Back to Kerala Seminar - Psychology in India: Past, Present and Future
Report by Peter Fenner, PhD
Report to the Infinity Foundation for sponsorship of a keynote address delivered to the National Academy of Psychology Annual Conference Kollum, Kerala, India, November 2001
Firstly I would like to thank the Infinity Foundation for sponsoring not only my own participation, but essentially underwriting this very important conference. I also thank Professor George Matthew for his primary role in organizing the conference, and for his personal support in facilitating my visit to Kerala for the conference.
In my estimation the conference was a great success. In particularly it created a professional forum for very vital and lively discussions about the future direction of psychology in India and the relationship between indigenous Indian psychology (as embodied in the ancient traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism) and contemporary Western psychology (which has largely shaped Indian academic psychology in the last century).
As an Australia it was very interesting to be positioned with those who are arguing the case that Indian psychology should reappropriate the ancient mind-science traditions that have been developed for millennia in India. As I said in discussion on several occasions, if Indian scholars don't pick up the challenge of creating a dialogue and integration of Eastern and Western approaches to psychology, the task will be performed in the US and Europe.
While there were perhaps too many papers to digest, the range of presentations and orientations running the full gamut from hard-nosed, empirical psychology to the spiritual psychologies of the Yoga System the shear breadth of expertise and commitments created a highly stimulating environment for sharing and discussion.
Professor Janak Pandey (Current President of NAOP) did an
excellent job of chairing the Annual General Meeting and moving the discussion
onto an "inclusive middle ground" that can capitalize on the riches
of both Indian and Western Psychology.
The scheduling of so many papers, combined with time lost in contingencies surrounding meals and travel, meant that many presentations had to be significantly shortened. Many presenters had to race through their presentations in far less time than was required to do them justice. My own presentation on Nondual Wisdom and Psychotherapy had to be shortened by nearly half. This made it very difficult to communicate the nuances of a psychotherapy that was informed by the India's nondual wisdom traditions. Also the ambient noise from fans, etc. made it difficult to communicate. Also, I wasn't aware that the traditions of psychotherapy are given very superficial treatment in academic programs in India. None-the-less I receive very positive feedback on my presentation and many invitations to present my work at universities throughout India.
My greatest pleasure was being elected as a member of the National Academy of Psychology at the Annual General Meeting. I am honored and look forward to my future involvement with psychology and psychotherapy in Indian soil.