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The Psychology of Healing

The Psychology of Healing                                                               12/00  Ed ZadloD.Ay

In the Vedic view, everything that is observable by consciousness is defined as matter.  This view expands the usual idea of matter being limited to only things that are solid.  Everything in the created universe having name, form or action is a part of Prakriti, primal matter.  This includes energy, ego, thoughts and emotions as well as all the grosser solid forms we usually observe.

The mind, itself, is an organic entity.  It has its own stages of growth, decay and death.  It has its own process of metabolism, of taking in nourishment and releasing waste.  Just like the body it requires proper nutrition and exercise.

 Most of us give some consideration as to how we nourish and care for our bodies, but we rarely consider how to nourish and care for our mind.  Consequently our minds become distorted and loose the natural drive to seek “light and knowledge”. [1] 

Many diseases can arise from holding a limited or negative attitude about ourselves.  To get well we need to have faith in ourselves and know the meaning and purpose of our life.  We need to recognize the Divine being within us.  True nourishment comes from within, from the true Self.  Whatever limited self identity we accept from the external world is ultimately negative and will cause sorrow or disease.  Healing begins with recognition of  our nature as an  “eternal being”  not as a “transient becoming”.[2]

  Our minds are also very sensitive to the impressions we take in through the senses from the various colors, shapes and sounds in the world around us.  Unwholesome impressions tend to derange the mind while harmonious impressions balance it.

 It is the nature of the senses to be self-limiting, to become desensitized by excessive stimulation.  It has only recently become possible, in our modern technological age, to continuously override this built-in  sensory self protection.

 As we seek pleasure and fulfillment in sensation and we are steadily bombarded by modern media and our hyperactive living style, we require more and more stimulation to get a pleasurable reaction.  Our needs become increasingly extreme and we become more and more physically and mentally insensitive and deranged.

 Ayurvedic Psychology

The aim of modern, western psychology is to strengthen our capacity to function within the norms of society.  Ayurvedic and Yogic psychology are quite different.  They aim “at eradicating the separative consciousness or ego into the state of pure awareness. (They have) a qualitative dimension and an existential orientation that goes far beyond the limits of psychology.  (They) recognize other planes of existence than the physical and the influence of forces and entities of those planes on diseases”. [3]

Ayurveda tells us that health and longevity are not the highest things and should not be ends in themselves, but part of a life that aims at the unfolding of the deeper aspects of our mind which transcend time and space. 

  In order to understand the psychological approaches of both Yoga and Ayurveda we  need  to learn about the nature and operation of the mind.

 Our basic consciousness or mind is called “Antahkarana”, in the Sanskrit language; the “inner instrument”.  It has three basic levels; reason (Buddhi), ego (Ahankara) and emotion (Manas)

 The mind is considered to be the basic atom, the prime creative element . Both the senses and motor organs arise from mind but because of this atomic nature, our awareness also has a point-like nature.  We can direct our thinking in specific directions but, at the same time, it has a tendency to become narrow or attached to different points of view.

 As an organ mediating between our inner and outer worlds, the mind  has a dualistic nature.  It deliberates by oscillating back and forth between opposing ideas, using a linear process to analyze our three dimensional world.  As it moves between opposite ideas, it is capable of many points of view from one side or the other. It can easily go to extremes or reverse itself.  In this way, it functions like a reducing valve to filter the total experience of consciousness down to what it regards as pertinate to the mind/body complex at the present moment.

 The mind is also unstable and constantly changing.   It can easily be affected and disturbed, easily be excited, distracted or depressed and can overreact to momentary impressions.  Thought, the action of the mind, is a quick series of point focuses which are never the same for even an instant.

 The inability to control the mind is the cause of all sorrow and disease.  We cannot control it by  imposing any idea on it or by an act of  our will, as these come from within  the mind itself.   “It is only possible through the peace of the deeper consciousness”.[4]  Yoga and Ayurveda aim at harmonizing the body and life-force to make control of the mind easier. 

 Four levels of the mind:

In Vedic psychology the mind is seen from four levels:

  • Unconscious mind (Chitta)
  • Subconscious or emotional mind (Manas)
  • Ego or self-conscious mind (Ahankara)
  • Reason or conscious mind (Buddhi)

 Chitta is the general ground of consciousness, the storehouse of all memory and impressions that links us to the material world.    Its main function is memory and it functions even in sleep.  Chitta is the collective unconscious and contains the subtle impressions of all experience.    All other functions of mind are latent within it.

Manas is the general conditioned consciousness or desire mind and includes the subconscious mind.  It is our capacity for thought and deliberation, primary emotion and our capacity to react to our impressions. 

Manas is not articulate consciousness, it is largely reflex, habit or instinct.  It is the quantitative side of mind allowing input and coordination of information.   Manas has no values or principles.  Its goal is exploration of the senses, seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.  Its purpose is allowing experience and expansion in the sense realm, not establishing values which belongs to more interior levels of the mind.  As long as we operate only at this level we are purely sensate creatures, victims of emotions aroused by the senses and by attraction to pleasure and avoidance of pain.   As we evolve more in awareness, by developing the subtler levels of mind, we become less affected by the senses and emotional mind.

Ahankara is ego, self-consciousness, self-image, conceit or pride.  It is our sense of being separate from the universe.  It is the “I-thought” behind all the other thoughts of the mind.  Based on the principle of division, it is the basis of fragmentation and strife within ourselves and the world in general. 

The ego concept arises from the atomic nature of the mind.  Because we can only focus on one point at a time, we develop the idea of ourselves as a separate point in life.  Ego mediates between the inner and outer worlds and allows us to acquire and achieve things and gives a certain control of emotions.  However, because of its point-like nature, the ego always tends to have a narrow focus and bias through which it becomes the most important factor in our world. 

It is but a transitional phase between an outwardly directed mind, under control of external forces, and an inwardly directed mind in harmony with deeper principles.

Buddhi, intelligence, is the rational or judgmental part of the mind.   Through it we can discriminate and obtain knowledge of the true and  false , the good and the bad,  the real and unreal. 

Buddhi is the qualitative part of the mind.  It is the basis of conscience and allows us to establish values and give principle to our lives.  It is objective, rational and is capable of detached observation.  Through the development of Buddhi we can evolve beyond the ego.  The path of separateness evolves through ego, while the return to wholeness is through the higher function of Buddhi. 

The Buddhi has a dual nature  which is the key to evolution in humanity. Directed outwardly it constructs an idea of reality based on the senses.  This gives us the conviction that the outer world of enjoyment is the basic purpose in life.  This directs us toward outer goals in life such as wealth and pleasure and promotes the materialistic view of life.

Directed inwardly and taking the eternal to be the real, Buddhi leads us back through the cosmic principles to our true Self and Spirit. Directed outwardly the Buddhi becomes intellect.  Directed inwardly it becomes intelligence. 

 Intellect helps us discriminate name and form in the outer world. 

Intelligence allows us to discriminate between the inner and outer, between reality and appearance.   

 Directed outwardly its function is not  independent but through Manas and Ahankara, emotion and ego.  Directed inwardly its function manifests pure consciousness.

Our individual soul or reincarnating consciousness is called Jiva or Jivatman, the individual Self.  This is our individual portion of Divine consciousness which is not different from the awakened, higher function of Buddhi . 

“It is our true individuality as apart from the false personality or separate self of the ego.  It leads us back to unity whereas the ego drives us into division and multiplicity”[5].

As long as we don’t understand the levels and functions of the mind we will get trapped in psychological excesses such as fear, ignorance, desire and anger and suffer the effects on our mental and physical health. 

Lack of true knowledge, or the basic fact that we do not know who we really are or what reality is; that we do not know why we were born or what is the real meaning of our lives, is ignorance. 

The facing of ignorance allows us to begin to inquire inwardly into what is the reality behind the outer appearances of our self and world.  This process begins by turning around the function of the Buddhi from the lower level, where we accept the appearances of the senses as being real, to the higher level, where we learn to understand the basic nature of consciousness as reality.

Yoga and Ayurveda develop Vedic knowledge to promote the health and longevity required to experience liberation of consciousness.  Their aim is to bring us back to Self-knowledge.  Health is a part of right action.  Apart from the Self, all is disturbance or disease.

 The real cure for disease is  Self-knowledge.


The Mental forms of the Doshas – Prana, Tejas and Ojas

The subtle forms of the Doshas are their three forms in the mind and are the essence of their forms in the brain, on a more subtle level.  The mental form of Vata is also called Prana.  The mental form of Pitta is called Tejas. The mental form of Kapha is called Ojas.  They function through the third eye (the sixth chakra) and regulate our mental nature.


Prana is the basic vitality of the mind.  It gives us mental adaptability, the capacity to communicate, coordination of ideas, breadth of comprehension, the will to live and get well.

 When our Prana is too high, it causes loss of mental control and sensory and motor coordination.  We feel spaced out or ungrounded, like we’re loosing our minds or sense of identity.  We may experience anxiety, palpation or insomnia.  The life force looses it’s connection with our brain and body.

When Prana is too low we lack mental energy, enthusiasm and curiosity.  We will have low healing energy and life force and won’t allow any new energy into our lives.  Our mind and senses become dull and heavy, we lack motivation, our attitudes become rigid and conservative and we are ruled by the past. 

Tejas is the basic Clarity of the mind. It gives us intelligence, reason, the passion to discover and learn, zeal, the power of self-discipline and the capacity to perceive.

When Tejas is too high, it causes us to have an overly critical, discriminating mind, headache, burning eyes or possible delirium.  We will overly digest impressions and negate our life experience.  We find nothing that is true.  We may have excess doubt, irritability, anger and enmity. 

When Tejas is too low we’ll lack in the capacity to inquire or discern.  We uncritically accept things, loose the power to learn from (or digest) experience.  We are mentally passive and impressionable and can be influenced or dominated by others.  We’ll lack purpose and have no goal in life.

Ojas is essentially our peace of mind.  It gives us mental strength, contentment, patience, calm, fortitude, the capacity of concentration and memory.  It is our basic psychological stability, essentially our peace of mind.

High Ojas is less of a problem than high Prana or Tejas as they are the main factors in mental disorders. High Prana and Tejas dry and burn up Ojas, thus excess states of Prana and Tejas go together with low Ojas.  Ojas is the factor of balance and stability in both mind and body.

When Ojas is low we lack self-confidence; we can’t concentrate, have poor memory and lack faith.  Our thoughts lack consistency and our emotions lack balance.  We are prone to nervous exhaustion and mental breakdowns.

Imbalancing the Mind

There is a delicate balance in the mind which, generally, any wrong intake of impressions or output of expression tends to change.  Disturbance of the mind underlies, or at least accompanies, most disease.


Factors that disturb our mental peace, clarity and vitality include; drugs (both medical and recreational), excess media exposure (TV, computers etc.),  overly strong sensations (loud noise, bright colors etc), excessive or pretended emotions, wrong meditation practices, and excessive breathing practices.


Balancing the Mind

Factors that integrate and balance our mental peace, clarity and vitality include Meditation (using breath, mantra and visualization together), prayer, self-study, deep silence or deep relaxation, the right use of color, aroma and gems.  Prana is stimulated by time in nature and communion with the cosmic life-force, attitudes and virtues such as faith, love, receptivity, compassion, and understanding.


Developing the Mind

A key to developing the mind is establishing the right function of the Buddhi.

 Awakening the intelligence requires a revolution in awareness.

  • We must turn away from the Ego.
  • We must move from our “Me and Mine” preoccupation to self-examination and inquiry into the nature of truth.

 Disease is a symptom that our way of living is self-centered and out of harmony.  Developing intelligence is an integral part of the cure.


For psychological disorders, knowing the functions and right usage of the mind is as important as right diet is in the prevention of disease of the body.  “All psychological disorders rest upon a wrong function of the intelligence, which is an inability to perceive reality”[6] 

 Ayurveda offers us methods that teach us how to perceive or tools for developing direct perception.  These involve Self-observation, Yoga and Meditation and for more severe psychological disorders, ritual and psychic cleansings are used.  “  The mind cannot be programmed to get well.  What is necessary is for it to experience how it is making itself sick and why”.[7]


The Vedic system not only teaches us things, it also teaches us how to learn them.  For us to discover this we must first know how our minds work.  It is important to discern which form of mental activity is going on in our mind and at which level it is active.  Right knowledge brings Sattva, or peace and happiness, to the mind.  Wrong knowledge leads to disturbance and eventual unhappiness.

Buddhi or intelligence is the level of the mind involved in the process of learning.   When Buddhi is not influenced by ego and desire it allows for true knowledge to be ascertained.  Knowing how to learn is the basis for the real cure of all physical and psychological disorders.  The failure of intelligence which Ayurveda sees as the root of disease is nothing but a failure to learn from life and its inherent wisdom.  Ayurveda teaches us to learn. It does not give us some final idea as truth but gives us the basis for arriving at it for ourselves.


 1,2,3  Dr. David Frawley

[4] Dr. David Frawley

[5] Dr. David Frawley 

6,7 Dr David Frawley


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