Sunday, May 31, 2015

Hotel California: What The Song Is About

The rock band Eagles released their super hit Hotel California in 1976 and up-to-date this song remains one of the popular songs that is adored by millions of fans around the world.  The hit song Hotel California is well written both lyrically and musically. This song contains a deep connotation and was written by Don Felder, Don Henley and Glen Frey. The song was an instant success. Many believe that Hotel California is not a place; it is a metaphor.   As the true interpretation of Hotel California, Don Henley told Rolling Stone magazine once that Hotel California was about “facing some of the harsh realities of fame and life in Hollywood.”  On the contrary there are several interpretations of Hotel California.

Materialism and Hyper Consumerism
Hotel California reflects the materialism and hyper consumerism in the Western World. Consumerism is an economic policy that states that the market is shaped by the choice of the consumers. Under the Consumerism systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts take place. The Economists who advocate consumerism believe that the key to economic prosperity is the organized creation of dissatisfaction. People are encouraged to buy and consume various products despite the necessity. The consumerism increased in the West rapidly after the WW2.
Consumerism has negative repercussions on people and the society.  Ecological imbalances, environment pollution and economic recessions have become the unavoidable realities under the hyper consumerism. The extravagant lifestyle in LA which is a mixture of materialism and hyper consumerism has caused nostalgia and emptiness. The Eagles echoes the California lifestyle and the culture in the ’70s with their all-time greatest hit. For the Eagles    Hotel California was their interpretation of the high materialistic life in Los Angeles.

Hotel California is a Metaphor for Cocaine Addiction
As the music critics view this song is an allegory about hedonism and self-destruction. Hotel California is a first person narrator who is driving in the dessert. Then he sees a sparkling light and decides to go there and have a night rest.
On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
The narrator is on an exotic experimental mind journey. The “Dark Desert Highway” refers to a craving drug trip that has a disastrous aftermath. The warm smell of Colitas (the Spanish term for tumble weeds) makes his head heavy and sight dim. While high on cocaine, he has delusional feelings of grandiosity.   He feels more energetic and sociable. While on his wild drug trip the narrator experiences euphoria and hallucinations. His mind goes through a mystic fathomless fantasy.
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
’this could be heaven or this could be hell’
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say…

Welcome to the hotel California
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the hotel California
Any time of year, you can find it here
It is a well-known factor that prolonged use of cocaine leads to paranoia and delusion. Cocaine has correspondingly intense effects on the body – and on the mind. Cocaine has powerful psychological addictive properties. Therefore the users find it difficult to refrain from indulging in it.
Relax,’ said the night man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave!
Cocaine addiction is something similar to the journey that has no return. The narrator was told “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”

Hotel California is a Metaphorical Music of the Vietnam War
The Vietnam conflict has been called “America’s first rock-and-roll war” because of the predominance of rock music that permeated the American experience there. As draft quotas were raised and deferment and exemption loopholes closed, an overwhelming number of military personnel belonged to one generation: the average age of combat soldiers was 19 and, according to some figures, 90 percent were under 23 years of age.  Many of these conscripts did not want to be in Vietnam, and no one wanted to be alienated from his own generation back home. Therefore, many GIs imported their tastes in music into the war zone. Rock music was the most popular genre, and beads and peace symbols were worn with and on many uniforms.(  Fasanaro.C)
Hotel California resonates with the combat experience in Vietnam. The Old French Fort in Tay Ninh that was about sixty miles North West of Saigon was nicknamed Hotel California. During the Tet offensive the Old French Fort became a place of safety to many combatants. Often the soldiers were   greeted at the Old French Fort saying “Welcome to the Hotel California”
The Vietnam War changed the American social landscape. The nation was divided. Some openly protested the war. Young naïve boys were drafted and sent to Nam. Most of them were 19 years old and 12,000 miles away from home. During the war the innocence was lost. Atrocities like My Lai Massacre shocked the American public. Over 50,000 US solders never returned home alive.
The United States also paid a high political cost for the Vietnam War. It weakened public faith in government, and in the honesty and competence of its leaders. Indeed, skepticism, if not cynicism, and a high degree of suspicion of and distrust toward authority of all kind characterized the views of an increasing number of Americans in the wake of the war. The military, especially, was discredited for years. It would gradually rebound to become once again one of the most highly esteemed organizations in the United States. In the main, however, as never before, Americans after the Vietnam War neither respected nor trusted public institutions.  (The Postwar Impact of Vietnam by Harvard Sitikoff)
In his autobiography “Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001) Don Felder wrote that my views on the Vietnam War were unpatriotic. Don Felder was
A rebel during his teenage years frequently at odds with his   parents and ran away from home. In later years he closely worked with the anti-Vietnam war protestors. His anti-war attitude resonates in Hotel California.
Deep sarcasm is associated with the line that states  “Welcome to the Hotel California, such a lovely place, such a  lovely face ” The war is welcoming young soldiers. In every war propaganda is maintained to hide the ugly realties that have horrendous nature.  War front is a lovely place and it has a lovely face until the solder becomes a casualty.   To depict the harsh realities of the war Don Felder and his co-writers use euphemism to arouse wistful feelings in the listeners.

Hotel California is a Mental Hospital
Some believe that Hotel California is a mental hospital (probably the Camarillo State Mental Hospital that became functional in 1932) In 1960s many psychiatric hospitals had  many allegations such as abusing the mental patients, giving high doses of sedations to them, excessively using ECT and performing unethical  prefrontal lobotomy etc.
In this song the narrator describes his firsthand experience at the mental hospital. His delusional thought process is described as follows.
Her mind is tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes Benz
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, that she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget
Tiffany-Twisted – this may be a term used to describe a mental health nurse like  the Nurse Mildred Ratched (One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest) who had absolute authority over the mental patients.
So I called up the captain,
please bring me my wine’
He said, ’we haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine’
Until 1969 many Mental Hospitals used to give wine as a sedative or a sleep starter for the patients. When asked for a glass of wine his request was turned down and he was told  ’we haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine’
The narrator was hearing auditory hallucinations (voices in his mind) calling from a faraway distance.
And still those voices are calling from far away
When he wakes up he experiences thought echo or another set of auditory hallucinations.
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say…
Welcome to the hotel California
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
They livin’ it up at the hotel California
What a nice surprise, bring your alibis

Hotel California is about Spiritualism and Occultism in 1960s 
With the rise of   Beatle mania and hippie subculture in the West a deep void of spiritualism was to be seen. Many youth became the followers of Guru Maharaj Ji , Osho Rajneesh ,Maharishi Mahesh Yogi etc. The materialism, hyper consumption, war in Vietnam, wide spreading drug abuse had wreaked the Western Civilization. The traditional Christian Church had no answers for the youth who were desperately seeking universal truth about existence. To fill this spiritual vacuum many embraced the Eastern spiritualism.  In the same period there was another inclination towards the Occultism. Satanic worshipers were emerging.  During this time period Charles Manson forms his family and commits multiple murders.Manson’s predicted  Helter Skelter- an apocalyptic war between blacks and whites.These events profoundly affect the Eagles.
Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said ’we are all just prisoners here, of our own device’
And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for the feast
The stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast
There was a human sacrifice and the narrator had witnessed it. He was terrified and wanted to flee. But now he is a prisoner and he cannot escape. He has to face his destiny. This human sacrifice reminds us the self-immolation by Norman Morrison who immolated himself outside of the  Defense Secretary  Robert McNamara’s office as a protest against the Vietnam War.

Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Posttraumatic trends in Buddhist literature

Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge

In the past 10 years, the literature on disasters and mental health has shifted from a focus on psychopathology, to an interest in documenting manifestations of resilience in the face of mass trauma. Positive psychology has provided a new forum for discussion about how we construe mental health issues.
Each generation and each culture faces basic questions about the meaning of birth, suffering, and dying. Each has its own social constructions and ways of managing these very basic human experiences.
Term, ‘post-traumatic growth,’ was coined in 1995 by Dr. Richard Tedeschi, a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, and co-author of the ‘Handbook of Post-traumatic Growth’. According to Tedeschi and Calhoun, posttraumatic growth can be facilitated by the process of self-disclosure in the context of a supportive social environment.
Way of understanding
Post-traumatic Growth is the positive psychological change experienced as a result of a struggle with challenging life circumstances that represent significant challenges to the adaptive resources of the individual and/or an individual's way of understanding the world and one’s their place in it. Post-traumatic growth is manifested in several clearly defined behaviors and thought patterns not necessarily present prior to exposure. Posttraumatic growth is thought to involve positive change in five major domains: greater appreciation of life and a change in sense of priorities, warmer and more intimate relationship with others, greater sense of personal strength, recognition of new possibilities or paths for one’s life, and spiritual development.
Posttraumatic Growth had been vibrantly described in the Jathaka storybook disclosing a number of case studies. The protagonists of these stories face major life traumas and become overwhelmed. However they find meaning in their suffering and experience posttraumatic growth.
Patachara was a young girl who was very pretty and naive. Her father was a wealthy merchant and treasurer in the city of Savatthi. She had one brother and both of them grew up in comforts.
Patachara had a secret love affair with a servant in her household. When the affair was exposed both ran away from home. They lived near jungle and lived very poorly. When Patachara was pregnant with her first child she wanted to visit her parents and ask for their forgiveness. But her husband prevented her. When she was pregnant with the second child she made her mind to visit the parents despite her husband’s advice. When her husband was away she left home with the child. But she could not go further she had labor pains and she delivered her baby on the way.
Temporary shelter
It was raining heavily and her husband came in search of her. When he saw his wife with the newborn baby and the elder son he immediately went to cut some wood to make a temporary shelter for them. But the husband never returned. Patachara was anxious and went in search of her husband. She found him dead beaten by a poisonous snake. She wept relentlessly. Finally she made her mind to visit her parents.
While on her way to the city she came near a river. Patachara kept the newborn baby on the river bank and crossed the river with her elder son. After crossing the river she requested her one year old elder son to wait for her and again she crossed the river to bring the newborn. When she was halfway crossing the river she saw an eagle was coming to grab her baby. The bird mistook the new born baby as a piece of meat. She shouted at eagle. Then her elder son thought his mother was calling him. He jumped to the river and the river current took him downstream. By that moment the eagle grabbed the baby and flew away. Hence she lost two of her babies.
Patachara was in severe grief. She cried and went to her parental home. But the house was not there. She could see only the rubble. A neighbor approached her and delivered a sad message. He said that her parents and the brother died when their house collapsed due to severe rain on the previous day. He further said that their bodies are burning in the funeral pyre at this very moment.
Patachara went in to severe shock following the loss of her loved ones. She lost her awareness and proper sensors. She ran to the town crying. Her clothes were torn and dirty. She was half naked. Then people thought she was an insane woman and chased her wherever she went.
Individual suffering
Finally she came to Buddha. When some of the devotees saw a mad looking woman approaching Buddha they tried to prevent her coming. But Buddha allowed her to come near him. The Buddha realized her state of mind and allowed her to come to proper sensors. When she became calm Patachara told her sad story. The Buddha gave her a sermon revealing the universal truth about death and separation of loved ones. Patachara was able to realize the meaning of death. She achieved posttraumatic growth and she became a Bhikkuni.
Suffering means an individual's report of his or her awareness of one or more changes in normal function, sensation, or appearance that cause him or her some degree of physical discomfort, mental anguish, or distress (Kyung-Ah et al., 2009). When people suffer they always suffer as a whole human being. 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. There can be no more profound struggle than to understand the meaning of suffering.
Viktor Frankl believed that complicated grief could be accepted as a crisis that encourages new meaning in life. Frankl wrote: We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters are to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation€¦ we are challenged to change ourselves. As Frankl viewed post-traumatic growth provides greater appreciation of life and development of personal strengths.
There are many other Jathaka stories (eg: Jaddisa Jathaka, Sujatha Jathaka etc) discuss posttraumatic growth. The processes of self-disclosure, spiritual enhancement, realization of universal maladies such as disease, aging, death and dying, concept of impermanence help these individuals to achieve posttraumatic growth.
Mustard medicine
Kisa Gothami became devastated when her infant child died due to an illness. She went to the Buddha asking medicine to bring him back to life. The Buddha told her to bring mustard seeds from a family where no one had died. Kisa Gothami went to each and every house in the county asking for mustard seeds from a family where no one had died. But she could not find any house. But she did not give-up. She went to the next county. She went house to house but she couldn't find even one house where a death had not occurred. Death was everywhere. Finally Kisa Gothami realized that there is no house free from mortality. She laid her dead child to rest in a cemetery and went to Buddha to become a Bikkuni. In Kisa Gothami’s case she achieves posttraumatic growth by realizing the meaning of death.
When heavy rainstorm flooded and destroyed Baradvaja Brahmin’s paddy field he became severely heartbroken. Months of his efforts were wasted within one night of severe rain. Despondently he looked at the destroyed paddy field. His eyes filled with tears. He refused food and laid on the bed aimlessly. The loss has caused enormous pain in his heart. The Buddha visited him and explained the nature of desire and how it causes emotional pain. Baradvaja Brahmin saw the correlation between extreme heart desire and subsequent emotional pain. The Brahmin realized the true nature of desire and craving. He was able to come to terms with his loss. Hence he achieved posttraumatic growth and regained his functionality.
The Bikku who had a severe PTSD type reaction in Maranabheruka Jathaka was unable to function as a monk. His traumatic memories hounded him as intrusions and flashbacks. He was frightened all the time. He was unable to meditate. Mortal fear ruined his functionality. As a part of his therapy the monk was encouraged to think of death. Little by little he practised Marananusmathi Meditation or Mindfulness of Death Meditation. Gradually he was able to desensitize his fear of death. He realized that no one cannot evade death and it is a common occurrence and a universal phenomenon. The said monk reached posttraumatic growth by desensitizing his fear of death via Mindfulness of Death Meditation.
Angulimala saga
Angulimala who killed 999 men suffered from severe guilty feelings after he became a monk. As a person who took many lives of other people he became ashamed. He was an addictive killer; however after he renounced violence he relentlessly practiced Methha or loving-kindness towards other people. Once he saw a pregnant woman who was in pain. She was about to give life to another human being. Angulimala realised the value of human life and focused his loving kindness feelings towards the pregnant woman and blessed her for safe labour. This event changed his perception about life. He realized that life ought to be treated with love and respect. These positive emotional feelings gave Angulimala mental soothing. Hence Angulimala achieved posttraumatic growth.
Samawathi lived with her wealthy parents in a populated city. Once highly contagious infectious disease hit the city and a large number of people died. Following the disease the elegant city became a ghost town. Death was everywhere. To escape death Samawathi and her parents decided to abandon their native town. They left their property and traveled to another county. They walked days and finally came to the nearest town. They were exhausted. Exhaustion and hunger weakened her parents and they passed away as soon as they came near the city gates. Young Samawathi was left alone in a strange city where she had no friends. She was devastated. But she determined to survive. She met a kind old man and his family. They adopted orphaned Samawathi. They became her new guardians.
Once the King saw young Samawathi and invited her to his palace and made her one of his queens. She lived comfortably, but sad memories of her native town and parents impacted her. She needed spiritual guidance and she was searching for meaning. She came to know about the Buddha€˜s teaching through her old female servant. The old woman used to go to the temple and listen to Buddha’s sermons and narrated it to Samawathi in colloquial terms. Although the illiterate old woman missed a large portion of the sermon Samawathi was able to grasp the main themes. This became a daily practice. Gradually she was able to understand the Buddha’s core teaching. She found a meaning and was able to conquer her negative feelings about past memories. Samawathi achieved posttraumatic growth. 

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


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.

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

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.

Find Us On Facebook