A Sampler's Directory to Meditation Groups
Los Angeles Times (1886-Current File); Feb 13, 1977; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Los Angeles Times (1881 - 1986) pg. C1
A Sampler's Directory to Meditation Groups
Here is a "sampler's guide" to some of the best-known and influential organizations and religions that practice meditation:
TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION - By far the largest and most talked about meditation group, TM, as it is popularly called, has been dubbed by author Adam Smith "the McDonald's of meditation." IL offers a good basic meditation to chew on, just as McDonald's does with the hamburger, Smith says.
The TM organization was transported from the Himalayas to the West in the late 1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the diminutive missionary who firmly asserts the world will be saved as soon as 1% of the population is practicing 'I'M.
TM grew out of the mystical Advaita school of Yoga and uses a Vedic devotional as an initiation rite, which currently costs the devotee $I25,
Despite the insistence of the Maharishi that TM is not a religion, his writings and personal messages are sprinkled with Sanskrit phrases referring to the deity. Many followers claim, however, that to them 'I'M has no religious connotations.
Several court tests are pending regarding the legitimacy of teaching 'I'M in public schools because of the church-state issue, 'I'M is a super-success, numerically and financially. More than 30,000 persons are signing up in 'I'M centers across the nation every month, buying its offer to provide the Western mind with an easy. instant solution to nervous tension.
Millions believe it works.
"It's a nonchemical tranquilizer with no unpleasant side effects." says Stanford last' professor John Kaplan - an appealing recommendation for many people caught in a Valium-Librium-saturated society.
SIVANANDA YOGA COMMUNITY - Swami Vishnu Devananda, a 49-year-old Hindu guru, brought his Raja Yoga to the West from India in 1957 and founded the 100,000-member community. He has written a classic handbook, which is the organization's basic
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training program: "The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga."
Though Swami Devananda spends his summers at the retreat center in Canada, winters in Nassau and enjoys fall weather at the Sierra foothills retreat center In Grass Val. ley north of Sacramento, he is not so rich as the Maharishi. Classes - at centers in Canada and the United States, including one in Hollywood–are only $1.50 a session, and there is no set fee for "initiation," just donations,
Perhaps one reason Sivananda Yoga isn't as popular as TM is that devotees eat a vegetarian diet and don't drink, smoke, take sleeping pills or engage in premarital or extramarital sex,
DIVINE LIGHT MISSION - Four years ago, when he was 15 years old, Indian guru Maharaj Ji claimed 6 million followers, Devotees clambered over each other to fall at MS feet as he dispensed "the knowledge,"
Now, donations have fallen off and the teen-age guru has had a falling out with his mother over what she deplores as ostentatious and worldly life-style. The faithful are down to about 1.2 million, Headquarters for the Divine Light Mission is in Denver, but Maharaj Ji often lives at his expensive estate and center in Malibu, Maharaj Ji
Though he has done away with foot-kissing and prostration, he still imparts the knowledge through Yoga meditation techniques that several thousand mahatmas, trained by him, are qualified to teach.
INTEGRAL YOGA INSTITUTE - Under the leadership of roving Swami Satchidananda, this group, which has centers throughout the United States and Canada, employs an eclectic approach to meditation. It has Hindu roots but makes use of a broad variety of techniques.
Satehidananda, 62, presently lives in Santa Barbara, but the group's headquarters is in Connecticut, Standard group classes cost $2. Initiation, including a mantra, is $11.
"Teachings at our 25 centers are ecumenical and common to all religions," a swami at the Hollywood center said. Yoga paths include physical postures, breath control, vegetarian diet and chanting.
INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS - One of the best-known of the Eastern religions in this country, Hare Krishna, as the movement is popularly called, has received considerable publicity since the media spotlighted deprogramming cases in which parents have tried to extricate their adult children from the organization.
Hare Krishna devotees are often seen in airports and other public places dispensing literature and incense, always for a donation.
Krishna teachings are essentially Hindu, based on Vedic scriptures which A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, now 80, who founded the movement in this country in Greenwich Village 10 years ago, translated from Sanskrit Into English,
BUDDHISM - The new movements in Buddhism in the United States tend to be concentrated on the East and West coasts. The Gold Mountain Monastery in San Francisco, for example, includes about 20 native-American Buddhist masters, fully ordained in one of the most orthodox of Zen schools.
Leaders of the Kagyu order, one of the four major sects of Tibetan Buddhism, say it appeals to followers because they are not required to accept any particular system of belief,
"It is often called the 'practicing lineage' because it places great emphasis on meditation and the balance of Intellectual study with direct personal Insight," said Herb Elsky, coordinator of the Dharmadhatu center in Los Angeles,
The secular strand of Tibetan Buddhism is woven through the Nalanda Foundation and the Naropa Institute, both located In Boulder, Colo,
NICHIREN SHOSHU - Another group with Buddhist roots, this offshoot of the Japanese movement, Soka Oakkai, is based In Santa Monica. There are about 50,000 adherents in Southern California who practice chanting and meditation..
The basic chant is a gongyo, or lotus sutra, "Name Myoho [Inge Eye" Roughly, it means: "I devote my mind and body to the mystic law, cause and effect, through sound."
SELF-REALIZATION FELLOWSHIP - Vegetarian diet and instruction in the Yoga meditation techniques of the late Paramahansa Yogananda fonts the practice of this organization, which has international headquarters on Mt. Washington in Los Angeles and a lakeside shrine temple in Pacific Palisades,
The New Testament, the Bhagavad Gita - the most famous of Hindu writings–and the book "Autobiography of a Yogi" are the basic texts for this religion, founded in this country in 1920,
THE VEDANTA SOCIETY - Also taking early root in Los Angeles (1900), this group has steadily grown to it worldwide influence, It is based on mysticism and the belief that all religions are a path toward the same God.
Vedanta, a Sanskrit word, connotes the study of "the end of the Vedas" and use of meditative techniques "to help people deepen and progress in the religious tendencies of their choice." Meditation may center on Jesus, Buddha or Mohammed,
MEDITATION GROUP, INC. - Headquartered in Ojai, this group teaches meditation as a service to humanity rather than as a way to "feel good," find purity or attain personal development, according to Florence M, Garrigue, the director.
Followers practice meditation, mostly in their own homes, from techniques taught in the organization's books. Also known as Meditation Groups for the New Age, the 17,500 followers of this loosely affiliated organization meditate privately but simultaneously on the date of each full moon, The work is supported by donations.
SIKHISM - With an estimated 12 million members worldwide, this religion is led in the Western Hemisphere by Yogi Bhajan, who heads the Guru Ram Das Ashram in West Los Angeles. About 150,000 Sikhs live in the United States, where there are more than 100 centers,
Sikhs believe in prayer and daily meditation, and Bhajan is skilled in teaching the 5,000-year-old art of Jundalini Yoga, a method of meditation, chanting, exercise, breathing and diet.
ANANDA MARGA - Meditation, with the use of a mantra and a vegetarian diet, is basic to the daily discipline of this movement, which also has sociopolitical aspects.
Though each person's mantra - as in TM - is a carefully guarded secret, no fees are charged to teach Amanda Marga meditation. Allen Thum, leader of the Los Angeles ashram, explained that meditation helps work off "bad" karma (the Eastern concept of retribution through cause and effect in successive lives).
RELIGIOUS SCIENCE - With the 8,700-member Founder's Church in Los Angeles and 135 congregations nationwide, this body is a metaphysical religion somewhat similar to Christian Science. It also believes that mental attitude and meditation can affect both emotional and bodily health.
William H. D. Hornaday, pastor of Founder's Church, said members meditate individually 15 minutes a day.
Religious Science, founded by the late Ernest Holmes, makes use of mantras and physical exercises, but only as aids to finding the "greater power of love, beauty and harmony which can make the body whole," Hornaday said.
ECKANKAR - This religious movement, which teaches "the ancient science of soul travel," is growing rapidly, according to its "living 'raster," Darwin Gross. Lectures, courses and hooks are disseminated from the organization's world headquarters in Its Vegas,
Gross claims the practice of "separating the spirit from the body" through special meditative techniques dates from the "dawn of time" and was taught by Tibetan lamas, The modern movement, called Eck, for short, has perhaps several hundred thousand serious students, It originated in Las Vegas with the late master, Sri Paul Twitchell, his wife and three students in 1956.
ARICA - Followers of this nationwide spiritual organization search for the "essential self" throne such tech- niques as Egyptian gymnastics and African dances. Its 40- day intensive programs and shorter workshops also involve chanting mantras and meditating on colorful wall symbols known as yantras, Students seek to achieve the divine life. somewhat akin to the safari sought by Buddhists.
EST - Formally known as Erhard Seminars Training (named after Werner Erhard). this group has, in about five years' time, mushroomed into a multimillion-dollar "educational program." Its aim: to get trainees to discover the "I got it" concept of self-enlightenment.
The San Francisco-based group jams large groups of people into hotel ballrooms for 15 hours or more at a time, with limited food and a maximum of three toilet breaks.
Austere exercises or "processes" designed to make the trainees question and even dislodge their assumptions about every system of meaning are followed by exercises In visualization and self-hypnosis.
SILVA MIND CONTROL - Developed 30 years ago, this organization seeks to help clients induce a state of mental relaxation. it relies heavily on meditation, self-hypnosis and guided fantasy to expand consciousness,
GUIDED FANTASY - Itself a system to help devotees acquire new strengths and insights, this approach makes use of a loosely structured story told by a leader. Members close their eyes in a semi-dreamlike state and imagine themselves in a number of fictional scenes or situations. The goal is to pursue flights of fantasy and relinquish logical, organized thinking.
PSYCHOSYNTHESIS - This multidimensional growth therapy developed in Italy now is attracting increasing attention in this country. It uses various forms of group and individual therapy, including meditation, written self- analysis, guided daydreams (fantasies) and music.
BIOFEEDBACK - Machines are used to relay measurement of bodily processes hack to a person. Biofeedback also tells the subject when he has control over "involuntary" processes once thought to be automatic or outside conscious control.
By knowing what his brain waves, temperature or a muscle are doing at a particular time, the subject then performs meditative and other relaxation techniques to produce desired effects.
Although broader possibilities exist for biofeedback, the most common use so far has been to reduce psychosomatic tensions and ills.