A Follow-Up Report
THE MAY/JUNE 1998 issue of Back to Godhead included an article of mine on the Vedic Personality Index (VPI). Based primarily on Srila Prabhupada's translations and purports in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the VPI is a new tool for social and mental health scientists to measure personality traits. It uses the Vedic psychological model of the three modes of nature.
So far, social scientists have appreciated the VPI. Back to Godhead readers also responded well, with more than 125 readers of the U.S. edition taking the time to complete and return the VPI survey. Respondents received a personality analysis based on the modes of goodness (sattva), passion (rajas), and ignorance (tamas).
How did Back to Godhead readers score compared with others who took the survey? BTG readers recorded an average sattva score of 47.18. The other participants, including some 500 students, medical professionals, and others, registered a sattvascore of 37.7. (The higher the score, the stronger the inclination to the particular mode of nature.) In the rajas category, BTG readers averaged 26.72; others averaged 33.15. In the tamas category, it was 26.1 for BTG readers, and 29.19 for others.
I'd like to thank the BTG readers who took the survey. Their results allowed me to find a significant difference between Back to Godhead readers and others. Such distinctions are good; we would expect that the lives of Krsna conscious persons would reflect a stronger presence of goodness and diminished effects of passion and ignorance. Therefore, the data provided by the BTG readership strengthened the validity of the VPI.
In a broader sense a social scientist might consider that this research gives some scientific basis for promoting activities in the mode of goodness, which nourish traits such as honesty, nonviolence, satisfaction, sensual restraint, mental and emotional equilibrium, non-aggressive speech, and a spiritual inclination. Sattvic people tend to be more content, and they benefit society because they're dependable and conscientious. Rajasic people tend to be more self-centered and less capable of controlling their senses and emotions, leading to mood swings, greed, and envy. Tamasic people tend toward laziness, depression, and violence.
A New Study
The VPI, which I developed and used in my Ph.D. research, has proven to be a strong and consistent measure of personality traits. For example, a person predominantly influenced by rajas tends to consistently choose the rajasic trait across a wide variety of questions. Consequently my professors have approved my proposal to use the VPI and several other widely recognized personality measures in my Ph.D. project, which involves the chanting of Hare Krsna. In this study the subjects, fewer than 10% of whom have ever chanted Hare Krsna, will be divided into three groups. Each subject will take the VPI and other personality tests at the beginning and end of the study. During the period of the study, one group will chant a concocted combination of Sanskrit syllables for a prescribed time each day. The second group will chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra on beads each day (three "rounds," or 324 mantras). The third group will not chant anything. The VPI and other tests will measure the changes, if any, undergone by subjects in each of the three groups.
As with the VPI, I hope to prepare a version of this study for future publication in Back to Godhead.
The VPI study comes from Srila Prabhupada's verse translations and purports in chapters 14, 17, and 18 of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Dovetailing my research and academic endeavors with the Bhagavad-gita has been enlivening and gratifying. The VPI project has increased my faith in the Vedic literature.
The Vedic wisdom has been so refreshing and stimulating to my professors that they have asked me to give talks about it in their classes.