The Impact of Maharishi's Vedic Science Based
Education in Higher Education:
The Example of Maharishi International University

Christopher H. Jones

Maharishi International University
Fairfield, Iowa, U.S.A.

Part 4

Research that Expands the Scope of Higher Education Assessment

Several areas of research on the impact of Maharishi's Vedic Science based education go beyond the usual paradigm of educational evaluation. Specifically, three areas that MIU has pioneered are the impact of college on (a) consciousness as a whole, (b) physiology and health, and (c) societal trends.

The effect of Vedic Science based education on consciousness as a whole. Educational reformers, from Plato onwards, have emphasized development of "the whole person," but little attention has gone to measuring such an abstract entity. Even Winter, McClelland, and Stewart (1982) in their study of liberal education settled for outcome measures such as dealing flexibly and consistently with rational argument, and showing less egotism and more maturity in one's response to authority figures. In contrast, several researchers on Maharishi's Vedic Science based education have concentrated their efforts on understanding the development of consciousness as a whole, based on the understanding that body, mind, and environment all have a common origin in pure consciousness.

The research cited above on intelligence at MIU is relevant to the assessment of the development of consciousness because intelligence is a very general measure of intellectual functioning, predicting 35 to 50% of the variance in academic or occupational performance (Sax, 1980). Nevertheless, it is still far from a measure of consciousness as a whole. The research on electroencephalographic (EEG) change with the TM and TM-Sidhi program, showing intra- and inter-hemispheric coherence, is another broad measure of mental functioning which offers more promise as a measure of the degree of communication or shared information in the brain (Haynes, Hebert, Reber, & Orme-Johnson, 1977). A review of a number of studies has shown that EEG coherence is correlated with a broad variety of performance tasks, including creativity, the paired Hoffman reflex, grade point average, IQ, moral reasoning, and concept learning (Alexander, Boyer, & Alexander, 1987). EEG coherence thus may be the most successful physiological measure to date of the development of consciousness as a whole.

In contrast to these objective, though indirect, means of measuring the overall development of consciousness, Alexander (1982) and Alexander et al. (1987) have developed a measure based on the subjective descriptions of states of consciousness in Maharishi's Vedic Science. This measure uses statements in simple, direct language which the subject has to rate as descriptive or not descriptive of his or her experience. Many of the descriptions correspond to predicted experiences in the development of higher states of consciousness as set forth in Maharishi's Vedic Science. Research with adults using this "States of Consciousness Inventory" represents a potentially fruitful approach to the assessment of the growth of consciousness students undergo at Vedic Science based institutions.

The only study to date (Cranson et al., 1989) using this method on Vedic Science based education included an elaborated version of a descriptor from Alexander's earlier questionnaire which asked for subjects' experience of inner wakefulness during sleep. Inner awareness during sleep, called "witnessing sleep" (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1969), is according to Maharishi's Vedic Science one of the most reliable signs of the growth of higher states of consciousness that develop spontaneously through the regular practice of Maharishi's TM technique. Specifically witnessing sleep signifies the dawning of cosmic consciousness, the first stable higher state of consciousness (after sleeping, dreaming, waking, and transcendental consciousness). Cranson found that MIU students ranked above controls from another university on the reported frequency of witnessing during sleep, with a mean score of 3.2 on a scale of 11; and they made significant progress in a two-and-a-half-year interval to a score of 3.8. Two more studies with MIU students are in progress using this same questionnaire.

The effect of Vedic Science based education on physiology and health. In an age as conscious as ours of stress and its effects on the body, few doubt anymore the importance of a sound and relatively stress-free physiology to effective mental performance. Yet no college assessment programs, to our knowledge, have looked at the effect of college on health and physiological functioning.-3-

As discussed above, research on Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program with adults and college students has demonstrated the physiological benefits of this educational technology. Studies specifically on Maharishi's Students' TM-Sidhi Course by Wallace et al. (1983) found improvements in the overall tone of the nervous system as measured by the paired Hoffman reflex recovery. Similarly, Orme-Johnson (1982) developed a model of the functional integration of the brain using levels of inter-hemispheric and intra-hemispheric coherence of the brain waves. Compared with meditating controls who did not take the TM-Sidhi course, he found, among those who completed the course, increases in coherence at the alpha and theta frequencies from all pairs of electrodes.

Current research on the effects of Maharishi's Vedic Science based education at MIU is using brain wave evoked potentials as a measure of nervous system functioning, and includes a health quesionnaire to directly measure the impact of the institution on students' health.

The effect of Vedic Science based education on the environment. All students, faculty, and staff of Maharishi International University gather together twice daily to practice Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program. The research described above has measured the influence of this technology on the mind and body of the individual; yet the effects of the technologies of Maharishi's Vedic Science are not limited to the individual. A large, rapidly expanding body of research demonstrates that these technologies have a measurable, positive effect on the environment as well.

Though the mechanism responsible for these environmental effects has only recently been explored in terms of modern science, the mechanism has long been a central theme of Maharishi's Vedic Science. As explained above, according to Maharishi's Vedic Science, the basis of individual consciousness is the same as the basis of the physical and social environment. Thus, when the individual contacts the pure intelligence at the basis of his own thought and action through the subjective technology of Vedic Science, he simultaneously enlivens the field underlying the total environment. Included in the environment is the "collective consciousness" of society, which Maharishi defines as a wholeness that is more than the sum of the influences of each individual consciousness in the social group. According to Maharishi's Vedic Science the unified field at the basis of collective consciousness is by nature orderly and evolutionary, and thus when enlivened by individual consciousness these qualities are strengthened in the society as a whole.

The practical relevance of this theory for education is that when students are brought together in a Vedic Science based educational institution, they make a direct contribution to the overall quality of life in the whole society just by practicing the Transcendental Meditation program. Research has shown (Borland & Landrith, 1977) that the number necessary to have a significant influence is only one percent of the population affected.

The TM-Sidhi program has an even more pronounced environmental impact than the TM program, and this impact can be strengthened further by practicing the technology in a group. Based on physical models from macroscopic quantum phenomena, the formula used to predict the extent of the environmental effect for the group practice of the TM-Sidhi program is the square root of one percent (Ì1%) of a population. Therefore, Maharishi International University has set as a goal for itself to have enough people collectively practicing the TM and TM-Sidhi program each morning and afternoon to increase coherence in collective consciousness and thereby improve the quality of life in all of North America. This number is currently 1600, or approximately Ì1% of the population of the U.S. and Canada ("The Sociology of World Peace," 1979).

In an article on the application of Maharishi's Vedic Science and its technologies to the creation of world peace, Orme-Johnson and Dillbeck (1987) review over 25 studies on the effect of the individual and group practice of the TM and TM-Sidhi program on social indicators. This effect, known as the "Maharishi Effect," has been found in a variety of indicators of social health. The most dramatic evidence of the Maharishi Effect has been in the reduction of violence in international trouble spots. For example, a recent analysis of the influence of a group practicing the TM and TM-Sidhi program in Jerusalem during the Lebanon war found that on days of high attendance in the group assembly, war deaths in Lebanon dropped an average of 76% (Davies, 1988).

On the whole, however, the majority of the studies on the environmental impact of the TM and TM-Sidhi program have been done on the quality of life in peacetime. Among these, five have been conducted using primarily the students, staff, and faculty of MIU. These have shown that the MIU group program has had a positive influence on the overall quality of life in the United States from 1960 to 1984 (Orme-Johnson, Gelderloos, & Dillbeck, 1988); on the monthly U.S. and Canadian inflation and unemployment rates-"the misery index" (Cavanaugh, 1987); on notifiable diseases and traffic fatalities in the United States (M.C. Dillbeck, Larimore, & Wallace, in press); and on the violence index in the U.S. as a whole. Similar research on the group of students, faculty, and staff at MIU's branch in Washington, D.C., demonstrated the same influence on an urban population. Bandy and Lanford (1984) found that on days when the number of participants in the group program at the campus exceeded a predicted threshold of 400 there was a significant reduction in daily violent and property crimes in the District. In a related study from August, 1980, to November, 1983, Lanford, Dixon and Reeks (1984) found that homicides in the capital decreased by 22% (p < .02) during weeks when the group size was 400 or greater.

These studies of the impact of the group practice of Maharishi's TM and TM Sidhi program at MIU on the quality of life in the nation, taken together with the more than 20 other studies in the Orme-Johnson and Dillbeck review, provide extensive scientific evidence for the positive benefit of a Vedic Science based institution to its environment. They present an opportunity, previously unavailable to educational institutions, to make a direct and immediate contribution to the peace, harmony, and well-being of their society as a whole.

These three extensions of traditional college assessment complete our review of the research on Maharishi International University. It is clear that Vedic Science based education at the post-secondary level has a very broad effect, and that the effect is at a deep level of the personality. How do we make sense of these outcomes? And what are the implications of this research for addressing the problem of substance in higher education? We will remember that substance, as defined here, involves both the knowledge that is offered and the abilities that proceed from that knowledge. The next section summarizes the research on Maharishi's Vedic Science based education and relates it to the knowledge offered by an institution.

IV. A Comprehensive Model of Change in Maharishi's Vedic Science Based Education

Research on college impact is a relatively young field, first summarized by Feldman and Newcomb in their 1973 compendium. Similarly, research on Vedic Science based education is only as old as Maharishi International University, founded in 1971. The findings reviewed in this article, therefore, represent only the beginnings of research in this field. In order to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of the impact of Maharishi's Vedic Science based education, this section looks more deeply at the hypothesized mechanism by which Maharishi's Vedic Science based education transforms the lives of students in the four years or so that they spend in it. Here we integrate the empirical research presented above with theory from education and from Vedic Science, as well as interviews with MIU students.

The Nature of Change in Maharishi's Vedic Science Based Education

To understand change during college, one must integrate the objective findings of the research with the subjective experience of students pursuing their degrees. In order to gain insight into students' perspectives, the author conducted 23 interviews of first-, second-, and fourth-year students. We begin, however, with an overview of the objective results.

The empirical research covered in Part III of this article is available in summary form in Appendix A, according to the major areas of environment, body, mind, and consciousness as a whole, and in Appendix B according to the goals of MIU. By "consciousness as a whole" here we refer to individual consciousness as a whole, an area addressed directly in the evaluation research by Alexander et al. (1987) and Cranson et al. (1989). The research as a whole may be further condensed according to the dependent variable and the direction of change of each, as in Table 3.

From this overview one can make several generalizations about the impact of Vedic Science based education:

  1. The change resulting from Maharishi's Vedic Science Based Education is comprehensive, with a range from Self to society - intellect, emotions, and physiology are cultured simultaneously;
  2. The change is uniformly positive in direction;
  3. From several measures such as EEG coherence, moral reasoning, intelligence, value structure, and alertness, one sees that individual life is being influenced from a deep, integrating level - a level not usually affected by the modern science based approach of contemporary education;
  4. From the results on the Academic Profile one can conclude that students receive a quality education in the traditional skill and content areas at the same time that their development is accelerated;
  5. The observed changes in students' learning and development do not reflect selective admissions practices and therefore are relevant to the vast majority of higher education institutions.
The interviews with MIU students both support and explain these generalizations that emerge from a consideration of the objective research. When students were asked what had changed the most, they mentioned outcomes that reflected many of the traditional goals of a college education such as gaining the tools necessary for the pursuit of a profession or learning to apply knowledge to practical situations. They also mentioned changes resulting from specific emphases of the MIU curriculum - for example, improved public speaking ability or improved ability to work in groups - and many of them mentioned gains in general knowledge.

The interviewed students were very articulate, however, in identifying changes, some quite subtle, that most educators would recognize as important goals of higher education, but of which students are not usually conscious. Several of the students, for example, mentioned changes in their manner of thinking. The following statement from a fourth-year student from Kenya is one example:

My thinking has changed now. Actually, I think in terms of all possibilities, not in terms of limitations and bounded possibilities; something which would have taken me a long time to come to where I am, if I had not come to MIU. Some people in thinking about the resources - for example, the limitations of oil - become very depressed. Now I feel that whatever the mind can perceive, it can achieve. Everything is a matter of thinking. My thinking has changed a lot.
The same student noted also that his awareness had broadened, that he was able to keep in mind a broader range of possibilities when planning any action.

Another student, an American student in her second year, expressed a general change in the sharpness and clarity of her thinking that was mentioned by many of the students interviewed: "My intellect," she said, "has become a lot sharper; my thought processes are clearer and it doesn't take me as long to get an answer - things come to my head faster."

Finally, with respect to general changes in thinking, one student expressed clearly a change in his consciousness as a whole, which is characteristic of the development of higher states of consciousness and which helps explain the results that Cranson (in press) found in his study of witnessing sleep. In this development, the mind becomes so familiar with and well established in the Samhita value of pure consciousness, the ground state of human awareness, the total potential of natural law, that it is able to maintain this perfectly silent, self-referral state of consciousness throughout the waking, dreaming, and sleep states of consciousness. As a result the individual becomes balanced, clear, and perceptive; able to maintain unboundedness along with boundaries; and able to act spontaneously in accord with the progressive values of natural law. The following comment of one student expresses what several mentioned to us:

I feel very much stronger within myself. I feel basic joy and happiness, comfortable in diverse situations, being able to give more and need less from my environment. The biggest factor in my changing attitudes seems to be my deepening [Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi] program experience. This supplies a value of witnessing experience which is the foundation for successful day-to-day activity.
Apart from changes in style of thinking, students also mention what could be considered even more subtle changes in personality resulting from MIUÍs educational system. They mention greater interest in acquiring knowledge; this helps explain the differences found between alumni from MIU and those from other colleges in their interest in advanced graduate study. They say that they have become more comfortable with knowledge and that they feel closer to it.

Because the relationship between the individual and the knowledge an institution has to offer is an important theme of this paper, it is useful to quote one student who gave his experience with this aspect of change. This young man, an American student, was interviewed in his second year:

I noticed a change on a subtler level in how I related to knowledge. At MIU when I sit down to a test I feel the relationship between me and the knowledge is close. When I walked into a test in my previous college, in the exact same course, it was far removed. There was a cloud between me and the knowledge. With the same kind of test here I was very comfortable. I was able to see the reflection in myself of the knowledge. It made the exam much easier for me.
Finally, many students mentioned greater happiness as the single most important change they had noticed resulting from their education at MIU. This description by one young man from Japan is typical of many:
My friends told me that when I first came here I was very quiet and unsocial. However, they said that my face became brighter and brighter as the days went by. They are so impressed at how much I have grown in one year.
Among all the changes that students mention, the most significant for understanding the effects of MaharishiÍs Vedic Science based education are those which show not a directional shift in personality, but an overall balancing, an integration of personality. This integration is often expressed as a gain in an area that the student previously felt was deficient. Several brought out entirely in their own words the increasing integration that they felt occurring. Said one second-year student, "There is a great integration between heart and mind. I have found balance between heart and mind to be the key to success in action."

From our research and interviews with MIU students, this integration or balance of heart and mind, mind and body, inner and outer realities, appears to be the most pervasive and yet subtle outcome of MaharishiÍs Vedic Science based education.

What Causes Change?

Empirical research on the relative contributions that various aspects of MaharishiÍs Vedic Science based education make to an individualÍs development is relatively new. The studies we have reviewed used as an independent variable either the institution as a whole, MaharishiÍs TM-Sidhi program, or the numbers practicing their meditation program in a group. Therefore, the isolated contributions of the knowledge, the experience, the teaching techniques, or the environment have not been assessed empirically. We have tried in interviews, however, to sort out the various factors influencing change. In this section we present the insights generated by these interviews.

When students were asked specifically what has brought about the changes they had experienced, they mentioned many of the dimensions of college life that are considered conditions for impact at any university: caring professors, relationships with their fellow students, and specific courses or programs. From these comments many of the factors for impact described by Chickering, Astin, and Winter et al. could explain the effectiveness of Maharishi International University. The university is a manageable size, has clear and consistent goal statements, and faculty who are committed to a clear set of values of their own. In addition, MIU provides students with many opportunities to integrate the vast amounts of new knowledge which college inevitably showers on them and gives them a sense of being special because they are part of a university with a clearly articulated mission for the improvement of society.

Other comments which students make, however, go beyond the traditional conditions for impact. For example, some students mentioned the high level of friendliness that develops among members of the MIU community. Students who have attended other institutions consistently cite the level of openness, tolerance, and support among students and between students and faculty as one of the most distinctive features of MIU.

Another unique condition for impact brought out by students is the teaching techniques unique to Vedic Science based education. As mentioned above, all subjects are taught using unified field charts, main point charts, and unity charts. One young woman explained that in her previous university it was often difficult to "gauge" a lecture. Without a detailed syllabus it was easy for the professor to "get off on a tangent." At MIU, she noted, particularly in the disciplines with which she had less familiarity, the main point charts and the unified field charts helped provide a coherent and unified picture of the subject matter. "You can see visually what is going on," she said, "as well as hear. It helped me integrate a lot of things that came only with difficulty before. "

The third source of change unique to Maharishi's Vedic Science based education is Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program. Many students mentioned these technologies of Vedic Science as the most influential source of change for them. Said one student from Malaysia,

Looking back, it is quite hard to imagine how a person like me could flourish so much in such a short period of time. If I had to single out an element that is responsible for it, I keep coming back to Maharishi's technologies of consciousness.
Another student, one already quoted above as experiencing increasing "witnessing value" due to his practice of the TM and TM-Sidhi program, attributed his increasing integration of heart and mind to the deeper, more integrative levels of the mind that he experienced during this program.
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