By Deborah Shah
Dedicated to My Sweet Lord, Jesus Christ
“The cords of death entangled me” (Psalm 116:3)
My Sweet Lord
That phrase, “my sweet Lord” is the title of a song written by the late George Harrison of the Beatles to sing the praises of his Lord Krishna, a figure deified in Hinduism.
Growing up, I had been a Beatles fan. When I reached my early twenties, feeling stressed out, I responded positively to media advertisements for a relaxation technique called Transcendental Meditation. After all, it had been the Beatles who had embraced this Transcendental Meditation and brought it all the way back home where I, like so many others, was pulled unknowingly into a net.
Transcendental Meditation (TM) had first been introduced in the West from India by a friendly-looking guru named Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It was advertised persuasively as non-religious, even non-spiritual, and therefore no threat or contradiction to the Western mind-set be that Christian or post-Christian. And as the spirituality of the West was morphing almost undetectably from Christianity into pluralism, Transcendental Meditation, along with yoga and other similar forms of Meditation, fitted in perfectly.
It promised great things to all inquirers and at relatively little cost in time or financial output. I came from a secular Jewish background and had been spiritually curious all my life. Still it wasn’t spirituality I was expecting from Transcendental Meditation so much as a way to lose weight and to be able to give up my cigarette habit! And those things it did deliver, which proves that God is not alone in providing solutions. The trouble is that so-called solutions and healing not provided through the Lord Jesus Christ carry a price – a price I was only to discover much later.
A Votive Offering and a Mantra
After a few introductory talks I was invited to a TM teacher’s nice suburban house. TM students had been asked to bring along a white handkerchief and a piece of fruit as an expression of gratitude. To whom or for what this gratitude – actually this votive offering – was due, I had no idea.
That day after the final introductory talk, I was invited to accompany the TM instructor into the living-room and to kneel next to him in front of a portrait of an Indian figure. The teacher then began to say something, but as he was using not English but a foreign language, I didn’t know what he was saying. Although I wouldn’t have minded had I known that my initiator was praying in Sanskrit to the figure above me. All religions were much the same to me back in those days when I was wandering through the spiritual marketplace.
The instructor whispered a word into my ear, telling me that this word was the ‘mantra’, a sound without meaning that I should repeat silently in my mind. The sound would soon ‘disappear’ and this disappeared sound would then translate into a sublimely peaceful state of mind, namely Transcendental Meditation. The technique was so simple that a child could learn it, merely the repetition of a meaningless sound. There was no complex or esoteric technique to be acquired. Transcendental Meditation was true meditation we were told, but removed from religious tradition and available to everyone.
I felt no different than before as I went home that day, having now been instructed in Transcendental Meditation. For the next several years I meditated as they taught, twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. The routine was to find a quiet place, sit in a normal way, close one’s eyes and mentally repeat that meaningless sound, the mantra. The sound would then disappear from the mind leaving just a pleasant state of relaxation, the only unusual aspect of which was that time seemed to speed by extremely quickly so that often it seemed almost as soon as I had started meditating, the twenty minutes had passed.
I never did regard TM as a spiritual exercise but accepted the organization’s line that this technique, at least on the basic level which I had been taught, was designed to give busy people not spiritual enlightenment but relaxation and a new mental freedom from the stresses of everyday life. It sounded not only harmless but very attractive. And for a while, that’s how it would appear to be.
Since I wasn’t interested in deriving anything spiritual from Transcendental Meditation, I continued on my spiritual journey and five years later, I was “born again” i. By this I mean that I accepted what the Bible teaches, that I was a sinner in need of the salvation. Only Jesus Christ could save me and I accepted Him as my Lord and Saviour.
I still had a lot of questions. I knew He was Jewish yet it was mostly non-Jewish people who worshipped him. Yet I’d experienced racism from people who claimed to worship a Jew. Still I knew I needed Jesus, even with most of my questions unanswered. A Christian work colleague prayed wth me in the empty office one evening. It was not yet though that I was delivered from the effects of Transcendental Meditation. That was to come later and in the Lord’s time. Incidentally, He would also, in time, answer my questions.
Denial and the Esoteric Trap
“The anguish of the grave came upon me” (Psalm 116:3)
I don’t remember exactly when TM began to be a problem. It may have been through exposure to the Bible. It may have been because my experience of meditation began to change from positive to negative. Certainly these two factors began to express themselves gradually and insistently.
There was another factor in operation too and that was denial. Someone having learned Transcendental Meditation could be pretty much left alone if that’s what they chose, not solicited for finance, or to join the TM organization. So it was possible to meditate and not feel part of or subscribe to anything related. I was aware that Transcendental Meditation was derived from Hinduism. However, I believed because they told me – and because I wanted to believe – that it was possible to use meditation divorced from Hinduism, much as people imagine yoga (a Sanskrit word meaning ‘union’) to be mere physical exercise.
The seemingly unobtrusive TM organization was organized into local groups. Occasionally I went to informal meetings which included a meal and listening to taped teaching from the Maharishi. I would ignore any attention the group gave to this.
Occasionally there was talk of esoteric experiences available to the advanced mediator but I was uninterested in learning advanced meditation techniques. I just wanted the basic technique with nothing spiritual attached. Here I was in denial and this was the nature of the denial, that it was possible to meditate on the basic level and be untouched by its Hindu roots.
Along with this denial, two new realities began to emerge. Christians didn’t approve of Transcendental Meditation, I was learning. They included it with other forbidden practices such as spiritualism and the occult and what I considered real, religious Hindu or Buddhist Meditation. The other reality manifesting over the years was that TM was becoming less a choice I made every day to becoming a necessity.
So as these unpleasant realities refused to go away, my denial strengthened as I told myself that Transcendental Meditation wasn’t what Christians thought it was. I had never gone in for the Hindu element so it was just a physical and mental thing, not spiritual. I didn’t want to learn advanced techniques and so on the basic level I believed I was OK.
The reality however was that I was not OK. Where once Transcendental Meditation had been an option it was now becoming a necessity. If I didn’t meditate morning or evening, I would experience unpleasant sensations and only recover if I meditated. The feelings were similar to feelings of stress – a feeling of tightness, almost like a vice around my head accompanied by mental confusion – but different in that they couldn’t be relieved by exercise or rest, like stress can be but only by going into the meditative state.
The other change was that the duration of the meditation was increasing and I would lose track of time for progressively long periods.
The obvious answer was to stop practising Transcendental Meditation and I tried to stop but I wasn’t able to do that. Any time I would try to go without meditating, the mental discomfort was such that I had to give up and meditate. I asked the local TM group for an explanation of these feelings. Their explanation was that the unpleasant mental sensations I experienced when I didn’t meditate at the given time.
They were simply symptoms of stress, symptoms that people who didn’t meditate, experienced routinely. They said that Meditation relieved stress so these symptoms were only what I experienced before learning to meditate. So it followed that if I stopped Transcendental Meditation, these unpleasant mental sensations would be with me all the time.
Certainly it did feel much like stress when I didn’t meditate – a constriction around the head, mental confusion. Perhaps it was after all as the TM instructors said, nothing more than stress. I remember visiting a friend who practised TM and I noticed she seemed also very stressed and confused. I wondered if there were more to this than mere stress. Perhaps we were actually under some sort of bondage. If we were, to what or to whom was this bondage due?
So for several years I remained in a trap. I wanted to stop practising this increasingly intrusive and compulsive TM but couldn’t do it. I knew I needed help but couldn’t ask for it because I knew that Christians would want me to stop meditating and I couldn’t. Caught in this trap I became more entrenched in denial, telling myself that, after all, Christians were wrong and TM was safe. Yet I didn’t quite believe what I was telling myself. And so I remained – until the appointed time described in the following section, titled: “He told me everything I ever did“.
“He told me everything I ever did” (John 4:29)
Around this time I participated in a Christian trainee-evangelism course. Here it felt really unhappy being in bondage to Meditation – a practice at the time mostly denounced as occultic by evangelical Christians and from which I was powerless to escape. One night I recalled the commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me”.ii I understood that in meditating I was effectively acknowledging another god. My last thought before falling sleep was to wonder if the real God – the God of Israel – would forgive me.
The next day was a free afternoon and as I went for a walk I happened to meet H., another course student. We stopped to chat and then he did something rather unsettling. He asked me if he could ask me a question. He asked me: “Do you really know that God loves you?” I answered in theological terms but inside I felt really angry. Of course I understood the Gospel, I thought. How dare this stranger ask me that? What did he mean? I headed back to the College deciding to avoid him for the rest of the week.
A Promise from God
By the next day my feelings had changed from wanting not to speak to him to wanting to speak to him. Today we would be occupied in classes with perhaps no opportunity to talk. Strangely though, it happened during a certain point in the day that all of the other students one by one seemed to drift away, leaving me alone with the strange stranger! Curiosity got the better of pride and as we sat in the common-room area, I asked him about his question to me. He told me that he had been praying for everyone on the course. When he was praying for me, he heard the Lord say these words:
“She thinks there’s something I’ll never forgive her for. But I know all about her. And I love her. And one day, I’m going to heal her.”
If this episode had been portrayed on film, the screen may have shown the room spinning at this point! I also felt as though time had stood still. I remember thanking him and then there seemed to be people around and the day returned to normal. The difference now was that I had been left with a promise and I held on to that promise from God until the day He fulfilled it.
By around a year after the Lord had promised to heal me, the oppressive symptoms I experienced through Transcendental Meditation were worsening. I would try not to meditate and would feel such mental stress and confusion, as though a cord was tightening around my head, that I had to give in and meditate. When I did meditate, it would be for increasingly long periods of time. I would seem to be blanking out or losing time, coming to after more than an hour but feeling like only a few minutes had passed.
I was feeling increasingly desperate to be able to stop meditating. I hung on to the promise the Lord had made me:
“She thinks there’s something I’ll never forgive her for. But I know all about her. And I love her. And one day, I’m going to heal her.”
I knew that day would come but wondered when and just how bad things would get before the day came. I visited the central London TM centre, went through their standard meditation-check and asked the instructor why I felt so unwell when I tried to stop. He gave me the answer I’d heard years ago, that these symptoms were merely stress, stress that people who don’t meditate feel all of the time. So it wouldn’t make sense to give up Meditation, since I would then experience that stress all of the time.
The instructor assured me that many Christians practised TM and found it didn’t conflict at all with their faith since TM was unaligned to any religion. Leaving via their book-shop I saw various publications by professing Christians advocating Transcendental Meditation as a beneficial and non-religious part of their lives. For a while I felt re-assured but soon the doubts and discomfort returned. It seemed a long time since the Lord had promised to heal me and I was feeling worse than ever!
According to His Purpose
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose …”…”(Romans 8:28)
This section illustrates the care of our wonderful Lord Jesus in dealing with us. He knows everything about us and He loves us, and because He is Creator and Saviour He brings about big results by using quite intricate detail!
At the time I was working in an Italian company where real Barista-style coffee was always available. I began to want the same thing at home and “co-incidentally” I had recently been given the present of a coffee-percolator. So now first thing every morning I would go through the routine of setting up the coffee-maker, putting a filter into place, placing the coffee in and letting the water percolate through it. For about twenty minutes the coffee percolated in the kitchen. I’ll return to this scene later …
Also around this time I had bought a Christian book of testimonies of people delivered from the occult and, still in denial, didn’t associate myself with them. Although the book included TM among occult practices, I just assumed the author didn’t understand. I thought it was wonderful that the Lord Jesus had delivered these people. I just didn’t make the connection with me. At the back of the book was a list of Christian agencies. One of them, the Reachout Trust, was based near me in Richmond Surrey.
I phoned them saying that I was trying desperately to stop Transcendental meditation but couldn’t do it. I also explained that I hadn’t learnt it with any interest in associating with Hinduism. D. who answered the phone at the Reachout Trust told me that it is impossible to separate the philosophy of something with its practice. He also told me that I wouldn’t be able to just stop doing TM in my own strength. That could happen only through Jesus Christ.
We agreed that I would visit the office, but for the next month, I couldn’t get any time off work. I felt disappointed at having to wait but we agreed to make an appointment as soon as possible.
One night I felt really bad. It had been wonderful talking to someone who understood. But it would be at least a month before I could visit the Reachout Trust office. That night I prayed to Jesus for forgiveness and for help.
When I woke up next morning I began the normal morning routine. Since I had got the coffee-pot, this routine had changed. Meditation would previously have been my first action of the day. This was because until I had meditated, I would experience not just the normal fuzziness of waking-up, but such mental confusion and oppression that any normal activity would be very difficult. But now I would hold off meditating just long enough to set the coffee-percolator up.
So I went into the kitchen to set it up. It took a few minutes and in those few minutes I began to notice something different happening. If I hadn’t spent those few minutes making the coffee, I wouldn’t have had the time or space to notice the change but would have started directly into Meditation. But now I began to notice that something had changed. I didn’t actually feel confused or oppressed any more but I was making the coffee quite easily. This felt strange and quite scary.
I went back to bed, feeling as if something had changed. The compulsion to meditate wasn’t there any more. I was experiencing absolutely no need to meditate, for the first morning in over ten years. I wondered what was going on. This was a work-day and I would have to get ready soon. I got ready for work and drank a cup of percolated coffee, still not quite believing what was happening.
Later that day I phoned D. at the Reachout Trust and told him what had happened. The compulsion to meditate had completely disappeared. There was no longer any tight band around my head disappearing only when I meditated. Although I later visited the Reachout Trust office, I had no need now to make that appointment. Jesus Christ had freed me from TM.
My Chains fell Off!
“You have freed me from my chains” (Psalm 116:16)
This is a personal testimony but in preparing it I wanted to find out something of TM’s recent history.
When I learnt Transcendental Meditation there was no internet to research it. These days an inquirer can access TM’s own website as well as numerous testimonials both positive and negative. (That’s happened in a very few years, being one facet of the end-times’ information explosion prophesied in the book of Daniel.)iii
In researching the early years of TM I found out that by the mid-seventies, around thirty thousand Americans per month were learning TM.iv Transcendental Meditation was being introduced into the school curriculum, business-training and the Church, practised and endorsed by those believing the lie that TM is unaligned with religion. Change came when the TM organization was successfully sued in the American Federal court by concerned Christians who alleged that it was in fact Hinduism in disguise.
As a result, the TM organization was ordered to publish the English version of the prayer recited in Sanskrit (the “puja”). The Indian figure before which I had kneeled and my teacher had prayed years before is Maharishi’s dead teacher, Guru Dev, considered in Hinduism to be divinity manifested in human form. To quote a former TM instructor, now Christian author Vail Carruth:
“Thus the puja is intended to alter the consciousness of the … candidate in a way that opens the mind to the influence of the ‘great Masters’. Its function is understood to be the establishment of a spiritual … bond between the new meditator … and Maharishi and his Hindu tradition of Masters on the other …”v
The translation into English from Sanskrit reveals lengthy devotions to Hindu spiritual entities. Testimonies are available of meditators who encountered demonic manifestations while meditating and experienced a spiritual and mental nightmare from which they were unable to escape.
The mantra, far from being the meaningless sound that TM says it is, is the name of a Hindu so-called deity – actually a demon vi According to former Hindu priest now Christian, Rabi R. Maharaj, “the mantra both invites the being to enter the one using it and also creates the passive state in the meditator to facilitate the fusion of beings” vii
Vail Carruth reports that while meditating: “I began to become aware of the presence of spirit beings sitting on either side of me when I was meditating. Sometimes at night, uninvited, they would sit on my bed. I thought they were my guardian angels. Once I looked at one of them, and I saw a small dark creature with sharp teeth, who looked more like it wanted to devour me than to bless me. I did not consider the possibility of Satan or his demons at the time …” viii
Such phenomena, commonly experienced by meditators, remain unexplained by the TM organization. I discovered that I hadn’t been alone in experiencing lapses of consciousness while meditating of which I would have no later recall. The so-called “black-out phenomenon’ evidently is common in TM but remains unexplained. ix
Transcendental Meditation Today
Increasingly our secular Western society has become welcoming of Hinduism and Buddhism as incorporated into New Age spirituality accepted in business, education, and the Church. Indeed, TM no longer needs to hide its true spiritual colours.
The Maharishi’s Indian base at Rishikesh welcomes young people from all over the world, many of whom, like me ,are Jewish – young Israelis including TM in their “gap year” after army service.
TM has progressed beyond being considered normal routine practice but has spread its net over all sections of society. In Christians and Transcendental Meditation it is reported:
“Recently, Katy Perry, Sting and Jerry Seinfeld got together for a little shindig in Carnegie Hall. The point of the event? As the New York Times put it, ‘To raise money for the David Lynch Foundation, which the film director has devoted to spreading the word on Transcendental Meditation’” . x
In Business Insider, Richard Feloni describes the infiltration of TM into celebrity and business culture and from there into mainstream society:
He writes: “Everyone from Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to Tom Hanks has adopted the Meditation technique sweeping Wall Street. The celebrity endorsements have certainly helped, but perhaps more important has been the research from the federally funded National Institutes of Health, Harvard Medical School, Stanford Medical School, and more recently, the University of Chicago. Both the American Heart Association and the Veterans Association recommend TM.” xi
TM is now established in schools as described in The Guardian newspaper:
“One of San Francisco’s toughest schools transformed by the power of Meditation. A pioneering programme has reduced stress and improved grades at Visitacion Valley middle school – with lessons other schools can learn from. In the first year of Quiet Time Meditation, suspensions at Visitacion Valley were reduced by 45%.
In 2007 a Meditation programme called Quiet Time was brought in to meet some of these challenges. ‘When I first heard about it I thought it probably wasn’t going to work’ says O’Driscoll. ‘We get thrown a new thing every couple of years so I didn’t put too much faith in it.’ But in April, just a month after Meditation began, teachers noticed changes in behaviour. ‘Students seemed happy’ says O’Driscoll. ‘They worked harder, paid more attention, were easier to teach and the number of fights fell dramatically.’
The programme … sees students sit for 15 minutes of Meditation twice a day. Classes take place at students’ desks after the qualified TM teacher rings a bell. Students then repeat a personal mantra (a word from Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language) in their heads until they reach a deep feeling of relaxation. Sometimes the whole school meets to meditate in assemblies.” xii
Transcendental meditation, as well as yoga and other forms of meditation, are integrated into the Christian Church these days too. Former New-Agers Josh Peck and Steven Bancarz write: “The New Age Movement has returned with full force in our culture taking the West and its Churches by storm … as Christian churches have unknowingly encouraged occult beliefs and practices far removed from what the Bible teaches”. xiii
There are numerous individual testimonies online too. Some come from meditators who have experienced unpleasant symptoms similar to my own. However in view of the positive results reported above it is important to say that I found as many reporting pleasant and affirming experiences. Even my own experience of meditation became oppressive only after a few years. Meditators often feel wonderful while meditating, at least for a while. So I believe that it is inappropriate to argue against TM solely from the point of view of experience.
I should emphasize that my literally overnight transition from being unable to stop meditating to being completely free of it was not explicable in terms of psychology, positive-thinking technique, or wish-fulfilment. I had repented of my involvement in TM, of believing a lie for many years and I had prayed for forgiveness and deliverance to Jesus Christ. The next day I woke up free of TM.
Prayer and Repentance
I suggest that anybody associated with Meditation, yoga, martial arts or ‘alternative’ health treatment (reflexology, acupuncture, homeopathy, etc.) recognize that because the roots of the practice (however distant) are in Hinduism, Buddhism and the occult, they may, like me, have unknowingly invited demonic intervention although the effects of this may not yet be apparent. xivWe are free only by turning to Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord Who, alone, can free us from our chains xv
Finally, my testimony is expressed in Psalm 116:
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, save me!”
The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The LORD protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me.
Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
I believed; therefore I said,
“I am greatly afflicted.”
And in my dismay I said,
“All men are liars.”
How can I repay the LORD
for all his goodness to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
I will fulfil my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
O LORD, truly I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant ;
you have freed me from my chains.
I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD.
I will fulfil my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the LORD –
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD.
Deborah Shah ©2019
i John 3:1-17
ii Exodus 3:20
iii Daniel: 12:4
v Ibid., p.46
vi 1 Corinthians 10:20
ix Ibid., p.40
xi Richard Feloni: Business Insider: How … an ancient Hindu practice popularized by the Beatles made its way to Wall Street 15 Nov 2016
xiii Josh Peck and Steven Bancarz: Second Coming of the New Age: The Hidden Dangers of Alternative Spirituality in Contemporary America and Its Churches,
xiv 1 Corinthians 10:20
xv 1 John 3:8