Materialists claim that only the physical or material world, which can be measured or observed, is the true "reality," whereas some spiritual traditions see the physical world as mere illusion--or something which exists in order to be transcended--and the invisible, mental realm as the ultimate truth.
Buddhism views life as dual in nature, as the unity of both the physical and the spiritual. All things, whether material or spiritual, seen or unseen, are manifestations of the same ultimate universal law or source of life. The physical and spiritual aspects of our lives, although separate classes of phenomena, are completely inseparable and of equal importance. This is expressed in the Japanese expression shikishin funi. Shiki refers to all matter and physical phenomena, including the human body. Shin refers to all spiritual, unseen phenomena, including reason, emotion and volition. Funi literally means "two but not two."
Buddhism views a living being as the harmonious coming together of what are termed the "five components." These are: the physical aspects of life and the senses; perception, which integrates the impressions received through the senses; conception, by which we form ideas about what we have perceived; volition, the will that acts on conception; and consciousness, the function of discernment that supports the functioning of the other components. Life is the force or energy that keeps these five components functioning together as a harmonious and integrated whole.
It is clear that the mind is closely related to the body, and to the brain in particular. But it is debatable whether the mind exists only within the brain. The British biologist Rupert Sheldrake uses a simple analogy to explain the relationship between memory and the brain. He likens it to the connection between televised images and sounds, and the television receiver. You might, for instance, view something impressive on television; but once it passes you will not be able to find the same scene anywhere in the television. The television merely receives radio waves. An image will not appear without a receiver but that doesn't mean that the image exists inside the television.
This analogy suggests that the mind, even if it functions through the mediation of the brain, is not housed in the brain itself. The mind and the brain cannot be separated. In that sense, there is a oneness. This is not to say, however, that they are the same or identical. The relationship is perhaps best characterized as 'two but not two'. The spiritual aspect, which is the mind, and the physical aspect, which is the neurological phenomena, while distinct ('two'), function together as one ('not two'). This is the viewpoint of Buddhism. It could be said that the brain is the 'venue' where the activity of the mind becomes manifest. If a television set isn't in good working condition, the picture will not appear clearly. Likewise, someone whose brain is damaged will experience abnormal psychological phenomena. If a television set is completely broken, there will be no image at all. In the same way, when the brain cells are destroyed upon death, the venue where one's psychological and spiritual activity takes place is also destroyed. I think it can nevertheless be postulated that this merely represents the disappearance of their venue of manifestation, and that the functions of the mind actually continue even after death.
People with unflagging belief in the advance of science seem to think that with further advances in research on the brain it will eventually become possible to explain all spiritual functions in terms of the neurological activities of the brain, even in areas that at this point defy explanation. But no matter how meticulously brain cells are studied, I don't think it will ever be possible to pinpoint the mind.
Take, for example, the case of someone thinking about the melody of Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy'. This psychological state would probably be accompanied by some kind of neurological phenomena. But even if that neurological activity were investigated with a fine-toothed comb, the melody of 'Ode to Joy' itself would never be discovered.
Still, there are many scientists who believe that this will someday become possible. Such 'belief' is part and parcel of modern science. Often termed 'elementalism', this is the idea that you can get to the heart of anything by analyzing its minute constituent parts.But, regardless of how closely the matter is probed, human life cannot be explained by analyzing the human body, just as simply combining all the necessary organs and tissues will not produce a human being.
One scholar criticizes this approach of science, saying, 'Who could understand music only from an analysis of the composition of the instruments of an orchestra?'
It seems that many people view life and death based on this 'doctrine of annihilation' , or what we might call 'annihilationism'. At the same time, the concept of an immortal soul is also prevalent in many different forms. This is the 'doctrine of eternity', the idea that there is an unchanging 'soul' distinct from the body and which continues forever. Both concepts, however, are rejected by Buddhism.
There is no such thing as a spirit-like entity that flutters through the air. All that really exists is the oneness of body and mind. When we die, our life, in a state of non-substantiality(Sunyata), becomes one with the universe. Both the doctrine of annihilation and the doctrine of eternity are flawed. Each is a 'biased' view that accounts for only one side of the truth.
Moreover,in the human psyche according to Buddhism, nine levels of consciousness exist. The first five correspond to the five senses and are called: eye consciousness, ear consciousness, nose consciousness, tongue consciousness, and body consciousness. The remaining four are levels of mind consciousness. The sixth level of consciousness controls the perception of the outer and material world. The seventh level concerns our inner and spiritual world and guides our capacity for thought and judgment. The eighth level is the "store" of karma (alaya). The ninth level of consciousness is the basis of all spirituality and is called Amala, which means pure and uncontaminated.
According to the principle of the eternity of life, Buddhism declares that the eighth level of consciousness not only contains the experiences of this life, but also those that the essence of our existence has accumulated in the eternal past. When we sleep, states Richard Causton in the "Buddha of Daily Life", the first seven levels of consciousness fall asleep with us, and are replaced by the eighth. We forget the outer world and lose consciousness of space and time. The more the conscious psyche relaxes, the more thoughts, words and deeds, stored in the eighth consciousness, escape from conscious control and constitute the dream. However, during sleep, a level of unconsciousness seems to exist, which is even deeper than the one we live in dreams. This could be, according to Buddhism, the proof of the existence of a ninth level of consciousness, a state that expresses the essence of our life, the pure and inexhaustible vital energy of the Universe. In other words, according to Buddhism, the ninth level of consciousness represents the source of energy for all our spiritual and psychic activity and supports us for the eternity.
According to Buddhism, there is no division between physical and psychological aspects of life. The experience of the one influences the other. The life of each human being is eternal, because it is part of the Universe, which exists eternally. No human being can therefore be created or destroyed. The Buddhist concept of eternity of life is equivalent to the physical law of the conservation of energy and matter, according to which they are never dispersed, but are transformed into different forms. Buddhism furthermore affirms that the universe has neither been created by an original cause nor moves towards a goal. Due to the capacity of regeneration, immanent in life itself, the universe has always existed.
Carl G. Jung uses the concept of synchronicity to describe the simultaneousness between a certain psychic situation and one or more external events. The two events, which temporally coincide, are however not causally related, but have the same or a similar sense. Or, in another Jungian formulation, synchronicity means simultaneousness of an ordinary situation with another situation or event which is causally not derivable from the first, and whose objectivity can be verified only later in time. Marie Louise von Franz however, on the one hand stresses that simultaneousness, which characterizes synchronistic experiences, is not absolute but relative, because the two events often occur at a (sometimes short) distance of time. On the other hand, she states that the synchronistic phenomenon, in which the same sense manifests itself in the psyche and in the disposition of a simultaneous external event, shows that there apparently exists an a priori knowledge of something which cannot be known at a certain moment, which Jung calls "absolute knowledge". Synchronicity, Jung says, presupposes a sense, which in respect to the human consciousness is a priori, a sense that seems to be external to the person.
Synchronistic experiences are unique experiences. Even a unique experience can however, if it is situated in the archetypical context, provide us with further information. This is exactly what happens with synchronistic elements even though they do not repeat themselves and do not allow any experimental reproduction. Synchronistic phenomena are creative acts. They can therefore not be foreseen. But, according to Jung, they do however not occur completely outside any possibility of prediction either, but remain inside certain fields of probability of a-causal coordination. Jung has hypothesized that synchronistic events are only a particular case of a general a-causal order. The form of this a priori psychic order, which can be recognized through introspection, is the archetype. The archetype is not the cause of synchronistic events, but synchronicity is only a particular case of the a-causal order, which appears or manifests itself in those phenomena, without provoking them.
Synchronistic phenomena, which can also be called moments during which psyche and matter no longer appear as separate realities but are coordinated in a unique meaningful situation, occur when an archetype imposes itself. The activation of an archetypal content takes place when a person is in an excited state, i.e. in a strong emotional tension. Synchronistic events are therefore dependent on affect. According to Jung, people's faith in the effectiveness of prayer is based on the experience of concomitant, synchronistic events. Von Franz considers magic healings to be synchronistic phenomena.
Jung excludes the element of causality in synchronistic events because in archetypal conditions space and time appear reduced to zero while causality is linked to the existence of space and time and of moving bodies. Von Franz says that Jung has simply hypothesized, like all physicists today, that causality implies an interaction, which should be demonstrable in a space-time-continuum. For Jung, all other expressions mean an extension of the concept of causality, which is a contradictio in adjecto.
According to Jung, only the superficial layer of our unconscious is personal. A much deeper layer does however not develop individually; it is inherited. Jung has called this part of the unconscious, which does not have an individual but a general nature, which does not derive from personal experience, but is innate, the collective unconscious. Jung states that unlike the contents of the personal unconscious, which initially were conscious and then became unconscious, because they were forgotten or repressed, the contents of the collective unconscious were never previously conscious and are not acquired individually. Jung has called these innate dispositions or pre-existent forms of our psyche archetypes. The real essence of the archetype, states Jung, cannot be perceived consciously, it is transcendent. He therefore called it psychoid. As psychoid, un-represent able data, archetypes are unclear and can only approximately be recognized and determined. Archetypes per se are absolutely unobservable structures. Only when they are stimulated through internal and external necessities, do they produce, in crucial moments, archetypal images, archetypal fantasies, thoughts, intuitions, etc. The archetypal images, which our unconscious transmits to us, should therefore not be confused with the archetypes per se. What we inherit are not the archetypal images, but the archetypal structure and disposition (also comparable with a pattern of behavior), which then produce images, which are almost the same everywhere and in all individuals.
According to Marie Louise von Franz, Jung, with the introduction of the principle of synchronicity, made it possible to consider the fields of psyche and matter, which had hitherto been considered complementary, on an unitary basis. He confirmed the hypothesis that the reality which we introspectively try to describe as collective unconscious could be the same unknown and unknowable reality which atomic physicists try to describe from outside, as a material reality. Synchronistic phenomena, she says, contradict our constituted opinion according to which the subjective psyche is something different from objective matter. The deepest layer of our psyche is, as Jung states, pure nature. It is nature which contains everything, matter included.
Psyche and matter can be considered different forms of an identical manifestation of energy, the one of low frequency, extended in time and space, the other of pure intensity. According to Jung, psyche and matter probably are but two aspects of the same secret of life, which he calls unus mundus, one world. Jung has defined the psyche (=collective unconscious) as a sphere of reality which is situated, as a spectrum, between the infrared pole of material and bodily reactions, and the ultraviolet pole of the formal ordering structures: the archetypes. The two poles, Jung hypothesized, are one and the same unknown living essence, which is only perceived as different by our conscious psyche. When we are touched by external material or corporal stimuli, we call it matter, when we are touched from the inside, by fantasies, ideas, feelings; we call it objective psychic or unconscious. The collective unconscious is not only a structural and innate psychic identity of all human beings but also an omnipresent continuum, a present without extension. Therefore, if something, which touches the unconscious and moves to compassion, happens in a certain place, it happens simultaneously everywhere.
When we enter in contact with the archetypal idea of the psyche, Jung writes, we feel as if we were in contact with the infinite. The archetypical world, he says, is situated outside of time, and is therefore eternal. Von Franz points out that Jung discovered that time becomes ever more relative the deeper we enter into the unconscious and that in certain spheres of the unconscious time seems to no longer exist. Whereas the Ego is situated completely inside of time, in a flowing of external and internal events, the personal unconscious is already only relatively connected with time. When we enter into the sphere of archetypal images, we find the much more extended time-dimension of millenarian aeons. On a even deeper level we find the aeons of the auto-renewal of the Self; the eternal archetypes, their unity-plurality and the Self; and finally the area of pure non-time.
As I mentioned , I find that there are great similarities between the Buddhist law of cause and effect and Jung's concept of synchronicity, and I hypothesize that the changes, which occur through the chanting of the mantra Nam-Myoho-renge-kyo can be considered a synchronistic phenomenon. My assertion may appear paradoxical, because, as we saw in the preceding pages, on the one hand we have to consider as synchronistic all those events in which a psychic situation and an external event, connected through sense (meaning) and not through causality, occur with relative simultaneousness; whereas on the other hand, according to the law of cause of effect there is no effect without cause and each cause must have an effect.
However, as Causton points out, we have to consider the Buddhist law of cause and effect not from the scientific point of view but from a a transcendent one; and it is from this perspective that Buddhism can declare that cause and effect are simultaneous. This is, according to my opinion, extremely near to what Jung means, when he says that the element of causality in synchronistic events has to be excluded, because causality presupposes a space-time continuum, whereas in archetypal (psychic) conditions space and time appear reduced to zero. Therefore an application of causality to that kind of event would represent a contradictio in adjecto.
Thus, according to Buddhism, we can deeply understand the mystical verity, develop the potentialities of the Self, but also change the circumstances in the outer world, because the psychological and physical aspects of our life are not separated but influenced by each other.
We have previously seen that synchronistic phenomena can be considered situations in which psyche and matter no longer appear as separate realities, but are coordinated in a unique meaningful situation; and that these circumstances occur when an archetypical content is activated in a state of intense affect.
As we have seen, there seem to be some analogies between the concepts of karma and archetype. On the one hand, karma has been defined as the totality of causes and effects which we put into existence in the past and which have a deep influence on our present actions; on the other hand, according to Jung, the collective unconscious, formed by the archetypes, is innate and inherited. The parallel emerges even more clearly from the following two quotations made by Mark Greene:
"In later editions of On the Psychology of the Unconscious", Green writes, "he (Jung) placed a footnote at the end of a description of the collective unconscious where he describes it as containing the '...legacy of ancestral life, the mythological images: these are the archetypes...' and calls it 'a deliberate extension of the archetype by means of the karmic factor...(which is) essential to deeper understanding of the nature of an archetype' (CW, Vol. 7, p. 118n)."
"Elsewhere Jung states that 'we may cautiously accept the idea of karma only if we understand it a psychic heredity in the very widest sense of the word. Psychic heredity does exist--that is to say, there is inheritance of psychic characteristics such as predisposition to disease, traits of character, special gifts, and so forth' (CW Vol. 11, p. 845)."
However later in his paper Green states: "Jung continued to refute the notion of a personal karma since 'the main bulk of life is brought into existence out of sources that are hidden to us. Even complexes can start a century or more before a man is born. There is something like karma' (Letters, p. 436)." Green further states:
"Only later in his life did he begin to accept the possibility of a personal karma, more specific in its implications to a person's destiny than the collective attributes he had always assigned to it in helping him see corroboration of his theory of the collective unconscious in other religions. Jung connects the collective unconscious, ancestral memories and as yet unfilled out archetypal images with a sort of collective karma."
According to Richard Causton and Riccardo Venturini the collective unconscious can be compared with the eighth level of consciousness, which contains the experiences of the past and is considered the "store of karma". Ikeda however [at least in ] does not, when he mentions Jung on the same subject, draw the same parallel. I therefore wonder if it might not also be possible to compare the collective unconscious with the ninth level of consciousness. I think that the parallel emerges from itself when we simply compare the description of the two concepts. On the one hand, the ninth level of consciousness can be considered the deepest level of unconsciousness, the expression of the vital force of the Universe. On the other hand, the collective unconscious can be considered:
1) at its ultraviolet pole, i.e. at its deepest, archetypical level, a formal ordering structure situated outside of time and
2) in its whole extension, the expression of the unus mundus, the mysterious unity of spirit and matter, the secret essence of life.
The similarities between Buddhist and Jungian concepts of spirit, matter and time have already emerged from the comparisons made.Therefore, simply conclusively stress in my opinion, the Buddhist statement of the unity and reciprocal influence of physical and psychological aspects of life perfectly mirrors the Jungian principle of synchronicity (or vice versa). Both are in fact based on the conviction that psyche and matter have to be considered nothing more than different manifestations of an identical and eternal energy.