Nirosha Perera, Harvard College ’16
This paper explores a case of East-West knowledge transfer and analyzes the interactions between three seemingly unrelated figures: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Dr. Herbert Benson, and HRH Prince Charles in the 1970s-80s. The goal is to show that the hallmark discovery of Dr. Benson’s research, “the Relaxation Response”, was a reframed and medicalized presentation of the Maharishi’s teaching of Transcendental Meditation, and it rendered the Relaxation Response as an objective, stable form of knowledge and Transcendental Meditation as the lesser, cultural species. This case was analyzed using Dr. Benson’s correspondence with HRH Prince Charles, whom Benson hoped would become a patron of his research efforts in the burgeoning field of mind body medicine. By examining this correspondence and abutting the spiritual conceptions and scientific rationalizations involved in this narrative, this research discusses how factors such as expertise and professionalism can define what is scientific and highlights the ambivalence of knowledge translation across spatial, temporal, and cultural boundaries.