VedicViews on Western Thinkers
Carl Jung (1875 -1961)
Psychologist Carl Jung felt he had searched for his real self in past lives but had “not fulfilled the task” and never would. (A discussion with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.)
Hayagriva dasa: Carl Jung once asked himself this question: “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 could well imagine that I might have lived in former centuries and there encountered questions I was not yet able to answer, that I had to be born again because I had not fulfilled the task that was given to me.”
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is a fact. Krsna explains in Bhagavad-gita [6.43], labhate paurva-dehikam: “On taking rebirth, one revives the consciousness of his previous life and tries to make further progress.”
Hayagriva dasa: “When I “‘die,” Jung wrote, “my deeds will follow along with me—that is how I imagine it.”
Srila Prabhupada: That is the law of karma.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung continued, “I will bring with me what I have done. In the meantime it is important to insure that I do not stand at the end with empty hands.”
Srila Prabhupada: If you are making regular progress in Krsna consciousness, your hands will not be empty at the end. Completeness means returning home, back to Godhead. This return is not empty. A Vaisnava does not want emptiness-eternal life with Krsna is our aspiration. Materialists are thinking that at the end of life everything will be empty; therefore they conclude that they should enjoy themselves as much as possible in this life. That is why sense enjoyment is at the core of material life; materialists are mad after sense enjoyment.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung believed that one is reborn due to karma, or selfish action. He wrote, “If karma still remains to be disposed of, then the soul relapses again into desires and returns to live once more, perhaps even doing so out of the realization that something remains to be completed. In my case, it must have been primarily a passionate urge toward understanding which brought about my birth, for that was the strongest element in my nature.”
Srila Prabhupada: That understanding for which he is longing is understanding of Krsna. This is explained in Bhagavad-gita [7.19]:
bahunam janmanam ante
jnanavan mam prapadyate
vasudevah sarvam iti
sa mahatma sudurlabhah
One’s understanding is complete when one comes to the point of understanding that Krsna is everything. Then one’s material journey comes to an end: tyaktva deham punar janma naiti [Bg. 4.9]. When one’s understanding of Krsna is incomplete, Krsna gives instructions by which one can understand Him completely. In the Seventh Chapter of Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, asamsayam samagram mam yatha jnasyasi tac chrnu: “Now hear from Me how you can understand Me completely and without any doubt.” [Bg. 7.1] If we can understand Krsna completely, we will take our next birth in the spiritual world.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung conceived of a persona, which seems identical with what we call the false ego. He wrote, “The persona … is the individual’s system of adaptation to, or the manner he assumes in dealing with, the world. A professor, for example, has his own characteristic persona. But the danger is that people become identical with their personas—the professor with his textbook, the tenor with his voice. One can say, with a little exaggeration, that the persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is.”
Srila Prabhupada: One’s real persona is that one is the eternal servant of God. This is the spiritual conception of life, and when one realizes this, his persona becomes his salvation and perfection. But as long as one is in the material conception of life, one’s persona is that one is the servant of one’s family, community, body, nation, ideal, and so on. In either case the persona is there and must continue, but proper understanding is realizing that one is the eternal servant of Krsna. As long as one is in the material conception, one labors under the delusion of the false ego, thinking, “I am an American,” “I am a Hindu,” and so on. This is the false ego at work. In reality we are all servants of God. When we speak of a “false ego,” we predicate a real ego, a purified ego. One whose ego is purified understands that he is the servant of Krsna.
Hayagriva dasa: For Jung, the purpose of psychoanalysis is to come to grips with our subconscious, shadow personality. Then we can know completely who we are.
Srila Prabhupada: That means attaining real knowledge. When Sanatana Gosvami approached Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Sanatana said, “Please reveal to me who and what I am.” In order to understand our real identity, we require the assistance of a guru.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung says that in the shadow personality of all males, there is a bit of the female, and in all females there is a bit of the male. Because we repress these aspects of the shadow personality, we do not understand our actions.
Srila Prabhupada: We say that every living entity is by nature a female, prakrti. Prakrti means “female,” and purusa means “male.” Although we are prakrti, in this material world we are posing ourselves as purusa. Because the jivatma, the individual soul, has the propensity to enjoy as a male, he is sometimes described as purusa. But actually the jivatma is not purusa. He is prakrti. Prakrti means the predominated, and purusa means the predominator. The only predominator is Krsna; therefore, originally we are all female by constitution. But under illusion we attempt to become males, enjoyers. This is called maya. Although a female by constitution, the living entity is trying to imitate the supreme male, Krsna. When one comes to his original consciousness, one understands that he is not the predominator but the predominated.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung wrote of the soul in this way: “If the human soul is anything, it must be of unimaginable complexity and diversity, so that it cannot possibly be approached through a mere psychology of instinct.”
Srila Prabhupada: According to Caitanya Mahaprabhu, we can understand the soul through training. We should understand that we are not brahmanas [intellectuals], ksatriyas [administrators], sudras [laborers], sannyasis [renunciants], brahmacaris [celibate students], or whatever. By negation we can understand, “I am not this, I am not that.” Then what is our identity? Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah: “I am the servant of the servant of the servant of Krsna, the maintainer of the gopis [Krsna’s dearmost servants, the milkmaids of Vrndavana].” That is our real identity. As long as we do not identify ourselves as eternal servants of Krsna, we will be subject to various false identifications. Bhakti, devotional service, is the means by which we can be purified of false identifications.
Hayagriva dasa: Concerning the soul, Jung further wrote, “I can only gaze with wonder and awe at the depths and heights of our psychic nature. Its nonspatial universe conceals an untold abundance of images which have accumulated over millions of years….”
Srila Prabhupada: Since we are constantly changing our bodies, constantly undergoing transmigration, we are accumulating various experiences. However, if we remain fixed in Krsna consciousness, we do not change. There is none of this fluctuation once we understand our real identity, which is, “I am the servant of Krsna; my duty is to serve Him.” Arjuna realized this after hearing Bhagavad-gita, and he told Sri Krsna,
nasto mohah smrtir labdha
sthito ‘smi gata-sandehah
karisye vacanam tava
“My dear Krsna, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy, and I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.” [Bg. 18.73]
So after hearing Bhagavad-gita Arjuna comes to this conclusion, and his illusion is dispelled by Krsna’s mercy. Arjuna is then fixed in his original position. And what is this? Karisye vacanam tava: “Whatever You say, I shall do.” At the beginning of Bhagavad-gita Krsna told Arjuna to fight, and Arjuna refused. At the conclusion of Bhagavad-gita Arjuna’s illusion is dispelled, and he is situated in his original constitutional position. Thus our perfection lies in executing the orders of Krsna.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung noted that the world’s religions speak of five different types of rebirth. One is metempsychosis, the transmigration of souls, and, according to this view, “… one’s life is prolonged in time by passing through different bodily existences; or, from another point of view, it is a life-sequence interrupted by different reincarnations…. It is by no means certain whether continuity of personality is guaranteed or not: there may be only a continuity of karma.”
Srila Prabhupada: A personality is always there, and bodily changes do not affect it. However, one identifies himself according to his body. For instance, when the soul is within the body of a dog, he thinks according to that particular bodily construction. He thinks, “1 am a dog, and I have my particular activities.” In human society the same conception is there. For instance, when one is born in America he thinks, “I am an American, and I have my duty.” According to the body, the personality is manifest—but in all cases personality is there.
Hayagriva dasa: But is this personality continuous?
Srila Prabhupada: Certainly the personality is continuous. At death the soul passes into another gross body along with its mental and intellectual identifications. The individual acquires different types of bodies, but the person is the same.
Hayagriva dasa: This would correspond to the second type of rebirth, which is reincarnation. Jung wrote, “This concept of rebirth necessarily implies the continuity of personality. Here the human personality is regarded as continuous and accessible to memory, so that when one is incarnated or born, one is able, at least potentially, to remember that one has lived through previous existences and that these existences were one’s own—that is, that they had the same ego-form as the present life. As a rule, reincarnation means rebirth into a human body.”
Srila Prabhupada: Not necessarily into a human body. From Srimad-Bhagavatam we learn that Bharata Maharaja became a deer in his next life. The soul is changing bodies just as a man changes his dress. The man is the same, although his dress may be different:
vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya
navani grhnati naro ‘parani
tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany
anyani samyati navani dehi
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” [Bg. 2.22] When a dress is old and cannot be used anymore, one has to purchase another. Similarly, you “purchase” a new bodily dress with the “money” (karma) you have accumulated in your life. The man is the same, but his dress is supplied according to the price he can pay. According to your karma, you receive a certain type of body. .
Hayagriva dasa: The third type of rebirth is called resurrection, and Jung notes that there are two types of resurrection. “It may be a carnal body, as in the Christian assumption that this body will be resurrected.” According to the Christian doctrine, at the end of the world the gross bodies will reassemble themselves and ascend into heaven or descend into hell.
Srila Prabhupada: This is simply foolishness. The gross material body can never be resurrected. At the time of death the living entity leaves this material body, and the material body disintegrates. How can the material elements reassemble themselves?
Hayagriva dasa: Jung further wrote that on a higher level, resurrection is no longer understood in a gross material sense: “It is assumed that the resurrection of the dead is the raising up of the corpus gloriaficationis, the subtle body, in the state of incorruptibility.”
Srila Prabhupada: This type of “resurrection” is applicable only to God and His representatives, not to others. In this case, it is not a material body that is “raised up,” but a spiritual one. When God appears, He appears in a spiritual body, and this body does not change. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna says that He spoke to the sun-god millions of years ago, and Arjuna questions how this could be possible. Krsna replies that although Arjuna had been present, he could not remember. It is possible for one to remember only if one does not change bodies—changing bodies means forgetting. But the Lord’s body is purely spiritual, and a spiritual body never changes. According to the Mayavadi conception, the Absolute Truth is impersonal, and when He appears as a person He accepts a material body. But those who are advanced in spiritual knowledge, who accept the Bhagavad-gita, understand that this is not the case. Krsna specifically says, avajananti mam mudha manusim tanum asritam: “Because I appear as a human being, the unintelligent think that I am nothing but a human being.” [Bg. 9.11] This is not the case. Impersonalists have no knowledge of the spiritual body.
Hayagriva dasa: The fourth form of rebirth is called renovatio, and this applies to “the transformation of a mortal into an immortal being, of a corporeal into a spiritual being, and of a human into a divine being. Well-known prototypes of this change are the transfiguration and ascension of Christ, and the bodily assumption of the mother of God into heaven after her death.”
Srila Prabhupada: We say that the spiritual body never dies, and the material body is subject to destruction. Na hanyate hanyamane sarire: the material body is subject to destruction, but after its destruction the spiritual body is still there. The spiritual body is neither generated nor killed.
Hayagriva dasa: But aren’t there examples in the Srimad-Bhagavatam of a kind of ascension into heaven? Didn’t Arjuna ascend?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, and Yudhisthira. There are many instances—especially Krsna Himself and His associates. But we should never consider their bodies material. They didn’t go through death of any sort, although their bodies traveled to the higher universe. But it is also a fact that everyone possesses a spiritual body.
Hayagriva dasa: The fifth type of rebirth is indirect and is called “participation in the process of transformation.” Examples of this type may be the initiation ceremony or the twice-born ceremony of the brahmana. “In other words,” Jung wrote, “one has to witness, or take part in, some rite of transformation. This rite may be a ceremony…. Through his presence at the rite, the individual participates in divine grace.”
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, one’s first birth is by one’s father and mother, and the next birth is by the spiritual master and Vedic knowledge. When one takes his second birth, he comes to understand that he is not the material body. This is spiritual education. That birth of knowledge, or birth into knowledge, is called bija.
Hayagriva dasa: Thus far we have only discussed Jung’s autobiography. In one of Jung’s last books. The Undiscovered Self, he discussed the meaning of religion and its utility in the modern world. He wrote, “The meaning and purpose of religion lie in the relationship of the individual to God (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) or to the path of salvation and liberation (Buddhism). From this basic fact all ethics is derived, which without the individual’s responsibility before God can be called nothing more than conventional morality.”
Srila Prabhupada: First of all, we understand from Bhagavad-gita that no one can approach God without being purified of all sinful reactions. Only one who is standing on the platform of pure goodness can understand God and engage in His service. From Arjuna, we understand that God is param brahma param dhama pavitram paramam bhavan: He is “the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier.” [Bg. 10.12] Param brahma indicates the Supreme Brahman. Every living being is Brahman, or spirit, but Krsna is the param brahma, the Supreme Brahman. He is also param dhama, the ultimate abode of everything. He is also pavitram paramam, the purest of the pure. In order to approach the purest of the pure, one must become completely pure, and to this end morality and ethics are necessary. Therefore, in our Krsna consciousness movement we prohibit illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication, and gambling—the four pillars of sinful life. If we can avoid these sinful activities, we can remain on the platform of purity. Krsna consciousness is based on this morality, and one who cannot follow these principles falls down from the spiritual platform. Thus, purity is the basic principle of God consciousness and is essential for the re-establishment of our eternal relationship with God.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung saw atheistic communism as the greatest threat in the world today. He wrote, “The communistic revolution has debased man far lower than democratic collective, psychology has done, because it robs him of his freedom not only in the social but in the moral and spiritual sense…. The state has taken the place of God; that is why, seen from this angle, the socialist dictatorships are religious, and state slavery is a form of worship.”
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, I agree with him. Atheistic communism has contributed to the degradation of human civilization. The communists supposedly believe in the equal distribution of wealth. According to our understanding. God is the father, material nature is the mother, and the living entities are the sons. The sons have a right to live at the cost of the father. The entire universe is the property of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the living entities are being supported by the supreme father. However, one should be satisfied with the supplies allotted to him. According to Isopanisad, tena tyaktena bhunjithah: we should be satisfied with our allotment and not envy one another or encroach upon one another’s property. We should not envy the capitalists or the wealthy, because everyone is given his allotment by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Consequently, everyone should be satisfied with what he receives. On the other hand, one should not exploit others. One may be born in a wealthy family, but one should not interfere with the rights of others. Whether one is rich or poor, one should be God conscious, accept God’s arrangement, and serve God to his fullest. This is the philosophy of Srimad-Bhagavatam , and it is confirmed by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. We should be content with our allocations from God and concern ourselves with advancing in Krsna consciousness. If we become envious of the rich, we will be tempted to encroach upon their allotment, and in this way we are diverted from our service to the Lord. The main point is that everyone, rich or poor, should engage in God’s service. If everyone does so, there will be real peace in the world.
Hayagriva dasa: Concerning the socialist state, Jung further wrote, “The goals of religion—deliverance from evil, reconciliation with God, rewards in the hereafter, and so on—turn into worldly promises about freedom from care for one’s daily bread, the just distribution of material goods, universal prosperity in the future, and shorter working hours.” In other words, the communists place emphasis on immediate tactile rewards.
Srila Prabhupada: This is because they have no understanding of spiritual life, nor can they understand that the person within the body is eternal and spiritual. Therefore they recommend immediate sense gratification.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung believed, however, that socialism or Marxism cannot possibly replace religion in the proper, traditional sense. “A natural function which has existed from the beginning—like the religious function—cannot be disposed of with rationalistic and so-called enlightened criticism.”
Srila Prabhupada: The communists are concerned with adjusting material things, which can actually never be adjusted. They imagine that they can solve problems, but ultimately their plans will fail. The communists do not understand what religion actually is. It is not possible to avoid religion. Everything has a particular characteristic. Salt is salty, sugar is sweet, and chili is hot or pungent. These are intrinsic characteristics. Similarly, the living entity has an intrinsic quality. His characteristic is to render service—be he a communist, a theist, a capitalist, or whatever. In all countries people are working and rendering service to their respective governments—be they capitalists or communists—and the people are not getting any lasting benefit. Therefore we say that if people follow the footsteps of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu by serving Krsna, they will actually be happy. Both communists and capitalists are saying, “Render service to me,” but Krsna says, sarva-dharman parityajya: “Just give up all other service and render service unto Me, and I will free you from all sinful reactions.” [Bg. 18.66]
Hayagriva dasa: Jung feels that materialistic Western capitalism cannot possibly defeat a pseudoreligion like Marxism. He believes that the only way the individual can combat atheistic communism is to adopt a nonmaterialistic religion. He wrote, “It has been correctly realized in many quarters that the alexipharmic, the antidote, should in this case be an equally potent faith of a different and nonmaterialistic kind….” So Jung sees modern man in desperate need of a religion that has immediate meaning. He feels that Christianity is no longer effective because it no longer expresses what modern man needs most.
Srila Prabhupada: That nonmaterialistic religion which is above everything—Marxism or capitalism—is this Krsna consciousness movement. Krsna has nothing to do with any materialistic “ism,” and this movement is directly connected with Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. God demands complete surrender, and we are teaching, “You are servants, but your service is being wrongly placed. Therefore you are not happy. Just render service to Krsna, and you will find happiness.” We neither support communism nor capitalism, nor do we advocate the adoption of pseudoreligions. We are only for Krsna.
Hayagriva dasa: Concerning the social situation, Jung wrote, “It is unfortunately only too clear that if the individual is not truly regenerated in spirit, society cannot be either, for society is the sum total of individuals in need of redemption.”
Srila Prabhupada: The basis of change is the individual. Now there are a few individuals initiated into Krsna consciousness, and if a large percentage can thus become invigorated, the face of the world will change. There is no doubt of this.
Hayagriva dasa: For Jung, the salvation of the world consists in the salvation of the individual soul. The only thing that saves man from submersion into the masses is his relationship to God. Jung wrote, “His individual relation to God would be an effective shield against these pernicious influences.”
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, those who take Krsna consciousness seriously are never troubled by Marxism, this-ism, or that-ism. A Marxist may take to Krsna consciousness, but a Krsna conscious devotee would never become a Marxist. That is not possible. It is explained in Bhagavad-gita that when one knows the highest perfection of life, one cannot be misled by a third-or fourth-class philosophy.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung also felt that materialistic progress could be a possible enemy to the individual. He wrote, “A favorable environment merely strengthens the dangerous tendency to expect everything to originate from outside-even that metamorphosis which external reality cannot provide, namely, a deep-seated change of the inner man….”
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, everything originates from inside, from the soul. It is confirmed by Bhaktivinoda Thakura and others that material progress is essentially an expansion of the external energy—maya, illusion. We are all living in illusion, and so-called scientists and philosophers can never understand God and their relationship to Him, despite their material advancement. Material advancement and knowledge are actually a hindrance to the progressive march of Krsna consciousness. We therefore minimize our necessities to live a saintly life. We are not after luxurious living. We feel that life is meant for spiritual progress and Krsna consciousness, not for material advancement.
Hayagriva dasa: To inspire this deep-seated change in the inner man, Jung feels that a proper teacher is needed, someone to explain religion to man. .’
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. According to the Vedic injunction, it is essential to seek out a guru—a person who is a representative of God. Saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastraih. The representative of God is worshiped as God, but he never says, “I am God.” Although he is worshiped as God, he is the servant of God—God Himself is always the master. Caitanya Mahaprabhu requested everyone to become a guru. “Wherever you are, simply become a guru and deliver all these people who are in ignorance.” One may say, “I am not very learned. How can I become a guru? But Caitanya Mahaprabhu said that it is not necessary to be a learned scholar, for there are many so-called learned scholars who are fools. It is only necessary to impart Krsna’s instructions, which are already there in Bhagavad-gita. Whoever explains Bhagavad-gita as it is—he is a guru. If one is fortunate enough to approach such a guru, his life becomes successful.
Hayagriva dasa: Jung also laments the fact that “our philosophy is no longer a way of life, as it was in antiquity; it has turned into an exclusively intellectual and academic affair.”
Srila Prabhupada: That is also our opinion: mental speculation has no value in itself. One must be directly in touch with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and using all reason, one must assimilate the instructions given by Him. One can then follow these instructions in one’s daily life and do good to others by teaching Bhagavad-gita.
Hayagriva dasa: On one hand, Jung sees an exclusively intellectual philosophy; on the other, denominational religions with “archaic rites and conceptions” that “express a view of the world which caused no great difficulties in the Middle Ages, but which has become strange and unintelligible to the man of today….”
Srila Prabhupada: That is because preachers of religion are simply dogmatic. They have no clear idea of God; they only make official proclamations. When one does not understand, he cannot make others understand. But there is no such vanity in Krsna consciousness. Krsna consciousness is clear in every respect. This is the expected movement Mr. Jung wanted. Every sane man should cooperate with this movement and liberate human society from the gross darkness of ignorance.