The Self and the Mystic Buddha

Buddha, Eastern Tibet, Kham region, 18th century . US public domain via wikimedia
Buddha, Eastern Tibet, Kham region, 18th century . US public domain via wikimedia

In the image above, we see an 18th century painting of the Buddha. Although Buddhism denies the existence of the Self, from the perspective of depth psychology the Buddha is an archetypal image of the Self.

For Carl Jung, the Self is defined as “a psychic totality and at the same time a centre, neither of which coincides with the ego but includes it, just as a larger circle encloses a smaller one.” (ibid para 247).  Jung adds, “it is a figure comparable to Hiranyagarbha, Purusha, Atman, and the mystic Buddha.”

Images of Buddha such as the one above may be seen as representing the totality and wholeness of the self. Image such as the one above help the conscious mind to represent the ‘psychic totality’ of the self. “Because of its unconscious component the self is so far removed from the conscious mind” it must be “expressed by human figures” (Carl Jung, CW 9i, para. 314-315).



  1. Jung, C. G., The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious – CW 9i  (1934–1954) (1981 2nd ed. Collected Works Vol.9 Part 1)

One thought on “The Self and the Mystic Buddha

  1. Hi Good day Jenna Lilla
    I would like to ask something about Carl Jung’s idea, but in certain way, I could not find the relevant information, so I am asking if you have thought about this?

    the unconscious collective have been shown its mutual universal symbol, for example in religion of western, the god of love display by cupid who has a bow and arrow on its hand, while in Hinduism, the god of love which is Kama deva also has bow and arrow, while in Buddhism, the god of love, which display as raga raja and kurukulle also has bow and arrow. Thus in certain way bow and arrow seem like universal symbol of love and attraction across barrier of language and culture. in common sense, we would think bow and arrow seem like a weapon in war, maybe make us thinking about killing, conquer, fighting, but surprisingly in this context, its means love and attraction.

    I found interesting to research, But I could to find any further information about this topic regarding religion universal symbol, for example, perhaps a knife, oil, or an axe could perform certain mutual meaning as universal symbol.

    Did you have any information regarding this? Hope that you can share with me if you have known this, thank you. Do feel free to contact with me by the email provided.

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