The only Buddhist boarding school in Thailand incorporates the practice of the Transcendental Meditation (TM®) technique into the school's curriculum.
Dhammajarinee Witthaya Free School in the Ratchaburi province was established to serve hundreds of poor families who otherwise would be unable to send their daughters to school. School officials say that without a proper education, young Thai girls are too often employed in degrading occupations putting them at risk of abuse, exploitation, AIDS, and addiction.
The school provides a free education (kindergarten through 12th grade) to 430 at-risk girls, with the TM technique a key component in the daily school routine. The Buddhist nuns running the school report the technique is having a positive influence on the students.
When students practice the TM technique, says Acharn Yai, the school's director and principal, ''their grades go up and they pay more attention to whatever we teach them. . . . When they have inner happiness, they soak up whatever knowledge we give, unlike before.''
Adds school teacher Kru Muay: ''Because students have different educational backgrounds we cannot expect them to change overnight. It's something that needs time, but observing their progress since they have started meditating. I can see that they have greatly improved in different ways in their behavior, in their studies and in their relationship with the teachers and their fellow students.''
The students are enjoying their twice-daily meditation practice, saying it relieves stress, and promotes inner peace and mental clarity. ''Before learning to meditate I felt frustrated and didn't want to do anything. But when I close my eyes to meditate, my frustration decreases, my irritation subsides and I feel good. When I study, I can focus on my studies more,'' one girl said.
Another girl reported that before she started meditating, she felt stressed out by everything. ''I was stressed with my friends, with my studies and with the teachers who disciplined me. But when I meditate, I feel some relief. It reduces my stress level. It makes me forget and feel relief and this gives me self-confidence,'' she said.
The school is raising funds for a major campus expansion to allow 500 more at-risk girls to receive a free education. The Thai government has granted $200,000 for a new classroom building, and the school is seeking an additional $550,000 to complete the expansion.
About the Transcendental Meditation technique
The TM technique is a simple, natural, effortless procedure practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. Extensive peer-reviewed research studies have found that TM reduces stress and anxiety, improves learning ability, and promotes wellness for mind and body.
The TM technique is available in the USA through Maharishi Foundation USA, a federally recognized non-profit educational organization. Through partnerships with other non-profit organizations and foundations, full TM scholarships have been given to more than 250,000 at-risk children, veterans suffering from PTSD, homeless people, and others.