Jung and Buddhism : a hermeneutical engagement with the Tibetan and Zen Buddhist traditions.
This thesis examines Jung's relation to Buddhism, in particular the Tibetan and Zen
Buddhist traditions from a hermeneutic perspective. It addresses the way Jung
attempted to make a dialogue between Analytical Psychology and Buddhism and the
extent to which he was successful. Jung's approach to Buddhism is sometimes
affected by Eurocentric prejudices, which led him to misunderstand some of the
concepts of Buddhism. Moreover, from the standpoint of a psychologist, Jung had a
tendency to reduce Buddhist thought to its psychological aspects, and not to pay
sufficient attention to its traditional meanings. Jung was also highly selective in his
use of Buddhist texts and focussed on those texts which appeared to confirm, or
conform to, his psychological thinking, but dismissed other Buddhist materials which
had no common base with his psychology.
To contrast his approach, this thesis examines the theory of the
phenomenology of religion, which emphasises the recognition of the irreducibility of
religious phenomena and claims that we must understand religion within its own
cultural context. From the perspective of the phenomenology of religion, Jung's
methodology lacks objectivity and fails to exercise epoche, which means a suspension
of one's own judgement or the exclusion of every possible presupposition. Rather,
Jung seems to over-emphasise eidetic vision, which is a form of subjectivity that
implies an intuitive grasp of the essentials of a situation in its wholeness.
There are important achievements in Jung's engagement with Buddhism and
indeed Jung should be regarded as a pioneer in this field of research. Jung's writings
on Buddhism had a major influence on later studies of the various Buddhist traditions
and meditation in relation to Western psychology and its therapeutic techniques.
From this more positive perspective, this thesis explores in detail the strengths and
shortcomings of Jung's engagement with the different Buddhist traditions, in order to
assess its potential contribution to the contemporary dialogue between East and West.