Because the Vedas have inspired the multitude of religious approaches collectively known as Hinduism, they are generally thought to be Hindu texts. But their ancestry in fact stretches back millennia in the history of humanity, before the modern religious era, as an oral, scientific tradition, best known for giving us Yoga (the art of living) and Ayurveda (the science of life).
The word Veda is normally translated as science, knowledge, or truth, and comprises the knowledge required by humanity to ‘live life in perfection’. This was cognised by yogis during the practice of Vedic meditation, brought to the surface of their minds and transmitted in chant form from generation to generation.
The most notable lineage of teachers who passed on Vedic meditation is the Shankaracharya tradition, including the great Veda Vyasa and Adi Shankara after whom it is named. Like all traditions it has had periods when the knowledge became distorted and was eventually restored to clarity by a great teacher.
The most recent of these restorations was in the early 20th Century when Swami Brahmananda Saraswati passed his clear perceptions of the reality of Vedic meditation to his disciple Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, to be brought out not just to India but to the whole world. Wishing to distinguish this restoration from the misunderstandings prevalent for more than a thousand years, Maharishi did not call his teaching of Vedic meditation by that name, but instead called it ‘Transcendental Meditation’. This new name is a description of how the process of Vedic meditation (during which the mind settles beyond activity, or ‘transcends’) differs significantly from other practices.
I discovered TM in 1980. My friend Vinod and I called it ‘real meditation’ because we felt that an undeniable breakthrough had been made in a tradition that cashes in more on legends than results… I remember being so taken with bewildered happiness that I said ‘it’s true!’… just that.” Dr Deepak Chopra