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Cults and World Religions

Transcendental Meditation



A second off-shot of the Eastern Religions is transcendental meditation. The followers of this practice claim that it is neither a religion nor that it has any metaphysical basis. The claims of TM are “health” related in that it reduces stress, improves health, heightens intelligence and creativity, and reduces the need for drugs. TM may be practiced without regard to a religious or ethical system.

TM was founded by Mahesh Brasad Warma, who was born in India in 1918. In 1956 he took the title of Maharishi (“great sage”) and came to the U.S. in 1959. He founded the Spiritual Regeneration Movement and became famous when stars such as the Beatles, became his followers. Although the movement declined when the Beatles went elsewhere, Maharishi turned his attention to training teachers of TM and the movement stabilized. Part of this change of approach was moving to a secular, “scientific” look. However, Court rulings have effectively stated that TM is a religion and the writings of Maharishi sustain the fact that the teachings are rooted in Hinduism. Maharishi describes TM as “a path to God” and “the fulfillment of every religion.” He speaks of a “God-consciousness.” The final stage of TM is “Unity consciousness” which corresponds to the final stage of raja yoga, the absorption into the all-that-is.

The umbrella organization is called the World Plan Executive Council and the title of Spiritual Regeneration Movement was dropped with the change of image. There are roughly 400 World Plan centers in the U.S. The movement keeps itself alive through systematic lecture programs. A TM university was started in Iowa in 1971.

In this system, god is Brahman, the impersonal god of the Hindus. To avoid using Brahman’s name, Maharishi calls him the Creative Intelligence. The idea of TM, then, is to meditate to bring oneself into an awareness of God. The meditation techniques use a mantra as a form of prayer. Man’s problem is not sin but separation from the Creative Intelligence. Salvation occurs as the person raises himself above the level of consciousness. This occurs in seven steps. Each person is left to work out his own karma, clearly making TM a system of works, self-salvation.

In Perspective

Two observations, one good and one bad, may be made at this point.

It is easy to note that all of the world religions qualify as cults when the three essential doctrines are used as the standard. While not all view God as an impersonal force, almost all have a pantheistic view, the all-in-all. This excludes any concept of the Trinity. Salvation is by works and deeds, much of it in the form of rituals.

A more interesting development in modern times is the recognition of Jesus as part of the growth process of the cycle of reincarnation. Where ancient views of Hinduism or Buddhism gave no place to Christ, the modern view is to see Jesus as one who is unique, indeed, more unique than other men. For example, the Hare Krishnas see Jesus as the son of Krishna, but not a reincarnation of Krishna. He is more unique than any other man could strive to attain. But, clearly, this is not the Jesus of the Bible.

For the evangelical, ecumenical community, the insertion of Jesus provides a mechanism, however, for commencing a discussion as to the “best” way to find peace with God. Jesus provides a springboard to address the issues of a personal, caring God who sent His only Son so that man could, indeed, find peace in this life, as well as the life beyond. To the follower of an Eastern Religion, the endless cycle of reincarnation is potentially overpowering. Christ can be shown as the great alternative.

On the negative side, the introduction of Eastern Religions into Western society has produced an amazing array of syncretistic religions which mix the East with the West producing cults that have a broad base of beliefs. This has helped immensely in developing the move to New Age.

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September 18, 2018

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