When monks rule

Once, long ago, rulers in India kept monks close to their courts. They knew the ascetics’ daily meditations had a calming effect on the populace. The kings took care of the monks so they could care for society. Even in medieval Europe, villages felt protected against robbers in the presence of a nearby monastery.
 
This ancient wisdom is being rediscovered. The idea that groups of meditating people can influence the societies around them challenges scientific understanding. Yet perhaps the most fascinating body of research on consciousness seems to prove just that: Meditation has the potential to reduce violence and conflict in the world—and at a fraction of annual military spending.
 
In the geographic center of India lies a fledgling village. Twenty years ago, this area—miles from any road—was covered with dense forest. In its place now is a growing community of Vedic pandits—Hindu priests—2,000 in all, adhering to a daily meditation schedule. In time, their number is expected to swell to 9,000, the square root of 1 percent of the world population…and they will bring peace to the world.
 
Hard to believe, yes. But if the idea that higher levels of consciousness will change the world has a stronghold, this is it. “I think the claim can be plausibly made that the potential impact of this research exceeds that of any other ongoing social or psychological research program. It has survived a broader array of statistical tests than most research in the field on conflict resolution. This work and the theory that informs it deserve the most serious consideration by academics and policymakers alike,” says David Edwards, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin.
What research? What theory? The story goes back some 40 years. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian guru known both for founding the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement and for entertaining The Beatles in India, had begun introducing TM to the U.S. and had established a university in Fairfield, Iowa. Maharishi knew that according to ancient Sanskrit scriptures, violence could not occur in the presence of those experiencing unity, or oneness, so he suggested his students study the impact of meditation in places where at least 1 percent of the population was practicing TM.
 
The findings were startling, even to Maharishi. In “TM towns” where communities of meditators had sprung up, crime rates had fallen 8 percent since residents had begun meditating—and according to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statistics, crime rates had risen 8 percent in the same time frame within towns of similar makeup, in lockstep with the national trend. Maharishi was uncontainable. “Through the window of science we see the dawn of the age of enlightenment,” he said. Therein began a cascade of research funded by the TM movement and by grants.
 
One of the most credible studies to come from that period, the peak of the conflict between Israel and Lebanon in the 1980s, involved a group of 600 to 800 TM practitioners who gathered around the world, particularly in Israel, Lebanon and other areas of the Middle East, to perform seven experiments. All of the experiments showed a clear relationship between the number of meditators and the levels of conflict. When the number of meditators was largest, violence and conflict fell dramatically. An average of 12 people were killed every day during the two-year study. But when the groups meditated, fatalities dropped to three a day, a 75 percent decrease.
 
Astonishingly, the effects weren’t limited to Lebanon. Crime in Israel plummeted, too. Even car accidents and fires—events that don’t typically correlate with wars—became less frequent. “The likelihood that the reduction of violence was simply coincidental—a statistical fluke—was less than one in 10,000,” says John Hagelin, a former Stanford particle physicist who teaches at the Maharishi University of Management, leads the TM movement in the U.S. and was a three-time presidential candidate for the Natural Law Party.
In the health-care industry, a discovery with that much impact—a 75 percent reduction in fatalities or even symptoms—would have produced a billion-dollar drug and a gigantic pharmaceutical success. But public response to the publication of the Israel-Lebanon study was lukewarm at best—and at worst, generated disbelief and criticism. Despite the scientific rigor of the experiments, the response seemed to suggest that the results were beside the point.
 
It was three long years before the study was published in the respectedJournal of Conflict Resolutionat Yale University, and the editor included a special note: “The following article presents and tests a hypothesis that will strike most readers (myself included) as, to say the least, unorthodox. … This hypothesis has no place within the normal paradigm of conflict and peace research. Yet the hypothesis seems logically derived from the initial premises and its empirical testing seems competently executed. These are the standards to which manuscripts submitted for publication in this journal are normally subjected.”
Read the rest of this article about how groups of meditating people can influence their surroundings in our January/February issue, which is available online for free here.

Solution News Source

When monks rule

Once, long ago, rulers in India kept monks close to their courts. They knew the ascetics’ daily meditations had a calming effect on the populace. The kings took care of the monks so they could care for society. Even in medieval Europe, villages felt protected against robbers in the presence of a nearby monastery.
 
This ancient wisdom is being rediscovered. The idea that groups of meditating people can influence the societies around them challenges scientific understanding. Yet perhaps the most fascinating body of research on consciousness seems to prove just that: Meditation has the potential to reduce violence and conflict in the world—and at a fraction of annual military spending.
 
In the geographic center of India lies a fledgling village. Twenty years ago, this area—miles from any road—was covered with dense forest. In its place now is a growing community of Vedic pandits—Hindu priests—2,000 in all, adhering to a daily meditation schedule. In time, their number is expected to swell to 9,000, the square root of 1 percent of the world population…and they will bring peace to the world.
 
Hard to believe, yes. But if the idea that higher levels of consciousness will change the world has a stronghold, this is it. “I think the claim can be plausibly made that the potential impact of this research exceeds that of any other ongoing social or psychological research program. It has survived a broader array of statistical tests than most research in the field on conflict resolution. This work and the theory that informs it deserve the most serious consideration by academics and policymakers alike,” says David Edwards, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin.
What research? What theory? The story goes back some 40 years. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian guru known both for founding the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement and for entertaining The Beatles in India, had begun introducing TM to the U.S. and had established a university in Fairfield, Iowa. Maharishi knew that according to ancient Sanskrit scriptures, violence could not occur in the presence of those experiencing unity, or oneness, so he suggested his students study the impact of meditation in places where at least 1 percent of the population was practicing TM.
 
The findings were startling, even to Maharishi. In “TM towns” where communities of meditators had sprung up, crime rates had fallen 8 percent since residents had begun meditating—and according to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statistics, crime rates had risen 8 percent in the same time frame within towns of similar makeup, in lockstep with the national trend. Maharishi was uncontainable. “Through the window of science we see the dawn of the age of enlightenment,” he said. Therein began a cascade of research funded by the TM movement and by grants.
 
One of the most credible studies to come from that period, the peak of the conflict between Israel and Lebanon in the 1980s, involved a group of 600 to 800 TM practitioners who gathered around the world, particularly in Israel, Lebanon and other areas of the Middle East, to perform seven experiments. All of the experiments showed a clear relationship between the number of meditators and the levels of conflict. When the number of meditators was largest, violence and conflict fell dramatically. An average of 12 people were killed every day during the two-year study. But when the groups meditated, fatalities dropped to three a day, a 75 percent decrease.
 
Astonishingly, the effects weren’t limited to Lebanon. Crime in Israel plummeted, too. Even car accidents and fires—events that don’t typically correlate with wars—became less frequent. “The likelihood that the reduction of violence was simply coincidental—a statistical fluke—was less than one in 10,000,” says John Hagelin, a former Stanford particle physicist who teaches at the Maharishi University of Management, leads the TM movement in the U.S. and was a three-time presidential candidate for the Natural Law Party.
In the health-care industry, a discovery with that much impact—a 75 percent reduction in fatalities or even symptoms—would have produced a billion-dollar drug and a gigantic pharmaceutical success. But public response to the publication of the Israel-Lebanon study was lukewarm at best—and at worst, generated disbelief and criticism. Despite the scientific rigor of the experiments, the response seemed to suggest that the results were beside the point.
 
It was three long years before the study was published in the respectedJournal of Conflict Resolutionat Yale University, and the editor included a special note: “The following article presents and tests a hypothesis that will strike most readers (myself included) as, to say the least, unorthodox. … This hypothesis has no place within the normal paradigm of conflict and peace research. Yet the hypothesis seems logically derived from the initial premises and its empirical testing seems competently executed. These are the standards to which manuscripts submitted for publication in this journal are normally subjected.”
Read the rest of this article about how groups of meditating people can influence their surroundings in our January/February issue, which is available online for free here.

Solution News Source

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