Bhagavad Gita is a ‘crisis-oriented therapy’: US-based psychiatrist

Source: Hindustan Times        Dated: Jan 28, 2016

Arjuna in crisis

Bhopal: A psychiatrist from the United States who has been researching psychiatric insights in the Bhagavad Gita, has said that the verses give the reader two fundamental psychological insights — how to be happy and how to be free — terming the scripture a “crisis-oriented therapy in the middle of a battlefield”.

Matcheri Keshavan, from Massachusetts Mental Health Center at the Harvard Medical School, has been exploring the Gita and how its verses can help people across the world, irrespective of religion, to improve their psychological well-being.

“The Gita goes directly into the question of what makes us happy and content. It basically talks of two types of action. First is the reward-orientated action for getting material goods, pleasure and other things. The second type of action is independent of reward — it is the action for the sake of action, where path is the destination, where you enjoy or you are aware of the action in the present moment. Karma yoga in Gita emphasises non-attached, balanced action,” Matcheri, who was in Bhopal to participate in a four-day national conference of the Indian Psychiatric Society, told HT.

“Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has come up with a similar concept called ‘flow’, which says people are happiest when they are in a state of flow. Flow implies a state of consciousness when a person is completely absorbed in the activity at hand. In this kind of action, which Gita also speaks of, nothing else matters. Pure immersion in the action makes a person happy and content,” the American Psychiatric Association fellow added.

Professor Matcheri said that a major cause of mental afflictions and misery, according to the Gita, was the result of action driven by extrinsic rewards and lack of right awareness of self.

“Mental health is not just absence of ill-health, but the presence of happiness or joy not dependent on external gratification. According to the Gita, mental afflictions are viewed as resulting from too much or misplaced craving and excessive self-reference bias,” he said.