Good health with the Spiritual Technology in practice
Author: Dr. Shilpi Minocha
Recent advances in neurological research provide scientific evidence for the benefits of spiritual practices such as meditation. Scientists are investigating the effects of such practices with the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) on the human body. At the Krishna temple in Zürich, we conducted a survey to assess the benefits of spiritual practices followed at the temple on some regular visitors/inhabitants and non-followers. The practices included vegetarianism and meditation together with following a regulated circadian cycle of eating and sleeping. Our survey shows that regular visitors and inhabitants of the temple experienced more peaceful and a stress-free life. Further investigation into the practices involving meditation and controlled lifestyle can provide helpful insights about the benefits incurred by these processes.
The word meditation has originated from the Latin word “meditation”, which means, “to think, contemplate, devise, or ponder”. Meditation has now become a focus of research by neurobiologists, psychologists and neuroscientists. Researchers are trying to better understand the advantages and disadvantages of the complex phenomenon triggered by meditation. The effects on brain activity have been divided into two primary categories, namely, state changes (short-term) and trait changes (longterm).
During meditation, experienced meditators were tested for brain activity, and it was found that the medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices were relatively deactivated (Brewer et al., 2011). A significant increase in slow alpha or theta wave EEG activity was also seen during meditation (Lutz et al., 2004). State changes were observed to lead to changes in white matter too (Tang et al., 2012; Posner et al., 2014).
Experienced meditators showed substantial connectivity between the posterior cingulate, dorsal anterior cingulate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices even when they were not meditating (Brewer et al., 2011). Researchers have also shown presence of broader callosal regions in long-term meditators which points toward increased inter-hemispheric connectivity during brain processes that involve (pre)frontal areas (Luders et al., 2011; 2012). Also, the meditators displayed decreased sleep duration upon prolonged meditational practices without any reduction in vigilance (Kaul et al., 2010).
At Krishna temple in Zurich, we performed a survey to analyze the benefits incurred by the practices followed inside the temple premises. The survey was conducted on regular visitors, inhabitants and non-followers to cover all the possibilities. The results of the survey revealed reduced stress levels and improved health of regular visitors and inhabitants. Hence, we have come to the conclusion that mediation accompanied with controlled daily sleep-wake regime, as practiced at the temple, is extremely helpful for human health.
The test group consisted of 30 regular visitors and inhabitants. The control non-follower group consisted of 20 individuals. Some of the inhabitants can be found on this page: http://krishna.ch/derverein/bewohner/. The groups were asked to fill the SF-36 form explaining the practices they performed on a regular basis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SF-36). The form requires the individuals to provide details of the health changes – body and mind – if experienced since they began the practices. The form consists of eight sections that include questions about vitality, physical functioning, bodily pain, general health perceptions, physical role functioning, emotional role functioning, social role functioning, and mental health.
A. Regime at the Krishna Temple, Zurich
The movement for Krishna consciousness is relatively young in the West, but its roots go far back in time to the ancient Indian civilization, which reached its peak five thousand years ago. The main products of that era are the Sanskrit scriptures (Vedas), covering all aspects of human life: history, medicine, architecture, yoga, mysticism, philosophy, religion, etc. The visiting and residing individuals at the temple follow regular meditational practices. The meditational practices are performed at a regular basis beginning on a strict hour every morning until evening, which induces the regular visitors and inhabitants to follow a defined sleep-wake and food intake circadian cycle. The regime followed at the temple is as follows (http://krishna.ch/) :
*03:45* Waking up for most of the Devotees of Krishna within the Temple. (“Morning hours has Gold in the mouth” reveals a lot of truth.)
*04:30* Mangala-arati (Auspicious morning ceremony), the first service to God in the Morning.
*05:15* Japa: Chanting the Hare Krishna Maha mantra. The Devotees of Krishna chant in the Temple (sing and recite) sixteen rounds on a wood pearl garland, for about 1 1/2 hours. Between 6:00 and 7:00 o’clock some little rest is also allowed.
*07:15* Greeting of the Deities, the curtain of the Altar will open again with the Govinda’s prayer, followed by Guru-puja (Worship of the Spiritual master) and with a nice kirtana (Singing all together).
*07:45* Conference about the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the Vedic holy scripture, followed with some questions and answers. The conference’s speaker change daily.
*08:45* Morning Prasadam:(Breakfast of western style or Vedic kitchen).
*10:00* Practical Devotional service: After the breakfast the Devotees of Krishna engage themselves in regular activities as by example cleaning the Temple, cooking, shoping, working in the garden, reparing in the house, administrative work and so on… All the Devotees of Krishna will study one hour daily at least the Vedic literature and other relevant literature.
*13:00* Lunch Prasadam. (Lunch time mostly with a Vedic cuisine; Rice, dal, sabji, capatis and so on…)
*15:00* Individual occupation like reading, personal studies, correspondence and some peaceful walk. (Japa walk is a silent meditation) Some Devotees go sometime on Harinama-sankirtana in the city. (Offenly singing the holy Names of God, together with distribution of prasadam, holy food offered to Lord Sri Krishna, or selling the spiritual literature.)
*16:30* Little refreshing meal at four o’clock with fruits, nuts and juice.
*19:00* Gaura-arati is an evening singing ceremony for God’s service, also together with some guests and Friends of Krishna coming from the congregation.
*19:45* Conference on the Bhagavad-gita which is the abcd of the Bhakti-yoga, treatise of Lord Sri Krishna on spiritual development and self-realization.
*20:15* Evening Prasadam ( Eating time by tasting Vedic specialities). Some Temple inhabitants drink only a warm milch and retire early in their bedroom.
*21:00* Night and peace; at this time the Devotees of Krishna go to sleep, then on the next morning rings the alarm clock, and start a new day in Krishna consciousness.
Visitors are heartly welcomed to all those daily programs, als well for the religious ceremonies, to learn the life of the Krishna’s Devotees in the Temple, the culinary varieties from the Indian vegetarian kitchen as well about the ancient Vedic philosophy.
B. Benefits of the regime followed at the temple:
Group 1: Inhabitants of the temple
The inhabitants of the temple consisted of those who have prolonged experience in meditation, and have been following the practices of the Krishna temple since several years. The group comprised of both young and older inhabitants, and a significant majority showed excellent mental and physical status. All of them revealed reduced stress levels and decreased sleep durations without any decrement in ability to perform any physical activity. None of them experienced any pain or sickness. All of them confirmed perfect capability to respond to social and physically stressful conditions.
Group 2: Regular visitors
Amongst this group, there were those that visited the temple daily, and there were others that only visited the temple once in a week or a month. The current physical health status of both the groups was comparable with no significant positive inclination towards any group. Only some of the regular visitors reported improved physical health status since they had begun visiting the temple. However, those that visited the temple on a regular basis, reported having reduced stress levels. All of them admitted to experiencing more vitality and clearer minds. Importantly, the health benefits were most significant in those who had been following the temple practices since more than 6 months.
Group 3: Non followers
This group was quite heterogeneous since all the individuals followed different circadian rhythms and food intake. Some individuals showed better health status – physical and mental – than others but no significant pattern could be deciphered from the group due to its heterogeneous profile.
- Brewer, Judson A.; Worhunsky, Patrick D.; Gray, Jeremy R.; Tang, Yi-Yuan; Weber, Jochen; Kober, Hedy (December 2011). “Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108 (50): 20254–9.
- Lutz, Antoine; Greischar, Lawrence L.; Rawlings, Nancy B.; Ricard, Matthieu; Davidson, Richard J.; Singer, Burton H. (November 2004). “Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 101 (46): 16369–73.
- Kaul, Prashant; Passafiume, Jason; Sargent, Craig R; O’Hara, Bruce F (2010). “Meditation acutely improves psychomotor vigilance, and may decrease sleep need”. Behavioral and Brain Functions 6: 47.
- Posner MI, Tang YY, Lynch G (2014). Mechanisms of white matter change induced by meditation
training. Front Psychol. 5:1220.
- Luders E1, Phillips OR, Clark K, Kurth F, Toga AW, Narr KL (2012). Bridging the hemispheres in meditation: thicker callosal regions and enhanced fractional anisotropy (FA) in long-term practitioners. Neuroimage. 61(1):181-7.
- Luders E1, Clark K, Narr KL, Toga AW (2011). Enhanced brain connectivity in long-term meditation practitioners. Neuroimage. 57(4):1308-16.
- Tang YY1, Lu Q, Fan M, Yang Y, Posner MI (2012). Mechanisms of white matter changes induced by meditation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.109(26):10570-4.