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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Guest Lecture on Indian Psychology by Anup Kumar Dhar

Dated: 3rd September '10.

Notes by: Sneha Sharon Mammen

..And quite naturally as we understand talking on 'Indian Psychology' is quite a herculean task because of the specific dimension it seeks to explore. Mr Dhar faced two problems: first, whether to deal with the 'Indian' as in an adjective (to see it as an adjective in front of 'Psychology' does trigger minds!) or to talk of it in an Americanized sort of a concept, that is, does 'Indian Psychology mean psychology in India? The class affirms a resolute NO! If it were that way, is it to be seen in terms of the Buddhist or a Vedantic selves? There is a third problem of getting at the exclusivity of the topic, does India really have something of a psychology to its credit?
Psychology as we popularly understand today is a nineteenth century Western European concept. Where does India feature that way? What has India today to its credit? Science, Feudalism or psychology? Meaning to say whether it can claim something like 'Indian psychoanalysis' to its benefit. The question is raised and a junior scholar assumes that Abhimanyu's example as per the epic, Mahabharata could be an attempt to see through Indian psychoanalysis. However, 'Memory' says Mr Dhar 'is not unconcious' and there is no theorisation of Mahabharata per se.

As Romila Thapar enquired whether India had slavery as much was prevalent in Rome; it is to ask whether India had Science as much as the West could claim for itself or even did we ever give to the world what Freud, Chomsky and Skinner have been credited for? Where then lies the logic of this part of the world? The basic historical problem haunting us thereby is the fact that most of us ponder as to whether there was any Indian counterpart to psychology!!

Supposingly, this nation did have psychology. Assuming it that way, can we have a benchmark too? Which of the following therefore is Indian:
1) Psychoanalysis - repression
2) Behaviourism - behaviour
3) Phenemenology- subjective
4) Cognitive -computer
5) Biological-brain ???

And the doubts prevail, Birth of psychoogy in India---- Buddhist period? Shankaracharya? Medieval? Modern period? WHEN!

There are however ways to look at it. There apparently are many logics of looking t the psyche with respect to the historical perspective. However the problem with history is 1) where you dont look back ( no respect for India?) SIMPLE- Seamless and continuous flow from origin to end? As step ladders? Fake/ Folk/ Faith leading to psychology where all preceeding steps are falsified or COMPLEX- with fundamental shifts, turns and breaks.

As an example, consider looking at the perspective of reaching heaven (in the Mahabharata). Here Heaven is equated to truth. The idea of ' dont look back' engulfs Draupadi as she is the first to fall while Yudhishthira is lucky to have not looked back at all and thus attain heaven with all its goodness.

Another example, how do you drive?- You drive ahead indeed. However, the rear view is an important component. You drive in the dialectic, between the windscreen and the rear view. Combine the two together, you get a fine driver/psychologist that is the one who merges history and the contemporary.

History (options to look at it)-- Modern
Pre historic
Non sense!

Mr Dhar shows the complex thread of time as a cluster of unkempt wool ball, Indian psychology being one such thread running simultaneously.

Freud in 1895- accredited with birth of psychology in Europe, to be specific, Germany alone. Interestingly in 1905, a committee is set up in Calcutta discussing the beginnings of a psychology department in its university. Thus, Brajendranath Sree develops psychology (1905-15) and works up a syllabus. The confusion thereby creeps in as to whether the syllabus to be introduced should be experimental or psychological, introspective?

With the coming up of asylums in 1758, 1805, 1921-22 in Bhawanipur, Bombay and Ranchi and the psychology department of Calcutta University( the first of its kind in India), where does psychology after all rest?

The first batch of M.Sc Psychology in Calcutta had a doctor as its student, G.S Bose, brother of novelist, Rajshekhar Bose. S.N Bose accredited for the famous 'Bossons', as also a critic of Einstein who differed in his own approach and G.S Bose with his thesis on the concept of repression against Freud, in constant correspondence with him to an extent that even his daughter went to Berlin to meet Freud, as also being a part of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis-- this was indeed the Glorious period of psychology which the common man often forgets to acknowledge.

'A New Theory of Mental Life' published in English for everyone to read forms an important assessment arena. Our mindset has always been to take theory from the west and apply it here. Ever wondered what we gave unto them? Ever dared pointing out where they went wrong?

G.S Bose:

Hypnosis--) Magic--) Medicine (1910)--) Psychology (1917)--) Psychiatry( National Medical College--) Concept of Repression (1921)

Yogasutra (Patanjali) (--- PSYCHOANALYSIS ----) swapna
Bhagvad Gita (1948) Puranapravesa (1934) Lal Kalo (1930)


Therefore, birth of psychology in India is also birth of medicine and psychiatry.

What was Bose's concept of Repression? A rebel against Freud's thesis. Bose meant to show that in India we cannot soak in each of Freud's theory. His theories were but possible in the circles of Christianity where you are supposed to repress your sin, flesh, carnality and guilt or you go confess. Therefore, repression was not a framework. Behaviourism too was not a framework because we are by nature reflective/ ambivalent self. The theory of double wish prevails--wishing and not wishing something at the same time.

Logic of the psyche is thus an intraceptive self. Ashish Nandi in 'Antarmukhi', a translated work showed how we are intraceptive in front of the mirror- reflected self-- 'twoness of the self'.

Therefore it is not repression rather ambivalence that is, to be or not to be. 'Swapna' as aforementioned is the writing of Freud's 'Interpretation of Dreams'.
Lal Kalo is the battle between the red and black ants ( the red ants had ridiculed the black ants' queen!) Indignity of woman? Parallels could be drawn towards either a Sita or Draupadi. It is not guilt that comes into scene. It is but hurt and indignation for which Draupadi had rebelled with all her life.

Fundamental psychic drama is not premised on guilt. However, for Freud it was always guilt (consider: Oedipus Rex). For practical reasons it has on the contrary been the element of hurt.

Also, time moves cyclically in our psyche. Re read Patanjali and it shows that.
a 600 page book- psychiatrist's writing- re writing the Bhagvad Gita- an attempt to show that there were no Kauravas or Pandavas. Arjun's famous dilemma- How can I kill my kinsmen and to what good?- shows conflict of self with self- reflecting on self.

How do we become gendered man and woman?

The West came up with 'Oedipus Point'- gendering. He was trying to answer a foundational question.- Universal Psychology by an Indian.

Resource drain from India?

Tagore- Logic of Psyche- Sufi, Bhakti Movements
Gandhi - Bhagvad Gita (1921)
Aurobindo- Bhagvad Gita (1921)
Lokmanya Tilak -Bhagvad Gita (1921)----) Quite a contested field, open to examination!

Indian Psychology as according to the west is either being spiritual, transcedence, connectedness, inner self or God/Gods. (Religious-belief, worship, cultural attributes)
More of a Guru-Shishya Padhati (combining religion plus education or medicine plus religion)

Carl Jung's idea of ' a natural religious function', for Freud was the 'universal neurosis of mankind'.

Indian Psychology basically then traces itself back to six schools:

1) Vedanta
2) Vaisheshika
3) Nyaya (epistemology)
4) Sankya (Existence, what we are and where we come from)
5) Yoga (practice)
6) Buddhism/Jainism (knowledge/ existence/ethical living)

Amazingly, none of the above have a conception of God! Why then is India called a religious nation? The above, all of them have different mandates. As Buddha believed, one should be interested in the pot and not the potter/ never answered he believed in a 'one' almighty power. To top it all, Buddhist texts too are in a dialogic pattern. Brahma in the Upanishads is also not God, is rather a helpless person gazing up to the stars wondering!

As Amartya Sen puts it, the Indian tradition is a rational, argumentative form. He thus cracks the received idea of India.

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