Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Psychoanalytic Novels of Simon Navagattegama




"Where there is much light, the shadow is deep."
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Dr. Ruwan M Jayatunge M.D.

The Sri Lankan novelist Simon Navagattegama used a series of mystic symbols in his famous novels -Sansaranyaye Dadayakkaraya (The Hunter of the Saṃsāra Monastery) and in Dadayakarayage Kathawa (The Hunter’s story). These novels can be regarded as the best psychoanalytic novels of the Sinhala literature. In these volumes Simon gives broader interpretation of a carried meaning and presented different conceptual systems. He used metalanguage to describe the story. The reader has to grasp the story ontologically and essential do deconstructive reading in order to get the wider aspect of the narrative.   

According to Simon the hunter is a great symbol or a metaphor. This metaphor consists of   Androgyny or the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics. He is more than a human. The hunter is a myth, crystallized undifferentiated psychic energy. The hunter symbolizes the human soul that travels through Saṃsāra which is the repeating cycle of birth, life and death. Although the Buddhist philosophy rejects the concept of an immaterial and immortal soul, Simon implies that hunter could be the karmic force that transcends to different psychic levels. 

Cosmic Law of Cause and Effect or Karma is the law of moral causation. Karma is symbolized as an endless knot. The hunter’s moral and immoral volition fuels his journey through Saṃsāra.  The hunter’s cycle of rebirth is determined by his karma.

Simon uses his knowledge in Buddhism, Anthropology, Sociology and Psychology to craft this great metaphor. The hunter is surrounded by a mighty forest and he faces numerous obstacles in his great journey.  However he goes in to a psychic transformation which is an experience of awakening and illumination. He is subjected to spiritual maturity and psychological healing through his voyage. It is a great recount of relations between social anthropology and psychology.

Simon narrates the psychic transformation of the hunter’s emotional experiences, his phantasies, dreams and dream-thoughts. The hunter’s phantasies are lucid. These phantasies are imaginative fulfillment of frustrated wishes mostly unconscious. Some of the phantasies are symbolic figures.

Sansaranyaye Dadayakkaraya (The Hunter of the Samsara Monastery) and Dadayakarayage Kathawa (The Hunter’s story) represent numerous psychoanalytic symbols which stem from the unconscious mind. According to the Psychoanalytic notion symbols are not the creations of mind, but rather are distinct capacities within the mind to hold a distinct piece of information. Some of the symbols are created by collective unconscious. These are universal themes, archetypes and primordial images. These are the structures of the unconscious mind which are shared among beings of the same species. The hunter shares common archetypes such as the ferocious leopard, the musk deer, the monk, the goddess etc. These symbols carry important socio cultural meanings.
Simon’s symbols are mostly from folklore, mythology and rituals and some have religious background. Simon used symbols in his novels hiding the conventional meanings.

The hunter is influenced by his unconscious processes. Also his conscious perception is based on unconscious inferences.  His ongoing experience, thoughts, and actions signify great meanings. His socially unacceptable ideas, motives, desires, and memories associated with conflict, anxiety, and emotional pain are being repressed. However some psycho biological instincts emerge despite the cultural and religious barriers.

Simon Navagathegama used different metaphors to describe the cultural, social and anthropological icons. These metaphors represent numerous abstract and complex concepts. The great Saṃsāra is generally depicted as the wheel or Bhavachakra. Bhavachakra is a form of a mandala. According Carl Jung mandala is the psychological expression of the totality of the self. But for Simon the psychological expression of the totality of the self is the hunter and the mighty forest represents Saṃsāra.   

Simon’s some metaphors have their origin from the Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism is known as the Great Vehicle. Simon has used Mahayana philosophical and devotional texts to illustrate the hunter’s perceptions.

The Mahayana concept accepts the Bodhisattva ideal as the highest. Bodhisattva is anyone who, motivated by great compassion and has a noble wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. Bodhisattva is one of the four sublime states a human can achieve in life. As explained by the Ven. Dr. Walpola Rahula the Mahayana mainly deals with the Bodhisattva-yana or the Vehicle of the Bodhisattva. Simon used the Lotus Sutra of Mahayana to discuss emptiness and a sense of timelessness in his novel. Although the   hunter’s journey is long it is purposeful as well as meaningful.

Simon discusses universal truth revealing the hunter’s journey through the wilderness. According to Bertrand Russell meaning and truth examines the relation between our language and the world. Meaning and truth are the nurture of the mind (de Cortiñas, 2013). In these novels meaning and truth were conceded by the author. The reader has to make an extra effort to dig in to the hunter’s mind to extract meaning and truth.

The hunter’s mind is filled with unconscious phantasies. It is argued that unconscious phantasies are inherently metaphorical and have no 'concrete' existence in the unconscious (Colman, 2005). He has sexual phantasies too. These phantasies include dominance, submission, sexual pleasure, and sexual desire. The hunter’s sexual daydreaming, masturbatory and coital fantasies are vividly narrated by the author.

The hunter meets with a goddess in the forest and they become attracted to each other. Hence they make love and create a union. They are woven together. Their sexual union shared with physical and the spiritual bliss. The transformation of desire occurs and the hunter and the goddess achieve ecstasy of love.  It facilitates heightened states of awareness in the hunter. He achieves self-evolution and self-involution. The hunter was connected to the universal energy.

Simon uses Tantric symbolism throughout these novels. Tantra has been called the "cult of ecstasy and it combines sexuality and spirituality in one great union. Tantric archetypes can be detected in many places in the hunter’s legend. According to Jung archetypes are patterns of instinctual behavior. He believed that when the archetypal level of the collective unconscious is touched in a situation, there is emotional intensity as well as a tendency for symbolic expression.

Simon discusses meaning of life in these novels. The meaning of life is a philosophical as well as a spiritual question According to the life mission theory; the essence of man is his purpose of life, which comes into existence at conception. Nietzsche stated that purpose of life is will to power, wants to be master of itself and around itself and feel itself master. The hunter is thriving for power by overcoming obstacles in the forest.

The hunter is not a moral being. Simon discloses the dark side of the hunter’s psyche. There is an evil side of man, called the "anti-self" (the shadow), because it mirrors the self and its purpose of life. The core of the anti-self is an evil and destructive intention opposite to the intention behind the life mission. The evil side of man arises when, as the life mission theory proclaims, man is denying his good, basic intention to avoid existential pain. (Ventegodt et al., 2003). Carl Gustav Jung called the evil side of man as the   anti-self, or shadow.

In Jungian psychology, the shadow or "shadow aspect" may refer to an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself. The shadow comes from both the personal and the collective unconscious and contains the primitive, uncivilized elements within us that are unacceptable to society and are generally repressed (Smith & Vetter, 1991, p. 103). Generally, the shadow represents traits and attitudes that are the negative or evil side of the personality that people either fail to recognize or deny exists (Hall, 1989, p. 33).

Simon discusses evil side of the villagers as well as of the hunter. The village largely represents sin and hypocrisy. The concept of sin is ambiguous. However Simon posed two questions -what is sin?  and what is merit?   The Christian model of sin began to emerge in the medieval period and the early Renaissance period. In Abrahamic contexts, sin is the act of violating God's will. Warner (2010) states that in Buddhism there is no concept of sin at all. In Buddhism there is no original sin and sin is largely understood to be ignorance. Mainly the sin is understood as “moral error.

Simon depicts Patichcha Samuppadaya or the cycle of existence in the novels. The forest is the Saṃsāra and the dwellers are affected by Kama-Tanha – Craving for sensual pleasures   Bhava- Tanha -   Craving for existence and Vibhava- Tanha - Craving for non-existence.  Ignorance or avijjā is the inevitable result of being born and wandering in endless journey through Saṃsāra. The hunter is drifting in the mighty forest also known as Saṃsāra.

Simon’s stories touch the taboo subject of incest. Silk (2008) stated that incest plays a central role in the narrations of the origin stories of many traditions, generally in highly mythologized ways, recounted in stories. According to the basic Buddhist story, the sons of a certain king Okkaka were banished and went into exile with their sisters. The version in the Ambattha-sutta of the Theravada Digha-Nikaya (Long Discourses) says: “Out of fear of the mixing of castes they cohabited together with their own sisters (Silk 2008).  

In 'Totem and Taboo' (published in 1912-13) Freud did analytic exploration. He developed his theory of object relations and his ideas about the inter-subjectivity of unconscious mental life (Grossman, 1998). Freud discussed incest and its psychodynamics. Freud's thinking about incest, placing it within the context of childhood sexuality (Alvin, 1987). When people contemplate incest and its consequences, they simultaneously consider two quite different issues: the issue of intentionality and blame, and the much more troubling and dumbfounding issue of what society would be like if incest were to be permitted (Astuti & Bloch, 2015).

Incest and illicit sexual relationships take place in the village. The hunter witnesses sinful realties in front of his eyes. He is ambivalent about the life style of his fellow villagers.  Incest barrier is broken and moral degradation takes place. Yet the villagers consider the hunter as the sinful person who violates the first Buddhist Precept - abstaining from harming living beings.

Although by nature the man is evil   man has a free will, acknowledged by philosophers of all times, and by using this will man can either do good or become engaged in evil intentions and by doing so, assumes often grotesque and inhuman forms ( Ventegodt et al., 2003). Simon concurs with man’s free will.

The hunter reflects the human ancestral past. There is a human tendency to hate the shameful past. The truth is 20,000 years ago we all were hunters. There is a hunter in each one of us. Our collective unconscious carries some elements from our predatory days. These impulses are threatening and shameful. Therefore the villagers (morally) banish the hunter. This banishment is a form of excommunication. The hunter is being excommunicated from the village spiritual circle. However the author indicates that the hunter bears strong spiritual elements. 

Human suffering has become the innermost theme in Simon’s novels on the hunter. Suffering is a human condition. As Edna Lake states all forms of existence whatsoever are unsatisfactory and subject to dukkha.  Mental suffering associated with birth, growing old, illness and dying. Karl Jaspers believed that death, suffering, struggling, guilt, and failing affect human beings grimly. The modulation of mental pain in a container-contained relationship is a central problem for the development of the human mind (de Cortiñas, 2013).

Diehl 2009) indicated that the emotional, cognitive and spiritual suffering of human beings cannot be completely separated from all other kinds of suffering, such as from harmful natural, ecological, political, economic and social conditions. In Agamemnon, Aeschylus said that humanity is fated to learn by suffering (Oreopoulos, 2005). Similarly Simon points out that dukkha or suffering is a part of the hunter’s great journey and it helps transforming him. However he further explicates that dukkha is not simply despair or hopelessness, it has a deep philosophical meaning.  With dukkha the hunter finds some meaning in life. The hunter realizes dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.

The hunter meets a monk who lives in the jungle. He is a spiritual teacher who practices meditation. He is absolutely free from lust, greed, anger and egoism. The monk’s goal is to become enlightened and reach nirvana. He is eliminating all greed, hatred, and ignorance and attains nirvana where there is no suffering.  The monk is no longer part of the cycle of reincarnation and death.

The hunter is passionately attached to a deer which Simon calls Kathuri Muwa (musk deer). He is eagerly seeking the deer in the jungle. Kathuri Muwa is a wider form of representation which refers to the father figure or totem animal. Kathuri Muwa becomes hunter’s fantasy which is an imaginal representation of bodily instincts and urges.  His attachment to Kathuri Muwa (musk deer) prolongs his journey in the forest. At this point narration of the hunter’s inner mind takes the reader in to a more spiritual world disregarding the hunter’s past sinful acts. When the hunter finds the musk deer he sees the reality and the true nature of the craving. Now the hunter has no greed for the musk deer. The hunter has become a super human (Übermensch or Overman) uplifting his spirit much higher than the fellow villagers. The hunter has seen the truth and liberated himself from craving




References

Alvin,R.(1987).Freud, Psychodynamics, and Incest.Child Welfare, v66 n6 p485-96.

Astuti, R., Bloch, M. (2015).The causal cognition of wrong doing: incest, intentionality, and morality.Front Psychol.   18; 6:136.

Colman, W. (2005).Sexual metaphor and the language of unconscious phantasy.J Anal Psychol. 50(5):641-60.

de Cortiñas, L.P.(2013).Transformations of emotional experience.Int J Psychoanal.  ; 94(3):531-44.

Diehl, U. (2009).Human Suffering as a Challenge for the Meaning of Retrieved from Life. http://www.bu.edu/paideia/existenz/volumes/Vol.4-2Diehl.pdf

Grossman, W.I. (1998).Freud's presentation of 'the psychoanalytic mode of thought' in Totem and taboo and his technical papers.Int J Psychoanal. ; 79 ( Pt 3):469-86.

Hall, J. A. (1989). Jung: Interpreting your dreams---A guidebook to Jungian dream philosophy and psychology. New York.

Oreopoulos, D.G. (2005).Is There Meaning in Suffering?  Humane Medicine, Volume 5.

Silk, J.A. (2008). Incestuous Ancestries: The Family Origins of Gautama Siddhārtha, Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 20: 12, and The Status of Scripture in Buddhism. Retrieved from http://www.buddhismandsocialjustice.com/SILK/Silk_Incestuous_Ancestries.pdf

Smith, B. D., Vetter, H. J (1991). Theories of personality (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Ventegodt, S., Andersen, N.J., Merrick, J.(2003).The life mission theory V. Theory of the anti-self (the shadow) or the evil side of man. ScientificWorldJournal. 11;3:1302-13.


Warner, B. (2010). Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between. New World Library. p. 72.

12 comments:

  1. Always felt something special in Nawagattegama's writings. I read Sansaranyaye Dadayakkaraya years ago but yet to read the Dadayakkayage Kathawa. Although this part of Buddhism and psychiatric are beyond my reach you are able to bring it down here as much as that I also can feel among audience.

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  2. Replies
    1. Musk deer : pl see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musk_deer

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  3. Do you think there is any influence of "The Old Man and the Sea" in Nawagattegama's hunter and the musk deer?

    I was reminded of "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Hunter_Black_Heart" too.

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    1. Pra Jay may be , but he was mostly influenced by Mahayana concepts

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  4. The third of the series (I don't remember the exact order) is Sansaranyaye Urumakkaraya.

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    1. Yes there are several books under the same major title

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. Thanks for publishing this important article!

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Appreciate your constructive and meaningful comments

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