I was taught a mantra which I was requested to promise to keep secret (a promise I have kept and I have no particular problem with this either), and I was taught to meditate on this mantra by relaxing into it and allowing it to become subtler and subtler.
Definitely TM induces and extremely relaxing state of body and mind, but it induces mental fogginess. From a Buddhist point of view it is basically training in mental sinking which is a state of meditative concentration in which we have hold on the object of meditation but in which our clarity of it is fading. Mental sinking is a form of faulty concentration and yet is the essence of the practice of TM.
The effect of TM on me was to make me increasingly angry and confused. I started shouting at my family more and more. Eventally after a year and a half or so I decided to give it up without knowing quite why – a decision I am very grateful for.
MichaelSeptember 16, 2011 at 12:50 AM
TM had me feeling the same way. I had a very bad time by the end of my time at the university. I'd get headaches on the left side of my head, but I was also turning in to a madman, not remembering things I would say or do. Apocalyptic ego-dissolution. The worst kind. The damnedest kind. I luckily had a few thousand dollars saved up to rest my mind and NOT practice TM before my life started back up (which had been a struggle for me for about a year). Nowadays, sometimes by habit the mantra rolls in my head when I am exhausted and collapsed on the couch from a long day. It soothes me but it also stimulates startling thoughts which I do not remember upon waking from my stupor, as often happens in dreams.
Truth MirrorFebruary 3, 2013 at 6:13 PM
What disturbed me about TM was how I became slowly addicted to it. I needed it before work, and I craved it as soon as I could on arriving home in the evening.
Once I realized what was going on (a mantra-buzz blissy kind of addiction) I dropped it and never went back. It's just not a balanced technique. And now they say Maharishi wasn't even taught to teach, it's something he just made up.
No wonder so many had so many issues.
Heart Problems Caused By Sudarshan Kriya
MARCH 26, 2011
by The Doctor
Akshata (March 24, 2011 6:17 am)
My sincere appeal to people. If you are having problems due to Sudarshan Kriya please stop immediately. it can worsen your condition if you do not heed the warnings and continue. This practise not suitable for all. It took me almost six months to recover from my three month practise of kriya. I did not have a heart attack as some one was mentioning before. but very strong heart palpitations due to kriya. the doctors warned me that I might even get some of the heart valves damaged.
Be very careful when you practise hotch potch techniques like sudarshan kriya. The teachers themselves do not know how this sudarshan kriya works or do not work. Ask questions to them and do not take their silly answers like guru’s revelation or grace. Otherwise you will suffer like how i suffered.
I have been doing it since last 4 years in gaps as after experiencing its harmful effect, leaving it and somehow again after some time doing it either by getting attracted to improve health from it or getting influenced by art of living people constantly influencing you, and again and again i have been experiencing the same dull effects, but not anymore. I have decided to fully dissociate myself from art of living. I think my experience needs to be shared with people to find some out there who is experiencing the same. I would list some of the effects that i have felt after some of the Sudarshan Kriya.
1. don’t feel like doing anything, dont want to work, earn, talk etc
2. unable to think, take decision, unable to concentrate, inattentiveness. cant put your mind on work. unable to focus and be determined. ( i was so focused on working on my website, but after doing long kriya i just don’t feel and care less about it or infact i care less about anything. I can feel the damage in the brain. i dont feel the awareness to feel, focus and do it; something in mind that makes us want to do things is just not felt and i know because it was there before and how because of it i was able to work on a stretch and be motivated to work)
3. don’t feel to respond to others, being unresponsive. feeling dejected; dont care about the things happening around, make you emotionless.
4. dont feel good in mind. Feels like something is missing in the brain.
But there are other, more subtle ways in which a meditation instructor's atman-infused metaphysics actually avoids suffering.
His main priority is concerned with poisonous “mental formations” not political or social freedom. In many ways his weird version of non-self is intent upon transcendence (through dissociation from suffering). The instructor is not seeking to apply therapy to suffering but to anesthetize the students to external suffering via freedom from “mental formations,” which is eerily similar to the claim that non-self is to be realized independent of intellectual understanding.
A meditation teacher's doctrine that so-called “freedom from mental formations” combined with their version of non-self reveal the cornerstone of this philosophy: seeking a spiritual liberation from the suffering of the world. One that is independent of “mental formations,” of the intellect and “poisonous” emotions. Such instructors point us toward a transcendent soul (or place).
(Such methodology) is concerned with dissociating from the intellect, from the emotions, from the real world conditions of suffering in order to touch a greater truth.
(If this methodology is practiced for some time it) constructs a particular type of citizen: one more concerned with their internal reality than an external one. The devotee, in this sense, self-regulates, self-medicates (or meditates) in order to alleviate their psychic suffering regardless of the social reality they live in.
This vision of the dharma prefers anesthesia over social change, the numbing of pain over addressing the real conditions of suffering. (This method) seeks to make the subject into a non-reactive, non-discriminating, non-jealous, metta-inspired citizen: A Devotee who abdicates their passion in favor of an ascetic non-participatory attitude, without actually leaving society. A kind of Devotee zombie. It makes the Devotee into a ‘good citizen,’ subservient to authority (or in the teacher's ownlanguage “seniority”).
4. matthew remski October 13, 2012 at 08:18
Dear Shyam. So good and sharp and what a service to mindfulness culture in general. Especially the deconstruction of the “good citizen” meme.
But I was wondering throughout whether or not the intellectual dishonesty you describe with regard to calling a clear view a non-view is simply an educational void. I believe he and others who make this distinction really feel the difference between these two, and our rather sloppy spiritual language is filled with this distinction — between the “head” and the “heart”, between “understanding” and “knowing”. Semantically, TNH has constructed an atman through his references to non-view. But what is the sensation-of-being he is trying to convey? I believe it is the right-brain-centric, paleo-mammilian, pre-linguistic state buried in our psychoneurology, and triggered by memories of pre-cognitive childhood moments.
On my harsher days I’ll refer to such yearnings as infantile-regressive. But it’s more complex than that. The appeal to the “happy non-view” is an attempt to allow the pre-linguistic to re-assert control over the linguistic, the pre-philosophic to overwhelm the philosophic with the endorphins of presence. The inconsistencies of “view” and “non-view” may be more the by-product of this hazy dialogue between the layers of our psychoneurologic phylogeny than a simple failure of reason.
Back to the educational void: could it be that TNH and his generation of students (and really — most meditators up to this point) have simply not been exposed to enough evo-psych and psychoneurology to be clear about the fact that they are not dealing in philosophy at all, but in a controlled suppression or diversion of the philosophic faculty in the hope of allowing something more child-like to reassert itself?
Of course things get ugly as the social power aggregates around the paradoxical “realized child-like-ness” of the elders. I have in the past focused on the authoritarian aspects of this structure, but recently, as I see the layers interplay in a developmental context, I’m thinking this authoritarianism is very strange. Because at the top of the pile is a child: someone who rejects the intellect, is allowed to self-contradict, appeals to our memories of simplicity, loves plums, wants to live in a plum village, and even looks like an actual baby, bald and swaddled and presexual. It seems that in our despair over the exhausting work of philosophy and social justice, we worship babyhood, invoking Freud’s “King Baby”, remembered in ourselves, embodied in our spiritual leaders. When i take even a brief inventory of the popular spiritual leaders I know, it’s a parade of babyfaces and milquetoasts.
Buddha is said to have said: gate gate paragate etc. “Gone beyond, gone beyond”, i.e., all thoughts, views, concepts of self. I have no idea what he meant by it, but I’m proposing that what we really want it to mean is “Gone before, gone before”, i.e., to the place before we were burdened with the terrible challenges of adulthood and postmodern self-reflexive consciousness.
5. matthew remski October 13, 2012 at 09:00
The social progressivism of TNH and PV is clear and much-needed, and we all know that “engaged buddhism” has done far more than yoga culture (or perhaps any spiritual culture other than the now-defunct liberation theologians of 1970s/80s Catholicism) has to integrate internal regulation and external ideals. So I wonder if the regression I’m proposing is a kind of survival strategy? I know many mindfulness types who are tireless activists. Splitting into internal baby and external ninja is probably a good way of sustaining their energy: non-mindfulness activists seem to have a terrible burnout rate.
9 FJ (Author's name converted to initials for privacy -C) October 13, 2012 at 14:41
Another wonderful piece of writing and analysis from Shyam Dodge! As someone who studied and practiced with Thich Nhat Hanh, I’d like to add that at least some of these points do deserve a bit more nuance.
For instance, my experience of the “Plum VIllage Culture” is indeed that everyone wanted to be like “Thay.” This even to the degree that many of them would talk in a much quieter voice than their normal voice, because that’s how Thay talks. Me, with my loud brooklyn/long island speech that I could not — and never wanted to — moderate into a whisper, made me feel a bit like an elephant in a china-shop! I felt that many in the ‘sangha’ simply plastered a smile on their face even while they were screaming inside.
However, that is never what I heard TNH to say we should do! Re: Jody TNH was the first teacher I had ever practiced with that encouraged me to feel what I was feeling. To not be too quick to get past my grief or anger, but to really feel and investigate it.
For instance, having successfully learned to repress my emotions, it was while practicing with TNH that I finally connected with the grief of my sister’s death 17 years after the fact!
I think many of his students attempt to bypass this ‘work’ and get to what they THINK is the goal of some Stepford Wives/Pod People equanimity. That or — interestingly, they wallow in their victimization. But when he responds to Oprah Winfrey who says to him: “You seem so peaceful. Just sitting here with you I feel peaceful just being in your presence; but what happens when you are late for meeting or you have to catch an airplane?” and TNH answers, “To respond in peace and happiness is possible in every event, in every situation. This is my training. This is my practice,” I get WHY they act this way! He sends mixed messages all the time! Hearing this, it seems there is no room for feeling impatience or anger!
And then again, the renunciate background of buddhism does indeed posit anger, craving, grieving, jealousy etc. as “poisons” and the practice as eradicating them FOREVER! This may indeed be the earliest description of nibbana in the Pali Suttas. That the fact Mara continues to visit the buddha seems to me to be an example of ‘leakage’ of the more realistic thinking that such eradication is not possible. How one responds to these ‘visitors’ is much more the issue, I think. And yet again, a recent collection of essays on buddhist ethics is actually titled “Destroying Mara Forever” !!!!!
Regarding your point about the community, hierarchy and authority: I can only say that when I was told there were something not open to question or discussion, I bolted! To express any disagreement with “Thay” was simply beyond the pale of “correctness” among the “sangha.” The deference to the man is creepy.
Finally, lest this all seem to be about TNH, I think it clear that what you are describing is indeed pandemic in contemporary (and much traditional) buddhist culture. I think at least part of it is that while the Vedic tradition (and most other religious and much philosophical traditions) have asked questions like “What exists?” the buddha thought this a “wrong” question. I don’t think he was much interested in ontology, but more in “how” things work. His followers could barely settle for that, though. The ambiguity in the suttas led to the formation of the realist perspective of abhidhamma as well as the idealism of vijnanavada.
By the time buddhism entered into China, the more mystical notion that the buddha’s teachings were “beyond rationality” and inexpressible in language (the ole “ineffable” gambit) began to flourish, especially in the ch’an/zen traditions.
Thus my essay on “What I Hate About Zen.” TNH is a product of the mahayana/zen mystification and obfuscation.
I agree generally with Gombrich when he writes:Quote
“I agree that the buddha held the goal of the religious life to be an experience which language has no power to express, I strongly disagree with interpretations of his teachings, which are of course expressed in language, as being mystical in the vulgar sense of defying normal logic.”
If the buddha really thought that about language, however, I think it is overstated. I’d say language is limited in expressing the experience — not completely powerless. By that I do not want to imply that liberation is a special case of this limitation of language. It is equally true of language’s limitations in expressing the taste of chocolate, or a plum.
It’s a lot of different things. The mindfulness you see in Buddhist communities is not the same mindfulness being promoted in corporations and schools across the country. There are lots of people who join a mindfulness group or take an MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) course, and being part of a small community like that helps a lot. And plenty of people just practice mindfulness by themselves, in isolation, at home or wherever.
At the same time, mindfulness is also becoming an industry, and lots of companies are cashing in on it. I live in New York, and there are money-making studios popping up all over the place. And mindfulness is being marketed [by them] as very much an individualistic practice, which is not healthy and even further contributes to stress and ill-health.
What sort of problems is this creating within the movement?
Well, it raises a question about the intentions of those who practice mindfulness — both those who identify as Buddhists of any kind, and those who are part of a general mindfulness movement in the US and internationally.
Buddhists seek to let go of attachment to the myth of the private, solid, unchanging self, and to promote universal compassion and end universal suffering.
But capitalist culture enforces the myth of the privatized, self-centered self. So unless mindfulness is employed in the service of making the world a better place — then practicing can and does end up serving to maintain the very self-centered, greedy, individualistic institutions and relationships that contribute to the lack of connected presence, kindness, and compassion that contribute to our unhappiness.
They help people adjust to the status quo rather than helping to transform it.
Does mindfulness, in your view, have a moral foundation?
Buddhism has ethical values and practices such as non-violence. Its deeper moral stance is that we are interconnected with all beings, to all our social relationships and institutions, and with the earth itself.
People will argue that you become kinder and more compassionate just by practicing mindfulness. But I believe people need a moral framework in addition to mindfulness, some social vision to guide them. I think [in many US contexts it has] been severed from this moral tradition. Without that, meditation can become just another tool of self-absorption.