Centrality of consciousness in Indian Psychology


K. Ramakrishna Rao
Institute for Human Science & Service
Vishakhapatnam


Indian Psychology is not the same as psychology in India. It does not refer to cross-cultural psychology either. It involves more than development of indigenous psychology in India. Indian psychology is a distinct psychological tradition derived from classical Indian thought. It is theoretically rich, methodologically sophisticated, and practically oriented. In my view, centrality of consciousness is its defining characteristic. The concern in Indian psychology is with the person. The person per se is consciousness-as-such. Pure consciousness in its sublime state is knowledge of self-certifying truth (satyam), beauty (sundaram) in its pristine manifestation, and goodness (sivam) in its ultimate perfection. The human psychological situation is a matrix of various forces that cloud consciousness and condition the person. Embodied and conditioned in the being of the person, consciousness becomes an instrument of individualized thought, passion and action. From this individualization arise subjectivity, rationality, and relativity of truth and values.
Psychology in the Indian tradition is an inner discipline in search of realizing truth and perfection in the human condition. The goal is to find oneself in an unconditioned and unmasked state. While assuming that consciousness is the ground condition of all knowledge, Indian psychology studies consciousness in its multifaceted manifestations and seeks to explore the experience of its true nature in one's being. Indian psychology is not only a body of generalizable principles but it is also a set of practices that can be used for the transformation of the human condition toward perfection. It has its own methods appropriate to its subject matter and objectives. The methods are observational, but they are different from the externally oriented observations of outer sciences. They are a peculiar blend of first-person and second-person perspectives. They provide for personal, subjective and non-relational authenticity and in-group inter-subject validity.

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

Pondicherry, India, September 29 - October 1, 2002