While the TM devotees probably disagree with me, there's no particular benefit to doing TM over other forms of meditation and this assertion is supported by research. The biggest differences found by experimenters were between meditators and non-meditators, not between students of different meditation systems. TM has been accused of cult-like behavior in the past, and while their abuses do not appear to be in the same league as the actions of groups like Scientology, I still think that it is a cause for concern. They do usually charge thousands of dollars to teach students to sit with their eyes closed and repeat a mantra over and over again, which to me seems like an excessive fee for something so simple. This is it, folks:
- Sit comfortably with your spine straight. Cross-legged is fine, Lotus is better if you can do it - but don't wreck your knees.
- Pick a mantra, a simple sound that you can repeat over and over again. The classic "AUM" will work fine for this.
- Close your eyes and begin repeating the mantra.
- Do this for twenty minutes every day.
I also wonder if the organization might have scrubbed that information from Wikipedia. The article on Transcendental Meditation has a lot of information about the benefits of the technique, but no description of how it's actually done. Also, see the talk page. The organization is clearly trying to spin the article. If the technique is so obviously great, why do they need to do that? And maybe it's just me, but teaching a technique trademarked by a large organization reminds me a little too much of some of the disastrous attempts to commercialize the school system.
Furthermore, some of the other techniques that could be taught instead carry a lot less of the cultural baggage which is the source of most of the complaints. Zazen immediately comes to mind here, as it can be practiced without even the minimal trappings of Soto Zen Buddhism. As practiced by the Soto school, the technique is just sitting - no initiations, no mantras, no pujas. Furthermore, Zazen is done with the eyes open and some research suggests that while eyes-closed meditation makes reaching certain states of consciousness easier it makes those states more difficult to integrate into daily life. I would think that integrating a more relaxed consciousness into daily activities should be one of the key goals of any meditation technique taught to schoolchildren.
I realize that the TM organization is funding the program and without that funding kids probably wouldn't be meditating at all, so I still think that on the whole this is a good thing. Meditation is a positive practice however it is done. It would be nice, though, to see some sort of non-denominational meditation technique taught that doesn't require the support of an outside organization which might have its own agenda.