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  • Written by  Ian Gawler
  • // Monday, 08 October 2012 10:02
Ian Gawler

The history of meditation part four – From science to everyday life

This is the fourth in a series of 5 posts on the history of meditation, adapted from Meditation- an In-depth Guide by Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson.
See here for the first, second & third part

When TM (Transcendental Meditation) came from India to the West in the sixties it brought two exceptional benefits. TM provided a reliable meditation technique that was relatively easy to teach and to learn; and it developed a strong commitment to research.

By 1990 David Orme-Johnson and his colleagues at TMs university in Iowa had compiled and edited 508 scientific studies on the therapeutic benefits of TM. Of these studies about one third each were from peer-reviewed scientific journals, TM conferences and TM’s own publications.

TM continues to lead the way as it studies its own specific mantra-based style of meditation and how this technique benefits physical, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of life. One of TM’s leading advocates, Herbert Benson, established the Mind– Body Medical Institute at Harvard and continues to have a powerful effect in catalysing research.

Another wave of extraordinary and groundbreaking research has been prompted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His Holiness has a long- standing interest in science generally and, of course, the mind in particular. He has said, ‘a general stance of Buddhism is that it is inappropriate to hold a view that is logically inconsistent. This is taboo. But even more taboo than holding a view that is logically inconsistent is holding a view that goes against direct experience’.

The Dalai Lama was instrumental in establishing the Mind and Life Institute, which is devoted to meetings and collaborative research between scientists and Buddhist scholars and meditators. This interaction between modern science and ancient wisdom has resulted in regular dialogues since 1987 between His Holiness and others such as Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, Matthieu Ricard, neuroscientist Richard Davidson and Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Many popular bestsellers have come directly from these dialogues, such as Healing Emotions (1997) and Destructive Emotions—and how we can overcome them (2003), both edited by Daniel Goleman.

Then there are more recent works by the new generation of young Tibetan teachers, such as Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche and his excellent books The Joy of Living (2007) and Joyful Wisdom (2009).

Furthermore, leading scientists like Richard Davidson were prompted by the Dalai Lama to commence scientific investigations on long-term meditators. This has led to major research being published in academic journals as well as popular books like that of Norman Doidge.