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Pujya Dr. K.C. Varadachari - Volume -4



Introduction : 

That philosophy and psychology are interrelated and were most intimately so at one time not long ago is a well-attested fact. However when the so called experimental method developed, which was experimental in the sense of the physical and chemical sciences, it was considered that the psychology of introspective analysis was arm-chair psychology and speculative in the sense of merely theoretical generalisations. The introspective method was criticised as not so very reliable as the objective experimental methods. However there is a large amount of truth in the so called empirical method and empiricism, and true enough the empirical psychology that led up to the empirical philosophies was rather poor stuff as psychology.


Indian philosophy claimed from the beginning to develop its metaphysics or assume its metaphysics on well-grounded facts of experience. Experience however was something that included not merely the physical sensory types of experience nor the rational processes of deduction and inductive types of reasoning nor their fallacies and illusions, nor even analogies from experience and presumptive types of inference, it includes such types of experience that go by the name of creative imagination and direct revelations that are not merely extra sensory but also extra-mental. That they should have included a close study of the processes of not only the waking consciousness but also the dream-work and deep sleep that carries on deep in one’s personality spiritual awarenesses that sometimes come to the surface as insights and intuitions leading up to solutions of the most unexpected of problems of life and invention is another important piece of work, that shows that their concern was not with any one aspect of life as such but of the human person both as he is and as his inner urge indicates. Thus the whole of human personality both in this embodied organic life and even as it turns out to be his disembodied nature came within the field of his Experience and knowledge. Thus it can well be said that Indian Philosophy depended ultimately on the psychology of human personality and his world was determined in a sense by the psychological.


Thus we can even say that Indian Philosophy and psychology recognized different levels of psychology or experience, and found also that though perfectly capable of being treated as autonomous spheres within certain limits they leaned on the higher levels of experience for their own explanation. These higher levels of experience were a prori assumptions to that level but were capable of becoming empirically realised or proved at the higher level. Thus metaphysics was not something that remains utterly unverifiable and beyond, but something that is capable of being experienced by one who is prepared to make the experiment or undertake the investigation. The method of psychical knowledge is unfortunately available either by report or by introspective meditation. Here again report by any experienced or trained introspecter is better than by an untrained observer of one’s own processes. What external observation or even the study of internal secretions or processes of the man can give ultimately do not show the psychological nature of the human person. Therefore aptavacans (expert statement) such as that of the Veda or Agama have a profound place leading upto abhyasa or dhyana which are not mere repetition of mantras or even sitting in certain poses or trying to concentrate on a point of pratika or icon or idol, either mentally hypostatized or physically installed. Dhyana is meditation, introspective analysis of the inner states watching of how thoughts arise and sustain themselves and disappear, or how vasanas or emotional tendencies or desires arise and seek fulfilment and disappear.


Indian Philosophy and Psychology had a more definitive aim which made many think that they were more earnest about salvation and freedom than knowledge of the human personality. They however knew that unless one knew oneself fully and completely there is no possibility of attaining liberation fully. Knowledge is absolutely necessary. It is both practical and theoretical knowledge of the whole person and its present condition as also his future hope that leads to ultimate explanations. It is true that man seeks freedom, and it is a freedom that is being more and more expanded to cover every type of freedom. This we know from recent history of political developments. Indian Philosophy asked for a freedom that is real freedom from fall into lower levels of evolution or even a freedom to higher lines of evolution. This undoubtedly depends upon two factors, personal aspiration to grow and evolution into higher personality and possible and recognized descent of the Higher levels of consciousness into one’s personal life and being capable of  leading one up to them.


Thus Indian Philosophy and Psychology gathers into itself the whole range of living both personal and social and collective, religious and transcendental, all of which demands full knowledge of all that one is and shall be. Therefore to a serious student of Indian Psychology philosophy is the culmination of psychological data gathered from various levels of being and awareness, stimulations, urges and responses, physical, vital, mental and psychical.


Another important face to be noted in respect of the study of Indian Psychology that it more and more emphasizes the normal rather than the psychopathological and abnormal. The so called para-psychological data referred to as yogic, are really possible to the normal man, and indeed occurring to him, only if he cares to pay heed to them. Yoga is for life and normal life. That a peculiar emphasis on its liberating power should make it appear as if it is intended for abnormal persons or only some kinds of persons is rather unfortunate. The psychology of the normal man includes the whole life of man in society. Neither the ascetical mood nor the hedonistic epicurean gives the general norm of the individual in society. Normal psychology takes into account all that goes to form his total life.


Indian Psychology along with this philosophy of total understanding thus canvas a large integral picture of man and his serious significance.


Thus Indian Philosophy claimed to be a darsana, a seeing or perception of the total Reality including the individual, nature and God. For each of these a peculiar or special pramana or source of instrument of knowledge was prescribed so to speak, and it was also instructed that moral preparation is specifically necessary for careful self-observation or observation of nature, without committing errors of perception or observation. A whole fields enquiry into perceptual fallacies or illusions and their causes was opened up. It is clear that Indian Psychology has put forward the normal as the special field and not the abnormal or sub-normal to which modern psychology owes its most spectacular successes as in Psycho-analysis.


Thus the prejudice against Indian Philosophy that it is metaphysical, that it is armchair or speculative psychology, woven out of the celebrations of yogis and so on, has to be shed if a proper appraisal of the contributions of Indian Psychology, has to be made. The yogi is no abnormal type of person. Indeed one of the most fruitful fields of personality psychology was worked out in respect of ability and quality patterns in conduct and typological enquiries in manifold fields of applied sociology. The Bhagavad Gita and the Dharma sastra made it a very important matter in the appraisal of human nature and social conduct.


The normal type has to be discerned in the context of the society and development and work. That the Indian Psychologists did make use of clinical and pathological material is also known from the works of Ayurveda (the science of medicine). We have large amount of material which shows how closely the concepts of Matter of living matter had influenced the general nature of medicine.


Thus we can say that almost all concepts of Indian Philosophy have their origin in psychological investigations and in a sense this homeo-centric procedure had helped the building up of systems of philosophy, which have unfortunately turned to what we may call systematization of results from the standpoint of logical coherency or dogmatic authority or in the interests of a particular point of view. That is why we find that darsanas though their fundamentals reveal psychological understanding, being incomplete in themselves in some respects had ended up in mutual self-criticism logically or ontologically. Provided we can even now classify the same, we will be able to arrive at a large volume of interesting psychological materials.


Most interesting results are today being studied in the Yoga Institute at Poona. But we can get a first hand account of psychic material from the voluminous encyclopedic writings of Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramachandra of Shahjahanpur who affirm other psychic centres and forces than what physiological material modern sciences present.


Ancient Indian Psychology because of  its synoptic perceptions and intuitions has developed a highly technical set of terms to convey the special features of experience at different levels. And this attested to by the number of so-called synonyms of the processes called consciousness which is said to function at least in a threefold manner in its embodied or personality, such as intellection or cognitivity, (sattva in terms of its body), conation (rajas in terms of its body) and affection (tamas in terms of its body). These cognitive processes operate through others and produce several distinctive cognitive processes. Indeed we have also to consider the vast amount of literature which has been called the scriptural testimony of the Veda and Agama which bears psychological or adhyatmika knowledge as recently Sri Aurobindo has been at great pains to show. We have to recognize that the critical psychological understanding of the several avenues of knowledge is necessary preparation for a proper logical evaluation of them. Indeed Indian Psychology has been at great pains to show that knowledge or experience is not capable of beings limited to any sensory or extra-sensory or imaginal perceptions or the intuition yet generalising the sensory. Four fundamental forms of knowing are available to man and one is supremely fitted to know all of them. It is not a little to the logicians that owe at once a clear restatement of their limitations as instruments or real knowledge of Reality and of oneself but also one is to confess the extraordinary confusion that has come into being in the field of Indian Psychology. It is not perhaps germane to this paper to list the causes of this confusion, but the most important may be mentioned, it is the hypothesis of degrees of reality and the power conferred for the higher so-called knowledge to ‘sublate’ or set aside the lower cognitions. Thus perception is said to be rolled out by inference or meditate knowledge, and both by Sruti or intuitive knowledge.


Therefore in each field of enquiry whether it be cognition, including perception, sensory, extra-sensory or super-sensory or Conation that embraces the unconscious, subconscient, inconscient, conscient and superconscient, or affection, unconsciousness, inconscient, subconscient or conscient and superconscient in Aesthetics, should be exhaustive and minute in the whole range of knowing as given by the Indian philosophers, psychologists, medical writers and aestheticians. Philological competence alone may not be sufficient but psychological insights which will grasp the full meaning of psychological concepts will be most helpful. A serious research project in this direction must be sponsored by the Psychological Societies in India.


It will be interesting for example to trace the growth of the verbs as applied to several behavioural patterns. The word samkalpa itself owes its origin to the word root Kalpa : to make, to imagine a conational term so to speak. Thus knowledge is said to be somewhat of a sam-kalpa or willing or imagination, a meaning we find expressed to its fullest in the concept of Reality as imagination. (Yoga Vasista is a work which works out this thesis so to speak to its absurdity). The first perception or sensation of an object is said to be nirvikalpaka pratyaksa. Vi-kalpa will be projective or defining of the perceived, a term that expresses a differentiation (vivarta : varta or vivrtti). Thus we find that sa-vikalpa is a transformed or modified or projected or individualised or personalized externality or definition is such a process of modification of the perceived undifferentiated sensation. A whole theory of metaphysics seems to be involved in these usages which vary from system to system. As psychologists our concern is not to read these from the standpoint of the philosophical pundit but take all views and examine them.


Another line of enquiry is opened up when we take up the word uha’ : several meanings which include observing, change modification, guess conjecture, determination, attributing, filling or supplying an ellipse are given. Several words have arisen from this basis word such as Sam-uha, Apoha : Moha. Each  one of them has now got a meaning that has lost its parent meaning. To recover the yoga-meaning is one important function of the Indian Psychologist. Several wonderful texts have been interpreted unpsychologically because they have felt that the philosophical truth was to be kept in mind and others do not matter. Sam-uha means to be perplexed, infatuated, and apoha means according to some forgetfulness, or negative reasoning or removal of doubt, and in the Gita where it is stated that the Lord is smriti jnana and apoha; it is sometimes explained as the knowledge of the future, by the context or (should it be the knowledge that is got by the revelation which occurs by the removal of the lid that covers the face of truth signifying the meaning given in the Upanishad ‘apa-vrinu : uncover). Equally interesting is the conception of Ma-uha or wrong imagination or that which causes bewilderment, which is the cause of delution. This has been said to be caused by desire, attachment to objects.


The above examples are taken at random in order to show that a large area of special enquiry in Indian Psychology is yet available not only in the fields of Para-or Supernormal Psychology or Yoga, but even in the ordinary fields of enquiry.


It should not be forgotten however that the general climate of Indian Thinking by and large is devoted to knowing himself as out-growing his present embodied state and looking forward to a life of liberation not only here but beyond. Thus we have to arrive at different kinds of psychology devoted to different fields of behaviour both individual, and social, and perhaps political, and above all the spiritual which transcends in its demand on human incentive and in its strength all the rest. *


*  Paper discussed at the Madras Psychology Conference.