How does TM work? (long version, cont.)
"Personal instruction": your personal trance induction session
So in a few days you show up for your "personal instruction", sheepishly carrying a grocery bag with fruit, flowers, and handkerchief. There is a tinge of incense in the air. You pay your money (it costs a small fortune these days!). Perhaps there are other people already waiting their turn for instruction with their own "fruit, flowers, and handkerchief."
You are about to undergo a private trance induction. The teacher will be using a trance induction script called "The Steps of Initiation." You can learn all the details by reading the actual "secret" text that is memorized by TM teachers. The Steps of Initiation consist of two trance induction techniques used back to back: "the puja" and "the imparting of the mantra." I will describe both.
Someone guides you into a room. It is gently lit, perhaps dimly lit. There is an altar in the room! The altar has many shiny brass things on a white cloth. Slightly elevated at the center of the altar there is a fascinating multi-colored picture of a saffron-robed, very wise-looking man with a luxuriant gray beard, sitting with a peaceful look on his face. A candle burns on one side of the picture. There is a shiny brass tray directly in front of the picture. The teacher places your fruit, flowers, and handkerchief to one side on the altar. The candlelight glints off the brass things: the tray, the candleholder, and several other things you don't recognize. The room smells sweetly of incense and flowers. It is a perfect environment for trance induction.
The first TM trance induction script: "The puja"
Now the "puja" part of the trance induction begins. (You can learn the "details about the puja", including its true significance according to TM dogma.)
The teacher exchanges a few words with you, glances at your form one more time (he's checking how old you are so he can pick your mantra, which is something that you can learn how to do yourself ) and then asks you to stand and "witness this ceremony." He picks up your flowers and gives you one to hold. He faces the altar and begins to sing, or perhaps to chant, or perhaps to just gently and rhythmically say some words. The words are in an unfamiliar but beautiful and soothing language, with lots of beautifully flowing words, most ending in 'ahhhh' or 'ummm' sounds. He may be drawing these word endings out, beautifully and rhythmically, creating a soothing humming effect. Then he begins to do things with his hands, the flow of rhythmic soothing words unstopped.
He touches a flower into a small brass cup of water and sprinkles water on the tray. He places your handkerchief on the tray. He takes a few grains of rice out of a small shiny brass cup and places it on the tray, with the flow of soothing words still continuing. He places one of your flowers on the tray. He gently moves a shiny brass holder of lit incense in a circle around the picture of the saffron-robed man, and then does the same with the candle in the shiny candlestick. He lights an incense stick and touches the flame to a white ball on one of the brass pieces. The small flame of a camphor ball erupts, adding its own light and nice smell. He circles this new flame gently around the man in the picture while the song or chant changes slightly. He places your fruit on the tray. Each time, your eyes follow the gently circling points of light in the dim room. The soothing and beautiful words never stop. Then, suddenly, he is quiet for the first time. He places the rest of your flowers on the tray and he kneels (yes, kneels) before the picture, motioning to you to do the same. Maybe you kneel to go along, maybe not. It's quiet in the room.
Here's a video of Mahesh performing an actual puja. This puja is very elaborate, and is being performed by TM dignitaries along with Mahesh, but it's otherwise the identical ceremony that the TM teacher will perform. Close your eyes, turn up the volume, and see if you don't space out a bit. Your experience during personal instruction will be even more trance-inducing because your physical environment will, as has been described, have been set to be trance-inducing, and you will be physically present for the puja.
The second TM trance induction script: "the imparting of the mantra"
If you are susceptible then you are probably already in a trance, but now immediately begins the "imparting of the mantra" trance induction script (if you follow the link, search for the string "at the end of the puja.") Soon you hear him saying something, over and over, but it's so quiet that you can't make it out. He's still repeating something over and over, a little louder every time he says it. Soon it's loud enough for you to hear. It sounds like "aima", perhaps. He motions for you to say it with him. You do. He motions for you to keep saying it. You do, and he stops saying it. He motions for you to sit down and keep repeating. You do. He sits down also. He says, "now close the eyes and continue." You do. He says "more quietly", and you say it more softly. He again says "more quietly", and you say it more softly. He says "now, mentally -- without moving tongue or lips." You do. Suddenly you're gone. You've forgotten yourself, lost track of time for a few seconds.
The teacher says, "open the eyes." You do. He says, "It's easy? Mental repetition is not a clear pronunciation, it's a faint idea. And if at any time you seem to be forgetting the mantra, don't try to hold on. Let it go. Now, close the eyes and continue."
You do. You lose track of time again. It's incredibly relaxing. It's wonderful.
It sounds like this was all in fact a "very good thing", that the TM teacher's promises have been realized, that TM is indeed incredibly easy and relaxing. But what really has happened to you?
Your every contact with a TM teacher, from the moment you walked into that first introductory lecture, until the end of "personal instruction", was just one long trance induction exercise with a multitude of suggestions.
Trance induction works much better if the subject recognizes the person inducing the trance as an authority figure. Before your "personal instruction" you were bombarded with suggestions, that you never investigated, that your teacher was a duly authorized and highly trained representative of an ancient line of wise teachers, and that he was therefore an authority in some ancient mental science. You made a subtle submission to this authority by filling out the somewhat personal form, by paying money (which has increased to a huge amount in recent years), and by bringing the fruit, flowers, and handkerchief.
You made further submission to his authority by standing at the altar when asked, and by watching the ceremony, and even perhaps by even kneeling to be polite.
You were required (you had no choice in the matter, you wouldn't have been instructed otherwise) to witness an elaborate and beautiful ritual with in a dimly or softly lit room, with small moving flames and shiny brass things and humming words and beautiful smells. Then you said a soothing word over and over and over, and over and over, soon with eyes closed.
It was all one big "trance induction script"! The ceremony itself was trance inducing, and from the start of the ceremony you indeed started to go into a trance. Repeating the soothing word merely completed the trance induction. And then your thoughts became quiet and you became relaxed because (as it turns out):
- You are one of those people who are susceptible to trance induction and suggestion, and in particular you are susceptible to the particular pattern of trance induction and suggestion used in TM.
- You had been previously told your thoughts would become quiet and you would become relaxed!
You not only went into a trance, but you also carried out the previously carefully planted suggestion of what should happen to you in that trance.
Does the teacher know that this is what he is doing to you? No. I didn't think so when I was teaching TM. The teacher believes in what he is doing. He has spent literally months at significant trouble and personal expense learning how to do all of this elaborate suggestion and trance induction by rote, exactly as Mahesh wants it to be done. He thinks that the reason he is doing it by rote is that this guarantees that he maintains the "purity of the teaching." He is almost undoubtedly completely sincere. He is just someone who fell into the TM rabbit hole before you did, and who has by now fallen very far.
They aren't done with you yet, though. You're supposed to "meditate for twenty minutes at home, morning and evening" and you're supposed come back on each of the next three evenings. You've already started your fall down the TM rabbit hole, but you are about to get an extra push.