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Carl Jung on Buddha and Christ


9407d buddhas

Memories Dreams Reflections

[Carl Jung on Buddha and Christ.]

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. ~Carl Jung, Memories Dreams and Reflections. Pages 279-280.