While the research on TM may show very positive results, it is also scientifically robust.
The steadily growing body of scientific research on the Transcendental Meditation technique not only shows very positive results, it also scores well on the 4 major criteria that determine the quality and the reliability of scientific research
– independent replication,
– quality standard of the research,
– probability of coincidence, and
– publication in scientific journals.
1. Independent replication
If one a research institution comes to a particular conclusion and proper scientific method is used, one can say with a fairly high probability that the result is reliable. If, however, this result is confirmed by 15 different research institutions, all off which are operating independently, one can say with much more certainty that the result is universally reliable and that it holds regardless of the cultural background.
With 600 studies, the Transcendental Meditation technique could well be one of the most examined phenomena in the history of science.
During the past 40 years or so, more than 360 scientists at 209 independent universities and research institutions (list of universities) from 29 countries have conducted more than 600 studies (list of studies) on the Transcendental Meditation programme and related programmes like the TM Sidhi Programme. There is no doubt that Transcendental Meditation is one of the most, if not the most, intensely and rigorously studied programmes of self development in the world.
The standardised nature of the technique, being taught by similarly trained teachers in the same manner throughout the world, makes TM highly susceptible to rigorous scientific investigation. The founder of the Transcendental Mediation programme, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who had a scientific training, was determined, from his early days in the West, to have the impacts of this technique subject to scientific investigation. The technique itself, by acting on the field of consciousness and by having fundamental effects on activity across the brain, has the ability to affect many different areas of life simultaneously. These reasons probably account for the large and growing body of research on the TM programme.
Many effects are often investigated, not just once or twice but dozens of times, and confirmed by independent research institutions. For each of the research topics on the effects of TM, there will usually be several different studies.
Scientific research brings more reliability to a result because it is speaking about averages. Different people may have different results. Some will show larger effects than others. All results are combined in an average result, which gives a more realistic picture of the results to be expected.
As studies accumulate, they can be subjected to meta-analysis – a meta-analysis calculates the effect size of each individual study in a body of studies on a specific topic and then, to put it in simple language, makes an average of those results. So it is a bit like an average of averages. A meta-analysis is the best way to arrive at objective, quantitative conclusions about all the research that has been conducted in a field. Meta-analyses have been conducted on the effect of TM on blood pressure, anxiety, addictions (tobacco, alcohol, and drug), self-actualisation and other areas.
2. Probability of coincidence (p-value)
The probability of coincidence is a statistical calculation that specifies how likely it is that a certain result is obtained by chance and not by the cause that is investigated. For a scientist, the probability of coincidence of a result is generally at least as important, if not more important, than the results recorded. The consensus is that one can only speak of a significant result if the probability of coincidence is less than 5 per 100. This is usually indicated by p<.05. (p stands for probability) This is equivalent to saying that there is a 95% certainty that that the result is achieved by the cause that has been proposed. The smaller the p value, the greater the certainty, so p<.01 is a better result than p<.05 and p<.001 is a better result than p<.01.
The p-values of TM research are often extremely small, which demonstrates an exceptional result with a high consistency.The probability or the p value of the study is very important for research into Transcendental Meditation because p-values are often exceptionally small, sometimes up to 500 times smaller than the standard. (p<.0001 compared to p<.05). This can be because there is a large effect (a strong improvement) or that the effect is very consistent over a large group of people.
3. Publication in a scientific journal
Peer-reviewed, scientific journals play a very important role in science. They act as a filter to protect science from low quality studies. A study is generally only taken seriously by the scientific world if it is published in such a journal.
Before a journal accepts a research report for publication, the research project goes through a process of “peer reviewing”. This means it is carefully reviewed by other experts from the same specialty, who then give their opinion whether the research meets all the standards of good scientific research. The more prestigious the journal, the more severe this process is supposed to be, because the journal is linking its reputation to the articles it is publishing. The article will only be published if the research is accepted as being of a very high standard.
TM research was published in over 350 publications of professional journals. Research into the Transcendental Meditation technique has been published in more than 350 different publications (list of publications) and in more than 160 different professional journals all over the world, including many of the most prestigious journals (list of journals). This is quite a large volume of research on one topic to be repeatedly published.
Some of the 600 studies that were not published by the professional journals, are available via a separate publication: Scientific Research on Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation and TM Sidhi program: Collected Papers.
4. High-quality research
The intention of research is to obtain an objective result but, nevertheless, there are always some subjective elements involved, such as the expectations of the subjects (placebo effect) or of the researcher. This is something that is always borne in mind where research is conducted at an institute of the Transcendental Meditation organisation itself, even though this is only applies to minority of published studies. The quality of the research thus plays an important role in ensuring objectivity, in addition to the three previous factors – Independent replication, low p-value and publication.
Numerous studies of TM are of the highest quality using, for example, Single Blind Randomnized Controlled Trials or Randomly Selected Control groups (RCT’s), where the researcher does not know which subject belongs to which group. But a more detailed analysis of all the research shows that even studies, that do not meet use these techniques, can still give a very reliable picture. Here are some very encouraging trends that have been discovered in larger analyses of TM research, indicating that the results shown are influenced by the potential bias of researchers or placebo effects (for more details and references, see here) –
1. Studies of a higher quality give better results. If the researchers were biased, the reverse would occur.
2. Researchers with a neutral or negative attitude towards TM had a better outcome than researchers linked to the TM movement.
3. Those with low expectations about the TM technique before they learnt how to use it had the same result as those with high expectations (no placebo).
4. The effect increased when the technique was practiced for a longer time.
5. The effect is bigger for regular TM practitioners than for irregular practitioners.
Research in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health in the U.S.
Over the last 20 years, Maharishi University of Management has received more than $24 million in funding from US Federal Agencies, such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. The competition for federal research funds is intense and proposals are subject to a high degree of scrutiny. Large projects funded by the National Institutes of Health are also subject to continued scrutiny by “Data Safety Monitoring Boards,” consisting of independent researchers appointed by the Government to assure the quality of the data collection procedures and research methods. Maharishi University of Management has had many such visits throughout its history and has always received excellent ratings of its research process.
Some of the most impressive studies of the last 10 years, including studies on heart disease, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, diabetes and ageing are performed in collaboration with the NIH.
Are there also studies that have found no results?
During the last 40 years, a number of “no result” studies have appeared. Several of these studies used flawed methodologies or, in some cases, their reported results were misinterpretations of their actual results. The body of research on Transcendental Meditation has been growing steadily. As it has grown, it has become more sophisticated and increasingly robust. It is a now a body of evidence which stands on its own merits and commands attention and respect.