The most spiritually intense experiences of life have the capacity to momentarily withdraw a person from the realm of time and space. It is inevitable that people want to be in pursuit of spirituality that not only brings harmony and serenity within the soul but also enlightenment to the mind. Spirituality is the food for soul, soul craves it; and when unable to find it, looks for it in inebriated materials. Nonetheless, spirituality can be experienced by any human being irrespective of him/her being religious or profane. Scientists at the Yale University have unearthed the exact spot in human brain which activates when people experience spirituality. According to Marc Potenza, a psychiatry professor at Yale University, ‘parietal cortex’ in human brain is the area associated with spirituality. Thus, neuropsychological connection with spirituality makes it not an unattainable feat to achieve and is also essential in knowing the brain functioning.
Spirituality, with its meaningful charisma, is culturally all-encompassing and inclusive. Religion, on the other hand, is more of an institutionalized entity. Transcendence, which is the ability to transcend one’s own self, is also associated with spirituality. Similarly, enlightenment, according to Buddhist point of view, is the absence of suffering and desire, along with presence of absolute peace. Low stress and anxiety levels are observed among people who experience enlightenment. The reason lies in the decreased activity in frontal lobes, attained during meditation. 24/7 working frontal lobes, processing complex information and events all the time, when experience lower to none activity during meditation practice or prayer, delve into the realm of enlightenment where there is no stress, hassle or worry. Lower activity in frontal lobe is linked with the “feelings of surrendering one’s will completely”, states Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist, and the author of The Metaphysical Mind: Probing the Biology of Philosophical Thought. When our egoistic mind submits itself completely to something infinite and larger than itself, it experiences enlightenment.
The general perception regarding the attributes that genetically transfer from generation to generation is a lot complex to discuss in case of spirituality. Geneticists themselves admit of genes not telling every complex detail of human genetics. So, there still lacks data regarding religious and spiritual beliefs being transferred from parent to offspring. However Dr. Dean Hamer, author of the book The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes complements the ‘gene variation’ in subjects who experience ecstatic and euphoric moments during spiritual activity. Still, the question whether spirituality is genetically transferred or not is debatable and needs further elucidation. On the other hand, neural substrate of human beings does support spirituality and beliefs. Our brain is designed to recognize God, because, if it doesn’t, the suffering arises. We have “God neurons” deep in our limbic system (also linked with emotion), states Rhawn Joseph, a neurotheologian. The question then arises: can only theists have this neutral network in their brain to posses these god neurons? In Professor Jordan Grafman’s words, “There is nothing unique about religious belief in these brain structures. Religion doesn’t have a ‘God spot’ as such, instead it’s embedded in a whole range of other belief systems in the brain that we use everyday”. According to my opinion, based on analysis, “god neurons” are present in everybody, theist or atheist, the key is to recognize and hit that particular spot that brings spirituality and enlightenment. One can experience spirituality or enlightenment through meditation practices. The focus needs to curb our 24/7 talking brain, which hassles to think about every problem there is. As the study suggests that a human thinks approximately 6200 thoughts per day. Not one, not two, 6200 thoughts. And meditation practices offer a chance to submerge into a no-thought brain. Hence, it is indubitable to say that our brains are hardwired to tap into the spiritual realm.
Religion has existed for centuries and people’s belief in the higher and ultimate authority has given them a sense of belonging and feeling of security. In US, 80% adults have a kind of religious or spiritual belief, according to a study published online in The Council on Recovery. People with no belief are usually seen to undergo existential crisis, lacking a sense of meaning and purpose. The hollowness, void and nothingness pervade the being; even the world itself appears purposeless. The raison d’être is their inability to identity the ‘godneuron’ in their brains. It is not surprising then why people commit suicide out of agonizing stress and constant worry. The neurotheological study, therefore, is significant in elucidating concepts about the workings of the brain. Scholar Akshat Jain and his teams working in this area of Neuroscience to open few more gates.
This world is a trivial place to live in. Everyday worldly experiences can tire a brain to an excruciating level. Consequently, the modern world is fraught with innumerable cases of stress disorders. Our means of survival and meaningful living are highly dependent on spiritual experiences. They have a “profound impacts on peoples’ lives”, state researchers at Yale University. Religious people, gurus, monks, nuns, mediators; all of these people’s calmness and wherewithal to take this world and its problems flippantly, is because of their years of meditational practice. In James Allen’s words, “Meditation is the secret of all growth in spiritual life and knowledge.” Therefore the question is not whether your brain is spiritual of not, but have you tapped into your brain to make it spiritual. To conclude with a quote of Amit Ray, “Suffering is due to disconnection with the inner soul, meditation is establishing that connection.”