Disabled Army Vet Persuades VA to Terminate $8 Million David Lynch Foundation Study on Transcendental Meditation
Udovich's assertion that TM is a religious practice is supported by a federal court ruling that its required "Puja" ceremony violates the Establishment Clause.
LOS ANGELES, CA, August 04, 2022 -- This past June, the Veterans Administration (VA) terminated a study on Transcendental Meditation (TM) and PTSD funded by the David Lynch Foundation, a leading proponent of TM in the US. The decision came after Steve Udovich, a disabled retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and Iraq War Veteran, was introduced to TM when he attended a non-VA affiliated retreat for Veterans with PTSD. Udovich raised numerous concerns with the study via a letter to the VA's General Counsel. The VA's action derailed the Lynch Foundation's plans to access Veterans through the VA healthcare system.
Udovich's TM Experience and Response
Learning TM—a mandatory part of the retreat—included a Hindu worship ceremony, the Puja. While performing the ritual, the TM instructor makes 16 offerings with candles, incense, fruit, rice, flowers, and a white cloth while repeatedly bowing before an alter to Guru Dev, a deceased Hindu spiritual leader. The TM instructor chants the Puja in Sanskrit, a language commonly used in Hindu religious ceremonies.
Emotionally distressed for feeling he'd failed a test of his Christian faith by refusing the ceremony, Udovich says, "I asked for an English translation of the Puja because I wanted to know what I had participated in. But I was stonewalled; the program's executive and staff repeatedly deflected and provided misleading information."
Subsequently educating himself about TM, Udovich says, "I learned that deception is a big part of TM. Because they want government funding to pay for TM instruction, they can't be honest about their beliefs. And, because they have to hide the Hinduism at the core of the practice, they can't provide full disclosure or informed consent."
Udovich's assertion that TM is a religious practice is documented in a 1978 federal court ruling that the Puja violated the Establishment Clause and ordered the immediate cessation of all TM programs in New Jersey's public schools. (Malnak v. Yogi)
Learning that the David Lynch Foundation was self-funding an $8-million study of TM in the VA as a possible treatment for PTSD prompted Udovich's 8-page letter to the VA's General Counsel. The letter described potential violations of the Establishment Clause, VA policies related to protecting human subjects, and the VA Patient Bill of Rights. Also, Udovich suggested that the secrecy surrounding the Puja would make it difficult to obtain fully informed consent from study participants.
A letter from the San Diego VA Healthcare System Director informed Udovich that the study was canceled. He also received word from the Network Director of the VA's Institutional Review Board, which oversees all VA studies, confirming the study had been withdrawn and would not be resubmitted to the VA. "It speaks volumes about how problematic the study was if a disabled vet could derail it with a letter to the VA's General Counsel," says Udovich.
Udovich believes some Veteran organizations will continue to push TM as a treatment for 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 have to look elsewhere; they won't be pushing TM on unsuspecting vets in the VA system."
Aryeh Siegel, MSSA, MPH, was a Transcendental Meditation teacher for ten years 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 https://www.tmdeception.com/ website.
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Contact InformationAryeh Siegel
Los Angeles, CA
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