This article is written for students of Yoga and Ayurveda Psychology and students of Vedanta and Vedic Counseling, who wish to know more how these fields are connected.
Several Vedic fields of education, counseling and therapy are gaining recognition throughout the world, including many countries where these disciplines are new and easy to confuse. As related Vedic fields, they cross over in different ways.
Vedic counseling forms the background field for any education, guidance or therapy in the Vedic field. This includes Yoga, Ayurveda, Vedanta, Jyotish (Vedic astrology), Vastu and Sanskrit, along with the principles of Vedic living that are part of Hindu traditions overall. It extends to mantra and meditation practices rooted in the Vedic tradition.
In other words, Vedic counseling is the primary background discipline in terms of Vedic values and practices, and their integration for all Vedic disciplines which have traditionally applied together. Only outside of India today, and to some extent inside India recently, do people may come into one of these disciplines without being aware of its connection to the others.
Vedic and yogic teachings have come to the western world in bits and pieces – as a vast outside tradition that had few correspondences in western culture to directly link to. The result is that individuals may be more aware of a particular yoga guru, yoga technique or Ayurvedic doctor than the background Vedic tradition as a whole, much less the idea of Vedic Counseling.
Vedic Counseling addresses the whole life of a person but notably psychology, including the nature of consciousness, mind, Self, karma and rebirth that are addressed specifically in Yoga and Vedanta. It extends to all the domains of life, including career, creative expression, relationship, family issues and finances as well as spirituality.
Ayurveda is the specific Vedic discipline for healing body and mind, starting with right living principles and practices in one’s daily life at daily and seasonal levels. These have counterparts in other Vedic disciplines that deal with dharmic living, but the treatment of disease is specific to Ayurveda.
Modern Ayurveda since India’s independence in 1947 has restricted itself primarily physical health and wellbeing. The psychological aspects, though addressed in Ayurvedic texts, have not been given special attention. In fact, in traditional Ayurveda, Prajnaparadha or failure of intelligence and wrong judgment is defined as the main cause of all diseases, physical and psychological and then wrong use of the senses, not external pathogens.
Today, health issues have moved away from physical diseases to psychological imbalances, particularly as our high tech life becomes more stressful. Psychological healing is closely related to wellness overall, not just how we feel at a bodily level but whether we are happy in our minds and hearts. Along with the spread of Ayurveda as a wellness therapy and behavioral medicine – which has been its main development in the modern world – the psychological dimension of Ayurveda is also getting new attention. Ayurveda is known globally as a mind-body medicine linked to yogic spirituality, not just a system of treating physical diseases. It teaches the right principles and practices for a Vedic and a yogic lifestyle.
Vedic Psychology of Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedanta
I added psychological considerations, along with treatment of the diseases of the nervous system, in my book Ayurvedic Healing (Lotus Press 1989). I expanded that approach in Ayurveda and the Mind (Lotus Press 1997), which outlines a psychological model for Ayurveda updated in the modern context. I have addressed the psychological aspect of Ayurveda in other books and many articles, including relative to Yoga, Vedanta and Vedic astrology.
Ayurvedic psychology is not a separate discipline from other Vedic approaches to the mind. Ayurvedic psychology reflects the views of mind and consciousness found in Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta and their focus on the Purusha and Atman (higher Self of pure consciousness). It includes descriptions of the mind and its different designations and functions (chitta, buddhi, manas, ahamkara or memory, intelligence, thought and ego) and the place of the five koshas or layers of the individual soul (ananda or bliss, vijnana or experiential wisdom, manas or sensory mind, prana or vital energy, and anna or food), with their subtle layers holding our karmic patterns from one birth to another. Vedic teachings do not merely look at the human mind but extend their psychological study to the Atman or Self behind the entire universe, affording a cosmic dimension to their orientation.
We examine the workings of the mind according to the three gunas of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, the three doshas of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, and the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether. Ayurvedic mind/body connections, relevance of daily and seasonal regimens, diet, herbs and massage are part of this view at an outer level.
At a spiritual level, the relationship of mind with Consciousness is the key. Mind is a conditioned entity arising from karma, while Consciousness is pure awareness beyond all karma, which means beyond all death and sorrow. To gain full peace of mind we must learn how to transcend the mind to the background witness Consciousness of the Self.
In our approach to Vedic Counseling through the book Art and Science of Vedic Counseling (Frawley, Kshirsagar, Lotus Press 2016) and our institute’s Integral Vedic Counseling Course, we show the nature of Vedic counseling relative to the whole of life, but emphasize its psychological aspects through Vedanta, Yoga and Ayurveda. We teach Ayurvedic psychology with Vedanta as its ultimate focus of Self-knowledge and Self-realization.
Ayurvedic psychology is the therapeutic aspect of Vedic approaches to mind and consciousness that are explored in depth in Yoga and Vedanta. Traditional Yoga through the Yoga Sutras shows us how to calm the mind and develop samadhi or higher awareness to realize our higher Self. Vedanta adds to this the science and philosophy of Self-realization teaching us how to understand our inner Self through various forms of internal inquiry and the cultivation of Self-awareness.
Today it is crucial that society develops a better understanding of mind and consciousness as part of a spiritual and naturalistic basis of psychological wellbeing. Our highest human potential is not merely in outer science and technology, but in the realization of Consciousness at cosmic and transcendent levels. The ability to address all these issues can be found in Vedic education, which teaches us not only about the outer world but the inner world of the mind extending into the supreme Consciousness.
We look forward to a new renaissance of Vedic psychology through Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedanta to take humanity forward to a higher age of natural healing and the realization of our cosmic nature, not simply the fulfillment of our human desires.
Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri)