Spiritual and scientific perspectives on Mental Well- being

Spiritual and scientific perspectives on Mental Well- being 
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Aruna Narayan

Pune, 12th September 2023: The conventional definition of mental health is a state of “psychological and emotional well-being”. The Buddha emphasized that the human mind is capable of reaching its highest potential by completely discarding non-virtue and embracing virtue. The Buddha who was an ordinary human being, a prince, reached that potential and attained Nirvana or Moksha. It is quite possible for all of us to do that.


For that we need to understand more deeply what the ancient Indian scriptures say about developing mental culture or mental health.


Buddhist psychology says that the mind is inherently pure and perfect untouched by our changing mental states. The “kleshas” or mental defilements are nothing but layers and layers of accumulated habits that are clouding and covering this inherent pure nature.


The example given is a cup that is dirty. The dirt can be cleaned to reveal a clean cup.


The reason why they are called “kleshas” or mental defilements is because they obscure the inherently pure mind and also because they cause us pain, disappointment, frustration, dissatisfaction and suffering. The more we indulge in them due to our habits, the more pain they cause us.


These layers of kleshas or mental defilements can be cleaned and removed by adopting and cultivating positive mental states. The process is a combination of knowledge and practice. For every negative habit, there is a positive antidote. Just like a certain kind of medicine is given for a particular ailment.


One interesting development in the field of psychology came in 1998 with the birth of “positive psychology”. At that time there were relatively fewer scientific enquiries and studies on happiness and positive emotions. Instead the focus was mainly on maladjusted personality and negative thinking. Martin Seligman in 1998 coined the phrase “Positive Psychology” that abandons the previous notion of happiness as elusive and unpredictable and instead replacing it by seeing happiness as a quality that can be systematically developed.


There was a new movement called “Happiness Revolution” where scientific enquiry and spiritual practice came together.


There is a universal message in what the Dalai Lama says, that happiness is possible and that the key to happiness is in our own hands- indeed we can train in happiness just the way we train in any other skill, directly cultivating it through effort and practice


This gives all of us hope that the so-called habits that we have acquired are replaceable and a sense of mental Well-being is absolutely possible for all of us whatever our current state of mind.


(Aruna Narayan is a former Managing Director of a manufacturing company and is now a Vipashyana Meditation teacher.)