This paper was presented at the
National Seminar on
Indian Psychology: Theories and Models

SVYASA, Bangalore,
December 26 - 28, 2007



Abnormality: symbolism in the Bhagavad-Gita

Preeti Mishra — University of Delhi, Delhi


Abnormality (sadly!), is phenomena that binds the world together, phenomena that has perennially traversed boundaries of time and space. Logically then, discourses on the same are omnipresent across the globe, India being no exception. No modern discourse on abnormality can do without recurrent referencing to the dual themes of, “how abnormality is really relative” and “how we all perpetually exist on the normalcy-abnormalcy continuum.” The present paper is an attempt to assert the existence of an Indian perspective on abnormality which is ‘dated’ chronologically but very, very modern in its vision, a perspective borrowed from the Bhagavad-Gita. Interestingly, one need not delve deep in all the 18 adhyaya to have a brief idea of the Bhagavad-Gita’s take on the origins and manifestations of abnormal behaviours and tendencies (though ideally one should!). The introductory chapter itself along with a cursory knowledge of the great epic Mahabharata helps one gain a preliminary understanding of the above referred ‘modern’ themes of ‘relativity’ and ‘continuum’. The chapter aptly titled as Arjunavisadyoga is a treatise on the nuances of abnormality. The visad that Arjuna experiences is of immense symbolic value. It is the visad that is inevitable in human life and thus one that binds the men in the world together. Arjuna as Partha i.e. one made of Pritha or clay is the archetypical man whose life is a sordid tale of conflicts, dilemmas and repressions. Krsna or the one who scrapes (krs) all inadequacies, doubts and flawed understandings portrays (along with all other roles) the empathic, caring but forthright counselor who comes to the succor of Arjuna. The chapter sees a silent Krsna and an overwhelmingly expressive Arjuna…both have an implication for the pursuers of counseling as well as abnormal psychology. The present paper attempts to unravel the latent symbolisms for pursuers of abnormal psychology. Further, it attempts to infer and build on the implications that are inherent in the behaviours, overt and covert, of both Arjuna and Krsna. The paper also positions the treatise on abnormality as forwarded by the Bhagavad-Gita as one with distinctively modern flavour, yet one which is perennial. Most of the analyses presented is based on the introductory chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita with certain observations from the following Adhyaya(s) particularly the last chapter wherein a relieved and enlightened Arjuna admits to the changed predicament that has resulted from interactions with and interventions of Krsna: the redeeming counselor.

Email the author, Ms. Preeti Mishra, at