Author Topic: Sigmand Freud's Unconscious in the Light of Vedanta  (Read 1808 times)


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Sigmand Freud's Unconscious in the Light of Vedanta
« on: April 21, 2009, 02:25:47 PM »
The Mandukya Upanishad is one of the briefest expositions on
Vedanta and is yet considered to be one of the most significant
treatises.  Its definitvely and authoritatively describes the structure
of human being and the entire universe as being fourfold in nature.

The first 'pada' (or quarter) is called Vaisvanara or Viswa, is
the amalgamation of all the three energies, physical, vital and
mental. The first part of the human system is amenable to
observation by others in the form of its actions, expressions
and general behaviour.  This is called the waking state.

This part of the human personality is the easiest to study and hence
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) termed it the 'Conscious" aspect
of the human personality.  As a medical practitioner and scientist,
he commenced his study from this part.

The second part is the mental aspect of the human being.  While
the 'mind' is present in the first part in a muted and invisible form,
in the awakened body, in the second part everything is mental.
The Upanishad calls the second part as 'of the nature of light' or
Taijasa.  The mental part of the human personaltiy reproduces all
the experiences of the first part in a subtle or 'illumined' form.  It
is akin to a movie or video record of real-life experience.  The waking state experiences the latter, while the mental state reproduces the former.  This is why the purely mental state is called 'dreaming state' or Swapna.  The dreaming conditions in the human being best delineates the mental state.  The Upanishad calls it the 'inward consciousness' or Antar Prajna.   This condition has all the characteristics of the waking state because it simply reproduces
the stored memories of past experiences

Sigmund Freud was fascinated by the dream state.  He carried out a careful study of the dreams of his patients as also his own dreams.   He noted, as the Upanishad indicates, that past experiences are replayed in dreams.  He concluded that the dream is an important means of ventilating stored memories.  He theorized that such stored memories could be said to have "an energy level" of their own.
Negative energies could be said to have higher energy levels than
normal or positive memories.    One could say that the more difficult
or traumatic the experience, the higher the energy required to store
or suppress the energies. These energies forced itself out even in the waking condition in the manner of strange emotions and behaviour,
which he termed as 'hysteria'.

The Upanishads do not classify specifically dreams as negative or
positive but state that they had the same characteristics as the waking state, except that they are in a subtle form.  Both come out
from the original cause, called chitta aham-kara.

In his seminal work, titled The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud
called it as 'Unconscious'.  He said that that human being is not
aware of this storehouse, but it had the tremendous capacity to create internal and external problems for the person. The Upanishad said that these memories relate even to the previous births of a

Freud analyzed these dreams selectively.  Modern existentialism
has given a free reign to the expressions of these memories in
various forms.  [ e.g., surrealistic paintings]

Freud stopped with analaysis of dream state.  But the Upanishad,
went further to the deep sleep state.  Mandukya Upanishad gives
this aspect a great deal of importance.  This is called the third pada, or Sushupti state.  It is a state of bliss, marked by the total absence of sensory phenomena and the absence of mind in all its aspects.  The only consciousness in the deep sleep state is of a state of bliss.

The Upanishad posits that the bliss of deep sleep condition is only a reflection of the blissful nature of Reality or Brahman.  But in this deep sleep state, the jivatma no doubt experiences bliss but it is
steeped in ignorance of Reality and does not recognize Brahman.
Thus the state of deep sleep is one of blissful ignorance.

However, the Upanishad goes on to state that "This Atma is Brahman."  When that realization is achieved, the jivatma becomes Paramatma.  The transition from the third part, represented by deep sleep state, to the fourth part or level that is realization of Brahmanhood is the most difficult sadhana.

The Upanishad promises peace, auspiciousness and non duality or unity, as the resultant condition that is achieved by sadhana.  One is advised to look into this deep sleep condition seriously and continuously and recognize the broad contours of one's soul,
and yearn and struggle and contemplate union with Brahman.
There is indeed no other path!  i.e Nanyah pantha ayanaya vidyate!             

(Source:  An article by S. Mohan, in Mountain Path, October-
December 2008)

Arunachala Siva.