Date of Award


Access Restriction


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Yoga Studies

School or College

Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Christopher Key Chapple


This paper presents an unconventional approach to the existential crisis according to the transpersonal psychology of the eleventh century text, Yogavāsiṣṭha. An existential crisis is a general term used to signify a subjective experience of emotional distress as it relates to certain objective realities of human existence. This paper builds off key concepts (“givens”) from the field of existential psychotherapy, including death, isolation, freedom, and meaninglessness, provided by psychoanalyst Irvin D. Yalom, illuminating how the crisis is addressed in contemporary psychotherapeutic settings. Brief attention is given to the Western academic roots of existential psychotherapy, including areas of continental philosophy and humanistic psychology; this reveals a stark implication regarding general Western approaches: alleviation of the existential crisis requires a humanistic intervention, the individualist pursuit toward self-identity. Although this addresses the significance of human will and agency, it fails to take into consideration existence as a complex whole, suggesting a dualistic understanding of what it means to be in the world—the self in contrast to other living beings, the universe, the cosmos. This thesis proposes to expand the humanistic approach, responding to the existential crisis through the transpersonal Yoga of the Yogavāsiṣṭha, whose captivating mythological-like stories illustrate overcoming crises of human existence through a nondual, mind-only philosophy, emphasizing the importance of cultivating nonattachment, effort, and creativity to live a life of selfless action. Four narratives are explicated as well as the transpersonal techniques used to overcome the internal conflict perpetuated by Yalom’s “givens” of existence. By working with dreams, inquiring into reincarnation, contemplating on the five great elements, and expressing narrative, realization of Self-identity (with a capital ‘S’) removes the veil of ignorance overshadowing perception of an existential crisis, thus elucidating a visionary metamorphosis.