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Coward, H.G. (1983). Jung and Karma. J. Anal. Psychol., 28(4):367-375.

(1983). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 28(4):367-375

Jung and Karma

H. G. Coward, Ph.D.

Early in this century western writers often pictured karma and rebirth as resulting in a callous fatalism. J. N. Farquhar, in his widely read The Crown of Hinduism, portrayed the Indian experience of karma as follows:

Since the sufferings of these people were the justly measured requital of their past sins, no power on earth could save them from any part of their misery. Their karma was working itself out and would inevitably do so. Thus, Hindus not only shared the common conviction of the ancient world, that degraded tribes were like animals and could not be civilised. Their highest moral doctrine taught them that it was useless to attempt to help them in the slightest; for nothing could prevent their karma from bringing upon them their full tale of misery (FARQUHAR 3, p. 142).

It is not surprising then that karma and rebirth have often been understood in very negative and inhumane terms in Western thought. While it is possible to find karma equated with fate in Indian sources (e.g. in some Purānic materials), in other instances (e.g. the Mahābhārata) the forces of time and fate appear as non-karmic elements (O'FLAHERTY 17, p. xxiii). In Patañjali's Yoga Sumacrtras, 2:12-14 and 4:7-9, karma, rather than being fatalistic or mechanistic, is understood as a memory trace or disposition from previous thought or action—an impulse which can either be acted upon and reinforced or negated by the exercise of free choice (WOODS 19). Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty has outlined the great variety of competing and contrasting understandings of karma within the Indian sources themselves (O'FLAHERTY 17, pp.

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