A SHORT HISTORY OF INDIAN PSYCHOLOGY
V. GEORGE MATHEW, Ph.D
The term Indian Psychology refers to the Psychologically relevant materials in ancient Indian thought. Usually this term does not cover modern developments in Psychology in India.
Modern Psychology at the beginning of the century emphasized sensation, perception and psychologists in India took out Indian theories of sensation and perception from the classics and created an Indian Psychology. For example Indian theories emphasise the notion that in perception the mind goes out through the senses and assumes the shape of the objects. In 1934, Jadunath Sinha wrote a book on Indian theories of perception. As soon as Western Psychologists started studying cognition, Indian Psychologists started looking for Indian theories of cognition. In 1958, Jadunath Sinha wrote a book on Cognition. Later on modern Psychology started emphasising emotions, and in 1981, Jadunath Sinha wrote a book on Emotions and the Will.
The major part of ancient Indian scriptures (Hindu, Buddhist and Jain) emphasise self-realization, samadhi or nirvana. After 1960 Humanistic Psychology emerged and Psychologists became interested in paranormal dimensions of growth. Maslow's theory of self-actualization and transcendental self-actualization established the link to the major part of ancient Indian theories and methods and almost the whole of ancient Indian writings became psychologically relevant. Psychology of Consciousness, Parapsychology, Psychology of Mysticism, Psychology of Religion and Transpersonal Psychology borrow extensively from Indian writings. The terms Oriental Psychology, Buddhist Psychology, Yoga Psychology , Jain Psychology, etc. are frequently found in modern psychological literature now. Many book lists in Psychology now include books on Yoga, Buddhism and Zen. There seems to be a paradigm shift in Western Psychology, a shift from the notion of mental disease and healing to personal growth, the reference point shifting from the statistical average or "normal" to the ideal or upper limits of man's potentiality.
The rudiments of the theory of consciousness can be traced back to the Indus valley civilization (6000 to 1500 B.C.). Artifacts of a man sitting in Padmasana have been obtained in excavations. The Swasthika symbol was used in Indus valley script. Buddhist thought and methods (6th century B.C.) are in line with the objective spirit of modern science and the law of parsimony of science and Buddhism can be easily incorporated into a scientific framework. The Psychological relevance of the four noble truths and eight-fold path and Sunya vada of Buddhism and Buddhist techniques of meditation are of considerable relevance in modern Psychology. Similarly Jain scriptures also are found to be relevant to Psychology in more than one way. The Vedas date from about 1500 B.C. However, Upanishads (appendices to the Vedas, which date from 600 B.C.) which describe the Vedanta philosophy and provide the theoretical foundation of Jnana Yoga are of more direct relevance to Psychology. The Bhagavat Gita gives a quintessence of Indian way of life and philosophy and it describes the four yogas, Karma, Bhakthi, Raja and Jnana. Several books have come on the psychological relevance of Gita. Maslow's theory of Meta-motivation is very similar to the concept of Nishkama karma outlined in the Gita.
Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga is a very systematic presentation of Raja yoga. Both Bhagavat Gita and Ashtanga Yoga are supposed to have been written around the turn of B.C. to A.D. Sankara's writings (8th century A.D.) on the different yogas as well as his Advaita philosophy are considered as classics in the area and are of great value to the Psychology of consciousness as well as personal growth. Modern interest in relaxation can be traced to studies on Savasana. Rising popularity of meditation practice links Psychology to Oriental religious practices and philosophy.
Indian literature on aspects of consciousness is vast, considering the classics and their commentaries. Mental states have been analyzed, classified and differentiated in detail. Similarly paranormal powers (siddhis) have been classified in detail. The process of personal growth and obstacles to growth have been examined thoroughly. There is a great deal of maturity resulting from long experience in these areas reflected in the writings. Indian theories of linguistics, social behavior, crime, etc. are all based on the holistic approach and the broad-based intuitive understanding of behavior in contradistinction to Western theories which are piece-meal, analytic and situation specific. The increasing importance given to the holistic approach and need for synthesis makes it possible to integrate modern Western Psychology with ancient Indian thoughts as well as methods.
The psychosomatic relationship was well known and salient in ancient times. The very first invocatory stanza of Ashtangahridaya (the main text in Ayurveda, written in 4th century A.D.) describes how emotions like desires lead to both physical and mental diseases.
Triguna theory (Satwa, Rajas and Tamas) of Kapila (Sankhya philosophy, 6th century B.C.)
Many attempts are being made to integrate ancient Indian Psychology with modern Western Psychology. More than 40 books have appeared in the field of Indian Psychology. There is a journal of Indian Psychology published from Andhra University which has an Institute of Yoga and Consciousness. At least five persons have developed personality inventories based on the