Science of Spirituality (religious organization)

A place for pondering (Newsday)

Pat Burson, Newsday: Mona Bector, a New York City employee who lives in Fresh Meadows, says meditation has given her a deeper peace, even in troubled times.

“You’d be amazed at how many people at work are always asking me how I can be so calm when things are going crazy,” says Bector, 33, a budget officer for the city’s Department of Education. “The more you meditate, the stronger your faith is. It helps me, and it helps other people to appreciate the path that I’m on.”

Bector, raised a Hindu, belongs to the Science of Spirituality, a worldwide nonprofit organization that teaches that meditation is at the core of all religions.

Last week, the first Science of Spirituality center in the Northeast opened in Amityville. The organization’s worldwide headquarters is in Delhi, India; its U.S. headquarters is in Naperville, Ill.

Almost 1,000 people from different backgrounds, cultures and religious traditions from New York City, Long Island and New England, and parts of South America, Europe and Africa, flocked to the weekend- long opening ceremonies at the County Line Road center. Many participants from the area, such as Bector, had been meeting for years in local churches, synagogues and homes….

Wherever they have met, they say the organization’s teachings have put them on the path to peace and tranquillity in their lives and in the world.

The spiritual leader of the Science of Spirituality is Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj, a Sikh who travels around the world to teach people of all beliefs and walks of life how daily meditation and ethical living can improve their lives, their connection with God and their relationships with others.

Singh, former president of the World Fellowship of Religions, has written more than a dozen books, including “Inner and Outer Peace Through Meditation,” which includes a foreword by the Dalai Lama.

‘All walks of life’

Last month at a tour of the center, Singh said, “In our organization here, we have people from all walks of life and all faiths of life. It is not about propagating any one religion as such…. We focus on the meditative aspects of each one of our teachings.”

The Amityville center, in a renovated synagogue, was purchased in late February. The main sanctuary will be used for weekly meetings, meditation workshops and large interfaith gatherings. A library contains books on mysticism and the world’s leading religions. The building has a high-speed Internet connection to allow participants to watch Singh’s monthly live broadcasts.

For now, members meet at noon on Sundays to meditate and read from religious teachings. Another meeting is offered in Hindi on Wednesdays, and organizers say they want to expand to other languages.

“We celebrate what we have in common through meditation, and appreciate differences in our religious and cultural backgrounds,” says Stephanie Goldreyer of Merrick, who has been a member of Science of Spirituality since 1971 and now works as the communications coordinator at the meditation center.

“That gives us a deeper understanding of our religious traditions.”

The tenets of Science of Spirituality include the belief in one God. “We feel there is one God, whether we call God by the name of the creator or we call God Jehovah or we call God Allah or by any other name,” Singh says. “There is one creator and all creation came into being from that creator. We feel there are many paths to God, and each could be going in whatever way makes sense to them, but the goal is the same. So we consider ourselves to be members of one big family of God, and we try to experience that oneness with God.”

Singh says participants don’t have to give up their religion to become a participant in the Science of Spirituality. The organization is funded with voluntary donations from its members.

The heart of the Science of Spirituality is Sant Mat, a method of meditation that was born centuries ago in India. Goldreyer says, “It becomes a universal appreciation of people and whatever tradition they practice because we realize the universality of humankind through meditation. Meditation is a very tangible way to connect with that.”

The purpose of meditation is to go beyond the physical to a deeper spiritual place, Singh says. “Right now we’re living at the level of our senses. We want to go within because we feel that God is not up in the sky but God is within each and every one of us… and we are able to experience God in our lives and that is what gives us joy and peace and tranquillity.”

Singh’s background Born in 1946 in New Delhi, Singh completed his undergraduate work in engineering at Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, followed by graduate school at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. He worked 20 years in engineering and communications.

He studied with two of India’s greatest spiritual luminaries, Sant Kirpal Singh Ji Maharaj and his successor, Sant Darshan Singh Ji Maharaj. Sant Kirpal Singh was the first Sant Mat teacher to come to the West.

Singh, who says he receives no money from participants, teaches that meditation helps individuals to know themselves and God. Healthy rewards of an hour or two of meditation each day also include improved concentration, reduced stress and better efficiency, he says.

Science of Spirituality also promotes a vegetarian diet, chastity and sobriety.

Such teachings appeal to Michael Mott, raised Catholic, who says he got involved with Science of Spirituality 16 years ago when he was at a crossroads.

“I went through a change in life, and I was looking for an answer,” says Mott, 54, who holds Science of Spirituality meetings on alternate Wednesdays at his East Hampton home. “It’s you and it’s me, and if I can be a peaceful person, I will affect other people, and I will affect myself. … It’s a beautiful message.” His wife, Tina Saposhnik, 57, who was raised Jewish, says she loves the multicultural atmosphere within the organization and at the new meditation center. “It’s so international that you really start understanding other people,” she says.

“Nobody’s ever excluded.”

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Meditation now being used for health benefits

Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, Indiana: Five adults gathered in a northeast Miami library one recent evening to learn a meditation technique that spans centuries and continents, from India to Aventura, from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to the Beatles.

Carlos and Sylvia Ranalli weren’t there for spiritual reasons. They were hoping transcendental meditation, or TM, could help them calm, focus and relieve stress.

They’re indicative of a nationwide trend, as meditation is now taught in health clubs, schools, offices, even prisons. The technique was featured in a recent Time magazine, which reported that 10 million Americans practice some form of meditation. In South Florida, professors are investigating the relationship between meditation and the ability to negotiate.

In contrast to its religious roots, today’s meditation is buoyed less by spiritual figures than by scientific studies documenting health benefits.

”If you go back 30 years, what was meditation? Meditation was a thing a bunch of hippies did,” said Doug Kruger, regional representative for the Science of Spirituality.

”Now, it’s not uncommon to walk into large corporations and see meditation classes,” he continued. “It’s become much more popular in the West, but it has lost its spiritual side.”

At the recent TM lecture, instructor Mike Scozzari, a graying man in a pressed shirt, handed out packets of photocopied medical studies and newspaper articles on meditation.

Trained in Spain and Switzerland with TM founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Scozzari said he has been teaching meditation since 1972.

TM is one of dozens of meditation techniques — some concentrate on breathing, others call for focusing on a specific place or a third eye, while some try to solve an impossible riddle (for instance, what is the sound of one hand clapping?). But TM is the most widely researched form, and also one of the most popular, practiced by 1.5 million Americans.

Maharishi, who taught TM to the Beatles, received a degree in physics before he started teaching meditation in 1955. Two years later, he founded the TM movement, which comes from ancient Hindu traditions, in Madras, India.

With a background bridging science and spirituality, Maharishi urged researchers to probe meditation. And he emphasized that TM must be standardized — each instructor teaches the same set of skills.

Maharishi’s appeal to science is evident in the way Scozzari opened his talk, by calling TM a ”mechanical technique,” not a religion.

Often, Scozzari said, this is a concern. He remembered one woman who signed up for lessons, then canceled after her pastor told her not to go.

Despite the real link between meditation and some religions, Scozzari compares meditation to math.

TM is a mantra-based meditation technique, which means that one meditates by repeating a meaningless sound assigned by the instructor. Repeating the mantra allows the mind to stop working and settle naturally into a rhythm.

”You lose awareness of your surroundings, who’s at the door and who’s on the phone,” he said.

You can do it anywhere, eyes closed, in any comfortable position. In contrast to other types of meditation, TM doesn’t involve concentration. If you work hard, you’re doing something wrong, Scozzari is fond of telling students. “In this method, you change what you think with, you don’t change what you think about.”


It worked for Alexandra Peters of Sunny Isles. She was stressed and struggling after moving from New York to Miami with her baby daughter over a year ago, and meditation helped her return to her ”intuitive” self, she said.

When Susi Deneroff comes home from work ”frazzled to death,” she meditates for 20 minutes by repeating a mantra, and then feels reinvigorated.

”Meditation saved my life,” said Deneroff, who has a family history of heart disease, but is 60 and healthy.

Adeyela Albury, who investigates sexual harassment claims for Miami-Dade Public Schools, started taking a meditation class with her daughter when the 12-year-old started having panic attacks. Since then, the daughter’s grades have improved, and Albury’s high blood pressure has decreased.

”It allows me to be loving but detached,” she said. “Once you learn the technique, you literally can lock in within a second to center your mind and body.”


Science has tried to put a finer point on it, with rigorous studies — hundreds on transcendental meditation — beginning in the 1970s.

A 1972 paper by Harvard Medical School researchers, part of the packet Scozzari hands out, reported that metabolism and the need for oxygen drop during meditation. These findings, along with monitoring electrical activity of meditators’ brains, show meditation is a distinctly different state from sleep.

It also seems to have long-term benefit. Studies measuring the biological markers of aging — blood pressure, vision and hearing — found that meditators were younger than their chronological age.

Earlier this month at a cardiology conference in Orlando, researchers presented studies on the effect of TM on blood pressure. Among 150 black men and women divided into groups taught health education, TM or muscle relaxation, blood pressure dropped the most in the group that meditated. One suggested theory: meditation reduces stress-related hormones believed to contribute to high blood pressure.

”If the mind can contribute to heart disease, then the mind can contribute to healing heart disease,” said Dr. Robert Sneider, the study’s principal investigator.

It’s meditation’s effect on mental health that interests Clark Freshman, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law, who meditates regularly. Freshman is investigating how meditation affects the ability to negotiate successfully. The link, he said, is that people who report being in a ”positive mood” are more successful negotiators, and people are often in a ”slightly better mood” after meditating.

”It’s not quite a high, it’s just a sense of complete ease,” Freshman said. “It’s a calmness and pleasantness, unlike anything I’d ever felt before.”

The meditators meeting at the Aventura library used similar terms. One suggested ”restful, blissful.” One said he no longer feels the desire for cigarettes or alcohol. Another described it as ”orgasmic.” They all agreed.

[Original article no longer available.]
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