Ancient Vedic scriptures extensively talk about the power of chanting mantras on mind and its various functions. Modern science faces serious difficulties explaining the difference between mind and brain. The biggest challenge they face is, mind is invisible. Schizophrenia is a disease connected to mental disorder and affects how a patient thinks, feels, wills and finally acts.
Some of the symptoms of Schizophrenia include inability to distinguish between what is factual and what is imaginary; difficulty expressing emotions in social situations; and unpredictable behavior pattern.
Since the disease is connected to the mind, researchers dealing only with gross body mechanism have tough time coming to conclusion as to what causes Schizophrenia. Some suspect it to be split personality while others defy such propositions.
“Contrary to public perception, schizophrenia is not split personality or multiple personality. The vast majority of people with schizophrenia are not violent and do not pose a danger to others. Schizophrenia is not caused by childhood experiences, poor parenting or lack of willpower, nor are the symptoms identical for each person.” (Source)
Since there are number of conceptions and misconceptions about the cause of Schizophrenia, there understandably are lot more conceptions and misconceptions about its treatment and whether there is any definite cure for it. Anti-depression drugs have made the scenario only worse. On top of that, there is no dearth of unproven claims made by psychologists, psychiatrists.
Bringing a fresh breath of air and new hopes for the Schizophrenia patients, a dynamic, Indian origin neurologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Dr Viveck Baluja, seems to have hit the nail right on the head by studying the changing brain patterns while chanting the famous Hare Krishna maha mantra.
Recently, an article published on iskconnews.org regarding this incredible findings states that Dr Baluja (aka Vinaya Gaurachandra das) began his study by observing the effects of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra on the brain of one test subject – himself – using MEG, a neuroimaging technique for mapping brain activity.
“First, the subject’s brainwaves were observed while in a peaceful, resting state. Next, the brainwaves were remeasured after the subject chanted four rounds of the Pancha Tattva mantra, followed by half an hour of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Then the difference was recorded.”
According to Dr Baluja, “the data showed that the brain is not actually restful in the so-called resting state.” “Your brain continues to constantly give you information. After chanting, however, the data showed almost no cortical activation, or brain activity. This is very interesting, because it shows that you’ve actually been able to calm down the brain.”, Dr Baluja observed.
“”This data shows the brain at rest. Notice that it does not actually look so restful. There is activation of sending areas (red) and receiving areas (green)
What’s groundbreaking about this is that according to Vinaya, the only method doctors currently have of decreasing such brain activity is anti-epileptic medication. This is used as a therapeutic measure to treat patients with anxiety, schizophrenia, and other such mental disorders.
“Voluntarily decreasing your brain activity is unheard of,” he says. “But our findings show that we can create the same therapeutic effects of medication by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. That’s very exciting.”
Here we see the brain after four rounds of the Pancha-tattva mantra and 30 minutes of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Notice the decreased activation in the brain, and more rest than in the ‘resting state’
Dr Viveck Baluja says that the findings also correlate with the model Lord Krishna gives in the third chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, where He says “one should steady the mind by deliberate spiritual intelligence.”
“The data showed that in the back of the brain in the area of the Cerebellum – which is associated with fine tuning and balance, and is under more automatic activation – there was more control and more stimulation after chanting,” he explains.
During chanting, lower amplitudes are seen in the central and frontal regions of the brain. But higher amplitudes are seen in posterior channels, which may reflect more activity in the cerebellum.
Vinaya says that this has piqued the interest of members of the Henry Ford Hospital Institutional Review Board, who have approved the study of ten more subjects to gather more data and further validate his findings.
The subjects will all be devotees of Krishna who have been chanting for five years or more. “It’s key that they already have a taste for chanting, because it may not be so easy to get someone to chant for half an hour who hasn’t chanted before,” Vinaya says.
This study will develop baseline scientific proof of the effects of chanting on the brain.
The next step, currently underway, will be to conduct an online survey of all 95,000 initiated devotees across the globe – or any devotees who have been chanting for some years – on their experience with chanting the maha-mantra.
“We’re asking subjectively, has it made them feel better? What has it done for them?” Vinaya says. “Is there any fluctuation? Do they feel different on days that they chant and on days that they don’t? This is to gather data on what effect chanting has on anxiety, depression, addiction, and just on your mood on a day-to-day basis.”
These ‘big data metrics’ will be used to show medical institutions the efficacy of chanting. The final phase of Vinaya Gaurachandra’s project will then be to try therapeutic chanting in a hospital setting with patients who have not chanted before.
“The ISKCON Movement will benefit by metrics of success,” he says. “This data is crucial to being able to point to the effect of Srila Prabhupada’s intervention on the world in a scientific way. We’ll use it to establish the basis for clinical trials, and to point us in the right directions for where chanting is effective in increasing quality of life and where it is not.”
“For the movement to really be able to prescribe the Hare Krishna maha-mantra,” Vinaya concludes, “We need to simply collect our data in an organized fashion, so that it will no longer be viewed as a pseudo-scientific process. Then we will have unbiased data to move forward in our preaching movement, in a systematic and metric-based fashion. And we will be able to ethically approach the scientific community as Srila Prabhupada wanted.”” (Source http://iskconnews.org/neurologists-study-shows-maha-mantra-could-help-anxiety-schizophrenia,5989/
To share your experience with the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and help gain support for this study, click here.
Dr Viveck Baluja is not the first one to study brainwaves during mantra meditation. What makes his research unique, however, is his focus on a specific mantra – Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Hare Hare / Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. This mantra is honored as the maha-mantra or the great chant of the holy names of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, due to its extremely powerful influence on the mind and consciousness of the practitioner.
There are critics who portray any scientific research based on spiritual knowledge found in the Vedic or any holy scriptures as mere religious promotions, but they fail to put forward sustainable arguments to oppose findings from such projects.
Modern science cannot help but accept the statements of Vedic scriptures that every material body, the smallest and the biggest, consists of five gross elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether, and is primarily governed by three subtle elements – mind, intelligence and false ego, if it is to find answers to the myriad of unresolvable questions about life. This is because life is the very cause of every gross creation including the universe itself. In other words, life comes from life, not from matter as professed by modern scientists. An unbiased study on Vedic science will help modern scientists gain knowledge in the areas which they are otherwise destined to remain ignorant of, perpetually.