The Oedipal Conflict and Buddhist Jātaka Stories
Posted on November 30th, 2016

Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge 

 
Sigmund Freud introduced the term ‘Oedipus complex’ in his ‘Interpretation of Dreams that was published in 1899 (Ahmed, 2012).  In formulating his psychology of the unconscious, Freud makes constant reference to Sophocles’ version of the Oedipus myth (Bollack, 1993). In the Oedipus myth we find a dramatic representation of the child’s passionate ties to its parents (Zachrisson, 2013).
 
According to Freud the concept is a desire for sexual involvement with the parent of the opposite sex, which produces a sense of competition with the parent of the same sex and a crucial stage in the normal developmental process (Ahmed, 2012).  As Freud described in the Oedipus complex, largely unconscious ideas and feelings, which concentrate, on the desire to possess the parent of the opposite sex and eliminate the parent of the same sex. Freud analyzed the story of Oedipus Rex, and describes the unconscious motives of patricide He postulated that patricide was the great crime at the base of all social evolution.  
 
In Freud’s theory the Oedipus complex is the core of human sexual development (Žerjav, 2010). Freud believed that by birth man is sexy; a child must possess sexual desire even when he is in his Mother’s womb and this inborn sexual predisposition lays the foundation for all other propensity (Ahmed, 2012).  
 
The universality of the Oedipus complex indicates that the oedipal situation is at the heart of the mental life of man (Lebovici, 1982). Borove~ki-Jakovljev and colleagues (2005) state that  nevertheless, the conflicts of phallic phases of the psychosexual development are universal to all human being, no matter how we call them – Oedipus, Electra or Persephone Complex. 
 
The Oedipus complex wanes as a crucial pathogenic focus to the extent to which its resolution—never achieved once and for all—is more than a repression,” something other than a retreat from and exclusion by what Freud called the coherent ego. Seen from the perspective of parricide, guilt, and responsibility, repression of the complex is an unconscious evasion of the emancipatory murder of the parents, and a way of preserving infantile libidinal-dependent ties with them (Loewald, 2000). 
 
According Freud’s Oedipus complex theory in the unconscious level every male subject has a desire to murder his father and commit an incestuous act towards his mother. Various cultures have folktales that are similar to Oedipus story. The Thayo Darma Jātakaya is a metaphorical story which draws attention to many psychologists and it can be interpreted as an Oedipus complex narrated in the Jātaka storybook.  
 
Thayo Darma Jātakaya is a story about the conflict between a father and a son. The father (King of the monkeys) destroys the genitals of male baby monkeys in order to liquidate any impending future threat by a male monkey. In addition the father monkey keeps all the female monkeys for himself making other male monkeys impotent. One of the male baby monkeys was able to escape physically unharmed and grows up in a hidden area of the jungle. The male baby monkey’s mother secretly feeds him. Hence the male monkey becomes emotionally attached to its mother and hating the father. Once the monkey becomes a fully grown adult he comes out and challenges his father. In this conflict, the son kills the father and becomes the new King. 
 
In Totem and Taboo (1913) Freud writes that the myth of the murder of the primal father.   The primal father is a father who has in his possession and who enjoys all women and this is why the sons decide one day to murder the father. The active words destruction, demolition, which Freud has used in referring to the dissolution of the Oedipus complex, may be heard as reverberations of that dominant feature of the oedipal conflict, parricide, the destruction of the parent by the child (Loewald, 2000). 
 
The murder of the primal father or parricide discussed in the Thayo Darma Jātakaya has a symbolic meaning and it is outstanding. This story was written thousands of years ago. Nonetheless the Jātaka storyteller had an insight about repressed childhood conflicts. 

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