Source: Associated Press
NEW DELHI (AP) — 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.”
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 txshe nerves or feeling a sense of wellbeing, 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.”