TM-Sidhi program

TM-Sidhi program

The TM-Sidhi program is a meditation technique that was introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the mid 1970s, following the earlier introduction of the Transcendental Meditation technique. Described as a natural extension of Transcendental Meditation, the TM-Sidhi program may be learned after a minimum of two months' practice of T.M., and is said to accelerate the benefits gained from T.M. practice. Maharishi states that he derived the TM-Sidhi program from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, containing phrases or “sutras” (threads), the practice of which can supposedly lead to development of advanced human abilities, called Sidhis, including Yogic Flying and the creation of peace.

Research on the TM-Sidhi program

Research on practitioners of the TM-Sidhi program relative to subjects practicing Transcendental Meditation alone has shown increased EEG coherence during "Yogic Flying", one of the components of the TM-Sidhi program, as well as long-term increases in EEG coherence. , differences in reflex, and changes in endocrinological performance. In addition, a study on EEG coherence associated with practice of the TM-Sidhi program is correlated with greater creativity as measured by the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking.

Initial marketing of the TM-Sidhi program

Early promotional posters for program offered TM practitioners powers of Yogic Flying, invisibility, the ability to walk through walls, and the "strength of an elephant." The TM organization eventually stopped talking publicly about these powers, except for the ability to hover and fly; the organization says that TM-Sidhi practitioners (called Sidhas) have already achieved the first of the three stages of Yogic Flying – hopping. Further practice of the technique is said to lead to the second stage, which is hovering, and flying through the air, the third stage. Accounts within the organization of yogic flyers advancing beyond the hopping stage have varied over the years. For example, in 1978, when the host of The Merv Griffin (TV) Show asked Maharishi Mahesh Yogi how many of the 40,000 TM-Sidhi students he taught learned to levitate, he answered, "Thousands."

The Maharishi Effect

Researchers associated with Maharishi University of Management have hypothesized that practicing the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs in a group produces a "Maharishi Effect," that is said to influence coherence and positivity in the social and natural environment." According to these researchers, if the square root of one percent of the population (that is, first calculating 1% of the population and then taking the square root of the resulting number) regularly practices the TM-Sidhi program together, the entire population will experience greater coherence - including reduction in violence, crime, disease, deadly storms, and other destructive natural forces.

James Randi, a magician and critic of paranormal claims, investigated the claims of Dr. Robert Rabinoff, a former Maharishi International University physics professor who claimed that a large gathering of TM practitioners had reduced crime and accidents and increased crop production in the vicinity of Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa. Rabinoff made the claims during a talk at the University of Oregon in 1978. Randi spoke with the Fairfield Police Department, the Iowa Department of Agriculture, and Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles and was unable to substantiate the claims.

According to a bibliography on the Maharishi University of Management web site, studies on the Maharishi Effect have been published in journals such as Social Indicators Research, Journal of Mind and Behavior, Social Science Perspectives Journal, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Crime and Justice, and Psychology, Crime and Law.

Study on the Maharishi Effect in Washington, D.C.

A study on the Maharishi Effect published in 1999 in the journal, Social Indicators Research, suggested that there was a correlation between the gathering of a group of 4,000 participants in the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs in the District of Columbia, and a reduction in violent crime in that city. The experiment took place over a two-month period in the summer of 1993.

At a 1994 press conference to announce the analysis of that study, John Hagelin said that, during the period of the experiment, Washington, D.C. experienced a significant reduction in psychiatric emergency calls, fewer complaints against the police, and an increase in public approval of President Clinton -- all of which was consistent with the hypothesis that a coherence-creating group of practitioners of the TM-Sidhi program can relieve social stress and reverse negative social trends. Overall, there was an 18-percent reduction in violent crime, he told the press. When a reporter asked, an 18-percent reduction compared to what, Hagelin answered, compared to the level of violent crime had the study not taken place. Hagelin said that criminologists have shown that violent crime fluctuates significantly relative to the temperature. Crime goes down when it's cold and up when it's hot. The standard methodology for assessing whether the crime rate changed or not is to compare it with what is expected for that particular season. Hagelin said that by using the standard methodology (time series analysis), they were able to show the level of violent crime in Washington had dropped well below the expected level based on previous data.

In his book Voodoo Science, physicist Robert L. Park called the study a "clinic in data manipulation." Maxwell Rainforth, a coauthor of the Washington, D.C., study says that Park does not support the assertion with either supporting data or analysis, and that Park’s objection to the use of time series analysis isn't based on any scientific argument. The researchers also questioned whether Park had read the published study, since his criticism focused on a preliminary Interim Report released at a press conference in 1994.

Park questioned the validity of the study by saying that during the weeks of the experiment Washington D.C.'s weekly murder count hit the highest level ever recorded. According to the study, statistical analysis suggests that the murder rate, which typically goes up during hot weather, fell within the range of what would have been expected for that time of year.

In 1994 John Hagelin received an Ig Nobel Prize in peace based on this study. This parody of the Nobel Prize is given annually to "honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think."

Yogic flying

One component of the TM-Sidhi program is referred to as "Yogic Flying" or hopping. While sitting cross-legged or in a "lotus" position, Yogic Flyers hop about on foam mats. The TM organization says this is the first of three stages of Yogic Flying called "the perfection of leaping like a frog". The organization emphasizes that only the first stage of Yogic Flying has been shown.

While Yogic Flying appears to be simply cross-legged hopping, EEG studies comparing Yogic Flyers with a control group voluntarily hopping found that the neurological characteristics were different. Immediately before hopping the yogic flyers showed significant shifts in EEG coherence and power, whereas the controls did not. The differences in EEG spatial distribution and mean amplitude between the two groups suggested that a different biological mechanism underlies the EEG activity in the two groups.

The TM organization has presented a number of public demonstrations of Yogic Flying, such as the one in 1999 described by Robert L. Park, professor of physics at the University of Maryland and author of the weekly science Internet column, What's New. The Yogic Flying demonstration was presented at a press conference at the Washington, DC Press Club by physicist and Natural Law Party Presidential candidate, John Hagelin. Hagelin had called the press conference to offer help in ending the war in Kosovo by sending 7000 yogic flyers to create positive coherence in the violence-torn country. Proponents of Yogic Flying claim that world peace and many other social and environmental benefits can be generated by having at least seven thousand yogic flyers around the world hopping at the same time. This is how Park described the demonstration:

Mattresses were spread right there on the floor, and 12 fit-looking young guys seated themselves in the lotus position. The audience was cautioned to make no sound as they meditated. After a few minutes, one of them suddenly levitated. Well, he didn't exactly float, mind you, just sort of popped up a couple of inches and thumped back down. Then another levitated, and another, till the scene looked like corn popping. There was nothing to suggest they didn't follow parabolic trajectories. My guess is they were suddenly contracting their gluteus maximus. It must be hard work. They were soon panting heavily.

History of Yogic Flying

Yogic Flying traditionally stems from the Vedic rishi Avatsara, "the flying-one". Later yogic texts also describe this siddhi ("perfection") in varying degrees of detail, most notably the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

A system of Yogic Flying also exists within the inner tantras (anuttara-tantras) of Tibetan Buddhism as a system to attain enlightenment. In this system the practitioners work at the dissolution of the vital airs, prana, into the centermost part of being, the avadhuti or "central channel". In the initial stages this is used in a system of yogic-running where the practitioner is able to proceed across the ground in large jumps. Some of kings of the Himalayan kingdoms kept speed-runners or practitioners of yogic-running from this Buddhist tradition to carry messages over long distances.

Facilities and practitioners

Facilities for Yogic Flying are located at the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, at Maharish Vedic School in Antrim, New Hampshire, and at Maharishi European Sidhaland in Skelmersdale, U.K.

During the 1990s, various Natural Law Parties encouraged the use of Yogic Flying as part of their party platform. Current plans by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation Program and related programs, include building 3000 Peace Palaces in major cities, and creating permanent groups of 8,000 yogic flyers to create permanent world peace. His plan also calls for a group of 1000 Vedic pandits, all flyers, to take up residence at Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa.

Criticism of Yogic Flying

In a 1987 Washington Post article, the Cult Awareness Network criticized Yogic Flying as "fake". A few former T.M. adherents from Maharishi University of Management say the activity was "strictly physical exercise ... [with] nothing spiritual about it."

In the 1998 ABC News special The Power of Belief, John Stossel documents a series of disputed phenomena beginning with Yogic Flying.


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