||Craig Pearson, Ph.D.
Maharishi University of Management
Higher education faces a complex set of challenges today. We are seeing resources diminish at the same time we are hearing calls for greater access and affordability. Demands for greater transparency and accountability are being sounded by both the general public and the government. Government is exerting increasing controls in this long-independent area.
These challenges, however, are merely financial and political, and they are hardly limited to colleges and universities. The fundamental challenges are educational and center around the students themselves. Challenges include high levels of stress, pervasive substance abuse (particularly binge drinking), lack of preparedness for college-level work, and mental and emotional disabilities. In most of these areas, the problem is serious and worsening. Though colleges and universities are striving to address these challenges, few would claim we are turning the tide.
An encouraging trend is the increasing focus in higher education nationwide on promoting student learning. Yet these laudable efforts do not take into account the powerful forces working in opposition. It is well known that learning is inhibited by stress, sleep deprivation, alcohol, and poor diet — and these are among the most conspicuous features of the college student experience.
Something new is required. Education needs a reliable means of developing students directly from within. We need a systematic method for cultivating their creative intelligence, their capacity to learn, and their natural humanity. All education aims at these goals, of course — but the approach thus far has been from the outside in, and the results have been haphazard at best.
Consciousness-Based℠ education was established to address this need. It integrates the best practices of education and places beneath them a proper foundation — direct development of the student from inside out. The outcomes of Consciousness-Based education have been unprecedented and scientifically verified. These outcomes include significant growth of intelligence, creativity, learning ability, field independence, ego development, and moral maturity, among others. These results are remarkable because many of these values typically plateau in adolescence — but Consciousness-Based education promotes this growth in students of all ages, developing potentials that otherwise would have remained unexpressed.
Beyond this rich cognitive growth, Consciousness-Based education significantly reduces student stress, boosts self-esteem, improves health, reduces substance use, and enhances interpersonal relationships. All of this comes together to create exceptional learning environments. This approach even measurably improves the quality of life in the surrounding society.
Consciousness-Based education was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the world authority on the science of consciousness. First pioneered at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, Consciousness-Based education is being adopted by schools, colleges, and universities around the world. It is easily integrated into any school, without any change in mission or curriculum.
Consciousness-Based education recognizes that student learning depends fundamentally on students’ levels of consciousness or alertness. The more alert and awake the student, the more successful and satisfying the learning.
Consciousness-Based education consists of three components:
The Transcendental Meditation program
- a practical technology for directly developing students’ potential from within,
- a theoretical understanding of consciousness that gives rise to a unifying framework for knowledge, enabling students to easily grasp the fundamental principles of any discipline and to connect these principles to their own personal growth, and
- a set of classroom practices, arising from this understanding, that also help promote effective teaching and learning.
At the heart of Consciousness-Based education is the practice of the Transcendental Meditation® technique. The technique was brought to light by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi from the Vedic tradition of India, the world’s most ancient continuous tradition of knowledge. It is practiced for 20 minutes twice daily, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, while sitting comfortably with eyes closed. It is simple, natural, and effortless — so simple, in fact, that ten-year-old children can learn and practice it. It has been learned by more than six million people worldwide, of all ages, religions, and cultures.
The Transcendental Meditation technique differs from other procedures of meditation and relaxation in its effortlessness. It involves no concentration or control of the mind. Neither is it a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle. It involves no new codes of behavior, attitudes, or beliefs, not even the belief it will work.
The Transcendental Meditation program is the most extensively validated program of personal development in the world. It has been the subject of more than 600 scientific research studies, conducted at more than 250 universities and research institutions in more than 30 countries worldwide. These studies have been published in more than 150 scientific and scholarly journals in a broad range of fields, including Science, Scientific American, American Journal of Physiology, International Journal of Neuroscience, Memory and Cognition, Social Indicators Research, Intelligence, Journal of Mind and Behavior, Education, Journal of Moral Education, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Business and Health, British Journal of Educational Psychology, Journal of Human Stress, Lancet, Physiology and Behavior, and numerous others. No approach to education has as much empirical support as Consciousness-Based education.
This approach, moreover, has been successfully field-tested over the past 35 years in primary, secondary, and post-secondary schools all over the world, in developed and developing nations, in a wide variety of cultural settings — the United States, Latin America, Europe, Africa, India, and China.
The Transcendental Meditation technique enables one to “dive within.” During the practice, the mind settles inward, naturally and spontaneously, to a state of deep inner quiet, beyond thoughts and perceptions. One experiences consciousness in its pure, silent state, uncolored by mental activity. In this state, consciousness is aware of itselfalone, awake to its own unbounded nature.
The technique also gives profound rest, which dissolves accumulated stress and restores balanced functioning to mind and body.
This state of inner wakefulness coupled with deep rest represents a fourth major state of consciousness, distinct from the familiar states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping, known as Transcendental Consciousness.
In this restfully alert state, brain functioning becomes highly integrated and coherent. EEG studies show long-range spatial communication among all brain regions. This coherence is in sharp contrast to the more or less uncoordinated patterns typical of brain activity.
With regular practice, this integrated style of functioning carries over into daily activity. Research studies consistently show a high statistical correlation between brainwave coherence and intelligence, creativity, field independence, emotional stability, and other positive values. The greater one’s EEG coherence, in other words, the greater one’s development in these fundamental areas. At Maharishi University of Management, students even have the option of a Brain Integration Progress Report — an empirical measure of growth of EEG coherence between their first and last years at the University.
The brain is the governor of all human activity — and therefore personal growth and success in any field depend on the degree to which brain functioning is integrated. The increasingly integrated brain functioning that spontaneously results from Transcendental Meditation practice accounts for its multiplicity of benefits to mind, body, and behavior.
Every human being has the natural ability to transcend, to experience the boundless inner reality of life. Every human brain has the natural ability to function coherently. It requires only a simple technique.
Theoretical component —
a unified framework for teaching and learning
Scholars have long called for a way to unify the diverse branches of knowledge. Current global trends are making this need ever more apparent. The pace of progress is accelerating, the knowledge explosion continues unabated, and knowledge is becoming ever more specialized. Academic disciplines offer a useful way of compartmentalizing knowledge for purposes of teaching, learning, research, and publication. But each academic discipline explores only one facet of our increasingly complex and interrelated world. The real world, however, is not compartmentalized — an elephant is not a trunk, a tusk, and a tail.
Academic disciplines, consequently, are criticized as inadequate, in themselves, for understanding and addressing today’s challenging social problems.
Today, more than ever, we need a means of looking at issues comprehensively, holistically. We need a way of discovering and understanding the natural relationships among all the complex elements that compose the world, even among the complex elements that compose our own disciplines.
Various attempts to address this need have been made under the rubric of interdisciplinary studies — programs or processes that aim to synthesize the perspectives and promote connections among multiple disciplines. Some of these efforts have been criticized as superficial joinings of disciplinary knowledge. But the chief criticism of interdisciplinary studies — leveled even by its proponents — is that looking at an issue from multiple perspectives does not, in itself, enable one to find the common ground among contrasting viewpoints, to resolve conflicts, and to arrive at a coherent understanding.
The diverse academic disciplines can be properly unified at only one level — at their source. All academic disciplines are expressions of human consciousness — and if the fundamental principles of consciousness can be identified and understood, then one would gain a grasp of all human knowledge in a single stroke.
This brings us to the theoretical component of Consciousness-Based education. Consciousness-Based education does precisely this — and not as an abstract, theoretical construct but as the result of students’ direct experience of their own silent, pure consciousness. In this sense, practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique forms the laboratory component of Consciousness-Based education, where the theoretical predictions of Consciousness-Based education can be verified through direct personal experience.
This theoretical component offers a rich and deep yet easy-to-grasp intellectual understanding of consciousness — its nature and range, how it may be cultivated, its potentials when fully developed. This theoretical component also identifies how the fundamental dynamics of consciousness are found at work in every physical system and in every academic discipline at every level.
With this knowledge as a foundation, teachers and students in all disciplines enjoy a shared and comprehensive understanding of human development and a set of deep principles common to all academic disciplines — a unified framework for knowledge. With this unified framework as a foundation, students can move from subject to subject, discipline to discipline, and readily understand the fundamental principles of the discipline and recognize the principles the discipline shares with the other disciplines they have studied. This approach makes knowledge easy to grasp and personally relevant to the student.
Pure consciousness and the unified field
Consciousness has traditionally been understood as the continuous flux of thoughts and perceptions that engages the mind. Thoughts and perceptions, in turn, are widely understood to be merely the by-product of the brain’s electrochemical functioning.
Maharishi has put forward a radically new understanding of human consciousness. In Consciousness-Based education, pure consciousness is understood as the foundation and source of all mental activity, the most silent, creative, and blissful level of the mind — the field of one’s total inner intelligence, one’s innermost Self. (This unbounded value of the Self is written with an uppercase “S” to distinguish it from the ordinary, localized self we typically experience.) Direct experience of this inner field of consciousness awakens it, enlivens its intrinsic properties of creativity and intelligence. Regular experience of pure consciousness through the Transcendental Meditation technique leads to rapid growth of one’s potential, to the development of higher states of human consciousness — to enlightenment.
But consciousness is more, even, than this.
Throughout the 20th century, leading physicists conjectured upon the relation between mind and matter, between consciousness and the physical world; many expressed the conviction that mind is, somehow, the essential ingredient of the universe. But Maharishi goes further. He has asserted that mind and matter have a common source, and that this source is pure consciousness. Consciousness in its pure, silent state is identical with the most fundamental level of nature’s functioning, the unified field of natural law that has been identified and described by quantum theoretical physicists over the past several decades. Everyone has the potential to experience this field in the simplest form of his or her own awareness. Considerable theoretical evidence, and even empirical evidence, has been put forward in support of this position.
Maharishi has developed these ideas in two bodies of knowledge, the first known as the Science of Creative Intelligence, the second as Maharishi Vedic Science and Technology. The Science of Creative Intelligence examines the nature and range of consciousness and presents a model of human development that includes seven states of consciousness altogether, including four higher states beyond the familiar states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping. These higher states, which develop naturally and spontaneously with Transcendental Meditation practice, bring expanded values of experience of one’s self and the surrounding world. Each represents a progressive stage of enlightenment. Maharishi Vedic Science and Technology examines the dynamics of pure consciousness in fine detail. It reveals the fundamental principles of consciousness that may then be identified in every field of knowledge and every natural system.
Most important for teaching and learning, these sciences reveal how every branch of knowledge emerges from the field of pure consciousness and how this field is actually the Self of every student.
Strategies for promoting teaching and learning
Consciousness-Based education also includes a battery of educational strategies that promote effective teaching and learning. Foremost among these is the precept that parts are always connected to wholes and that learning is most effective when learners are able to connect parts to wholes. In Consciousness-Based education, the parts of knowledge are always connected to the wholeness of knowledge, and the wholeness of knowledge is connected to the Self of the student.
One means of doing this is through Unified Field Charts. These wall charts, developed by the faculty at Maharishi University of Management and used in every class, do three things: (1) They show all the branches of the discipline at a glance. (2) They show how the discipline emerges from the field of pure consciousness, the unified field of natural law at the basis of the universe. (3) They show that this field is the Self of the student, which the student experiences during practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique.
In this way students can always see the relation between what they are studying and the discipline as a whole, and they can see the discipline as an expression of their own pure consciousness. Again, this is more than an intellectual formulation — it is the growing reality of students’ experience as they develop higher states of consciousness.
Another strategy is Main Point Charts. Developed by the faculty for each lesson and posted on the classroom walls, these charts summarize in a few sentences the main points of the lesson and their relationship to the underlying principles of consciousness. In this way students always have the lesson as a whole in front of them, available at a glance.
The next paradigm shift
If higher education is fundamentally about student learning and growth, then Consciousness-Based education represents a major paradigm shift in the history of education. To understand this change, it is useful to reflect on the encouraging paradigm shift that has already been taking place in education over the past several decades.
This shift involves a move from what many call an instruction paradigm to a learning paradigm. In the instruction paradigm, the mission of colleges and universities is to provide instruction; this is accomplished through a transfer of knowledge from teacher to student. In the learning paradigm, the mission is to produce student learning; this mission is achieved by guiding students in the discovery and construction of knowledge.
This shift is a vitally important advance in education, leading to more successful outcomes and more rewarding experiences for students and teachers alike. But a further paradigm shift remains, and we can understand it by examining a fundamental feature of human experience.
Maharishi observes that every human experience consists of three fundamental components: a knower, a known, and a process of knowing linking knower and known. We may also use the terms experiencer, object of experience, and process of experiencing, or observer, observed, and process of observation.
This three-fold structure of experience is nowhere more evident than in schools: The knowers are the students, the known is the knowledge to be learned, and the process of knowing is what the full range of teaching and learning strategies seek to promote.
Understanding this three-fold structure helps us understand the paradigm shifts that are taking place.
The instruction paradigm places emphasis on the known. It focuses on the information students are to absorb and the skills they are to learn. In this paradigm, the instructor’s role is to identify what students need to know and deliver it to them.
The learning paradigm emphasizes the process of knowing. It recognizes that students must be actively involved in the learning process, that knowledge is something individuals create and construct for themselves, that students have differing learning styles and differing interests that must be taken into account. In this paradigm, the instructor’s role is to create learning environments and experiences that promote the process of learning.
The Consciousness-Based paradigm embraces the known and the process of knowing but places primary emphasis on the knower — on developing the knower’s potential for learning from within. The following diagram shows the respective emphases of each approach:
But the learning paradigm does not so much abandon the instruction paradigm as enlarge it, so that it includes the process of knowing as well as the known. And the Consciousness-Based approach completes the enlargement to include the knower:
Consciousness-Based education, in summary, is a theory and practice grounded in a systematic science and technology of consciousness, making available the complete experience, systematic development, and comprehensive understanding of the full range of human consciousness. More than 30 years’ experience and extensive scientific research confirm the success of this approach and its applicability to any educational institution.
About this book series
This series of twelve volumes is the result of a unique faculty-wide project that began with the founding of Maharishi University of Management in 1971 and continues to this day. Each volume in the series examines a particular academic discipline in the light of our Consciousness-Based approach to education.
- an introductory paper introducing the Consciousness-Based understanding of the discipline,
- a Unified Field Chart, if available for publication, for the discipline — a chart that conceptually maps all the branches of the discipline and illustrates how the discipline emerges from the field of pure consciousness and how that field is the Self of every individual. Thus, these charts connect the “parts” of knowledge to the “wholeness” of knowledge and the wholeness of knowledge to the Self of the student;
- subsequent papers that show how this understanding may be applied in various branches of the discipline,
- occasional examples of student work exploring how the Consciousness- Based approach enhances learning in the discipline, and
- an appendix describing Maharishi Vedic Science and Technologies of Consciousness in detail
We welcome inquiries and further contributions to this series.
Dara Llewellyn, Managing Editor
Maharishi University of Management
Fairfield, Iowa 52557