One of the fellows that shared our apartment in college in 1974 became deeply involved in Scientology for a few months. He never really could clearly explain their teachings. After a few minutes his discourse would degenerate into some bizarre unintelligible jargon as he became more and more animated. What is interesting about his joining up was my suggestion that we attend one of their introductory lectures on campus, at which the pompous windbag that talked for over an hour proceeded to deride every religion on the face of the earth including Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Luckily for my fellow student, his father knew L Ron Hubbard's former partner that originally started the cult and he took his son to see the man who told him what a big scam it was. Needless to say he immediately abandoned the "church". Today he is a practicing Hindu and meditator.
Well, I suppose they have tamed down their rhetoric and become more reasonable over the past thirty years, but I don't really know for sure. This whole anti-psychiatry campaign of theirs has brought them back to my attention. Certainly they may have a point about the shortcomings of many of the pharmaceuticals that have been used in the past as a mass experiment. On the other hand, their criticism does not seem to take into account any of the recent discoveries yielded by research on the brain and its inner workings. I think that what we are going to see down the road is psychiatry evolving into a specialty of medicine that focuses on the brain, just as we have doctors that specialize in organs like the heart or lungs. There have been some important breakthroughs of late, such as the use of powerful magnets to effectively treat depression and schizophrenia without any dire side effects. I see mantras as being a tool in the medical arsenal for treating mental illness, as well as alternative therapies like acupuncture and Ayurvedic herbs like brahmi. The brain is a very special organ and without question the most complex one in our bodies, given the billions of neural connections it contains and the holistic nature of its functions. It has the dimension of our consciousness, and the teachings of Vedanta provide us with unparalleled insights into that realm of our being. I picture the Cerebrologists of the future referring patients to Vaishnava gurus for follow up therapy and perhaps even as the first line of defense before prescribing drugs.