Should mentally troubled people stay away from Buddhism?

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binocular
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Should mentally troubled people stay away from Buddhism?

Post by binocular » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:34 pm

Greetings,

From another thread:
cjmacie wrote:Apropos the sub-thread here on mental illness and bhavana, a further contribution from Thomas Cleary’s book:

Pages 152-153 (very end of Cleary’s commentary)

The opening statement of The Secret of the Golden Flower includes the provision that people should establish a firm foothold in the ordinary world before they try to cultivate the blossoming of the golden flower. This means that they should be able to function adequately in their own culture and society, whatever that may be. The golden flower practice is not primarily a therapeutic method for severely unbalanced people; it is a way of higher development for ordinary people.

Yet it is also true that some forms of neurosis are built into civilized society itself, and many ordinary people suffering slightly from mild neuroses are well integrated with their everyday world. The reason why the golden flower method is not particularly recommended for severely neurotic people, or for people with schizoid or psychotic tendencies, is that the enhanced receptivity and sensitivity fostered by the practice might exacerbate feelings of illness and fear.

The thoughts and images that compel the neurotic and psychotic could become more overpowering in the early stages of golden flower practice, when the "demons" of thought assail the mind as it relaxes its conscious set in anticipation of the attempted switch-over to nonconceptual awareness. Getting past this stage to experience penetrating insight into the essence and source of awareness itself, not associated with any content at all, would be key to any help the golden flower method could offer the severely unbalanced in finding a way out of their hells.

If people with uncontrollable mental problems do turn to the golden flower method for help, they could be better off with the guidance of therapists who have themselves experienced the original mind of humanity and can calmly view the various realms of thought and perception as so many planets in a vast and endless space. For their part, therapists to the mentally bedeviled need the unattached buoyancy and independent objectivity of penetrating insight, so the golden flower exercise could be useful to them in a very direct way in the investigation of processes of mental illness and liberation.
https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?p=432938#p432943
What support does this view have in Buddhist sources?


Thank you.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

Garrib
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Re: Should mentally troubled people stay away from Buddhism?

Post by Garrib » Wed Aug 02, 2017 3:51 pm

I would answer, categorically, No. I believe that there is something in the Dhamma for everyone - by holding to a basic code of moral conduct (5 precepts), by practicing generosity, cultivating mindfulness, wearing away at mental defilements, and developing right view, anyone can derive benefits in their life. At the very least, one can generate merits that will ripen in happiness and well-being at some future time...but reaching stages of enlightenment is also possible.

Seniya was a "naked dog duty ascetic" during the Buddha's time. He would go around naked, on all fours, eating food off the ground, trying his best to imitate a dog. Apparently, he did this intentionally because he thought it would bring him some spiritual benefit. But the Buddha informed him that such a practice can lead one to lower, painful states of existence. He wept and lamented that he had been acting that way for so long - then he asked for the going forth, and became a Bhikkhu - In due time, he became an Arahant.

Now - In no way am I trying to imply that people who are "mentally troubled" are all imitating animals, or anything like that. My point is just that in this example we find a somewhat jarring and extreme case of a person who is not acting according to societal expectations or conventions. They became enlightened under the Buddha.

I would also add that to some extent, all of us worldlings are "mentally troubled," and it is just a question of the degree to which we are currently being affected by the defilements. If the conditions are in place, we could descend into madness...but thankfully, we have the Dhamma, and hence some merits.

All that being said, there are many kinds of "buddhism" out there - and I can imagine that some of them might be problematic for people who suffer from what we typically call mental illness. Anything that increases greed, hate and delusion is to be avoided. But IMO the True Dhamma does not increase greed, hate, or delusion, and so it is definitely safe. Having a good spiritual friend, a wise and virtuous person who can teach you the Dhamma and be a good role model - that is helpful!

Practicing Buddhism doesn't mean you automatically reject other kinds of support in life. For instance, as far as I know, the Buddha never taught that running or vigorous exercise is beneficial - but I still try to do those things, because I find that they help me to function in my current mode of existence. If I was suffering from mental illness, I might try to talk to a therapist of some kind, in addition to practicing Buddhism. I can see that problems might arise if someone naively approaches Buddhism as some kind of cure all, without properly understanding the practice and path. Again, a wise and kind teacher may help prevent or remedy that kind of situation.

All in all, this is a complicated topic and every individual situation will be different, but in general I would answer that no one should "stay away from Buddhism." Everyone is welcome, and everyone can derive benefit.

:smile: ,

Brad

Garrib
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Re: Should mentally troubled people stay away from Buddhism?

Post by Garrib » Wed Aug 02, 2017 3:55 pm

PS...

It may well be that someone with mental troubles should in fact stay away from esoteric practices like searching for the Golden Flower - but this is not the same thing as cultivating the Noble Eightfold path, even if it does contain some Buddhist influence.

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Will
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Re: Should mentally troubled people stay away from Buddhism?

Post by Will » Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:00 pm

It depends on how the unstable (or worse) person contacts and practices the Dhamma. If it is done mainly or exclusively from books - not a good or helpful idea.

I knew a bookish chap who was driven to skip all seven of the boring preparatory steps and just meditated hour after hour after day after day, little or no sleep, fasting. He was seeking bliss, samadhi, Nibbana of course. He went from eccentric to raving crazy. Never found out what happened to him.

But if there is a wise, experienced Dhamma teacher and/or temple group to guide and help the person, then yes the Dhamma can be a blessing.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

2600htz
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Re: Should mentally troubled people stay away from Buddhism?

Post by 2600htz » Wed Aug 02, 2017 7:21 pm

Hello:

Should physically troubled people stay away from Sports?. The answer is usually no, they just need to be more careful and more precise regarding their practice. Same principle here.

Regards.

befriend
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Re: Should mentally troubled people stay away from Buddhism?

Post by befriend » Wed Aug 02, 2017 10:12 pm

As I have said before I suffer from schizophrenia and have very very slowly chipped away at a lot of my symptoms. Although mentally ill people should not practice concentration practices, and some other practices that could confuse the mind like 32 body part contemplation I know is adverse for me or rotting corpses meditation . But if you are capable of having one thought of loving kindness for the duration of the snap of ones fingers, there is hope. We must remember the brain can change mental illness isn't a spiritual death sentence it's actually a blessing I use my illness as something to conquer with Dhamma activities and i can be a role model to others living with serious mental illness.
Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.

Garrib
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Re: Should mentally troubled people stay away from Buddhism?

Post by Garrib » Wed Aug 02, 2017 10:45 pm

:goodpost:

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aflatun
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Re: Should mentally troubled people stay away from Buddhism?

Post by aflatun » Thu Aug 03, 2017 2:26 am

befriend wrote:As I have said before I suffer from schizophrenia and have very very slowly chipped away at a lot of my symptoms. Although mentally ill people should not practice concentration practices, and some other practices that could confuse the mind like 32 body part contemplation I know is adverse for me or rotting corpses meditation . But if you are capable of having one thought of loving kindness for the duration of the snap of ones fingers, there is hope. We must remember the brain can change mental illness isn't a spiritual death sentence it's actually a blessing I use my illness as something to conquer with Dhamma activities and i can be a role model to others living with serious mental illness.
You are an inspiration befriend!

:bow: :bow: :bow:
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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_anicca_
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Re: Should mentally troubled people stay away from Buddhism?

Post by _anicca_ » Thu Aug 03, 2017 4:50 am

This is highly contingent on the scenario. If the person cannot function properly, then it is best to stabilize as a lay practitioner before pursuing higher levels of bhavana. I think mentally ill people can benefit from staying at a monastery with close guidance from a teacher. However, I think Goenka retreats (as an example) would be a bad idea as there is a lack of teacher/student communion. Intensive retreats are not something to undertake until you have a solid foundation in monastic life.

Therapy is beneficial, maybe not entirely necessary, but you can achieve just as much as you can in therapy with working one-on-one with an experienced teacher. I used to have mental illness, but I feel that I can say I do not anymore.

Some problems are better equipped to be healed by therapy; others by Buddhism.
"A virtuous monk, Kotthita my friend, should attend in an appropriate way to the five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self."

:buddha1:

http://vipassanameditation.asia

binocular
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Re: Should mentally troubled people stay away from Buddhism?

Post by binocular » Thu Aug 03, 2017 5:34 am

_anicca_ wrote:Some problems are better equipped to be healed by therapy; others by Buddhism.
For example?

Relying on Western psyhotherapy usually means going in the exact opposite direction of Buddhism. It's strange to suggest that mentally troubled people should first go away from Buddhism, so that by that, they can be better qualified to approach Buddhism.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Aloka
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Re: Should mentally troubled people stay away from Buddhism?

Post by Aloka » Thu Aug 03, 2017 6:29 am

binocular wrote:
Relying on Western psyhotherapy usually means going in the exact opposite direction of Buddhism
Apparently not in the case of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy which has books about it available at a London Buddhist centre's bookshop :

http://www.breathingspacelondon.org.uk/ ... bout-MBCT/


:anjali:


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cjmacie
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Re: Should mentally troubled people stay away from Buddhism?

Post by cjmacie » Thu Aug 03, 2017 10:13 am

Dmytro wrote:I would recommend Hakomi and other Dhamma-related therapies:

http://www.hakomiinstitute.com/Resources/jlehrman.html
http://awake.kiev.ua/hakomi/buddhako.htm
You are then "Dmytro Ivakhnenko (Kyiv, Ukraine)" as in "awake.kiev.ua" and "www.dhamma.ru/sadhu"?

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_anicca_
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Re: Should mentally troubled people stay away from Buddhism?

Post by _anicca_ » Thu Aug 03, 2017 10:43 am

binocular wrote:
_anicca_ wrote:Some problems are better equipped to be healed by therapy; others by Buddhism.
For example?

Relying on Western psyhotherapy usually means going in the exact opposite direction of Buddhism. It's strange to suggest that mentally troubled people should first go away from Buddhism, so that by that, they can be better qualified to approach Buddhism.
If you see in my other posts on this forums, I am not an advocate for therapeutic interventions. However, I feel that there are certain modern-day, Western problems that were not as relevant during the times of the Buddha. The amount of self-hatred Westerners have is a good example of this. Even if you achieve sotapatti, this can still stay because it is tied to the fetter of conceit.

There is more overlap than we realize between Buddhism and psychotherapy. The field of psychotherapy is so broad that you can't just paint it with one broad stroke and say it is contrary to Buddhism, because this is not always the case.
"A virtuous monk, Kotthita my friend, should attend in an appropriate way to the five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self."

:buddha1:

http://vipassanameditation.asia

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_anicca_
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Re: Should mentally troubled people stay away from Buddhism?

Post by _anicca_ » Thu Aug 03, 2017 10:49 am

binocular wrote:
_anicca_ wrote:Some problems are better equipped to be healed by therapy; others by Buddhism.
For example?

Relying on Western psyhotherapy usually means going in the exact opposite direction of Buddhism. It's strange to suggest that mentally troubled people should first go away from Buddhism, so that by that, they can be better qualified to approach Buddhism.
Here is another post of mine on the topic:
Mental illness is caused by two things - a lack of mindfulness and abnormalities in the brain. Mentally ill people cannot control their thoughts, so they eventually continue with mental proliferation until their very own creation takes over them.

Therapy is not needed if someone can become mindful in daily life, use samatha to calm their mind, and vipassana to see the reality of their afflictions. The only thing you need to analyze is if the action is skillful or unskillful; anything more will cause mental proliferation.

There is a case for psychiatric medication, especially in things like Major Depressive Disorder and Schizophrenia, in the fact that there is dysfunction in the way that the brain works. Here it is important to separate the brain (form) and mind (feeling, perception, consciousness, mental fabrications). Medication can cure the brain, but it cannot cure the mind. Medicine can just enable a sick person to practice the dhamma.

-Anicca/Alexander M.
"A virtuous monk, Kotthita my friend, should attend in an appropriate way to the five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self."

:buddha1:

http://vipassanameditation.asia

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