SuttaCentral

Can a person with a mood disorder reach stream entry in this lifetime?

I’m not sure what you mean here. As far as it is currently known, there is no cure for bipolar disorder (except, perhaps, as mentioned above, reaching SE). That’s why it requires lifelong medication. I will probably never be able to be off medication, because bad things will happen.

1 Like

Thanks for everyone’s input so far!

There is a paper from 2018 on this particular matter.

Ironically, being mindful of my susceptibilities has led me down the exact path suggested by my college psychiatrist: meditation. In particular, vipassana (usually translated as “insight” or “mindfulness”) meditation has enabled me to experience how I am truly immersed in the world, how I live it from the inside. This practice teaches that “breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.” Focusing on my breath, whether in line at the grocery store or on my meditation cushion at home, has led me to understand the convergence of physical sense perception and contemplative self-perception recognized as my person. Anxiety feels like a sustained rushing jitteriness all over (not unlike excitement though less pleasant); depression is accompanied with the sensations of a large open gash or wound at my chest.
To really know the world around me at any given moment requires me to know myself in that moment, to open myself to the complexities of its experience. I must not only observe but also make an effort to comprehend what and how I feel physically, emotionally, and cognitively. Mindfulness then facilitates a less reactive, more thoughtful, more measured—and dare I say more objective—response to any situation. It also cultivates compassion for myself and others, each of us caught in the tangled webs of our experiences.
Despite my unfortunate encounter with psychiatric treatment in college, I have been able to make a more insightful and agreeable return to it and to antidepressants. Although a part of me still harbors resentment toward the psychiatrist who unwittingly set me on this journey, I understand now that he was only attempting to help in the way that he knew best. But when medicine failed me (and him), he was able to set aside science, logic, bias, and years of schooling to propose I try a centuries-old Eastern practice instead. Because he thought it might help me. It was a sensitive, undeniably human thing to do.
Sattar, Atia. “My Unexpected Journey from Medication to Meditation.” Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 27.4 (2018): 732-737.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0963180118000221

1 Like

Advice regarding any kind of illness, and especially mental health over the internet is really not very constructive. The individual differences of people make it ‘impossible’ to know what will help them best.

Best just to give links to resources etc, and to let each person work it out with their medical professionals. Remember, there can be many unintended consequences from giving advice like this, without a complete and accurate understanding of the issues :anjal:

8 Likes

Strongly Agree with you, will edit the post

3 Likes

I do not think there’s any reason to conclude that you cannot achieve stream entry in this lifetime. But, I suspect the way you’re approaching this might not be very helpful in your spiritual practice.

If someone has the capacity and willingness to practice (barring conditions like those mentioned in AN 6.87, and even there the I interpret the ‘dull, witless, etc’ to imply severe mental disabilities), how is it possible to know who and who cannot achieve stream entry in this lifetime? If someone practices for 50 years and does not realize stream entry, does that mean they cannot achieve it in this life, or does it mean they just need to keep practicing? This kind of questioning does not seem to be useful. (By ‘practice’ I do not mean just meditation.)

Also don’t forget to look at what the suttas say about the Saddhānusāri and the Dhammānusāri.

1 Like

They would never die without entering the stream. (Attaining sotāpattipala)

A small reminder that on SC we don’t comment directly on how other people are practicing. :pray: … (And likewise it follows that we don’t share information about how we ourselves practice.)

6 Likes

Just to add that if people wish to discuss more personal things, please use the PM facility. You can add multiple people to a PM.

Remember, what is written in the public posts becomes a permanent record, and the posts are read by a LOT of people.

:anjal:

5 Likes

Yeah, I was kind of intending a general discussion and not, like, a series of direct responses about my own situation…

3 Likes

On the flip side, the karmic cause for mental disorders in this life is drinking alcohol in a past life[citation needed]

So, please, keep all five of your precepts, kids! Stay safe out there :slightly_smiling_face:

:heart:
~ Uncle Alex

8 Likes

“Mood disorders” like bipolar are a modern way of understanding human behavior – there is nothing in the ancient texts about that, just like there is nothing about cars or iPhones or the United States.

But we can see in the suttas that a serial killer who wore fingers around his neck became an arhant. As did Patacara, who ran around naked and howling with grief. There are many people who heard voices and experienced visions who attained awakening – the Buddha being one of them. And of course the Buddha also experienced extreme states of consciousness – like jhana – which he learned to use in service of the path.

What would a psychiatrist say about these people? It would be a severe diagnosis, no?

Since we are discussing a general question about awakening and “mood disorders” let me answer with a general answer. This is not meant as personal advice for anyone.

The idea that bipolar or even schizophrenia are lifelong illnesses, requiring lifetime medication, is actually quite controversial. While certain psychic realities have genetic correlates, this is not the same as causation.

Modern ideas about medication and “mental illness” are often shaped by pharmaceutical companies who have a vested interest in the matter and a track record of dishonesty. These companies rarely, if ever, conduct longitudinal studies. To the contrary, the existing research seems to suggest that discontinuation via tapering may be better in the long-run.

Of course, any given individual’s experience may vary… but yes. I think that anyone can awaken. It is our birthright.

2 Likes

I think that people who have a tendency towards mental health problems need to be very careful with how they ‘practice diligently’. One can find themselves exacerbating their weaknesses if they don’t take a very gentle (but consistent) approach to meditation.

This being said, there can be a lot of benefit to practicing the 8-fold Path (all off it, not just meditation) to bring ease to mental difficulties. I know of several people who are very dedicated practitioners who have benefited immensely from practicing the Path. Through cultivating a strong foundation in Sila and paying special attention to ‘right intention’ a solid foundation can be laid for deep meditation, with or without mental health problems.

3 Likes

But what is reaching stream entry? (that’s what I would really like to know)

It seems to me, if some one truly understand this question they themselves would understand whether it can be done or not.

Actually has anyone ever think for a person in confusion Not doing (sitting) meditation in the mean time would be better option !? This will help to avoid unnecessary negativity to take place . If anything walking meditation and standing meditation alternately appear befitting .

I understand SC isn’t the place for it – but saying online forums can’t be “constructive” in this regard is untrue.

Many people, especially those with low incomes, can only see a psychiatrist for a few minutes per month, and even then they may feel their psychiatrist doesn’t listen to their actual needs and concerns… So actually, the Internet has been a huge support for folks, especially for those who want to understand side effects and/or reduce their medication.

The second half of this article from the New Yorker mentions the benefits of these online resources.

Just a reminder to please stick to the OP :slight_smile:

Discussion should be related to EBTs, and not just general advice or chat.

Remember you are welcome to use the PM facility for more personal or off topic things. :slight_smile:

These threads are all archived and used by many people to research topics, so we work to keep them tidy and on topic so that the vast store of information contained here can keep being used :pray: :dharmawheel:

2 Likes

I don`t know anything about stream entry. and think that the question really is about if one with any kind of mental disorder could practice the eightfold path as described by the Buddha?
And my personal view is yes, one can

Best regards :slightly_smiling_face:

2 Likes

Most of us can find ourselves questioning our abilities from time to time. But we should examine the motivation behind it.

Apart from asking someone like the Buddha, or perhaps someone endowed with the ability to glimpse one’s kamma-vipāka tendencies, it seems to be a fundamentally un-answerable question.

One can also look at it this way: if the answer to the question is yes, then what? Presumably one keeps practising to the best of one’s ability. If the answer is no, then what? Do you just throw up your hands and drop the practice? Or do you still keep practising to the best of your ability?

On the other hand, “should one with a mood disorder practice intensive meditation?” is a different question, and is not the same as asking “can one with a mood disorder reach stream entry?”. We should examine if we are conceiving of stream entry as reaching an exotic meditative experience through intensive meditation.

AFAIK, stream entry means cutting off the lower three fetters which keep one anchored to Samsara viz

  1. Lack of faith in the Buddha, the Dhamma and Sangha
  2. Belief in rites and rituals or particular practices as pathways to liberation
  3. Self view

Of these, the one that cause the maximum doubt is the third fetter - that of overcoming Self view.
It is important to note that the Buddha formulated a concept of “… this is not my Self…” and NOT “…there is no Self…”
At many places in the suttas, the Buddha clearly rejects the concept of No Self as well as the concept of Permanent Self (aka Soul).

To put it in a nutshell, the Buddha says that everything in the world is Conditioned… a result of a multitude of causes that come before it, and it itself serves as a condition for things to come.
So, Sensory stimulation causes the body’s physical receptors to be activated, this brings about Consciousness in the Mind of ‘there being X thing out there’, which automatically means that there is something in here (since one is Ignorant of the true nature of things)…forming a false sense of Being Present (Self)… which triggers pleasant/ unpleasant Feeling which gets stored up and recalled/ interpreted resulting in thoughts, speech and action about that X thing, all based on a false belief that that thing X can be acquired/ pushed away/ controlled by the Self and that doing so successfully will result in happiness.
An experiential understanding of this process needs to be developed by actually observing it in real-time, playing around with it and overcoming the false sense that the body/ feelings/ memories/ thought processes/ Consciousness can be regarded as permanent or as being Self. That is where Meditation and Investigation of reality come in.

Those who are affected by any affective disorder such as Depression or Manic- Depressive episodes are in a unique position of actually being able to use their different feelings/ thoughts in reaction to the same events as a tool to see past the illusory sense of Self. This is because the exaggerated Feeling and Thinking responses due to their condition being active can be easily compared with their normal responses when their condition is inactive/ controlled. Given enough insight, that may be enough to trigger the ‘Aha’ moment when it can be realized that that Feeling/ thought was not true, not under my control, not permanent, … it was just Suffering … not mine, not my Self!

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) used as a therapeutic tool for Depression and other affective disorders has a large number of concepts and techniques to build insight and retrain how one views/ reacts to sense stimuli - these have many parallels with Buddhist philosophy and practice. If one can retrain/ change the way one Feels, Remembers, Thinks, or is Conscious of a particular Sense stimulation… how can any of these things be your permanent/ unchanging Self?

In the end, Stream entry is not that difficult either… viz Sarakani (SN 55.24) - it all depends on how much dust you have in your eyes! :laughing:

3 Likes