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

SVYASA, Bangalore,
December 26 - 28, 2007


The social self in Indian belief systems

Shanti V. Prasad — Andhra University, Visakhapatnam
Sonali Bhatt Marwaha — Institute for Human Science & Service, Visakhapatnam


William James dealt with the nature of the self in ways that have had enduring influence. His most helpful distinction has been between the “self as known” or the ‘me’, the empirical ego, and the “self as the knower” or the ‘I’, the pure ego. This helped psychologists to concentrate on the self that is known and its constituent parts the material me, the social me, and the spiritual me.

The social self develops through the process of social learning, imbibing within it the social norms, values, and beliefs. These are based in the governing beliefs of a society, primarily our religious beliefs. The philosophy of our religious beliefs are all freedom oriented. However, the social norms emerging from them are restrictive. Thus a dichotomy exists between facets of our belief systems and our life in society, or our lived reality creating conflicting situations in the environment and within the individual. The implications of these are vast for the well being of the individual and society. In this paper we review the Hindu, Buddhist, Jaina, Zoroastrian, Islamic, and Sikh belief systems in relation to their influence on the social self of its adherents.

Email the author, Prof. Shanti V. Prasad, at