Behavior: THE TM CRAZE: 40 Minutes to Bliss

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Before each game, New York Jets Quarterback Joe Namath finds a quiet spot and seems to nod off. In the middle of a gale on Long Island Sound, while her friends are wrestling with lines and sails, Wendy Sherman, a Manhattan adwoman, slips to the bow of a 36-ft. yawl, makes herself as comfortable as she can, and closes her eyes. On warm afternoons in Rome, Ga., Municipal Court Judge Gary Hamilton and his wife Virginia can be found on their screened porch, apparently dozing. It is not a compulsion to sleep that these and perhaps 600,000 other Americans have in common. It is TM, or Transcendental Meditation, a ritual that they practice almost religiously twice a day and every day.

Last week the man who brought TM to America and the rest of the world, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, was in the U.S. on one of his infrequent visits to spread The Word. The white-bearded guru visited his new university, the Maharishi International University in Iowa, and then flew to Los Angeles, where he taped the Merv Griffin show. Scores of his followers were in the audience, welcoming their leader with the traditional Indian greeting in which the hands are held, prayer-like, just below the chin.

"He's the greatest spiritual leader of our age," proclaimed one of the Maharishi's devoted band. "He hasn't established a religion, but a knowledge to benefit mankind."

Outside the TV studio, however, a group of Christian fundamentalists was present to demonstrate that the diminutive guru has attracted more than a few detractors. JESUS IS THE LORD, NOT MAHARISHI, read their signs. The Maharishi saw them, then was whisked away in his limousine to a suite in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. "We are not a religion," he retorted.

Why is there so much fuss about something so arcane-sounding as Transcendental Meditation? Simple. TM is the turn-on of the '70s—a drugless high that even the narc squad might enjoy.

All it demands of its practitioners is that they sit still for 20 minutes each morning and evening and silently repeat, over and over again, their specially assigned Sanskrit word, or mantra.

This simple exercise is the cureall, its adherents claim, for almost everything from high blood pressure and lack of energy to alcoholism and poor sexual performance. "I use it the way I'd use a product of our technology to overcome nervous tension," says Stanford Law Professor John Kaplan. "It's a nonchemical tranquilizer with no unpleasant side effects."

That recommendation alone is enough for many people in this Valium-saturated age, and the TM organization can scarcely keep up with those seeking nirvana by the numbers. Some 30,000 are signing up every month—more than three times as many as a year ago. There are now 370 TM centers around the country, and around 6,000 TM teachers.

The movement is biggest in that supermarket of Eastern cults and fads, California, which claims 123,000 meditators. According to the TM organization's statistics, there are also 300,000 TM meditators and 2,000 teachers in other countries. Canada leads the way with 90,000, followed by West Germany (54,000).

Books about TM are on both the hardcover and paperback bestseller lists, up there, for the moment at least, with the joys of sex, the dictates of diet, and the woes of Watergate.*

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