By: Malathy Sreenivasan
The Mind acts like an enemy for those who do not control it.
Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavad Gita
The world is changing; the technological advances in nuclear science, space exploration, medical field, education, health, food habits, family relationships, societal interactions -every field of life is changing at a tremendous speed. Mars will be colonized by humans by 2050. Researchers, scientists, physicians and educators are all trying to make the world a better home and our lives healthier and comfortable. The 21st century has improved the quality of life in the third millenium, providing a load of conveniences for us. We are able to cure diseases and lead easier lives as compared to those individuals who lived in the past. With rapid discoveries and inventions, it is expected that people who live in the modern times would have higher levels of happiness and cool lives.
The sudden boom of the internet and social media made communication faster and easier. We get everything in a twinkle of an eye.But the over use and dependence of technology is making us impatient and more materialistic. We are in a period of frustration and disillusion that everything new is the best. This makes us the slaves of modern life. The century of innovation, development and ideation, will also be remembered by its concerns over global warming, the rise in global conflicts, terrorism, increase in dreadful diseases, child abuse, sexual abuse, drugs and not leaving the higher levels of mental disorders.
WAIT for the JOLT…
Humankind has made progress; but we should not be surprised that this progress came at a cost…with the increase in mental health problems. Depression and anxiety are growing at a brisker rate. The increased isolation caused by digital technology has been causing loss of sleep, ADHD, obesity, learning barriers, cyber bullying and loss of privacy. Brain chemistry, hormone levels, family history, increased parental pressures, use of social media, childhood trauma, sexual abuse, serious illnesses, certain medications are having adverse effect on the minds of the young and the old.
History of Depression:
Depression is not, by any means, a new problem. It is found in philosophical writings and in literature since Antiquity. Ancient Greeks believed some forms of madness were linked to creativity and genius. The philosopher Aristotle wrote,” No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.” The word depression (called melancholia) appeared for the first time in this century. The early Babylonian, Chinese and Egyptian civilisations viewed depression of mind as a form of demonic possession. Even the 18th and early 19th centuries thought that depression was an inherited, unchangeable weakness of temperament. As we neared the 1900s, there were incredible leaps and bounds made in the understanding of the human brain and depression.
Effectiveness of medical approaches:
Recent research suggests that therapy and drug treatment improve the chances of relief for depression. Some mental health professionals describe recovery from all or most depression symptoms as “remissions” which shows that depression does have a high risk of recurrence. One has to keep in mind that research exploring the effectiveness of these medical approaches remains limited. The bottom line is that research hasn’t identified a way to completely cure depression, meaning symptoms can return even with professional treatment. We need to understand that we do have plenty of options but when these approaches don’t promise to help improve the symptoms, it’s worth considering the other types of treatment.
The knowledge of spirituality:
The intention of this article is to analyze and perceive the significance of spiritual awakening in treating depression. Spiritual awakening can be: examining our beliefs, expanding our mind, learning to let go, praying, meditation, experiencing a feeling of interconnectedness, seeing a deeper meaning in the mundanity, as our personal evolution. Through certain spiritual practices one can help improve symptoms of mental health conditions.Research supports that focusing on a higher power makes us more optimistic. It showed cortical thickening in the prefrontal region of the brain as a shield against stress. Certain spiritual practices bring a shift in the attitude and behavior and this helps to change our entire outlook on life. There is a wealth of power in how we can positively change our brains through our minds. Spirituality can play a pivotal role in treating depression.
All of us come into the world with a pure soul but over the years we develop a protective mask that shields the inner self. But somewhere inside, in the very depths of our true ‘self ’ there has always been, is, and will be a spirit and something immaterial, eternal and transcendental. This is very valuable in every individual. The life goal of a spiritual person is to search and locate this inner wealth and not the accumulation of material wealth. The search for the question “Who am I?’ finds an answer in this quest. When we identify ourselves with the body- material and finite, there’s a constant fear of losing even the slightest chance of momentary joy and pleasure. Through inner spiritual experiences we realize the depth of our lives. Deepening of our awareness of reality through spiritual practice is an everyday step to transform our small-i self that is struggling with depression. In the modern world , everyone is looking for happiness in life through external attributes-home, clothes, friends, food and so on. This external happiness is impermanent and the fear of constantly losing it creates stress and depression. We all have the part of us that is aware of depression and it is a version of us that is dormant in us. We need to awaken this sacred Self. We need to learn to recognize the sacred Self flowing through us. Swami Vivekananda rightly said, “ Do not underestimate yourself, all knowledge is within us. All perfection is there already in your soul.” Faith in the supreme Soul awakens this spirit.
Let’s try to handle the questions that have been asked from centuries:
Does God exist?
Can we see God?
How do we know the Supreme soul is real?
In Indian culture, the Suya, the Sun is not seen as a burning ball of fire but as a Supremebeing. It is easy and convincing to view the Sun this way. If anyone asks to show Rama, Krishna, Jesus or Allah, it’s not that easily possible. But one can see the Sun in the skies every morning. He is the God who appears before us everyday. When we look at the brilliance and the incredible power of the Sun,our first response to worship the Sun becomes irresistible. The sun’s love is unconditional; rays of the Sun enter into our homes giving us heat and light in the form of solar energy. It revitalizes human beings and gives us a reason to wake up every single day. We embrace the warmth of the sun’s rays to get our recommended dose of vitamin D. It livens our senses, warms us up and helps keep internal balance and rhythm. It synchronizes the mind, body and intellect to achieve the benefit.
Different cultures across the globe have always kindled and generated different kinds of spiritual experiences.
Egyptians considered the sun god Re as a dominant figure among the high Gods. During Roman history, sun worship had gained an importance and ultimately led to what has been called a “Solar monotheism”. According to Greeks, the god of the sun was Helios. Homer points to Helios’s chariot as being drawn by bulls of fire. In Japan the sun goddess, Amaterasu, played an important role in ancient mythology and was considered to be the supreme ruler of the world. In Mexican and Peruvian civilization the sun god, Inti occupied an important place. The most famous type of solar cult is the Sun Dance of the Plains Indians of North America. Buddhism believes in the elimination of all greed, hatred and ignorance within a person for mental peace and harmony.
Power of Sanskrit Hymn, Aditya Hrudayam:
Indians worship the Sun God, the son of Aditi, as the sustainer of life on earth. Aditya Hrudayam, a divine hymn, is composed by Agastya, a learned sage. Vedas are squeezed into this hymn of 31 stanzas, chanting 108 names of the Sun God. It is believed that the great sage Agastya himself had preached this powerful hymn to Lord Rama to uplift him from the deep thoughts of sorrow during his war with Ravana which further helped Lord Rama to defeat the mighty Ravana. This hymn dedicated to Aditya or Surya (the Sun God) is found in the 107th chapter of Yuddha Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana. This hymn is designed so well that if you begin chanting it at the appearance of the first ray of the sun, you will complete the hymn by the time of the complete sunrise.
Aditya-hrudayam punyam sarva shatru-vinasanam
Jayavaham japen-nityam akshayyam paramam shivam (in Sanskrit)
( meaning:The holy Aditya hrudayam can destroy all the enemies and by chanting this stotram daily can bring victory to you all the time without much effort and give you unending felicity.)
The hymn can uplift us from difficult situations as well as from deep sorrow. It can be chanted by anyone, on all days,( essentially on Sundays) and any time of the day, as the sun is ever present. The power of its sound creates enthusiasm in us. Even listening to this hymn helps us to attach ourselves to our inner peace and harmony.
Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation is one of the most widely known yoga practices. Traditionally it was used as a means of paying respect to the sun. It is a morning yoga practice designed to harness prana shakti (life energy), most abundant at dawn. It provides complete work-out for body, mind and spirit.. It is an efficient way to connect with inner strength and stability.
Exposure to sunlight cures depression symptoms. Running in the sunlight provides an outlet for our restless energy and an introduction to new social groups. This also enlarges the hippocampus of our brain and stimulates the frontal cortex. Running in the sun also releases serotonin and norepinephrine for combatting mental problems.
Namaste (Namaskar) means hello. The verbal meaning of namaste is a part of namaskar which has three important parts: verbally saying Namaste, bringing the hands together in front of the heart and bowing the head towards the heart. Thus our hands placed together, are creating a union of opposites. Our minds are very good at seeing differences. Our highest wisdom, however, is setting aside the differences our minds see between ourselves and others and to experience the unity of being.
The Bhagavad Gita teaches us not to yield to sorrow and despair but to face our difficulties with fortitude and patience. Layer after layer our ego and ignorance covers the purity of our soul. Through spiritual practices we can develop our souls. Spiritual energy increases our self- awareness, awareness of large- ‘I’ self. We can adopt a child’s mind- the willingness to be amazed, a childlike awe to imagine that we are immersed in an ocean encompassed by the Supreme being.
Spiritual ignorance is the major pain bearing obstacle which leads to afflictions such as ego, attachment, aversion and attachment to the physical body.
A spiritual approach to depression is to think that depression is not a symptom of an ailment but a cautionary sign to accept that we let go of an outdated understanding of ourselves. A spiritual approach leads us to find more meaning in our work and life. Depression is not any manifestation of anxiety to get rid of, but if used in a rightful way, it can transform our habits and enable us to live closer to peace and joy.
About the author
A doctorate in English and an educator for decades. A smooth drift from academic writing to Poetry; Vanaja Malathy considers poetry as her fabric of existence, poems to breathe and as a vent to her emotions. She also loves to paint, sew and read.
The prompt responses from Literary Yard motivates her to submit more to the journal.
Her poems have appeared recently in The Nightingale Poetry Journal, The New-England Monthly Poetry Digest, The Poet’s Showcase, Poetrynation.com, The New International Poetry Digest, and The Literary Yard
A Complete Biography of Swami Vivekananda
Bhagavad Gita as it is: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Positivenegativeimpact.com effects of 21st century
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http//www.britannica.com Sun worship
http://www.artofliving.org Surya namaskarams