Who is Maharishi?
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the first teacher of Transcendental Meditation in Western awareness. He was a follower of Geru Dev, who was a Vedic philosopher in India. Both individuals followed a long line of tradition which goes back thousands of years. Maharishi successfully founded the Transcendental Meditation organization during the 1950's with the goal of developing collective consciousness through his powerful techniques. His popularity skyrocketed during the 1960's, as his affiliation with The Beatles and many other high profile celebrities strengthened. During his lifetime, Maharishi developed theories explaining all aspects of life in a holistic manner. Maharishi Vedic Education, Maharishi Vedic Psychology, Maharishi Vedic Health (Ayurveda), Maharishi Vedic Communication, Maharishi Vedic Sound Technology, Maharishi Vedic Mathematics, and Maharishi Vedic Physics are but a few of the topics Maharishi explained from his unique perspective. In the early 1970's, Maharishi founded Maharishi University of Management, located in Fairfield, Iowa, United States of America. He spent is life teaching others how to practice and teach meditation, and traveling as a lecturer. He is claimed to be one of the most video taped men in history, although most of the footage is only available to those who are certified Transcendental Meditation teachers.
Maharishi passed away on February 5th, 2008, and he left his organization under the guidance of doctor and researcher Tony Nader, now known as Maharaja Adhiraj Rajaraam.
What is Transcendental Meditation?
Transcendental Meditation - or TM - is an effortless form of meditation which is practiced for twenty minutes twice daily. It involves a mantra, and encourages a restful and alert state of awareness in those who practice regularly. TM is documented to be healthy in countless ways in more than 500 peer reviewed, published academic studies. It is proven to normalize blood pressure, reduce stress levels, and Scientists have identified (Travis and Wallace 1997 and 1999, Travis 2001, Guttman, Travis, Tecce 2001) unique physiological states which correspond to many of Maharishi's Seven States of Consciousness (see below). Briefly, a unique state of awareness - distinguished from sleeping, waking, and dreaming - is acheived during the practice of TM. This state of consciousness is called Transcendental Consciousness. Over time, Transcendental Consciousness is maintained during through all activity, not just during meditation. This state of consciousness Maharishi calls Cosmic Consciousness, and is a distinguishing sign of living an enlightened lifestyle. Maharishi emphasized that TM cannot be understood from discussion alone - it must be experienced by the individual. Imagine trying to explain what it is like to be asleep and you will understand why Transcendental Consciousness must be experienced and not just discussed.
Cosmic Consciousness is not an isolated phenomenon. Although an effortless and effective strategy to attain Cosmic Consciousness is the regular practice of TM, a recently published study (Harung and Travis 2011) has displayed that top-performing athletes maintain the same physiological characteristics of long term meditators. These traits were not observed in less successful athletes who had been training for equal periods of time to the championship athletes in higher states of consciousness. This suggests that TM can be used as a powerful tool for those seeking top level performance in their lives.
What are the Health Benefits of Transcendental Meditation?
See "What are the Health Benefits of Transcendental Meditation?" for further discussion of the health benefits TM provides, including an introductory video by Dr. John Hagelin.
Maharishi's Theories of Personality Development
Maharishi Vedic Psychology outlines seven states of consciousness:
4. Transcendental Consciousness
5. Cosmic Consciousness
6. God Consciousness
7. Unity Consciousness
Individuals progress linearly through states four through seven as the personality develops. Maharishi argues that Transcendental Meditation is the key to moving into these higher states of awareness, and thus attaining the most refined forms of human experience. It must be understood that Maharishi emphasizes the role of experience of higher states in their understanding - simple objective observation or theoretical investigation is absolutely insufficient for even a rudimentary understanding of Maharishi's theories of personality development (Maharishi 1963).
Transcendental Consciousness (Travis, 1993) is a restful, peaceful state of consciousness which is experienced during the practice of transcendental meditation. The process of transcending is most easily grasped through the following diagram.
As the mind settles during Transcendental Meditation, it moves away from surface-level, conscious thought and into deeper, more subtle levels of awareness. Transcendence is achieved as the mind aligns with what Maharishi describes as the Unified Field of Consciousness, the source of infinite intelligence and creativity (Maharishi 1963).
Cosmic Consciousness is characterized by the persistent presence of Transcendental Consciousness through all activity - waking, sleeping, and dreaming. It is distinguished by a phenomenon called "witnessing sleep," in which individuals retain a meta-level of awareness throughout the night. Although impossible to understand conceptually, it is easy to recognize when experienced, and has been scientifically verified by brain wave analysis using electroencephalography (EEG) (Mason et al, 1997).
As an individual continues to meditate, higher states of consciousness are achieved (Travis 2004). States such as God and Unity Consciousness are reported in long-term meditators, but have not been distinguished physiologically. More difficult yet is conceptualizing the difference between these final two states. Again, it is important to understand Maharishi's emphasis on experience as a method of understanding: Without a subjective supplement, objective reality is fragmented. This is a key aspect of Maharishi Vedic Psychology.
"When only the surface value of perception is open to our awareness, then the boundaries of the object are rigid and well-defined—the only qualities that are perceived are those which distinguish the object from the rest of the environment. However, when the unbounded awareness becomes established on the level of the conscious mind—then the perception naturally begins to appreciate deeper values of the object, until perception is so refined that the finest relative is capable of being spontaneously perceived on the gross, surface level (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi 1972)."
Along with the seven states of consciousness, Maharishi outlines several levels of subjectivity (Dillbeck 1988). Of course, all arise from the field of pure consciousness The deepest level outlined is the sense of self, or the sense of “I.” Maharishi describes the ego as the experiencer of individual life: The ego is responsible for conscious levels of awareness. It thinks, understands, feels, etc. He also describes the intellect, whose role is observation, decision-making, storing memories and thoughts, and filtering data coming into the mind. Desire, for Maharishi, arises from the tendency of pure consciousness to "know itself," and is the driving force which creates attention. Desire also serves as a bridge between the experiencer and that which is experienced through the senses. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1969) puts the pieces together succinctly:
Experience results when the senses come into contact with their objects and an impression is left on the mind. The impulse of this new impression resonates with the impression of a similar past experience already present in the mind and associates itself with that impression. The coming together of the two gives rise to an impulse at the deepest level of consciousness, where the impressions of all experiences are stored. This impulse develops and, rising to the conscious level of the mind, becomes appreciated as a thought. The thought, gaining the sympathy of the senses, creates a desire and stimulates the senses into action.
Maharishi Vedic Psychology is an alternative to Western models of the mind. Integrating ancient Indian concepts alongside modern analytical theory, Maharishi's unique perspective lets us think about personality development in a different light.
All of these books are included in the Personality-Development.org Amazon store.
Dillbeck, Michael C. (1988) "The Self Interacting Dynamics of Consciousness as the Source of the Creative Process in Nature and Human Life." Modern Science and Vedic Science 2.3.
Guttman, J., Travis, F.T., Tecce, J.J., (2001). Cortical Plasticity, Contingent Negative Variation, and Transcendent Experiences during Practice of the Transcendental Meditation Technique. Biological Psychology, 55, 41-55.
Harung, H., Travis, F. et al. (2011). High Levels of Brain Integration in World-class Norwegian Athletes: Towards a Brain Measure of Mental Fitness. Scandanavian Journal of Exercise and Sport, 1, 32-41.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. (1963). Science of Being and art of living: Transcendental Meditation. New York: Signet.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. (1972). Science of Creative Intelligence: Knowledge and experience [Course Syllabus]. Los Angeles: Maharishi International University Press.
Mason L. I., et al. (1997) Electrophysiological correlates of higher states of consciousness during sleep in long-term practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation program. Sleep 20 (2): 102-110.
Travis, F.T. (1993). Respiratory, Autonomic, and EEG Correlates of transcendental consciousness experiences during Transcendental Meditation practice. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, 18(1), 574.15.
Travis, F.T. & Wallace R.K. (1997) Autonomic Patterns during Respiratory Suspensions: Possible markers of Transcendental Consciousness. Psychophysiology, 34: 39-46.
Travis, F.T. & Wallace R.K. (1999). EEG and Autonomic Patterns during Eyes-Closed Rest and Transcendental Meditation Practice: The Basis for a Neural Model of TM practice. Consciousness and Cognition, 8, 302-318.
Travis, F.T. (2001) Transcendental Meditation Technique, Encyclopedia of Psychology and Neuroscience. Travis, F.T. & Pearson, C. (2000). Distinct Phenomenological and Physiological Correlates of ‘Consciousness Itself.’ International Journal of Neuroscience, 100, 77-89.
Travis, F.T. (2001). Autonomic and EEG patterns distinguish transcending from other experiences during Transcendental Meditation practice. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 42, 1-9.
Travis, F.T. (2004) Relationship Between Meditation Practice and Transcendent States of Consciousness, Biofeedback, 32:3, 33-36