When the David Lynch Foundation held a gala for Transcendental Meditation at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., last year, it drew a star-studded crowd. Comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Margaret Cho were there. So was the singer Kesha, as well as White House advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who had recently published a self-help book that included a section extolling TM’s benefits.
It was a pleasant, 77-degree June evening in the District. The guests wore cocktail attire, and the event was set up almost like a Hollywood premiere, with pre-show celebrity interviews on a red carpet. That’s where Kesha asked for a hug from Seinfeld, who brusquely refused her request while cameras were rolling (she later got one from Bob Dylan). Seinfeld laughed with Jay Leno for the cameras; Hugh Jackman, who co-hosted the event with Katie Couric, posed with real estate developer Jeffrey Abramson and his wife Rona. Jay Leno, Ben Folds, singer Angelique Kidjo, classical guitarist Sharon Isbin, and Seinfeld, Cho, and Kesha performed for the assembled luminaries.
The event was yet another sign that TM, with its lengthy (and growing) client roster of the rich and famous, had cemented a place among America’s cultural elites. Although independent estimates vary, TM officials claim that roughly 10 million people have learned the technique, which is meant to control anxiety, reduce stress, and increase their overall well-being.
“Transcendental meditation is a practice I picked up several years ago and I couldn’t do half of what I do in a day without it,” Ivanka Trump wrote in her book. “Twenty minutes is ideal for calming the mind, eliminating distractions, and boosting my productivity.”
The fundraiser promised to provide TM instruction so that underprivileged kids, military veterans, and trauma survivors could avail themselves of its benefits.
“We’ll be offering this to anyone and everyone who thinks they need some help,” longtime TM organization leader and David Lynch Foundation CEO Bob Roth told the Washington Post at the time.
Ten days or so after the Kennedy Center gala, Roth headed off to another, less-publicized TM event, which took place in a conference room at the Fairmont Hotel in Kiev, Ukraine: a “global peace summit” led by one-time presidential candidate John Hagelin, a Harvard-educated quantum physicist who serves as president of the Maharishi University of Management, TM’s fully accredited university in Fairfield, Iowa.
Hagelin’s speech focused not on TM’s benefit to the individual but on the spillover effect that TMers’ meditation supposedly has on others. Hagelin claimed the combined brain activity produced during regular group practice of TM radiates out to people who are not meditating or even aware that others are; these invisible waves bring instant peace and harmony to society at large. This, he explained, is the “Maharishi Effect.”
According to Hagelin, all it takes to achieve the Maharishi Effect and its commensurate reductions in everything from homicides to car accidents is for a group of people equivalent to one percent of the population of a city, state, or country to practice the basic TM technique at once.
Materials from the Kiev summit claim that “a day-by-day study of a two-month assembly in Israel in 1983 showed that, on days when the number of participants was high, war deaths in neighboring Lebanon dropped by 76%... In addition, crime, traffic accidents, fires, and other indicators of social stress in Israel (combined into a Composite Index) all correlated strongly with changes in TM group size.”
When retired German Air Force Colonel and TM’s “Global Country of World Peace Deputy Defense Minister” Gunter Chassé got up to speak in Kiev, he issued a call for specially trained TM units within the world’s armed forces.
“With such an alternative complementary force, every military will be able to achieve a strategic advantage by preventing the outbreak of hostilities and achieving victory before war,” Chassé claimed.
When you sit to do TM, “you’re not praying for peace,” Bob Roth told The Daily Beast. “You’re not even thinking about peace. You’re just settling down to your inner silence, but it radiates out because we’re all connected.”
The Maharishi Effect is applicable to just about anything one can dream up, as the Kiev conferees made clear. John Fagan, a Cornell-educated molecular biologist who staunchly advocates against genetically engineered crops and serves as the dean of Maharishi University’s College of Sustainability, gave a presentation in which he claimed that “[T]he rapid reversal of the U.S. food system from broad acceptance to widespread rejection of GMO foods correlates with a sharp increase in coherence in U.S. collective consciousness, when a large permanent group of TM practitioners was assembled in Iowa, USA.”
Those higher-level meditators—known as practitioners of the “TM-Sidhis”—have even more incredible abilities. They include the practice of “yogic flying,” during which meditators attempt to levitate while sitting in the lotus position.
Says Maharishi University’s Brain Research Institute, “[O]ver the last 25 years, the practice of Yogic Flying has been scientifically documented to enhance the quality of life for the individual and society.”
“What happens with yogic flying is, the mind basically tells the body, ‘I want you to fly.’ It’s training the mind to do mind over matter, because anything a human wants is through desire,” Asher Fergusson, Maharishi University’s 2008 valedictorian, told The Daily Beast.
“You may have people looking at people doing yogic flying and say, ‘That’s strange,’” Roth added. “I happen to think seeing people playing football, or boxing and beating each other up, is strange.”
It couldn’t be more different from the TM introduced to most casual meditators. But it shows there are essentially two TM movements: a “retail” version for the general public with an anodyne message about ridding yourself of stress, and another, more spiritually oriented movement for a small but devoted cadre of true believers—a virtually unknown “secret society” of sorts—that promises to unlock supernatural abilities and provide all manner of magical outcomes, some of which can allegedly be attained by paying teams of Indian monks thousands of dollars to chant for you half a world away.
TM is also a behemoth of a business. When the founder of TM died, he left an estate valued at $3 billion. TM has its own set of scientists, viewed with skepticism by the mainstream scientific community; its own universities and lavish properties around the world; and dubious claims to world government.
It all may seem to defy logic, science, or both. But as Roth said, “Consciousness, at the deepest level, can influence other people. And that’s not some kind of magical woo-woo stuff, that’s from the concept of underlying interconnected consciousness.”
TM as we know it was founded in 1955 by the Maharishi (meaning “great seer”) Mahesh Yogi, born Mahesh Prasad Varma. Later the guru to the Beatles—Maharishi was the subject of their bitter song “Sexy Sadie” after the supposedly celibate monk allegedly tried to seduce a member of their entourage—TM was originally part of the 1960s spiritual counterculture.
It was the Beatles who are said to have first sparked a collective interest in TM among the general public. (Legendary record producer Rick Rubin has said he got into TM because he “wanted to learn anything the Beatles were involved in.”) In 1975, Maharishi appeared on the highly rated Merv Griffin Show with Clint Eastwood. Eastwood had recently gotten into TM, and Griffin, who was a tennis partner of his, asked him about it. Intrigued, Griffin invited Maharishi to be a guest on his program. Many longtime TM insiders point to this as a tipping point for TM’s wider popularity among the celebrity set.
But as the New Age got going in the late 1970s, TM lost some of its luster, with the Maharishi promising ever more outlandish benefits—the flying, for instance—as alternative spiritual paths opened up for Americans. Finally, as meditation began gaining mainstream acceptance in the 1990s and 2000s, TM rebranded itself again, from spiritual technique to gain enlightenment to a secular relaxation technique. That is how it is often understood today.
On the surface, TM is not unlike other forms of meditation. Practitioners are taught to repeat a “secret” mantra, normally a few syllables, for 20 minutes twice a day, in order to feel less stressed and more focused. Jerry Seinfeld has pointed to TM as a catalyst for creativity. Russell Simmons has compared the effects of TM to magic.
“Transcendental Meditation has been one of the main tools for me to stay focused both at home and on the road,” Katy Perry, a TM devotee who learned the technique from Roth in 2011, told The Daily Beast. “It’s been my greatest joy to share my practice with my touring crew as well, and a highlight of my day to join them in a group meditation before every show.”
Twin Peaks director David Lynch claims he hasn’t missed a single session in more than four decades. In 2002, he took an “enlightenment course” with Maharishi in the Netherlands, for which he reportedly paid $1 million. Lynch came back to the U.S. with a new focus on spreading the word about TM, and established his foundation with Roth a few years later.
Roth got into TM while he was a student at Berkeley and became a TM “initiator” (initiators are now known simply as “teachers”) after studying with the Maharishi in Spain for six months. Today, Roth is perhaps the best-known public facing TM representative in the world; he’s the one who introduced it to Seinfeld, Tom Hanks, Sting, Oprah, Perry—and Ivanka and Jared. He also has, famously, given TM seminars to Google and Apple employees, spoken at the Aspen Ideas Festival, hosted a show about TM on SiriusXM Radio, and wrote a best-selling book on TM, Strength in Stillness, which was published this year.
Roth lives in New York but travels constantly. When he’s in town, Roth works out of the David Lynch Foundation’s midtown offices near the United Nations. The Foundation, which was established in 2005 “to ensure that any child in America who wants to learn and practice the Transcendental Meditation program can do so,” also has offices in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and on the campus of the Maharishi University of Management.
The New York space is, unsurprisingly, spare and zen-like, which Roth said was only partly intentional.
“Someone said, ‘I like your decision not to have art on the walls.’ I said, ‘We ran out of money,’” Roth laughed.
Roth is surprisingly accessible, extremely accommodating, and checks in often to ask how things are going. Although his hair is gray, he appears 10 years younger than his actual age of 67. Roth is slim, polished and extremely well put-together; he looks like he could have been an ad agency creative director in another life. He makes mention of the fact that he’s Jewish more than once over the course of multiple conversations.
Normally, Roth evangelizes only about the workaday benefits of TM, which are not unlike those of other forms of meditation: stress reduction, emotional wellness, and the like. But in a series of exclusive interviews with The Daily Beast, Roth doubled down on TM’s most extraordinary claims—including the Maharishi Effect.
According to Roth, the purported effect occurs because of a shift in the quantum mechanical properties that make up the invisible fabric of our interconnected consciousness. Like “lighting the filament within a bulb [which] then spreads and lights up the room,” TM’s personal benefit subsequently radiates out to others “because we are all connected,” Roth explained. “It doesn’t spread magically, none of this is magic. It may be laws of nature that we don’t fully understand, but the effect would be there.”
In addition to the reported successes discussed in Kiev, TM claims that a two-year assembly of yogic flyers practicing the advanced Sidhis “created a history-transforming wave of peace around the world,” during which time the Cold War ended, as did the war between Iran and Iraq. Increased business activity and positive stock market swings have been attributed to the Maharishi Effect, as have rises in employment and entrepreneurship.
The organization also takes credit for ending Mozambique’s civil war in the early 1990s, having set up an “international peacekeeping group” of advanced yogic flyers in India. Knock-on effects in Mozambique created by the group practicing roughly 4,000 miles away included a 12.4 percent economic growth rate, inflation that fell from 70 percent to 2 percent, and a zeroing out of the national debt, they said.
The “deeper levels of reality present a very different picture in which things are much more profoundly correlated with each other, and the sort of correlations that exist at the quantum level don’t depend on distance,” chief TM scientist Hagelin told The Daily Beast. “Once a correlation is established, the influence of any correlation that might exist between two people doesn’t depend upon whether the person gets on a plane and wakes up in Hong Kong, if there’s a correlation, if there’s a bond, that bond is really independent of distance.”
Roth, for his part, admitted that the Maharishi Effect sounds pretty outrageous by current scientific standards. Then again, he argued, so did lots of things in their day.
“Is that any more unrealistic than if you had said 200 years ago, ‘I’m going to describe this little 2-inch-by-4 inch-by-1/2-inch device that you can hold in your hand and you can talk on that to somebody 2,000 miles away?’ They’d think that you were crazy,” he continued. “That’s the electromagnetic field, which no one saw 200 or 300 years ago. Didn’t mean it didn’t exist, it just meant that people hadn’t seen it, they hadn’t identified it, they hadn’t located it.”
Said Hagelin: “The paradigm in which at least some of us are living, which is the quantum mechanical paradigm, quantum field theory, unified field theory, things like this make sense.”
Hagelin says that while he welcomes “lively debate,” the reality of the effect is something that has been, I would say sincerely, incontrovertibly shown;” Roth cites “hundreds” of scientific studies as proof of TM’s efficacy.
“You’ve got the yoga sutras of Patanjali, you’ve got the texts of Ayurveda that go back thousands of years, you have the texts of Vedic architecture, these go back thousands of years,” Roth said. “All Maharishi has done is bring it out today, give voice to it today. It’s not his meditations, it’s him giving these ideas voice today. Like, Einstein brings out the theory of relativity. It’s not Einstein’s relativity, it’s his giving voice to it.”
However, many in the broader scientific community take a slightly more skeptical point of view.
David Vago, a Vanderbilt University neuroscientist who studies the effects of meditation, pointed out that all of the Maharishi Effect studies are basically correlation without causation. “As much as I’d like to believe that crime rates will reduce in a causal response to group meditation increases, I have a hard time buying this kind of correlational research,” Vago told The Daily Beast.
Clinicaltrials.gov, which tracks accredited clinical research studies, found 910 studies of mindfulness currently underway, but only 14 studies of TM—half of which began before 2002. While TM officials often note that the National Institute of Health has funded research in TM to the tune of $24 million, that funding ended in 2010.
In 2014, an independent meta-analysis of meditation research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association for Internal Medicine found “insufficient evidence that mantra meditation programs [such as TM] had an effect on any of the psychological stress and well-being outcomes we examined.” An earlier review of TM data by the NIH also found insufficient evidence that TM lowered blood pressure as claimed.
Other assertions have been fact-checked to TM’s detriment. The organization’s American home base of Fairfield, Iowa has a population of roughly 10,000 residents. In 1993, reporter Scott Shane inquired about the crime rate in the area, figuring that crime must be virtually non-existent what with all the advanced meditating going there on all the time. “Crime here is about the same as any small town in rural America,” Fairfield police chief Randy Cooksey told Shane. In fact, Cooksey said, “I’d say there's been a steady increase. I think, based on my statistics in Fairfield, I can show they have no impact on crime here.”
In 1994, Hagelin was awarded the Ig Nobel Peace Prize, a satirical honor that recognizes the silliest scientific studies of the year, for his D.C. experiment using yogic flyers to lower the crime rate. Other “winners” included W. Brian Sweeney and three of his colleagues, who took the Ig Nobel for Biology for their study, “The Constipated Serviceman: Prevalence Among Deployed US Troops.”
Dennis Roark, the former chairman of the physics department at Maharishi University has described TM’s research as “crackpot science.” Roark said he resigned his position after being told to link TM’s effects to legitimate physics—a notion he described as “preposterous.”
“Although there is substantial work in the physics of quantum mechanics giving to consciousness an essential role, even a causal role, there is no evidence or argument that could connect some sort of universal consciousness to be subjectively experienced with a unified field of all physics,” Roark wrote. “In fact, the existing scientific work suggests just the opposite.”
“The style of research they use is what I call ‘painting the bullseye around the arrow,’” says ex-TMer Patrick Ryan, who attended Maharishi International University, the progenitor to MUM, against his Navy master chief father’s advice, and spent 10 years in the movement as a “spiritual warrior” before quitting in the 1980s. “If a bunch of TM meditators get together and the stock market goes up, TM made it happen. If there’s another course and crime rates go down, or if accidents go down, TM created that. Find a positive thing that’s happened and take credit for it.”
To the naysayers, Roth fires back: “Who are they? Who are these people? What are their scientific credentials? I’m also saying, I don’t want to stand on this alone. If a person is not convinced by the research, then help us raise the money to do a bigger study.”
It costs $960 to take an introductory TM course, if you’re paying full price. Payment is due when you arrive for your first class; the cost can be spread out over four months. Students learn the technique over the course of four days, beginning with a one-on-one session that typically lasts 1-2 hours, followed by three group sessions which are 60-90 minutes in length.
Roth says the price is set at that level because TM has an organization to run and maintain, and that TM teachers need to get paid. Students can also come back for lifetime follow-ups and refresher courses at no additional cost, he said. Roth would like to continue bringing TM to any inner-city school that will have him, veterans’ organizations, homeless shelters, war-torn areas and so forth, all of which costs money.
Besides, said Roth, it’s cheaper than therapy.
“I had this one psychiatrist friend who was a meditator; he said $960 is a lot,” Roth recalled. “I said, ‘How much do you charge a client?’ He said, ‘Well, I charge $520 for 50 minutes.’ If he does 10 hours, that’s $5,200. And we do far more than that.”
However, TM is a proprietary technique that can eventually cost a considerable amount of money and people have to pay and pay to reach more and more advanced levels on the supposed road to enlightenment, argues Aryeh Siegel, a former TM instructor and author of Transcendental Deception: Behind the TM Curtain. Siegel, who worked at TM’s California headquarters in the mid-1970s and spent months with Maharishi, says some people get trapped in a never-ending cycle of chasing a goal that’s always just slightly out of reach.
“They’re looking for that 5 percent of people who will always believe they are this close to enlightenment, and they’ll pay for that one more class, one more advanced course,” Siegel told The Daily Beast.
According to Siegel, new meditators are encouraged to come back for “checking” following their initial TM instruction. These are essentially sales opportunities in disguise. Invitations to weekend TM courses featuring more frequent and longer meditation periods follow. The ones who respond are sold residential courses and advanced TM techniques, followed by teacher training which can cost as much as $20,000. TM’s nonprofit status adds another financial dimension to things.
“Donations are strongly encouraged all the time,” Siegel said.
Devoted TMers can get caught up in a spiritual “keeping-up-with-the-Joneses,” and taking more courses, adding more advanced spiritual titles, and wearing special “Jyotish gems” serves to elevate one’s status within the organization, explained Gina Catena, a former TMer who grew up in a high-ranking TM family, married within the movement (twice), and finally left in 1988.
“It is our present karmic situation that will determine our preferences and choices,” Fairfield jeweler Planetary Gems tells prospective customers. Stones are “set on the appropriate day,” and a Vedic ceremony is performed “prior setting the stone for additional appeasing of that particular planet.”
It costs $4,000 to learn the TM-Sidhis—the advanced TM program featuring yogic flying—over the course of four months, which includes two weeks in-residence, according to Roth. This cost, he said, can be brought down with scholarships “so anyone who wants to learn can do so.”
Tuition at Maharishi University does not include the TM-Sidhis, a course that is worth four academic credits and is “taught by the Maharishi Foundation in coordination with MUM through a contractual agreement.”
“The David Lynch Foundation has announced a scholarship to reduce the cost of the course from $2,500 to $1,250 for Maharishi University of Management students,” the current student bulletin says. “An additional scholarship of $750, reducing the tuition to $500, is also available to students who meet specific criteria specified by the Maharishi Foundation. There is an additional cost of $950 for the final two weeks in residence.”
But GoFundMe campaigns for people seeking funds to take an advanced TM course appear to indicate the available financial aid packages may not always go far enough.
In one, four MUM students fell about $1,500 short of their goal for Sidhis course tuition; they said the David Lynch Foundation was providing scholarships of $750 per student who committed to a year’s worth of advanced practice.
Another GoFundMe campaigner was looking for $2,700 to cover the airfare to New Zealand, where two recent MUM graduates wanted to participate in TM’s six-month “Mother Divine” program, where members stay celibate for the duration and meditate for many hours at a time.
One TM teacher-to-be sought $27,000 to bring TM to Afghanistan: $12,000 to get certified through the TM Teacher’s Course (already subsidized to a certain extent, it would appear), then $15,000 to get there and start teaching. Before going, the fundraiser told potential donors, “we would like to employ a year's worth of peace-creating yagyas to soften the atmosphere so that it will be easier to bring TM.”
Mike Doughney practiced TM for about a decade before becoming disenchanted with much of what he was seeing.
“If it was just mindfulness and meditation, where you go in and get instructed and go home, that would be one thing,” Doughney, a contributor to the TM-Free blog, told The Daily Beast. “This actually sets up a devotional thing, [where] over time they want a number of people to give up all their time and money and sustain their operations.”
“I easily laid down close to $100,000 back in the day,” former TM practitioner John Knapp told The Daily Beast, “but it was always very incremental. You don’t even notice it as you’re going.” (Knapp formally left the organization in 2010.)
From there, prices can get even higher. It has been reported that for $1 million, you can become a TM “raja” (literally, “king”) with spiritual dominion over a country and designation as a representative of Divine Intelligence.
Tony Nader became a raja in 2000 and took the name “Maharaja Adhiraj Rajaraam.”
The $1 million price to become a raja was revealed by filmmaker David Sieveking in his 2010 documentary on TM, David Wants to Fly. Other ex-TMers who speak about the million-dollar price tag tend to refer to the film as the source of their information; Catena has “a distinct memory of my mother’s excited conversation about what was then nicknamed ‘The Millionaire’s Course,’ or the ‘Enlightenment Course.' She phoned me excited for the guarantee to finally reach full enlightenment. She said that Maharishi claimed with a certain number of fully enlightened people, then we would finally achieve world peace.”
But Roth said rajas are in fact “administrators,” not kings, and that “Maharishi used the word to honor the ancient tradition of people looking out for the welfare of others.” He also denied that it costs a million dollars to become one, the idea of which, Roth conceded, sounds “like, bizarroville.”
“Once a year, max, in a ceremonial situation like a college president wears a cap and gown, they wear this garb which is sort of acknowledging ancient times, way, way, way back when,” Roth explained.
He said he likens it “to being on the board of trustees of a university. You either apply or are recommended. But there is no rigid financial requirement other than the ability to cover your own costs. How much you give or spend is a personal consideration.”
“Some people donated money because they’re very wealthy and some of that money went to bringing TM to school programs around the world,” Roth said. “Rajas are often people who are retired, who want to contribute, make a difference on a larger level. They could have retired to Florida or the Hamptons, but they’re taking their retirement and looking at the world today and saying, ‘Well, I’m not going to just turn this over to Congress or a corrupt government in some country’—they’re contributing their share.”
The relentless focus on money is one of the main reasons Southern California meditation teacher Lorin Roche left TM in 1975.
“The whole focus of TM in the United States became to get all the teachers and all the half-million or more people who had learned TM, to go take expensive advanced courses and learn to levitate,” Roche wrote on his personal blog. “Soon there were tens of thousands of Siddhas trying, but failing, to levitate, all across the United States and around the world.”
Roche “benefited from TM tremendously, but it was a different organization when I was there,” he told The Daily Beast. “Once it became worth a billion dollars, it just changed.”
One billion may be a low estimate. According to The Economist, the Maharishi’s land holdings alone were worth $3 billion in 1998. A 2012 investigation by India Today estimated Maharishi’s real estate assets at the time of his death 10 years later to be worth Rs 60,000 crore—roughly $9 billion.
Although private donations have dwindled in recent years, from $31.6 million in 2008 to $1.5 million in 2015, there still seems to be plenty of money around, and there are dozens of separate but related TM organizations across the globe. The Daily Beast’s detailed review of TM-related financial documentation revealed a byzantine tangle of non- and for-profit corporations, global land holdings, and hundreds of millions of dollars—maybe more—flowing each year through the various entities that make up TM.
One of the most expensive programs in all of TM, according to their most recent tax filings, is the so-called “pandit program,” which gathers hundreds of young Indian men in trailer homes on a special campus in Iowa to chant yagyas—Hindu rites—nonstop for two years at a stretch in an effort to bring about peace on earth.
The program began in 2007, and reactions among locals were mixed. Residents reported being approached by pandits on rural roads, asking for money and begging not to be sent back to the compound. In 2014, a mini-riot by some 60 pandits resulted in a sheriff’s deputy allegedly being attacked by members of the group.
Bob Roth said the domestic pandit program has now been all but shut down, maintaining that they have “like, four” pandits left in Iowa. According to its most recent tax filings, the TM affiliate which fundraises for pandit expenses reported spending $2,164,960 on pandit support in Iowa in 2016. However, the cost of fully implementing the pandit program’s Global Peace Initiative, according to the organization, is $45.5 million a year.
If you want a team of pandits to chant for you personally, the costs of which vary “depending on the size of the desired effect and the magnitude of the problem being averted or defused—for example a natural disaster, violent outbreak, or severe economic downturn,” that’s also available.
For a minimum donation of $1,500, you can get wedding anniversary prayers from a team of pandits. For $1,000, the pandits will chant for your newborn child. And for $1,250, the pandits will recite the necessary prayers to “resolve the pressing problems confronting the United States, including joblessness and economic recession, and government gridlock, obstructionism, and extreme partisan infighting.”
Most people who simply do the meditation part of TM “aren’t going to be interested” in paying for this, said Mike Doughney, “but if you get to a point in your life where things aren’t so great, they can offer these services to you as if you were going to an astrologer, hand them thousands of dollars, and they say. ‘You’ll feel better afterwards.’ TM units and affiliates offer products and services in an astonishing array of offerings.
There are treatments which filter light through precious gems which claim the “Information carried by the light shining through the orderly structure of gemstones awakens the body’s own internal self-repair mechanisms.” The cost for a Maharishi Light Technology With GemsSM (nearly everything TM offers, including TM itself, is trademarked in some way) at The Raj, a TM-affiliated hotel in Fairfield, IA: $120 for a “regular beamer session;” $250 for an “amplified” one; The Raj recommends guests undergo three treatments during a one-week stay.
If you’ve got $1,900, you can get 30 weeks of organic vegetables delivered from Fairfield, where they have undergone the “ancient practice of sounds administered live by Vedic Pandits trained in India to nourish the plants during the 8-stages of their growth from seed to seed.”
“I noticed right away that my awareness felt clearer during meals, rather than the feeling that energy was being taken away by the digestive process,” one satisfied customer is quoted as saying on the Maharishi World Peace Vedic Organics website. “Most importantly, after the first week, areas of chronic irritation in my colon felt eased.”
There are TM-based architectural services, which provide “fortune-creating” homes; so-called “Maharishi Vedic Vibration Technology” which is billed as a method “for enlivening the body’s inner intelligence;” even a TM currency called the Raam. TM has its own television network, radio station, economic and industrial policy which promises “maximum creativity and productivity without hard work.”
It may seem like TM has a solution ready for all of life’s ills, but TM can’t solve everything, said Dr. Scott Terry, an Iowa psychotherapist and Maharishi University graduate who runs the suicide prevention group Fairfield Cares.
“Just because you’re meditating doesn’t mean the issue goes away,” Terry told The Daily Beast. “It means the secondary stressors will dissolve a bit, but [if you’re bipolar] you’re still going to be bipolar.”
Last year’s Kiev summit was “so fantastic,” said John Hagelin, he’d like to do it again next spring—at UN headquarters in New York, where they can “showcase all these solutions to a decision-making body that could, in principle, act on that on a global level.”
“People have varying degrees of openness to what consciousness can accomplish,” said Hagelin. “But if you think about it, consciousness accomplishes everything. Thinking people, if they stop for a moment, will be open, or can be persuaded, that there’s something very important that we’re potentially overlooking here.”
Roth plans to continue what he’s been doing, which is to spread the TM gospel far and wide. He’s excited about the new work he’s doing with professional sports teams and Olympic athletes, but says he doesn’t have an advertising budget beyond some small expenditures on Google. He probably doesn’t need one. Much as Clint Eastwood turned Merv Griffin on to TM, word-of-mouth has always been TM’s best marketing plan, anyway. And practitioners, famous and not, continue to rave about the benefits of TM: stress reduction, increased creativity, and overall relaxation in life.
On a more existential level, Roth believes it would be nothing short of foolhardy if society didn’t give the Maharishi Effect a chance.
“What are we going to do in the Middle East? It’s getting worse and worse and worse,” he said. “In Afghanistan we’ve tried nation-building, we’ve tried bombing, we’ve tried economic embargoes. Nothing is working. So this is being offered as something completely out-of-the-box, just like meditation for the individual was 50 years ago.”
Roth continued: “We want to establish universities, to bring it to schools, to establish groups almost like it’s their profession. Like the UN has peacekeeping forces that go in with their tanks and weapons and keep the peace, we would like to have a profession of professional peace creators. They can be students, they can be homeless, they can be anybody who gets trained in these techniques and they do them, quietly, in a group.”
One former TM instructor who asked to remain anonymous doesn’t see anyone taking Roth & Co. up on the offer. In fact, he doesn’t even see TM existing for much longer in its present form. One big hurdle, the former instructor said, is the lack of an appropriately Maharishi-like leader capable of truly assuming the lead role.
“With Maharishi dead, and Google able to clue people into the other side of the TM movement, I believe the movement is in a death spiral,” they said. “It will die with the aging baby boomers that made up the bulk of the movement.”
A 2015 New York Times article suggested that current TM leader Tony Nader “lacks the cult-like devotion associated with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.”
To that end, Mike Doughney doesn’t think TM can last in its current form, nor does Gina Catena, who says the organization is “slowly dying.”
Or, maybe not.
Says Aryeh Siegel, “These people are insane, but at the same time, they’re raising hundreds of millions of dollars on this stuff. So maybe the rest of us are insane.”
—with additional reporting by Jay Michaelson