The Florida State University
School Of Social Work
Effects of The Maha Mantra on Stress, Depression, and the Three Gunas
Author: David Brian Wolf
[A Dissertation submitted to the School of Social Work in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor
Degree Awarded: Summer 1999
(Some passages of the Dissertation)
This paper will address the topic spiritually-based interventions in the helping professions, with a focus on the relevance of such interventions to the field of social work. Writings in this area will be classified into the following categories: general relevance of spirituality and religiosity to the helping professions; measurement of spirituality; and spiritual interventions. General relevance of spirituality and religiosity to the helping professions includes research pieces that investigate correlations between spiritual and religious factors and variables such as delinquency, management of HIV/AIDS, hospice work, depression, self- esteem and alcohol and drug use. Most of these studies incorporate quantitative designs, though there are a few qualitative pieces and some articles that primarily provide commentary on the topic. Measurement of sprituality includes research articles that attempt to define and measure the construct of spirituality utilizing psychometric procedures. The spiritual interventions section contains studies and literature reviews that examine the effects of an intervention that is purported to be spiritual in nature…
Epistemological justification for empirical study of spiritual interventio
Dawson (1997) asserts that spirituality cannot rightly be subsumed under empirical science. That is, spirituality should not be reduced to a conception that is subject, for instance, to the laws of thermodynamics, or is contingent on Einstein’s equation that relates energy and matter. This would be scientism, whereby spirit loses its transcendence to matter and becomes subservient to empirical epistemologies. Dawson maintains that sprituality is a type of energy, but not subject to empirical laws. Since this paper examines spiritual interventions, and the author does not view spirituality positivist research on spiritual topics, and why such research has been and should be conducted. In response, it should be understood that science consists of knowledge that can be reliably verified by systematic procedures of observation. Science is not necessarily limited to material subject matters. There are procedures employed in spiritual interventions that yield results that can be reliably assessed, and these procedures can be conceived as the basis for a spiritual science (Prabhupada, 1976). Empirical methods can be, and have been, extensively applied in the evaluation of spiritual science and the effects of religious practice on psychosocial well-being. In fact, according to Levin, Larson, and Puchalski (1977), writing on the field of medicine, research on spiritual and religious factors is as sophisticated as any other area within epidemiology, and findings have been subjected to greater scrutiny than most research.
Material Science and the Vedas
Keefe (1996) comments “In the last thirty years, meditation began its marriage to the rational-empirical tradition of Western science. In this most recent alliance it is being tested, objectified, stripped of its mystical trappings, and enriched with empirical understanding” (p.434). Most of the meditative methods that are being tested, and that will be analyzed in this paper, are based in Vedic theory and practices. This illustrates how a spiritual theory with concomitant praxes can be dovetailed with empirical science. Empirical support for these methods, in areas such as decreasing depression, stress and substance abuse, may strengthen the scientific basis of Vedic theory.
Though the ultimate goal of Vedic science is realization of our spiritual nature, there is a vast material component in Vedic science. Vedic material science is based on the three gunas, or modes of nature- sattva, rajas, and tarnas. Characteristics of each mode are extensively described in Vedic literature, and these descriptions form operational definitions for experimental science. For instance, a characteristic of tamas guna is depression, whereas sattva guna is symptomized by a feeling of happiness (Dasgupta, 1961). According to Vedic theory, practice of a meditative process, such as chanting of certain sound vibrations, will diminish the effects of tamas, and augment the influence of sattva. Thus, guna theory is conducive for empirical investigation, in this case by standardized psychometric tools for assessment of depression and happiness. Much work needs to be done, however, to further operationalize Vedic concepts and formulate and implement research designs.