This paper was presented at the
National Seminar on
Indian Psychology: Theories and Models

SVYASA, Bangalore,
December 26 - 28, 2007


A spiritual approach to cognitive therapy

Ramesh Bijlani — Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Delhi


According to Richard Carlson, stress results primarily from the gap between the way things are and the way we would like them to be. Cognitive therapy (CT) narrows this gap by cognitive restructuring. Cognitive restructuring based on logic has serious limitations because there are some situations in which it is simply impossible to find a justification for positive thinking. CT lives with this limitation because it considers the human intellect to be the highest endowment of man, and reason the most dependable instrument of the intellect. But cognitive restructuring based on a spiritual worldview has no such limitation. From the spiritual point of view, even the worst scenario has at least one positive feature: it can serve as an opportunity for spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is an expansion of consciousness so that the person experiencing it becomes more and more aware of the all-pervasive Spirit of the Divine, and starts living in a manner that reflects this awareness. The capacity for spiritual growth is a uniquely human attribute, and is the ultimate purpose of human life. This ancient but perennial wisdom has dominated Indian spiritual thought for more than 3000 years. The application of this wisdom in cognitive therapy will be illustrated by a few case histories.

Email the author, Prof. Ramesh Bijlani, at