How Do I Choose A Meditation Teacher?

“If we decide that we really want the best meditation teacher, then we may have to travel, we may have to make extraordinary arrangements, or we may have the amazing great, good fortune of there being somebody right there in our neighborhood. And if we have that amazing, good fortune, we should take advantage of it.”

Thom Knoles

Episode Summary

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to choosing a meditation technique, let alone a teacher to learn from. Many don’t choose a teacher at all, and go the do-it-yourself route, perhaps with the help of an app, or an audio or video found online.

While one can certainly receive some benefits from these approaches, Thom shares in this episode that the goal should be to get maximum impact from your meditations, rather than just ‘some’ impact.

Thom explains the value of using an ancient technique, one that’s been proven for thousands of years and used by millions around the world.

He also describes the rigorous process that aspiring Vedic Meditation teachers go through when learning from Thom. Apart from the thousands of hours of practical and learning experience gathered over a number of years, the trainee Initiator also has to prove they can meet and maintain the standard required by the Shankaracharya lineage that has passed down the technique over the years.

Thom’s teacher’s teacher, Guru Dev, once famously said, “You deserve the best…” (see above for the full quote), and if you follow the advice Thom shares in this episode, you can be sure that’s what you’ll be getting.

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Episode Highlights


 Getting Maximum Impact



An Ancient Tradition



Step Beyond Thinking Entirely



Healthy Skepticism



Mood Making and Pretty Thoughts



Rigorous Prerequisites for Becoming a Vedic Meditation Teacher



Intensive Training for Vedic Meditation Teachers



Graduation as a Vedic Meditation Initiator



Effort Well Spent



The Promise of Self-Sufficiency


Jai Guru Deva


How Do I Choose A Meditation Teacher?

Getting Maximum Impact

The question about what you should be looking for with regard to learning to meditate is a question that enters the mind of everyone who’s considering embarking on a practice that is going to awaken knowledge of the inner Self, the big Self.

[00:01:04] And it’s a natural question because if I’m going to practice something that takes many minutes, 20 minutes in our case of Vedic Meditation, 20 minutes, twice a day, 40 minutes a day, if I’m going to be practicing something that takes that much time and if I’m going to turn that into a regular strategic practice that’s done daily then, naturally, I want to know that I’m investing my time well and that I’m going to be getting maximum impact from the amount of time that I’m going to spend both learning it and also practicing it, preferably over a period of many years practicing.

[00:01:41] And so the starting-off point is one where that critical question has to be asked, “From whom should I be learning?”

An Ancient Tradition

[00:01:49] I also asked the same question when I was a new student to meditation more than 50 years ago and I had the great, good fortune of being introduced fairly quickly in my seeking to my own teacher, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who had learned this from his master, Guru Dev. We call him Guru Dev for short, his full name was Swami Brahmananda Sarasvati, one of the masters of an ancient tradition dating back, perhaps as much as 10,000 years.

[00:02:25] That to me was very important because it meant that the research and development of the technique, its application, its experiences, a methodology of teaching, and what kinds of results to expect, and how to progress systematically through the technique and all of its advanced programs, was something that was very, very deeply known. I mean, thousands of years, within that period of time, millions of students reporting back what their experiences are. That is a very rigorously kept body of knowledge.

[00:03:02] So when I became trained as an instructor in the meditation that I teach, I was able to enjoy teaching with that background of knowledge that I was teaching something that had been around for thousands of years. And my students got the advantage, when learning from me, of all of that background of experience of thousands of teachers and millions of practitioners.

Step Beyond Thinking Entirely

[00:03:27] And so this is the starting point in answering the question, if someone cannot reach a qualified instructor in Vedic Meditation, someone who has either been trained by me, or who has been trained by someone who I’ve approved, who’s been trained by me, then there are a myriad alternatives under the name of “meditation.”

[00:03:52] I would like to point out that when we, in Vedic Meditation, use the word meditation, it is somewhat of a misnomer because when I look in my dictionary, the word meditation means, “a thought process,” that’s the Oxford English dictionary short version of meditation.

[00:04:10] And in fact, we’re not really engaging in thinking about thinking, or thinking about not thinking, or thinking lovely thoughts, or trying to hypnotize ourselves, or inducing any kind of a trance state, or having to listen to someone’s voice while we have our eyes closed, which would be a distraction on its own, so lack of self-sufficiency. 

And so then now we’re kind of narrowing down the field that, what I recommend, would be anyone who was teaching a technique that openly declares that it has a methodology whereby the student can step beyond thought, to step beyond thinking entirely.

Healthy Skepticism

[00:04:57] And for the teacher, as far as who would be qualified, is it someone who has been practicing that themselves, who knows the technique very well? Has it come from a tradition or is it something that’s been innovated relatively recently and has relatively little history about it? The shorter the history of a technique, the more I would be wanting to exercise a healthy skepticism.

[00:05:23] By the way, skepticism does not mean the same as cynicism, they’re often used interchangeably, but incorrectly. So the word skepticism means being open to evidence. Being open is what a skeptic really is, someone who’s open to evidence, but hasn’t yet formed an opinion, but is open to forming an opinion. A cynic is someone who has already formed an opinion, with or without evidence, which is a negative opinion about a thing.

[00:05:50] So not cynicism, but healthy skepticism, means provide yourself with that intellectual filter through which any teacher who offers themself as a teacher should need to pass through that critical examination of what it is that they’re teaching. Because after all, if what we’re going to be spending time doing in our practice of meditation, with eyes closed or otherwise, is simply continuing to have waking state thoughts.

Mood Making and Pretty Thoughts

[00:06:19] Continuing to have what I sometimes refer to as very pretty thoughts, very pretty thoughts about this and very pretty thoughts about that, “I am feeling very royal and regal, I’m feeling very kingly or I’m feeling very queenly and I really deserve the best and  my life is blossoming and I’m really a fundamental front for nature’s intelligence.” These pretty thoughts and lovely ideas, especially if spoken to you by somebody else through an app in your ear, really all you’re doing is what we refer to as “mood making.”

[00:06:54] And mood making is not able to be verified by modern scientific evidence as producing any kinds of changes that would be sustainable or beneficial in terms of releasing stress. The enduring effect is what we’re after. We want the enduring effect of stepping beyond thought entirely, not just a temporary mood change.

Rigorous Prerequisites for Becoming a Vedic Meditation Teacher

[00:07:21] It’s been important to me because of my own training to replicate exactly the training through which I went with my own teacher, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in bringing this knowledge to the hundreds of teachers of Vedic Meditation—we call them Initiators, an Initiator is someone who can initiate somebody into the practice—so that we have continuity from ancient times all the way through to modern times.

[00:07:54] When someone is interested in becoming a teacher of Vedic Meditation, the first prerequisite is that they have to have practiced the technique regularly, twice each day, for at least two years and then they’re eligible to apply for teacher training

Once somebody applies then it triggers, the application itself triggers, a mentoring process where my mentoring team help the applicant get through a considerable amount of prerequisite training, several hundred hours of, listening to and participating in, recorded knowledge sessions, an advanced course which I created about, of about 90 hours, called Exploring the Veda.

[00:08:44] Another course, which is about the same length, called Mastering the Siddhis. The Siddhis are the ancient formulae for developing and maintaining extraordinary human capabilities developed by Maharishi Patanjali.

[00:09:03] Plus, a number of other prerequisites, for example, going to special retreats and participating at the highest level in intensive industrial-strength meditation programs that we call rounding.

Intensive Training for Vedic Meditation Teachers

[00:09:20]And then once somebody has completed their prerequisites there’s a final process of deciding who should come in which particular year of training, we try to have these training programs once each year, and typically out of about 60 to a hundred applications, we’ll select around 12 people or so to come for training within a given year.

[00:09:45] Once they’ve been selected, they come with me to India, into the foothills of the Himalayas, where they commence a process of training that goes for a solid 12 weeks, and that’s 12 weeks without any days off. There are no days off, there’s no real free time, because we have to pack as much as we can into this program to make it as short as 12 weeks of residential full-time training.

[00:10:16] And the training really is 24 hours a day because even in the night there’s a program to be done while people are resting. A special night time resting program is put there.

Graduation as a Vedic Meditation Initiator

[00:10:29] The final process is one of completing all of their considerable number of exams, and they’re also peer reviewed, that is to say course participants are engaged in the process of peer reviewing each other, as well as them having to meet my own standard, and the standard of my colleague course leaders.

[00:10:53] And then in the end the graduation process is overseen by the Supreme Authority of the Vedic worldview, the King of the yogis in India, who gives the final blessing after having himself examined our course graduates.

[00:11:12] So it’s a very thorough going process and one which, when successful, individual applicants, having been reviewed by the King of the yogis, are inducted into the Shankaracharya tradition itself, and represent that ancient tradition when teaching in the world outside of India. Extremely thorough and exhaustive process through which teachers go.

[00:11:41] So I guess that really narrows the field and I would also hasten to say that it should be possible, by making contact with my managers through my website,, to locate someone who has been trained properly to teach Vedic Meditation.

Effort Well Spent

[00:12:03] And if there’s a little waiting time involved, so be it. “They also serve who only stand and wait,” is a quotation from Blake [Milton], talking about the angels waiting at the door of the kingdom of heaven, that they also serve who only stand and wait.

[00:12:17] If we decide that we really want the best teacher, then we may have to travel, we may have to make extraordinary arrangements, or we may have the amazing great, good fortune of there being somebody right there in our neighborhood. And if we have that amazing, good fortune, we should take advantage of it.

[00:12:38] In most major cities of the world a teacher of Vedic Meditation either resides there or near there or travels through that major city, and my team can help you begin a process of forming a strategy for making contact with a teacher for four days, it takes about four days to learn Vedic Meditation, each day about 90 minutes of instruction, and for you to have that amount of time with the teacher, so you can be properly trained in this method.

[00:13:09] And this is the method which obviously, I’m declaring my bias here openly, this is the method that I recommend.

The Promise of Self-Sufficiency

[00:13:17] Self-sufficiency is a very important element of any regular spiritual practice. “I don’t want to have to be bound to say, a set of headphones, or an earplug, or I don’t get signal on my iPhone in this particular place where I’m having 10 days away so I can’t get to my app, or my phone broke so I can’t do my spiritual practice.”

[00:13:40] Self-sufficiency means that you learn something from a teacher who trains you how to practice it self sufficiently. Then you have regular access to that technique and its results. And of course regularly meeting with your teacher is an important thing, but the teacher’s real skill is going to lie in the degree to which, by teaching you, they can grant you self-sufficiency, self-reliance.

[00:14:11] You are able to rely on what you’ve learned from the teacher, practice it and put it in place, irrespective of where you are, irrespective of what kind of environment you find yourself in, that that teaching, that practice, and that direct experience is accessible to you simply with a mere impulse of intention on your part.

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