I've seen many testimonies and case studies lauding the benefits of transcendental meditation. It is said that it isn't a religion and people of all religions participate in this practice. As a dedicated Christian my only concern is that partaking in this practice would violate teachings of my faith. Does transcendental meditation conflict with any Christian beliefs?
While it's not always the most reliable source for knowledge, a quick trip to Wikipedia's article on Transcendental Meditation gets us a bit of well-referenced history on the whole Transcendental Meditation movement. Included in the article is this:
I included the above because of your statement: "It is said that it isn't a religion and people of all religions participate in this practice.", and the fact that at least part your question seems to be centering around the question of "Would participating in this be participating in another religion".
The movement absolutely had it's roots in Hinduism, so on the one hand, there is cause for scrutiny.
However, simply meditating... Is that the same as worshiping Hindu gods? I don't know that I'd be dogmatic on that. This appears to be one of those gray areas, and ultimately, this is something that you will have to decide, and it will be between you and God.
I come from a denomination that has members that believe that everything even remotely related to evil has no place in a Christian's life. Harry Potter? Satan's attempt to introduce our kids to witchcraft as harmless... Rock music? Satan's tool for stirring up anger. Dance? Satan's tool for stirring up lust.
To them, the idea of participating in Transcendental Meditation is no different than worshiping idols. Me, I'm not so sure. I personally don't see that practicing a meditation technique is the same as converting to Hinduism or worshiping their gods. The technique ma be based on Hindu teachings, but that does not mean that the technique itself is Hinduism.
This may be far-fetched, but as a comparison - suppose someone were to come up with a cure for cancer and the person who came up with the treatment did so based on teachings of a Wiccan herbalist. Would taking that cure be the same as participating in Wicca? I don't think so.
Your question also includes the following: "Does transcendental meditation conflict with any Christian beliefs?"
That is going to be next to impossible to answer, because there are a wide variety of Christian beliefs. Again, there are plenty in my denomination that would say "yes". And there would be plenty that would say "no."
The real questions here are:
Does anything in TM conflict with your Christian beliefs.
Should I participate in it?
We can't answer the first one for you at all. You should know what you believe. If you're unsure of what you believe or should believe, then I'd focus on that first. Once you know what you believe, you could study about TM yourself and keep your eye out for patently non-Christian elements. Knowing what non-Christian or even anti-Christians teach can be beneficial. At any rate, you'll need to make your own mind up on that.
As for the second question, there is precedent in Scripture, which may completely nullify my answer to the first question.
Participating in TM is very comparable to eating food sacrificed to idols in this regard. Paul is teaching that eating food sacrificed to idols in and of itself has no effect on the saved Christian. The Christian isn't worshiping the idol, and meat is meat. (1 Cor 8:4-8) Similarly simply meditating using TM isn't the same as practicing Hinduism. Meditation and relaxation techniques are just meditation/relaxation techniques.
However, reading on in 1 Cor 4: 9-13, you need to be aware that people are watching you. There may be non-Christians who are watching your actions. Maybe people you've witnessed to, and if they see you participating in TM, they may think that there's nothing at all wrong with it, either. They, unlike you , may not know what is Christian and what is not.
Another good comparison would be martial arts. I was in martial arts of varying types when I was younger. Almost all of the martial artists I hung out with fancied themselves to be Zen Buddhists to one degree or another. If they weren't quoting Bruce Lee, they were quoting Zen Buddhist sayings. Some of them went further and got sucked in completely, some were just posers. As a Christian, I feel confident that I could practice martial arts again, without getting sucked into the eastern mysticism that tends to go hand-in-hand with the martial arts culture.
TM is pretty similar. I feel pretty confident that I could sort out the mysticism, determine what is patently un-Christian (if anything), and participate with a clean conscience.
However, I know plenty of people that wouldn't be able to sort it out. non-Christians, or those that are Christians in name only (raised in a Christian home, and somehow they think this is enough). They might say "Hey, if he can do it, so can I. They could go in and get sucked in, because they don't have the background and knowledge that I have. (That isn't meant to sound as arrogant as it does. I just mean I know what I believe, and some haven't given it much thought.)
So, personally, for their sake I wouldn't participate. This is exactly what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians.
About meditation in general, I can recommend you Ascent to Mount Carmel by saint John of the Cross, a famous 16th century mystic. It's not an easy reading, but it's a good guidebook of Christian mysticism. Along with few things that are good to do, author warns against many dangers in spiritual life, which may seem marginal in the beginning but may lead you astray finally.
According to John of the Cross, meditation and emptying yourself from anything that isn't God is good, but there are many things that seem to be God, and these are often very hard to distinguish. 99.9% of Christian mystics need some living person to give them feedback and lead them - otherwise they would fall in some of these traps. This guide needs not to be a mystic or even a "perfect" (mystical term for "very close to God") mystic, but they need wisdom of Holy Spirit and know something about mysticism. Remaining 0,1% are hermits who are so well guided by Holy Spirit that they don't need a human guide (and of course don't need anyone to teach them how to meditate).
This is why I would be suspicious about TM or any other non-Christian meditation. About meat sacrificed to idols, knowing what you believe is enough. But emptying yourself is much more delicate and if it's hard for Christian mystics not to make some grave mistake, it's even harder outside Christian tradition. The meditation techniques may be similar or maybe even the same, but without guidance of Holy Spirit your meditations can't lead to their aim - to bigger opennes to Holy Spirit. If your guide is trained to rely on his own spiritual abilities, they can't lead you on the way of Holy Spirit. And if they are trained in some non-Christian tradition, it's very likely that you will be taught some pagan elements such as mantras invoking Hinduistic gods.
I would definitely avoid such a practice without guidance of someone capable of distinguishing what is of Holy Spirit and what is against him. This means someone full of Holy Spirit with charisma of distinguishing of spirits or at least with great experience with Christian meditation. But such people are usually capable of teaching you Christian ways of meditation, so you don't need to bother with something like TM.
Just a comment to David Stratton's note on martial arts: from martial arts you usually expect to learn to fight. From meditation you expect that it helps you spiritually. It's much easier to distinguish a martial art from spirituality behind it than to distinguish meditation from spirituality behind it.
If we were perfect, our every thought would have it's foundation in God. What I mean is, if you "dive deep" into your thoughts, or even try to "empty" yourself, God becomes everything.
Not that I have ever been able to do that very well, but the deeper you go, the more you as a Christian will find God.
So to answer your question, go for it, but your aim should be drawing close to God. But maybe then it becomes something other than transcendental meditation.
You should ask yourself these questions... Is my reason for meditation for good or for ill? Do I meditate for God or for myself? Do I replace God with meditation? Does my meditation harm my body, mind, heart, or soul? Does my meditation hinder my relationship with God or does it promote it? Do I do "Christian" meditation or only transcendental meditation (consider doing both)? Does my transcendental meditation cause me to directly sin?
As Christians, the material, buzz words, we come across while thinking about meditation will be:
Traditional Christian Meditation
Modern Christian Meditation
We are taught to pray, fast and meditate, but lack basic teaching on the last. It would be helpful to list out, then, a framework to guide us in our efforts. What is good and what isn't.
Transcendental meditation is removing thoughts, emptying the mind, and calling out to God, through chanting, to touch us. The problem with this is that we don't know if it is the right way, and several cases have been reported about ill effects. Surprisingly, teachers of the technique will admit the results are unpredictable. I have personal knowledge of people requiring treatment for psychological illnesses after practicing TM.
Traditional Christian Meditation, of which John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila are the names most called to mind, as practitioners, also share the same techniques as other mystics. Their aim is to be touched by God. Their method is to remove worldly thinking and fill the mind with Scripture. The problem is that they treat the actual words of Scripture as entities with power. I'm not surprised they experience the Dark Night of the Soul, spiritual dryness, in the process. It should sound an alarm if the journey from immaturity to wisdom is progressively distressful, when God's Word is described as a Lamp unto our feet, something that brings peace and joy as the destination nears. It saddened me to learn that the longest period of alienation on record is that endured by Teresa of Calcutta, who reportedly suffered depression for nearly 50 years.
Modern Christian Meditation adopts some dubious techniques, and when I use the label ”Modern Christian”, I guess I am addressing the problems that writers like Foster throw up when they teach the practices that they do in books like ”Celebration of Discipline”. A little survey of the criticism, in articles on the Internet, he provoked should enlighten one about the grey areas he drifts into in recommending his methods. These border on being parallels to the centering and actualisation techniques taught by New Age practioners.
Some people differentiate between studying the Bible and meditating on the Bible, but I think that the distinction is uncalled for.
Biblical meditation IS study of the Bible, carried out in conjunction with praying to God for assistance, and just as water, bread, medicinal cures and light are life giving, so also is the study of the Bible nurturing, healing and enlightening.
The Holy Spirit helps in many ways, sending direct revelation of the meaning of the text, as well as indirectly by bringing to our notice people, books, techniques and other resources varying from knowledge about competing philosophical world views to analogies from the world of art, and even technology, to open the meaning of the Scriptural material.
I do not believe it does at all, infact, i think that is what jesus was teaching after all. Many scriptures support meditation when in fact, all meditation means is concentration. Just because you empty your mind of thought, doesnt make you empty. In fact its very healthy. Thought alone is the main cause of mental illness. Stress, anxiety, fear, jealousy, etc are all caused by thought.. Transendental meditation is about clearing your mind of everything and finding yourself, finding god. I believe the church is more scared of what you will experience and realize, completely changing what the church has framed our minds into believing. I too have realized, being a devout christian and all, one night I hit rock bottom, I prayed with tears and passion, wanting my love for god, that passion to come back. To give me that light to strive for once again. I asked god for the truth, to show me some hope, just something to grab on to to re light my faith, and literally over night my life changed. Its been a series of events, that led me into meditation. A domino affect of still occuring events that still baffle me, even my wife supports me and is witness to the drastic change. I quit drinking over night, began my transendental meditation and a whole new world appeared to me. I still believe in god, and jesus, but my way of belief is different now from what the church has taught. In fact, there is more fact in what I have learned now that makes the bible make sense than the actual church does. Look into it for yourself, try it yourself. Do your research and be passionate, you will find exactly what your looking for and more. Its amazing. remember, prayer is talking to god, meditation is listening to him. please, dont get me wrong, im not saying the church is bad. Im just saying the answers about god that you may seek are found in meditation. God will show you who you really are, and who he is as well. You will come to find, he is not very far away at all. Hes literally a prayer away and through meditation, you will find him. just like it says in the bible, the kingdom of heaven is within each and every one of us.
No, not at all if it is centered in Christ.
Meditation is food for the spirit. Just like we feed our bodies food, we must feed our spirit God. That's all meditation really is.
So in prayer/meditation we shut out everything, we cut out the "words", mind chatter, (true meditation needs no mantra) outside influences to reach Him.
Getting involved with some group could lead to conflicts but true meditation in it's purest form will only reveal more of God's nature.
There are many forms of meditation but the fundamental and main purpose is to drop the ego and turn to your higher self, the part that is of God and Jesus ask us to do this many times, in many different ways.
For example, I went to Greece to visit the cave where Paul was imprisoned. There was an Greek Orthodox priest in the cave and he was chanting his prayers. His eyes were closed and it appeared to all of us that he was in a trance! Never seen anything like that at Church here. My point, he was doing the same thing as when you see the yogi's in India chanting.
Nevertheless, meditation can be rooted in Christ.