The Buddhist Unconscious (Alaya-vijnana) and Jung’s Collective Unconscious: What Does It Mean to Be Liberated from the Self?

  • Polly Young-Eisendrath
Part of the Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Mysticism book series (INTERMYST)


At the interface of Buddhist psychology and Jungian psychology, there has been a lot of confusion about whether Jung’s archetype of Self is the same as or different from the Buddha’s teachings on No-Self. In this essay, I argue that the archetype of Self arises from the collective unconscious which is analogous to the alaya-vijnana (“storehouse consciousness” or “substrate consciousness”) and is not the same phenomenon as No-Self. I will draw on the scholarship just now emerging in Buddhist studies that analyzes the development of the Buddhist “unconscious” through the evolution of Abhidharma psychology into Yogacara psychology in third- to fifth-century India. My interest is the phenomenology of experience both in Yogacara and in Jungian psychology. By clarifying the Self from this perspective, we can clarify the functioning of the collective unconscious as it arises in dreams, culture, language, and individuals. We also, then, clarify the possibilities of becoming free or liberated from the collective or consensual world in our everyday reality. I will focus especially on the nature of consciousness/unconsciousness, unconscious complexes, subjectivity, intersubjectivity, and human suffering.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of VermontBurlingtonUSA

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