Emotions in the Indian Thought Systems

Emotion has long piqued the curiosity of psychologists and everyone who is intrigued by comprehending human behavior because it is a vital component of existence. Emotions are significant in our daily lives, and our emotional experiences control our behaviors and thinking. Our behaviors and thoughts, in essence, mirror our emotions. Hence, is it ubiquitous to have universality, or is there room for differentiation?

Emotions in the Indian Thought

Indian philosophical traditions and texts do not provide in-depth descriptions of emotions or treat them as a distinct category. They are viewed as a personality trait that results from ego or ahamkara encounters with the outside world. This might be the case because, in Jain's words, "emotions stayed a challenge to overcome the sole aim of life." Emotions are seen in the backdrop of said ego (ahamkara) and the genuine self (atman). It is an event that illustrates how the ego and the external world interact. Indian philosophy holds that wishes are the source of all emotions.

In contrast, emotions are seen as energy sources and have a bipolar nature. Sukha and dukkha, or ecstasy and suffering, are emphasized as duality. The physiological responses that go along with emotions make it clear that emotions are related to the mind, or the Manomaya Kosa, and impact both the sustenance membrane and, thus, the crucial air sheathing.

The intellect, or the Vignanamaya Kosa, the intellectual assessment put forward by Lazarus, in addition to the Anandamaya Kosa, the experiencing side, or the bliss cloak, influences emotions and associated emotional sensations. In this light, it is important to look at the essence of emotions and their effect.

All emotions stem from desires, and an internalized feeling of a flaw, unfinishedness, or unfulfillment fuels desire. When a desire is not satisfied or is defeated, it can cause sorrow (Dukha), jealousy (Asuya), rage (Krodha), and sadness (Krodha). When a desire is satisfied, contentment (Sukha) and enjoyment result. According to Indian texts, satisfying a need can and frequently does result in greed (Lobha). One develops an increasing desire for it.

There is a longing for more substantial possessions and more pleasure. When these are enjoyed, one could become conceited (Mada) and envious (Matsarya). Another emotional sensation is the terror (Bhaya) of sacrificing one's possessions. These feelings impair one's ability to make intelligent judgments and cause emotional and mental instability. Not all emotions, nevertheless, are seen as harmful.

Different Schools of Thought

The Yoga Shastra of Patanjali claims that ignorance of one's true "Self" is the cause of suffering (avidya). Ignorance breeds perception errors. People create a false sense of self by identifying with the things and objects around them. With such an ego commitment, the wants intensify. The ailment is the phrase used to describe this ego connection, allure, and aversion (Klesas). The error is in accepting things outside of oneself as the real self, which results in a misperception of reality. In this view, dukkha or misery originates internally rather than externally.

The Rasa Theory

The knowledge of emotional experiences has been influenced by Indian aesthetic theories and dramatic science, particularly the writings of Bharathmuni (5th century). The experience side of emotions is heavily emphasized. The Natyashastra of Bharathamuni's discussion of emotive experiences centers on rasa, often known as aesthetic delight or mood. Sage Bharata developed the rasa theory in the setting of plays and theatrical and then applied it to all types of poetry and other conservatoires. All three aspects—physiological/behavioral, cognitive, and emotional—are covered in depth in these ancient Indian dramatics texts

Bharatha suggests eight main emotions or bhavas correlate to eight aesthetic states or rasas. Sringara (love), Hasya (comical), Karuna (pathos), Raudra (angry), Vira (courageous), Bhayanaka (scary), Bibhasta (odious), and Adbhuta (marvel) are among these moods. Rati (arousing), Hasa (merriment), Soka (despair), Krodha (rage), Utsaha (vigor), Bhaya (terror), Jugupsa (revulsion), and Vismaya (surprise) are the related emotions. The fundamental emotions are distinguished from the auxiliary ones, as with all conventional Indian systems.

Major emotions are sthayibhava, which are enduring emotional attitudes or dispositions. These rework other feelings into versions of themselves. These are regarded as innate as well. Lasting psychological traces are viewed as permanent feelings (samskaras). These can produce rasa when combined with a source (vibhava), fleeting emotions (vyabhicaribhava), and utterances (anubhava). Temporary emotions are not inherent; they offer ascent to lasting emotions, which then manifest, and then they go. Additionally, it has been proposed that transient emotions represent everyday life, wherein identical feelings are expressed and felt in altering contexts.

Auxiliary emotions are temporary, or vyabhicaribhava, states that are subservient to everlasting emotional inclinations. These theories have addressed the origins of moods and offer suggestions for controlling emotional outbursts. Yoga also distinguishes between sensible joy and logical pleasure, arguing that whereas rational happiness results from the fulfillment of desires, sentient pleasure emerges from the satisfaction of desires.

Atman, Ahamkara and Emotions

Every person aspires to "happiness." In other regards, "happiness" is the ultimate purpose of human life. The emotions associated with "being happy" are distinct from this state of "happiness." Because the ego, or "ahamkara," abides in extrinsic items, this condition of happiness is perceived as temporary and is wholly reliant on those objects. According to Indian philosophy, the real character of "self" or atman is "pleasure" or "bliss," i.e., ananda. Sat-chit-anand, or the unification of being (sat), consciousness (chit), and ecstasy (ananda), has been used to characterize this atmanic condition.

This condition is the mastery and transcendence of egocentric emotions, such as pleasure and grief. This is the ego-free state of true empathy, in which the sentiments are felt as one's own yet are nonetheless not one's own because the experience is unrelated to the things in the outside world. In this approach, feeling things and having emotional experiences can lead to personal development or change.


A significant experiential element of ahamkara is human emotions. They significantly affect how we live and interpret life's experiences. The rasa, or experiencing quality, of this encounter is highlighted from an Indian point of view. Ahamkara, or the ego, is said to feel happy or sad in response to pleasant or bad events because of its attachment to and identification with things in the external realm or one's physical body. This affiliation and association are driven by desires, which culminate in emotions and affect. Therefore, "pleasure" or "bliss" is considered the genuine essence of the atman, while "emotions" is seen as the duties (dharma) of ahamkara rather than the atman, or the authentic personality.

Updated on: 03-Feb-2023


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