Art of Counselling The Gita Way

The counselling technique used in the Gita is relevant even today.

A byproduct of the immense technological development is the increasing volume of physical and mental ailments unheard of by the previous generations. Words, such as anxiety depression, neurosis, mania, guilt feelings and lack of self-esteem, have gained acceptance in the vocabulary of the common man.

Now, why should we be so much concerned about such disorders? Because, human resource management, which includes its development, is essential for the efficient functioning of any organization.

Again, in today’s competitive environment people are under pressure to perform. Counselling is an important tool to ensure that they do not under-perform.

The first vividly described record of depression is, perhaps, in the Mahabharata—low mood, markedly diminished interest in everything which was earlier pleasurable, feeling of worthlessness, loss of self-confidence, guilt feeling, inability to make decisions and suicidal thoughts.

These symptoms, experienced by Arjuna, are recorded for posterity in the following verses.

“O Krishna, seeing my kinsmen gathered here eager to fight, my limbs fail me and my mouth is drying up, my whole body is trembling, my hair is standing on end, my bow, Gandiva, slips from my hand my skin burns. I am not even able to stand and my mind is reeling.”

Krishna handled the situation with tact and firmness. He helped Arjuna attain equanimity of mind.

What is Counsellings

Admittedly counselling is discussion on a problem with an employee, undertaken to help him cope with it. The aim is to work with the employee and improve the quality and quantity of his work.

There are six main steps in effective and supportive counselling.

  1. Show confidence in the employee’s ability and willingness to solve the problem.
  2. Focus on the problem or behaviour that needs improvement, not the person.
  3. Determine if issues exist that limit the employee’s ability to perform the task or accomplish the objective.
  4. Discuss potential solutions.
  5. Agree on a written action plan listing what the employee, the supervisor and, possibly, HR professional, will do to improve the situation.
  6. Set a date and time for follow-up.

Counselling in the Gita

The counselling technique used in the Gita is relevant even today.

Psychological studies reveal that depression is mostly induced by events, such as failure. Teenagers failing in examinations, employees being denied promotions in spite of hard work and businessmen unsuccessful in their endeavours are perturbed by their inability to understand why they failed in spite of best efforts.

Krishna answered this question more than 5000 years ago. “You have a right only to action, never to its fruits. Let not the fruits of your works be your motive. Nor let your attachments be to inaction, having abandoned attachments, having become equal in failure and success.” This evenness of mind (in regard to success and failure) is known as Yoga.

Krishna further status, “Wretched are they who are motivated by the fruits of their works.” Owing to the fear of failure, many do not take up assignments of their cherished ambitions, as a result of inaction, leads to depression.

Best Therapy

Krishna’s clarity of thinking in this context is the best therapy for depression arising out of fear of failure and subsequent inaction. “By merely giving up action, no one attains perfection. Do perform obligatory action; for, action is supreme to inaction and even the bare maintenance of the body would not be possible if you are inactive.”

But excessive action is undesirable. Highly ambitious people undertaking many projects simultaneously are vulnerable to depression. Psychiatrists advise fixing up of priorities for activities. Modern management techniques, such as ABC analysis, also highlight this point. Stress in modern day living can be avoided by judicious selection of priorities and undertaking only the essential projects.

Lord Krishna explained the same thus, “Persons of demonic nature know not what to do and what to refrain from."

Another prominent cause of depression is sudden loss. Bereavement is a universal human experience. The death of a loved one is amongst the most significant and traumatic bereavement and has been imputed as a casual agent in a large number of psychological symptoms. Arjuna preferred death at his enemies’ hands to being an instrument of the death of his kinsmen.

Lord Krishna warned Arjuna against such an undesirable trait. “You have been mourning for them who should not be mourned for. The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead.” He remains Arjuna of the life and death cycle. “Death is certain for the born and birth is certain for the dead. Therefore, what is inevitable ought not to be the cause of your sorrow.”

Avoid Expectations

The root cause of depression in many of us is expectation of return for acts of kindness. Krishna warns against this behavioural pattern.

He categorises acts of kindness as Sattvik, Rajasik and Tamsik, in the order of merit. A gift given to one from whom no benefit in return is expected and in the right place, at the right time to the right person, is said to Sattvik. Gift given grudgingly, expecting a return or with the view of a fruit or reward is said to be Rajasik. Gift given at an improper place and time and to an unworthy person with disrespect and contempt is Tamsik.

Attain Mental Peace

Another cause for mental agony is excessive longing for material gains. Attaining material objectives often results in immoral and irrational behaviour.

Krishna bring out beautifully the process of deterioration of personality thus: “In him whose mind dwells on the objects of senses with absorbing interest, attachment to them is formed, from attachment arises desire, from desire anger comes forth. Anger leads to bewilderment, from bewilderment comes loss of memory, by loss of memory, the intelligence is destroyed; and by the destruction of intelligence, he perishes.”

Lord Krishna states as follows: “That clam man who is the same in pain and pleasure, whom these can not disturb, alone is able to attain immorality. He questions, “How can there be happiness for the unpeaceful?”

Inner tranquility is brought in by universe love. Loss of mental equilibrium results from nurturing hatred towards enemies and those who perpetrate injustice. The same is explained in the Bhagavad Gita: “He attains excellence who looks with equal regard upon well wishers, friends, foes, neutrals, arbiters, the hateful, the relatives and upon the righteous and the unrighteous alike.”

Attain Evenness of Mind

Krishna allays the doubts that are likely to arise in the minds of even the most righteous persons at a time of crisis; regarding the futility of selflessness and welfare of those who worship me in all beings, never harbouring any other thought’.

Modern psychiatrists emphasise that one’s own mind has a preventative and curative function. Lord Krishna advocated the attainment of a state of evenness, its steadiness and peace. The most significant word in his advice is “Arise” – from ignorance to knowledge, from apathy to a positive feeling and from inertia to purposeful activity.

The immense potential in the resourcefulness of the human mind is brought out by Lord Krishna in his discourse to Arjuna. The diary of mankind is not without entries of what is called “Columbus complex” which means that each new discovery is, in fact, a rediscovery.

In this context, it may be pointed out that any modern book on psychotherapy is a mirror image of the Bhagavad Gita, rendered more than five thousand years ago. And it is hoped that all managers, supervisors, parents make a note of this and counsel their associate/wards, suitably; lest it should impact their performance.

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