Mind in orthodox Indian thought: Its implications for modern psychology


Sri Aurobindo School of Eastern & Western Thought

Pondicherry University


K. Krishna Mohan

Visting Scholar

Utrecht University

The Netherlands

Although there is no special branch called Indian psychology, unlike Indian philosophy, the philosophers of the East made sincere attempts to unravel the nature of the mind. The Buddhists, the orthodox Indian philosophers and the philosophers of the contemporary times like Sri Aurobindo made significant contributions to Indian psychology. Unlike in the West, the Easterners did not separate psychology from philosophy. In fact, the former remained as an integral part of the latter for centuries together. In recent times, psychologists, neuroscientists, and evolutionists contributed significantly to the concept of mind in their respective fields of inquiry. But none of the explanations provides us with a complete account of the nature of mind. It is believed in the West that the mind is different from the body. Not only that, the terms mind soul, self and consciousness have been used interchangeably. They also held the view that consciousness cannot have an independent existence apart from the mind. But Indian thinkers are clear in their understanding when they say that mind (manas) is different from the Self (Atman). Keeping in view the enormous potential of the mind in Indian thought and its greater understanding of consciousness can provide us with rich insights into modern psychology. In recent times Western psychology has realized its own limitations. Now the Western psychologists are very keen to study the Indian approaches to mind and consciousness. This paper is an attempt to highlight the contributions made by the orthodox systems of Indian thought to mind and consciousness in general, and their implications for modern psychology. In the process the paper also provides a strong case for an independent discipline called Indian psychology.

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

Pondicherry, India, September 29 - October 1, 2002