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Contexts and Dialogue

Yogacara Buddhism and Modern Psychology on the Subliminal Mind

Tao Jiang

Publication Year: 2006

Are there Buddhist conceptions of the unconscious? If so, are they more Freudian, Jungian, or something else? If not, can Buddhist conceptions be reconciled with the Freudian, Jungian, or other models? These are some of the questions that have motivated modern scholarship to approach ālayavijñāna, the storehouse consciousness, formulated in Yogācāra Buddhism as a subliminal reservoir of tendencies, habits, and future possibilities. Tao Jiang argues convincingly that such questions are inherently problematic because they frame their interpretations of the Buddhist notion largely in terms of responses to modern psychology. He proposes that, if we are to understand ālayavijñāna properly and compare it with the unconscious responsibly, we need to change the way the questions are posed so that ālayavijñāna and the unconscious can first be understood within their own contexts and then recontextualized within a dialogical setting. In so doing, certain paradigmatic assumptions embedded in the original frameworks of Buddhist and modern psychological theories are exposed. Jiang brings together Xuan Zang’s ālayavijñāna and Freud’s and Jung’s unconscious to focus on what the differences are in the thematic concerns of the three theories, why such differences exist in terms of their objectives, and how their methods of theorization contribute to these differences. Contexts and Dialogue puts forth a fascinating, erudite, and carefully argued presentation of the subliminal mind. It proposes a new paradigm in comparative philosophy that examines the what, why, and how in navigating the similarities and differences of philosophical systems through contextualization and recontextualization.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

Many people made it possible for me to complete this book, and in the limited space I have here I can do little justice to what is owed them. During my graduate years at Temple University, Shigenori Nagatomo, an inspiring philosopher and teacher, was instrumental in leading me into the world of comparative philosophy. His command ...

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pp. 1-20

One major attraction of Buddhism to the contemporary world is its therapeutic value, which is derived from its penetrating insights into the human psyche and many of its practices. As David Loy observes, “Buddhism’s main point of entry into Western culture is now Western psychology, especially psychotherapy” (2). This is evidenced by

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Chapter 1: The Origin of the Concept of Ālayavijñāna

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pp. 21-47

Religious doctrines are a complex web of teachings whose sources are far from being singular or homogeneous. If a religious tradition has a founder, whether actual or alleged, the received teachings of the founder become the foundation upon which the orthodoxy evolves. However, when the founder addresses questions ...

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Chapter 2: Ālayavijñāna in the Cheng Weishi Lun: A Buddhist Theory of the Subliminal Mind

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pp. 48-86

In the last chapter, I briefly traced the origin of the concept of ālayavijñāna. I investigated the rationale behind the Yogācāra postulation of ālayavijñāna as a new form of consciousness, vijñāna, which is initially designed to provide support for the meditator during two meditative states wherein mental activities are supposed to have ...

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Chapter 3: The Unconscious: Freud and Jung

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pp. 87-106

In the last chapter, I examined in detail the concept of ālayavijñāna within the context of Yogācāra Buddhism as presented in the CWSL. I attempted to defend the viability of Yogācāra’s qualified idealist system and the indispensable role of ālayavijñāna in that system. As we have seen, ālayavijñāna is formulated to account for ...

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Chapter 4: Three Paradigms of the Subliminal Mind: Xuan Zang, Freud, and Jung

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pp. 107-128

In the last two chapters, I conducted close examinations of Xuan Zang’s Yogācāra Buddhist formulation of ālayavijñāna and Freud’s and Jung’s theories of the unconscious to familiarize us with the indigenous contexts of these three theories of the subliminal consciousness. In this chapter and the next, I will bring the three ...

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Chapter 5: Accessibility of the Subliminal Mind: Transcendence versus Immanence

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pp. 128-145

In the last chapter, I carried out a comparative study of Xuan Zang’s formulation of storehouse consciousness, Freud’s unconscious, and Jung’s unconscious by focusing on their thematic differences and operative presuppositions, as well as the different objectives they set out to accomplish. I concluded that these theories belong ...

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Conclusion: An Emerging New World as a New Context

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pp. 145-154

This book is an exercise in comparative thought on the notion of the subliminal mind as it moves through a series of contexts. I have shunned the question of the actual nature of the subliminal mind. Instead, my focus has been how discussions on the actual nature of the subliminal mind have been formulated and defended ...


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pp. 155-176


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pp. 177-184


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pp. 185-198

E-ISBN-13: 9780824861988
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824831066

Publication Year: 2006