Carl Jung & Buddhism Part III Buddhism as Psychotherapy
‘In this respect the study of Buddhist literature was of great help to me, since it trains one to observe suffering objectively and to take a universal view of its causes. According to tradition, it was by objectively observing the chain of causes that the Buddha was able to extricate his consciousness from the entanglements of emotions and illusions.’ (CG Jung – On the Discourses of the Buddha)
Carl Jung explored Buddhism purely as an intellectual pursuit and according to statements contained within his collected works, held the achievement of Buddha in high psychological regard. For Jung, the Buddha’s achievement was one of psychological transformation brought about by a sheer act of focused will, rather than the consequence of a religious path that dictated, on a daily basis, every behaviour and thought. Jung perceived the Buddha’s enlightenment as indicative of a breaking out of the psychic prison of historical conditioning, rather than the product of religious teaching which is designed to control, limit, and direct the aspirant in a certain direction. The Buddha, born into a Brahmanic society, and having been trained in the religion of that culture, nevertheless, succeeded in transcending spiritual boundaries of his time through the power of simply ‘looking within’. For Jung the Buddha is an example to follow with regard to psychological work.
Jung accessed his mind in a private capacity whenever the situation allowed for such inner research to be carried out. In public, of course, he accessed everyone else’s mind and this process was regulated by the protocols that defined the client-therapist professional relationship. However, Jung did spend much time looking into his own mind and making very important discoveries as a consequence. This looking did not involve a religious ritual to regulate the body or prepare the mind – as such looking was a product of the will deciding that the time was right to do so, although it must be assumed that there was a preferred time of day, and a specific location for the inner journeying to occur. In essence this preparation has much in common with the practice of meditation, which is after all, regardless of context, a personal journeying into the hidden depths of the mind. The act and perpetuation of meditation as a psychotherapeutic tool need not necessarily be viewed as a distinctly‘religious’ act, even if it occurs within that particular context. The important and central point to remember is that meditation, as with Jung’s secular inner gazing, are designed to achieve exactly the same objective of acquiring insight into the mind and its workings. This is the attainment of self-knowledge for the integration of the fragmented mind into a fully functioning ‘whole’, free from internally produced angst and worry.
When turning the mind’s eye inward, and once that facility is sufficiently strong, observation of the inner terrain of the mind can be accomplished effectively. Jung appeared to possess this ability to look inward quite naturally, although this ability is usually far from natural for most other people, who usually require a trained professional to look into their minds for them, and report back on their findings. The Buddha, like Jung, practiced looking into their own minds first, and it was only after an extensive breakthrough that unlocked important knowledge about the psyche, that both men were able to state that they had found their own unique paths. Although, of course, the Buddha did not live in the time of developed psychology in the West, nevertheless, it is clear from the Buddhist sutras that the paths he experienced as he progressed on his journey of the exploration of his mind, were psychological in nature, as they describe successful spiritual attainment only in terms of the successful acquisition of certain and specific mind states. Having successfully traversed, and realised the highest state in six of these different paths, the Buddha understood that none of these teachings represented the highest psychological state of permanent transformation available to a human being, whose method involved the ‘looking into’ the psychic depths. The Buddha took the decisive decision to sit and analysis his own thoughts and feelings objectively, as they arose. Through this continuous process of introversion, the Buddha was able to realise the impermanent nature of thought and feeling, how habit of thought (and resultant behaviour) arose and was conditioned in the mind, and how the notion of an ‘I’, or ‘Self’, was nothing but the product of a momentary thought construct that repeated itself ad infinitum, thus giving the false impression of permanency. Through the use of a focused awareness that was turned inward, the Buddha was able to clearly perceive how his mind was working, both consciously and unconsciously. In other words, his insight was so exact and pristine in nature, that he could see clearly how the mind was working, and simultaneously not fall into the trap of creating theoretical constructs (which are just more thoughts) about the experience as it unfolded. By understanding and ‘stilling’ the surface content of the conscious mind, the Buddha could see into the unconscious, except, of course, within Buddhist philosophy this might be better described as seeing the world from the all embracing perspective of the unconscious. The Western notion of the unconscious in this regard, corresponds to the Buddhist Mind Ground, or that essential nature that all conscious activity is produced within. Conscious activity itself, represent the surface mind of Buddhism, which is defined as a continuous stream of thoughts and feelings conditioned by greed, hatred, and delusion (as the Buddha perceived), whilst it functions in an undisciplined manner, it serves to obscure any insight into the unconscious reality. What is interesting from a Buddhist psychological perspective, is that during a successful meditative practice, there comes a time when the aspirant experiences a ‘turning about’ in perception. At this point, (which is an important step), the mind stops functioning through a coarse and one-sided, dualistic perspective, and starts to view the world from the Mind Ground position. That is to say, prior to this state, the aspirant viewed the world only from a shallow conscious level, but after the realisation of this state, views the world from the more all inclusive position of the unconscious.
The problem for Jung, as regards Buddhist thinking, is that he did not recognise the Buddhist notion of the Mind Ground until very close to his death when he discovered Charles Luk’s translation of the Buddhist teachings of the famous Chinese Ch’an master Xu Yun (1840-1959). This was long after his pivotal writings on the East, which, of course, do not include this new insight. In his earlier writings on Buddhism, Jung very much takes the view that Buddhists simply empty the mind and enter a type of psychic death by abiding in the opaque unconscious. Jung states;
‘Through dhyana, through the sinking and deepening of contemplation, the unconscious has evidently taken on form. It is as if the light of consciousness had ceased to illuminate the objects of the outer world of the senses and now illuminates the darkness of the unconscious. If the world of the senses and all thought of it are completely extinguished, then the inner world springs into relief more distinctly.’ (CG Jung – The Psychology of Eastern Meditation)
He does not perceive at that time, (primarily between 1920-1940), that developed Buddhist philosophy uses a number of specific Pali and Sanskrit terms to describe the essence of the mind, or that the Yogacara School, with its eight levels of consciousness, posits the theory that the world exists as a psychic construct, and that the notion of a subject-object dichotomy is in reality a misunderstanding of the nature of ‘thought’ produced things. In this respect, developed Buddhist philosophy perceives the world as an outpouring from the deepest levels of unconscious, which is not viewed as inert, or separate from the conscious mind itself. This is an interesting parallel to Jung’s idea that archetypes emerge out of the unconscious and manifest within the conscious mind, thus producing corresponding thought and behaviour patterns in the physical world. Whereas Jung saw the purpose of the life process (i.e. Individuation) to be a progression toward the full integration of the unconscious into the conscious mind, Buddhist philosophy views the developmental process as being one of the removal of the deluded and mistaken idea that the unconscious and conscious mind are separate and divided. Jung moves toward integration, whilst the Buddhist aspirant moves away from separation – this is an opposite but complementary situation where both paths appear to be saying the same thing, but from very different perspectives. Whilst discussing Asian meditation Jung has this to say about these differing perspectives;
‘Here, then, is a great difference between the Eastern and the Western mind. It is the same difference as the one we met before: the difference between the high and the low altar. The West is always seeking uplift, but the East seeks a sinking or deepening. Outer reality, with its bodiliness and weight, appears to make a much stronger and sharper impression on the European than it does on the Indian. Therefore the European seeks to raise himself above this world, while the Indian likes to turn back into the maternal depths of Nature.’ (CG Jung – The Psychology of Eastern Meditation)
Jung views the contents of the conscious mind as being very meaningful in essence, but that most people are unable to perceive this hidden meaning within the content of their own minds. People are thrown about by the contents of their conscious minds and due to the lack of self-understanding, much suffering is experienced. Jung resolved polar opposites into an integrated ‘whole’ through developing insight into the actual meaning of conscious content as opposed simply to being the passive victim of its manifestation. When the conscious content is clearly explained to a psychotherapy client, immediately an inner tension is relieved as a consequence. Ultimately, Jung’s method seeks to reconcile all polar opposites into conscious awareness. This is achieved by explaining the symbolic, archetypal meaning of each and every conscious manifestation. In the end, there is nothing left unexplained and the conscious and unconscious merge into one psyche entity. The Buddha, on the other hand, does not explain each and every single conscious manifestation. His explanation for the content of the conscious mind is that its meaning is irrelevant and does not have to be understood. This is because the Buddha views all conscious activity as being fundamentally deluded in the unenlightened state and inspired by greed, hatred, and delusion. He replaces the need to explain conscious content with a sweeping meta-narrative that states that it is what lies behind the conscious mind, and its direct realisation, that matters, and not the attempting to understand that which he has already stated to be worthless of understanding. Trying to understand delusive thought (i.e. conscious content) only adds to the delusive cycle of thought and does nothing to change it. The effort required to seek this understanding the Buddha teaches, only adds energy to the strength of the delusion already in the mind. Jung recognises this Buddhist approach when he writes about the possible effect it might have upon the mind of the European;
‘Here the Eastern text skips over a psychic phenomenon that is a source of endless difficulties for the European. If a European tries to banish all thoughts of the outer world and to empty his mind of everything outside, he immediately becomes the prey of his own subjective fantasies, which have nothing whatever to do with the images mentioned in our text. Fantasies do not enjoy a good reputation; they are considered cheap and worthless and are therefore rejected as useless and meaningless. They are the kleshas, the disorderly and chaotic instinctional forces which yoga proposes to yoke.’ (CG Jung – The Psychology of Eastern Meditation)
The Buddhist teaching, of course, views all conscious content as delusionary without exception – including fantasies. From the Buddhist perspective, it is obvious that if fantasies still remain in the mind, then it is the case that the mind has not been entirely emptied of its content, and is still operating under delusive tendencies. It is curious that Jung appears to miss this basic point of Buddhist psychology. All human minds suffer from fantasies, and not just the European version of it. Until delusive tendency has been completely uprooted, the human mind is deluded. Once enlightenment has been attained, then the thoughts that arise are considered entirely free of delusion and the product of rarefied wisdom. Klesha, as Jung uses the term, is aimed only at fantasies in his analysis, but yet in reality the Buddha used the term to describe the affliction of passion in the mind, be it worry, anxiety, desire and fear, etc, and whatever causes. The Buddha also used this term to describe the deluded mind’s habit of attachment to is own power of acting and formulating. This covers consciousness in its full functioning aspect – which also includes the capacity to fantasise. The Harvard trained Psychiatrist Mark Epstein comments on this apparent difference between the mind of the East and West when he says;
‘The different starting points in the two cultures are responsible I believe, for the different ways that Easterners and Westerners experience meditation. In my experience, it is not true, as Carl Jung believed, that the practices of Buddhism are so foreign as to be unintelligible to the Western mind, but it is true that meditation will bring up different experiences, depending on whether the starting point is an estranged one or an enmeshed one. For those, primarily Westerners, who begin with a history of estrangement, meditation will inevitably yield memories of early unmet longings that survive in the form of the basic fault. From those, primarily from cultures outside of the current Western mode, who begin with a history of enmeshment, meditation is much more likely to bring memories of primitive longings for escape, which will be accompanied by all of the guilt and shame over violating family expectations that Westerners now reserve for issues like excessive dependency. The terror that is emphasised in the traditional psychologies is at least in part a terror of breaking out of or loss of the web of enmeshment, of turning one’s back on the obligations of family that so define the non-Western self.’ (Mark Epstein – Thoughts Without a Thinker)
The Buddha’s developmental philosophy calls for an uncompromising detachment not just to the norms of society and everything that entails, but goes much further than this by advocating of the non-identification with thought itself. Therefore the cultivation and practice of non-attachment is not merely the avoiding of attachment to physical objects and their manipulation, but involves non-attachment to the thoughts regarding those objects themselves. Non-identification with thought is a remarkable achievement of Buddhist teaching, as it serves as the premise for all inner development. Whereas the work of Jung strives to clearly see and understand the symbolic meaning of each thought, the Buddha chooses to strip the mind itself of the habit of attachment to the thoughts it creates – hence non-identification with the thought. This radical departure removes the innate dependency within the mind to assume that awareness of consciousness lies only in thinking, but rather reveals that there is another structure embedded in the psyche that has the function of observing thoughts as they traverse the surface mind, implying that the Mind Ground – as representative of the unconscious – rather than being inert, dark, or otherwise negatively related to the conscious mind, is in fact able to sense all the functionings of the mind as they emerge out of its depths. The Buddha believes that the ordinary mind is inversely orientated, and that viewing the world through the surface consciousness is in reality living a one-sided and hopelessly deluded existence. By turning the psychic orientation the right way, the human mind begins to function optimally and in the right order – it is the Mind Ground that perceives all things into itself so that no dualistic tendency is left to cause alienation and suffering.
Sigmund Freud – Jung’s early mentor – perceived Western psychotherapy as primarily being a means of returning a so-called dysfunctioning mind to a socially accepted state of ‘normality’. This is to say that that an individual whose mind is manifesting dysfunctional conscious patterns and corresponding abhorrent physical behaviour, receives treatment to alter the mind patterns and therefore change the expressed behaviours. The extent of this dysfunctionality can vary greatly, from a mild worry or paranoia about life events, to full blown psychotic episodes that subsume the ordinary character of the individual. The Buddha might have explained this process of ridding the mind of gross klesha, and returning it to a level of ‘normal’ klesha, through discussion and physical treatment within a medical environment. Indeed, it was exactly this type of environment that Jung began his career. The question about psychotherapy (as it was perceived in its early days) that is relevant from a Buddhist perspective is this: is shifting the intensity of delusion (i.e. klesha) from a higher frequency to a lower frequency in the mind, actually benefitting the individual? This is important because the Buddha taught that even when humanity believes that it is ‘happy’ in the unenlightened state, it is actually still suffering in a very subtle but substantial manner. Simply being ‘normal’, a notion that is after all socially defined is not the enlightenment of the Buddha. Conforming to cultural norms is actually a Buddhist definition of abiding in ordinary delusion conditioned by greed, hatred, and delusion. This is why the Buddha’s philosophy of the mind goes much further than the mere tentative re-establishment of what might be described as a ‘balanced’ mind. Jung’s theory of analytical psychology allows for the treatment of clients and patients so that any excessive mind problems can be ironed out and the subject returned to a more stable state of mind, but it also goes much further than this as a distinct school of thought. Jung’s notion of enlightenment he termed the process of ‘Individuation’ which he succinctly describes in the following manner;
‘The aim of individuation is nothing less than to divest the self of the false wrappings of the persona on the one hand, and the suggestive power of primordial images on the other… But when we turn to the other side, namely to the influence of the collective unconscious, we find we are moving in a dark interior world that is vastly more difficult to understand than the psychology of the persona, which is accessible to everyone… Through the persona a man tries to appear as this or that, or he hides behind a mask, or he may even build up a definite persona as a barricade.’ (CG Jung – The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious)
Where Buddhism and Jungian psychotherapy share common ground is that they are both mind-dependent paths that purport to free the individual who follows them correctly and conclusively. In this respect Buddhism is not a ‘religion’ in the Western sense of the term, but a method that involves the complete and total transformation of the human psyche. It can not exactly be limited to the descriptive term ‘psychotherapy’, but it is important to observe that as a school of transcendent development, it has much in common with psychotherapeutic theories such as Jung, and can be profitably utilised in a similar manner. Jung developed his theory of the operating of the mind far beyond the boundaries of Sigmund Freud’s method. Jung’s thinking appears to present a spiritual path in secular terms that is non-reliant upon divine intervention, but one which at the same time does not reject the notion of the ‘divine’whilst traversing the journey of transpersonal development. The divine is definitely present in Jung’s work, but only as an aspect of the psyche itself – the divine is not granted by Jung a theologically privileged position (that sits outside the mind), but is always presented strictly as a manifestation of the mind. The Buddha also recognised the existence of the Brahmanic gods, but stripped them of their theological power entirely, declaring that these gods do not have the ability to save even themselves, and that as a consequence, human beings most independently strive to free their own minds from domination of delusion by using meditation as a training method. Both Jung and the Buddha acknowledged that humanity must strive through the use of the mind, to free the mind from the influence of lesser and potentially more dangerous psychic states. The parallels are unmistakable; the Buddha advises non-identification with all thought, whilst Jung advocates the non-identification with states of mind (i.e. clusters of thoughts) such as the persona and primordial images, etc. It is clear that Buddhism can be regarded as ‘psychology’ when an appropriate translation and transliteration of its distinct terms is created that simultaneously avoids the trap of theology, and emphasises the philosophical explanation of the mind. The translators of Buddhist texts - Herbert G Guenther and Leslie S Kawamura – explain this approach;
‘The title of this book poses two related questions: Is it justifiable to speak of Buddhist psychology? And, if so, what is the nature of mind in such a framework? The first question can be answered easily in the affirmative since, in many respects Buddhist ideas are close to contemporary currents in Western psychology which have moved far away from earlier postulational suppositions. Secondly, throughout its history, Buddhism has emphasised experiential knowledge rather than dogmas as the starting point of man’s growth and has been less concerned with systems of concepts and sets of postulates which remain hypotheses to be tested.’ (Herbert G Guenther & Leslie S Kawamura – Mind in Buddhist Psychology)
In early Buddhism, the emphasis is upon building concentration through the focusing of the mind upon the breath. This focusing is very important as it lays the foundation for the strength of awareness that must be used later in the meditative practice. In later Buddhism, the Chinese Ch’an School, which assumes an origin in India, still makes use of following the breath, but also utilises the ‘hua tou’ technique for advanced practice. The hua tou is invariably an enquiring question such as ‘who is hearing? Who is dragging this body about? Who is hungry? Who is meditating? Who is looking? And so on. The question can be anything that is relevant to the practitioner. The most important point is the ‘who?’ aspect that seeks to gather all other thoughts and feelings into itself. This is an important psychotherapeutic technique that individual Buddhists use to develop insight into their minds, and to eventually attain enlightenment. By gathering all thoughts and feelings into the ‘who?’, the mind undergoes a substantial shift in orientation and perspective. This all inclusive ‘who?’ allows the mind to be ‘stilled’, and through this stillness the practitioner can perceive the emergence of the ‘who?’ from the psychic substance itself. Once the origin of a single thought is discovered, the origin of all thought and feelings is realised. This leads to the understanding that all thoughts emerge out of an empty psychic essence, or Mind Ground. Discovering the Mind Ground or unconscious then initiates a further journey of emersion into this apparent emptiness. At this point all kinds of thoughts and feelings emerge from the emptiness – as Carl Jung correctly observed in his model of the unconscious. However, as the essence of mental activity is now understood as empty in essence, this‘emerging’, regardless of its content or symbolic meaning, is known to be insubstantial and of no importance. In other words, regardless of the content of the mind, its meaning, or its conditioned origin, the Buddhist meditator is instantly freed from its influence by the realisation of the empty mind. The Buddhist method of meditation allows an individual aspirant to by-pass the complexity of the myriad thoughts and feelings that traverse the mind and immediately aim at the cultivation of a direct perception of the workings and essence of the mind itself. In other words, Buddhist psychotherapy renders all problems as irrelevant by focusing upon the understanding of the vessel, rather than its contents. This focusing diverts energy away from the content of the mind, and over time allows these manifestations to burn-out. Even if certain disruptive psychic content – what Jung might call neurosis or psychosis – continue to function for a time, the meditator’s strength of concentration and focus upon the empty essence of the mind prevents this content from influencing the mind and emerging as behaviour. By withdrawing this vital attention, the disruptive content is fenced-off and over-time experiences what might be called a psychic death, as its structure dissolves back into the empty essence from which it first emerged. In this model it is true that the Buddhist model does not afford the content of the mind any respect whatsoever. This may be compared with the Western tradition of psychotherapy, which posits the study of the content (and its understanding) as central to its entire theory. It does not seem to have occurred to the great innovators of this tradition that it is possible to understand the mechanism of the mind directly, rather than just observing its emerging content. Buddhist psychotherapy studies the mind as a vessel, which is a carrier of thoughts, whilst the Western psychotherapy tradition studies only the content of that vessel, which is, of course, the study of the thoughts themselves.
For the Buddha, it is the entire thinking process that is the cause of human suffering. Unlike Jung, he does not distinguish between one particular thought and another, deciding which is beneficial and which is abhorrent. The thought process itself, as long as it occurs within a mind structure that is not understood, is proclaimed by the Buddha to be essentially deluded. The ignorance of the mind structure is defined as being the product of greed, hatred, and delusion. There is uncontrolled‘wanting’, uncontrolled ‘aversion’, and uncontrolled ‘ignorance’, but these three negative entities are not separate, even though the Buddha distinguishes them as if they were separate, for the sake of clarity. It is also the case that greed, hatred, and delusion are not separate from the individual thoughts as they arise in an unending stream within the mind. The origin of the thought, as it emerges from psychic fabric, is already the product of greed, hatred, and delusion, which can not be separated from it. Delusion and thought are one and the same, for the Buddha. He uses his precise insight into the working of the mind, to make minute observations and subtle distinctions, so that these ‘enlightened’ instructions can be used by the aspirant as a guide to understanding their own mind. The Buddha carefully and accurately presents the function of the mind as it would appear to the aspirant, and in so doing creates what might be called a cognitive map of consciousness. His developed insight – much like that of a good and experienced psychotherapist – separates the fabric of thought into its constituent parts. This is to say that so powerful is the Buddha’s insight, that simply reading his comments is enough to empower the individual on the journey into the interior of the mind. Simply preferring one set of thought constructs over another set of thought constructs, is irrelevant to the point that the Buddha is making. Within Buddhist philosophy this kind of choice is considered fallacious, as it is in reality merely choosing one delusion over another. This type of choice changes nothing for the better within the Buddhist method. The Buddha takes an opposite view to Jung, but one which might well be considered complementary. The nature of thought itself can only be truly understood, so teaches the Buddha, once its structure has been fully transcended, and the essence fully realised. Realising the essence of all thought, is of course, transcending the thought process as it presents itself to the mind’s eye. The mind’s eye, in this context, is the perspective of the Mind Ground as yet unrealised, and not yet free from delusion.
The Buddha, through his philosophy, is taking the aspirant on the journey that he himself experienced. The mind’s eye is actually the aspect of the mind that must be subjectively realised so that perception becomes all embracing. It is the way through to enlightenment that is so obvious that it is usually over-looked. In the delusive state, ‘that which sees thought’ is not realised as being such, as thoughts are perceived as if they were observing their own manifestation. In reality thought are psychic constructs that emerge out of the empty unconscious and pass before the mind’s eye before dissolving in a continuous process that gives the false impression that all thought occurs in one solid stream of outpouring. In reality individual thoughts are continuously arising and passing away within the empty psychic fabric of the unconscious, but the unenlightened aspirant is not yet able to perceive this process accurately or clearly. This inability to see clearly is the essence of delusion in the human mind that is based upon the separation of vision into the dualism of ‘subject-object’. In this state, thoughts are perceived ‘as if from a distance’, but the perceiving mechanism is as yet unrealised. Thoughts are seen, but that which ‘sees’ them is not known. Assessing each individual thought, as if it merely represented its outer form, does not change this fundamental premise. This is to say that the multifaceted meaning of various thoughts is not the issue for the Buddha, as he stresses only the realisation of the origination of thought itself. In this model the meaning of a thought, or a collection of thoughts, is irrelevant because such knowledge does not reveal the origin of the thought, but only explains its surface meaning. The realisation of the origination of thought is exactly the same realising that which perceives thought, and when this occurs, the apparent separation between perceived thought, and that which perceives the thought, falls away as if it never existed. Successfully ‘looking within’ and adhering to correct instruction – is the method of what might be described as Buddhist psychotherapy. The Buddha’s meta-narrative teaches that all thought is delusionary, and removes the necessity to assess each individual thought, as such a process of analysis only adds to the delusion and does not solve it. It is clear from this that the Buddha did assess thought, but he assessed it as a single, troublesome psychic construct, and the consequence of this assessment led him to declare that the motive behind all thought, regardless of its subject matter, was always the same – greed, hatred, and delusion. This insight sets the Buddha apart from many modern Western theorists of the mind, who have tended to work from the premise that each separate thought is unique and worthy of study in its own right. Jung certainly recognises this very different approach that he saw emanating from within Buddhist teaching, and how it could be useful to the Western mind;
‘If a Christian insists so much on his faith when it does not even help him ward off a neurosis, then his faith is in vain, and it is better to accept humbly what he needs no matter where he finds it, if only it helps. There is no need for him to deny his religious convictions if he acknowledges his debt to Buddhism…
To this good which must be held fast one must reckon the discourse of the Buddha, which have much to offer even to those who cannot boast of any Christian convictions. They offer Western man ways and means of disciplining his inner psychic life, thus remedying an often regrettable defect in the various brands of Christianity. The teachings of the Buddha can give him a helpful training when either the Christian ritual has lost its meaning or the authority of religious ideas has collapsed, as all too frequently happens in psychogenic disorders.’ (CG Jung – On the Discourses of the Buddha) 
A major difference between Buddhist psychotherapy and its Western counterpart is that the Buddha advocated the following of vows, (similar to those found in Christian monasticism), even for the laity. This is because the Buddha viewed all human behaviour as originating within the mind, and inherently linked to motivating (i.e. ‘volitional’) human thought. This is the basis of the Buddhist theory of karma, which states that it is only the actions born of volitional thought that produces consequences in the mind, body, and existential environment. These consequences, of course, form the foundation of habit, and the continuous repetition of cycles of deluded thought and behaviour. This Buddhist theory of karma is distinguishable from the Brahmanic theory which teaches that all experience essentially originates from a divine origin (i.e. the god Brahma, and other theological entities), and which subjects an individual to a lifetime of deterministic experiences that can not be escaped. This culminates in physical death at the end of a lifetime, and is followed by a rebirth into new set of deterministic circumstances. The individual can cultivate good actions, but the reward for these actions is only recoverable in a future existence and never in the present lifetime. Whether karma is improved or not in the Brahmanic concept, the individual can never escape from it, or the cycle of Brahmanic existence. A meditator may well achieve a state of samadhi (i.e. abide in the empty unconscious from which all things emerge), and perceive this as being ‘one’ with the Brahmanic divine entity, but the Buddha’s achievement, on the other hand, departs radically from this position. The Buddha’s understanding of the working of his own mind, (i.e. his enlightenment), allowed him to see that the notion of the Brahmanic system was actually only ideas appearing within the psychic fabric of the consciousness. These ideas of divinity, regardless of their associative meaning and emotional content, arose out of the fabric of the mind, and where indistinguishable from any other thought construct. As such they were not different in any way from other deluded thoughts, and did not represent the perception of another higher reality, existing outside of the mind that perceives them. In this way, the Buddha’s enlightenment freed him instantly from the reliance upon a theology that masqueraded as an objective set of physical circumstances that held humanity eternally captive in its grasp.
The Buddha saw that as thoughts arose and passed away in the mind every single moment, so did the manifestation of karmic behaviour – it was momentary and modifiable, rather than long term and deterministic. Human beings are trapped in a state of delusion, not by divine forces existing external to their mind, but rather is due to the direct consequence of the perpetuation of cycles of deluded thought originating within the mind. As behaviour is a physical manifestation of the mind itself, the mind must be purified of its ignorant state of ‘unknowing’ its own essence, so that behaviour in the outer world conforms to awareness in the inner world. Until the time that the inner and outer worlds are purified, the Buddha advised that behaviour on the physical plane should be highly regulated, and this requirement forms the basis of Buddhist monastic discipline, a discipline that might well have influenced the early Christian movement in Egypt and the Middle East. The sincere taking of vows to regulate bodily conduct is a physical ritual designed to allow the aspirant to access deeper levels of conscious awareness. Through this ritual, the mind is strengthened against its own habits of delusion. The aspirant is able, through the ritual of vow taking, to divert valuable conscious energy away from the body and its activities, and divert it instead toward the psychic core of the mind. When viewed in this manner, and regardless of its superficial similarities to religious discipline, Buddhist vow taking, is in fact, an exercise in directing the mind toward its own inner essence. More than this, however, the vows themselves were not arbitrary or ad hoc. The Buddha, through the vows, looked to establish behaviour on the outer plane that was in accordance with, and reflected the true psychic essence of the Mind Ground, or realised unconscious state. By deliberately altering the outer manifestation of behaviour, the realisation of the inner essence is drawn nearer to the aspirant.
Buddhist meditation, whether it be the concentration on the breath, a bodily activity, or a word or phrase, is designed to reveal to the aspirant the essence of perception. As perception is thought, and given that all thought emerges from the psychic fabric, then all experiences are the product of being consciously aware of the origin of all movement in the mind. As this originating point is ‘still’ (i.e. existing in the state of pre-emergence), the realisation of this state becomes a true sign of meditative success. To this end, focusing on the breath is just the beginning of deepening awareness. Simply bearing in mind the breath as it enters and leaves the body is not good enough, and does not lead to advancement. The origin of the perception of breath must be fully realised if high states of consciousness are to be realised. The Chinese ‘gong an’, or‘public case’ is an interesting example of using the hearing capacity to penetrate into the essence of the perception of hearing. A gong an is a recorded exchange between an enlightened master and his student. In psychotherapeutic terms, the realised unconscious (enlightened master) calls directly to the estranged consciousness (the unenlightened student), and in so doing instantly facilitates the coming together of the two aspects of the psyche. In this moment, the student perceives the origin of hearing – which as a thought is exactly the same as the origin of all thoughts – and immediately all dualism is swept aside and the unconscious and conscious are revealed in their true state of integration. It is only in the unenlightened state that the unconscious and the conscious aspects of mind appear to be two separate entities. Jung appears to see the need for this Buddhist process clearly when he states;
‘The power of science and technics in Europe is so enormous and indisputable that there is little point in reckoning up all that can be done… Quite another question begins to loom up: Who is applying this technical skill?
Western man has no need of more superiority over nature: whether outside or inside… Since Western man can turn everything into a technique, it is true in principle that everything that looks like a method is either dangerous or condemned to futility. In so far that yoga is a form of hygiene, it is as useful to him as any other system. In the deepest sense, however, yoga does not mean this but, if I understand it correctly, a great deal more, namely the final release and detachment of consciousness from all bondage to object and subject. But since one cannot detach oneself from something of which one is unconscious, the European must first learn to know his subject. This, in the West, is what one calls the unconscious Yoga technique applies itself exclusively to the conscious mind and will. Such an undertaking promises success only when the unconscious has no potential worth mentioning, that is to say, when it does not contain large portions of the personality. If it does, then all conscious effort remains futile, and what comes out of this cramped condition of mind is a caricature or even the exact opposite of the intended result.’ (CG Jung – Yoga and the West) 
Carl Jung, through his writing, leads the reader on the path of self-discovery. Of course, it is the personal path that Jung is following, but in making this highly private matter public, Jung is applying his favoured technique associated with the individuation process which he believed required a continuous and honest ‘confession’ of psychic content. Like those who benefit many centuries after a Ch’an master utters his enlightened verse, so it is for those reading the work of Carl Jung who often experience a similar affect within their mind. From a purely psychological perspective, this can be viewed as the initiation of mental growth through association with some one who is already well advance upon the path to inner and outer balance. It is interesting to observe that the Buddha strives to realise the mind as a mechanism that produces and holds thought, whereas Jung, whilst striving to understand the mind, takes it as his task to explain the thoughts themselves. Many Westerners have used the Buddhist method to penetrate through the haze of endless and confusing thought, whilst simultaneously applying Jung’s technique of understanding the very thoughts and their processes that are being transcended. The dual application of the Buddha’s ignoring of thought, and Jung’s seeing through thought, has enabled many people to free their minds from the destructive habits of thought, thus realising the Mind Ground of the Buddha, and at the same time developing the personality as it manifests in the world through the Jungian process of Individuation. In this respect Buddhism and Jungian psychotherapy are complementary and very useful for social and spiritual growth. Jung explains, using Buddhist concepts, a crucial part of his developed understanding when he discusses the feeling of continuous existence and its relation to karma;
‘I know no answer to the question of whether the karma which I live is the outcome of my past lives, or whether it is not rather the achievement of my ancestors, lives whose heritage comes together in me. Am I a combination of the lives of these ancestors and do I embody these lives again? Have I lived before in the past as a specific personality, and did I progress so far in that life that I am now able to seek a solution. I do not know…
My life often seemed to me like a story that has no beginning and no end. I had the feeling that I was an historical fragment, an excerpt for which the preceding and succeeding text was missing. I could imagine that I might have lived in former centuries and there encountered questions I was not yet able to answer; that I had been born again because I had not fulfilled the task given to me.’ (CG Jung –Memories, Dreams, Reflections.) 
Frank McLynn – in his biography of Carl Jung, explains why Jung found Buddhism so interesting;
‘The superiority of Buddhism to other religions seemed to be summed up for Jung in one simple incident when two peasants in their carts met in a narrow street and could not pass one another. Whereas in Switzerland this would have led to a flood of vituperation, the two peasants simply bowed politely to each other and said, “Passing disturbances, no soul,” – meaning that these events were taking place in the ephemeral world of maya or illusion and not in true reality. Similarly, on another occasion he saw two boys fighting with their fists, but the fists always stopped in the air, inches away from the face.
Jung thought that what was most valuable about the East was contained in Buddhism… It was not surprising that Jung was drawn to Buddhism. He preferred Buddha’s mode of overcoming the world, by reason, to that of Christ, by sacrifice… Another attractive feature of Buddhism for Jung was that, unlike Christianity, it had a genuine feeling for animals: unlike Christianity, too, it did not seek to deny the animal in humans and thus engender repression.’ 
Jung remained philosophically convinced that the psychic and physical worlds were inherently connected, and that essentially psychic phenomena could manifest in the world itself. This is because Jung perceived the world as originating within the mind, and in so doing shares a philosophical premise with Buddhism;
‘It is almost an absurd prejudice to suppose the existence can only be physical. As a matter of fact, the only form of existence of which we have immediate knowledge is psychic (i.e. in the mind). We might as well say on the contrary, that physical existence is a mere inference, since we know of matter only in so far as we perceive psychic images mediated by the senses.’ (CG Jung) 
Early Buddhism appears to be stating that an aspirant achieves a mind free of greed, hatred, and delusion, and in so doing is no longer attached to the physical world, as if the enlightened state is one of an inherently ‘empty’ mind balanced with the presence of an external, physical world. The Buddha refused to speculate as to the origination and nature of the physical world, but through his teachings advocated the development (through meditation) of the ‘unconditioned’ state of nirvana. Nirvana literally translates as the ‘extinguishing of the flame of desire’, as is used in Pali and Sanskrit to describe Buddhist enlightenment. The Buddha taught that it is unconditioned in essence and that the aspirant must move toward this state, through removing all other psychic states that are premised upon dualistic thought, and that obscure the true peaceful essence of the mind. Once these dualistic habits of thought, premised upon greed, hatred, and delusion, are dissolved in the psychic fabric, the passionless state of nirvana is made evident. However, this state does not come or go, and can not be readily defined by the rational mind, which is merely a function of it. The interesting point is that nirvana is not a lack of thought – as the enlightened being still ‘thinks’throughout the day – but that thoughts in the enlightened state are pristine, forthright, to the point, relevant, knowledgeable, and wise, as well as being compassionate and motivated by loving kindness. Each thought is seen clearly as a momentary manifestation in the mind that has a conditioned beginning, manifestation, and definite end. The empty essence of the mind (from which all thoughts arise, and dissolve back in to), is the realised essence of nirvanic state that contains all things – as Jung says above. For the enlightened Buddhist, thoughts have been purified of delusive taints, (thus dispelling suffering for the aspirant), and perception now occurs from the Mind Ground, or the realised empty fabric of the psychic. However, this is not a one-sided emptiness, as if the aspirant were facing a blank wall, but rather an all embracing, three dimensional emptiness that includes all things (or perception of things). In developed Buddhism, this sense of complete, three dimensional emptiness, (premised upon a definite meditational achievement), is taken to mean that the fundamental state of all things is ‘empty’ of any inherent, substantial, and one-sided reality. As a consequence, the enlightened Buddhist perceives the world in the mind, with the caveat that the mind is no longer limited to being located only within their own head or brain. In this model of realisation of the essence of the unconscious, the individual mind takes on a universal characteristic. All things, including thoughts, emotions, and sensations, arise and pass away within a great luminous void. This sense of unbounded space contains all things at all times, but as all thought and everything premised upon it is free of a separate and one-sided substantiality, the aspirant is unable to be overwhelmed, as he has effectively become the fabric of the physical universe, realised through the perception of the fabric of his own psyche. This realisation, of course, implies that the separation between mind and matter is an illusion perpetuated through human ignorance in the unenlightened state. Enlightenment is the letting go of delusion -Carl Jung states;
‘We delude ourselves with the thought that we know much more about matter than about a “metaphysical” mind or spirit and so we overestimate the material causation and believe that it alone affords us a true explanation of life. But matter is just as inscrutable as mind. As to the ultimate things we can know nothing, and only when we admit this do we return to a state of equilibrium.’ (CG Jung)
The enlightened state is so rarefied that words used to describe it, start to fall short of any real meaningful discourse upon it. Language has been conditioned to reflect the undeveloped, or unenlightened human mind, and as such has great difficulty in presenting a state of being that it was not designed to reflect. Buddhism ultimately philosophically rejects the ‘subject-object’ dichotomy as not being representative of the true state of being. Within the mind, and during successful meditation training, all thoughts cease and the state of emptiness is realised, usually in ever deepening and profound stages, but some times also direct and complete. Thoughts eventually re-emerge in a thoroughly new and pristine manifestation that has nothing in common with the previous unenlightened state of thought production. Nothing is substantially and independently real, neither is its existence negated into a one-sided void, and yet emptiness and substantiality manifest perfectly blended together and there is no contradiction or separation in this state. The Buddhist sutras talk of the integration of the form and the void -that is the integration of apparent physical objects with the empty psychic fabric of the unconscious. Jung often spoke of such a connection as if existence is unified energy, with consciousness representing a subtle aspect of this energy, and physical matter representing a gross aspect of this energy. Existence is merely a scale of energy that can be accessed through the capacity of the focused human mind – in this respect, and many others, both Buddhist and Jungian philosophies are in complete accord.
Carl Jung’s Collected Works Cited – Routledge (UK) Series:
Volume 10 – Civilisation in Transition: Published England 1964. Volume 11 – Psychology of Religion - West and East: Published England 1958. Volume 13 – Alchemical Studies: Published England 1968. Volume 18 – The Symbolic Life- Miscellaneous Writings: Published England 1976.
Note: For volumes 10, 11, 13 and 18 of Jung’s collected works; I have accessed the 1986 Routledge Classic edition entitled ‘Psychology and the East’ which contains the following texts;
Commentary on The Secret of the Golden Flower Psychological Commentary on The Tibetan Book of the Dead Yoga and the West The Dreamlike World of India What India Can Teach Us Psychological Commentary on The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation Foreword to Suzuki’s Introduction to Zen Buddhism The Psychology of Eastern Meditation The Holy Men of India Foreword to Abegg, Ostosien denkt anders Foreword to the I Ching On the Discourses of the Buddha
Other Works Cited:
Epstein, Mark – Thoughts Without a Thinker, Duckworth, 1996. Guenther, HV & Kawamura, LS – Mind in Buddhist Psychology, Dharma Publishing, 1975. Jung, CG – Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Fontana Press, 1993. Laszlo De, Staub, Violet –The Basic Writings of CG Jung, The Modern Library Edition, 1993. McLynn, Frank – A Biography –Carl Gustav Jung, Bantam Press, 1998. Radin, Dean – The Conscious Universe – The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena, Harper Edge, 1997.
 Psychology of the East: By CG Jung – On the Discourses of the Buddha – Page 237.  Psychology of the East: By CG Jung – The Psychology of Eastern Meditation – Pages 192-193.  Psychology of the East: By CG Jung – The Psychology of Eastern Meditation – Page 192.  Psychology of the East: By CG Jung – The Psychology of Eastern Meditation – Page 193)  Thoughts Without a Thinker– Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective: By Mark Epstein – Page178.  The Basic Writings of CG Jung: Edited by Violet Staub De Laszlo – Page 183.  Mind in Buddhist Psychology: Trans By Herbert G Guenther & Leslie S Kawamura – Page xv.  Psychology of the East: By CG Jung – On the Discourses of the Buddha – Page 239.  Psychology of the East: By CG Jung – Yoga and the West – Pages 87-88.  Memories, Dreams, Reflections: By CG Jung – Page 349.  Carl Gustav Jung – A Biography: By Frank McLynn – Pages 402-403.  The Conscious Universe: By Dean Radin – Page 290.  The Conscious Universe: By Dean Radin – Page 173.
'Licchavi Vimalakirti came to the foot of that tree and said to me, ’Reverend Sariputra, this is not the way to absorb yourself in contemplation. You should absorb yourself in contemplation so that neither body nor mind appear anywhere in the triple world. You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you can manifest all ordinary behavior without forsaking cessation. You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you can manifest the nature of an ordinary person without abandoning your cultivated spiritual nature.' Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra