The great mantra dedicated to Shiva as Mrityunjaya is found in the Rig Veda (Mandala VII, Hymn 59), where it is attributed to the sage Vasishtha. The hymn in which it is found begins with eleven stanzas honoring the forces of nature (the marut) said to be the children of Rudra/Shiva. The maruts control the energies of storms, winds, and clouds (and thus the light of the sky). They possess destructive energy, but they are also the protectors of the household. When they act in harmony, they create an environment of peace and prosperity.
Rishi Vasishtha pays homage to these forces and then continues with the final stanza, a mantra revered throughout the scriptures. It is called the Maha Mrityunjaya mantra, the Great Death-Conquering mantra.
It is a mantra that has many names and forms. It is called the Rudra mantra, referring to the furious aspect of Shiva, the Tryambakam mantra, alluding to Shiva’s three eyes, and it is sometimes known as the Mrita-Sanjivini mantra because it is a component of the “life-restoring” practice given to the sage Shukra after he had completed an exhausting period of austerity.
The Maha Mrityunjaya mantra is hailed by the sages as the heart of the Vedas. Along with the Gayatri mantra it holds the highest place among the many mantras used for contemplation and meditation.
“Om Tryambakam Yajaamahe
Mrtyormukshiya Maamrtaat ||”
This is the mantra which has benefitted Markandeya Rishi and also Chandra when he was cursed by Daksha.
Does this mantra is relevant even in today’s time? Does it cure diseases and help in spiritual welbeing?
A study regarding Mruthyunjaya Mantra aiding in Brain injury treatment is worth noting down.
At Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, comatose patients with serious brain injury have undergone a treatment that is not a usual part of hospital regimens—the chanting of an ancient Vedic mantra that is believed to ward off untimely death. The Mahamruthyunjaya Mantra.
This treatment, is part of a study for which the Indian government has sanctioned research funds.
In 2014, Dr Ashok Kumar, then a resident neuropharmacologist at the All India Institute of Medial Sciences(AIIMS), proposed a pilot study on the “role of intercessory prayer in determining the outcome after severe traumatic brain injury.”
Intercessory prayers are offered by people on behalf of someone else. The prayer in in this study is the Mahamrityunjaya chant, a mantra from the Rig Veda, one of the oldest texts of Hindu dharma.
Dr Kumar’s study attempted to determine whether the chanting of this mantra on behalf of patients with severe traumatic brain injury, or STBI, would play a role in improving their health outcomes.
STBI is caused by external trauma to the head, such as from a fall, a car crash or an otherwise violent movement of the head.
To carry out this study, Dr Kumar applied to the Indian Council of Medical Research, or ICMR, for a research fellowship. The ICMR is the apex body in India for the formulation and promotion of biomedical research and is overseen by the ministry of health and family welfare.
In March 2016, the ICMR approved the fellowship, and sanctioned Rs 28,000 per month for the study. The funds were awarded for one year starting October 2016, and then renewed for the next two years.
Dr Kumar had initially proposed that the project be conducted at AIIMS, where he was then employed. However, the ethics committee at AIIMS rejected the project as “unscientific.”
He then proposed the project to the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital. The ethics committee at RML sanctioned the project after six rounds of queries about different aspects of the study, which Kumar had to answer.
In a written submission to the RML ethics committee, Dr Kumar said that the study aims to “evaluate whether intercessory prayer has any direct or indirect effect on an unconscious STBI patient and reduces the psychological stress and serum cytokines level and improves the patient outcome.”
Cytokines are small secreted proteins released by cells that impact the interactions and communications between cells. Traumatic brain injury triggers an immune response which activates a number of cells and cytokines which may contribute to secondary brain damage.
“In ancient India, when soldiers got injured in war, this mantra was used to revive them. There are lots of studies among Christians that people with breast cancer and cardiovascular disease who go to church have improved outcomes. Hindu civilisation is more ancient than Christianity and the aim of this project is to prove that there is scientific basis to Hindu belief.”
This is what Dr Kumar beliefs in.
The hypothesis of Dr Kumar’s study is that “intercessory prayer generates spiritual vibrations, which are believed to be involved in the development of positive faith, and reduce psychological stress, which might be associated with cytokines reduction and a better STBI outcome.”
He conducted the study for nearly three years from October 2016 to April 2019 at the RML hospital. It involved 40 patients divided into two groups of twenty.
Intercessory prayer was conducted for one group while the other group served as a control group whose treatment continued without any prayers offered on their behalf. The objective was to compare the medical outcomes of both groups. Written permission was taken from the relatives of the patients for whom the prayers were conducted.
The project called for the Mahamrityunjaya chant to be recited 1.25 lakh times over a period of seven days per patient.
There were two criteria to select patients—the prayers needed to commence within 24 hours of the injury, and the patient needed a score of between 4 and 8 on the Glasgow Coma scale—in other words, a state of severe coma.
The Glasgow scale measures the level of consciousness in a person following traumatic brain injury, from severe, which is 8 or less, to mild, which is between 13 and 15.
Since the doctors at the RML hospital did not know the intricacies of the chant, Dr Kumar roped in teachers from the Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, a university in Delhi that imparts instruction in traditional Sanskrit. The Vidyapeetha is a public institution under the ministry of human resource development.
“Their head of department of medical astrology was very interested and fine-tuned the Mahamrityunjaya chant for our project,” Dr Kumar said, referring to the Vidyapeetha in an interview.
The name of the patient, date of birth, place of birth and gotra, were included in the chant. A professor from the Vidyapeetha came with Ganga jal to do shuddhi, or purification, for the selected patient, and then offered the prayer on the patient’s behalf at a temple in the Vidyapeetha premesis.
Meanwhile, at the RML hospital, Dr Kumar took blood samples before and after the seven-day prayer period.
The final results of the three-year study are being compiled, but
Dr Kumar claimed that – patients for whom intercessory prayer was done showed a dramatic improvement in the Glasgow coma scale and the functional independent measure.
The functional independence measure is an indicator of patient disability.
The doctors are waiting for the final results to be compliled so that a definitive conclusion could be drawn out.
The results would amaze the medical faculty for sure.
India is looking to it’s roots for the solutions of today’s problem,be it physical,emotional or spiritual one. With education, Indians are taking pride in knowing our ancient treasures of knowledge and they are no more hiding from announcing it to the world.
A good development for sure.
Dr Sindhu Prashanth