How is TM different from other forms of "mantra" meditation?

There are many forms of “mantra” meditation — traditional japa, Benson’s relaxation response, so-called "primordial sound" meditation, to name a few. Mantra meditation practices are generally forms of controlled focus, employing degrees of concentration or sustained attention. 

The Transcendental Meditation technique, a process of "automatic self-transcending," does involve silent use of a specialized mantra or sound, but uses the specific mantra in a unique way. The TM technique is fundamentally different from other kinds of “mantra” practices, primarily because of:

1. TM's effortlessness, naturalness and simplicity
2. Its holistic range of scientifically validated benefits
3. Its standardized, systematic, yet personalized program of instruction
4. The kind of mantras used—specifically, authentic mantras known to have life-supportive, harmonizing effects and which facilitate the process of transcending
What's a mantra?
The Sanskrit word 'mantra' came into common English usage in the 1970s — when millions of people around the world were learning the TM technique. The word now appears in English dictionaries, defined as “a repeated word or phrase.”

The different kinds of mantra meditations use a seemingly endless variety of "mantras" and use them in many different ways. Some forms of mantra meditation are religious — such as "centering prayer" — others, such as TM practice, are free of religious context.

In the Transcendental Meditation program, the word 'mantra' has a specific meaning: it is a vehicle for transcending — for going beyond mental activity to finer and finer stages of the thinking process, until one arrives at the field of pure consciousness or the state of restful alertness. Meditators commonly describe this state as the deepest, most peaceful and creative level of the mind — one's silent, inmost self.

Personal instruction in the TM technique involves learning two main components: 

• A mantra or sound that is suitable for the individual
• How to use the mantra to transcend

More about how TM is different from other "mantra" meditations
The Transcendental Meditation technique differs from other mantra-type meditation practices in these ways:

• The use of specific mantras long known to be effective for settling the mind.
(These sounds are not words, only sounds: they are not associated with meaning. That the sounds are free from meaning is important to facilitate transcending.) Hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies on the TM technique have shown that the correct use of these particular sounds (received in their proper pronunciation from a certified TM instructor) produces life-supportive, all-positive results.

• The traditional, specialized way in which TM mantras are imparted, ensuring that the student receives the correct mantra in its proper form — and in accordance with the time-tested teaching procedures of this ancient tradition of meditation.

• The way one is taught to use the mantra properly in meditation — in a natural, effortless way that allows the mind to settle inward and transcend.

• The TM technique’s purity or authenticity in the Vedic Tradition.

• A systematic method of instruction — with experienced, rigorously trained certified teachers — allowing the technique to be easily learned and producing consistent positive results.

• Support and follow-up, including personal "checking" of meditation to stabilize correct practice — as needed, free for the rest for your life.

• Extensive validation by scientific research, verifying a range of benefits not reported from research on any other meditation technique, such as significantly decreased anxiety, reduction of high blood pressure, decreased heart attack and stroke, and much more.

If you attend an introductory talk on the TM technique, the teacher will help further clarify the distinctions between TM practice and other forms of meditation.

VIDEO: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the correct use of mantras

• I heard that some mantras have meaning and can be religious — is this true of TM mantras?

• What if I meditate using a mantra that has a meaning?

• Do the TM mantras have roots in a religious tradition?

• Why are the TM mantras kept private?

• So once I learn, I can’t teach the TM technique to others?

Read more about the three major categories of meditation techniques:

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