Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

The Bhagavad Gita and Contemporary Psychotherapies

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

The Bhagavad Gita and Contemporary Psychotherapies

Article excerpt

Byline: Subhash. Bhatia, Jayakrishna. Madabushi, Venkata. Kolli, Shashi. Bhatia, Vishal. Madaan

The Bhagavad Gita is based on a discourse between Lord Krishna and Arjuna at the inception of the Kurukshetra war and elucidates many psychotherapeutic principles. In this article, we discuss some of the parallels between the Gita and contemporary psychotherapies. We initially discuss similarities between psychodynamic theories of drives and psychic structures, and the concept of three gunas. Arjuna under duress exhibits elements of distorted thinking. Lord Krishna helps remedy this through a process akin to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). We ascertain the analogies between the principles of Gita and CBT, grief emancipation, role transition, self-esteem, and motivation enhancement, as well as interpersonal and supportive psychotherapies. We advocate the pragmatic application of age old wisdom of the Gita to enhance the efficacy of psychotherapeutic interventions for patients from Indian subcontinent and to add value to the art of western psychotherapies.


The value of spirituality in healing is a time-honored concept. There has been a recent surge in interest in the eastern philosophies for mental health care. For instance, successful amalgamation of Zen's principles with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in the form of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), [sup][1] as well as the psychotherapeutic application of mindfulness is on the rise. In most cultures for centuries, different formats of directive or non-directive talk therapies for treatment of mental-health problems have been utilized. A variety of brief and culturally relevant models of psychotherapy have been in use since time immemorial. Although psychotherapy as a medical discipline gained greater acceptance following Freudian studies on psychodynamic underpinnings. One of the most renowned discourses in Hindu philosophy and psychotherapy comes from the Bhagavad Gita.

The timeless teachings of the Bhagavad Gita are deeply embedded in the Hindu psyche and continue to serve as a spiritual guide to the vast majority of Hindus around the globe. This scripture consists of 18 chapters and 701 verses ( shlokas ) authored by Vyasa and dates back to 2500 to 5000 years BC. The Gita represents chapters 25-42 of the Mahabharata, which has 100,000 shlokas .

The storyline in the Mahabharatha is based on the conflict between two groups of cousins, the diabolical Kauravas and the virtuous Pandavas . The Pandavas and their supporters, with the aid of Lord Krishna (whom the Hindus believe to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu), vanquish the Kauravas confederation during the 18-day war fought on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The Gita is a prelude to the Kurukshetra war; the context involves the accomplished and astute archer Arjuna on a chariot navigated by Lord Krishna (the guide and the charioteer), getting ready to face the large army of enemies consisting of his relatives, teachers and mentors. Though a mighty warrior, Arjuna is unwilling as he fears annihilation of his kin's and mentors. As a result of guilt, doubt and attachment to his loved ones, Arjuna contemplates withdrawing from the battlefield. The Gita is a discourse by Lord Krishna, guiding his disciple Arjuna to the right course of action to help him fulfill his destiny in the war, a triumph of righteousness over evil. This interaction between Lord Krishna and Arjuna encompass many psychotherapeutic principles.

The Hindus believe the Gita to be an essence of the Upanishads (texts that form the core of Hindu philosophy). Arjuna's dilemma is an allegory of our lives where our internal conflicts related to positive and negative dynamisms are fought on the battlefield of our minds. Teachings of the Gita communicated by Lord Krishna lead us to the right course of action. In many ways, resolution of conflict through the Gita is quite similar to the task of a mental health professional, who while addressing anxiety and conflicts of the patients, also helps them with symptom resolution and paves the path to long-term recovery. …

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