The newly emerging psychology is rooted in traditional Indian thought and practice.
Some of the features which give Indian psychology a distinct identity are briefly discussed.
- Indian psychology can be deemed as ‘universal’ as it deals with the perennial issues of human existence which are not bound by any geographical region or time period. The questions which were raised by sages and thinkers 100’s of years ago, are the same and are relevant even today and in this sense Indian psychology is both ancient and contemporary at the same time. The roots of Indian psychology can be Indian but it was never proposed as the psychology of India. For instance, Buddhist psychology which is an integral part of Indian psychology, was developed in Sri Lanka, Tibet and Japan, among other countries.
- It deals with the ‘inner-state’ of a person taking consciousness as the primary subject matter of study. Human consciousness is considered to be hierarchical, the highest state being of pure consciousness, bliss and truth. Yoga and meditation are the tools to attain this highest state of pure consciousness. However, it should not be misinterpreted that Indian Psychology is not concerned about human conditions of poverty, injustice and pain. Indian psychology do not dismiss the empirical research in these areas but provides a broader perspective within which their findings should make sense.
- Indian psychology is spiritual in nature, but is based on truthful methods. As its a human science of consciousness its methods are different from the methods of physical sciences but they are not less stringent than any scientific methods. Methods of self observation, direct observation (for example institution) and others which rely on sensory and mental mediation. These methods rely on blending of first person and second person perspectives. These methods work well within the guru (second person) – Pupil (first person) tradition. Methods of yoga and meditation have been used for centuries to test, experiment and empirically validate higher mental states.
- Indian psychology is applied and its not just concerned with testing the existing theories and developing generalizable propositions but more importantly, about the practices that can be used for the transformation of human conditions towards perfection. This is the transformation of the person to higher level of achievement and well-being.
In more recent times, efforts to build Indian psychology as a vibrant discipline have intensified. Several conferences (Puducherry 2001, 2001, 2004, Kollam, 2001, Delhi, 2002, 2003, 2007, Visakhapatnam 2002, 2003, 2006, Bengaluru, 2007) have been conducted in this regard which have given impetus to this movement of Indian Psychology. A number of publications of Indian psychology such as Kuppuswami’s elements of ancient Indian psychology (1985), Sen’s integral psychology (1986), Misra and Mohanty’s perspective on Indian psychology (2002) have the potential of serving as textbooks.
More recently, Joshi and Cornelissen’s edited volume, Consciousness, Indian Psychology and Yoga (2004); Rao and Marwaha’s towards a spiritual Psychology (2006); Rao, Parangjpe and Dalal’s Handbook of Indian Psychology (2008) and provide rich resource material for teaching and research in the area. Thus it can be concluded that a movement has started toward contemporarising Indian theories and testing their relevance for enhancing human competencies and well being. Indian Psychology can be seen ushering towards a new era of many exciting possibilities.