H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Monday, 2 March 2009

Psychology of the Life Cycle

How to live a traumatic event as an opportunity

for growth and evolution (from the preface of Psychology of the Life Cycle book)

By Matsyavatara Dasa

The three key words in psychological help to terminal patients and their family members are: Welcoming, Assisting, Accompanying.

Welcoming means to make oneself available to the person, by opening one’s arms as well as one’s heart and mind.

Assisting means to operate gently, remaining always open to empathy, listening to the needs and the mentality of the person.

Accompanying means to walk by the person’s side rather than in front, sometimes even walking behind in humility and love, to encourage his or her progress. Accompanying is to gently coax the person towards his destination, with kindness and warmth, empathy, compassion and generosity.

In this book we will not discuss the case of patients who can recover to a state of physical health. We will rather focus on the assistance to patients in their terminal stage, from the perspective of the Bhakti-Vedanta psychology1 that is certainly extremely valuable for the Western world, too. Our approach is holistic, free from the defect of fragmentation between medicine, psychology and spirituality.

I have been studying psychology for over 30 years, achieving specializations and exploring various Schools of thought, with particular attention to the classical Indian civilization, that created a very advanced Science of health (Ayurveda) and an important School of psychology (Upanishads, Vedanta, Bhagavad gita, Yogasutra and Puranas), very likely the first in the history of mankind.

This civilization, considered by many as the original culture of the world, is based on the Vedas, the most ancient texts known to mankind, universally appreciated and recognized by many as an authoritative source of physical and metaphysical knowledge, unifying the sciences of matter and spirit. This ancient knowledge, several thousands of years old, has been preserved, transmitted and renewed in time through the exegetic work of the various traditional Schools, and today it is highly respected in the West, too, amid a growing academic and scientific interest. It expresses a mature vision, characterized by advanced discoveries in the various fields such as medicine, philosophy, psychology, sociology, astronomy, mathematics, etc. It also offers surprisingly modern information and therapies that integrate the most cutting edge discoveries of contemporary science.

The Bhakti-Vedanta tradition offers information and methods that heal the individual on a global level, in all his/her anthropological aspects: physical, psychological and spiritual, substantially and effectively helping the development and the harmonious integration of personality, the tuning of the subconscious elements with the ego and the self. It offers an integrated, profitable and totally satisfying connection between sentiments and thoughts, intuition and reason, deep subconscious issues and operative rationality, up to the concrete and global experience of the visualization of the higher levels of reality (the self consciousness).

We will study the issue of terminal disease by considering not only the physical instrument (the body) but especially the psychological instrument, and the emotional blockages, guilt complexes and depressive states that often afflict those who are facing such an important step. We will also study the spiritual aspect not in an abstract, but with applications in the immanent reality of the individual.

Thus we will approach the person on an integrated way, in a wide and global perspective, including the rituals of physical and spiritual preparation to the transition, and the psychological needs of the patient to prepare for the “journey” of the soul after death.

The phenomena of birth and death have been analyzed by some great minds of the ancient and modern Western civilization:

“So-called birth is merely an old thing that takes a new form and clothing... The soul is always the same, only the form is lost”.


"The doctrine of metempsychosis is neither absurd nor useless... Being born twice is not more astounding than only once".

Voltaire (1694-1778)

“Not the flesh is real – it is the soul that is real. The flesh is but ashes. The soul is the flame.”

Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

“The actions in previous lifetimes give the direction to the present lifetime.”

“The dreams of our present existence are the environment where we elaborate the impressions, the thoughts and sentiments of a previous lifetime...”

Lev Tolstoy (1828-1910)

“And calculating your life, you are the residue of many deaths....”

Walt Whitman (New York 1819-1892)

“I have no difficulty imagining that I have already lived through past centuries, and pondered over questions I was unable to answer. Therefore I had to be reborn because I had not been able to complete the task I had received”.

C. G. Jung (1875-1961)

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Ph. D. in medicine and specialized in psychiatry, wrote several books about her experiences with terminal patients in hospitals. As we see in some of her most intense and moving pages, death is nothing but a sublime and sweet passage, and everyone of us can experience it in that way, leaving behind all regrets for this earthly life, the fear of detachment from loved ones, and the unknown that is waiting for us Beyond.

Brian Weiss, American psychiatrist, he is famous for his accounts of the amazing stories of his patients’ previous lifetimes, reconstructed by regression therapy. He uses techniques of spiritual psychotherapy to help the healing at physical, emotional and spiritual levels.

Raymond A. Moody, jr., American philosopher, physician and psychiatrist, studied Philosophy at the Virginia University, where he graduated in 1969. After teaching Ethics, Logics and Philosophy for three years at the North Carolina University, he started to study medicine and graduated at the Georgia Medical College. In 1975 he wrote a very famous book, “Life After Life”. Before him only Elizabeth Kubler Ross had presented the topic is a similarly rigorous way, sticking to simple experience as much as possible.

In the Bhakti-Vedanta tradition each science is considered as closely interconnected with all the other disciplines in an organic project of training and therapy. In this context, it aims at a larger vision of man and the world, necessary to develop a balanced and deeply conscious life.

Our discussion will not be a mere abstract description, detached from the personal character of the expounder and of those who may be using it. Above all, we want to offer a concrete perspective on life, and the best effect will be obtained when our suggestions will be received in the spirit of broadening one’s awareness through theoretical and practical learning.

We will discuss Bhakti-Vedanta psychology with comparisons and connections to Western psychology, and propose instruments for a better awareness which can help our daily practice and as well as the cure, assistance and accompanying of terminal patients. Not only for the patients’ benefit, but also for our own benefit: amazingly, the lessons on the subject of death are extraordinarily useful for personal development at large. In our case, success is death in a state of psychological well-being.

It is rightly said that, when teaching is done seriously, with competence and love, the teacher will learn and grow as much as the student. Similarly, one who assists and accompanies a dying person will have the opportunity to live an extraordinary experience of personal growth. Indeed, we cannot understand or plan life if we have not understood death.

1 Bhakti-Vedanta psychology does not use psychotherapeutic techniques, but practices teachings and exercises for the development of a spiritual vision of man and the cosmos. It does not limit itself to the solution of psychological discomforts but aims at rising awareness, so that the individual becomes able to rediscover his original nature beyond the acquired beliefs, the artificial identities and the false behavioral patterns that restrict the potential and the noblest aspirations of the living being.

1 comment:

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