Mahrishi Mahesh Yogi introduced an offshoot of Hinduism called trancendental meditation or "TM" for short to America in 1958. This caught the interest of many in the new hippie counterculture. It became famous when the Beatles traveled to India to study with the Maharishi who taught that his followers could usher in the "age of enlightenment" through mass meditations.
To relieve stress his followers chant one-word mantras twice a day. One writer says "They are taught to believe they can wipe out crime, hunger and violence if 1 percent of the population of major cities worldwide meditate at once. Some also believe they can fly, though people who watched demonstrations said the 'yogic flying' exercise looked more like hopping."
The best book explaining their view on meditation is TM Transcendental Meditation : A New Introduction to Maharishi's Easy, Effective and Scientifically Proven Technique for Promoting Better Health, Unfolding Your Creative Potential -- and Creating Peace in the World. The publishers say, "A new introduction to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's easy, effective and scientifically proven technique for promoting better health, gaining relaxation, and increasing creativity and intelligence. This is the only book endorsed as a primer on transcendental meditation by the Transcendental Meditation Organization of North America."
Here are two reviews of the book given in Amazon.com. The first is positive and the second is negative. "I am 48, a journalist and a TM meditator for almost 30 years. I can honestly say that I could not do all that I do without the technique. I say this because I read Robert Roth's book with some trepidation, concerned that he would make the technique out to be more esoteric or philosophical than it really is. He did not. I liked the book a lot and recommend it to all my friends who are interested in what I am doing for those 20 minutes twice a day."
This is a negative review: "It really is just a written infomercial. 3 years ago, I had "sucker" written on my forehead. I read the book and actually paid for lessons to learn TM. A typical lesson costs anywhere from $200 to the $1000+ range. Here's the lesson in a nutshell. You're merely taught to repeatedly recite out loud, your so-called secret mantra (mine was "shreem"). You'll then be guided to gradually bring down the volume of the recited mantra to a whisper, then finally reciting it in your head in silence. Hey, now you're meditating! I did get headaches for the first two weeks, and practiced TM for a long time. Yes, it does calm and quiet the mind but also try joining a normal meditation class, which I did before trying TM. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and gang write some of the best fishing lures on the planet. They were able to hook $900 out of MY pocket. Great job. For more information on TM before even trying it, check out the Trancenet website."
In Professor Hadden's website he is quite good at being fair and explaining many of the new religious movements. At his site for TM (http://cti.itc.virginia.edu/~jkh8x/soc257/nrms/transmed.htm) he says, "Sacred Text: In one sense, there are no sacred texts because the group claims not to be a religion Nevertheless, several texts are highly valued including the Vedic Scriptures and the Bhagavad Gita. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's book, The Science of Being and Art of Living."
At their website, www.tm.org, they promise they can "create a disease-free and problem-free family of nations." They believe they have the key to world peace. They say they can create the perfect government: "create Natural Law based problem-free government in every country -- governments with the ability to prevent problems."
The Maharishi has a book called, Maharishi's Absolute Theory of Government. They say, "Maharishi locates the Supreme Government at the unmanifest basis of creation, the home of Natural Law. The centuries old struggling history of governments is destined to have a new sunshine of problem- free administration when National governments align themselves with the Government of Nature. Topics include Absolute Administration, A Vision of Supreme Rulership, and a comprehensive examination of the Constitution of the Universe."
In Maharishi's book Maharishi's Absolute Law of Defence he promises that he has the truth that "shows how a prevention wing in every military will usher in an age of life in freedom for every individual and a permanent state of world peace."
They write, "Maharishi calls the Bhagavad-Gita the essence of Vedic Literature and a complete guide to practical life. It provides "all that is needed to raise the consciousness of man to the highest possible level." Maharishi reveals the deep, universal truths of life that speak to the needs and aspirations of everyone."
They have created a political party call The Natural Law Party. They write, "its advocacy of transcendental meditation as a panacea for war and crime." The Natural Law Party was founded in 1992 on the campus of Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa.
The San Franciso Chronicle says, "TM CALLED A CULT -- Critics call the movement a cult whose teachings can have harmful mental and physical effects on followers. The effects of TM have drawn warnings from the German government and the Cult Awareness Network, among others."