My journey to India, in 1938, was not taken on my own initiative.
It arose out of an invitation from the British Government of India to take part in the celebrations connected with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the University of Calcutta.
By that time I had read a great deal about Indian philosophy and religious history, and was deeply convinced of the value on Oriental wisdom.
But I had to travel in order to form my own conclusions, and remained within myself like a homunculus in the retort.
India affected me like a dream, for I was and remained in search of myself, of the truth peculiar to myself.
The journey formed an intermezzo in the intensive study of alchemical philosophy on which I was engaged at the time.
This had so strong a grip upon me that I took along the first volume of the Theatrum Chemicum of 1602, which contains the principal writings of Gerardus Dorneus.
In the course of the voyage I studied the book from beginning to end.
Thus it was that this material belonging to the fundamental strata of European thought was constantly counterpointed by my impressions of a
foreign mentality and culture.
Both had emerged from original psychic experiences of the unconscious, and therefore had produced the same, similar, or at least comparable insights.
India gave me my first direct experience of an alien, highly differentiated culture.
Altogether different elements had ruled my Central African journey; culture had not predominated.
As for North Africa, I had never had the opportunity there to talk with a person capable of putting his culture into words.
In India, however, I had the chance to speak with representatives of the Indian mentality, and to compare it with the European.
I had searching talks with S. Subramanya Iyer, the guru of the Maharajah of Mysore, whose guest I was for some time; also with many others, whose names unfortunately have escaped me.
On the other hand, I studiously avoided all so-called “holy men.”
I did so because I had to make do with my own truth, not accept from others what I could not attain on my own.
I would have felt it as a theft had I attempted to learn from the holy men and to accept their truth for myself.
Neither in Europe can I make any borrowings from the East, but must shape my life out of myself out of what my inner being tells me, or what nature brings to me.
In India I was principally concerned with the question of the psychological nature of evil.
I had been very much impressed by the way this problem is integrated in Indian spiritual life, and I saw it in a new light.
In a conversation with a cultivated Chinese I was also impressed, again and again, by the fact that these people are able to integrate so-called “evil” without ‘losing face.”
In the West we cannot do this.
For the Oriental the problem of morality does not appear to take first place, as it does for us.
To the Oriental, good and evil are meaningfully contained in nature, and are merely varying degrees of the same thing.
I saw that Indian spirituality contains as much of evil as of good.
The Christian strives for good and succumbs to evil; the Indian feels himself to be outside good and evil, and seeks to realize this state by meditation or yoga.
My objection is that, given such an attitude, neither good nor evil takes on any real outline, and this produces a certain stasis.
One does not really believe in evil, and one does not really believe in good.
Good or evil are then regarded at most as my good or my evil, as whatever seems to me good or evil which leaves us with the paradoxical
statement that Indian spirituality lacks both evil and good, or is so burdened by contradictions that it needs nirdvandva, the liberation from opposites and from the ten thousand things.
The Indian’s goal is not moral perfection, but the condition of nirdvandva.
He wishes to free himself from nature; in keeping with this aim, he seeks in meditation the condition of imagelessness and emptiness.
I, on the other hand, wish to persist in the state of lively contemplation of nature and of the psychic images.
I want to be freed neither from human beings, nor from myself, nor from nature; for all these appear to me the greatest of miracles.
Nature, the psyche, and life appear to me like divinity unfolded and what more could I wish for?
To me the supreme meaning of Being can consist only in the fact that it is, not that it is not or is no longer.
To me there is no liberation a tout prix.
I cannot be liberated from anything that I do not possess, have not done or experienced.
Real liberation becomes possible for me only when I have done all that I was able to do, when I have completely devoted myself to a thing and participated in it to the utmost.
If I withdraw from participation, I am virtually amputating the corresponding part of my psyche.
Naturally, there may be good reasons for my not immersing myself in a given experience.
But then I am forced to confess my inability, and must know that I may have neglected to do something of vital importance.
In this way I make amends for the lack of a positive act by the clear knowledge of my incompetence.
A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them.
They then dwell in the house next door, and at any moment a flame may dart out and set fire to his own house.
Whenever we give up, leave behind, and forget too much, there is always the danger that the things we have neglected will return with added force.
In Konarak (Orissa) I met a pandit who obligingly offered to come with me on my visit to the temple and the great temple.
The pagoda is covered from base to pinnacle with exquisitely obscene sculptures.
We talked for a long time about this extraordinary fact, which he explained to me as a means to achieve spiritualization.
I objected pointing to a group of young peasants who were standing open-mouthed before the monument, admiring these splendors that such young men were scarcely undergoing spiritualization at the moment, but were much more likely having their heads filled with sexual fantasies.
Whereupon he replied, “But that is just the point. How can they ever become spiritualized if they do not first fulfill their karma? These admittedly obscene images are here for the very purpose of recalling to the people their dharma [law]; otherwise these unconscious fellows might forget it.”
I thought it an odd notion that young men might forget their sexuality, like animals out of rutting time.
My sage, however, resolutely maintained that they were as unconscious as animals and actually in need of urgent admonishments.
To this end, he said, before they set foot inside the temple they were reminded of their dharma by the exterior decorations; for unless they were
made conscious of their dharma and fulfilled it, they could not partake of spiritualization.
As we entered through the gate of the temple, my companion pointed to the two “temptresses,” statues of two dancing girls with seductively curved hips who smilingly greeted all who entered.
“Do you see these two dancing girls?” he said. “Their meaning is the same. Naturally, this does not apply to people like you and me, for we have attained to a level of consciousness which is above this sort of thing. But for these peasant boys it is an indispensable instruction and admonishment.”
When we left the temple and were walking down a lingam lane, he suddenly said, “Do you see these stones? Do you know what they mean? I will tell you a great secret.”
I was astonished, for I thought that the phallic nature of these monuments was known to every child.
But he whispered into my ear with the greatest seriousness, “These stones are man’s private parts.”
I had expected him to tell me that they signified the great god Shiva.
I looked at him dumfounded, but he only nodded self-importantly, as if to say, “Yes, that is how it is. No doubt you in your European ignorance would never have thought so!”
When I told this story to Heinrich Zimmer, he exclaimed in delight, “At last I have heard something real about India for a change!”
When I visited the stupas of Sanchi, where Buddha delivered his fire sermon, I was overcome by a strong emotion of the kind that frequently develops in me when I encounter a thing, person, or idea of whose significance I am still unconscious.
The stupas are situated on a rocky hill whose peak can be reached by a pleasant path of great stone slabs laid down through a green meadow.
The stupas are tombs or containers of relics, hemispherical in shape, like two gigantic rice bowls placed one on top of the other (concavity upon concavity), according to the prescripts of the Buddha himself in the Mahd-Parinibbdna-Sutta.
The British have done their restoration work in a most respectful spirit.
The largest of these buildings is surrounded by a wall which has four elaborate gates.
You come in by one of these and the path turns to the left, then leads into a clockwise circumambulation around the stupa.
At the four cardinal points stand statues of the Buddha.
When you have completed one circumambulation, you enter a second, higher circuit which runs in the same direction.
The distant prospect over the plain, the stupas themselves, the temple ruins, and the solitary stillness of this holy site held me in a spell.
I took leave of my companion and submerged myself in the overpowering mood of the place.
After a while I heard rhythmic gong tones approaching from the distance.
A group of Japanese pilgrims came marching up one behind the other, each striking a small gong.
They were beating out the rhythm of the age-old prayer Om mani padme hum, the stroke of the gong falling upon the hum.
Outside the stupas they bowed low, then passed through the gate.
There they bowed again before the statue of the Buddha, intoning a chorale-like song.
They completed the double circumambulation, singing a hymn before each statue of the Buddha.
As I watched them, my mind and spirit were with them, and something within me silently thanked them for having so wonderfully come to the
aid of my inarticulate feelings.
The intensity of my emotion showed that the hill of Sanchi meant something central to me.
A new side of Buddhism was revealed to me there.
I grasped the life of the Buddha as the reality of the self which had broken through and laid claim to a personal life.
For Buddha, the self stands above all gods, a unus mundus which represents the essence of human existence and of the world as a whole.
The self embodies both the aspect of intrinsic being and the aspect of its being, known, without which no world exists.
Buddha saw and grasped the cosmogonic dignity of human consciousness; for that reason he saw clearly that if a man succeeded in extinguishing this light, the world would sink into nothingness.
Schopenhauer’s great achievement lay in his also recognizing this, or rediscovering it independently.
Christ like Buddha is an embodiment of the self, but in an altogether different sense.
Both stood for an overcoming of the world: Buddha out of rational insight; Christ as a foredoomed sacrifice.
In Christianity more is suffered, in Buddhism more is seen and done.
Both paths are right, but in the Indian sense Buddha is the more complete human being.
He is a historical personality, and therefore easier for men to understand.
Christ is at once a historical man and God, and therefore much more difficult to comprehend.
At bottom he was not comprehensible even to himself; he knew only that he had to sacrifice himself, that this course was imposed upon him from within.
His sacrifice happened to him like an act of destiny.
Buddha lived out his life and died at an advanced age, whereas Christ’s activity as Christ probably lasted no more than a year.
Later, Buddhism underwent the same transformation as Christianity: Buddha became, as it were, the image of the development of the self; he became a model for men to imitate, whereas actually he had preached that by overcoming the Nidana-chain every human being could become an illuminate, a buddha.
Similarly, in Christianity, Christ is an exemplar who dwells in every Christian as his integral personality.
But historical trends led to the imitatio Christi, whereby the individual does not pursue his own destined road to wholeness, but attempts to imitate
the way taken by Christ.
Similarly in the East, historical trends led to a devout imitation of the Buddha.
That Buddha should have become a model to be imitated was in itself a weakening of his idea, just as the imitatio Christi was a forerunner of the
fateful stasis in the evolution of the Christian idea.
As Buddha, by virtue of his insight, was far in advance of the Brahma gods, so Christ cried out to the Jews, “You are gods” (John 10:34) ; but men were incapable of understanding what he meant.
Instead we find that the so-called Christian West, far from creating a new world, is moving with giant strides toward the possibility of destroying the world we have.
India honored me with three doctorates, from Allahabad, Benares, and Calcutta representatives of Islam, of Hinduism, and of British-Indian medicine and science.
It was a little too much of a good thing, and I needed a retreat.
A ten-day spell in the hospital offered it to me, for in Calcutta I finally came down with dysentery.
This was a blessed island in the wild sea of new impressions, and I found a place to stand on from which I could contemplate the ten thousand things and their bewildering turmoil.
When I returned to the hotel, in tolerably good health, I had a dream so characteristic that I wish to set it down here.
I found myself, with a large number of my Zurich friends and acquaintances, on an unknown island, presumably situated not far off the coast of southern England.
It was small and almost uninhabited.
The island was narrow, a strip of land about twenty miles long, running in a north-south direction.
On the rocky coast at the southern end of the island was a medieval castle.
We stood in its courtyard, a group of sightseeing tourists.
Before us rose an imposing belfroi, through whose gate a wide stone staircase was visible.
We could just manage to see that it terminated above in a columned hall.
This hall was dimly illuminated by candlelight.
I understood that this was the castle of the Grail, and that this evening there would be a “celebration of the Grail” here.
This information seemed to be of a secret character, for a German professor among us, who strikingly resembled old Mommsen, knew nothing about it.
I talked most animatedly with him, and was impressed by his learning and sparkling intelligence.
Only one thing disturbed me: he spoke constantly about a dead past and lectured very learnedly on the relationship of the British to the French sources of the Grail story.
Apparently he was not conscious of the meaning of the legend, nor of its living presentness, whereas I was intensely aware of both.
Also, he did not seem to perceive our immediate, actual surroundings, for he behaved as though he were in a classroom, lecturing to his students.
In vain I tried to call his attention to the peculiarity of the situation.
He did not see the stairs or the festive glow in the hall.
I looked around somewhat helplessly, and discovered that I was standing by the wall of a tall castle; the lower portion of the wall was covered by a kind of trellis, not made of the usual wood, but of black iron artfully formed into a grapevine complete with leaves, twining tendrils, and grapes.
At intervals of six feet on the horizontal branches were tiny houses, likewise of iron, like birdhouses.
Suddenly I saw a movement in the foliage; at first it seemed to be that of a mouse, but then I saw distinctly a tiny, iron, hooded gnome, a cucullatus, scurrying from one little house to the next.
Well,” I exclaimed in astonishment to the professor, “now look at that, will you . . .”
At that moment a hiatus occurred, and the dream changed.
We the same company as before, but without the professor were outside the castle, in a treeless, rocky landscape.
I knew that something had to happen, for the Grail was not yet in the castle and still had to be celebrated that same evening.
It was said to be in the northern part of the island, hidden in a small, uninhabited house, the only house there. I knew that it was our task to bring the Grail to the castle.
There were about six of us who set out and tramped northward.
After several hours of strenuous hiking, we reached the narrowest part of the island, and I discovered that the island was actually divided into two halves by an arm of the sea.
At the smallest part of this strait the width of the water was about a hundred yards.
The sun had set, and night descended.
Wearily, we camped on the ground.
The region was unpopulated and desolate; far and wide there was not a tree or shrub, nothing but grass and rocks.
There was no bridge, no boat. It was very cold; my companions fell asleep, one after the other.
I considered what could be done, and came to the conclusion that I alone must swim across the channel and fetch the Grail.
I took off my clothes.
At that point I awoke.
Here was this essentially European dream emerging when I had barely worked my way out of the overwhelming mass of Indian impressions.
Some ten years before, I had discovered that in many places in England the myth of the Grail was still a living thing, in spite of all the scholarship that has accumulated around this tradition.
This fact had impressed me all the more when I realized the concordance between this poetic myth and what alchemy had to say about the unum vas, the una medicina, and the unus lapis.
Myths which day has forgotten continue to be told by night, and powerful figures which consciousness has reduced to banality and ridiculous triviality are recognized again by poets and prophetically revived; therefore they can also be recognized “in changed form” by the thoughtful person.
The great ones of the past have not died, as we think; they have merely changed their names. “Small and slight, but great in might,” the veiled Kabir enters a new house.
Imperiously, the dream wiped away all the intense impressions of India and swept me back to the too-long-neglected concerns of the Occident, which had formerly been expressed in the quest for the Holy Grail as well as in the search for the philosophers stone.
I was taken out of the world of India, and reminded that India was not my task, but only a part of the way admittedly a significant one which should carry me closer to my goal.
It was as though the dream were asking me, “What are you doing in India? Rather seek for yourself and your fellows the healing vessel, the servator mundi, which you urgently need. For your state is perilous; you are all in imminent danger of destroying all that centuries have built up.”
Ceylon, the last stage of my journey, struck me as no longer India; there is already something of the South Seas about it, and a touch of paradise, in which one cannot linger too long.
Colombo is a busy international port where every day between five and six o’clock a massive downpour descends from a clear sky.
We soon left it behind and headed for the hilly country of the interior.
There Kandy, the old royal city, is swathed in a fine mist whose tepid humidity sustains a luxuriant vegetation.
The Dalada-Maligawa Temple, which contains the relic of the Holy Tooth (of Buddha), is small, but radiates a special charm.
I spent a considerable time in its library, talking with the monks, and looking at the texts of the Buddhist canon engraved on silver leaves.
There I witnessed a memorable evening ceremony.
Young men and girls poured out enormous mounds of jasmine flowers in front of the altars, at the same time singing a prayer under their breath: a mantram.
I thought they were praying to Buddha, but the monk who was guiding me explained, “No, Buddha is no more; He is in nirvana; we cannot pray to him.
They are singing: ‘This life is transitory as the beauty of these flowers. May my God share with me the merit of this offering.”
As a prelude to the ceremony a one-hour drum concert was performed in the mandapam, or what in Indian temples is called the hall of waiting.
There were five drummers; one stood in each corner of the square hall, and the fifth, a young man, stood in the middle.
He was the soloist, and a very fine drummer.
Naked to the waist, his dark-brown trunk glistening, with a red girdle, white shoka (a long skirt reaching to the feet), and white turban, arms covered with shining bracelets, he stepped up to the golden Buddha, bearing a double drum, “to sacrifice the music.”
There, with beautiful movements of body and arms, he drummed alone a strange melody, artistically perfect.
I watched him from behind; he stood in front of the entrance to the mandapam, which was covered with little oil lamps.
The drum speaks the ancient language of the belly and solar plexus; the belly does not “pray” but engenders the meritorious” mantram or meditative utterance.
It is therefore not adoration of a nonexistent Buddha, but one of the many acts of self-redemption performed by the awakened human being.
Toward the beginning of spring I set out on my homeward voyage, with such a plethora of impressions that I did not have any desire to leave the ship to see Bombay.
Instead, I buried myself in my Latin alchemical texts.
But India did not pass me by without a trace; it left tracks which lead from one infinity into another infinity. ~Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections, Pages 272-288