that “Divine Mother” had told him that crime, war and environmental toxins had polluted the earth.

Maharishi’s “World Plan” for achieving world peace was not working fast enough, and therefore, the Goddess threatened to annihilate the entire population of the earth. After Maharishi begged her, she supposedly agreed to give Humanity one last chance.

Later, Maharishi would say that time was up and there was a global emergency. Shumsky recalls that then “we all had to pack our bags, relocate our families to Iowa within a week, and meditate together to prevent global annihilation.

It was in 1984 that thousands of people gathered at Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa, a “park of utopia” where the sect ended up taking over its adherents, who gave up their lives and squandered their economy on courses and more courses from the organization.

In fact, two giant geodesic domes in gold paint were built on the University of Miami campus, one for men and one for women, where members practiced group meditation twice a day.

Shumsky recalls from those years that “in every telephone conversation with Maharishi, we were terrified convincing ourselves that if we did not adhere to this program, we would be responsible for the nuclear holocaust or the end of the world.