Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion

By Lola Williamson | Go to book overview

1

What Are Hindu-Inspired
Meditation Movements?

On a jumbo jet filled with meditators headed for Switzerland, I awakened to the sound of a stewardess’s voice. “I have been instructed to wake you twenty minutes before breakfast so you have time to concentrate,” she softly intoned over the PA system. Some of us chuckled quietly at her choice of words. Our guru, Maharishi, told us never to use the word “concentrate” for “meditate.” But this was 1973, before the word “meditation” had seeped into the international vocabulary. It was a foreign concept to our Swiss stewardess who was only following instructions. Around me I heard people shifting in their seats as they attempted to take a meditation posture in these cramped quarters. Then, slowly, a tangible stillness began to fill the plane as all of its passengers slipped into meditation.

We were one of three such jets headed for the same ultimate destination— the tiny town of Vittel, France, where we would be spending the next three months learning to become teachers of Transcendental Meditation. We were the youngest of the three groups and would be housed in a separate hotel. However, when Maharishi arrived toward the end of the three months, we would all gather together in one place to listen to him speak and to meditate with him.

I remember the feeling on that plane in 1973. We were part of something big, something that was going to change the world. We were going to teach thousands of people to meditate, and they would surely then become inspired to teach others, and soon the whole world would be practicing Transcendental Meditation.

Transcendental Meditation, or TM, is one example of a Hindu-inspired meditation movement. Although Maharishi, TM’s founder, never referred to his system as “Hindu,” it certainly displays some easily recognizable Hindu elements. The people on this jet practiced meditation using a mantra (a sound that has special religious significance to Hindus), the breakfast they

-3-

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Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • A Note on Transliteration vii
  • Preface ix
  • I - Background 1
  • 1: What Are Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements? 3
  • 2: Laying the Foundation for American-Style Hinduism 26
  • II - Three Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements 53
  • 3: Self-Realization Fellowship 55
  • 4: Transcendental Meditation 80
  • 5: Siddha Yoga 106
  • III - In Their Own Words 133
  • 6: The Guru-Disciple Relationship 135
  • 7: Mystical Experiences 161
  • 8: Worldview 186
  • Conclusion 215
  • Notes 235
  • Bibliography 243
  • Index 251
  • About the Author 261
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