Invention of Psychoanalysis has
been a milestone for psychology and we had many pioneers in the history that
developed their theories in the context of the psychodynamic approach such as
Freud and Jung. This paper primarily focuses on Carl Gustav Jung and his theory
and approach in relation to Buddhism. Buddhism is one of the oldest religions
in history, even though it is a religion it has inspired many psychologists in
history because it focuses on self-accomplishments and spirituality. C. G. Jung
was one of the people in the field that got affected by this Eastern religion.
On this paper this matter will be explained in four sections and a conclusion:
(1) first, there will be an explanation on how did he meet with Buddhism and
which person or situation influenced him to use Buddhism in his theory, (2)
second, the paper will focus on his praise and understanding of Buddhism, (3)
third, the paper will move on to the subject of comparisons between Jung and
Buddhism, (4) fourth it will be focusing on primeval Mandalas and Jung
interaction. Last, there will be a conclusion.
Did Jung Meet with Buddhism?
interaction between west and Buddhism is not recent. As a matter fact the roots
are very old, Alexander the great being the first Buddhist (323 BC) (Young-Eisendrath,
& Muramoto, 2003). Thus, in the 19th and 20th
centuries-where the centuries that Jung seen-we can accept that Buddhism was
known in the west maybe not by practice, but by definition. Throughout this
part I will explain how did Jung interact with this Eastern religion as well as
examples and the persuading people in his life.
At the first glance, he was born into a household where
his father was a Protestant Pastor. Jung’s first recollection of a memory that
includes his first acquaintance to the Buddhism is when his mother was reading
a book out loud to him that contained pictures of Hindu Gods which risen an
interest in him. Later, this interest grew up on him not the interest in Buddhism
maybe but an interest for an explanation to religion that better than his
father’s explanation which disappointed him (Young-Eisendrath, & Muramoto,
Moreover, with the need for explanation and enlightenment
Jung-in his teenage years- started to read Goethe’s Faust. This wasn’t a
resource that directly examined Buddhism but rather it shared ideas with it. In
the following years, Jung met with Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and
Representations” which gave him a relive and joy. He really liked Schopenhauer
which was the first philosopher that had intensively researched on Buddhism (Young-Eisendrath,
& Muramoto, 2003). Thus, we can say that Schopenhauer is a core to
understand Jung’s concept of Buddhism. Because Jung’s later works shows
similarities to his.
Jung’s acquaintance with this Eastern religion accelerated through his search
for something that is both religious and psychological, due to he saw belief as
something psychological (Young-Eisendrath, & Muramoto, 2003). Because
Buddhism was a religion that includes the core factors of psychology it took
Finally, Jung’s another
interaction with Buddhism was a conversation with Shin’ichi Hisamatsu- a Zen
Buddhist. This conversation happened under the request of Hisamatsu. Because of
the cultural and linguistic these two-remarkable people had difficulties in
understanding each other and this led to misinterpretations. So, Jung didn’t give
consent on the publishing of the conversation but after his death the
conversation was published and gave us a nice resource on Jung’s relation to
Buddhism (Keenan, 1994).
Approval on Eastern Religions
psychoanalyst, Jung, separated from other by his sense in approval of the
Eastern religions. He appreciated Gnosis against the one-sidedness of
Christianity, but he misunderstood gnosis and reinterpreted it. His approach on
gnosis also affected his approach on Buddhism (Young-Eisendrath, &
Europe as the tail of Asia, and said that Asia was the foundation to all Europe
and that Europe can get developed if it understands Eastern religions, he also
believed that Asia was the root of Christianity as well (Davis, 2016)
and Differences in Jung’s Theory and Buddhism
theory has been one of the core theories in psychodynamic approach, and
Buddhism -alongside that it is a religion, has been a root to many
psychotherapeutic healings. They both try to find a way for human suffering. These
two has many similarities and differences. Throughout this part I will point
out these joint parts.
First, Jung’s theory is created by many structures. These
structures mostly represent opposites. For example, anima and animus,
unconscious and conscious, persona and shadow, Self and self. Jung’s theory
suggested that it is very important to unite these opposites. Jung’s approach
on this point is very close to the Middle Way in Buddhism, and him caring about
symbolism in nice degree proves this once more.
Second, his explanations in synchronicity are very
similar with karmic harmony in many ways. “Buddhism offers a genesis theory and
considers that the universe and life were engendered from ‘karmic harmony.'”
2012). Karmic harmony is like destiny, but it explains more about the faith of
coincidences. Jung’s synchronicity is the explanation for incidents we see as
coincidences making them the meaningful random events. So, it is clear to see
Third, when explaining his theory Jung used many words to
differentiate ego and the Self, he explained it as ego located in the conscious
and the Self is the being where represents wholeness thus, includes both
conscious and unconscious. In the
Buddhist Self it refers to the nature of self, meaning that it takes the self
as spiritual just like Jung (Liang, 2012). Alongside the similarities between
the spirituality dimension the Jung’s Self is different from the Buddhist Self
as in Buddhism has the subject of non-self.
Fourth, according to Jung to achieve The Self-realization
one must go through the process of individuation-making the real self,
developing the Self-. In Buddhism it is important to balance the Self and self
and if self develops too much the balance would be broken. According to
Buddhism, to keep the balance safe one must do spiritual practices like
meditation where they reach a calm state of mind. To conclude, even though Jung
and Buddhism has different approaches in self-realization and enlightenment,
the process of individuation and meditation can be seen similar.
and Primordial Mandalas
(the graphic or symbol that represents wholeness) has been a very ancient
creation. In Tibetan culture mandalas represent many of its structures. These
motifs can be a way for both finding one’s inner self and meditation. The word
Mandala is an old Sanskrit term that means “early on”, “circle” and, “center”.
It symbolizes the breast, the womb and the source of a calm life (Davis, 2016).
In the external world we can see Mandalas or the forms of it very frequently.
For example, we face them in architectural designs, in art, in geometry, in
geography, in atomic design, or maybe even in a children’s drawing. These shows
us that Mandalas are universal motifs which where Jung took his interest in.
This part of Jungian theory and Buddhism is examining differently from the part
above, because the structures of his theory are like Buddhism, but Mandala has
a significant and a direct place in Jung’s Theory.
of all, he seen Mandalas as a supporting being to his theory. For example, in his
structure collective unconscious he states that all human beings share an
inherited unconscious that is universal, and because Mandalas do appear in
humans spontaneously it supports the collective unconscious in a practical
to Jung (1974): “It seems to me beyond question that these Eastern symbols
originated in dreams and visions, and were not invented by some Mahayana church
father. On the contrary, they are among the oldest religious symbols of
humanity… and may even have existed in Paleolithic times… The mandalas used in
ceremonial are of great significance because their centers usually contain one
of the highest religious figures: either Shiva himself–often in the embrace of
Shakti–or the Buddha, Amitabha, Avalokiteshvara, or one of the great Mahayana
teachers, or simply the dorje, symbol of all divine forces together, whether
creative or destructive” (pp. 170172).
Jung’s (1963) (as cited in Davis, 2016)
near to the end of first world war Jung felt sad thus, he started to draw
Mandalas and saw that his illustrations was mirroring his inner world. This
really influenced him to use mandala drawings as a therapy technique because he
found a way to conduct psychoanalyses on them, he saw an interpretation of an
evolving self, individuation. Some of these drawings are reachable in Jung’s
Red Book (2009). Jung’s commentaries on this matter follows as:
sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing, a mandala, which
seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time. With the help of these
drawings I could observe my psychic transformations from day to day… My
mandalas were cryptograms…in which I saw the self—that is, my whole
being—actively at work” (1963, p. 195). (as cited in Davis, 2016)
Besides, in the light of his own enlightenment on how
mandalas are related with the unconscious and the wholeness, he generalized his
approach from drawing mandalas for psychoanalyses to drawing any kind but
preferably mythic imagery (Davis, 2016). This was a very important technique to
develop and put some interest in. Because, the therapy techniques that
transform abstract into concrete or just more concrete are very practical
because it is more understandable for us due to, we develop our concrete
thinking early on thus, we are better at it.
Last, Jung payed a great amount of attention to dreams.
He supported and believed in dream analyses. In one of his works that he
explained one of his dreams (Jung,1963) he talked about a character called
Philemon (Davis, 2016) which in his dreams were representing a mentor, guru, or
a more Developed Self-his reflection of someone that is ahead of his individuation
process. As in the Buddhism mythical creatures and dreams also has a special
place which intersect the paths of both approaches. Also, Jung found out that
his patients were seen Mandalas in their dreams even though they have no
information on what they are called or what they were. These factors had many
influences on Jung and Buddhism interaction.
Following the analyzing of Jung and Buddhist psychology
it is indispensable to utter that the relation and similarities are big enough
to ignore or retail them, also to separate them from one another. Throughout
this paper I explained this subject with sections such as chronological order
of the acquaintance with Jung and Buddhism-which people or events influenced
him in what way, praises-how much he cared and give importance to the East,
similarities and the long existing Mandalas and their impacts on Jung’s
approach and his theory-how did Mandalas changed his thinking in psychoanalyses.
It is prognosticated that, to understand Jung’s theory broadly or detailed one
must be aware of the Buddhism’s structures as well as its rules and
regulations. Because as written above continuously the Jung and Buddhism
relation is undeniable.