You can’t spell TM without SCI

A formal reckoning with attempts by the David Lynch Foundation (DLF) to place Transcendental Meditation programs in public schools, defying the fact that a Federal court injunction prohibited TM instruction within them on Constitutional grounds, is long overdue. The flaws in the Malnak v. Yogi opinions, leaving unaddressed the possibility that TM could be completely separated from a formal course in the so-called “Science of Creative Intelligence,” have been deliberately misunderstood and exploited by the DLF and the TM organization for years. The suggestion that TM promotion and instruction in public schools would be permissible if the words “Science of Creative Intelligence” were never mentioned is simply ridiculous; TM is the practical element of SCI and doctrinal tenets of SCI of a religious nature are present throughout TM promotion, preparation and instruction. 

Northern District of Illinois courtroom.
(Library of Congress photo)

Since the puja, the ceremony which is always performed before individual TM instruction, occurred on Chicago school premises (as the DLF has insisted that it must), in some fundamental way the DLF was organizing its own prayer services on school property; whether they were understood to be religious by students is irrelevant. The organization mandated a puja performance to satisfy its own priorities, based in its own SCI doctrine, with respect to TM instruction. 

The religiosity of what the David Lynch Foundation and its allies have attempted to do, rooted in the doctrine of SCI, is obvious, and the District Court’s phrasing in its Malnak opinion over forty years ago is still very appropriate here:  “the proposition needs no further demonstration.”

In August 2020, a lawsuit was filed in U.S. Federal court against the David Lynch Foundation (DLF), the University of Chicago, and the Board of Education of the City of Chicago as a consequence of the DLF’s and the TM organization’s efforts to teach Transcendental Meditation in the Chicago public school system. Currently, the case has been slowly proceeding through the Federal district court, with delays that have been caused by, among other reasons, the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A recent filing by the David Lynch Foundation, defending its previous motion to dismiss the suit, makes mention of the injunction in 1979 against the teaching of TM in public schools, which was upheld on appeal. This is an excerpt, the second sentence of that defense and a corresponding footnote.

Citing Malnak v. Yogi, 592 F.2d 197 (3rd Cir. 1979) — a case that is over 40 years old and, unlike the “Quiet Time” program at issue here, involved practice of TM coupled with a course in the Science of Creative Intelligence (”SCI”) — Plaintiffs act as if this is an open and shut case.

Indeed, the Malnak opinion itself contrasts the practice of TM alone, such as the “Quiet Time” program here, with the practice of TM as part of a broader-based curriculum that included mandatory attendance of the SCI course which the court found to be religious based. As Judge Adams noted in his concurrence in Malnak, “[a]lthough Transcendental Meditation by itself might be defended as appellants sought to do in this appeal as primarily a relaxation or concentration technique with no ultimate significance, the New Jersey course at issue here was not a course in TM alone, but a course in the Science of Creative Intelligence.” Malnak, 592 F.2d at 213.

“Defendant The David Lynch Foundation’s reply in support of its motion to dismiss plaintiff’s amended complaint,” N.D. Ill. 1:20-cv-04540 #64 02/05/2021

For some of us who have watched for years as the TM organization, and its marketing partner, the David Lynch Foundation, have thumbed their noses at the Malnak decision and gone forward with programs to teach supposedly, almost miraculously beneficial TM centered programs in public schools in a number of cities, this line of attempted defense is not much of a surprise. Similar opinions have been expressed by long-term meditators online for many years, perhaps reflecting the thinking of TM organization or DLF insiders.

Right from the start, they note that Malnak is “a case that is over 40 years old.” This is an irrelevant distraction. Since this opinion has never been overturned by the Supreme Court nor has it otherwise been superseded by more recent, conflicting decisions elsewhere, it is still established law. It’s been cited at least 64 times in other cases, most recently this past November, 2020

The David Lynch Foundation hasn’t yet been challenged in court for promoting the same activity enjoined against by Malnak, and that fact in no way negates the validity of the Malnak precedent. While critical observers have for many years noted the apparent violation that may substantiate another lawsuit on the same grounds, potential plaintiffs seldom have the resources to bring a case of this nature. Other attempts to push this so-called “Quiet Time” in US public schools have been blocked or have fizzled out on their own, both by way of the objections of parents, and the retirement or relocation of the meditating school administrators who invited the DLF into their own schools.

More problematic is the misleading claim that the precedent set by Malnak does not apply, because in Chicago, TM was taught in public schools without being connected with a formal course in the so-called “Science of Creative Intelligence” (SCI). This assertion relies on the incorrect assumption that there is no religious content, of which either the organization or the meditator would be aware of, connected with TM when taught and practiced by itself, and that its teaching and practice are merely a mental technique that exists independent of any other information, expectation or teaching.  These assumptions contradict the reality, as is even admitted in the DLF’s promotional materials related to the teaching of TM in schools, that TM is just one part of an extensive program which includes, as they call it, “coaching and follow up support.”

Echoing the speculative musings of one appellate judge who concurred with the Malnak decision, musings which were in no way legally binding or meaningful nor were they necessarily from a fully informed perspective, recent proponents of TM in public schools maintain that TM and SCI may be completely separated, when that is not at all possible. Transcendental Meditation “is the practical aspect of the Science of Creative Intelligence.” The assumptions underlying all claims for TM’s effectiveness are based on the inherently religious doctrine of SCI, SCI underlies the presumptive rationale behind the research studies offered in support of TM, and SCI creates an unrealistic expectation, present in TM’s marketing and introductory material, that scientific evidence supporting TM’s effectiveness is plentiful and that TM is effective for each and every individual who practices it. Behind the “evidence-based” claims made for TM, SCI doctrine and practice (of TM) has motivated a small number of TM-affiliated researchers to generate, under their direction, questionable and often flawed studies. That evidence is put forward by the TM organization as if it were part of some general scientific consensus, which in reality does not exist and after more than 50 years of trying has not emerged.

The overwhelming majority of such studies put forward by the TM organization and the DLF feature investigators in key roles who are long-term meditators and MIU faculty who should be assumed to have been fully indoctrinated in the doctrine of SCI – it is a basic fundamental course requirement at MIU – and they play critical roles in designing such studies and interpreting data independent of the particular institution in which the studies are conducted.

It’s impossible to learn TM without being exposed to some of the major doctrinal tenets of SCI. Even an introductory lecture contains some of the core concepts that are central to SCI, which is the product of a systematic, misguided attempt to recast and reframe traditional religious, Hindu or Vedic concepts and doctrine as a “science,” largely through word substitution.

Here is one such example, taken from a TM introductory lecture by Bob Roth which can be found on YouTube, in which, remarkably, he leads off by admitting that TM is sourced to “ancient meditation texts” which are the scriptures (the Vedas) that are central to the dominant religious culture of India. I’ve italicized specific terms which are inherent to SCI doctrine.

The ancient meditation texts used very big words…they say it’s a source of our unbounded creativity, unbounded intelligence, happiness, focus, clarity. It’s there…it was there–if it’s there–it was there yesterday, it’s there right now, it’ll be there tomorrow…we’ve just lost access to it. We’re stuck up here, we’re stuck up on the surface gotta gotta gotta level. And Transcendental Meditation is a simple, natural, effortless technique that allows the active thinking mind to just, all of it to just settle down, and experience quieter levels of thought, and quieter levels of thought, and then experience what has been called ‘the source of thought,’ or the ‘unified field of consciousness,’ or ‘transcendent level of the mind,’ ‘pure consciousness,’ within every human being.

As soon as a TM teacher uses the word “unbounded,” they have strayed into unscientific religious territory. When they say “source of thought” or “unified field of consciousness” or “pure consciousness,”  they are using sanitized terms that are actually synonymous with a Hindu or Vedic concept of supreme divinity underlying all existence, which is the source of everything – including the “source of thought”, “unbounded awareness,” or “creative intelligence.” All of these concepts can be traced back to the definition of SCI, and they imply that every individual’s consciousness is fundamentally connected with, and through TM may develop a beneficial relationship with, some “unbounded” universal consciousness underlying everything that exists. No scientific consensus, nor any proposed scientific “theory of everything” supports such assertions, outside of a bubble containing a tiny number of TM-connected individuals who were once educated in the scientific method.

The following definition comes from the curriculum once published to be used as the basis of an SCI course in US public secondary schools, which likewise references a universal “constant source of intelligence, energy, and happiness” of cosmic origin, allegedly present in every individual.


SCIENCE — A science is a systematic investigation by means of repeatable experiment to gain useful and testable knowledge.

CREATIVE — Creative means having and displaying creativity. Creativity is the cause of change present everywhere at all times. When active, it generates new expressions enriching to life, progressive and evolutionary in nature.

INTELLIGENCE — Intelligence is a basic quality of existence exemplified in the purpose and order of change.

CREATIVE INTELLIGENCE — The single and branching flow of energy (creativity) and directedness (intelligence) is called creative intelligence.

SCIENCE OF CREATIVE INTELLIGENCE — The Science of Creative Intelligence includes the experience and knowledge of the nature, origin, range, growth, and application of creative intelligence.

This science arose from the major discovery that there exists in every human being a constant source of intelligence, energy, and happiness and that this source can be easily and systematically drawn upon by everyone for spontaneous use in everyday life through the practice of Transcendental Meditation, brought to light by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Science of Creative Intelligence.

From Science of Creative Intelligence, Three-Year Curriculum for Secondary Schools (1974) page 51

I think it’s important to notice that, if you take these terms and phrases that Bob Roth uses in his introductory lecture – which is very similar to that which any prospective meditator will hear – they all appear very frequently in this SCI curriculum book:

“Pure consciousness” – 16 times

“Source of thought” – 20 times

“Unboundedness” – 13 times 

“Unbounded awareness” – 27 times

“Levels of thought” – 8 times

The DLF’s promotional techniques for placing TM in various venues where it does not belong, such as public schools, involves a bit of sleight-of-hand in an attempt to substitute something that could well be secular and carrying no meaning – simply closing one’s eyes and relaxing on a regular basis – with the complexity and specific agenda of the TM movement, which is that of both personal and global transformation through some specific internal experience that is, supposedly, exclusively offered by the TM organization. This can be seen in part of a brochure promoting the so-called “Quiet Time” TM-in-schools program on the DLF website.

The Transcendental Meditation technique was selected as the primary strategy taught in the Quiet Time program because it is a simple, easily learned, and secular (non-religious) technique…

Not mentioned here is that David Lynch has been a TM meditator since 1973 and the foundation he created exists for the sole purpose of popularizing Transcendental Meditation; it exists for no other reason, it promotes the teaching of no other techniques, and there was no process of “selection” of the TM technique for use in their programs. This is clearly a disingenuous, misleading remark that attempts to center the DLF in some more general context of other popular methods or techniques of meditation.

The next section of the brochure reveals that the TM “Quiet Time” program is something much more elaborate than just the mental technique itself.

3. Coaching and follow-up support

To ensure long-term success, the Quiet Time staff also provide extensive coaching for

all teachers and individualized follow-up support for all students at the school. These

activities are core to the Quiet Time program design:

  • Individual instruction and peer support groups for any interested faculty member or student, from certified meditation instructors.

  • School assemblies, special events, and workshops that promote health and wellness.

  • Retreats that integrate yoga, meditation, exercise, and group discussions.

  • Capacity-building activities that address the school’s unique needs, such as mentoring of at-risk youth, coaching a sports team, or starting an afterschool chess club.

Follow-up support for the meditation practice of both students and teachers

throughout their lifetime, from a network of Transcendental Meditation centers

nationwide. This is a lifelong resource for sustaining personal health and learning.

The items named in the first three bulleted points should be familiar to any long-time TM meditator, though by other names, and most of them contain elements of SCI. Points of this doctrine are progressively revealed after the meditator is initiated, beginning with the third follow up session, and later in “advanced lectures” which here are cast as being “peer support groups” when clearly such sessions are directed by “certified [TM] meditation instructors.” In that third follow up session, points that were briefly mentioned before TM instruction are clarified and then used as a filter through which the meditator’s own experiences are interpreted; the personal experiences, both within meditation and outside of it, are reframed into the context of the assumed benefits of TM, and put forward as validation of the particular doctrinal points of SCI. This pattern continues through advanced lectures, residence courses and other programs offered to meditators which are all part of the TM “program” which is much more than simple instruction on what to do with one’s eyes closed. 

In this sense, SCI and TM reinforce each other: the doctrines of SCI are reinforced through interpretation of experiences obtained through the practice of TM, and regular practice of TM is reinforced through instruction in the doctrines of SCI.

For one example of that relationship between SCI doctrine, TM practice, and the perceived experiences of new meditators, here are excerpts from the third night’s “checking notes” as they were revealed by one former TM teacher and placed online. Terms that are synonymous with the Hindu/Vedic concept of supreme divinity and that are inherent to SCI have been italicized:

The pure nature of Creative Intelligence, Transcendental Consciousness, likewise has its corresponding state of physiology, (it is a fourth state of consciousness). We have experienced how the breath becomes slower and slower as the mantra becomes finer and finer. Restfulness of the body corresponds with the restful state of the mind in Transcendental Consciousness. Every sitting in meditation creates this restful state for both body and mind. Daily practice stabilizes this restful condition of body and mind even during dynamic activity. The first 2 days we have been examining the inward stroke of meditation and now this evening we want to understand the outward stroke and the value of our daily activity. The inward stroke of meditation, in its increasing quietness, located the Infinite and the outward stroke of meditation draws that transcendental infinite out into the field of activity. As pure consciousness or pure intelligence grows in life one spontaneously, out of one’s own nature, starts to be more effective. So, if we want to locate the infinite, meditate. If we want to substantiate the infinite, act. Mediate and act. Stability through activity, location (of the pure nature of Creative Intelligence) through meditation.

I think it’s important to emphasize that these elements of SCI doctrine are present through basic instruction of TM, without exposure to the much more detailed and lengthy formal SCI curriculum. The situation which prompted the Malnak lawsuit involved the teaching of TM, and an ongoing classroom course in the “Science of Creative Intelligence,” together as one program. In Chicago, there is no obvious evidence that an organized classroom course in SCI was part of the so-called “Quiet Time” program. But I think it’s important to read the Malnak opinions, not as disqualifying a combined TM/SCI course as a single unit, but as that combined course was disqualified because it contained certain specific elements that are disallowed on Constitutional grounds in public schools. Those specific elements are always present whenever anyone is instructed in Transcendental Meditation, as part of what they formally call, the “TM program.”

Since TM is the practical element of SCI, and SCI underlies all the other aspects of TM instruction, there is therefore no clear separation between the two. It is misleading and incorrect to present TM as simply instructions given for something that is practiced with eyes closed, with no input from the senses at any time. What is at issue is the TM program, which is the entire system of marketing, introduction, preparation, instruction or initiation, followup, and subsequent encouragement to participate in the organization’s advanced programs for meditators, or to buy other products that it offers.  What was offered to students in Chicago as part of some questionable alleged research study with a fundamentally flawed methodology is the entry point of this program.

Here is the excerpt of the New Jersey district court opinion, specifically equating “creative intelligence” to the concept of a “supreme being” or “god” as described by other religious traditions. Note that it isn’t just the use of the term “creative intelligence” that is at issue, it is the specific meaning and attributes associated with that term in the TM teaching context that disqualify any program containing that context from access to public schools.

These concepts concerning God or a supreme being of some sort are manifestly religious when they appear as tenets of Christianity or Buddhism or Hinduism. These concepts do not shed that religiosity merely because they are presented as a philosophy or as a science.[23] Similarly, whether an unmanifest and eternal field of life with all the characteristics attributed to it as the textbook attributes to creative intelligence is called a supreme being, god, the ultimate reality, Brahman, Tao, Allah, Nirvana, THIS, creative intelligence and the field of creative intelligence, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it, or the One is immaterial to determining the religious nature of the concept; although the precise conceptions or definitions of the ultimate reality or supreme being will differ from religion to religion, the religious nature of the concept is incontrovertible. Whether “God” is considered an ultimate universal principle or being or essence or entity or field of life on which the universe is based, has no bearing on the religious nature of the concept. It cannot be doubted that concepts of “God” or an ultimate level of life or ultimate reality are religious concepts.

Malnak v. Yogi, 440 F. Supp. 1284 – Dist. Court, D. New Jersey 1977 at 1322

Puja table set up for TM instruction.
The framed image is a registered trademark/service mark
held by Maharishi Foundation Liechtenstein in the United States.
Photo by the author.

The Malnak court also addressed the puja, the ceremony that is always performed at the start of individual instruction in TM.  In Chicago, as has been described by students, the puja and TM instruction were conducted on school premises; in New Jersey, initiation and the puja occurred off campus. Nevertheless, the New Jersey court decision dismissed the puja as inherently being a prayer inappropriate for a public school program, implying that that fact should be obvious to anyone:

The puja chant is an invocation of a deified human being who has been dead for almost a quarter of a century. An icon of this deified human being rests on the back of a table on which is placed a tray and offerings. During the singing of the chant, which identifies the items on the table and in the room as offerings to this deity, some of these offerings are lifted from the table by the chanter and placed onto the tray. It cannot be doubted that the invocation of a deity or divine being is a prayer. … The religious nature of prayer has been recognized by many courts,  … and the proposition needs no further demonstration here.

Malnak v. Yogi, 440 F. Supp. 1284 – Dist. Court, D. New Jersey 1977 at 1323

In an earlier filing in the Chicago case, the David Lynch Foundation made it clear that the teaching of TM disregards any conventional requirement for fully informed prior consent, that the high school students learning TM did not, and need not, know anything about the traditionally religious ritual that was an inherent part of TM instruction, which they would at minimum witness and in which they may cross the boundary into some form of incidental participation. In the course of defending themselves, they agree that basic information about what the ceremony is and what it means to the people performing it, and the organization, is withheld from prospective meditators. That it has been held to be a religious prayer in Federal court is not a trivial detail.

Plaintiffs take particular issue with a one-time “Puja” initiation ceremony led by a certified TM instructor, which ceremony students observed prior to learning and beginning to practice TM themselves through the practice of silently repeating “mantras” that were assigned to them by the instructor. Plaintiffs claim that the “Puja” and repetition of the mantras are Hindu religious rituals, although they readily concede that defendants did not attach any religious significance to any of these exercises; instead, admitting that students did not receive any explanation regarding any meaning behind the ceremony and that the mantras were not ascribed any meaning by the instructor.

“Defendant The David Lynch Foundation’s memorandum in support of its motion to dismiss plaintiff’s amended complaint,” N.D. Ill. 1:20-cv-04540 #50 10/27/2020

Along with the obvious nature of the puja as a religious expression, it may also be viewed as another practical aspect of the “Science of Creative Intelligence” which was previously enjoined from being taught in public schools. To establish that connection, an alternate definition of “creative intelligence” includes a description of terms and a doctrine into which a specific reason for the puja performance may be understood and is consistent with the basic understanding of how the universe works as depicted in SCI teaching materials.

In a preface to the first issue of a “Creative Intelligence” journal, attributed directly to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and  published in 1973, he discussed the “two values” of creative intelligence: absolute and relative. The “absolute” is that supreme being or impersonal source of intelligence expressed with many different synonyms in TM culture – including that it is a “field of creative intelligence” – and the “relative” is the physical reality in which we all live:

We have found, as the writers of the Vedas in the past found and the many thousands of practitioners of transcendental meditation in the present are finding, that creative intelligence in its functioning has two values: absolute and relative. Creative intelligence springs, like a banyan tree, from the centre of its seed, in which seemingly there is only a hollowness. In that unmanifest centre, that abstract area of the seed, lies the potentiality of the whole tree, the unexpressed source of all its expressions… We have described how the whole of creation in its manifest relative state arises from the absolute field of creative intelligence like the sprouting of a banyan tree from the hollowness within its seed.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, quoted in “Creative Intelligence, an international publication devoted to the Science of Creative Intelligence, number 1” (1973)

The significance of all this discussion of “absolute” and “relative” – terms that are often used informally among long-term meditators to describe what in other religious cultures might be called the “seen” and “unseen” worlds and (often using other synonymous terms) are key components of SCI doctrine – is that establishing a connection between those two realms is one of the specific purposes of the performance of the puja

The following quoted text, which describes explicitly one of the intentions of the puja as expressed at the beginning of the puja performance, is part of a doctoral thesis written by a teacher at one of the Maharishi schools in India, where the puja is simply a frequently performed “school prayer.” Unlike the translations of the puja and other explanations of the ritual previously available, this version, which I consider to be authoritative and an accurate account of how this puja is understood in India, includes clear explanations of meanings and purposes of many parts of it. 

The purpose of the puja described here is that it leads the mind (of both the teacher and prospective meditator) to that “absolute,” here described with a shift in terms, the “supreme state of purity.” It is indeed synonymous with “prayer,” but the means and mechanisms are made to sound completely irreligious, secular and somehow “scientific,” consistent with the ubiquitous word substitution which is the hallmark of SCI. It’s an attempt to misleadingly rewrite the Vedas into scientific texts, that has been the holy grail of global Hindu revivalist movements and their domestic right-wing political counterparts in India for at least the past century and a half.

The performance of the invocation starts with a resolution. This lays open to the intellect the clear possibility of fulfillment of life lived in Supreme Knowledge. The intention of the proclamation is to lead the mind to the supreme state of purity, which is gained permanently in the state of Supreme Knowledge, in which the Divine Unity becomes a living reality. The situation is that life as it is a composite of two spheres – relative and absolute. The relative is changing and the absolute is constant. Therefore, the Absolute is said to be pure and the relative impure. It is present in the waking state of consciousness, the state of pure consciousness and in the Cosmic Consciousness. Whatever be the state of life, it is necessary to have life in the celestial field or to have activity in the celestial light for Unity to develop and become a living reality.
Amlan Kumar Dey doctoral thesis, Gauhati University, 2017, page 82

(A more detailed exploration of this document, which reveals the specific meaning of each of the offerings including those usually brought by the prospective meditator, is being prepared for a future series of posts here at the TM-Free Blog.) 

As was true in the late 1970’s and is true today, the teaching of TM involves specific religious aspects that continue to be inappropriate for introduction into US public schools, or to otherwise entangle TM with government by any means or for any reason. In the intervening four decades, literal mountains of evidence of that fact have been generated by the TM organization to support that assertion. More than ever before, even after constant denials by TM’s proponents over all that time, the conclusion reached in Federal court, that the religiosity of TM is a “proposition [that] needs no further demonstration” is more true today than ever before.

At the time of this writing, it remains to be seen whether the Chicago lawsuit against the DLF and its allies will be dismissed on the basis of other technicalities, or whether it will continue forward to some conclusion consistent with these precedents and facts. 

You can’t spell TM without SCI” target=”_blank”>”You can’t spell TM without SCI”