Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov and AsthramanthraJātaka Story
Posted on July 13th, 2011

DrRuwan M Jayatunge

There are things which a man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has a number of such things stored away in his mind. – Fyodor Dostoevsky

There are many similarities between FyodorDostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov and the AsthramanthraJƒÆ’-¾taka storyof the TheBuddhist KhuddakaNikaya, or “Collection of Little Texts” that were compiled in the period of the  3rd Century B.C. to the 5th Century A.D. Bothstories describe the sexual craving and indulgence in the old age violating social and moral norms. Both stories profoundly analyze the inner mental conflicts reveling the darkest side of the human mind.

The Brothers Karamazov is tale of bitter family rivalries that was written on two levels: on the surface it is the story of a parricide in which all of a murdered man’s sons share varying degrees of complicity but, on a deeper level, it is a spiritual drama of the moral struggles between faith, doubt, reason, and free will. In the AsthramanthraJƒÆ’-¾takastory too we find two levels: on the surface   accumulation of sexual urges followingseduction and in the second level the murders impulsions of an old mother who wants to kill her son to have sexual relationship with a young apprentice. AsthramanthraJƒÆ’-¾takastory indeed a spiritual drama of the moral struggles between maternal love, sexual urge, faith, doubt, reason, and social norms. 

The renowned Sri Lankan Literary genius Martin Wicramasinghe D.Lit. saw close similarities between Fyodor Dostoyevsky’sBrothers Karamazov and AsthramanthraJƒÆ’-¾taka story. Martin Wicramasinghebelieved that Dostoyevsky may have had some influence by  AsthramanthraJƒÆ’-¾taka story   to write his psycho- philosophical novel -Brothers Karamazov.

In AsthramanthraJƒÆ’-¾takastory a senile old woman was seduced by a young apprentice in order to measure the sexual urge in old age. The seduction was done with the consent of the old woman’s son and after a few months the old woman agrees to kill her own son then to have a sexual relationship with the young apprentice. In this Jathaka story the old woman’s inner mental conflicts and murderous impulses were intricately described by the Jathaka story teller. After the seduction the senile old woman’s dormant sexual urges come to the surface like an erupting volcano. She sees her own son as an obstacle to fulfill her sexual desire. Then she decides to kill her own son.

The old landowner in Brothers Karamazov and the old woman in AsthramanthraJƒÆ’-¾taka have similar characteristics with regard to sensual pleasures. The JƒÆ’-¾taka story teller describes the old woman’s sexually inclined mind as the way Fyodor Dostoyevsky described the old landowner’s lustful mind.

According to the novel the old land owner FyodorPavlovich is a selfish immoral man who indulges in alcohol and has no fear or respect to the God. Dostoyevsky panted FyodorPavlovich as the great evil. Fyodor had three sons Mithya ,  Ivan and Alyosha. As the rumor goes he had a fourth illegitimate son named Pavel who worked as his servant. Using his Christian philosophy Dostoyevsky demonized the old man’s character.FyodorPavlovich was a debauchee who wanted to seduce Mithya’s girlfriend Grushenka. Following the prolonged family disputes the old man was murdered and it was recorded as a patricide. 

Following extractions from the book Brothers  Karmazov describe the desolate nature of Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky the old land owner.

Alexey Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovitch, Karamazov, a landowner well known in our district in his own day, and, still remembered among us owing to his gloomy and tragic death, which, happened thirteen years ago, and which I shall describe in its proper, place“¦”¦

“¦”¦ This was, perhaps, a unique case of the kind in the, life of Fyodor Pavlovitch, who was always of a voluptuous temper, and, ready to run after any petticoat on the slightest encouragement. She, seems to have been the only woman who made no particular appeal to his, senses., Immediately after the elopement AdelaidaIvanovna discerned in a flash, that she had no feeling for her husband but contempt”¦”¦”¦..

“¦”¦”¦.. Fyodor Pavlovitch, was drunk when he heard of his wife’s death, and the story is that he, ran out into the street and began shouting with joy, raising his hands, to Heaven: “Lord, now let test Thou Thy servant depart in peace,” but, others say he wept without restraint like a little child, so much so, that people were sorry for him, in spite of the repulsion he inspired., It is quite possible that both versions were true, that he rejoiced at, his release, and at the same time wept for her who released him. As a, general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and, simple-hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are, too.,

(Brothers KaramazovPart 1 / Book 1 / Chapter 1 by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, translated by Constance Garnett)

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazovis a psycho -philosophical novel that strongly discusses ethics, morality and dark side of the human nature.  The novel itself is a moral dilemma (like the AsamthamanthraJathakastory) and a question paper that is presented to the readers.Brothers Karamazovis exploring the secret depths of humanity’s struggles and sins. In this novel Fyodor Dostoyevsky epitomizes the psychodynamic portions of the human personality into its finest detail.

To write this exceptional novelDostoyevsky read Christian morality, philosophy (including the India Philosophy) and atheism. For a considerable extent Dostoyevsky’s life experiences were added to this great novel. Therefore  many thoughts that were repressed in Dostoyevsky’s mind reflect in this novel. For Dostoyevsky writing Brothers Karamazov would have been an emotional purgation.

Dostoyevsky was greatly influenced by religion and philosophy. He lived in a society where justice and equality had been seriously violated. Obviously he did question the hypocrisy and double standards of the clergy and the state that continuously violated the basic human rights. His father was a doctor as well as a land owner who mistreated his peasants. Following a land dispute Dostoyevsky’s father was murdered by a group of angry peasants. Dostoyevsky may have created the fictional character FyodorPavlovich (the old land owner) based upon his own father’s certain personality traits as well as the influence that he received by reading AsthramanthraJƒÆ’-¾takastory.

Sigmund Freud valued the Oedipal themes that had been discussed in Brothers Karamazov. Freud’s 1928 paper Dostoevsky and Parricide specified the    unresolved Oedipal complex of Fyodor Dostoevsky and his psychogenic seizures. According to Freud Dostoevsky had hidden patricidal fantasies that had been described in Brothers Karamazov.

Dostoyevsky was a radical youth who engaged in revolutionary activates. He was arrested and sentenced to death. In the very last moment he was given a pardon and exiled to Siberia. This near death experiencechanged Dostoyevsky”ƒ”¹…”s personality immensely. In Siberia he witnessed torture and human degradation.  He later wrote a short story titled “The Peasant Marey” narrating the inhuman condition of his Siberian experience.

After the exile he returned to St Petersburg and started his literary career. During this time period he was shaken by the loss of two dearly people. His first wife’s death and his brother’s death caused him an immense psychological pain. Troubled by financial problems and life stresses Dostoyevsky suffered prolong depression. Also he became a compulsive gambler. He may have suffered from psychogenic convulsions that can be described as a Dissociative Disorder in the present day medical terms.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky believed that the human nature is complex and has two different poles. Man can act nobly and in the same time he can be a savage. There is an esteem part in the human and also a vicious element. In his own character Dostoyevsky demonstrated these two contradictory sides. At onetime he was a generous warm and a kind man and on other times he was acting jealous and even committed a rape. These contradictions can be found in his great novel Brothers Karamazov.

When the selfish immoral land owner Fyodor Pavlovich came to meet FatherZosƒÆ’†’¬mathe spiritual advisor and AlyoshaKaramazove ‘s teacher Fyodor Karmazovereveals his inner mind in front of the holy man thus.

 “I’m a Karamazov… when I fall into the abyss, I go straight into it, head down and heels up, and I’m even pleased that I’m falling in such a humiliating position, and for me I find it beautiful. And so in that very shame I suddenly begin a hymn. Let me be cursed, let me be base and vile, but let me also kiss the hem of that garment in which my God is clothed; let me be following the devil at the same time, but still I am also your son, Lord, and I love you, and I feel a joy without which the world cannot stand and be.”

 With this self-revelation Dostoyevsky points out the dual complexities in the human mind.  The Jataka story teller too vibrantly wrote about the complex and dual nature of the human psyche. AsthramanthraJƒÆ’-¾taka story is one of the examples of his exceptional talents. In this Jathaka story he deeply analyzed the murderous impulses of an old woman who was geared by onset awakening of sexual urges.

The old woman in AsthramanthraJƒÆ’-¾takastory and immoral old land owner in Brothers Karamazov represent the dark side of the human nature and in later years Carl Jung came up with the concept of shadow that portrays the repressed weaknesses, shortcomings and instincts.

In his 1938 work “Psychology and Religion” Carl Jung explains the function of the shadow thus.

“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”

According to Jung, the shadow is irrational often projects   personal inferiority into a perceived moral deficiency. Jung wrote ‘” a  man who is possessed by his shadow is always standing in his own light and falling into his own traps … living below his own level”

After seduced by the young apprentice the old woman falls in to her own trap and possessed by her dark shadow like FyodorPavlovich the debauched land owner who was sexually fascinated by his own son’s girlfriend. Both the characters forget ethics and morality as well as social norms while making efforts to fulfill their desires.  

FyodorPavlovichKarmazove’s wastefully sinful life was highlighted by the prosecutor and the defense attorney in the court room and they further connect Fyodor’s moral degradation to the 18th century Russian society. As they view great gaping and lack of a moral and spiritual core in Russian society echoes the old man’s entire deviant life.

The Jathaka story teller does not judge the old woman like the way Dostoyevsky judged the old man in his book Brothers Karamazove .The Jathaka storyteller modestly shows the extent of craving and its disastrous nature.

One Response to “Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov and AsthramanthraJātaka Story”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    Great article by Dr Jayatunge !
    Hope lies in the lines : “If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it”. We must be Conscious, correct our faults, there is no other way for the advancement of humanity. The irony is that some people paste the blame on others, and sometimes the other is the one (or group) who helps !

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