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Chanting Buddhist Mantras help Urban Indians alleviate stress

Chanting Buddhist mantras is catching on among India’s urban elite as a way to relieve stress

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Image : VOA

The bank executive, the book publisher and the social worker had one thing in common: Their hectic lives in the crowded Indian capital had become so chaotic and stressful, they’ve turned to chanting Buddhist mantras in search of calm.

The practice is catching on among India’s well-off urban professionals, growing by word of mouth as a way to relieve stress. Most of those picking up the practice are Hindu, but they say they see no conflict between their religious beliefs and the chanting. Some say it is soothing, others invigorating.

“I feel it just makes me a better human being, more humane,” says Gaurav Saboo, 34, a devout Hindu working at an international bank in New Delhi. “It enables me to understand the suffering of others and reach out to others.”

Buddhism, he says, “is a philosophy, a way of life,” and the chanting has brought a positive energy into his life.

While Buddhism began on the Indian subcontinent around the 5th century BC, it has waned in both India and Nepal while flourishing in different forms in Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and other countries. With its easy rituals and lack of dogma, Buddhism has long drawn supporters from afar. Hollywood celebrities, agnostics, Christians and Jews alike attend Buddhist spiritual retreats.

Archi Sharma, a housewife who took up chanting a year ago, says she was “searching for some meaning” in her life when she heard about Buddhist chanting from friends.

“I felt there was a vacuum in my life,” Sharma said. “The chanting has helped. It stops you thinking about me, myself. It makes one think of others first.”

Sharma, who chants twice a day between household chores and taking care of an ailing relative, said she saw no conflict between her family’s traditional Hindu beliefs and her chanting.

“The chanting is not invasive and runs parallel to what we practice as Hindus,” she said. “It opens a doorway to another stream of happiness into one’s life.”

The practice of repeating a mantra is not exclusive to Buddhism. Many across Hindu-dominated India also include chanting as part of their yoga, and some Christian groups repeat chants.

While Hindu chanting is often associated with religious rituals, Buddhist chanting is seen as less dogmatic, aimed at calming the nerves or feeling a sense of well being, said New Delhi-based sociologist Abhilasha Kumari.

“Hindu chanting is linked to religious ritual,” she said. “Buddhist chanting is a free space where you chant and are not tied down to other aspects of religiosity.”

Many Indians who have picked up chanting have been drawn to sessions organized by Soka Gakkai International, the lay organization of a major Nichiren Buddhist sect whose stronghold is in Japan. The group traces its roots to the chants and teachings of a 13th century Japanese monk named Nichiren.

The group has not been engaged in an active campaign to promote chanting in India, although it claims to have introduced the practice to around 100,000 Indians since setting up in the country in 1986, according to the group’s office in New Delhi.

Practitioners chant individually but many meet monthly. Many say that that apart from easing their own stress, the chanting also makes them understand people around them and working for the happiness of others.

At a recent gathering in a middle class New Delhi neighborhood, participants shucked off their shoes and quietly sat down on thin mattresses in the basement of an apartment building. They faced an ornate wooden altar holding a scroll on which the words they will chant for the next hour are written: “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo,” which refers to the law of cause and effect.

Latecomers seamlessly joined in, blending their chant with the ongoing rhythm. Soon the incantation picked up speed, building to a crescendo and then slowing again while the chanters recovered their breath. Faintly, there was the clicking of wooden beads that the chanters used to help focus their thoughts on the mantra. Every now and then, one of them struck a gong.

“You feel invigorated. It’s a great feeling,” said Ruma Roka, 54, at the end of the chanting session as she and the others moved to another room for discussions over tea. Roka started chanting about 10 years ago as a housewife, and has found it helps her cope with the stress of her job teaching the hearing impaired at the special clinic she runs.

“If I did not chant, if I went back home with all the heaviness of this very challenging work … I would not be able to survive,” Roka said. “I would have a compassion deficit.”

Getting numbers on the recent growth of chanters is difficult, but Indian media has reported on the trend. Many individuals hear about the chanting sessions by word of mouth, and are often simply looking for new ways of stress-busting after trying other traditional methods.
 
Namrta Bangia, a 32-year-old publishing executive, said she had tried Pranayama, an ancient Indian breathing practice, and the silent Hindu meditation of Vipassana before settling on Buddhist chants. Her family and friends tell her they have noted a change in her.

“I’ve become more positive, more confident, more cheerful,” she said after a recent group session. “I’m a different person. I am not going to get defeated.” (VOA News)

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Lack of Social Communication Skills may cause Increase in Health Problems

How can lack of Social communication skills affect your mental health?

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Lack of Social Communication Skills may cause Increase in Health Problems
Lack of Social Communication Skills may cause Increase in Health Problems. Pixabay
  • Are you left out by your friends due to improper communicative techniques? Beware, as it may take a toll on your health. New research reveals that people with poor social skills may be at a greater risk of developing mental as well as physical health problems.

Importance of Social Communication Skills in avoiding Mental Health Problems

Social skills refer to the communication skills that allow people to interact effectively and appropriately with others. They are mostly learned over time, originating in the family and continuing throughout life.

The use of technology, like texting, is probably one of the biggest impediments to developing social skills among young people nowadays, the researchers said.

“We have known for a long time that social skills are associated with mental health problems like depression and anxiety,” said Chrin Segrin, a professor at the University of Arizona.

“But it was not known definitively that social skills were also predictive of poorer physical health. Two variables — loneliness and stress — appear to be the glue that bind poor social skills to health. People with poor social communication skills have high levels of stress and loneliness in their lives,” Segrin added.

The researchers studied over 775 people, aged between 18 to 91 years, and were provided a questionnaire addressing their social communication skills, stress, loneliness, and mental and physical health.

The results found that the participants who had deficits in those skills reported more stress, loneliness, and poorer mental and physical health.

The study, published in the journal Health Communication, mentioned that while the negative effects of stress on the body have been known for a long time, loneliness is a more recently recognized health risk factor. It is as serious a risk as smoking, obesity or eating a high-fat diet with lack of exercise.(IANS)

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Are We Hindus If We Live in India? The Answer to Contentious Question is Here

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Hinduism. Pixabay

Oct 06, 2017: Have you ever wondered what being a Hindu means? Or who is actually fit to be called a Hindu? Over centuries, Hindus and Indians alike have asked this question to themselves or their elders at least once in their lifetime.

In the 1995 ruling of the case, “Bramchari Sidheswar Shai and others Versus State of West Bengal” the court identified seven defining characteristics of Hinduism but people are still confused to what exactly defines being a Hindu in the 21st century. It’s staggering how uninformed individuals can be about their own religion; according to a speech by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya there are various common notions we carry about who a Hindu is:

  • Anyone born in India is automatically a Hindu
  • If your parents are Hindu, you’re are also inevitably a Hindu
  • If you believe in reincarnation, you’re a Hindu
  • If you follow any religion practiced in India, you’re a Hindu
  • And lastly, if you are born in a certain caste, you’re a Hindu

After answering these statements some fail to remove their doubts on who a Hindu is. The question arises when someone is unsure on how to portray themselves in the society, many people follow a set of notions which might/might not be the essence of Hinduism and upon asked why they perform a particular ritual they are clueless. The problem is that the teachings are passed on for generations and the source has been long forgotten, for the source is exactly where the answer lies.

Religion corresponds to scriptural texts

The world is home to many religions and each religion has its own uniqueness portrayed out of the scriptures and teachings which are universally accepted. So to simplify the dilemma one can say that determining whether someone belongs to a particular religion is directly related to whether he/she follows the religious scriptures of the particular religion, and also whether they abide to live by the authority of the scriptural texts.

Christianity emerges from the guidance of the Gospels and Islam from the Quran where Christians believe Jesus died for their sins and Muslims believe there is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet. Similarly, Hinduism emerges from a set of scriptures known as the Vedas and a Hindu is one who lives according to Dharma which is implicated in the divine laws in the Vedic scriptures.By default, the person who follows these set of religious texts is a Hindu.

Also Read: Christianity and Islam don’t have room for a discourse. Hindus must Stop Pleasing their former Christian or Muslim masters, says Maria Wirth 

Vedas distinguishes Hindu from a Non-Hindu

Keeping this definition in mind, all the Hindu thinkers of the traditional schools of Hindu philosophy accept and also insist on accepting the Vedas as a scriptural authority for distinguishing Hindus from Non-Hindus. Further implying the acceptance of the following of Bhagwat Gita, Ramayana, Puranas etc as a determining factor by extension principle as well.

Bottom Line

So, concluding the debate on who is a Hindu we can say that a person who believes in the authority of the Vedas and lives by the Dharmic principles of the Vedas is a Hindu. Also implying that anyone regardless of their nationality i.e. American, French or even Indian can be called a Hindu if they accept the Vedas.

– Prepared by Tanya Kathuria of Newsgram                                                                

(the article was originally written by Shubhamoy Das and published by thoughtco)

One response to “Are We Hindus If We Live in India? The Answer to Contentious Question is Here”

  1. Hindu is a historical name for people living “behind the river Indus”. So, everyone living in India is a Hindu, eventhough he might have a different faith.

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‘Religion’ in India- Types and its Connection to Country’s Civilization

The Ancient religions of India are Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.

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Religion
Ancient Religions of India.

India’s economic and political strata in today’s world have reached a great level, but that is still not what the country is known for. The country is known for its diversity and religions because the term ‘religion’ in India is not just a system of belief and worship, but a way of life too. Since ancient times, it has been an integral part of its culture. For the citizens of this country, religion pervades through all the activities of life- from cooking chores to working and politics. The religion we follow plays an important role in our upbringing as well. Our conditioning is done based on the principles of our religion. India is a home to many religions- Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam and others.

How old is the Indian civilization?

The Indian civilization is around 4000 years old, with the existing Indian religions growing in that period. The antiquity of the religions in India begins from the Harappan culture. It’s a secular country which respects all kinds of religion and culture, but during the ancient times, when the Human civilization was developing, there were three main religions native to India- Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The predominant religion during this period was Hinduism, which is said have originated in the Northern India.

Religion wise Indian Population:

  • HINDUISM – about 82%
  • ISLAM – about 12%
  • CHRISTIANITY – about 2.5%
  • SIKHISM – about 2%
  • BUDDHISM – about 0.7%
  • JAINISM – about 0.5%
  • ZOROASTRIANISM – about 0.01%
  • JUDAISM – about 0.0005%   (stated by adaniel.tripod)

Hinduism

Religion
Brahma                                                                                                                                                          Pixabay

Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. Its followers worship several deities. Unlike the other religions, this religion does not have one teacher. Its followers, the ‘Hindus’ believe in a supreme divine spirit called ‘Parama Brahma’. The concept of Parama Brahma states that Brahma is omnipresent.

Hindus believe in vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means the whole world is a single family. They also believe in Sarva dharma Sama Bhava, which means all religions are equal. The practice follows the ideas of mercy, charity, compassion, benevolence, non-violence and mercy. It believes the concept of ‘Bhakti’ or devotion.

The sacred writings of Hinduism include the Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Upanishads.

Also Read: The history and development of Indian Handicrafts

Jainism

Religion
Lord Mahavira                                                                                                                                                   Pixabay
According to tradition, the founder of Jainism was first Tirthankara Adinatha. However, the religion was widely propagated by the 24th Tirthankara, Mahavira. He was born in Vaishali, Bihar, who belonged to the clan ‘Licchavi’. Mahavira was moved by the sufferings of people, and therefore, left his home at the age of 30 to seek the truth. He supported the teachings of the previous Tirthankaras, and added his own beliefs to the teachings.
He believed in the ideology of leading a good life and not doing any wrong. He did not encourage the practice of needing the help of God for everything.
Doctrines of Jainism:
  1. Ahimsa (Non-violence)
  2. Satya (Truth)
  3. Asteya (Non-stealing)
  4. Brahmacharya (Chastity)
  5. Aparigraha (Non-possession)

Buddhism

Religion
Lord Buddha                                                                                                                                                    Pixabay
Buddhism is a religion which consists of different kinds of beliefs and practices based on the teachings of Lord Buddha. Buddha’s name was Siddhartha. He was the son of the Shakya clan’s leader. It is believed that Siddhartha made three observations, which changed his life:  a feeble old man; a person suffering from disease; and a dead body being taken for cremation. This propelled him in finding the true meaning of life. He left his home at an early age and attained ‘enlightenment’ in Bodhgaya.
He also prescribed the four noble truths and eight fold path.
Four noble truths are:
  • Dukkha (truth of suffering)
  • Samudāya (truth of the suffering’s origin)
  • Nirodha (the truth of suffering’s cessation.)
  • Magga (Direction to eight-fold path)

The eight fold path are- Right aims, Right beliefs, Right conduct, Right speech, Right effort, Right occupation, Right meditation and Right thinking.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at twitter @ImMeghaacharya.