stage to protest TM program at Terra Linda High
Article Launched:10/13/2006 01:04:40 AM PDT
An information meeting about Transcendental Meditation ended
in a shouting match Thursday night at Terra Linda High School.
Principal Carole Ramsey hosted half a dozen supporters of
the program so they could explain it and answer questions from
parents who want to know more about the school's possible new
club. But Ramsey ended the meeting abruptly when a parent stormed
the stage, refused to leave and angrily denounced Transcendental
Meditation as a cult she'd broken free of after teaching it for
"There is the danger of becoming a cult member if you
learn it," said parent Susan Crittenden, whose son is a senior.
The disruption caused many parents to call for order and for
critics to respect Ramsey's goal of more providing
Ford Greene of San Anselmo, an attorney who specializes in
suing organizations such as the Church of Scientology, asks a
series of questions about a Transcendental Meditation program
at Terra Linda High School. At one point, several audience members
shouted at Greene to sit down. A Transcendental Meditation club
is being formed at the school. (IJ photo/Alan Dep)more information.
Parent Karin Buffenbarger said she attended because the program
sounds like it could help her freshman son concentrate better
on his homework, among other problems. She'd accusations in the
1970s that Transcendental Meditation is a cult, but that didn't
bother her before or after the meeting.
"My son is a bright kid," she said. "He can
put two and two together."
Ramsey has supported a Transcendental Meditation club that
would be voluntary and not part of the curriculum.
She said more than 60 students indicated interest in it after
physical education teacher David Garcia proposed it as a way to
reduce student stress.
To learn more about Transcendental Meditation, Ramsey attended
a lecture by noted filmmaker David Lynch, who is an advocate of
its ability to reduce anxiety, depression, behavior problems,
insomnia and other problems. She was impressed with what she heard
and obtained a $175,000 grant from the David Lynch Foundation,
which aims to spread the practice in schools, so Terra Linda students
Transcendental Meditation was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
to improve mental and physical health. Maharishi is perhaps most
famous for being a spiritual advisor to The Beatles when the group
experimented with Eastern religion in the 1960s.
Participants would take several workshops, including 90-minute
periods for four consecutive days, to learn the program. The goal
is to sit silently for 15-20 minutes twice a day with their eyes
closed to settle their minds and experience different levels of
thought until they have fewer, less intense thoughts.
It is not, supporters strenuously claim, a religion or philosophy
and practitioners do not change their lifestyles or experience
any types of mind control even though the founder, Maharishi,
is referred to in most instances as "His Holiness."
A consultant with the state Department of Education said this
week that she did not see a problem with the program in a public
"We embarked on this with a significant amount of research
and thought," Ramsey told the crowd of roughly 75 people
The meeting began with more than an hour of lectures by about
six supporters of Transcendental Meditation.
They included a Transcendental Meditation teacher from Sausalito
who provided an overview, a professor who explained the mental
health benefits and a retired Stanford University medical school
professor who described the overall benefits based on observations
during his long career. Even the headmaster from the Maharishi
School of the Age of Enlightenment for grade school children in
Ramsey's question-and-answer period opened innocently. One
mother said she was won over and just needed help convincing her
daughter to participate, while another wanted to know how clubs
Then Ramsey called on Ford Greene, a San Anselmo attorney who
fled the Unification Church and became an attorney who specializes
in suing organizations such as the Church of Scientology.
Greene asked Ashley Deans, headmaster of the school in Iowa,
several pointed questions about the method that mantras are delivered
to students, how much takes place one on one, and whether the
Terra Linda program is similar to a class taught at Deans' school
that a court banned from public schools in 1979. Greene also questioned
Deans' motive for being at Terra Linda because he appears in a
promotional video on the organization's official Web site that
recruits new members.
"Part of your purpose is to sell people on the belief,"
Deans responded by saying Greene misunderstood the program
and his questions were too detailed to explain without teaching
the technique. He also said Greene inaccurately implied Transcendental
Meditation is linked with Hinduism.
"It doesn't matter what you believe," Deans said.
Several audience members began shouting at Greene to sit down
and allow others to speak. Ramsey tried to move the discussion
on, but that's when a visibly angry Crittenden stormed the stage
and began lecturing the crowd.
"It is part of a destructive cult," she said.
Ramsey told Crittenden to leave the stage and, when that didn't
happen, announced about 30 seconds later that the entire meeting
was over. While the crowd gathered around the front of the auditorium
to listen to Greene and other critics, Crittenden got in the face
of Garcia, the physical education teacher who proposed the program,
and told him to leave her son alone.
Garcia tried to discuss Crittenden's issues, but gave up and
asked others not to speak with her.
"Personally, I think it's great," Garcia said. "I'm
a Catholic and it doesn't interfere with my religion."
Amy Villase or , whose son graduated from Terra Linda in 1995,
said she attended because the program may be helpful, but it should
be taught privately and not in a public school. She said she was
annoyed Ramsey let supporters of Transcendental Meditation have
the stage with computer presentations for an hour, then ended
the event as soon as critics raised questions.
"What's the problem with both sides being heard?"