The Path to Psychological Sustainability

Principles, strategies, and practices for inner sustainability.

The modern ecology has found that physical and biological Nature is an interconnected and interdependent unity of energies and organisms. There is a similar ecology of consciousness which unites all our human life inwardly in our Mind, Heart and Spirit. A clear understanding and application of the laws of this inner ecology of consciousness is essential for our psychological sustainability. This article presents a brief review of the principles and methodologies which can lead to the psychological sustainability of the human race.

The Principle of Integration

The first principle or ideal of psychological sustainability, which is to a certain extent self-evident, is the harmony and integration of the human organism. An individual or a community which is constantly in a state of conflict and discord within itself is unsustainable in the long run.

Integration of the body, life, mind and soul of the Individual and the collectivity is the foundation of psychological well-being and sustainability. And unity within the individual is the basis of unity and harmony in the community. So integration of the human personality around the spiritual centre in man must be one of the aims of sustainable education. In the collective life, the natural environment, man-made material structures and the bodies of people form the Body of the Community. The economic, social and political life is the expression of the vital energy of the people. The cultural life of the community, made of its art, philosophy, religion, science and literature, is the expression of the thinking, ethical, aesthetic mind and the spiritual being or the soul of the people. So integration of the material, ecological, economic, social and political life of the community around some mental, moral, aesthetic and spiritual ideals of culture is the path for the psychological sustainability of the community.

Management of Human Energies

Conservation of energy and resources, energy-efficiency, waste-reduction and elimination of pollutants are some of the well-known ecological principles and practices. All these principles and practices apply equally to psychological sustainability. Uncontrolled desire leads to a rapid exhaustion of the vital energy needed to survive, prosper, evolve and progress. Any individual or community or a civilization which indulges in an unbridled orgy of desire for wealth, power or enjoyment without any restraining influence of higher values will soon get exhausted and begins to decline and perish. Similarly incessant anxiety, tension and stress, constant worrying about the past or future, wild swings of mood and emotions, are sources of wastage of vital energy.

Constant mental agitation and chattering and vagabonding thoughts, flitting like a drunken monkey are wastage of mental energy. Negative feelings like anger, violence, lust, greed are psychological toxins which pollutes not only the psyche of the individual who indulges in it but also the surrounding psychological environment of the community which in turn has a corrupting influence on the individuals. This is the reason why people, who are good and honest, when they enter into politics, become corrupt and get addicted to power. The psychological environment of politics is full of pollutants like greed, corruption and dishonesty. The following principles and practices of Yoga can help in conserving our inner resources, enhancing the efficiency of our psychological energies and eliminate inner pollutants or in other words sustaining our inner ecology:

  •  Control and mastery over desire especially over sexual desire, because in yoga, sexual energy is considered as the source of all creative energies in the body. So conserving and transforming sexual energy enhances the creative energy and force of the human organism.
  •   Renunciation of the fruits of action and the anxiety for the future result and focusing all our energies in the present, without thinking about the past or the future.
  •   Control and sublimation of the physical and vital life and their impulses and desires by the intellectual, ethical and aesthetic being and its ideals and values. This principle translates itself in the communal life as the primary of the collective social and cultural values and ideals over the material and vital interests or rights of the individual or group ego.
  •   Surrender to the Divine, which means handing over our life along with all its activities, problems, difficulties and its vicissitudes to the Divine with a complete trust and reliance on His wisdom and Grace
  •   Cultivation of a settled inner calm, peace and equanimity under all circumstances of life and in the midst of outer action especially under the stress of the dualities of life like happiness and sorrow, success and failure.
  •   Control of thought and practice of mental silence which means acquire the ability to think only when it is needed, otherwise keep the mind as silent as possible.
  •   Developing the power of concentration which means the ability to focus all our energies at a point or an activity.
  •   Rejection of negative thoughts and feelings like anger, jealousy, violence, greed and lust, harsh judgement, which lead to disturbance, conflict, friction and division within the individual and the community, and conversely, cultivation of positive attitudes and feelings like understanding, tolerance, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, non-judgemental attitude, which lead to inner and outer harmony among people.

The first four practices minimize wastage and dissipation of our vital and emotional energy. The next three conserves and maximizes the power and efficiency of our mental energies. The last one prevents the accumulation of toxins in the psyche of the individual and the community and improves the quality of our inner connectivity with others. As a whole, all these yogic principles and practices when they are put into practice with sincerity and persistence, can lead to a more efficient and sustainable management of our psychological energies.

The Ecology of Human Actions

The other great insight of ancient eastern wisdom is the Law of Karma, which reveals another important aspect of the inner ecology. The eminent historian Arnold Toynbee once made a significant remark that the future survival, progress and success of Nations depends not on Technology but on their Karma. However this eastern theory of Karma is a much misunderstood concept. Popular or even some learned conceptions of Karma equates it with fatalism or a mechanical dispenser of moral justice with a system of reward and punishment for virtue and sin. We have to understand the spiritual, psychological and moral basis of this Indian concept of karma and their practical implications for sustainable human development.

In a spiritual perspective, Law of Karma is the mechanism by which the law of unity is worked out in the inner being and outer life of man. The Indian seers perceived that the highest and the most fundamental law is the Oneness of all existence. We are all part of each other and in our highest self all are parts of our own universal self. If others and the whole creation are a part of my own self, whatever I do to others or the creation ultimately rebounds upon myself. If I inflict sorrow, pain and suffering to others, ultimately, it falls upon me. Similarly If I bring peace, light, unity harmony, happiness and fulfillment to others, ultimately that also returns upon me to enrich my body, mind or soul. So if we can remember this spiritual basis of law of karma, that others and the whole creation is a part of my own self, before succumbing to an impulse or desire or taking a decision or moving into action, then it will lead to a more sober, balanced and sustainable human and terrestrial condition than what we have at present. However the idea and the concept is not enough, though a mental conviction or faith arrived through reason on intuition is helpful as a first step. The concept has to be brought down from the upper layers of the mind and made concrete to feelings and emotions, dynamic in will and vital force and enter into the sensations of the body. How to do this is the challenge for educators of the future who aspire for a sustainable world.

The moral and psychological basis of Law of Karma is that Nature returns or rewards each individual or group according to the nature and quality of energy released in action. The nature of the energy may be physical, vital, mental, moral, aesthetic or spiritual or some combination of them. The quality of energy depends on how much it is in harmony with the higher laws, aims and values of the human and terrestrial life. These higher aims, laws and values of life are revealed in the wisdom-traditions of the world and in the higher thoughts, insights and aspirations of humanity, like for example, truth, unity, mutuality, harmony, wholeness, integrality, freedom, equity, progress. But for a safe and sustainable evolution of humanity in the future, these values like truth and unity have to become the guiding and shaping values of thought, action and decision-making in all the levels of the individuals and communal life physical, vital, mental, moral, aesthetic and spiritual; economic, social political and cultural.

But how to make this happen? First of all, in thought and research, there must be a greater focus on understanding the long-term consequences of new ideas, discoveries or technologies and our decisions or actions to the totality of the human and terrestrial life. For example in bio-technology, before tampering indiscriminately with the gene for some short-term commercial gains, there must be deep thinking, research, debate and discussion on the consequences of such tampering for the totality of the gene-pool. Secondly, in the institutional level, in education, motivation, incentives, funding and decision-making, a new paradigm of thought and practice which leads to a large-scale diversion of resources, talents and creative energy of humanity from the unsustainable areas, activities and values of the past, like the armament industry, to those activities, ideas and values of the future which lead to the sustainable evolution of humanity, like for example:

  •  ecology, environmental preservation, green technologies, alternative energy sources, sustainable farming.
  •  integral health, spiritual education, moral, psychological and spiritual development of the individual and the collectivity and aesthetic refinement of life.
  •  creating equity, elimination of poverty and empowerment of women.
  •  creating harmonious, mutually complementing links and relationship at various levels of human life and forging human unity in the consciousness and life of the race.
  •  new systems of management and administration which can materialize these sustainable values of the future in the economic, social and political life.


The author is a student and practitioner in the path of integral yoga.

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