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With Special Reference to Buddhism, Indian Viewpoint: Amalgamating Education and Psychology Indian Philosophy: A Cultural Blend of Education and Psychology*

आत्मानं सततं ज्ञात्वा कालं नय महामते | प्रारब्धमखिलं भुञ्जन्नोद्वेगं कर्तुमर्हसि –Naadabindupnishad [नादबिन्दूपनिषद्]

[Meaning thereby: “O intelligent man! Spend your life always in the knowing of the supreme bliss, enjoying the whole of your Prarabdha without making any complaint”]

Education and psychology are inseparably inter-twined. Any discussion done to know the effect of one on the other at any level has its own significance. Why and how they influence each other? Before comprehending this, it would be appropriate to get a familiarity of the meaning along with the basic spirit in the root of the both –education and psychology.   

Education: It is a lifelong process drawing out what already exists within a human being. Further, it develops human virtues and connects them with the natural process of actions [Karmas] to pave the way to an all-round progress of man. This is the only true meaning of education, and the basic spirit in its root. In this regard a great contemporary Indian scholar Swami Vivekananda rightly says, “Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.” The statement of another Indian thinker Tagore that goes as [the scope of education includes] the high head, free knowledge, truth coming from the depth, tireless striving stretching arms towards perfection also reflects the reality in this context.

Psychology: A branch of knowledge studying and analyzing behaviour of mind. In other words, psychology is a science systematically studying human practices, mental-physical actions –thoughts [Chintan, also Manan –a process in which mind indulges with curiosity in a search], emotions [Bhavanayen, also Manobhava –a source of insipration] along with emergence of incidents and their connection. Realizations [Anubhootiyan –to pave the way to express and act and] and sensations [Samvedanayen, –mental experience in general or Bodh] are also within its scope and the purpose of this is to make analysis of the elements of conscious-state and their reciprocal relations, and to search for those regulations [Niyamas –universal acceptance] that could decide their various forms.

                Hence, psychology is, without a doubt, one of the main branches of human knowledge and as is evident from the above brief discussion it is an important part of the process of education.

The history of psychology goes back to the remote past. It cannot be confined to Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt [1832-1920] –a German physician, physiologist, philosopher and professor of the University of Leipzig [whose endeavours, works and experiments, paved the way in establishing psychology as an independent subject].1 It cannot even be confined to the Western world, Europe in particular, despite its presence in thoughts of a philosopher like Aristotle.2

Indian Philosophy: The history of psychology is in fact quite old. It has existed since long in the Eastern philosophies, especially in the Indian philosophy. The Vedic-Hindu, Buddhist and Jain philosophies have since ancient times been at the forefront in this regard.

The presence of psychology in Indian philosophy could be well observed in great Vedic treatises, in the Vedas itself, in the Upanishads, the Puranas, the Smiritis and more particularly in the Gita. Unique features like realization [Anubhooti], imagination [Kalpana –one of the chief features of the mental process] and valuation [Mulyankana] are the basis of making an opinion or the view [Vichar] before taking a decision [Nirnaya] followed by its application [Kriyanvayan] in psychology are  also present in Indian philosophy. These are the foremost characteristics of psychology of the Indian viewpoint and its history, to re-iterate, goes to the remote past.

The Indian psychology is unique in itself as its ultimate purpose is to make the life momentous. It leads the one to the pathway to the deliverance –the Moksha, the Mukti, the Nirvana or the Vimukti. In this process, i.e., in the making life worthy and meaningful, or achieving the goal, the psychology of the Indian viewpoint calls for embracing values [Mulya –reflecting worth of Sanskar and essentially connected with morality and ethics] at every step and in all situations, with is quite significant.

Values are always significant and welfaristic if they are embraced in their refined form as per the demand of time and space without compromising on the basic spirit in their root simultaneously. Maintaining values in the process of education is inevitable. Otherwise, the whole process becomes worthless and aimless. Psychology is an important and indivisible part of education and the psychology of the Indian viewpoint is essentially connected to values. Values are, as known to us, the guiding force of Indian tradition of thinking or philosophy, which, in turn, is the basic source of psychology. Nothing, but cultural values can inspire people to dedicate their lives working in different walks of life for the welfare of others. It is, therefore, not only an important state, but a subject of prejudice-free studies and analysis at different levels and in different forms.         

The Buddhist Perspective: The Buddhist viewpoint of education is not much different from the general Indian view of education [Shiksha], the basic spirit of which is to realize, develop and draw out what are already within, and on the basis of them to lead a human being to the pathway of holistic development. The Buddhist teachings reveal, that the real knowledge, true education, the first thing is to know oneself; further, to know is to realize the part of us that is pure, wise, full of truth, peaceful and perfect. Similarly, Buddhism is in agreement with the common Indian vision of psychology. The foremost features of Indian psychology –perception [Kalpana], realization [Anubhooti], imagination [Kalpana or Anumaana] and deliberation [Vichar] in particular, are also observed in Buddhism. On the basis of these characteristics Buddhism also lays stress on preview and to decide, and implement. 

Along with this, Buddhism, by making the process of study and analysis, especially related to the state of self-realization [Aatmanubhooti], meditation [Samadhi] and deliverance [Nirvana] minutely and more systematically, accords a dimension to the Indian view of psychology. It is the  worth and significance of the Buddhist perspective of psychology that it has from time-to-time left its deep impression on thoughts and works of scholars, teacher and thinkers all over the world, as well as the educationists of the West in particular. Not only this, due to its uniqueness3 Buddhist perspective has widely impressed Maslow’s theory of self-actualization and transcendental actualization, which established the link to the major part of ancient Indian theories and methods and the whole of ancient Indian writings that become in one way or the other physiologically relevant. It could also be categorically observed from frequent influence of writing, Buddhist scriptures in foremost, on psychology of consciousness, parapsychology, psychology of mysticism, psychology of religion, and transpersonal psychology.           

Along with Sigmund Schlomo Freud [1856-1939]4 the Buddhist influence could emphatically be seen on thoughts and works of scholars like Franz Alexander [1891-1964]5 –a Hungarian-American psychoanalyst and physician and Carl Gustav Jung [1875-1961] –a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, who saw much substance in the Eastern thought, especially in Buddhism from psychology viewpoint. Not only this, the three prime treasures of Buddhism –the Buddha [the Awakened one], the Dharma [the Law –natural, spiritual and teachings] and the Sangha [the community of monks] are from the principles of their structure, state and place have for hundreds of years been a great source of inspirations for thinkers, scholars and educators of the East and the West both, especially the renowned psychologists.

In his work entitled, Buddhist Psychology, an eminent psychologist Eric Pettifor6 [quoting Mizuno] recognizes the above three very important treasures of Buddhism for all those associated with study and research in psychology and writes, “The formula, ‘I take refuge in Gautama [the Buddha] the World-honoured One, in the Law [the Dharma], and in the Order of Monks [the Sangha]. World-honoured One, from this day to the end of my life, recognize me as a believer who has taken refuge’ occurs time and again in the earliest Buddhist scriptures and means that even without theoretical understanding, a person who has faith in the three treasures is a true Buddhist.” 

The Buddhist thought and method are, even after approximately two thousand six hundred years, in line with the objective spirit of modern science and the law of parsimony of science. It is the testimony of the Buddhist view and method of psychology that it can be easily incorporated into a scientific framework. Moreover, the psychological relevance of the four noble-truth [चत्वारि आर्यसत्यानि –the truth of the Dukha, anxiety or suffering; the truth of the origin of the Dukha; the truth of the cessation of the Dukha; and the truth of the path leading to the cessation of the Dukha], the eightfold path [अष्टांगिक मार्ग –the right views, the right thinking or the right thought, the right speech, the right action, the right way of life or living with pure thoughts-words and deeds, the right endeavour overcoming of evils in life and making an uninterrupted progress in pursuing the way of truth, the right mindfulness and the right meditation] and the Shunyavada or the Madhyamaka [equating to Zero]7 in Buddhism, and Buddhist techniques of meditation are of worth considering at different levels in modern psychology. From this, the significance of the subject in hand, Education and Psychology in Buddhist Perspective, is also self-proved.   

*Extracts of lectures by Dr. Ravindra Kumar at the University of Lucknow [India] on August 12 and 13, 2014


  1. Also recognized as the father of modern psychology.
  2. According to the Western belief the history of psychology goes back to the time of Aristotle [384-322 BC] who himself was greatly impressed by the thoughts of Plato.
  3. As it is imbued with systematic and minute methods of study and analysis [research].  
  4. An Austrian neurologist who is known as the founding father of psychoanalysis. Existentialism, a philosophical viewpoint focusing on individual as the creator of himself in all manners, root of which are found in Buddhism [connected well to the Karma-Phala theory] could seen affecting Sigmund Schlomo Freud in his works and experiments.    
  5. Who is also considered one of the founders of psychosomatic medicine and psychoanalytic criminology, and from study of his write up entitled, Buddhistic Training as an Artificial Catatonia [1961] this fact becomes apparent.
  6. From the department of psychology at the Simon Fraser University, Canada.
  7. Approximately six hundred years after the Buddha, a great Buddhist thinker Nagarjuna expounded the idea of Shunya, which equates everything to Zero and place the ultimate truth much above the apparent universe. 

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