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Zen, Yoga, TM, and Kabbalah: The Great Meditation Debate

Meditating in Madison Sq. Park, NYC by Beyond My Ken

Zen, Yoga, TM, and Kabbalah: Meditation Styles

Meditation for the masses has been around for nearly 50 years—and that’s pretty much a good thing. Even the American Psychological Association touts the benefits of meditation, which are widely accepted and include: relief from stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, feelings of well being, and much more.

Since meditation became acceptable in the West (beginning in a big way in the 1960s with the Beatles’ introduction of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, their soon-to-be dumped guru), the types of meditation available to even the most casual seeker have multiplied rapidly. A variety of meditative techniques are on offer in even small towns in the U.S. and other Western countries.

Some popular meditation styles and techniques include yogic (yoga) meditations, of which there seems to be endless varieties of practices and forms. These styles are deeply intertwined with Hindu (and often Buddhist), outlook and rest solidly on a religious foundation. Some of yoga’s major Western proponents shy away from acknowledging the religious nature of many of these practices—they fervently declare yoga and its branch of meditative techniques are  “spiritual” but not religious. They also say they are accessible and beneficial to everyone, even those who practice other religions.

In fact, many say yoga transcends religion. Others say most yoga as it is taught today has been so stripped of its religious meanings that it no longer qualifies as belonging to a particular religion.

Others disagree. They say you can take the yoga out of India, but you can’t take the Hindu religion out of Yoga. Christians (in a recent USA Today article and elsewhere), often object to what they see as a disingenuous watering down of yoga’s Hindu practices and beliefs. So do religious Muslims and some religious Jews. In fact, Hindus themselves decry the lack of acknowledgment of Yoga’s religious qualities.

Zen Buddhist meditation (often referred to simply as Zen meditation), and its variants are based in Buddhism, also–by most accounts–a religion. Though again, many of Zen’s Western proponents prefer to call it a spiritual path or philosophy or outlook rather than a religion. There are several kinds of other Buddhist meditation besides Zen, including Transcendental Meditation (TM), which was formulated and taught by the Beatle’s one-time above mentioned guru, now deceased.  TM is largely credited with helping some of the Beatles get off drugs. It is based on both Hinduism and Buddhism, among other religions, and is a mantra-based meditation.

So what’s all the fuss about? More about the great meditation debate, coming soon!

Zen, Yoga, TM, and Kabbalah: The Great Meditation Debate

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2011). Zen, Yoga, TM, and Kabbalah: The Great Meditation Debate. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 6, 2019, from


Last updated: 22 Jun 2011
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