Yoga, meditation techniques and Buddhist chants bring equilibrium to a life full of gadget–driven consumerism and academic anxiety
With the survival–of–thefittest principle, stiff academic competition and peer pressure on lifestyle issues causing enormous stress, more and more youngsters in Mumbai are turning to spirituality or seeking solace in religion.
A decade ago, satsang gatherings in Mumbai were usually a meeting point for retirees, and the yoga mat at home was reserved for grandpa. But GenNext in the city is now vying to share the same space. The paths may differ, but conversations in college canteens are generously peppered with phrases such as inner strength, self–discovery and faith.
Nineteen–year–old Damini Thaker from Santa Cruz started meditation at the unlikely age of eight, when her mother enrolled her and her younger sister for a weeklong Art of Living course. The teenager now swears by the daily practice of Sudarshan Kriya. "Those are the only 20 minutes in the day I get for myself," says Thaker, who believes that the breathing exercises not only boosted her concentration but pushed her academic grades as well.
Her conviction grew stronger when she stepped into law school and sensed the constant stress amidst her circle of friends. "There is a lot of peer pressure. I believe I could stand my ground and even refuse the pressure to smoke and drink only because of meditation." She’s used to warding off jibes that she should keep spirituality for her sixties; she simply retorts by saying, "Meditating is cool".
Andheri teenager Shuddhi Ramani became a part of Soka Gakkai, a Buddhist movement, when she was sixteen. "I always believed there should be a mentor in my life, but the outside world didn’t seem to provide me that. In Buddhism, I found a path that gave me answers to the questions I was seeking," says Ramani, whose routine involves a daily dose of chanting for strength. She spent a recent Sunday morning with a group of fellow youngsters (restricted to those above 12th standard and still studying) who got together to share their experiences with careers, relationships and society at large.
These cases are no aberrations. Twentysomethings sporting the latest gadgets can be seen queued up outside the Siddhivinayak temple on Tuesdays for a mere glimpse of Lord Ganesha. Centres of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University in Mumbai estimate that 20% of their 20,000 followers in the city are youth below twenty, their numbers swelling with every passing year. Those practising Buddhist philosophy in the city have even introduced youth groups and appointed young leaders.
Old–timers believe the churning is telling of the times. Sister Santosh Ben, Maharashtra zone–in–charge of Brahma Kumaris, believes youngsters are under a lot of depression and constant academic stress. "Their whole life is spent acquiring degrees, trying to get admission and then worrying about a job. They are feeling the need for some peace of mind while putting up with all this. It is not surprising that an increasing number of them are turning to meditation." The Brahma Kumaris practise and teach a form of meditation that promises to relax the mind, while maintaining a balance between the inner self and outer world.
Dr Shilpa Sabharwal, an international faculty with The Art of Living, believes the entire focus of youngsters today is outwards, directed towards their gadgets, academics or relationships, which often leaves them stressed. "Their mind is always in the future or in the past. We teach breathing techniques which help them to live in the moment." The Art of Living enrols about 150 youngsters for its courses in Mumbai every month.
Nineteen–year–old Damini Thaker started meditation at the age of eight, when her mother enrolled her and her younger sister for a week–long Art of Living course. The teenager now swears by the daily practice of Sudarshan Kriya
Times of India
26 Sep 2013