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Counselling in its widest connotation existed in one form or the other
from time immemorial. In India, right from the days of the Vedas,
our sages have been interested in understanding and controlling
the mental processes. As such, there is no system of Indian thought
that has not made significant contributions to Psychology. It is
against this background that an attempt has been made in the
present paper to highlight the counselling origin and psychological
sagacity in the background of Indian culture and spirituality.

Vedas and Upanishads are the first major works pertaining to

counselling phenomena in India. Although Vedic hymns have many
original ideas and concepts useful for psychology in a seed form,
because they are primarily poetic and symbolic in nature, they are
not easily accessible for researchers and scholars and hence their
significance was not obvious unless one delve deep into the
symbolism as many scholars have done. It is in the Upanishads that
those seed ideas have been extensively developed. Ancient epics of
India are replete with depictions of counselling. The often repeated
adage; "Mata, Pita, Guru, Deivam" (Mother, Father, Teacher, God)
reminded the youngsters not only of the agents of counselling but
also of the priority as to who should impart counselling at various
stages of life. The most widely acknowledged counselling situation in

the epics is that of the dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna in the
battlefield of Kurukshetra.

The various schools in India have contributed towards development

of scientific psychological theories, which are beneficial for human
welfare. They are highly explanatory models. In India, the roots of
psychology can be traced back to the vast philosophical and religious
literature: namely, Vedic and Epic literature. In particular, Vedas,
Yoga Sutras, Bhagavad Gita and other treatises are the Indian
sources for analysing various aspects of man’s behaviour and
theorising about the human nature. Accordingly, Indian philosophical
schools provide new insights for psychology. Early Buddhists, who in
their attempt to focus on the human potential for growth & betterment
paid due attention to many aspects of human behaviour such as
morality, wisdom, mind, suffering, perception, sensation, and
cognition-consciousness etc. Buddisam is a religion, which is also a
philosophy, and ethical code.

The concept of Bhagavath Gita is about consolidating internal

personal resources to face and overcome stress. In this context,
drawing upon ancient oriental wisdom from theological concepts
becomes the most effective and practical tools to strengthen a
person’s mind in the face of stress. This is what Krishna
accomplishes with Arjuna. Looking at the battlefield Arjuna is struck
with anguish. The odds are all against him; the gurus and relatives
are with the opposition, Stress builds in Arjuna and he panics.
Krishna uses a few simple constructs to enable Arjuna to get hold on
himself, to overcome anxiety. In a few hours, Arjuna turns around as

a confident and optimistic warrior. This is one of the most success

stories of Psychotherapy or cognitive behaviour therapy relevantly
employed in the collective consciousness of our country.
Concept of Mind in Ayurveda
Ayurveda, though it literally means the science of Life, is placed
alongside the four sacred scriptures as the fifth Veda, providing a
comprehensive approach to complete health, both of the body and
mind. It has emphasis not only on treatment but also on the
preventive aspects. According to Ayurvedic principles, mind is
different from matter and is part of the body. The attributes of the
mind are that, it is unitary and atomic. Based on its function, the
mind is divided into ego, will and Intellect. The harmonious action of
these three results in healthy functioning of the mind. Ayurveda has
attempted to examine every detail of the mind’s attributes with fair
success. The concept of health in Ayurveda encompasses not
only the physical and mental aspects but the spiritual aspects also
which is missing in the Modern Psychological discourses. The moral,
ethical and spiritual realms of mind are too precious to omit in
counselling and therapy.
Yoga is a holistic tradition in India. Its aim is to help one to
understand oneself on all levels. Yoga holds that the ignorance of the
ultimate reality is the source of human suffering. The emotional
maturity overcomes the ignorance of ultimate reality, and the
emotional maturity can be attained through Yoga. According to Yoga,
emotional maturity varies in degrees. Yoga brings about profound
changes in physiology and psychology of the practitioner. In
particular, it releases the practitioner from the stress and conflict.
Yoga provides help in the better management of emotions. It helps

to develop positive thinking, and overcoming the feeling of inferiority.

It facilitates the expansion of awareness, and achieving higher state
of consciousness, and experiencing and realising the self, which is
the ultimate goal of the Yoga.
Astrology and Counselling :- Astrology which has strong followers
in India has played a vital role in counselling. Astrology which enjoys
the status of a life science in India was very helpful in healing and
counselling situations. According to Dr B. V. Raman the Physical
and mental characteristics of an individual is determined depending
upon the placements of influencing planets and stars at the time of
birth. By referring the natal chart of a person his personality type,
mental and physical vulnerabilities can be verified. The role of the
Vedic Astrologer as a consultant, as a counsellor, and spiritual guide
is, even now, a prevailing practice in India. Dr. C.G. Jung, the
respected Swiss psychiatrist, had a keen interest in astrology. He
stated that "astrology represents the summation of all the
psychological knowledge of antiquity". Dr. Jung was a pioneer of
transpersonal thought which emphasizes the importance of exploring
issues "beyond the persona" or personality.
The science of meditation developed around 5000 years ago in
India. The original practice of Yoga as practised in India spread from
India to other areas of the south Asia and now worldwide. Meditation
transforms the mind from the state of unrest, confusion and
disharmony to a state of equilibrium and joyfulness. The process of
meditation leads the mind to the centre of calmness and joy. In
every case, the turbulence of the mind is based upon various
desires; the moment desire arises, one becomes discontented and
finds oneself separated from the source of satisfaction.

Among the sciences it must thus be specifically in psychology that

India has to make her greatest contribution, and here we mean
obviously not behaviourist psychology, but psychology in its original
sense, psychology as the science of the soul, the science of
consciousness. For no other culture has such a treasure house of
practical psychological and spiritual knowledge as its heritage.

The British system of education transplanted to colonial India not

only asserted the superiority of Western Knowledge, but also
defended its position by degrading and discouraging local systems of
knowledge. India’s cultural ethos is unique. Ironically, most
psychologists in India find little use of their valid psychological
knowledge, generated and perpetuated in the academic sphere and
resort to traditional psycho philosophical systems existing in our
culture for guidance in their personal life.
The Clinical Psychology and psychiatry are very much inclined to
modern medicine, the allopathic system, in its approaches and
practices. Biological, Psychological and social factors are regarded
as the etiology of mental diseases.

Evolution of modern counselling in India

India is still in the process of recovering from 800 years of foreign

rule, and one can see the introduction of Indian psychology in the
framework of this national resurgence, but if one does so exclusively,
one misses out on the larger historical events that are taking place at
the moment. There can be no doubt that the West is still
dominant politically, economically and intellectually, but
underneath, there is a strong counter stream of cultural and spiritual

influence from India to the West. Eugene Taylor, who wrote an

excellent book on the history of spirituality in the USA, argues on the
basis of existing trends that Indian psychology is bound to have an
increasing influence on the world culture, especially as a new
epistemology. For the last few decades there is growing realization
that for better practice of psychiatry and counselling we must make
more use of the rich Indian philosophical and religious traditions.
Some of the western thoughts on personality theory have been
influenced by the Indian philosophical and religious literature. A
leading personality theorist, Carl Jung was significantly attracted and
influenced by the teachings of the East, right from his early
childhood. Carl Jung states in his autobiography, “I remember a time
when I could not yet read, but pestered my mother to read aloud to
me out of an old, richly illustrated children’s book, which contained an
account of exotic relations, especially that of the Hindus.
Indian psyche and psychopathology
Traditional beliefs and supernatural explanations about the causation
of mental disorders are still prevalent among large sections of people
in this country, being reflected in the cures patients and their families
seek for the amelioration of these disorders. The religious
background and practices can colour the reporting of the
psychopathology. Studies in patients with delusions from the west
have shown that the delusional themes of the patients are usually
based on the myths according to the ancient culture. Such themes
have been termed as mythological. Similarly, some of the
perceptions, which may be considered to be standard in the patient's
religious background, may be interpreted as part of the
psychopathology. Hence, ignorance about the patient's religious

background may lead to an incorrect diagnosis. In addition to herbal

and other traditional medicines, healers and healing temples are
seen as providing curative and restorative benefits.
Unlike the west, the Indian society is a collectivist society that
emphasizes on family unity and integrity. For an average Indian, his
family is an integral part of himself as they are included in the “we”
and “circle of intimacy.” As the family is almost inseparable from the
individual, managing patients especially those with mental illness
without taking the family into account is almost impossible.

Development of counselling ethos

India is strongly influenced by Western research and methodology
(as many other organisations in the world) and at the other hand it is
strongly influenced by the local context in which it is practiced. A
mindless import of counselling methods is not done and it would be
crude to make that assumption. Counsellors build bridges between
subjective and objective epistemologies.

Spirituality is an important part of the Indian context and the

counsellors are culturally prepared to include it in one way or another
in the counselling. The hybrid elements of western and eastern
methods are to be incorporated in Counselling. The counsellors use
mostly talk-based counselling with the help of western oriented
theories. They should also use approaches, which are eastern or
Indian based such as brainstorming, directive approach but not
advice, implementation of Yoga philosophy, Yoga breathing
exercises, concepts of acceptance and endurance and the use of
metaphors from Indian epics and classical text. However counsellors

should try to create systematised, evidence-based indigenous

counselling methods. The methods that they use shall be integrative
and contextually adapted Cultural sensitization.

Culture is a powerful variable when it comes to the efficiency of
counselling. In the globalized world that we live in, and the way that
ideas and practices spread by constantly moving and changing,
universalism has to be questioned and the context respected. Even
though diversity is a fact in the cultural horizon of India, the field of
cross-cultural counselling and the pressing need of cultural
sensitization give a strong indication of homogenizing effects. Let us
hope the academic and professional bodies proliferating in India
would endeavour to set an example in developing psychotherapy and
counselling ethos suitable for India and acceptable to the worldwide


Counselling in its widest connotation existed in one form or the other

from time immemorial in India. Right from the days of the Vedas,
our sages have been interested in understanding the mental
processes and made significant contributions to Psychology. It is
against this background that an attempt has been made in the
present paper to highlight the counselling origin and psychological
sagacity in the background of Indian culture and spirituality. Vedas
and Upanishads are the first major works pertaining to counselling
phenomena in India. The most widely acknowledged counselling
situation in the epics is that of from Bhagavat Gita which is one of the
most success stories of Psychotherapy or cognitive behaviour
therapy relevantly employed in the collective consciousness of our
country. Ayurveda, the vedic science of health has attempted to
examine every detail of the mind’s attributes with fair success. The
concept of health in Ayurveda encompasses not only the
physical and mental aspects, but in the spiritual realm also which is
missing in the Modern Psychological discourses. The science of
Yoga and Meditation brings about profound changes in physiology
and psychology of the practitioner. It relieves the stress and conflict;
provides better management of emotions and develop positive
thinking. The role of the Vedic Astrologer as a counsellor and
spiritual guide is helpful in psychotherapy and counselling situations.
Culture is a powerful variable when it comes to the efficiency of
counselling. The academic and professional bodies in India would
endeavour to set an example in developing psychotherapy and
counselling ethos suitable and acceptable to worldwide communities.


Chapter Subjects Page No.

1 Introduction 6 - 12
2 Hindu Religion, Indian Traditions and Mind 13 - 19
The Bhagvad Gita: the complete
3 20 - 25
The Bhagvad Gita - an emerging clinical
4 26 - 44
Is Vedic Principles behind Cognitive
5 45 - 48
Behavior Therapy?

Indian Mythology in Psychotherapy and

6 49 - 51

7 Ayurveda & Yoga on mental health 52 - 63

8 Astrology and Counselling in India 64 - 76

9 Evolution of modern counselling in India 77 - 95

10 Social Psychology in India 96 - 111

11 112 - 119

12 Reference & Acknowledgements 120




Chapter 1 : Introduction

India has a long history of many philosophical, educational and

healing systems that have been focused on the holistic well being of

people. Counselling is not a novel institution in Indian context. In

ancient India, the system of education existed in the form of Gurukula

system - a residential system where the students stayed with the

teacher and returned only after the graduation. Here, pupil had the

choice or freedom to seek his own teacher and remain as an intern

throughout. However, these traditional aspects present ideas and

constructs that are rich in possibilities for application in Indian cultural

setting. Therefore, the fact that psychological thought is not new to

India, is true.

Ancient Indian seers and sages had demonstrated interest in

technical and critical goals of knowledge development as evident

from the authoritative texts and treatises they wrote on different

branches like astronomy and mathematics; law and polity; grammar

and literature; medicine; philosophy; and so on. In addition, they also

had an emancipatory interest, not of the Marxian kind but of a

transcendental nature, which is the cornerstone of Indian tradition.


Emancipation envisioned by Indian seers was not from bourgeois,

but from all the limiting conditions of human existence. Therefore,

Indian seers and sages were and are interested more in the ways

and means of freeing oneself from the limiting conditions of existence

rather than being preoccupied in studying the labyrinth of mind,

which according to them is the binding factor.

Counselling in Vedas and Upanishads

Upanishads are the first major works pertaining to counselling

phenomena. Although Vedic hymns have many original ideas and

concepts useful for psychology in a seed form, because they are

primarily poetic and symbolic in nature they are not easily accessible

for researchers and scholars and hence their significance was not

obvious unless one delve deep into the symbolism as many scholars

have done. It is in the Upanishads that those seed ideas have been

extensively developed. Thus Upanishads, which were developed in

the end of Vedic period, hence also called ‘Vedaanta’ are culmination

of Vedic insights. They are primarily, discourses on the ultimate

nature of reality, of self, and of consciousness that took place

between different Rishis (sages) and their disciples in a one-to-one

manner. Upanishads are gold mine of psychological and counselling

material. The nature of mind and its functions and different


psychological phenomena—normal, abnormal, pathological,

paranormal, and spiritual—are discussed. Counselling situations are

copiously significant in the ancient literature. A few potent instances


a) In Ramayana Sage Vasishta counsels Sri Rama


b) In Mahabharata Krishna counsels Arjuna (Bhagavat Gita)

c) In Mahabharata the questions answer session between the

Yaksha and Yudhishtira (in Vanaparvam).

d) In Kothopanishat Lord Yama’s interaction with Najiketas etc.

Healing Traditions in Ancient India

There were three major Healing Traditions in India which can be

grouped as:-

a) local and folk traditions

b) mystical traditions

c) medical traditions

The Atharva Veda where the Indian System of Medicine Ayurveda

originates, described good mental health as the restoration of

equilibrium of three components of human personality called gunnas,

Vatta, Pitta, and Shelshma or Kaph. The practitioners of Ayurveda

are called Vaids who believe that imbalance of gunnas is the main

cause of various illnesses and mental health problems. Traditional

Healers of Ayurveda believed that people suffered because of the

imbalance of body humours due to the wrong food intake and

unhealthy behaviour, thoughts etc. The Law of Karma has impacted

the Hindu psyche for centuries. This deterministic belief asserts that

we must pay for our actions either in the present or in our next lives.

Misdeeds are never forgiven.

The Indian Heritage : the total person

The rich Indian tradition of analyzing and interpreting social

relationships goes back to more than 1500 B.C., and much can be

traced in the Vedic and post-Vedic literature. This treasure house is a

rich source of discovering concepts and theories which guided social

life without discontinuity until the present times. One thing which is

common to all these scholarly pursuits was that no distinction was

made between psychology, philosophy and religion in analyzing

social behaviour which encompassed the totality of human existence.

It dealt with all life domains and all stages of human development.

At the core is the concept of dharma. First mentioned in the Rigveda

and later elaborated in Gautam's Dharmashastra (about 600 B.C.),

Dharma is vaguely translated in English as 'right action', 'moral duty',


'law of human nature'. Shared by most Indians and enduring with

remarkable continuity, Dharma has greatly influenced ways of

thinking, perceiving and categorising experiences. "In its social

implication, dharma is an inherent force in human being which holds

the individual and society together, or going one step further, the

force which makes 'individual and society hold each other together'.

The Dharma of a person is believed to be contingent on four factors:-

(a) desh (country, region),

(b) Kala (period of history),

(c) shrama (work, occupation),

(d) guna (bio-mental attributes).

The concept of Dharma is part of the broader Hindu theory of life

cycle and developmental stages (Ashrama dharma). It is both a

process and mechanism of social integration to maintain harmonious

relationship within the society. Most social institutions seek their

legitimacy in Dharma rather than in contractual agreements and

obligations, as in the West.

Transgression of Dharma is presumed to be the root cause of all

social unrest and conflicts. In many ways, the epics of Ramayana

and Mahabharata provide a complete treatise on a symbiotic


relationship between man, society and supernatural. These are the

best sources to examine Hindu social life through the ages. Another

important aspect of Indian tradition is the indivisibility of cosmic and

material self, of person and nature, and of person and society. In this

scheme of thoughts, self is considered to be integral to the all-

pervasive cosmic reality. Man, animal, plant all are believed to share

the same cosmic energy, and are bound by the same cosmic

principles. There is one universal law according to which all living

and non-living things function in harmony and natural rhythm. "The

individual function of the one blends with the individual function of the

others, and result in collective immanent balance of a living

combined organism" (Heimann,). Establishing a perfect balance with

nature and society is considered to be the ultimate goal of life. It is

contended that only an organismic and holistic approach can capture

the complexity of human existence and consequently, any effort to

fragment it is resisted.

The Indian world view lays emphasis on interdependence and

interrelatedness of man and society. As a social being, a person has

no existence outside this network of relationships. Each one is

related to the other in terms of innumerable relationships (based on


caste, class, family, community, and even gods) which define one's

existence and shape one's ego-identity. The interrelationship

between man and society is presumed to be complex and

hierarchical, transcending the boundaries of the material world.

The ego-identity in this sense is considered to be a social

construction, something which is contingent on one's life experiences

and social background. Thus, one's social-self exists only in the mind

of the person not in reality. Self-development lies in realizing this

unreal existence and in performing one’s dharma without a sense of

attachment. This view of Dharma provides 'ideal images' of life in

Plato's sense and thus deals with prescriptive social behaviour. The

ancient and classical Indian social theories pervaded throughout the

ages without being much influenced, either directly by the Muslims

who ruled the country for six centuries, or indirectly by the West. In

essence, Indian society remained Indian until the beginning of the

colonial rule in India in the 18th Century. All along, the notion of

Dharma rendered a sense of continuity to social institutions and

traditions and remained a guiding principle in social life.


Chapter 2 :Hindu Religion, Indian Traditions and Mind

“Hinduism” is not the original name of Indian religion and those who

followed the same since the ancient times never gave it any

particular name except for “dharma,” which simply means “the

eternal law that supports and sustains those who practice it.” The

words “Hindu” and “Hinduism” were used by ancient Persians

identifying people inhabiting the banks of river Sindhu (Indus). In the

language of ancient Persians, the ‘S’ of Sanskrit became ‘H’ and this

name has continued since then.

The major scriptures of Hinduism are the Vedas, the Upanishad, and

the Bhagwad Gita. Among these, Vedas are considered the oldest

and the tenets and earliest concepts of Hinduism are recorded in the

four Vedas viz., Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharva

Veda. The Vedas describe the worship of God in natural elements

such as fire, water, wind, etc., This main purpose of worship was to

express gratitude for survival of creatures. Over the years, this

worship of God has taken many different forms, which include

elaborate systems of rituals and sacrifices to please the Gods. When

one tries to understand the concept of mind and mental illness from

ancient Hindu knowledge - Rig Veda and Yajur Veda, it suggests that

mention of prayer through mantras (rhymes) can lead to formation of


noble thoughts in the mind which help in the prevention of mental

pain (depression). The Rig Veda, also discusses about the speed of

mind, curiosity for methods of mental happiness, prayers for mental

happiness, methods of increasing intelligence and power of mind in


Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda conceptualize mind as the basis of

consciousness, inner flame of knowledge, cite of knowledge, and an

instrument of hypnotism. Different Vedas also provide detailed

descriptions of preservation of will power, emotions, inspiration, and

consciousness. The text also describes emotional states like grief,

envy, pleasure, hostility, attachment, laziness, etc., There is also a

description of Unmada (psychosis) as a deluded state of mind.

The Upanishads provide descriptions of theories of perception,

thought, consciousness, and memory. There is a description of

prakritui, which can be considered as equivalent of personality in

modern psychiatry. The Upnishads describe the different states of

mind: waking state, dreaming state, deep sleep state, and Samadhi.

The psychopathology of the mind was understood in terms of their

trigunas and tridosas.

Important aspects of Hinduism include emphasis on spirituality and

philosophies of introspection, idealism, Karma, Dharma, considering


all life as sacred, and ancestor worship. Spirituality predominates

both in life and the philosophy of living. Material welfare is never

recognized as the only goal of human life. The introspective

approach emphasizes evaluation of inner life and self of man rather

than the external world of physical nature. The idealistic philosophy

basically emphasizes the direction of monistic idealism and the belief

that reality is ultimately one and spiritual.

Although Hindus believe that God is ever loving and purely

benevolent, they also believe that people who feel guilty about their

wrong doings may perceive God as punitive or punishing. Due to this

fear, they may worship images of God that look angry and

frightening. Hindus believe that God is there in all lives and manifests

as love, truth, and light. Therefore, all lives are sacred, and have to

be loved and respected. This belief gives rise to the concept of

Ahimsa or non-violence.

The broad Hindu view of life can be summed up in four basics aims

of life, i.e., Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. Dharma is

understood a righteousness, virtue, or religious duty. It also means

goodness of purpose and selflessness. The highest Dharma of a


Hindu is to practice “Ahimsa” or non-violence. “Artha” refers to the

fulfilment of social needs and includes material gain, acquisition of

wealth and social recognition. “Kama” refers to the fulfilment of the

biological needs or sensual pleasures. “Moksha” means liberation or

release from worldly bondage and union with the ultimate reality.

Among these, “Dharma” is considered to be the central axis around

which life revolves. If somebody tries to move away from dharma, it

usually results in suffering, for example, if one just pursues “Kama” or

“Artha” without “Dharma,” then in the long-term it will result in

suffering for the individual and others around him.

According to Hinduism, the law of Karma states that every event is

both a cause and an effect and the basic philosophy is “as you sow,

so shall you reap.” Every action will have its reaction and every

cause will have its destiny determined in due course of time.

Accordingly Hindus believe that their suffering from mental illness is

also due to Karma of the past. This law of Karma also states that we

can change what happens to us by our awareness and efforts to

change ourselves. Therefore, such beliefs can be used in the

therapeutic situations to improve the motivation of the patient to

change for betterment. Another concept which has significant


importance in Hindu philosophy is the reincarnation, according to

which soul is considered to be immortal and takes many different

births until it is completely self-realized. The soul keeps on taking

different births till it realizes self and unites with the creator. This is

also called as Nirvana, meaning the stage when the soul ultimately

finds spiritual knowledge and becomes realized and is liberated from

the cycles of birth and death. Therefore, a Hindu's ultimate goal is to

live a life by ways of conduct as described by Dharma. Such a life

progresses in self-realization.

The concept of “Ahimsa” that is so predominant in Indian spiritual

and philosophical systems also impacts lifestyle choices like diet. It is

a fact even agreed by the modern science, that the type of food

intake grossly influences the habit and mind of people and animals.

India has a large number of vegetarians and stems from abhorrence

of violence in any form toward “living things.” From the 3rd century AD

onward, the use of beef was increasingly restricted. In the 4th

century, the Law of Manu again restricted meat-eating to sacrificial

occasions. The life of Krishna was written down in the Bhagavad

Purana during the 5th century. Hindu vegetarianism received its

strongest impress from the Krishna cult, from whom the revering of

the sacred cow in Hinduism originated. This perspective persists until

this day. All these cultural aspects are important influencing factors of

behaviour evolution.

The Vedic literature is the literature of consciousness and

natural law, expressing all the qualities of consciousness

and all the dynamics of natural law. The Vedic case studies

have been articulated by individuals who directly cognized

these dynamics of natural law in the highest level of

consciousness and the case studies are therefore

evolutionary, inspiring, and life-supporting for everyone, no

matter what the individual's level of consciousness. The

Vedic records have a meaning at every level of evolution of

the individual. The same account will therefore be

comprehended on increasingly profound levels as one

grows in consciousness, until one comprehends its

significance on the level from which it was originally

expressed, unity consciousness. Thus, the Vedic case

studies provide guides to life throughout the entire range of

different states of consciousness outlined Vedic Psychology.


The Bhagavad Gita provides a description of emotions and cognitive

deviations. The Bhagwad Gita also gives beautiful description for

gaining mastery over the vacillating mind and also describes the

consequences of failure to attain such mastery. Essentially, The Gita

shows a way out of worldly concerns and teaches that a person can

be his/her own master. The interactions and dialogues of Bagavat

Gita contemplate as an ideal event and excellent example of a

successful counselling procedure.


Chapter 3 : The Bhagvad Gita: the complete counselling

Bhagavad Gita is part of the great epic Mahabharatha, a widely

popular mythological story in Hindu philosophy. As part of Bhishma

Parva, Gita is almost in its entirety the dialogue between two

individuals, Lord Krishna and Arjuna, the Pandava prince, in the

battle field (war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, the

cousins, for control of the kingdom of Hasthinapura) of Kurukshetra.

It has 18 chapters, with about 702 verses , the first one being “Arjuna

Vishada Yoga” (Sorrow of Arjuna) and the last one “Moksha Sanyasa

Yoga”(Nirvana and Renunciation).

In those 18 chapters of Bhagavad Gita; the process and content of

the dialogue; its usefulness as a model of counselling and possible

contemporary application value to current day psychological

therapies, specially, but need not be limited to, in the Indian context.

Bhagavad-Gita is a universal scripture which is beyond any religious

and national boundaries. Bhagavad-Gita has essence of all

scriptures and teachings from Vedas and Upanishads. The literal

meaning of the phrase Bhagavad-Gita is ‘The path shown by the

Lord’. Bhagavad means divine and Gita means a song – a song

which was sung by Lord Krishna, Master of Yoga to his devotee

Arjuna, who is expected to perform his duties to the best of his ability

without expectations of results. The fruits of our actions are not for us

to choose as they come through God. The attitude in active life is

perhaps the greatest counselling; Bhagavad-Gita can offer to us. And

that divine message of divine song is for all to study and practice and

that's what Bhagavad-Gita is all about.

In the case of Gita, Krishna gives advices to Arjuna (or for all ages

and all the times). Arjuna is merely a listener. However, these

advices had the power to bring changes in the views of Arjuna. It

could also bring changes in Arjuna’s behaviour. Therefore, we can

say that the advice given by Krishna in Gita contained the power that

could bring the effect of counselling.

Bhagavat Gita presents the first counsellor, Lord Krishna, and it

provides counselling for all the ages and all the times. Krishna was

statesman, philosopher, warrior, and humanist - all rolled into one.

He was, above all, a defender of virtue. He fought evil wherever he

saw it. The events in contemporary India forced him to take a hand in

shaping the country’s destiny. The mantle of leadership was literally

thrust on him. If ever intervention by a single individual changed a

country’s history, this was it. He was kind, but, where necessary,

ruthless. But his motive was always the same: upholding virtue. He

was not an idealist who merely talked; he was a man of action and it

was always to defend truth and justice that he acted.

We need to understand Bhagavad-Gita and refer to it whenever we

are in a crisis, confusion or in a problem situation, which is beyond

our scope or control. We can follow the teachings in Bhagavad-Gita

as much as we can and make our life peaceful and successful both

at material as well spiritual levels. It is not enough merely reading the

Bhagavad-Gita without understanding it. It only works when we start

apply Krishna’s teachings to our day-to-day life incidents. Therefore,

to gain much in our life; we read Bhagavad-Gita verses with

Understanding and then apply in our day-to-day life. When we are in

a crisis, or going through problem or difficult circumstances, when we

are passing through rough and hard times, when there is much

confusion to decide and act upon in our life - that is the right time we

should apply the teachings of Bhagavad-Gita.

The power of Bhagavad-Gita provides us great inspiration and

motivation which we need at right time and right place. In this age

where our pace of life is increased so much and we need right

guidance to solve our daily problems. So many things are happening

in our life for which we need Bhagavad Gita to refer as ‘real


instructive and practical life manual’ in order to live successfully. It

has been experienced by many that Bhagavad-Gita provides

techniques; by which we can see changes in their life with so much

improvements and happiness in every aspect. Gita is a book which is

very useful for our modern, fast aged and technological advanced

society. Bhagavad-Gita has practical references which shows how

mental orientations can influence situations and events in life. It is a

very compact scripture that deals with all practical aspects of life. The

Bhagavad-Gita teaches us the art of life.

The Bhagavad-Gita explores and reveals the human mind.

How does the human mind operate? What happens when we are in a

situation where we have the understanding but sometimes we do not

use our understanding? Somehow we come across situations in life

and we feel complete emptiness. Afterwards, we feel very sorry for

ourselves and hence insecure. We feel guilty – why did we do this

and why did we do that? We feel bad and the emotions go on and on

the further we are lost in to our dilemma.

Bhagavad-Gita enables us to identify that we are solely responsible

for our actions that we are the doers. Ultimately, it teaches us to take

complete responsibilities of what we have; whether happiness or

unhappiness. Why we do not understand many things in our life and


that leads to more confusion in our life to decide and act upon. We

do not seem to have a clear mind when we need to make a decision

in problem situations and difficult circumstances.

We have several personal opinions and we also take others'

opinions. Still we are unsure. Because of that, we are living with so

much of stress, fear, anxiety and pressure in our life. There is always

pressure and stress in our lives which then creates lots of

commotion. Because of that commotion, we have no idea what's

going on and what to do.

That is why Bhagavad-Gita is the key to learn about the problem and

provides solution to the problem. Just take one example from this

divine book. Try to apply one principle. You will see the difference in

you. Your life will dramatically change and you will be able to cross

your boundaries and remove the fear. Your attitude will change. You

will gain unbeatable success both in your material as well spiritual

life. Soon, you will realise yourself and that way you will have total

confidence in your life to live your life positively and successfully; no

matter whatever circumstances or situations you are passing

through. You will have different view and that way you will know

yourself fully with inner vision. Next time you will experience that: No

person, place or circumstances can make you happy. No person,


place or circumstances can make you unhappy. The real happiness

is within you. You are the only one who can make yourself happy or

unhappy. So, you are a friend to yourself or an enemy to yourself.

That is why the last verse of Bhagavad-Gita which is known as

“Single verse Gita” tells us:

yatra yogeswarah krishno, yatra partho dhanur-dharah

tatra srir vijayo bhutir, dhruva nitir matir mama ( XVIII-78)

This last verse of Bhagavad-Gita from Chapter 18 (Conclusion—The

Perfection of Renunciation) explains: “Wherever there is Krishna, the

master of all mystics (Yoga and wisdom), and wherever there is

Arjuna (True Devotee), the supreme archer (performer of his/her

duties), there will always certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary

power, and morality (policy).”


Chapter 4 : The Bhagvad Gita - an emerging clinical tool

The Bhagvad Gita is fast emerging as a clinical tool to treat certain

psychological problems, particularly those related to anxiety,

examination and interview fears, depression and a negative attitude

towards life and career goals. Sustained counselling by applying

different psychological methods, as Krishna did to Arjuna, has been

quite helpful in clinical practice. Doctors also point out that the Gita,

as a psychotherapeutic tool, best suits Indian conditions as the

current Western models of psychological counselling have failed to

deliver in the country.

Dr. M. S. Reddy, head of psychiatry, Asha Hospital, who conducted a

research on ‘Psychotherapy — Insights from Bhagvad Gita’, says,

“As is the case with any successful model of therapeutic intervention,

which needs to be individualized for maximum benefit, the

psychotherapeutic approach practiced in Bhagvad Gita also has its

place in the repertoire of psychotherapeutic models.”The Gita is a

useful tool in the hands of an experienced therapist when applied

judiciously for specific problems of distress, says Dr Reddy. His

research work appeared in the latest issue of the Indian Journal of

Psychological Medicine. He says that for a student of counselling and

psychology, the Gita offers a valuable case study. It helps in


resolution of conflict and successful resumption of action from a state

of acute anxiety and guilt-laden depression. Describing the therapy

process in Bhagvad Gita in which Lord Krishna helped a grief-

stricken Arjuna through dialogue, Dr Reddy says, “What is more

important and relevant is not what it is but what transpired in the 18

chapters of Bhagvad Gita.” Also important is the process and content

of this dialogue, it’s very usefulness as a model of counselling and

possible contemporary application to current day psychological

therapies, especially, but not limited to, in the Indian context. The

clinical use of the Gita gains significance as the applicability and

usefulness of Western models in the Indian context is often taken

with a pinch of salt due to varying cultural, attitudes. “The Gita has

laid equal emphasis on logic, action, renunciation, power of self,

knowledge, wisdom, trust, universality and immortality of human

spirit. This appears to me a ‘person-centered therapy’,” Dr Reddy


Spoken and written commentary on Bhagavad Gita, the distilled

spiritual essence of Vedas and Upanishads, is aplenty. Mahatma

Gandhi was quoted as saying that whenever he had a problem

Bhagavad Gita offered an answer and the solution. For a student of

psychology Bhagavad Gita offers a valuable case study for lessons


in psychotherapy – resolution of conflict and successful resumption

of action from a state of acute anxiety and guilt laden depression that

precipitated inaction. This presentation makes a humble attempt to

discuss the therapy process involved in Bhagavad Gita in which Lord

Krishna helped the grief-stricken Arjuna through dialogue and

discussion. The focus would be on the conflict and diagnosis of

patient, the background setting of the situation, personality of patient,

technique of therapy, underlying psychological concepts/

principles/theories, the Teacher-Student concept, etc.

Counseling a person is discussion of the problem with the person,

undertaken, to help him cope with it. The counseling technique by the

Gita is forever relevant. We can go to the extent of saying that

psychotherapy followed today is a mirror image of the Bhagavad

Gita. We can analyse in detail.

The Bhagavad -Gita on the Cause and Removal of Suffering

The Bhagavad -Gita addresses the question of suffering in a

way that is intended to apply to all forms of suffering and

problems . It accomplishes this by presenting suffering in a most

noble man , caused by a most diffi-cult situation . Arjuna is not

only one of the greatest warriors of his time , but is also a man

of personal integrity who has a clear mind and a full heart . He


had committed himself to battle because he saw the need to

prevent further oppression of his brothers and their people . Yet,

at the same time , he feels such compassion for his kinsmen

in the opposing army that he questions whether any good could

come from the impending destruction . In spite of the wrong -

doing of his cousin Duryodhan and others , he feels he could

not enjoy a kingdom gained at the price of such conflict . As a

result , he is unable to act at all .

Arjuna's suffering is brought on by an apparent conflict between

his honourable qualities , his great sense of duty and his

compassion . By portraying this particular dilemma in such a

highly developed man , the Bhagavad - Gita addresses its

solution to all forms of suffering , even in the "most noble ,

sinless and most highly developed in both heart and mind" .

Arjuna, wanting only to do what is good , suffers because there

is a conflict between duty to society and love of family . In

Maharishi's commentary , the cause of suffering which emerges

from this examination of Arjuna's situation is Arjuna's inability to

integrate the conflicting demands which arise from the diversity

of life . The source of Arjuna's dilemma , is the conflict between

the dictates of Arjuna's mind (the value of duty ) and heart (the

value of compassion). Arjuna is naturally attached not only to

his brothers and their cause but to his relatives in the opposing

army . As a result he feels divided in himself and in this lack

of integration he is unable to act .

Within man there is mind and there is heart. These, by their very

existence as two, hold the Possibility of suffering. When they are

united, when there is harmony between a heart and Mind full of

righteousness and noble inspiration, suffering cannot arise. But

when there is a lack of coordination or a conflict between them,

suffering automatically results. The solution lies in the infusion

into the field of duality of a non-dual element which blesses

man's life with a status unaffected by suffering, even while he

remains in the field where suffering is possible.

Lord Krishna responds to this situation by giving Arjuna the

knowledge and experience of the field of pure intelligence which

integrates all the manifest diversity of life. This field , described

by Lord Krishna as the field of Being , is identified in Vedic

Psychology as the unified field of natural law , the field of pure

consciousness. This theme of removing suffering through

attuning individual life with the unified field of natural law has

been previously described in terms of both Psychology and the

principles of modern science.

In Bhagavad -Gita , Lord Krishna elaborates this same theme in

terms which are concretely psychological in nature , concerned

with the process of experience .

Examples of counselling oriented dialogues

To give the example for the student of Psychology and counselling

lies embedded in the dialogue between these two verses:

i) 2nd Chapter 3rd Verse “I am your disciple, Guide me, and Help Me”.

This is a depiction of the helpless state of a person, Arjuna praying

Lord Krishna for help.

ii) Last (18th) Chapter verse 73 as “Clouds have cleared; my senses are

back, all your gift with my doubts vanished, Ready to act as you

direct” is a reflection of dissolution of anxiety, worry, depression and

guilt and preparedness for action with confidence and vigour.

Whatever transpired between these verses is the matter of scientific

curiosity for every student of psychology as it resulted in the total

relief from the distress for the person.

Now the scientific questions can be:

 Do we have any lessons from this?

 Can we develop a model of therapy from these lessons?


 What is the relevance of this model to current day practice

 How useful this approach can be and in which problem?

 What could be the limitations of this approach?

Counselling is essential and an integral component of psychiatric

interventions in the management of a patient with psychological

distress/disease. The psychotherapeutic models available are

developed and imported from the western literature. The application

and usefulness of these models in the Indian context was discussed

with some scepticism keeping in mind the varying cultural, religious,

spiritual, societal attitudes (broadly described as eastern/oriental

culture) by psychiatrists in the past. The master – student concept,

as a model in psychotherapy, popularized by Dr. Neki gets widely

debated in the Indian context. Eminent Indian psychiatrists and

psychologists discussed and proposed Bhagavad Gita as a source

and model to develop psychotherapeutic concepts suitable to Indian


The very first word in Bhagavad Gita is “Dharma” and the last word is

“Mama”. “Mama Dharma” – my duties, responsibilities, rights, ethics,

morals, attitude, action, activities and so on. Some commentators

recommend Gita as an elaborate detailing of one’s duties.


The first chapter, Arjuna Vishada Yoga, narrates the expression of

Arjuna's sorrow, anxiety, fear and guilt leading to a state of inaction

after seeing his kith and kin (Gurus, cousins, uncles, nephews,

friends…) lined up in the enemy camp in the battle field-Fighting this

war, to win the kingdom, means killing all these people whom Arjuna

respected and loved; a sin of commission from any angle.

Overwhelmed by the acute state of sadness and guilt, Arjuna drops

his weapons (bow-Gandiva) and turns to Lord Krishna, his

charioteer, for help and guidance.

In this situation the therapeutic background is:

 Arjuna is the patient and Lord Krishna the Counsellor.

 Single session therapy

 No specified “Time limit of 45 – 60 minutes”

 Counsellor is a relative of the patient

 Therapist stays with the patient throughout the crisis

 Patient has immense belief in the therapist and considers him a

friend, philosopher, guide (Guru-Sishya Relationship)

 Single case report – level 5 evidence in the current day terminology.

Blind application of this approach may run the risk of over

generalization, a commonly found overenthusiastic error in

psychology, too obvious in the history of psychoanalysis.


Probable diagnosis

This attempt to make a retrospective diagnosis based on the current

day diagnostic criteria may sound ludicrous but the limitations are

notified. We can only make a diagnosis of Acute, transient,

situational adjustment disorder with symptoms of anxiety (single

panic attack), depression with predominant guilt (core symptom -

stain my hands with the blood of gurus and cousins). The available

information does not satisfy criteria for Psychosis, Bipolar disorder,

MDD or Anxiety disorder.

No past history of psychological de-compensation in spite of major

psychological stressors like dwelling in unfriendly forests, compelled

to live in disguise (Aranyavasam, agnathavasam), humiliation in the

royal courts etc in the preceding years.

The setting is battle field and the urgency of the issue demands crisis

intervention. Personality of Arjuna shows, no significant neurotic

traits, maladjustments or faulty coping pattern. He is a great warrior

and veteran of many battles, in the recent past he fought against the

same army and won the battle. His proactive role in the preparation

for the current war and that he drove into the battlefield with great

enthusiasm to fight and win, shows his readiness until he faced the

realities of battlefront.

The Counsellor Lord Krishna - A long-time friend, relative, well wisher

of the patient, highly respected in the community, supposedly with

supernatural powers, legendary mediating skills, mischievous lover

boy in his younger days, with tons of common sense and in the

contemporary language a kind of Go-Getter.

Descriptive psychopathology of Arjuna: his moods in occasions are

explained in the following:-


Verses I/29 (Weakness of limbs, Dryness of mouth, Shivering of the

body, Goose skin)

Verses I/30 (The great bow “Gandivam’ slips from the hand,

“Burning” of skin, Unable to stand, “Dizziness”/Confusion of Mind)


1. Negative thoughts:

Verses I/32:(Do not desire victory, Neither kingdom nor pleasures

why kingdom, why luxuries, why this war, wh…..)

2. Guilt:

Verses I/44:(Preparing for the sinful act of killing our own kinsmen…)

3. Death wish:

Verses I/45: (Even if I get killed in the war by my enemy it will be


Therapeutic process : Cognitive / Rational emotive Approach

Discussion on the natural inevitability of birth and death of life cycle,

immortality of soul, performance of your own Dharma (duty)

otherwise running the risk of shame and public defame. Goal of

therapy is removal of guilt and re-motivate for action.

(You worry about events you are not supposed, and speak like a

learned man, Wise people do not worry about things that are

perishable, or immortal) Chapter II, Verse 11

(As you remove torn clothes and wear new ones ATMA also

leaves… and occupies new bodies) Chapter II, Verse 22

(ATMA (soul) can never be torn by arrows (bullets), Burnt by fire,

Washed away by floods (Tsunami) lifted by winds (Typhoon,

Hurricane) Chapter II, Verse 23

(Everything born must die, everything dead must get born again and

you should not worry about these events) Chapter II, Verse 27

(Your “Dharma” is to participate in war, If not you lose your dharma,

fame and COMMIT A SIN) Chapter II, Verse 33

(For a noble man disgrace is worse than death) Chapter II, Verse 34

(If you die you will go to heaven, winning will get you kingdom So get

up and decide to fight. Chapter II, Verse 37


Action and renunciation

The one concept in Bhagavad Gita that received exceptional respect

and applause from several great scholars is the emphasis on

‘Karma’(Action). Intelligent action (Gnana Karma) without

performance anxiety and without the greed for the fruits of the work

(Nishkama Karma) and never to have the choice of non-performance

of duty (Akarma) emerges as a key point in the teaching of Bhagavad

Gita which also may be the most often quoted verse in Bagavat Gita.

“Karmany evadhikaras te, Mma phalesu kaddacana

Ma karma-phala-hetur bhur, Ma te sango’stv akarmani”

(You have the right only on Action, Not on the fruits of your work.

Never own aspire responsibility to the result, Must never lose interest

in work) Chapter II, Verse 47.

Humanistic school: Emphasis on the power and capabilities of

individual self, and how the person alone will be responsible for his

actions, growth or otherwise. “You are your choices”. “You are your


Chapter IV, Verse 5 says ”Self-Empowerment, No inferiority, Your

“Self” can be your friend or your own enemy”

Viswarupa-Darsanam – the divine vision a Hypnosis:

Is the therapist inducing a state of hypnotic trance at this point!


 Vedanam Samavedosmi… Indriyanam Manasyasmi…. Naranam cha


X chapter : I am the best of everything - Omnipotent,


 Pasyame Pardha Rupani Sathasotha Sahashrasu…..

XI………..5 (Arjuna, Look at my Hundreds and Thousnds of


Trust (Bhakthi): Trust (Faith) remains a single most important

element in the therapeutic relationship; not just in psychology but the

medical practice in general.

 Sarvadharman Parithyajya Mamekam Saranam Vraja Aham Thva

Sarvapapebhyo Mokshaishyami Ma Suchah

Chapter XVIII, Verse 66 says “Leave everything and Trust me, I

will rescue you from all the problems, Do not Worry”

Guru – Student Relationship: Gurukul Tradition

Imparting wisdom with devotion to learn and teach, dialogue and

discussion being the process, bound by relationship of trust is the

ancient tradition of Gurukul system of education.

Therapeutic components:

 Satisfactory Pre-morbid Personality of the patient with adequate

coping skills

 Therapist is a trusted Friend, Philosopher, Guide

 Catharsis, Ventilation!

 Cognitive and Rational emotive approach! Cognitive Distortions,

Misinterpretations (Sankya Yoga)

 Emphasis on Work with renunciation (Karma Yoga), Smart Action

without performance anxiety (Gnana Karma Sanyasa Yoga)

 Behavior Therapy - Flooding!– Prolonged, continuous exposure to

the anxiety provoking situation as the therapy was in the battle field


 Insight Oriented ! (Gnana Vignana Yoga)

 Viswa Rupam – Hypnosis ! (Viswaroopa Darsan Yoga)

 Trust (Bhakti Yoga)

“What mattered is not so much the content of a person's beliefs /

religions but whether or not they led to personal transformation of a

positive kind”

Very true! Therapy successful, Battle fought and Victory achieved.

Bhagavad Gita has immense value with enormous intellectual depth

that analyses and explains a variety of life's experiences, and

attempts to reach out to everyone with any kind of intellectual and

philosophical background. The therapeutic model sounds eclectic,

as the therapist does not seem to be bound or restricted by any


particular theoretical approach. The determined focus on the end

result – removing the guilt and re-motivating to fight the battle – and

the practical and common sense approach in clearing the blocks is

palpable throughout the dialogue. Emphasis was equal on all –

Logic, Action, Renunciation, Power of Self, Knowledge, Wisdom,

Trust, Universality and immortality of human spirit. This appears to

be a “Person-Centered Therapy” (not in the strict sense of Carl

Rogers’). Lord Krishna seem to have succeeded in making Arjuna

rediscover his emotional balance and power as described in the last

sloka of Bhagavad Gita.

(……Where Arjuna stands with his Gandiva [Bow] there certainly will

be wealth, victory and justice – so I believe)

“It is not this approach gives power to the person; it never takes it


As is the case with any successful model of therapeutic intervention,

which needs to be personalized for maximum benefit, the psycho-

therapeutic approach practiced in Bhagavad Gita also will have its

place in the repertoire of psychotherapeutic models and remains a

useful tool in the hands of an experienced therapist when applied

judiciously for some patients with specific problems of distress.


Depression is generally induced by, not being able to cope up with

the situation. Arjuna who became totally inactive due to the

depression was given some excellent insights to get rid of his

laziness. Krishna states:-

“You have a right over action alone; never over results. Don’t be

impelled by the fruits of your actions ( do not think, you determine

your future); at the same time don’t be tempted to withdraw from

actions.” (II/47). He further states...........“ Oh Arjuna,! Action is

indeed far inferior to the Yoga of attitude. Take refuge in this Yoga of

attitude (evenness of mind). Unfortunate are they who are motivated

by the fruits of their works.”(II/49)

Fear of failure prevents one from taking up a work and then,

unfulfilled ambition of not having taken it up leads to depression.

The sense of the following verse is that man may not achieve

freedom from work by merely abstaining from them.

“Man does not achieve freedom from work by abstaining from them.

None attains perfection through the mere renunciation of work,

either. An end cannot be obtained without the employment of


The following verse is the best therapy for depression arising out of

fear of failure and subsequent inaction.


“Perform the prescribed duties; for action is superior to inaction;

moreover, if you are inactive, even the maintenance of your body will

be impossible.”(III/8)

But one must know his or her limits and priorities must be judiciously

selected. We must know what to do and what to refrain from.

Excessive action is also undesirable. Highly ambitious people

undertaking many projects simultaneously are vulnerable to

depression. Stress in modern day living can be avoided by judicious

selection of priorities.

Another cause for depression is bereavement of a loved one. Krishna

reminds us of the life and death cycle.

“For one who is born, death is certain, and to one who dies, rebirth is

certain. Therefore you should not grieve over this inevitable


Avoid expectations:

The root cause of depression in many of us is expectation of return

for acts of kindness. Krishna also warns against this behavioural

pattern. A gift given to one from whom no benefit in return is

expected, and in the right place, at the right time to the right person is

said to be the highest form. Next comes, gift given grudgingly,

expecting a return or with the view of a fruit or reward. The last is a


gift given at an improper place and time and to an unworthy person

with disrespect and contempt.

The technique of imparting insights through logic

Yet another mental agony is caused by longing for material gains.

The Gita says the contemplation of objects (of desire) is the root of

all evil.

Attachment to objects is born when one ponders on them. Of

attachment is born desire and of desire, wrath. From attachment,

pleasure in them arises. Of that pleasure is born desire or craving.

From this craving, when obstructed somehow, wrath arises. (Chapter

II verse 62)

From anger results delusion, from delusion results confusion of

memory; from confusion of memory results destruction of intelligence

and from destruction of intelligence, he perishes!”

From wrath arises lack of discrimination between what ought to be

and ought not to be done. Through this lack, one is wholly destroyed;

for a man retains self-identity only as long as he retains his power to

discriminate between right and wrong. He becomes unfit to realize

the ends of life.


The Gita states: .....Yam he na vyathayanthyaethae purusham

purusharshabha; Sama duhkhasukham dheeram so (amr(u)-

thathvaaya kalpathae (II – 15)

“Oh best of men, that wise person whom the sense organs and

objects do not disturb, who is equanimous in pleasure and pain and

who is wise alone is fit for immortality.”

He questions: ...“As(h)aanthyasaya kutham sukham ? “For one

without peace, how can there be happiness?” (Chapter II – 66)

The un-integrated or un-concentrated mind has no wisdom; nor can

such a person have yearning for Self-Knowledge. Without such

yearning, there is no peace. How can there be happiness without

quietude? Only universal love brings inner peace.

He excels, who looks equally on a well-wisher, a friend, an enemy, a

neutral, an arbiter, a hateful person, a relative and also on the good

and the sinful. (VI – 9)

The “good man” helps, regardless of any requirement (adequate

return for good or ill). He, whose intellectual attitude is the same,

does not bother who the other is and helps.


Chapter 5 - Is Vedic Principles behind Cognitive Behaviour

All the principles of cognitive behavior therapy today are basically

principles originated from Bhagavad Gita. Counselling involves

basically two principles; Cognitive counselling and behavioural

counselling. Behavioural when the concentration is only on the

actions, and cognitive when the concentration is on the changes, in

either the thought process or in the interpretation of the thought


As against a pure behaviour therapy where a person is counselled to

do pre-defined things on regular intervals, cognitive behaviour

therapy involves changing the actions by changing observations of

the interpretation of a particular situation. The Gita reveals to us the

immense potential in the resourcefulness of the human mind. We

must rise from ignorance to knowledge, from apathy to a positive

feeling and from inertia to purposeful activity. The diary of mankind is

not without entries of what is called “Columbus complex”, which

means that each new discovery is, in fact, a rediscovery! In this

context, it is more than apt to say that any modern book on

psychotherapy is a mirror image of the Bhagavad Gita, rendered

more than five thousand years ago.


The counselling methods employed in Bagavat Geeta

a) The first principle is “counselling cannot be done in one or two

sessions. It requires up to 18 sessions which is what Krishna

did in Bhagavad Gita. Bhagavad Gita contains 702 dialogues in

the form of verses therefore a proper counselling involves in-

depth conversation between the counselor and the patient.

b) The second principle of counselling is to listen to the patient in

the first session in great detail and that is what Krishna did in

Bhagavad Gita. In Chapter 1 only Arjuna speaks and Krishna

does not utter a word. Patient listening is 50% healing done.

c) As per the third principle the second (first interactive) session

between counsellor and the patient should be the longest one.

Chapter 2 of Bhagavad Gita is the gist of Krishna’s counselling.

d) The fourth principle is that after giving a detailed counselling in

the second session one should expect the patient to get

confused. This is what happens in start of Chapter 3 where

Arjuna says to Krishna “I am confused. Sometimes you are

talking about one path and other time you are talking about

another path. Guide me again. The third counselling session

therefore, is the most important where one has to counsel

slowly and in great detail.


e) The next principle is to give reasoning to the counselling. One

should not take patient for granted. Krishna discusses each

and every aspect of life with Arjuna in great detail giving

scientific reasoning at every stage.

f) Re-assure the patient again & again. During counselling

Krishna assures Arjuna on multiple occasions that you did your

job and do not worry. I am with you.

g) The seventh principle involves creating some fear in the

patient’s mind. This is what Krishna does while showing his

cosmic manifestation (virat swaroop). This especially works in

addiction patients. Some degree of fear with re-assurance from

the counsellor always works.

h) The sum up of counselling session should be as big as the

second session. Chapter 18 of Bhagavad Gita is as big as

Chapter 2 where the whole Bhagavad Gita is summarized


Counselling basically involves in-depth knowledge of dharma, artha,

kama, moksha. They are greatly described in Dharmashastra,

Arthashastra, Kamasutra and Upanishads through various Vedas.

Stress is the reaction of the body or the mind to the interpretation of

any situation. Either change the response of the body through yogic

living, or change the interpretation by understanding the principles of

counselling or change the reaction by wilful actions.

In counselling the mental process involves generation of a thought or

idea which is analysed and then acted upon. Thought, analysis and

action therefore are the primary three states/process of human mind.

Counselling involves action at all three levels.

The origin of counselling can be traced to Vedic era. Upanishads

were basically text books on counselling based on the original

knowledge of Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samveda and Atharvaveda.

Bhagavad Gita was the counseling done by Krishna to Arjuna on the

conflict on Arjuna’s mind whether to fight or not. At that time there

were no doctors and hence counselling was given by the elders in

the family. Other instances of counselling situations in the epics

includes Vidur Niti which was the counselling given by Vidur to

Dhritarashtra when he was not sleeping and Chanakya Niti was

based on how to rule a country. In Raamayana, Yoga Vashista was

the counselling given by Vashistha to Rama to acquire higher levels

of spiritual knowledge.

Chapter 6 : Indian Mythology in Psychotherapy and Counselling

The Indian mythology is one of the richest mythologies in the world.

Furthermore, unlike Greek, Roman, Egyptian or other great

mythologies of the past, which are extinct now, the Indian

mythological tradition is very much active and is part of the daily life

of Indian people. The newer religions in Greece, Rome, Egypt or

Mesopotamia have replaced the ancient religions based on

mythology and once powerful mythological figures like Zeus or

Aphrodite or Osiris and Isis are today to be found only on books and

museums. In India, on the other hand, there has been a continuity of

religious tradition for the last five thousand years. The ancient

mythological figures like Shiva or Vishnu, Rama or Krishna, Ganesha

or Durga are worshipped everyday all over the country. For an

Indian, Ramayana or Mahabharata are not merely books of old epic

stories like Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey in Greece, but are models for

day-to-day life and behaviour. Hence mythological stories have

tremendous power and hold over Indian people. Religious teachers

regularly use these stories to exhort listeners to modify their

behaviour. It is surprising and sad that we, the mental health

professionals make so little use of them. In Psychiatry we have

incorporated the psychoanalytic concepts of Oedipus complex or


Electra complex for psychotherapy, which hardly make an impact on

our people, while our own rich heritage of mythology remains

untapped or unused.

As traditions of Indian thought have developed continuously over

thousands of years, primarily as oral traditions, there has periodically

been assimilation of many ideas of different schools, which are found

to be valid from Indian epistemological standards. From Traditional

Healing to Professional Counselling in India no civilization can

remain resilient or even survive without good guidance, mental

health, and spiritual help. Indian culture is no exception. As one of

the most ancient civilizations, India has a long history of help seeking


The ontological reality of human existence.

The comparison is further complicated by the fact that whereas

Indian sages concentrated on the 'ideal' state, the Western scholars

focused on observed reality of the interaction between man and

society. The purpose of juxtaposing world-views of these different

societies here is to examine the progress of western social

psychology and its implications for understanding social issues and

problems we are facing in India. A critical appraisal would enable us

to view the knowledge base of social psychology with particular


reference to Indian work. In the following sections, attempts are

made to understand the progress of social psychology in India as a

Euro-American enterprise. Major historical developments which

shaped the discipline in West were shown to have significant

implications for the growth of social psychology in India.


Chapter 7 : Ayurveda & Yoga on mental health

Ayurveda, though it literally means the science of Life, is placed

alongside the four sacred scriptures of the Vedic Brahmins as the

fifth Veda providing a comprehensive approach to complete health,

both of the body and mind. It advocates maintenance of a perfect

harmony of the mind, body and the soul which equips one to

live the full life unhampered by diseases. Ayurveda is the oldest

documented science dealing with amazing details. It has emphasis

not only on treatment but on the preventive aspects and the

personality inclusive of the somatotype and temperament. The body

is made up of Pancha Bhuthas (Constituent elements) and any

imbalance in the constituent elements is the cause for disease

(Tridosha theory).

Concept of Mind in Ayurveda

According to Ayurvedic principles, mind is material and is part of and

resides within the body. When a person dies the mind too dies. The

attributes of the mind are that, it is unitary and atomic. Based on its

function, the mind is divided into Ahankara(ego) and Ittcha (will) and

Budhi(Intellect). The harmonious action of these three results in

healthy functioning of the mind. Ahankara operates almost similar to

the ego of modern psychology. Ittcha, under the direction of the


Ahankara, controls and directs the mind. Buddhi, the intellect, takes

the right decisions.

Charaka, the famed Ayuervdic scholar and physician described the

human body as being an aggregate volume of cells where growth

depends on Karma, Vayu (air or bio-energy) and Svabhava (personal

nature). Life or AYU is described as a combination of Shareera

(body), Indriya (senses), Satva (psyche) and Atma (soul). According

to the Charaka, the mind provides direction to the senses, control of

the self, reasoning, and deliberation. Further, the descriptions include

the theory of Triguna or the theory of three inherent qualities or

modes of nature. These three gunas or the three operational qualities

of mind are: Sattva (variously translated as light, goodness or purity

and includes self-control, self-knowledge and an ability to

discriminate or make well thought out choices), Rajas (action,

energy, passion and is indicative of violence, envy and

authoritarianism) and Tamas (darkness, inertia which reflects

dullness and inactivity). The theory of three gunas is also used to

describe different types of personalities. According to the various

permutation combinations 21 different types of personalities are

described. Ayurvedic texts also give description of insanity (Unmada)

and spirit possession (Bhutonmada).


The ideal state of mind is called Satwa when there is

equipoise and harmony among its attributes. When the mind is

under stress, agitated or frustrated the equilibrium is disturbed and

the mind is then said to be in the Rajasik state akin to the

sympathetic activity of the autonomic nervous system. The mind

driven by lethargy, gloominess etc., is under the Tamasik state,

somewhat, similar to the parasympathetic activity. Perception is

possible only when the mind receives, organizes and interprets the

sensory stimuli collected by the sense organs. The mind controls and

motivates the sensory faculties (perceptual apparatus) to cognize

correctly and usefully.

The seat of the mind is believed to be between the Siras(head)

and Thalu (Hard palate). When the doshas are vitiated to the

extent that the three states of mind are also vitiated,

psychological problems, psychosomatic diseases, and mental

insanity is the result. For example, if Prana vatha is vitiated, worry,

anxiety, tension - head – aches lack of enthusiasm may be

experienced. Vitiation of sadhaka pitta causes emotional disturbance.


A complete and fool proof definition and interpretation of mind is

almost impossible to provide for obvious reasons. Yet, Ayurveda has

attempted to examine every detail of the minds attributes with fair

success. The concept of health in Ayurveda encompasses not

only the physical and mental aspects but the spiritual aspects

which is missing in the Modern Psychological discourses. The moral,

ethical and spiritual realms of mind are too precious to omit.

Use of yoga and meditation in psychiatric disorders

With the worldwide recognition of yoga in management of stress and

positive mental-health, studies from India and the west have

evaluated its usefulness in various psychiatric disorders. A recent

meta-analysis included studies which have evaluated Hatha yoga,

Iyengar's yoga, Sudarshan Kriya yoga, and different types of

meditative yoga for management of various psychiatric disorders.

This meta-analysis demonstrated that yoga therapy is an effective

adjunct treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and schizophrenia,

with a significant pooled mean effect size of 3.25 (P = 0.002). Yoga-

based practices may provide relief for symptoms left untreated

through common treatments such as psychopharmacology and

psychotherapy. Yoga breathing can be extremely useful in the

treatment of anxiety and PTSD. Considering the usefulness of yoga


and acceptance of the same by many patients, advising the patients

to practice the same under the guidance of an expert may be very

useful as an adjunct to other modalities of treatment.

Traditional methods of controlling mind: Yoga and meditation

Yoga is a discipline, which has evolved in India several thousand

years ago with the basic aim of growth, development and evolution of

mind. The ultimate goal of yoga is to control one's own body, to

handle the bodily senses, and to tame seemingly endless internal

demand. It offers a world view, a lifestyle and a series of techniques

by which changes in human awareness can be brought about which

can help in realizing the human potential. There are various systems

of yoga. However, all aim to achieve the same, i.e., bringing about

altered states of consciousness, which is known as the cosmic

consciousness, transcendental illumination, or samadhi. It is said that

correct practice of yogic techniques gives rise to certain types of

reactions within the person, which facilitate qualitative and

quantitative changes in awareness. It is considered that regular

practice of yogic exercise reduces psychological tension, as well as

reduces the decline in physical health. In recent times, yoga and

meditation have received wide acceptance and popularity all over the


Yoga for Mental Health: Relevance

Although yoga in modern society has been often thought of as a form

of physical exercise, traditionally, yoga practice has been a multi-

component discipline involving postures and physical exercises,

breath regulation techniques and the control of attention and

enhancement of mindful awareness through the practice of

meditation. These practices are often accompanied by a distinct

psychology and philosophy in the practice of a “yoga life-style.”

Historically, the practice of yoga was a spiritual discipline whose goal

was spiritual advancement and these component practices were

intended to create an ideal state of psycho-physiological health and

optimal functioning of body and mind in support of contemplative

states of consciousness. However, in modern society, these yoga

practices have often been used in a more limited application in order

to maintain physical fitness and psychological well-being and also as

a therapeutic intervention for psychological and medical disorders, or

so called “yoga therapy,” both of which have become highly popular

in the general public internationally. Documented evidence for the

systematic use of yoga as therapy appears in the early 20th century

in India, and the popularity of yoga therapy has grown steadily both

in India and internationally.


Scientific research studies on the psycho-physiological benefits of

yoga practice also date back to the early 20th century, and this

growing body of research reveals that some of the most consistent

and reproducible effects of yoga practice include stress reduction,

emotion regulation, improved mood and well-being, improved

cognitive functioning, enhanced respiratory function, improved

physical flexibility, muscular strength and neuromuscular

performance. These studies have provided hints as to the possible

mechanisms of action of yoga in patient populations. Many of these

outcomes, especially those relating to stress and mood, are

influencing key risk factors or contributors to severity of a wide

variety of disorders and these are likely to account for a significant

part of yoga's therapeutic benefit. However, it is also believed that

specific yoga practices may be of particular efficacy for specific

disorders, e.g., the improvement in negative rumination in anxiety

and depressive disorders with the practice of meditation.

Furthermore, the overall enhancement of physical and mental fitness

from yoga practice is likely to provide additional reduction in disease

severity through a number of indirect pathways.

Yoga therapy research began much more recently. The first study of

yoga in a population including psychological conditions appeared in


the Journal of the Yoga Institute in 1971 and reported on

improvements in symptoms of patients with anxiety, depression and

schizophrenia. Notably, the prominent Indian Psychiatrist Professor

N.S. Vahia and colleagues published several papers on yoga for

psychological conditions, including studies published in the Indian

Journal of Psychiatry and elsewhere, in which he presented the

rationale for the use of yoga as therapy as well as the results of

clinical application of yoga to hundreds of patients in Mumbai. His

stated rationale still holds value in modern yoga therapy research: “It

may be stressed that the psycho-physiological therapy represents a

new approach to the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Most of the

current psychotherapeutic methods aim at adjustment to society -

i.e., the interaction with the environment should be such as to result

in getting pleasure and avoiding pain. It is this preoccupation with

the environmental gratifications and frustrations that is the root cause

of many psychiatric disorders. In this therapy, the object is to remove

or at least reduce this preoccupation. The aim is self-realisation - A

better integration of personality resulting in actualization of one's

creative potentialities”.

Yoga therapy research is a rapidly growing field and research on

psychological conditions has been one of its major subfields. The


majority of yoga for mental health research has focused on

depression and/or anxiety and the literature has grown to the extent

that reviews of this literature are now being published. This is not

surprising given the dominance of these two disorders in psychiatry

and in the general public. In addition to a rapid growth in quantity of

research on yoga for mental health conditions, the quality of the

clinical trials has also been improving. Furthermore, the efficacy of

yoga for a variety of disorders not previously examined has begun to

be evaluated and the results are somewhat surprising. Just 10 years

ago the idea of yoga as a treatment for conditions such as

schizophrenia would have been considered questionable at best. We

now have yoga research studies on post-traumatic stress disorder,

schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, addictive behaviours,

attention-deficit disorders and even autism. The author of one recent

review paper of yoga for mental health conditions that received

widespread media attention asserted in a US television interview that

“If there was a drug that could mimic the effects of yoga, it would

probably be the world's best-selling drug,” and that “it should be a

national priority to do more studies of yoga.”

This special issue on yoga for psychiatric conditions is therefore

timely and also appropriate in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry given


the Indian origins of yoga, the significant number of Indian

researchers who have contributed to this field and the history of yoga

research publications in this journal. There are over a dozen yoga

research reports in this special issue and not surprisingly, six of them

evaluate yoga in depression, consistent with the prevalence of yoga

therapy studies on depression in the existing literature. Aside from

basic efficacy studies, it is encouraging to see that three of these

studies have included biochemical outcome measures that may

provide more objective measures of benefit and possibly information

on mechanisms of action. Studies on yoga for ADHD, epilepsy and

sleep quality in this issue provide valuable new contributions to

disorders which still have few preliminary yoga studies published.

Reports evaluating the effects of yoga on cognitive impairment and

brain imaging are also welcome contributions and supplement a

popular and growing field of research on meditation practices with

these outcomes. Finally, the randomized controlled trial on yoga for

psychotic patients was conducted with significant sample size and is,

to my knowledge, the first published, systematic evaluation of yoga

for this disorder.

Yoga practices have a place in the healthcare system as a treatment

for a variety of psychiatric conditions, at least as an adjunctive if not


as a primary therapy. However, I believe the strongest contribution to

mental health would be the preventive application of yoga in society

in general, given what we know about the excellent benefits of yoga

practice on risk factors for psychiatric conditions. It is clearly more

cost-effective and efficacious to prevent mental health diseases, than

to treat them once they have manifested as clinically significant

conditions. I look forward to a future in which yoga practices are

applied as a routine hygienic practice within our educational system,

which will require the completion of a supportive body of research

that justifies this inclusion. Ultimately, yoga deserves to become an

integrated and universal mind-body practice in our modern culture.


The science of meditation developed around 5000 years ago in India.

The original practice of Yoga as practised in India spread from India

to Sri Lanka and other areas of the south Asia. Meditation

transforms the mind from the state of unrest, confusion and

disharmony to a state of equilibrium and joyfulness. The process of

meditation leads the mind to the centre of calmness and joy. In

every case, the turbulence of the mind is based upon various

desires. The moment desire arises, one becomes discontented.

One finds oneself separated from the source of satisfaction. It is


possible to maintain a state of joy and harmony through the

practice of meditation. Meditation helps one to know one’s own

internal aspect, and finally it leads to the source of consciousness.

Meditation helps to attain the totality of an individual. Meditation is

also of practical value: Meditation process will change attitudes

relating to the world. Yoga prevents one from making unrealistic

demands from others. The practice of meditation leads to enriched

relationships with others.


Chapter 8 : Astrology and Counselling in India

Astrology which has strong followers in India has played a vital role in

counselling. Astrology which enjoys the status of a life science in

India was very helpful in healing and counselling situations. In India

the good Ayurvedic Doctors also had the knowledge of astrology. In

fact astrology was a subject in the syllabus of Ayurvedic Medicinal

study in olden times. The famous Indian Astrologer, Dr. B V Raman

who conducted extensive researches in astrology where he

summarized the roles of planets and stars influences in determining

the mental and physical states of an individual. According to Dr B. V.

Raman the Physical and mental characteristics of an individual is

determined depending upon the placements of influencing planets

and stars at the time of birth. By referring the natal chart of a person

his personality type, mental and physical vulnerabilities can be

predicted. The role of the Vedic Astrologer as a consultant, as a

counsellor, and spiritual guide is, even now, a prevailing practice n

India. This is peculiarly true in the country side, where an emphasis

is placed on therapeutic counselling. Even in the cities, the educated

class also approach the astrologers for personal problems. A wise

astrologer knows not only how, but also when to share difficult

aspects of the natal chart with the personal problems of a client. But

before addressing some of the more interesting aspects of

astrological counselling; a few comments on the history of modern

psychology and its relationship to astrology is not out of place.

Dr. C.G. Jung, the respected Swiss psychiatrist, had a keen interest

in astrology. He stated that "astrology represents the summation of

all the psychological knowledge of antiquity". Dr. Jung was a pioneer

of transpersonal thought which emphasizes the importance of

exploring issues "beyond the persona" or personality. In their

groundbreaking text, Beyond Ego: Transpersonal Dimensions in

Psychology, Walsh and Vaughan state, “Jung himself was the first

Western psychologist to affirm the importance of transpersonal

experience for mental health”. Transpersonal psychology invites us

to embrace the deeper dimensions of spirit and soul. Psychology,

which literally means "the study of the psyche or soul”, had lost touch

with its true spiritual purpose of exploring the soul during its

academic development.

Most of the psychoanalytic and behavioural schools of psychology

have chosen to follow a more mechanistic, medical model of human

behaviour. Although these disciplines are essential cornerstones in

the field of psychology, the emergence of humanistic and


transpersonal psychology have brought the rebirth of psyche or soul

back into psychology. In contrast, transpersonal psychology has

always embraced the Vedic knowledge and wisdom of the East in

attempting to understand the deeper spiritual dimensions of human

behaviour. However, the acceptance of astrology as a viable

diagnostic technique for understanding human behaviour has not

even occurred in the western schools of psychology.

It is interesting to note that C.G. Jung often used astrology as a

diagnostic tool in his clinical practice. In a letter written to the

prominent Indian astrologer, Dr. B.V. Raman (dated 9/47), he writes:

"As I am a psychologist, I am chiefly interested in the particular light

the horoscope sheds on certain complications in the client's

character. In cases of difficult psychological diagnosis, I usually get a

horoscope in order to have a further point of view from an entirely

different angle. I must say that I very often found that the astrological

data elucidated certain points which I otherwise would have been

unable to understand."

In a French astrological magazine, a few years later (1954), Jung

also wrote: "One can expect with considerable assurance that a

given well-defined psychological situation will be accompanied by an

analogous astrological configuration. Astrology consists of


configurations symbolic of the collective unconscious. The planets

are the Gods, the symbols of the powers of the unconscious."

By contemplating Jung's words, a common goal of both

psychotherapy and astrology emerges. That is, both disciplines are

attempting to facilitate the unconscious aspects of self in becoming

more conscious. Vedic Astrology or Jyotisha, which means the

“science of light”, can be a profound tool for bringing light and clarity

into the dark caverns of the unconscious. As Psychologist Richard

Tarnas has stated “Psychology textbooks of future generations will

look back on modern psychologists working without the aid of

astrology as being like medieval astronomers working without the aid

of a telescope”. The integration of transpersonal psychology with

astrology has the potential to occur as we move into the new


Through predictive techniques such as the different dasha systems,

in Vedic Astrology reveals a bird's eye view of the developmental life

cycles reflecting the persons karmic patterns or samskaras as they

come to fruition. Astrology has demonstrated great potential as an

accurate diagnostic tool in the hands of trained counsellor for deeper

psychological understanding, vocational interests, relationship


dynamic, health issues and spiritual evolution. An effective astrologer

provides the client with potential strategies in selecting more effective

discriminative action. However, the choice of action should be left in

the hands of the client. An astrologer of ethical integrity is a choice

provider in counselling, rather than a choice maker. To counsel the

client on developing spiritual detachment, prudence in business, or

improving their diet and exercise to make them more capable of

handling any health challenges that they may encounter during the

adverse cycle in life, is most welcome from a Astrological counsellor.

Astrological Counselling Styles

In regards to astrological counselling, three basic styles are

prevalent. The first and most basic method is an Informational style.

This involves the astrologer making a written analysis of the natal

chart and sending it to the person. If the consultation is done face-to-

face; little dialogue takes place with this format. This presentation

style reflects a major difference between astrologers and counsellors.

That is, astrologers are paid to talk, and Counsellors are paid to

listen. The problem with this approach is that it allows little, if any

input from the client. It is often difficult to assess completely from the

chart alone, the client's motivation and state of consciousness. The


natal chart does not necessarily show the intention or effort that a

client is making to actualize their potential and how they are healing

the challenging aspects or yogas in their chart.

The second basic style of astrological consulting is a Counselling

style, which can involve an in-depth dialogue between the astrologer

and client. This can be done either face to face or by a phone

consultation. A good astrologer is usually very intuitive and can read

much from the physiogamy and facial expressions. Literally, the

client wants to be seen on all levels of being. If the astrologer receive

some basic training in effective counselling skills such as: building

rapport, empathy, effective listening and unconditional positive

regard toward the client; diagnosing mental illness, and not flooding

the client with negative or challenging aspects in their natal chart a

very positive outcome can result from the counselling. Astrological

knowledge that does not consider the immediate emotional well

being and state of consciousness of the client can cause great

psychological harm, especially if forced prematurely on a client. The

counselling astrologer must be able to discern what is appropriate to

share at a given moment. It is also essential that the client leave the

astrological consultation with a sense of hope, faith and


empowerment rather than fear, doom and gloom. In contrast, the

astrologer must not "sugar coat" the consultation by avoiding all

challenging aspects in the natal chart.

The third basic style is Psychotherapeutic astrology. This type of

astrological counselling is rare and has its challenges. It would

involve utilizing the natal chart as a diagnostic tool to enhance the

weekly therapy sessions. As mentioned earlier, astrology was a

diagnostic method that Dr. C.G. Jung used in his therapeutic

practice. Psychotherapeutic astrology allows the client's view of their

life lessons to be shared with the astrologer over the course of

therapy. It is difficult to cover many issues in-depth when the client is

not seen for more than one to two hours a year. Psychotherapeutic

astrology encourages the client to ask questions and give responses

anytime during the consultation. As mentioned previously, the

primary drawback of the single "astrological reading" is the

necessary condition of minimal client participation in order to cover

much ground in the session.

Counselling by astrological methods is usually brief and aimed at

specific problem areas, psychotherapeutic astrology is more long-

term with a genuine relationship developing between the client and

astrologer. Psychotherapy involves improving the person's inner


personality structure, whereas counselling helps the client to deal

more effectively with immediate problems without requiring significant

internal change. Since traditional psychotherapy involves the

therapist in the role of witness and a listener, presentation of

astrological information would need to be given with care and may

not be appropriate with certain clients suffering from mental disorders

such as chronic depression, schizophrenia, paranoia, etc. Astrology

can create a magical transference with the client seeing the therapist

as the one who knows all and has the “magic pill" for instant

recovery. This can create unrealistic projections that get in the way of

the natural healing process that is taking place in the counselling

relationship between client and therapist. These issues will have to

be addressed as more counsellors begin to integrate astrology into

their therapeutic practice. Most importantly, the astrologer should be

trained and licensed to practice psychotherapy.

In India there are counsellors who refer their clients for an

astrological consultation and then also listen to the audiotape of the

session to gain further insight into the client's psychological issues.

The Counsellor can utilize the astrologer as an "Archetypal

consultant" to point out the hidden strengths as well as potential


blocks in the therapeutic process. C.G. Jung often emphasized the

importance of discovering what archetypal myths the client is working

with in this lifetime. As we know, astrology is an excellent tool for

revealing life lessons, themes and personal myths pertaining to one's

individuation process. It is important to remember that the basis of

astrology is mythology and symbolic language. Exploring the myths

and symbols of the planets, signs and stars can be very enlightening

during an astrological consultation.

When chronic psychological disturbance is observed, astrological

therapy may be inappropriate or detrimental to the process. A client

suffering from chronic psychopathology such as depression or

schizophrenia may need psychotherapy more than astrological

counselling. If the astrologer is not trained in psychotherapy, they

should have referral sources in their local community.

Moon, Sun and Planets

In astrological terms, the moon represents mind, the Sun body and

energy, Mercury Intelligence and Mars blood. Astrologically, it is said

that afflictions to Mercury and/or Moon in ones natal chart usually

involved with mental disorders. Close conjunctions of Rahu or Ketu

with the Moon may also be challenging to the client's mental health

and addictive tendencies. Saturn's conjunction or aspect to the natal


Moon also tends to reflect a melancholy mind, which can lead to a

depressive illness.

The planetary periods of a weak planet will also make the individual

more susceptible to psychological disturbance and low self-esteem.

However, it is important in the therapeutic process to hold the belief

that any planetary position or aspect holds a positive potential for

personal growth. Using words such as "afflicted", "weak", “malefic” or

"bad” during a consultation can generate fear, shame and low self-

esteem. Speaking in terms of a planetary aspect in the natal chart as

an opportunity for growth and reframing the situation in a positive

light is a more effective method of personal empowerment.

The clients who prefer a Counsellor-Astrologer

Each client that comes to the astrologer is a unique soul and should

be treated as a special person. However, certain client styles may be

more difficult than others to work with. The following are a few of the

challenging personality styles and their general characteristics that

one may encounter in his astrological/counselling practice.

(1) The Professional: This type of client has usually been to many

Counsellors, astrologers, psychics, numerologists, tarot readers in

the last past. They want some person of authority to make their

decisions for them. They have a strong case of "psychic

dependency" which interferes with them exerting their own will.

(2) The Skeptic / Confounder: This client does not believe that

astrology is credible and would enjoy proving you wrong. This can be

the resistive husband that is brought to the consultation by the wife or

the person that is given the consultation as a birthday gift. Even if his

natal chart analysis is correct, they may deny the interpretation. This

type of client enjoys playing "stump the astrologer".

(3) The Agreeable Client: In this client's eyes, you are God,

incarnate. Every word you utter is the gospel truth. They see you as

infallible. If your counselling do not come to pass, you may

experience the proverbial, fall from grace.

(4) The Confessional: The client may see you as the priest or

Father figure to absolve them of their sins. They may also want you

to condone the behaviour that they may feel guilt about. Depending

on your own ethics and morality, this can be a very challenging

situation placing you in a God-like role.

(5) Rescue Me: This is the client looking for the "magic pill” and by

the astrologer/counsellor waving the magic wand, everything will be

fine. They also want to know when Prince Charming is going to arrive

or what are their lucky numbers for the lottery. After the session, the

counsellor may feel mentally and physically drained.

(6) The Victim: They believe that the difficult aspects in their natal

chart are further proof that God is punishing them. The goal is try to

help them release the role of "playing victim" and become an active

participant in turning their life around. They created their karmic

situation, so they can also heal it. They need to know that there is

light at the end of the tunnel, and that it is not a train.

Through awareness of these challenging client styles, the

astrologer/counsellor need not "fall prey", reinforce or perpetuate

these ineffective client strategies. The astrologer can be aware of the

“games” being played and hopefully guide the client toward more

meaningful strategies of personal growth. Often these client styles

are unconscious patterns and care should be taken in sharing this

information with a client.

How the astrologer philosophically holds the issue of fate and free

will must also be explored and clarified. One’s attitudes and belief

systems can greatly colour how astrological information is presented

to a client. Since Vedic astrology is based on Hindu religion, one

should be sensitive of forcing one’s religious beliefs on a client who

may not share your spiritual views. However, the Vedic philosophy

underlying the foundation of Indian astrology has to be addressed by

the practicing Counsellor.

In summary, it is imperative to support and motivate the client to take

a more active role in their personal growth and healing process

rather that emphasizing a fated existence that cannot be changed.

One of the greatest strengths of Vedic Astrology is its use of remedial

measures such as prayer, mantras, yoga, meditation, and gemstones

which can have psychological impact on healing process. Thus, the

astrologer is called upon to be part healer, priest, counselor, mystic,

choice revealer and friend.


Chapter 9 : Evolution of modern counselling in India

India is still in the process of recovering from 800 years of foreign

rule, and one can see the introduction of Indian psychology in the

framework of this national resurgence, but if one does so exclusively,

one misses out on the larger historical events that are taking place at

the moment. There can be no doubt that the West is still

dominant politically, economically and intellectually, but

underneath, there is a strong counter stream of cultural and spiritual

influence from India to the West. Eugene Taylor, who wrote an

excellent book on the history of spirituality in the USA, argues on the

basis of existing trends that Indian psychology is bound to have an

increasing influence on the world culture, especially as a new


However, counselling per se has not existed in the Indian

subcontinent as a well-defined therapeutic modality. Although

psychology in India is fully interwoven with the ancient philosophical

and religious systems, knowledge related to mental health and

human behaviour are not clearly articulated and noticeably applied in

the daily living. People tend to attribute various mental health issues

to evil spirits, evil eye or supernatural powers and prefer to go for

astrological-religious remedies even these days.

The roots of Psychology in India are indebted to ancient

philosophical and religious texts. The British system of education

transplanted to colonial India not only asserted the superiority of

Western Knowledge, but also defended its position by degrading and

discouraging local systems of knowledge. The end of British Colonial

rule in 1947 led to major expansion in higher education in the 1950s

and 1960s. In the last three decades, the importance of cultural

variables in understanding human development and behaviour has

received greater attention from psychologists both in India and

abroad. India’s cultural ethos is unique. It is predominantly a rural

country, with many castes, tribes, languages, religions and socio-

economic disparities including rampant poverty and deprivation. As

we have entered in the new millennium, the field of psychotherapy in

India is still struggling with a number of unanswered questions and

difficult challenges. Researchers have devoted a tremendous amount

of effort towards developing empirically supported therapeutic

methods. The use of Indigenous therapies - yogasana, meditation,

vedantic psychotherapy, sufi psychotherapy, guru-shishya

relationship, opposites therapy-in clinical practice and their


effectiveness in the treatment of various forms of psychological


In this current Indian scenario, the demands of industrial globalisation

and the globalised education that influence various sectors,

consequently have introduced counselling and guidance services.

However, as acknowledged in many parts of the world, the

therapeutic counselling that focuses on the comprehensive

development of the person has not become popular, with the

exception of some urban centres. Taken as a whole, counselling is

narrowly identified and popularly associated with academic advising,

career guidance and, further in the industrial setting as performance


Whilst therapeutic counselling is slowly gaining popularity, there arise

a need for indigenous therapy models for efficient intervention and

effective outcome. This is evidenced by the fact that culture and

worldview of the people in the Indian sub-continent are different than

what the western theories suggest. In spite of the fact that some

Indian therapists integrate yoga and meditation practices into

counselling and psychotherapy process, there are no indigenous

counselling models that define unique counselling setting and stages,


culture-specific theoretical basis and the mode of practise which

affect the process and outcome of counselling for Indian clients.

For the last few decades there is growing realization that for better

practice of psychiatry and counselling we must make more use of the

rich Indian philosophical and religious traditions. Prof. N.C. Surya of

Bangalore was one of the early thinkers to draw attention to this.

Prof. N.S. Vahia of Bombay was another pioneer who through many

articles popularized the use of Yoga for treatment of neurotic and

psychosomatic disorders in India. Prof. A.Venkoba Rao has more

than once beautifully written about the value of Srimad Bhagwad Gita

in psychotherapy and for understanding the functions of mind.

Unfortunately, the uses of stories from Indian mythology have

received relatively little attention.

Indianization of psychiatry utilizing Indian mental concepts

India comprises of diverse cultures, languages, ethnicities, and

religious affiliations. However, besides these diversities, there are

certain commonalities, which include Hinduism as a religion which is

spread across the country, the traditional family system, ancient

Indian system of medicine and emphasis on use of traditional

methods like Yoga and Meditation for controlling mind.


These concepts of psychiatry which have dominated the field in the

last century or so have mostly been developed for individuals with an

internal focus of control (as in the west) and have largely ignored the

role of religion, family, eastern philosophy and medicine in

understanding and managing the psychiatric disorders. It has also

been increasingly recognized that there is a significant difference

between the east and the west in the distribution, phenomenology,

treatment seeking behaviour, and prognosis of people with mental


Hence, now there is an increasing focus on the role of Eastern

concepts in understanding and managing psychiatric disorders. In

recent times, there has been a greater emphasis on person-centred

approach, which emphasizes that treatment and care should be

provided by health services by placing the sick person and their

caregivers at the centre of care. Practice of person-centred approach

requires that the treating physician must have better understanding

of the patient's socioeconomic, ethnic, cultural, religious, and spiritual

beliefs, etc., when one tries to incorporate these aspects of the

patient in psychiatric care; the currently practiced western models

more often than not come in conflict with the needs of the patients.

Traditional community resources for mental health:

In addition to herbal and other traditional medicines, healers and

healing temples are seen as providing curative and restorative

benefits. In India many people troubled by emotional distress or more

serious mental illnesses go to Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and other

religious centres. The healing power identified with these institutions

may reside in the site itself, rather than in the religious leader or any

medicines provided at the site. Studies of these healing sites have

focused primarily on ethnographic accounts. Research has not

systematically examined the psychiatric status of the people coming

for help at these religious centres or the clinical impact of healing. It

has focused primarily on possession and non-psychotic disorders,

rather than serious psychotic illnesses. Yet people with serious

psychotic illnesses do visit such healing temples in India, and

understanding the role of these institutions may help with planning for

community mental health services in underserved rural areas.

Indian psyche specialities

When one tries to define Indian personality in general, it is proposed

that the inner self of an average Indian is lodged in a “circle of

intimacy” or the family. Unlike the western man whose self-hood is

confined to his own body, the Indian self diffuses into the intimate

circle, with bond, bond-ship, and kinship becoming the fulfilling

elements of life. Within these close ties, Indians can communicate

without the fear of rejection, depend on sympathy, comfort, and

support without considering them as charity. From childhood, social

relationships in Indians are spread over several people like

grandparents, uncles, aunts and siblings, and hence, parents are not

the sole guardians or regulators of the child. With the growth of the

individual, a series of similar relationships of varying intensity and

duration develop and at no point of time do Indians assume full

individual responsibility. Even marriage marks the development of a

new set of relationship instead of independence. Hence, unlike the

singularity, self-sufficiency and independence of western self-hood,

the core Indian psyche is based on intimacy, family security, and

stability. Under these circumstances, the boundaries between “me”

and “not-me” tend to get blurred, and for Indians, “we” rather than “I”

becomes important. As discussed earlier, Indian psyche is also

influenced a lot by the Hindu philosophical beliefs of transmigration of

soul, re-birth, and fatalism. The inner self of Indians has been

enriched through the ages by the integration of different religions,

languages and cultures, as the various invaders who came to India

sooner or later mingled and became one with the Indians. Therefore,

it was only at the time of British colonialism that the greatest

challenge to the Indian self was posed by an “invader”, who, for the

first time in Indian history, made no efforts to integrate with the ever

expanding Indian psyche. Under these circumstances, instead of

undergoing a radical change in the inner self, Indians sought to

resolve the conflict by postponement and avoidance. Identity models

were compartmentalized and behaviours conformed to the demands

of the situation. The other model used to resolve the identity crisis

was identification with the victor by internalizing them, in this case the

western belief of self. However, the original Indian self-remained as

before, making its presence felt time and again. Until date, this

fragmented, multifaceted representation of the Indian self persists

without creating any significant inner turmoil or crisis. Understanding

this dualism is useful not only in conceptualizing mental-health

problems and their management in the Indian context but also to

throw light upon the coping, resilience, attitude toward mental-illness,

and treatment seeking behaviour of Indians.

Family system and mental health

India has a vast population comprising of diverse cultures,

languages, ethnicities, and religious affiliations. Besides this, India

has its traditional system of family. To a certain extent, the Indian


families maintain until today, a great degree of cohesiveness and the

members of the family show readiness to cooperate with one another

on issues like taking care of sick relative, making career choice,

marriage, etc., Given the differences between the Indian and western

population, utilization of western psychiatric concepts for treatment of

Indian patients is a largely myopic.

When somebody tries to understand what Indian traditions can offer

to psychiatry or what is different in relation to Indian patients, one

need to understand the traditional Indian systems and predominant

religion in the country (Hinduism). These do shape the patient's

reporting of the symptoms, reaction to stress and symptoms, help-

seeking behaviour, coping with distress, acceptance of suggested

treatment, family's reaction and reaction of community in general. In

the Indian context mind and mental health are understood from the

point of view of Hinduism, Indian traditions and Indian systems of

medicine. All of these Indian concepts can be incorporated into the

practice of contemporary psychiatry.

Unlike the west, the Indian society is a collectivist society that

emphasizes on family unity and integrity. For an average Indian, his

family is an integral part of himself as they are included in the “we”

and “circle of intimacy.” As the family is almost inseparable from the


individual, managing patients especially those with mental illness

without taking the family into account is almost impossible. Given the

available resources as well as the social paradigm, the family has to

bear a greater responsibility than the state in caring for patients.

Also, presence of family members is quintessential part of psychiatric

treatment and they invariably accompany the patient during the

hospital visits, aid in treatment decisions and facilitate the

rehabilitation of the patient.

It has been reported that in India, there is greater involvement of the

family members in the treatment decision, career choice, and

marriage of patients. The families, especially the rural ones, are

usually quite tolerant to persons with mental illness. It has been

shown that the joint families help in dividing the burden of care for the

mentally ill and this in turn results in better course and outcome of

mental illness. The concept of expressed emotions in the family set-

up has received extensive research in the western world and it refers

to the affective attitudes and behaviours of relatives toward a family

member with psychiatric illness and has been closely tied with

relapse in psychiatric disorders, especially schizophrenia. High

expressed emotions among relatives of individuals with

schizophrenia defined by the western operational criteria ranging


from 67% in urban USA to 8% in rural India. In the Indian set-up,

over involvement is to be expected because the individual is part of

the larger kinship group. Over involvement is intertwined and that

warmth might act as a key protective factor.

In the Indian family setup, males and females have clearly

demarcated and different roles as well as different positions in the

hierarchical system. Indian women are expected to be chiefly

concerned with family and household issues while men are expected

to be the chief decision makers and bear the financial responsibility

for the household. Unfortunately, women in the Indian families lack

autonomy, decision making power and access to independent

income, and many other aspects of their lives and health will

necessarily be outside their control. This increases their levels of

susceptibility and exposure to various kinds of health risks as

compared with men and inevitably set limits on their opportunities for

exercising control over the determinants of their mental health.

Elucidating the defining characteristics of women's lives is a

necessary precondition for any convincing, socially contextualized

account of the gender specific risk factors for adverse mental health

outcomes. Little education, early age at marriage, adolescent

pregnancy, repeated pregnancies at short intervals due to lack of


access to or the cultural unacceptability of family planning, son

preference and less food being given to girls and women, all increase

the likelihood of physical and psychological health problems. All are

influenced if not caused by social and cultural, not biological forces.

Indian society is collectivistic and promotes social cohesion and

interdependence. The traditional Indian joint family, which follows the

same principles of collectivism, has proved itself to be an excellent

resource for the care of the mentally ill. However, the society is

changing with one of the most significant alterations being the

disintegration of the joint family and the rise of nuclear and extended

family system. Although even in today's changed scenario, the family

forms a resource for mental health that the country cannot neglect,

yet utilization of family in management of mental disorders is

minimal. Family focused psychotherapeutic interventions might be

the right tool for greater involvement of families in management of

their mentally ill and it may pave the path for a deeper community

focused treatment in mental disorders. Authors evaluate the scope

and effectiveness of family focused psychotherapy for mental

disorders in India, and debates the issues and concerns faced in the

practice of family therapy in India.


Indian coping style

Indian culture has a fixed hierarchy in which God has a higher value

as compared to individual responsibility. Hence, Indians seek

sustenance from religion, visit temples and shrines and seek

blessings of the Gods and Goddesses, when confronted with life

stressors. They feel contented in handing over the responsibility to a

higher authority, namely God, and thus relieving themselves from the

burdensome responsibilities. This external locus of control, so

integral and acceptable to Indians, is in stark contrast to the western

world where the autonomous individual has to bear the responsibility

of his own problems and seek their solution without depending on

others. Surprisingly, very few studies from India have evaluated the

role of religious coping in dealing with stressful situations and mental

illness. Only one study has attempted to study the relationship of

religious coping and psychological wellbeing of caregivers of patients

with schizophrenia. It was noted that strength of religious belief plays

an important role in helping family members to cope with the stress

of caring for a mentally ill relative. Other studies, although have not

evaluated use of religious coping in dealing with mental illness, but

some of these suggest that level of religiosity has inverse relationship

with hopelessness and suicidal intent in patients of depression.


The close relationship between stress and psychological distress has

been accepted with respect to almost all types of psychiatric

disorders. Coping strategies are therefore, important predictors and

modulators of mental illness. The ways of coping are in turn affected

by the culture and the culture-specific buffers. Among the various

coping strategies talked of in the literature, religious coping is very

important from the perspective of Indian psyche and traditions.

In last 2-3 decades, studies across the world have started focusing

on the religious coping in dealing with stress and symptoms of

mental disorders. It is suggested that whenever religion is “available

and accessible,” coping with challenges often incorporates a religious

dimension. In general, religious coping is considered as

multidimensional concept covering a range of active to passive,

problem-focused to emotion-focused, positive to negative, and

cognitive behavioural to interpersonal and spiritual strategies. For

example, through religion, a person undergoing stress may define

stressor as benevolent and potentially beneficial, or as a punishment

from God for his sins, consider stressor as a work of devil, or believe

himself to be helpless as that it is only God who can change the


Other religious coping methods to deal with stress may include

seeking control over the stressor through a partnership with God,

engaging in solitary religious activities to shift focus from the

stressors, going to religious gurus for guidance and strength to face

the stressor, seeking comfort and reassurance through the love and

care of religious congregation members, searching for spiritual

meaning when encountering a stress, seeking a sense of

connectedness with forces that transcend the individual. Studies

from the west which have evaluated patients with different illnesses

have reported that 34.5-86.9% use religious activity to cope with

problems. Specifically in patients with psychiatric disorders, studies

suggest that about three-fifth of the patients use religion to cope with

their disorder and 30% reported an increase in religiousness since

the onset of the disorder and about one-fifth of the patients reported

that religion was the most important part of their lives.

Another study which evaluated the coping of patients with mental

illnesses reported that more than 80% of the subjects used religious

beliefs or activities to cope with daily difficulties or frustrations. This

study also reported that majority of the patients devoted nearly half of

their total coping time to religious practices with prayer being the

most frequent activity. It was further seen that use of religious coping

was associated with more severe symptoms, higher level of

frustration, and higher impairment due to symptoms. It was also

noted that those patients who devoted lesser time in religious coping

reported higher severity of illness and higher level of frustration.

Another study evaluated the caregivers of dementia for frequency of

attendance at religious services, meetings, and/or activities; the

frequency of prayer or meditation; and the importance of religious

faith/spirituality. It was seen that the various measures of religion

were associated with less depressive symptoms in caregivers.

Indian psyche and psychopathology

The religious background and practices can colour the reporting of

the psychopathology. Studies in patients with delusions from the

west have shown that the delusional themes of the patients are

usually based on the myths according to the ancient culture. Such

themes have been termed as mythological. Similarly, some of the

perceptions, which may be considered to be standard in the patient's

religious background, may be interpreted as part of the

psychopathology. Hence, ignorance about the patient's religious

background may lead to an incorrect diagnosis. At other times, the

psychotic patients may interpret the religious teaching literally and

act accordingly with harmful consequences for them or people


around them. Studies from India suggest that delusions and

hallucinations are often coloured by cultural influences in terms of

paranormal phenomena, irrespective of the educational and

residential backgrounds of patients and caregivers.

Studies from India also suggest that many patients attribute their

symptoms to supernatural causes. Others may consider their

symptoms as some kind of punishment from God and resultantly

decide that they do not deserve to be relieved of their suffering, or

they may refuse to take treatment and assert that the illness can be

cured by prayers only. It is also suggested that ideas of guilt in

depression when present are often attributed to Karma or to the

deeds of a previous birth, which in turn may render them less

distressing. The same influences may explain more common

delusions of persecution and reference in Indian patients than

hypochondriacally, guilt, and nihilistic delusions.

An interesting aspect of neurosis in India is higher prevalence of

possession states, trance states, fugues and hysterical fits compared

to the west. On the other hand, multiple personality disorders, a

common problem in the west, is rarely seen in our patients. It has

been hypothesized that religious beliefs in polytheism and

reincarnation contribute to the documented high prevalence of


hysterical possession in India, while the social approval of role

playing in the west has led to higher prevalence of multiple

personality disorder in these parts. Similarly, pseudo-seizures and

other motor manifestations of dissociation are also more common,

while dissociative amnesia, fugue, and depersonalization-

derealisation syndrome are rarely seen in India.

Socio-demographic variables can have a patho-plastic effect on

content of psychopathology, for example, in Indian setting, “Suchibai

(cleanliness) Syndrome” is an obsessive compulsive syndrome

(characterized by repeated washing and purity rituals). In the realm

of sexual disorders, many young males present with

hypochondriacal, anxiety and depressive symptoms under the major

visible “pathology” of semen loss and it is termed as “Dhat

syndrome.” The syndrome arises in the background of the teaching

of Ayurveda, which teaches the physiology of the production of

semen, based on the central idea that there are seven essential

constituents of the body (the seven Dhatus: chyle, bile, blood, flesh,

fat, bone marrow, and semen) produced through a cycle of

successive internal cooking and transformations. After ultimate

distilling, the most concentrated and hence the most precious elixir

among the constituents of the body is semen (dhatu). In Susruta


Samhita and in Ayurveda, loss of semen in any form leads to a

draining of physical and mental energy and vitality. This is further

reinforced by the belief enshrined in religious scriptures according to

which 40 meals produce one drop of blood, 40 drops of blood make

one drop of bone marrow and 40 drops of bone marrow form one

drop of semen.

Chapter 10 : Social Psychology in India

Psychology is as old as humanity on this earth. Throughout the

recorded history, social nature of man has intrigued scholars, artists,

and social reformers. Their work has significant bearing on

understanding how people relate with others and conduct their social

life. Scriptures, artefacts, music, poetry, all have contributed to this

endeavour. What has intrigued scholars is the evidence of both,

universality and uniqueness of social behaviour in different cultures.

However, rapid social, economic, and political changes sweeping

across the oceans and continents have thrown up many new

questions for social psychologists. Many new theories and methods

are being developed to unravel general principles of social

interaction. It is therefore, not surprising that the quests and

concerns in discourses of Plato and Aristotle were similar to those of

the ancient Indian thinkers, like Manu, Yagyavalkya and Kautilya.

They were all concerned with the sustenance of social institutions to

uphold the social code of conduct, while preserving human freedom.

It was always considered important that people get socialized to

conform to social authority and internalize family values and

traditions. At the same time all societies have experimented with

various systems to strike a match between social norms and


individual aspirations. Social conflicts, violence, exploitations

throughout the ages had kept social thinkers busy to examine

geneses and expound solutions. Social psychology has evolved as a

discipline to grapple with the issues of understanding social

interactional process. The endeavour is to find ways to maintain ideal

social conditions in which people can live together in peace and

harmony. However, apart from this common quest to understand and

transform human behaviour, there are differences in the world-views;

the ways in which the social reality is analyzed, explained and

rendered meaningful in western and non-western cultures, like India.

The difference is not just in terms of the methods of inquiry but more

basic in terms of Social interventions with families to help them cope

with problems have always been a part of all cultures in form of a

variety of rituals, for example, the rituals surrounding death of family

members. The roots of the formal development of family therapy,

however, dates back to the early 1940s, when Counsellors began

seeing and observing family members in therapy sessions. The initial

strong influence from psychoanalysis soon gave way to concepts

from social psychiatry, learning theory and behaviour therapy, and

the early concepts of theoretical framework for family therapy were


In the mid-1950s, in United States, ideas from cybernetics and

general systems theory were introduced in psychotherapy. The

systems approach did not focus on the linear causation model of

individual psychology, and instead emphasized on feedback and

homeostatic mechanisms that operate in family systems. The famous

“circular causation and process” model was forwarded and here-and-

now interactions between family members started being viewed as a

major factor in maintaining or exacerbating problems, whatever be

the original cause. Simultaneously, Murray Bowen, worked on his

hypothesis on family systems, based on his observations on the

father-mother-child triad. Bowen's observations on triadic

relationship, fusion and distancing, nuclear family emotional process,

multi-generational transmission processes and family constellation

forms the basis of the family systems theory, which later came to be

known as the Bowen's theory.

By the mid-1960s, a large number of distinct schools of family

therapy had emerged, some of which included brief therapy, strategic

therapy, structural family therapy. Concurrently and somewhat

interdependently with the systems theory, intergenerational therapies

emerged, which theorized the intergenerational transmission of

health and dysfunction and usually dealt with at least three


generations of a family. After the late-1970s, the field of family

therapy saw many practical modifications of the earlier rigid

theoretical frameworks, especially in the light of accumulated clinical

experience in treatment of serious mental disorders. In the past few

decades, there has been a general move towards integration and

eclecticism, with practitioners using techniques from several areas,

depending upon their own inclinations and/or the needs of the clients.

In India, work in family therapy started in the late 1950s, coinciding

with the period of increased interest in psychotherapy in India. 1960s

was also the time of beginning of the general hospital psychiatric

units (GHPUs) with inpatient facilities, where patients were admitted

mandatorily with a family member with focus on family education and

counselling. The similar practice has been followed at all the GHPUs,

which have been established in India over the last 5 decades. These

units, though may not be conducing family therapy, are working with

family involvement in treatment of the persons with mental illness.

Another major boost to family therapy in India occurred in the late

1970s and early 1980s, when the National Institute of Mental Health

and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore started working actively

on family members of patients with psychiatric disorders, which

ultimately resulted in the formation of a formal Family Psychiatry


Center in 1977. Early work from the center showed that families

could be taught to cope with their burden through education,

counseling and group support in an effective manner. Subsequent

work by researchers showed the usefulness of involving families in

the management of a variety of psychiatric disorders including marital

discord, hysteria and psychosis. In the late 1980s, the center

developed Indian tools for working in the field of family therapy,

notable amongst which are the Family Interaction Pattern Scale, the

Family Topology Scale and the Marital Quality Scale. In the late

1980s and 1990s the center started training post graduates in

psychiatry in concepts and schools of family therapy and started

orienting itself to structured rather than generic family therapy. At the

turn of this century, it became the only center in India to offer formal

training and diploma course in family therapy. Though the center in

past had practiced various dynamic and behavioral models, currently

it follows primarily a systemic model of family therapy.

Effectiveness of family oriented psychotherapy in India

Although a significant number of therapists practice family therapy in

India in government and private settings, the published literature on

the subject is surprisingly sparse. Most publications are issue based

experiential accounts of the practitioners, rather than evidence based


merits of particular therapy modalities. Even then, most intervention

studies report significant benefits whenever family have been

involved in management of psychiatric disorders.

Ideally, any psychotherapy would include intake process, therapy

proper and a termination phase. In family therapy, aim of the intake

phase is to understand the families’ perception of the problem, their

motivation to undergo therapy, and the therapist's assessment of the

suitability and type of family therapy to be applied. Assessment of the

family forms an important part of the intake phase and different

therapists employ different techniques for the purpose like the three

generation genogram; life cycle chart, structural map or the circular

hypothesis. The three generation genogram diagrammatically lists

out the patient's generation and two more related generations and

helps to understand trans-generational patterns of interaction. The

life cycle chart explores the functions of the family and roles of

different family members. A structural map shows the different

subsystems in the family, the power structure and the relations

between the family members. This can show if relations are normal,

overinvolved, conflictual or distant. The circular hypothesis generally

used in systemic therapy helps to understand the meaning of the


symptoms for the patient and the role of the family members in

maintaining them.

As most of these assessment tools were originally developed in the

west, they need to be suitably modified for use in the eastern culture.

In the last few decades attempts have been to develop culturally

sensitive tools to assess Indian family in treatment. The Family

Topology Scale is a 28 item scale that measures family types, and

groups them into the five subtypes of normal, cohesive, egoistic,

altruistic and anoxic. Another tool, the Family Interaction Pattern

scale, looks into the developmental phases of the family. The scale

has six subscales looking into leadership, communication, role,

reinforcement, cohesiveness and social support. For assessing

marital problems in Indian couples two tools are available: Marital

Adjustment Questionnaire and Marital Quality Scale. Marital

Adjustment Questionnaire attempts to assess marital adjustment in

Indian couples, and measures seven aspects of family functioning,

including personality, emotional factors, sexual satisfaction, marital

role and responsibility, relationship to in laws, attitudes to children

and family planning, and interpersonal relationships. Marital Quality

Scale is a more comprehensive instrument for assessing marital

problems and looks into 12 dimensions of understanding, rejection,


satisfaction, affection, despair, decision making, discontent,

dissolution potential, dominance, disclosure, trust and role

functioning. Such ethnic assessment tools are invaluable in

understanding the unique problems of the family in our culture.

The therapy proper is the phase, where major work on the family is

carried out. The school of therapy used depends on various factors.

For example, the degree of psychological sophistication in the family

will determine if psychodynamic techniques can be used. The nature

of the disorder will also determine the therapy, like the use of

behavioral techniques in chronic psychotic illness. Therapist's

comfort and training, and the time the family can spare for therapy

are other determining factors. Dynamic approaches generally take

months to years, where as focused strategic techniques can bring

benefits over a few sessions.

Endo-cultural issues may crop up at the initial phases, which threaten

to jeopardize the therapy outcome. The therapist needs to be aware

of them and be sensitive and considerate. Although Indian families

are more encouraging and supporting of their mentally ill member,

the rigid hierarchical structure of Indian families often hinders free

communication of thoughts and feelings. Therefore, the therapist

may encounter difficulties in improving family communication pattern.


The “karta” (head) of the family may resist attempts of family

members to usurp his authority and so may not allow other family

members to express feelings. The therapist may come to an

impasse, if he attempts to challenge the authority of the father or

sides with the wife rather than with the husband in couple's therapy.

Additionally, given the diverse cultural and social background, the

therapy needs to be tailored to the needs of individual family, keeping

factors such as socio-economic status, educational level and family

structure (nuclear, transitional, joint, traditional) into account.

Directive approaches may be more suitable for traditional families, as

the therapist is often looked upon as charismatic, authoritarian and in

control of the session.

New and unexpected problems arising out of the rapid changing

social scenario also need to be addressed. Family and couple's

conflict arising out of factors such as conflicts in families over dowry,

or related to inter-caste marriage; sexual problems arising out of

physical separation of couples due to job timing or placement;

disagreement about child rearing practices (both within couples and

intergenerational); conflicts related to husband's role in sharing in

domestic chores for working couples; problems with unsupervised

children, and loss or displacement of role or function of the elderly


are only a few of the problems unique to modern Indian families. In

family therapy focusing on adolescent and children, substance

abuse, juvenile delinquency, school dropout or low school

attendance are common amongst the lower socioeconomic classes.

Parent-child conflict from increased autonomy and individuation of

the child are common in nuclear families. In recent times, increased

demands on children or adolescents for academic achievements

from parents, the culture clash with children going for night-outs,

parties, raves and adolescent sexual experimentation have been

reported by Indian therapists as common issues while dealing with

adolescents. Although most of these problems are the same that

troubled the west in the 1960s and the 1970s, our cultural differences

make the therapist look and treat these problems as new.

It might be beneficial for the therapist to understand that in India and

other similar collectivistic societies, the concepts of self, attitudes,

values and boundaries are defined differently from those of the

western world. In collectivistic societies the self is largely defined

through the collective identity with family identity forming a significant

component of the self-identity. Therefore, individuals from such

societies, when they stand up for their individual rights are termed

rebellious, disobedient, or disrespectful. In therapy, if the person


resists the solutions proposed by family members, the person may

often be accused of not respecting important members of the family

and/or community. Attitudinal differences in collectivistic societies

hamper treatment seeking too. People from collectivist societies

often tend to keep their personal problems to themselves, especially

if their own opinions and experiences are inconsistent with the

conventional wisdom and mores of the family. Typically, only in

severe cases, the people seek support from outsiders, and even then

at the cost of significant resistance from other family members, who

may perceive help seeking from the therapist as a measure of failure

of the family to solve the problem of their member. Additionally,

involvement of outside strangers in resolving personal problems may

be perceived by members of the collective society as intruding in the

family's private affairs, undermining the family's harmony, and/or as a

potential threat to their reputation. Collectivist values make each

member of the family responsible for the behaviour and the life

conditions of every other family member, even to the extent of denial

of individual needs and aspirations. In therapy, this often leads to

over involvement, lack of privacy and space for the client. Indeed,

negative expressed emotions that might hamper therapy and positive

expressed emotions that help, have both been found to be more


significant predictors of outcome in our country compared to the


Finally, the therapist should be aware of the psychotherapeutic

concepts derived from Indian philosophy and religion, as they have

been found to be effective and culturally more acceptable in certain

cases. The concept of “Shivite” stemming from the Hindu mythology

of God Shiva and representing a phallic symbol can be used in

dynamic psychotherapy. The legend of Savitri has been used as a

framework for psychotherapy by Surya and Jayaram. Wig has used

the term Hanuman complex for the mythological story of Lord

Hanuman needing external help being reminded about his forgotten

powers. The concept can be used to help patients understand the

process of psychotherapy and identifying one's hidden strengths.

Varma used principles from the communication of Buddha in

psychotherapy, which he viewed as an ‘interpersonal method of

mitigating suffering’. He has also emphasized on the use of concepts

of Karma and Dharma in psychotherapy. Neki used the concept of

“Sahaja” and the role of “nirvana” in psychotherapy. He also

propounded on the directive interaction between the therapist and

the patient using the “Guru-Chela” paradigm. Although such

concepts may not be universally applicable, particularly in the


changed urban modern scenario, they can be effectively used

particularly in traditional systems to make therapy more acceptable

and effective.

The termination phase summarizes the original problem, reviews the

beneficial changes and patterns of interaction that have emerged

through therapy, and stresses on the need for sustaining the

improvements achieved. The follow-up sessions may be continued

over the next 6 months to a year to ensure that the client therapist

bond is not severed too quickly.

Counselling evolution in recent times

Counselling needs in the Indian context emerged against the

background of tremendous social change. In addition, the last ten

years of economic reform have enhanced the pace of these changes

and further transformed life styles. Counselling services are poorly

defined and presently anyone at all with little or no training can offer

these services. Available counselling services are largely based on

Western approaches to psychology. These approaches have been

widely criticised as not being relevant to the Indian cultural context. A

relevant and culturally valid counselling psychology therefore has

remained a hatchling discipline.


The roots of counselling in India belong to Mysore University, where

the first chair in psychology was endowed. After this, within a year,

Calcutta University started a department of Psychology. During the

mid 1940s, Patna University started a department of Psychology,

closely followed by Banaras Hindu University, the Lucknow

University etc. Currently, the major is included in a lot of state as well

as central universities in India.

Along with this, Applied Psychology emerged as an independent

department of the existing departments of Psychology. In Calcutta

University, a section of Applied Psychology started in 1938, and in

1945, department of Psychological services was established at Patna


Establishment of Vocational Guidance Bureau by the trustees of the

Parsi Panchayath, a voluntary organization in Bombay, was a major

step in the case of emergence of guidance in India. The bureau was

primarily meant to help the youth of the Parsi community. However,

the bureau was closed out of financial burden during 1950s, but

restarted in 1960s.

Another far-reaching step was the appointment of Acharya Narendra

Dev Committee by Government of Uttar Pradesh to examine the

issue of providing guidance at schools. Following this, realizing the

importance of vocational and educational guidance to school going

people, Uttar Pradesh Government established a Bureau of

Psychology in Allahabad. Dr. C.M.Bhatia, a renowned psychologist

and author of Bhatia’s Battery of Performance Tests, was appointed

as its first Director. Soon after this, five more regional bureaus –

Varanasi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Meerut and Bareilly – were established

at Uttar Pradesh.

After about one decade, the Government of Bombay opened a

vocational guidance bureau, which was later renamed as Institute of

Vocational Guidance. It was during this time the first professional

journal, “Journal of Counselling Psychology” was released. Following

this, all India Vocational Guidance Association was organized and a

decision was taken to start a journal. The journal had its first issue in


In 1954, the Government of India set up the Central bureau of

Educational and Vocational Guidance in New Delhi. By 1955, 11

state bureaus were established. In 1958, M.S.University, Baroda,

began counselling services and appointed a full-time counsellor.


Even though Governmental agencies as well as non-government

organizations have come forward to the field of counselling, it is still

on the process of emergence. Organized work and provision of

professional services are still lacking. Another great challenge is that

unqualified personnel and quacks have made the field doubtful to the

public. Moreover, people seem to be confused with the terms

counselling and guidance as well as with the ideas behind

counselling and advice.

An orientation regarding difference between student personnel

services and counselling may help to rectify the doubts of the people.

Counselling is psychotherapeutic assistance, which requires

academic preparation, professional training and supervised

internship. Currently, the courses provided by the universities have

started to maintain all these standards. But, professionals are yet to

be hatched out to fulfil the needs of the society. Moreover, legislation

for the certification of these professionals is yet to be formulated.


Chapter 11 : Conclusion

Social psychology and counselling as a vibrant discipline is intimately

linked with the social, political, and economic life of people. However,

at this juncture some serious thinking is needed to make the

discipline more relevant as well as to set an agenda for the future of

social psychology in India.

The economic and industrial development in the last 55 years since

Independence, the advances made in the fields of information

technology, biotechnology, and health, have empowered the

common man, but at the same time have widened the disparity

between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. As a

consequence, poverty and deprivation, social disharmony, and

mental health problems are on the rise. Although social psychology

has been responsive to the social context, the multiplicity of these

problems demands a more sensitive social psychology to deal with

the changing contexts of life and circumstances of people. A more

empathic attitude and proactive orientation is needed in place of the

dispassionate approach to research displayed so far.

Social psychologists have yet to grapple with cultural and sub-

cultural diversities and focus on them systematically. The critical


social psychology perspective, which has recently emerged as a

dominant force, offers one such approach for analysis of power

inequities in societies. This critical perspective, which views current

social practices through the historical and contextual lens, may

provide social psychologists in India with a blueprint for the analysis

of the marginalized sectors of society. The critical and empowering

perspective has been missing in social psychological research in this

country. Such a perspective is necessary for social psychology to be

more relevant and socially responsive.

The very nature of social issues is complex and demands an

interdisciplinary approach. There is also a need to broaden the scope

of inquiry by taking into account both societal and individual

variables. Being confined to either individual or societal level

variables limits the possibilities of complete analysis. One has to go

beyond the boundaries of the discipline so that the complexities of

the social reality can be grappled with. In the past, the focus has

been more on individual level variables. There is a need to focus

both on individual as well as systemic and structural variables, to

enable both macro and micro understanding of social reality.


Over the years, powerful arguments have been made for the role of

social psychology in policy formulation and planning. But our

contribution to policy formulation is still negligible. In a society with

scarce resources, research without practical outcomes will not be

considered meaningful. In India the fast urbanization, the migration of

people to cities is creating many problems. The technological

innovations and communication ‘explosion’ are also creating

concerns in the traditional social fabric of Indian psyche. All these

indications are pointing to the requirement of streamlining the

resources to have better mental health for the people. Trained

counsellors for the myriad problems of people are still in scarce.

Being a vast country, the efforts of enlightened social organizations

will be better appreciated than the governmental efforts in this field.

The research field of (mental health) counselling is dominated by the

West. Theories, methods and approaches within psychology,

psychotherapy and counselling are by large produced in the West

and therefore produced to cater to the needs of Western problems.

Since the counselling profession in India is developing and is rather

new, it is placed in a complex organisational field where it is not clear

which organisations are similar as training, ethical standards and


counselling methods might vary a lot from one organisation to the


India is strongly influenced by Western research and methodology

(as many other organisations in the world) and at the other hand it is

strongly influenced by the local context in which it is practiced. A

mindless import of counselling methods is not done and it would be

crude to make that assumption. Counsellors build bridges between

subjective and objective epistemologies, it is contradictory within the

theoretical framework of this essay to assume that counselling

methods are universal per se. Social constructivism and translation

show that ideas are products of their context and change when

moved. So rather parts of the methods can be based on universal

compatibility and parts will have to change in context.

The counsellors describe how, for mostly family, spirituality and in

some aspects religion, are part of the Indian context that they

integrate into their counselling approach. The urban counsellors and

their clientele are part of a context where roles are changing. Young

people have more opportunities to make careers and live in a nuclear

family, rather than in an extended family network. As a consequence,

norms and expectations for behaviour change. These aspects allow


for an individualistic decision process to a larger extent, than in would

in rural areas.

In summary, part of the counsellor’s job is to place the individual

client’s needs and wishes first. It seems that some clients do not

want to involve their family in their decision processes, and others

do. On a structural level the family is an important part of Indian life

and system theory is used by many counsellors to include this

aspect. Spirituality is described by many counsellors as separated

from religion and by some, that they are entwined. Spirituality should

be part of the counsellors’ training. To use the word Spirituality is not

of primary importance but rather to incorporate what it stands for:

ability for positive change and harmony in life. Spirituality is an

important part of the Indian context and the counsellors are culturally

prepared to include it in one way or another in the counselling.

It has to be considered, that other variables have been raised on

both structural and individual level that indicate obstacles or reasons

to why clients do not go to counselling. That are mainly:-

- The lack of a governing body to systematize the profession.

- The lack of systematised demands on training.

- Cultural attitudes towards mental health problems causing


- Cultural attitudes towards sharing your problems with strangers

The Indian customers mainly expecting advice-oriented

counselling not process-oriented counselling.

- The role of the family as a support system fills some of the

functions that counselling offers.

- Cultural practices such as Yoga or community involvement

help the individual with coping strategies.

- Counselling is not the solution to everything and some simply

do not like it.

The counsellors use mostly talk-based counselling with the exception

of sand therapy, art therapy and using small animals. The methods

used are: cognitive behaviour therapy, system theory, transactional

theory, psychodynamic therapy, existentialism, pink therapy, person-

centred approach (Rogerian) and gestalt therapy. They also use

approaches, which are Eastern or Indian based such as

brainstorming, directive approach but not advice, implementation of

Yoga philosophy, Yoga breathing exercises, concepts of acceptance

and endurance and the use of metaphors from Indian epics such as

the Mahabharata.

The hybrid elements of Western and Eastern methods are to be

incorporated in Counselling. The indigenous methods of astrology,


Ayurveda, shamans and gurus differ a lot from the paradigms within

Western counselling methods and might not be easily combined.

However counsellors should try to create systematised, evidence-

based indigenous counselling methods. The methods that they use

shall be integrative and contextually adapted Cultural sensitization

In addition the methods are understood in terms of cultural

sensitization. The adaptations are made to fit the cultural

preparedness of Indian clients at language adaptation, such as

referring to phenomenon with eastern constructs yet not changing

the content of the construct as such. For example :-

a) Referring the spiritual qualities or Rogerian qualities to describe

the same entity. Or use of metaphors from the Bhagavad Gita,

which is well-known in Indian culture to illustrate human


b) Adapting the setting such as using toys with dark or brown

skin in sand therapy.

c) Adapting to the setting such as offering counselling under a

tree in a rural context.

d) Being culturally prepared for the importance of family ties in

counselling and allowing room for both individualistic as well as

collectivistic values.

e) Integrating elements from spiritualism and religion, such as

highlighting coping elements in going to a temple, meditating,

using mantras etc.

f) Integrating terminology from Yoga such as comparing the

development stages in the chakras with Maslow’s hierarchy of

needs or referring to Yoga.

g) Being culturally prepared for the need to be directive in

counselling at times, without tipping over to the cultural

expectation of advice-giving.

h) Conveying the power in endurance rather than being

informative about thought processes.

i) Being integrative with culturally immersed coping strategies

that the individual brings in, involving the counsellors own

world-view and context.

Culture is a powerful variable when it comes to the efficiency of

counselling. In the globalized world that we live in, and the way that

ideas and practices spread by constantly moving and changing,

universalism has to be questioned and the context respected. It is

relevant to examine how counsellors use Western methods in an

Eastern society. Most research in this field concentrates on how


counsellors should meet the needs of ethnic minorities residing in

Western countries. Theories about how structural positions such as

gender or age effect counselling needs; that culture is a norm-

producing phenomenon; that counsellors should be culturally
prepared; that counselling is a product of its context, can be applied
no matter if the respondents belong to an ethnic minority or the
respondents belong to the majority culture but use methods from
another culture. Even though diversity is fact in the cultural face of
India, the field of cross-cultural counselling and the pressing need of
cultural sensitization give a strong indication of homogenizing effects.
Let us hope the academic and professional bodies proliferating in
India would endeavour to set an example in developing
psychotherapy and counselling ethos suitable for India and
acceptable to the worldwide communities.

*** The End ***


Acknowledgements and References

No. Book/Work Name of the Author

Michael C. Dillbeck
Bhagavad-Gita: A Case Professor of Psychology and Dean of the
Study in Vedic Psychology Graduate School at Maharishi
International University
Psychology in Ancient Dr. J. P. Balodhi,
2 India Professor,Dept. of
Clinical Psychology, Nimhans,
The Bhagavath Gita as a
Dr.Prakash Chandran A.MA (socio)
Paradigm for
3 MA(psycho) PhD (psy), Cochin

The Future of Psychology K.A. Sebastian, Ph.D, Department of

4 in India in the Psychology, F.M.N.College, Kollam.
Context of Globalisation

The concept of MIND. in

5 Dr. P. A. Antony, Sneha, Trichur.

Ancient Indian Psychology Havalappanavar N. B., Department of

Psychology, Karnatak University ,

Integrating psychological
Adhikari Srikanta Dash,
7 Centre of Advanced Study in Psychology,,
ancient & modern
Utkal University, Orissa
Introducing Indian Matthijs Cornelissen,
8 psychology: the basics Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry.

In Addition referred many articles from the Internet including