Bhagvad Gita and Psychology YouTube Lecture Handouts Psychology

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Bhagvad Gita: Emergence of Psychology - Psychological Thought in Eastern Systems


The Bhagvad Gita
  • Gita is almost in its entirety the dialogue between two individuals, Lord Krishna (considered as incarnation of Bhagawan Vishnu, Narayana) and Arjuna (the Pandava prince, Nara) in the battle field (war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, the cousins, for control of the kingdom of Hasthinapura) of Kurukshetra. It has 18 yogas (chapters) , with about 701 slokas (short poems) , the first one being “Arjuna Vishada Yoga” (Sorrow of Arjuna) and the last one “Moksha Sanyasa Yoga” (Nirvana and Renunciation) .
  • The very first word in Bhagavad Gita is “Dharma” and the last word is “Mama” . “Mama Dharma” – My duties, responsibilities, rights, ethics, morals, attitude, action, activities and so on.

About Bhagvad Gita

  • Dictated by Vyasa and written by Lord Krishna
  • Dialogue b/w Krishna and Arjuna
  • Arjuna refuses to fight (reactive depression with anxiety neurosis)
  • Krishna - Psychotherapy
  • Arjuna has all the features of anxiety: state-dry mouth, palpitation, sweating, trembling of legs, fear, clouded mind, etc.
  • Krishna reminds Arjuna that it is his duty to fight as a warrior; he will be letting his brother down if he now declines to fight
  • He asks him why he refuses to fight and kill his relatives while he enjoys the same when it comes to others? That is due to moha (attachment) which must be won over; Krishna also reminds Arjuna that he is not killing them. They are already dead. He is only an excuse for their death (nimitta maatram) .
  • It also teaches us that life is a struggle with ups and downs like the waves in the sea which one has to survive to live
  • Mahathma Gandhi stated that for every problem in his life Bagavad Gita offered answer and solutions

What Gita Explains?

  • Consciousness as given by Freud
  • Freud explained about consciousness, pre consciousness and unconsciousness. Bagavad Gita also narrates about different levels of human mind. It describes about the needs, desires and urges of human beings. The story and characters in the Bagavad Gita clearly depicts how id, ego and super ego works. It also explains about the state of enlightenment. It also states that people have acquire the ability to interact with his environment by one՚s intellect (Buddhi) .

Arjuna Vishada Yoga

Sishyasthe Aham Sadhi Mam Tvam Prapannam

The first chapter, Arjuna Vishada Yoga, narrates the expression of Arjuna՚s sorrow, anxiety, fear and guilt leading to a state of inaction after seeing his kith and kin (Gurus, cousins, uncles, nephews, friends …) lined up in the enemy camp in the battle field-Fighting this war, to win the kingdom, means killing all these people whom Arjuna respected and loved; a sin of commission from any angle. Overwhelmed by the acute state of sadness and guilt, Arjuna drops his weapons (Gandiva) and turns to Lord Krishna, his charioteer, for help and guidance.

(I am your disciple, Guide me, Help me)

Arjuna is the patient and Lord Krishna the therapist

Single session therapy

No specified “Time limit of 45 – 60 minutes”

Counselor is a relative of the patient

Therapist stays with the patient through out the crisis

Diagnosis of Acute, transient, situational adjustment disorder with symptoms of anxiety (? single Panic attack) , depression with predominant guilt (core symptom - stain my hands with the blood of gurus and cousins) .

Psychological Approach

Cognitive/Rational emotive Approach: Discussion on the natural inevitability of birth and death of life cycle, immortality of soul, performance of your own Dharma (duty) otherwise running the risk of shame and public defame. Goal of therapy is removal of guilt and remotivate for action.

Action and renunciation: Concept that received respect and applause from several great scholars is the emphasis on KARMA (ACTION) . Intelligent action (Gnana Karma) without performance anxiety and without the greed for the fruits of the work (Nishkama Karma) and never to have the choice of nonperformance of duty (Akarma) emerges as a key point in the teaching of Bhagavad Gita.

Humanistic school: Emphasis on the power and capabilities of individual self, and how the person alone will be responsible for his actions, growth or otherwise.

Trust (Bhakthi) : Trust (Faith) remains a single most important element in the therapeutic relationship; not just in psychology but the medical practice in general.

Guru – Sishya Relationship: Gurukul Tradition - Imparting wisdom with devotion to learn and teach, dialogue and discussion being the process, bound by relationship of trust is the ancient tradition of Gurukul

Emphasis was equal on all – Logic, Action, Renunciation, Power of Self, Knowledge, Wisdom, Trust, Universality and immortality of human spirit. This appears to me a “Person-Centered Therapy”

Psychological Approach

  • Gita says that “you are your choice” and “you are your destiny” which denotes the influence of humanistic school of psychology.
  • Humanism focus on the self growth of an individual.
  • The story shows that Lord Krishna is successful in maintaining the emotional balance of Arjuna. There are some pieces of person centered therapy and eclectic model of counseling too.
  • Lord Krishna explains about jnana yoga which can be termed as cognitive therapy. Jnana yoga means attaining jnana. Jnana is a cognitive event which is recognized when experienced. According to Lord Krishna jnana involves complete understanding about the battle field.