May 14, 2009

National Conference on "Psychology, Culture and the Ideal of Human Unity" Oct.1-4, 2009

Repected Colleague / Dear Friend,
I, on behalf of the Dept. of Psychology, University of Delhi, am organizing a "Conference on Indian Psychology: Psychology, Culture and Human Unity", during Oct.1-4, 2009.
Conference flyer is attached I extend a warm and personal invitation to you to attend the same.
I look forward to hearing from you. Warm regards,
IPSeminarFlyer.pdf [~92K]

Conference on Indian Psychology:
"Psychology, Culture and the Ideal of Human Unity"
October 1-4, 2009
Department of Psychology, University of Delhi

Kabira kua ek hai, pani bharen anek
Bhaande may hee bhed hai
Our paani sab may ek
[Sant Kabir Das]
The well is one, though water is filled by many
The shapes of the vessels (our bodies) are different
But the water (consciousness) is one
Chalo sakhi khele, kanhaiya sung holi
Apne, apne, bhavan say nikasi
Koyi savare, koi gori
Kanhaiya sung holi
Come my friends, let’s play holi with kanhaiya (inviting the divine to colour us in his colour)
They all emerged from their homes
Some fair, and some dusky (all become one)
Playing holi with kanhaiya all were dyed in the colour of love, and became one
*[Painting by Priti Ghosh, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry; reproduced with permission]

Framework and call for papers
We mean by Indian psychology an approach to psychology that is based on ideas and practices that developed over thousands of years within the Indian sub-continent. In other words, we use the word "Indian" to indicate and honour the origin of this approach to psychology: the origin of the underlying philosophy, the conceptual framework, the methods of enquiry, and the "technology of consciousness" that it uses to bring about psychological change and transformation. It may be useful to make explicit that we do not use the word "Indian" to localize or limit the scope of this approach to psychology: We do not mean, for example, "the psychology of the Indian people", or "Psychology as taught at Indian universities". We hold that Indian Psychology as a meta theory and as an extensive body of related theories and practices has something essential and unique to contribute to the global civilization as a whole.

In a world faced with increasing unrest and conflict, the only way out is by way of a change in consciousness - from a limited and fragmented self-consciousness to an all-encompassing and loving way of being. It is in this regard that formulations on the psyche emanating from Indian culture have a great deal to offer. Indian treatises on human existence and psychological functioning, while acknowledging the lower levels, focus much more on higher levels of consciousness and the means to raise consciousness from lower to higher levels. It is held, in the Indian view, that human functioning on the higher levels is more effective, reveals a more complete knowledge accompanied with greater feelings of oneness, harmony, joy and love, establishing in the process extraordinary levels of individual and collective harmony.

Indian depictions of human-beings focus on their inherent "goodness" deriving from the divine essence residing at the core of each being. The history of the sub-continent is replete with examples of how during different periods, people from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds lived together in harmony. This is not to deny that conflicts are not common place – in this regard India has had its share of war and violence – but what seems unique is the way differences between groups have been minimized, and at times even transcended. Thus the Parsis’ continue to have a prominent place in society, the Syrian-Christians retain their independent identity, as do the Sikhs and Muslims, to name just a few. In the post independence era, the Dalai Lama fleeing from Chinese oppressed Tibet was welcomed, supported, and provided with a home in India, which allowed him to create a base for Tibet’s struggle for autonomy in India.

The academic question then is – What is it in the Indian ethos that permits co-existence, mutual respect, and harmonious living of different groups? Part of the reason may have something to do with the Hindu worldview derived from the monism of the Advaita Vedanta emphasizing the origin of all existence in the one Truth, God or Brahman. This leads to the acknowledgement of the oneness of humanity and simultaneously the recognition of the Gods of all religions as rooted in the same Brahman. Thus Krishna notes in the Gita "Whomsoever you pray to, you pray to me." – by no way making claims to the supremacy of the Hindu God; rather, he asserts that all resides in Brahman. More generally, a genuine spiritual outlook fosters greater harmony and promotes a healthy and vibrant co-existence. It thus becomes important to examine what is it in spirituality that helps in reducing conflict.

Academic psychologists have shied away (with some notable exceptions) from enquiry in the spiritual domain, but interestingly, many among the founders of academic Psychology in India led double lives – they practiced Psychology as a western science in their professional lives, but in their personal lives they derived guidance and insights from traditional scriptural sources. Not only that, they even published in non-academic settings, writing on the efficacy and potency of Indian Spiritual Psychology. I suspect that the situation today is not very different.

A cursory glance at the history of social movements on the sub-continent reveal that over the centuries, some of the most prominent movements have had a spiritual foundation as their inspiration – one that emphasizes the oneness of all humanity and which paves the way for lowering barriers along religion, caste, as well as gender lines. In particular, Buddhism as a socio-political movement, the Bhakti movement, the advent of Sikhism, and Mahatma Gandhi’s mobilization of the masses for attaining the independence of India, all stand out as shining examples which enabled people with diverse social identities to come together. In contemporary India, many of the ashrams and spiritual communes provide us with vivid illustrations of people from diverse backgrounds – in terms of nationalities, race, religion, caste, class, gender and age – living and working together in great harmony, and at times mingling with local communities promoting inter-dependence. Such places stand out as islands in the ocean of conflict rampant all around us. It appears that the spiritual perspective on social psychological processes may serve to complement the social-identity theory for if inter-group conflicts can be reduced by enlarging the social categories used for identity, the spiritual dimension would serve to capture the experiential dimension of widening the categories which allows us to accept the other (out-group member) as one of us (in-group member). Thus Sinha (1998, p.20) notes:

The interrelatedness of the whole of humanity is stressed not only when one is enjoined to do good to others and regard the universe as one’s relation (basudhaib kutumbkam) but in the Upanishadic doctrine of ever expanding ego or the self, where one begins with concern for oneself and gradually expands one’s ego to encompass one’s community and ultimately the entire world. Similarly in one of the verses of the Mahabharat it is stated that for the sake of the clan one gives up the individual (person), for the sake of the village one gives up the clans, for the sake of the country (janpada) one gives up the village, and for the highest good one gives up the earth. Concern for others has been given the highest place and the target is the larger group.

Sri Aurobindo (1972; p.554) emphasizes that

"A spiritual religion of humanity is the hope of the future. By this is not meant what is ordinarily called a universal religion, a thing of creed and intellectual belief and dogma and outward rite. Mankind has tried unity by that means; it has failed and deserved to fail, because there can be no universal religious system, one in mental creed and vital form. The inner spirit is indeed one, but more than any other the spiritual life insists on freedom and variation in its self-expression and means of development. A religion of humanity means the growing realization that there is a secret spirit, a divine Reality, in which we are all one, that humanity is its highest present vehicle on earth, that the human race and the human being are the means by which it will progressively reveal itself here. It implies a growing attempt to live out this knowledge and bring about a kingdom of this divine Spirit upon earth. By its growth within us oneness with our fellow-men will become the leading principal of our life, not merely a principle of cooperation but a deeper brotherhood, a real and inner sense of unity and equality and a common life.
There must be the realisation by the individual that only in the life of his fellow-men is his own life complete. There must be the realisation by the race that only on the free and full life of the individual can its own perfection and permanent happiness be founded. There must be too a discipline and a way of salvation in accordance with this religion, that is to say, a means by which it can be developed by each man within himself , so that it may be developed in the life of the race. To go into all this implies would be too large a subject to be entered here; it is enough to point out that in this direction lies the eventual road. No doubt, if this is only an idea like the rest, it will go the way of all ideas. But if it is at all a truth of our being, then it must be the truth to which all is moving and in it must be found the means of a fundamental, an inner, a complete, a real human unity which would be the secure base of a unification of human life. A spiritual oneness which would create a psychological oneness not dependent upon any intellectual or outward uniformity and compel a oneness of life not bound up with its mechanical means of unification, but ready always to enrich its secure unity by a free inner variation and a freely varied outer self-expression, this would be the basis for a higher type of human existence".

Themes and deadlines
Against this backdrop the Department of Psychology, University of Delhi, is organizing the National Conference on "Psychology, Culture and the Ideal of Human Unity", to further the awareness and scope of Indian Psychology, especially in bringing about a lasting human unity. Typical sub-themes include:

  • The Ideal of Human Unity
  • Peace, and Development of Global Civilization
  • Bhakti, Love and Oneness of Humanity
  • Buddhist/Sufi/Christian Perspectives on Oneness of Humanity
  • Place of Love, Forgiveness and Compassion in Healing
  • Synthesis of Matter and Spirit, Science and Spirituality
  • Related topics from the Indian Psychology

With the idea of having an intensive dialogue and sustained sharing, it is proposed to have not more than 100 participants (50 senior and 50 younger ones). The aim is to have the participation of scholars in India and abroad, who are making serious and sustained contributions to the concerned areas (senior core group), as well as younger researchers, and students who are keen to work in this area, show promise, and seek guidance. A few individuals will be invited to speak on key themes. The remaining participants will be selected on the basis of invited abstracts or their keen interest in the key topics.

We extend a warm invitation to you attend the seminar, and to send an abstract of the paper that you would like to present at the conference by e-mail to, latest by June 30, 2009 (for complete papers the deadline is August 15, 2009). We will confirm acceptance of your paper for presentation at the conference, after reviewing all the abstracts, by July 10, 2009. For all queries, write to

Prof. Anand Prakash *** Dr. Suneet Varma
Head of the Department *** Reader
Seminar Director *** Seminar Coordinator
Sinha, D. (1998). Changing perspectives in social psychology in India: a journey towards indigenization. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 1: 17-31.
Sri Aurobindo (1972). The Ideal of Human Unity. SABCL , Vol. 15.Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press.


National Conference on Indian Psychology: Psychology, Culture and the Ideal of Human Unity
October 1-4, 2009 Department of Psychology University of Delhi,
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