This past June, the Veterans Administration (VA) terminated a proposed study on Transcendental Meditation (TM) funded by the David Lynch Foundation, a leading TM promoter in the US. The decision came after disabled Army Veteran Steve Udovich wrote to the VA’s Office of General Counsel.
Udovich, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and Iraq War Veteran learned TM at Boulder Crest, a non-VA affiliated residential retreat for Veterans with PTSD. Learning TM was a mandatory part of the program and required Udovich’s participation in a Hindu worship ceremony known as a Puja. During the ceremony, the TM instructor chants the Puja in Sanskrit while making 16 offerings with candles, incense, fruit, flowers, and white cloth while repeatedly bowing before a photo of a deceased Hindu spiritual leader.
Before and after the ceremony, Udovich was assured there was nothing religious about the Puja, but what he experienced was, by any reasonable definition, religious. Extremely distressed for feeling he’d failed a test of his Christian faith by participating in the ceremony, Udovich says, “I asked administrative and program staff for an English translation of the ceremony because I wanted to learn more about what I had experienced. I was stonewalled.”
Subsequently educating himself about TM, Udovich says, “I learned that deception is a big part of the TM process. Because they want government funding to pay for TM instruction, they can’t be honest about what they believe.” He believes TM is incompatible for any Christian, Muslim, or Jewish veteran who’s serious about their faith.
Udovich’s assertion that TM is a religious practice is well documented in books and articles by former TM teachers. Also, in 1978, a federal court ruled that the Puja violated the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution and ordered the immediate cessation of all TM programs in New Jersey’s public schools. (See Malnak v. Yogi, U.S. Court, New Jersey, 1978)
Learning the Lynch Foundation was funding an $8-million study of TM and PTSD in the VA prompted Udovich’s 8-page letter to the VA’s Office of General Counsel. Udovich cited violations of the Establishment Clause, VA policies related to protecting human subjects, and the VA Patient Bill of Rights. Also, Udovich suggested that TM’s secrecy would make it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain fully informed consent from participants in any study involving TM.
Apparently, the office of the General Council agreed with Udovich’s assessment. His letter derailed the Lynch Foundation’s plan to teach TM to Veterans through the VA healthcare system. A letter to Udovich from the San Diego VA Healthcare System Director stated that the study was canceled. He also received word from the Network Director of the VA’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) confirming the study had been withdrawn and would not be resubmitted. The IRB reviews all VA research studies before implementation.
Udovich believes some organizations will continue to push TM as a treatment for Veterans with PTSD, and his mission to inform his fellow veterans about it is just beginning. But he’s confident that the David Lynch Foundation’s plan to teach TM to a half-million veterans at VA facilities across the country has been thwarted. Udovich says, “They saw my fellow Iraq and Afghanistan Vets with PTSD as recruits; now they won’t be pushing TM on unsuspecting vets in the VA system.”
Aryeh Siegel, MSW, MPH, taught Transcendental Meditation and Directed TM’s Institute for Social Rehabilitation for five years in the mid-1970s. He is the author of Transcendental Deception: Behind the TM curtain-bogus science, hidden agendas, and David Lynch’s campaign to push a million public school kids into Transcendental Meditation while falsely claiming it is not a religion (Janreg Press, 2018). You can read more about his work on his website.
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