I would like to share the following words with you:

“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would loose it’s meaning, if it was not balanced by sadness. It’s far better to take things as they come along – with patience and equanimity.”

This is a quotation from Carl Gustav Jung, the famous psychologist. Today is the 26th July and this is the anniversary of the birth of Jung. Jung was born in 1875.

We owe Jung a great deal. He coined of number of words and concepts that have become widely used, even part of common speech. He started his work by studying association of ideas. Association of ideas is also one of the categories of conditioning of the mind in the Buddhist Abhidharma.

Jung coined the idea of complexes, built on this basis. He saw how we associate ideas in what seem like irrational ways, but these irrational ways are based upon the complexes in our minds.

Studying these things, he arrived at the idea of archetypes, the collective unconscious and the way that dreams reflect that unconscious process and then get expressed in myths and stories and our own behaviour.

This led him on to think about psychological types - different people, different styles - and he coined the terms introvert and extravert that we all use as part of the language these days.

And he said a lot about what he called the persona and the shadow. The persona being the presentation one gives to the world: one puts on a face, one exaggerates the socially acceptable good aspects of oneself, and one hides, minimizes, disguises those aspects that might draw ridicule or set you apart from other members of your group or society. But the things that you hide, the things that you repress and so on, the shadow, nonetheless continue to have an influence and continue to affect your behaviour. This affects your relationships and Jung had many good ideas about relationships and how they operate, and about the balance within the personality.

Through that he came up with the notion of the midlife-crisis, which we might think is just a piece of journalese, but actually it’s a term coined by Jung, based on the idea that, if we are projecting a vision of ourselves then, eventually, we reach a point in our life where we realize that we haven’t got forever and if there are parts of ourselves that are not expressed, not fully developed, they have got to have their time sooner or later and this precipitates a crisis.

Now, many of these ideas tally with Buddhist psychology. The notion that the persona that we project, our attachment to self you might say in more Buddhist terms, is the cause of our irrationality and the deluded side of our nature - this is very close to Buddhist thinking.

But one other thing that Jung gave us was that he also had a positive evaluation of the unconscious side. He didn’t see the unconscious as wholly negative. Many positive, good things happen in unconscious ways.

I began with a famous quotation from Jung, I can finish with another one. Jung said:

“Show me a sane person, and I will cure him for you.”

This was a way of pointing out that just being ultra-sane, ultra-rational, is not such a good idea always. There are other things going on, other processes that are important for human life and sanity and growth.

So that’s today: the anniversary of Jung.

Thank you very much
Namo Amida Bu


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  • Thank you for the podcast, Dharmavidya. And thank you, Tineke, for this and other transcriptions. Namo Amida Bu

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