Individual and Collective Transformation:

Insights from Indian Psychology

A National Conference being organized by
the Department of Psychology, University of Delhi,
in collaboration with India International Center (IIC),

New Delhi

February 5-7, 2011

Concept Note

We mean by Indian psychology an approach to psychology that is based on ideas and practices that developed over thousands of years within the Indian sub-continent. In other words, we use the word "Indian" to indicate and honour the origin of this approach to psychology: the origin of the underlying philosophy, the conceptual framework, the methods of enquiry, and the "technology of consciousness" that it uses to bring about psychological change and transformation. It may be useful to make explicit that we do not use the word "Indian" to localize or limit the scope of this approach to psychology: We do not mean, for example, "the psychology of the Indian people", or "Psychology as taught at Indian universities". We hold that Indian Psychology as a meta-theory and as an extensive body of related theories and practices has something essential and unique to contribute to the global civilization as a whole.

In a world faced with increasing unrest and conflict, the only way out is by way of a change in consciousness—from a narrow fragmented and hostile self-consciousness to a wide, all-encompassing, benign and loving way of being. It is in this regard that formulations on the psyche emanating from Indian culture have a great deal to offer. Indian treatises on human existence and psychological functioning, while acknowledging the lower levels, focus much more on higher levels of consciousness and the means to raise consciousness from lower to higher levels. It is held, in the Indian view, that human functioning on the higher levels is more effective, reveals a more complete knowledge accompanied with greater feelings of oneness, harmony, joy and love, establishing in the process extraordinary levels of individual and collective harmony.

A cursory glance at the history of social movements on the sub-continent reveals that over the centuries, some of the most prominent movements have had a spiritual foundation as their inspiration—one that emphasizes the oneness of all humanity and which paves the way for lowering  barriers along religion, caste, as well as gender lines. In particular, Buddhism as a socio-political movement, the Bhakti movement, the advent of Sikhism, and Gandhiji's mobilization of the masses for attaining independence, stand out as shining examples which enabled people with diverse social identities to come together. In contemporary India, many of the ashrams and spiritual communes provide us with vivid illustrations of people from diverse backgrounds—in terms of nationalities, race, religion, caste, class, gender and age—living and working together in great harmony, and at times mingling with local communities promoting inter-dependence. Such places stand out as islands in the ocean of conflict rampant all around us.

In all the examples above, positive change or transformation first occurred at the individual level—it was the Buddha, the Bhakti saints, Guru Nanak, and Gandhiji who first underwent an inner transformation, which then began to affect individuals gathered around them, and slowly began to transform larger groups. Thus it is individual transformation first, followed by collective transformation which is the natural scheme of things.

As Kittu Reddy notes, “The whole world, and probably we, in India today are almost totally dominated by the European and Western civilisation and concept of life. The time has come to set right this undue preponderance, to reassert for us the Indian mind and to preserve and develop the great values of Indian civilisation. But the Indian mind can assert itself successfully only by meeting the problems of the modern world and by giving them a solution, which will justify its own ideals and spirit. Imitating the Western model cannot do it. The Indian model may be summed up in the following aphorism… : ‘The man who most finds and lives from the inner Self, can most embrace the universal and become one with it; the Svarat, independent, self-possessed and self-ruler, can most be the Samrat, possessor and shaper of the world in which he lives, can most grow one with all in the Atman. That is the truth this developing existence teaches us, and it is one of the greatest secrets of the old Indian spiritual knowledge’.

Every organisation is built on a system, a structure which is the backbone of its functioning. However, good the system, the psychology of the leadership and the psychology of the group are, at least as important as the system itself. In order to understand and develop any motivation theory, we must get a clear picture of the psychological structure of the human being both on the individual and collective plane. For motivation is essentially a psychological force; combined with good training and leadership, it can be a tremendous force multiplier. Since behaviour and motivation are dependent on the level of consciousness, it follows that efficiency of both the individual and the group can be improved by raising the level of consciousness. However, since one has also to work at different levels of consciousness at different times, it will be necessary to refine these levels of consciousness”.

As The Mother has pointed out, “All would change, all would become easy if man could once consent to being spiritualised. The higher perfection of the spiritual life will come by a spontaneous obedience of spiritualised man to the truth of his own realised being, when he has become himself, found his own real nature; but this spontaneity will not be instinctive and subconscient, but intuitive and fully, integrally conscient. Therefore, the individuals who will most help the future of humanity in the new age, will be those who will recognise a spiritual evolution as the destiny and therefore the great need of the human being, an evolution or conversion of the present type of humanity into a spiritualised humanity, even as the animal man has now been largely converted into a highly mentalised humanity”.

Sri Aurobindo emphasizes that “A spiritual religion of humanity is the hope of the future. By this is not meant what is ordinarily called a universal religion, a thing of creed and intellectual belief and dogma and outward rite.  Mankind has tried unity by that means; it has failed and deserved to fail, because there can be no universal religious system, one in mental creed and vital form. The inner spirit is indeed one, but more than any other the spiritual life insists on freedom and variation in its self-expression and means of development. A religion of humanity means the growing realization that there is a secret spirit, a divine Reality, in which we are all one, that humanity is its highest present vehicle on earth, that the human race and the human being are the means by which it will progressively reveal itself here. It implies a growing attempt to live out this knowledge and bring about a kingdom of this divine Spirit upon earth. By its growth within us oneness with our fellow-men will become the leading principal of our life, not merely a principle of cooperation but a deeper brotherhood, a real and inner sense of unity and equality and a common life.

There must be the realisation by the individual that only in the life of his fellow-men is his own life complete. There must be the realisation by the race that only on the free and full life of the individual can its own perfection and permanent happiness be founded.  There must be too a discipline and a way of salvation in accordance with this religion, that is to say, a means by which it can be developed by each man within himself , so that it may be developed in the life of the race. To go into all this implies would be too large a subject to be entered here; it is enough to point out that in this direction lies the eventual road. No doubt, if this is only an idea like the rest, it will go the way of all ideas. But if it is at all a truth of our being, then it must be the truth to which all is moving and in it must be found the means of a fundamental, an inner, a complete, a real human unity which would be the secure base of a unification of human life. A spiritual oneness which would create a psychological oneness not dependent upon any intellectual or outward uniformity and compel a oneness of life not bound up with its mechanical means of unification, but ready always to enrich its secure unity by a free inner variation and a freely varied outer self-expression, this would be the basis for a higher type of human existence”. 

Against this backdrop the Department of Psychology, University of Delhi, in collaboration with ‘India International Centre’, is organizing a National Conference on "Individual and collective transformation: Insights from Indian Psychology". Typical sub-themes include:

With the idea of having an intensive dialogue and sustained sharing, it is proposed to have not more than 100 participants (50 senior and 50 younger ones). The aim is to have the participation of scholars in India and abroad who are making serious and sustained contributions to the concerned areas (senior core group), as well as younger researchers, and students who are keen to work in this area, show promise, and seek guidance.  A few individuals will be invited to speak on key themes. The remaining participants will be selected on the basis of submitted abstracts.

We extend a warm invitation to all who wish to attend the conference.

If you would like to present a paper, please send an abstract of the same latest by 5th January, 2011.

We will confirm acceptance of your paper for presentation at the conference, after reviewing all the abstracts, by 12th January, 2011.

For complete papers the deadline is 26th January, 2011.

Please note that all those who wish to attend the conference, whether presenting or not,
must duly fill and submit the Registration Form latest by January 15, 2011

Please click here for the Accommodation details and Registration form

All communication should be sent by email to


Dr. Suneet Varma & Dr. Eric Soreng
Conference Coordinators


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