Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Emotions: An Indian Perspective

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Emotions: An Indian Perspective

Article excerpt

Byline: Dharitri. Ramaprasad

The present paper is an attempt to understand emotions and the affect from Indian traditional point of view. In the Indian philosophical texts' detailed descriptions of emotions are not available nor are dealt with as a separate concept. This view of emotions lays emphasis on desires as the root cause of emotional upheavals. They are seen as modification of desire and attachment. The desires are seen as arising from the contact and attachment of the ego or ahamkara with the external world and are caused by a sense of imperfection, incompleteness or non-fulfillment. Ego or ahamkara is differentiated from the true Self or atman. Emotions are viewed as springs of action and are bipolar in nature. According to Patanjali's Yoga Shastra, suffering is due to ignorance about one's true "self" (avidya). Hence, suffering or dukha arises from within and not from the outside world. Bhagvadgita traces all emotional experiences to the gunas, i.e., sattva, rajas, and tamas. Works of Bharathmuni have contributed to the understanding of emotional experiences. Concept of rasa or aesthetic relish is central to this approach to understanding affective experiences as dealt with in the Natyashastra of Bharathamuni. These views underline the recommended path for self-transformation. Regulating emotions, both emotional experience and emotional expression, is an integral part of the recommended "principles of living."

Ye hi samsparsha - je bhogaa duhkha - yonaya yeva teAa-dyanthavanthah kauntheya na teshu ramathe budhah . ( Bhagvadgita, V: 22 )

The pleasures that are born of sense contacts are a source of suffering.They have a beginning and an end, O Arjuna. For this reason the wise do not indulge in them


Emotion, as an important ingredient of life, has intrigued psychologists and all those who are interested in understanding human behavior for long. Emotions play an important role in our day- to-day life. All our actions and thoughts are governed by our emotional experiences. In turn, emotions are reflected in our actions and thoughts. In addition, they play a significant role in human life by way of preparing us for action, shaping our future responses to situations and events. They also influence our social interaction a great deal. Ways in which we deal with our emotions and emotional experiences influences the quality of our social interaction too.

Emotions have been defined as feelings having both physiological and cognitive components. Various theories have been proposed in an attempt to understand them. There are theories emphasizing the physiological components [sup][1] and there are theories highlighting the cognitive components and there are still others, which acknowledge the role of both physiological as well as cognitive components [sup][2] and also there are the cognitive appraisal theories. [sup][3] In addition, there is the social-constructionist view-point. A wide range of emotions have been studied and described in terms of physiological responses, accompanying cognitions and associated environmental events. However, the feeling, which is the experiential component, has often been neglected.

Feeling, termed as "affect" is the most complex component and cannot be understood by analyzing emotions into parts. This experiential aspect has been central to the Indian approach to understanding human nature. The term "affect" focuses on the subjective experiential aspects of emotions as against the physiological changes and behavior accompanying emotions. "Affect" as a feature and function of the "person" and the nature of one who experiences it, has been the focus of Indian tradition of understanding human nature.


In the Indian philosophical texts and scriptures detailed description of emotions are not available nor are dealt with as a separate concept. They are seen as a component of personality arising out of the contact of ego or ahamkara with the external world. …

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