Spiritual and subjective well being in Indian tradition and contemporary psychology

Adesh Agarwal,
Department of Psychology
DDU Gorakhpur University

The new millennium has announced the march of positive psychology in the west but it has been the primary concern of traditional Indian psychology for long. This paper examines the concepts and empirical evidences of spiritual and subjective well being in modern psychology and Indian tradition. The paper specifically looks into the concept of stithi pragya in the Bhagvada Gita and jeevan mukta in Yogavashishta. Gita has focused on nishkama karma and doing swadharma as means of achieving happiness. In psychology today the need and goal satisfaction theories of subjective well-being emphasize the importance of need-fulfillment for attaining well-being. It needs to be emphasized that spirituality is not just a "cultural fact"; indeed a growing body of empirical knowledge demonstrates the influence of spirituality on various aspects of human functioning. Gita provides important theoretical basis for increasing emotional understanding and management. A number of empirical researches world over have shown that positive emotions help in cognitive and emotional expansion. Lord Krishna, in the Gita, describes the characteristics of stithipragya as raga dwesha viyukta and prasanna citta. The need of the hour is that Indian psychologists should look into the wealth of psychological facts hidden in traditional Indian wisdom in the form of religious teachings and interpret these in terms of principles of human behaviour. This would enable psychologists world over to gain knowledge of many psychological principles which are being rediscovered by modern psychology.

Email the author:  "Prof. (Smt) Adesh Agarwal" <agarwal.ram@rediffmail.com>

This paper was presented at the
National Conference on
Yoga and Indian Approaches to Psychology

Pondicherry, India, September 29 - October 1, 2002