The Three Jewels
The Buddha
The Dharma (teachings)
The Sangha (community)
Philosophy
Three Vehicles
The Four Noble Truths
Karma
Death & Rebirth
The Mind
Four Immeasurables
Compassion & Bodhicitta
Wisdom of Emptiness
Spiritual Teacher
Going for Refuge
FAQ- sheet
Practice & Meditation
Everyday Behaviour
What is Meditation
How to Meditate
58 Meditations
Tantric Preliminaries
Tantric Practice
Problematic Emotions
Introduction
Anger
Attachment
Guilt
Lack of Self-Confidence
Depression
Fear
Other Delusions
Summary
Symbolism
In General Buddhism
In Tantra
5 Dhyani Buddhas
In Tibetan Buddhism
In the Kalachakra Tantra
Stories, Quotes & Fun
Stories from the Heart
Buddhist Stories
New Buddhist Quotes
Quotes of Wisdom
Poetry
Funny Pages...
My Main Teachers
The Dalai Lama
Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche
Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Resources
Teachings&Articles
Sutras & Practices

Vows & Prayers...

Teksty w jezyku polskim
History of Buddhism...
Recommended Books

New Controversy
A to Z Glossary
Number Glossary
Contact & about me
Tibetan Buddhism
Buddhism in Tibet
Tibetan Calendar
Tibetan Astrology
Tibetan Symbolism
A Taste of Zen
Buddhism in Japan
Zen FAQ-sheet
Zen Poems and Haiku
Zen Stories
Zen Computer Fun
Navigation
Web Links
Search this Site
Home

 

 

    Modern version of the Eternal Knot by Charles Huttner
A View on Buddhism
Teksty w jezyku polskim     Deutsche Seiten

DEPRESSION

PAGE CONTENTS

Introduction
Driving Ourselves Crazy
Twenty-four Brand-new hours by Thich Nhat Hanh
Prayer for Freedom from Suffering by the Buddha
Transforming Depression by Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Meditation in Affliction by Gyalwa Longchenpa
A Teaching on Depression by Ven. Thubten Gyatso
Useful books

When we forget the real reason we are living for,
the worldliness of life becomes like quicksand that sucks you into a spiritual vacuum.
When that happens, we live less and less; we merely stay alive.
Shian (TheDailyEnlightenment@yahoogroups.com)

INTRODUCTION

Depression can come in various forms, from a passing blue mood to a severe psychological condition like major depression or manic-depressive illness, which require extensive treatment. The more serious conditions require professional help with for example intensive therapy or medication, there seems to be no easy way to avoid that. General psychology has determined that depressive disorders are often caused by a combination of genetic, psychological and environmental factors, but can also be caused by other illnesses. Women experience depressive disorders twice as many as men, and hormone levels appear to have a significant influence.

Please note that this page deals mainly with aspects of the 'lighter' forms of depression, the techniques described here should not be considered in any way to replace professional treatment for a serious psychological condition. However, the discussed techniques may help to avoid the recurrence of depression, once one has come out of the 'black hole' again, or as part of the healing process during therapy.

Buddhism generally approaches depression from a quite different viewpoint than modern Western psychology. The Buddhist perspective is that an underlying selfishness/egotism is often the basic cause of feeling depressed.
Please realise that if this is upsetting you, basically this is considered the main psychological problem that everyone has according to Buddhist psychology, and depression can be an unexpected result of it. Also, this does not mean that the suffering person should be 'blamed' for the condition, but rather it opens up a very specific approach to the problem using medtitation and emphasis on compassion and loving-kindness. Even though these methods may neither be quick nor instantly effective, negative side effects are virtually unheard of; and who cannot use a bit of emphasis on loving-kindness?
Another important thing to considerer is that this selfishness/egotism does not have to be particularly strong in this life-time; according to Buddhism, we often experience the results of our karma (actions) in a next life. So a person could have been very loving and caring for others in this life, but still the results of karma from previous life-times can pop up to create suffering in this life. (See the page on karma for more on this process.)
A very interesting aspect of reflection on compassion and love is the point that we need to respect, forgive and have compassion not only for others, but ourselves as well.

One of the causes for depression can be a strong sense of dissatisfaction with ourselves; perhaps the page on lack of self-confidence could be helpful? In modern society, it appears that only 'being number one' counts, but this leaves out the other 6 billion people, including 'me'. Does that mean that I am worthless? Of course not!
Just look at the other end of the scale: many of our so-called great heroes of the past are admired for their power, courage and intelligence, but how many heroes can you think of that actually made it a point to create happiness and security instead of waging war and creating havoc? Simply being a loving and caring person tends to help the world a lot more than being 'number one'. One may admire pop-idols and moviestars, but many of them are (or will be) in a sorry state, addicted to drugs and 'life in the fast lane'; not understanding that happiness is a state of their own mind, not of their bank account, level of drugs, availability of sex etc.

If we can genuinely wish ourselves happiness and radiate that wish to others, our state of mind can change dramatically. If we change our mind, we can change our mood - a simple process, but not easy to achieve quickly. One of the most important things is to understand that we can change our own mind if we make a bit of an effort. If we would not be able to change anything in our mind, how did we ever learn to read and write?

Andrew Solomon wrote in 'Anatomy of Melancholy':

"When you are depressed, the past and the future are absorbed entirely by the present, as in the world of a three-year-old. You can neither remember feeling better nor imagine that you will feel better. Being upset, even profoundly upset, is a temporal experience, whereas depression is atemporal. Depression means that you have no point of view."

When we are in such a state, we probably need more than what is described below, but once we can see the way out again, it is possible to work on a more permanent change of our mind.

The great Buddhist sage Nagarjuna said:

If there is a remedy when trouble strikes,
What reason is there for despondency?
And if there is no help for it,
What is the use of being sad?

So come what may, I'll never harm
My cheery happiness of mind.
Depression never brings me what I want;
My virtue will be warped and marred by it.

Openness can be another key factor: 'miracles' do happen when we stop resisting them, because although the result can appear miraculous, our mind changes continuously, and our minds can only be changed by ouselves. Sincerely trying to help others is probably the best cure when we really feel sorry for ourselves. But if we are not mindful of ourselves and others, helping others can lead to Burnout, see this small part in the compassion page. So the Buddhist approach of study and meditation emphasizes taking control over our own mind and directing it into more positive habits.

From notes on a teaching by His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

"There was an empirical study that found that people who have the tendency to use more self-referential terms (I, me, myself) tend to have more health problems and earlier deaths (the Dalai Lama had heard this the day before from another speaker in neurology at a symposium on Buddhism and meditation in New York City). These people have more involvement with the self. Being self-absorbed has an immediate effect of narrowing one's focus and blurring one's vision. It is like being pressed down by a heavy load. If, on the other hand, you think more about others' well-being, it immediately makes you feel more expansive, liberated and free. Problems which before may have seemed enormous would then seem more manageable."

The following message appeared in a Buddhist discussion forum, where self-centeredness was discussed as a possible important factor in depression:

"Having myself experienced extreme, regularly to the point of suicidal, depression, I think I can understand your point of view at least to a certain extent. But on the notion of self-centredness, I'm afraid I have to agree. From my own experience, coming through a massive clinical depression and coming through to the other end, cured, I believe self-centredness to be the very cause of depression. And not just depression, but every ailment in the world as we know it. The irony is, I can only see this NOW, with hindsight, looking back at my mindstate when I was depressed: "ego all the way, me me me, MY problems, MY depression, MY past, MY MY MY MY..." That very self-absorbed, self-centred fascination with my own ego and its agenda mindstate is exactly what kept me trapped in that depression for so long. It's only when I started to consider that maybe -- just maybe -- as one of the 6 BILLION people on this planet, other people had problems FAR WORSE than mine, that the clouds began to part. And when I realised that I was being very selfish and WASTING my life in a state of -- excuse me, but there are few better terms -- mental masturbation.
All I was doing was feeding my ego, indulging its little whims and woes, and feeling sorry for myself. What was I doing for humanity? Nothing. And yes, that is self-centredness in its highest -- or should I say lowest -- form.
Of course, the great curse of the ever-nourished ego -- the root of all depression -- is that when you're IN that state, you CAN'T SEE it for what it is. It's like the people stuck in the Matrix (the film). They wouldn't believe it if you told them they were living in a dream. You have to wake up for yourself, then you see it."
Joshua Bryer

From Working with Anger by Thubten Chodron:

"We often focus on a few circumstances in our life that aren't going well instead of all those that are. Although we all have problems, when we over-emphasize their importance, we easily begin thinking that we are incapable and worthless. Such self-hatred immobilizes us and prevents us from developing our good qualities and sharing them with others.

When we look at the broad picture, however, we can see many positive things in our life. We can rejoice that we are alive and appreciate whatever degree of good health we have. We also have food (often too much!), shelter, clothing, medicine, friends, relatives, and a myriad of good circumstances. Many of the people reading this book live in peaceful places, not in war-torn areas. Many have jobs they like, and family and friends they appreciate. We shouldn't take these for granted. Most importantly, from a spiritual viewpoint, we have access to an authentic path, qualified teachers to guide us, and kind companions who encourage us. We have genuine spiritual aspirations and the time to cultivate these. Thinking about these good conditions one by one, we will be filled with joy, and any sense of being incapable and hopeless will vanish."

Similarly, the Buddha himself said:

"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.
When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves."

DRIVING OURSELVES CRAZY

With most problematic states of mind, and certainly with depression, we often have a tendency to maintain the problem by self-confirmation. What I mean with that is often repeating to oneself things like "I am depressed", "I feel miserable", "Life sucks", "They are bad", "I hate myself", "I can't do it". The problem is that when we repeat this often enough, it will all come true! These kind of self-obsessive thoughts blind us to the needs of our family and friends, and we do nothing to help them. As a result, we receive less positive feedback and love from them, and also less simple satisfaction and joy of making them happy.

In Buddhism, we use meditation to improve our state of mind by habituating ourselves to a positive state of mind, but repeating the above sort of tantrums throughout the day will only keep us in the same negative state. Just imagine what happens if a perfectly happy woman suddenly starts saying to herself "I feel miserable, I hate myself" once every five minutes...
Instead, positive affirmations can have a strong therapeutic effect; "I love my family", "I don't need to grow hungry", "Other people are much worse off than me", "I can help others", "I am OK".

So a simple technique is to forbid yourself using the word 'depressed' and your standard negative expressions, but replace them with more positive phrases. It takes quite a bit of mindfulness in the beginning, but with a bit of persistence you can talk yourself into a better mood!

From Ven. Thubten Gyatso:

"Should you flush your Valium and Prozac down the toilet? No, not yet. Begin with small actions to help others - empty the garbage can without being asked, clean up your own mess in the kitchen, polish the shoes of others. Smile occasionally. Gradually build up the courage and determination to confront your self-cherishing mind and declare yourself a slave and friend of all living beings. Then you will extract more joy from cleaning up somebody else's mess in the kitchen than you will ever get from watching television. Not only will this lift your depression, it will place you on the path to bliss."

Excerpt from Lama Yeshe's talk at VajraYogini Institute, France, September 5, 1983:

"In Western cities nowadays, you can see, the older you are the more problems you have. When we are young, not so many problems, but then there are drugs and sex, and eventually they become dissatisfying, then more depression, more depression. So, as your body becomes bigger and your brain becomes wider, you have more and more problems and become more and more depressed. The more money you have the more problems come. You can see this.
You only take care of your body, you never take care of your mind, and the result of this imbalance is depression. For most western people this is the case: only the body is reality and they don't care about the existence of the mind, the soul, the consciousness. They don't believe they can change their minds. They can change their nose through an operation, but they don't believe they can change their mind. And when you believe this, then no way can you resolve your depression.
Our thoughts, our mind or consciousness are mental energy and cannot be localised in the body. It cannot be touched; it has no form and does not travel in time and space. We cannot touch it or grasp it.
What is important to understand is that the view you have of yourself and the view you have of your environment are based on your own mind; they are the projection of your mind and that is why they are not reality."

TWENTY-FOUR BRAND-NEW HOURS
By Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hahn, Coutersy of Plum Village Practice Center, France Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand-new hours to live. What a precious gift! We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others.
Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see. The Question is whether or not we are in touch with it. We don't have to travel far away to enjoy the blue sky. We don't have to leave our city or even our neighborhood to enjoy the eyes of a beautiful child. Even the air we breathe can be a source of joy.
We can smile, breathe, walk, and eat our meals in a way that allows us to be in touch with the abundance of happiness that is available. We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive at the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.
Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment. ...

PRAYER FOR FREEDOM FROM SUFFERING

May all beings everywhere plagued
with sufferings of body and mind
quickly be freed from their illnesses.
May those frightened cease to be afraid,
and may those bound be free.
May the powerless find power,
and may people think of befriending each other.
May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wilderness--
the children, the aged, the unprotected--
be guarded by beneficent celestials,
and may they swiftly attain Buddhahood.
The Buddha

TRANSFORMING DEPRESSION
by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Lama Zopa RinpocheThe best solution to purify the karma of having depression is to do the purification practice of Vajrasattva. As long as the karma isn't purified, you'll continue to suffer from depression again in future lives.

Maybe you wake up in the morning feeling depressed for no particular reason. If you can't solve this problem through meditation it might help to just go to sleep, or go somewhere to rest, or take a nice drive somewhere. Otherwise you'll get upset, disturbing the people around you as well. When you're angry, all sorts of bad, uncontrolled thoughts can come into your mind.

If you're depressed due to a certain situation then you can apply the meditation techniques that relate to that particular set of conditions. But if you just feel sad for no particular reason, it's best to practice bodhicitta.

You can recite the verse from the Guru Puja,
"Please bless me to realize that the disease of the self cherishing thought is the door to unwanted suffering."
Blame the demon, the self-cherishing thought, for your problem of depression.
Then recite the next verse,
"Bless me to realize that cherishing others, bodhicitta, the attitude that leads all mother living beings to happiness, is the door to every excellent quality."

Another quote from Guru Puja is,
"Even if all living beings become my enemy, may I cherish them more than my life."

It's very good if you can recite these verses daily, especially when you feel depressed. Then you'll be using your depression to practice the meaning of these two verses; that all problems and suffering come from cherishing the 'I', therefore the I is the object to be renounced, to be given up. All your own and others' happiness, including all the realizations up to enlightenment- all perfections and happiness come from cherishing others- bodhicitta.

Because all these good things come from the attitude of cherishing others, they depend on other living beings. Therefore living beings are to be cherished forever. You need to repay the kindness of all these precious beings, to help them however you can. How best to do this? They've been millionaires countless times, they've even been universal kings but none of this power or wealth has freed them from the sufferings of samsara. The best way to repay their kindness is to practice Lamrim, to transform the mind from ignorance, attachment and self-cherishing into wholesome, pure thoughts. By actualizing the path to enlightenment you can easily liberate other beings. Therefore the best way to repay their kindness is to meditate on and develop bodhicitta in your own mind.

Taking

Every living being is the source of all your past, present, future happiness. Generate compassion by thinking, "I'll take all their suffering and its causes (afflictive emotions and negative karmic imprints) including the fires of the hot hells, the ice of the cold hells and the unpleasant, unhealthy, ugly, unpeaceful and polluted environments of human beings into my heart." This eliminates the self-cherishing attitude. Once the self-cherishing attitude has been destroyed do a short meditate on emptiness.

Giving

After the self-cherishing has been destroyed, generate love by giving your own happiness, your merit, all the good things you have, including your body, wealth and possessions. All their wishes are fulfilled as if they had a wish-granting jewel. By giving them all these things you create unbelievable amounts of merit. You can recite mantra while they're receiving everything they want and need. Actually they don't know they really need. What they need is to meet the dharma. But if they don't understand the benefits of the dharma, they want something other than dharma.

Receiving all these good things causes them to actualize the spiritual path, to purify the two obscurations (to liberation and enlightenment). They achieve the Rupakaya (the form bodies of a Buddha) and become enlightened. Think, "How wonderful it is that I can do all this for others! I've died many times in past lives while working for my own happiness, but it didn't accomplish anything. I'm still in samsara. I've never died while working for others. Even if I have to die for the benefit of others, for them to stop creating negative karma, to not be reborn in the lower realms and for their minds to become the dharmakaya and Rupakaya and enlightened, it would be immensely worthwhile."

Mediate on the extensive kindness and precious of all beings. "Every living being is the source of all my past, present, future hap. My own future Buddha, Dharma and Sangha come from purifying my negative karma enabling me to attain all the realizations and to achieve enlightenment. All this happens on the basis of other beings. Therefore every sentient being is the most precious thing in my life. Anything other than working for living beings is totally meaningless." This includes experiencing depression for them. There's nothing to work for other than sentient beings. Anything else is totally meaningless. Experience depression on their behalf by thinking this isn't my depression but the depression of numberless beings, this is their depression, their suffering. To give them every happiness; including freedom all the sufferings of cyclic existence and the bliss of full enlightenment is fantastic!

Feel the joy of it! This is their depression, so the most wonderful thing would be to experience it for them and allow all those suffering from depression to have every happiness. Then rejoice that you have this opportunity to experience this problem of depression on their behalf. "How fantastic it is that I'm experiencing this depression on behalf of all beings!"

Do this practice of tonglen (taking and giving) in the morning, afternoon and evening.

Think again and again, "How lucky I am that I can experience this depression for them. I've made many prayers to take others' suffering onto myself, so now those prayers are being actualized. How fantastic this is! It makes my life so rich, so meaningful! How fortunate I am to experience this depression on behalf of all living beings."

Think about the meaning of your life, a psychological method that makes a huge difference because much of the problem comes from your exaggerated concept of pain. It's possible to reduce or completely eliminate pain with the mind. "The purpose of my life isn't just to be healthy, wealthy, to have a good reputation, to be popular and have lots of friends. Even if I had all these things, it isn't the actual purpose of my life. Even if I live for 1,000 years or am perfectly healthy for eons, if I don't have love and compassion in my heart my life it's meaningless and useless because my life isn't benefiting others. Leading such a life would be empty. Therefore it doesn't matter what happens; if in my life there's health or no health; depression or no depression; cancer or no cancer, wealth or no wealth. The real purpose of my life is to make my death beneficial for others. Even if I have cancer, I'll make that experience beneficial for all beings by using it to develop compassion and bodhicitta, to achieve realizations and enlightenment." In this way the cancer becomes the cause of happiness. Depression can also be used to achieve enlightenment to benefit all beings in this and future lives, especially all those who suffer from depression- just like using snake venom to produce it's own anti-venom.

You're using your depression to achieve enlightenment. In this way it becomes the cause of happiness for all sentient beings experiencing depression. Think, "The main purpose of life is to benefit all living beings, to free them from suffering and bring them happiness in this and future lives. Even if I have cancer, aids, depression or whatever, the purpose of my life is to bring happiness to all sentient beings by experiencing these problems on their behalf." In this way depression becomes a quick way to achieve enlightenment. The same with cancer. Use it to quickly achieve enlightenment. If it's experienced for the benefit of others it becomes the quick path to enlightenment because experiencing suffering for others is incredible, unbelievable purification. This is excellent!

There was one monk in Thailand who was walking around the country. He came across a big river. On the banks of the river was a woman with leprosy, with pus oozing out of her sores. She begged the monk to carry her across the river. He refused, on the basis that his monk's vows prevented him from touching women. After some time one of the monk's disciples came along and when he saw the poor woman, unbelievable compassion arose in his mind. Without hesitation he picked her up and carried her across the river, even though her body was covered with open wounds. When he reached the middle of the river the woman transformed into Vajra Yogini and took him - not just his consciousness, but also his body, to Vajra Yogini's Pure Land. This means that by now this monk has attained full enlightenment, because anyone who goes to Vajra Yogini's Pure Land is enlightened there. Being in a Pure Land is a quick way to achieve enlightenment if it hasn't yet happened in your present life. In this case Vajra Yogini took the aspect of an ordinary, pitiful woman with leprosy in order to stimulate compassion in the disciple's mind. This compassion quickly purified the heavy negative karma blocking him from seeing Vajra Yogini.

In the case of the great Tibetan yogi, Milarepa, the karmic blocks preventing him to see Vajrayogini were purified by his pure service to his holy guru, Marpa.

It's the same for you. If on the basis of feeling strong compassion you experience depression on behalf of all beings, this meditation of taking and experiencing the suffering for others is a quick path to enlightenment, just like the example of the monk. It's a quick way to achieve enlightenment because experiencing cancer, depression or any suffering for the benefit of living beings is unbelievably purifying.

Suffering from depression can be a good thing because it allows you to easily see the pain of other people. By using your own experience of depression you can clearly feel the unbearable pain of many, many other people. There are so many people who are depressed and many others creating karma for future bouts of depression. Experiencing depression on their behalf might be even more powerful than practising tantra because if tantra isn't done correctly, on the basis of the three principal paths, it's not a quick path to enlightenment.

When feeling depressed you can think, "I'm exhausting so much of my negative karma to have depression that I've accumulated throughout countless past lives". Rejoice! You should feel great joy about finishing the karma instead of seeing the depression as something bad.

As it's said in Guru Puja, living beings and their environments are filled with unbelievable problems and sufferings, coming one after another like rainfall, sufferings that are the results of negative karma. "Please grant me blessings to see my depression as exhausting the results of my negative karmic imprints, and bless me to be able to always transform bad conditions into the path to enlightenment." You can recite mantra while doing this meditation.

For example when you wash a dirty piece of cloth, the water becomes black with dirt. You don't see the black dirt as a negative thing since it means the cloth is getting clean. In the same way, when you practice dharma negative karmas can ripen causing you to get sick because you're purifying so much negative karma by practising dharma. So you should rejoice when you get depressed!

Depression happens in the first place due to being under the control of the ego, self-cherishing, attachment, anger, broken vows and pledges and having disturbed the minds of holy beings and your spiritual teachers in past lives. This depression is caused by the ego, the self-cherishing attitude and the self-existent "I". So rather than accepting the depression, give it back to the self-cherishing attitude. Use the depression like a bomb to destroy the wrong conception of the I. Then meditate on the emptiness of the self-existent I.

These are some ways to use depression to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible. By using it to develop compassion and bodhicitta you collect merit as vast as limitless space and purify unbelievable amounts of negative karma. It's being used like a powerful bomb to destroy the wrong conception of the inherently existent I, the thing that caused the depression in the first place. It's the demon that has prevented your enlightenment, your liberation from samsara, all the realizations, and is the door to all your problems.

You can also do some preliminary practices such as Vajrasattva to purify the negative karma that causes depression.

Edited by T. Wongmo, Buddhist Nun; from the Lama Yeshe website

Read some very to-the-point letters by Lama Zopa Rinpoche to depressed students. See also a letter to a student who was contemplating suicide.

MEDITATION ON AFFLICTION

Assailed by afflictions, we discover Dharma
And find the way to liberation. Thank you, evil forces!

When sorrows invade the mind, we discover Dharma
And find lasting happiness. Thank you, sorrows!

Through harm caused by spirits we discover Dharma
And find fearlessness. Thank you, ghosts and demons!

Through people's hate we discover Dharma
And find benefits and happiness. Thank you, those who hate us!

Through cruel adversity, we discover Dharma
And find the unchanging way. Thank you, adversity!

Through being impelled to by others, we discover Dharma
And find the essential meaning. Thank you, all who drive us on!

We dedicate our merit to you all, to repay your kindness.

Gyalwa Longchenpa, source: SoultoSpirit.com

How meditation on the Buddha can help, by Sogyal Rinpoche in Glimpse of the Day:

"There is a spark of hope, a playful humor about the posture we take in meditation, which lies in the secret understanding that we all have the buddha nature. So when you assume this posture, you are playfully imitating a buddha, acknowledging and giving real encouragement to the emergence of your own buddha nature. You begin to respect yourself as a potential buddha.
At the same time, you still recognize your relative condition. But because you have let yourself be inspired by a joyful trust in your own true buddha nature, you can accept your negative aspects more easily and deal with them more generously and with more humor.
When you meditate, invite yourself to feel the self-esteem, the dignity, and the strong humility of the buddha that you are. If you simply let yourself be inspired by this joyful trust, it is enough: Out of this understanding and confidence, meditation will naturally arise."

A TEACHING ON DEPRESSION
by Ven. Thubten Gyatso

Depression is a state of extreme unhappiness, described by sufferers in a recent BBC radio program as a black, dismal, dungeon of despair; as a stifling hot room with no means of escape; as a heavy overcoat of pain with the buttons soldered together; and as like walking through treacle. It is characterised by a sense of loss of control over one’s life, a loss of enthusiasm, and the inability to enjoy pleasure. One may know what to do, but cannot summon the energy to do it.
Depression may be precipitated by bereavement, illness, unemployment, and perhaps sometimes a neurological abnormality. According to Buddhism, however, the overriding cause of depression is self-cherishing - seeing one’s own physical and mental pleasure as more important than anybody else’s. Self-cherishing is irritability when our spouse asks us to do something that interrupts our own enjoyment, such as watching television, playing sport, or talking with our friends. It is the desire to get the best food for oneself, the best seat in the cinema, the best result in an examination, and the most praise from someone of influence.
How can a small thing such as selfishness, which we all have, be the cause of such a major illness as depression? There are two main reasons. The first is that unhappiness arising from selfishness is cumulative. When we do not obtain what we want, or are stopped from doing what we want, we often over-react to a ridiculous extent. Examine your own experience - how many domestic arguments have exploded out of incredibly petty causes? Even though we chastise ourselves for our stupid behaviour, we repeat the same thing again and again. At home, at work, at the club, wherever we go to relax, our selfish behaviour isolates us from others. The accumulation of small failures in life erodes our self-confidence, we are unable to be happy, and we spiral into depression.
The second reason why selfishness causes depression is because it prevents us from doing the one thing that is guaranteed to bring happiness - cherishing others. Self-obsession smothers consideration for the needs of others and we stop giving love. The constant whirl of self-centred thoughts in our heads, “I am so sad, I need to be happy,” blinds us to the needs of our family and friends, and we do nothing to help them. Our self-confidence takes a further battering because we no longer receive the feedback of love from them, or the pure satisfaction and joy of making them happy. The joy of making others happy is pure because we do not crave it again and again, unlike the joy of self-indulgence which is impure because it never brings satisfaction. Cut off from the world, we sink into unhappiness, self-doubt, and the thought that we are going insane. This is depression.
Buddha’s diagnosis of the cause of depression is not petty or discriminative. We all have self-cherishing, and if we allow it to take over our lives and block our love and compassion for others, we will be in danger of following that awful path into depression. Depression does not cause misery, depression is misery, at its worst. In the human realm anyway. Depressives may not believe this, but it can get far worse in other realms of rebirth.
To indicate our own part in the development of depression is not to point the finger of blame and cause guilt. If we can see that the cause is in our own mind, we will understand that the cure is also in our own mind.
Seeing the shattered self-confidence of depressed people, many new-age creeds attempt to cure the problem with the philosophy of “love yourself first.” But this is the cause, not the cure. The great Indian Bodhisattva, Shantideva, said, “If you want to be happy, you should never seek to please yourself.” Instead, we should seek to please others.
If we ask, “But, don’t I have to protect myself from suffering?”
Shantideva replies, “If you wish to be protected, you should constantly protect all others.” Buddha’s prescription for happiness is to forget yourself and love others. The more we look after our family and friends, the more they will care for us. It is so simple, so obvious, but we have to do it. Not just our family and friends; our purpose in life should be to protect every living being from suffering. When this attitude is supported by wisdom, we will never know unhappiness.
Should you flush your Valium and Prozac down the toilet? No, not yet. Begin with small actions to help others - empty the garbage can without being asked, clean up your own mess in the kitchen, polish the shoes of others. Smile occasionally.
Gradually build up the courage and determination to confront your self-cherishing mind and declare yourself a slave and friend of all living beings. Then you will extract more joy from cleaning up somebody else’s mess in the kitchen than you will ever get from watching the football on television. Not only will this lift your depression, it will place you on the path to bliss.

USEFUL BOOKS

"The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness" by Kabat-Zinn, Williams, Teasdale, Segal

"When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times"
by Pema Chodron

"The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times"
by Pema Chodron

"The Zen Path Through Depression"
by Philip Martin

"Working With Anger"
by Thubten Chodron

LINKS

Buddhist
See Lama Zopa Rinpoche's advice to people suffering from depression.
For meditation examples see the Meditation List and Tonglen Meditation
A recommended book or set of tapes: "When Things Fall Apart" Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön (Shambhala)
Discussion group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/buddhism-depression/
Domanassa Blog, contains a great collection of Buddhist articles.
An interesting page of What do you think, my friend?

Non-Buddhist
The non-Buddhist NIMH site with good info on depression, see also thepage 'What to do when a friend is depressed?.
A good general resource is the All of Depression website.
Do have a look at the BROH trick, it really makes sense to me...
A good summary description of depression and accompanying problems.
Information on Depression and Anxiety
Medical handbook on depression

Are you worried about scwcd certification and Network+? Check out our Testking 642-611 resources for HP2-E29 and for practice with definite guarantee of ccdp.

Just for fun:

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined.
Samuel Goldwyn

How do you feel about women's rights? I like either side of them.
Groucho Marx

In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
Douglas Adams

People used to explore the dimensions of reality by taking LSD to make the world look weird.
Now the world is weird and they take Prozac to make it look normal.
Bangstrom

If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple of payments.
?

Previous Page | ^Top of Page | Next Page - Other Delusions

Last updated: June 11, 2012