Vedic Prayers: Science Behind It
Most people pray to some or other form of God. Most of them only pray when they are in trouble. There is nothing wrong with it. Some people pray daily without ever knowing why they do and what they are doing. Do the prayers really help? Most believers say they do while all unbelievers would need proof.
Prayers are not some hocus-pocus magic which would send divine intervention. There actually is a Science and Rational Explanation associated with everyday Vedic Prayers. Everything from folding hands, to speaking mantras, to lighting the incense stick to eating the prasad and bending in front of the idol has Science associated with it. Below are the various Scientific and Rational Explanation provided for the various activities done in everyday prayers.
Science behind Folding Hands
Mantra Science was designed to elevate the conscious and bring it closer to the Absolute Truth aka God. Even if someone chooses not to believe in God then also reciting Mantra is a scientifically proven way to reduce stress, calm the mind and repair and heal the body. More on Mantra Remedies in the articles: Vedic Remedies and Power Of Mantras.
Beej Mantras are specifically great mantras. All of them were designed to help awaken the latent abilities of brain and the body. A proper scientific research along with quantifiable data is all that is missing to prove the effectiveness of beej mantras. But for certain mantras like the OM Mantra sound or the Gayatri Mantra there are research papers which suggest they do improve brain and body functioning.
Believers need to properly speak of the mantras to get maximum benefits from them. While Non-Believers if so wish can do it for the benefits they may derive from speaking these mantras. Be sure to do the mantras in a relaxed position with folded hands or hands in Gyaan Mudra or similar other Mudra and closed eyes. Quality and not Quantity is important when speaking the Beej Mantras.
Incense Stick and Lamp
Many people believe that Incense Sticks purify the atmosphere. All they do is act as mosquito repellents. Dhoop can be of Camphor or Commiphora wightii(Guggal) but other flavors like Sandalwood are also used. The incense stick and dhoop are natural ways to drive out the harmful mosquitoes and insects. Some of the incense sticks have good aroma which liven up the room where they are lit. In addition some people burn neem leaves and use it as dhoop. Most people spread the smoke from dhoop and incense stick around the house. All they are doing is driving the mosquitoes out in a natural way. One common mistake is to keep the incense stick in prayer room instead of living room.
Idols and Pictures
Many Hindus do not believe in Idols and Pictures. Nothing wrong in that as God is Omnipresent. But the idols and pictures work on the subconscious. One of the rules of User Interface is that "Recognition is better then Recall". One would ask what has a Concept related to Information Technology got to do with Spirituality. But actually that is the only concept that is worth noting. A picture or idol makes it easier to recognize a certain event and draw inspiration from it. For example when you are depressed and things do not go as planned the provided image of Krishna teaching Arjun the concept of Karma may drive you to get over depressed state and star working without any sort of attachment towards your goals.
Recognition as in a picture or idol is far better then Recall where you have to figure out spiritual context of the sacred text. One of the reasons why Ramayana and Mahabharata have survived for thousands of year in memory of people is because of various dramas(Ram-Leela etc), pictures, idols, paintings and television soap opera being made after them. It would be difficult without it to pass the glorious legacy.
Ringing Temple Bells
The ringing of small bell or temple bell is said to bring unity of left and right brain. Also it is said to awaken the seven chakras in the body. The bell does nothing but the sound and ripple effect carry the magic. Ofcourse this is yet to be proven scientifically.
Consuming offering to God like Fruits, Semolina Halwa(Suji Ka Halwa) and even Sugar Balls have their positives. More on it in the article: Science Of Fasting and Science of Fasting2. The fundamental rule of Prasad(food offerings) is to consume a small quantity of it. As long as that rule is followed most of them do not cause body harm otherwise even the food offerings could become poison.
In the temple most of the people fold their hands, bow down with full body touching the ground or possibly folded legs and elongated hands placed on floor. None of them even know that they are doing. Simple folding of hands while standing is called Pranamasana. Pranamasana relaxes the body and reduces mental stress much similar to Anjali Yoga. Vajrasana the posture of sitting with folded legs and hands on knees is great for digestive systems especially curing constipation and ulcers. The Shashankasana pose gives relief to the mind and cures depression. It tones the pelvic muscles and help cure few sexual diseases. Finally Advasana pose which is provided in the image helps the lower back and neck region. So without knowing many parts of your body are getting toned just by simple kneeling in front of an idol.
Thoppukaranam done in front of Lord Ganesha is now called Super Brain Yoga. It has been scientifically proven to help children with high level of autism, dyslexia and other kids with Special Needs. Not only that it has been proven to balance the right and left lobes of brain. Alzheimer's Patients have also shown improvement in their condition by doing Thoppukaranam or Super Brain Yoga. Video is provided in Reference Section.
Ask The Questions Yourself
A lot of the age old spiritual traditions and customs have scientific rational associated with them. One cannot deny that superstition and fear has cramped up the spiritual sector. So it is difficult to separate Science from Superstition. Only way to separate them is to ask tough questions. Answers can only be made available if questions are asked and research with quantifiable data is done. Those which are superstitions should be discarded and those with logical and scientific explanation should be encouraged.
Note: Some of the citations are not authenticated by scientific data.
Anjali Mudra: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A%C3%B1jali_Mudr%C4%81
Anjali Mudra: http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/salutation-seal/
Gayatri Mantra Research Paper: http://www.healthandyoga.com/html/dissertations/neha/abstract.aspx
Beej Mantras: http://sciencebehindmantras.blogspot.in/2013/01/beej-mantras.html
Bell Ringing: http://www.sanskritimagazine.com/rituals_and_practices/why-do-hindus-ring-the-bell-in-temple/
Bell Ringing2: https://www.ishtadevata.com/blog/scientific-reason-behind-temple-bells.html
Yoga Benefits: http://www.yogicwayoflife.com
Usability Heuristics: http://www.designprinciplesftw.com/collections/10-usability-heuristics-for-user-interface-design
Super Brain Yoga: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p876UDB8EN4
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