July 10, 1999 VNN4267 Comment on this story
Dhira Govinda Das Defends PhD Thesis
BY DHIRA GOVINDA DASA
USA, Jul 10 (VNN) Dhira Govinda Das successfully defended his dissertation, entitled "Effects of the Hare Krsna Maha Mantra on Stress, Depression, and the Three Gunas", for a Ph.D. in Social Work at Florida State University. Present were his committee members, as well as several faculty members and students. All were very impressed with the defense, and several commented on the boldness of the chosen topic.
A few professors and students confided afterwards that spirituality and spiritual practices are very important to them in their personal lives, and they would like to incorporate this into their research and scholarly endeavors, but the atmosphere of academia discourages it and intimidates them.
The essence of the dissertation is a description of a three group study on the effects of chanting Hare Krsna. The Maha Mantra Group produced statistically significant effects on four of five dependent variables (stress, depression, sattva and tamas). These effects were significant in comparison with a control group for all four of these variables, and compared with an Alternate Mantra group for three of the variables (stress, depression, and sattva). Rajas was the only dependent variable that did not behave according to the hypotheses. My main explanation for this was that chanting Hare Krsna caused rajas to transform into sattva, but it also caused some tamas to turn into rajas, and therefore the rajas did not substantially change.
Participants chanted three rounds per day for 28 days. They were (mostly) non-devotees who responded to a newspaper ad. There were a few devotees involved. I put a notice up on the temple bulletin board asking for persons interested to participate in an study on the Hare Krsna Maha Mantra, the qualification being that they could not have chanted any rounds on a regular basis for at least one year. This ad attracted a few volunteers from the Vaisnava community. The study controlled for gender, age, and experience with yoga or meditation, and the results held up under these controls. The dissertation itself includes a chapter on Vedic philosophy, especially as it relates to the effects of chanting mantras, as well as emphasis on the special place of the Maha Mantra in Vedic literature. Also, there is a chapter that consists of a literature review on other spiritually-based interventions, including prayer, yoga techniques, and other mantras.
Several journals have already expressed interest to publish an article on this study. This study appears to be the first to systematically study the effects of the Hare Krsna Maha Mantra with methodologies of modern research.
Dhira Govinda dasa
Effects Of The Hare Krsna Maha Mantra On Stress, Depression, And The Three Gunas
The author conducted a 3-group study on the effects of chanting the hare krsna maha mantra on stress, depression, and the three modes of nature- sattva, rajas, and tamas- described in the Vedas as the basis for human psychology. Sixty-two subjects, self-selected through newspaper advertisements in a Southeastern university town, completed the study. Average age was 24.63 years, with 31 males and 31 females participating. Stress was measured with the Index of Clinical Stress, depression was measured with the Generalized Contentment Scale, and the modes of nature, or gunas, were measured with the Vedic Personality Inventory. Subjects were tested at pretest, posttest, and followup, with testing times separated by four weeks. Participants were randomly assigned to a maha mantra group, an alternate mantra group, and a control group.
Subjects in each of the chanting groups chanted their mantra approximately 25 minutes each day. The researcher concocted a mantra as the alternate mantra, though subjects in the alternate group thought it was a genuine Vedic mantra. Primary hypotheses of the study were based on Vedic theory, and stated that the maha mantra group would increase sattva, and decrease stress, depression, rajas and tamas, significantly more than the other two groups. ANCOVA results, controlling for gender and age, supported these hypotheses at p<.05 for all dependent variables except rajas, with effect sizes (eta2) for the four variables whose results supported the hypothesis ranging from .21 to .33. The author suggests that the maha mantra has potential for utilization in clinical areas similar to those where other interventions of Eastern origin have been successful, such as treatment of stress, depression, and addictions.
Further, it is recommended that the maha mantra be integrated into a spiritual approach to client care in social work and related fields. Suggestions for further research include applying path analysis to the data of this study to ascertain causal relationships, and application of Hierarchical Linear Models to the data to combine single-system analysis and group analytical methods for extracting the maximum amount of information. Additionally, further studies on the maha mantra are warranted, with various populations and in various settings.
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