Dr. Fred Travis is working on an exciting new project! He and his research team are investigating effects of listening to Vedic chanting on EEG patterns. Their preliminary findings are that, compared to brain patterns during TM practice, listening to Vedic recitation leads to higher coherence in the Alpha1 frequency, the frequency seen during transcending, and in the Theta frequency, the frequency of inner mental processing.
It all started two years ago when Dr. Travis visited the Brahmasthan of India, which is in the very center of India. TM meditators and TM-Sidhi practitioners can come to the Brahmasthan for one-week courses. These courses include extended periods of TM practice in the morning, listening to recitation by the Maharishi Vedic pandits in the afternoon, and watching videos of Maharishi in the evening.
Dr. Travis recorded the brain waves of 15 course participants in the first year while they listened to Vedic chanting and when they practiced the TM technique. He used the TM practice as the comparison condition, because, as he explains: “Transcendental Meditation has been thoroughly studied. We know that TM leads to transcending, allowing the mind to settle to pure consciousness at the source of thought. The subjective experiences and the physiological markers for transcending have been well documented. In these 15 subjects, he noticed that compared to TM practice, listening to Vedic recitation leads to higher frontal coherence in the theta and alpha bands.
When Dr. Travis came back, he looked at EEG of 15 individuals listening to baroque music. This is to control for the effects of listening to music with eyes closed for an hour. He used baroque music because it tends to evoke relaxation, calmness, and good feelings in those who listen to it. The Baroque music did not increase frontal coherence.
Next year, Dr. Travis visited the Brahmasthan again and recorded an additional 15 people while listening to Vedic chanting to see if the earlier results will be replicated. The paper reporting this experiment has been submitted for publication. It included two experiments: (1.) EEG of 30 people listening to Vedic chanting compared to their TM practice, and (2.) EEG of 15 people listening to baroque music compared to TM. The same pattern emerged: EEG patterns when listening to Vedic recitation lead to higher frontal coherence in the theta and alpha1 (8-10) bands.
Alpha 1 is the frequency of transcending. This suggests that listening to Vedic chanting enlivens and stabilizes experience of pure consciousness. Theta frequency indicates attention is following the internal mental processes. For instance, theta activity is higher during a memory task when you are thinking through different possibilities. It suggests that during Vedic chanting participants were following the sequence of sound, but it wasn’t an external experience. It was an internal experience.
Dr. Travis suggested that this may reflect the sequence of Vedic Technologies that Maharishi has brought out. TM leads to transcending. TM-Sidhi is based on the habit of transcending. The impact of listening to Vedic recitation may be based on the habit of the attention moving in silence during TM-Sidhi practice. Then, the Vedic chanting would not be appreciated as external sounds but rather as internal sounds. They are not songs, or stories. Rather, they are the internal functioning of the transcendence itself. Vedic chanting is enlivening the internal sounds that are innate in every individual, the sounds of the Veda. Through name/form relation, the stirring of inner sounds creates structures in consciousness—these are the concrete experiences that people report.
Dr. Travis would like to test the sequential impact of each of Maharishi Vedic technologies. First, he is comparing EEGs during live Vedic chanting to recorded Vedic chanting. This will set the bench mark for the next study: assessing brain patterns and subjective experiences when non-meditators, Transcendental Meditation practitioners, and TM-Sidhi practitioners listen to the recorded Vedic chanting.
While it is exciting to follow the science, take advantage of listening to live Vedic recitation yourself and see what you experience. Raja Harris has set up an ideal situation for you to spend a one week course in the Brahmasthan of India to give you a taste. You might even meet Dr. Travis there happily recording EEG, listening to pandits himself and then exploring the brain waves to more fully understand the power of this Vedic technology.
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