SuttaCentral

Meditating with depression

Good advice, I forgot that piece of science from school. This is why on uposatha days I never drink coffee or even light snacks after midday as some people do. Only water.

This made me think that shifting the mind from resting on bed which is a lazy mind to resting in meditation which is a concentrated mind would be a good way to rest the mind but in a more beneficial way.

I recalled this sutta, in which a bhikkhu is feeling downcast about practicing. It seems that through faith in the noble eightfold path he reestablished his motivation.

“Friends, my body seems as if it has been drugged, I have become disoriented, the teachings are no longer clear to me. Sloth and torpor persist obsessing my mind. I am leading the holy life dissatisfied, and I have doubt about the teachings.”

1 Like

Western psychology and Buddhism have different goals. The former is only bent on returning the subject to be a functioning member of society, while the latter’s aim is complete emancipation from conditioned existence. On the Buddhist path selective control of the mind is the means of progress, and this is detailed in the four great endeavours of right effort, the sixth link of the noble eightfold path. The Buddha-to-be formulated the four noble truths and NEP while meditating in the forest prior to achieving awakening, and the mental process is described in the following sutta:

“Whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his thinking & pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness. If a monk keeps pursuing thinking imbued with renunciation, abandoning thinking imbued with sensuality, his mind is bent by that thinking imbued with renunciation. If a monk keeps pursuing thinking imbued with non-ill will, abandoning thinking imbued with ill will, his mind is bent by that thinking imbued with non-ill will. If a monk keeps pursuing thinking imbued with harmlessness, abandoning thinking imbued with harmfulness, his mind is bent by that thinking imbued with harmlessness.”—Majhima Nikaya 19

3 Likes

I used to practice mindfulness for personal reasons and found out it was only one of the eightfold path of dhamma, which helped me to eventually take the three refuges.

Depression and anxiety are aspects of dukkha, so while Buddhism presents a higher goal, it certainly takes care of psychological concerns as part of the path!

1 Like

I happen to have narcolepsy, so I prefer to keep my eyes open to stay alert during meditation, but this is a great technique lots of people seem to use.

1 Like

@anne … an external object? and do we focus on the ‘rupa’ created in our mind? do this kind taught by The Buddha? Any Sutta about this method?

@BuddhaBuddy … is depressed means we are already not focussing on the object of meditation?

instead focussing on the past for depression? and anxiety focussing of something in the future?

Metta practice is energizing and uplifts the mind. Traditional Metta practice is a sort of radiation outward until the whole world is encompassed with loving kindness, including the self. With the negative self regard in depression this can be a huge shift.

There is also a fantastic scientific book written about self-compassion by Kristen Neff, PhD I recommend to pretty much everyone.

3 Likes

This is interesting for readers as with the new secular mindfulness Buddhists wonder if it is possible for such practitioners to graduate to the path proper.
Becoming attached to bare awareness, Western Buddhists sometimes loose sight of the fact that mindfulness is a path factor located between right effort and right concentration, both of which it employs in different situations.

Mindfulness + right effort
“Just as in the last month of the Rains, in the autumn season when the crops are ripening, a cowherd would look after his cows: He would tap & poke & check & curb them with a stick on this side & that. Why is that? Because he foresees flogging or imprisonment or a fine or public censure arising from that [if he let his cows wander into the crops]. In the same way I foresaw in unskillful qualities drawbacks, degradation, & defilement, and I foresaw in skillful qualities rewards related to renunciation & promoting cleansing.”

Bare awareness always has an agenda:
"Just as in the last month of the hot season, when all the crops have been gathered into the village, a cowherd would look after his cows: While resting under the shade of a tree or out in the open, he simply keeps himself mindful of ‘those cows.’ In the same way, I simply kept myself mindful of ‘those mental qualities.’—MN 19

A good testimony. Each of the noble truths has a duty appropriate to it (SN 56.11) and that of suffering is to comprehend it. Only when suffering is known can advancement on the path occur.

2 Likes

I strongly caution against such simple views. A real depression or anxiety (in contrast to occasionaly feeling depressed or anxious) significantly reduce the quality of life, so that work, family life, or maintaining friendships become very difficult.

Any person affected can of course choose how to approach depression or anxiety, but it’s irresponsible on a Buddhist forum to claim that Buddhist practice is generally a good solution. It’s not. That’s why any responsible retreat guide I am aware of would not have people with depression as participants.

As a general advice, use therapy or books dealing with therapy to reduce depression/anxiety. And use Buddhist practice for spiritual inspiration and general sense-making.

5 Likes

Many of the factors which could be causing depression & anxiety could be removed like a thorn, or at least relieved through following the eightfold path. Once you start following the noble eightfold path, there is only benefit, so I see no danger in using it as a source of relief. Of course it is important to still have social and medical supports in place.

3 Likes

Depression could cause one to lose focus, yes. Obsessive thoughts which cause suffering, whether regarding present, past or future would likely lead to lack of concentration, more as a symptom rather than a cause.

1 Like

Agreed. See the moderator’s note at the top of this thread. Buddhism is not meant to be a replacement for medical treatment. If someone’s depression is not severe enough to require medical attention, then Buddhism can help. However, it isn’t up to random people on a forum to decide that. Just thought that warranted reiterating.

1 Like

There are some laypeople who through kamma resulting in force of circumstance have experienced suffering to a degree enabling them to transfer the base of their lives away from conventional reality and ground it in the dhamma. This is an opening of the eye of dhamma.

“The search for a spiritual path is born out of suffering. It does not start with lights and ecstasy, but with the hard tacks of pain, disappointment, and confusion. However, for suffering to give birth to a genuine spiritual search, it must amount to more than something passively received from without. It has to trigger an inner realization, a perception which pierces through the facile complacency of our usual encounter with the world to glimpse the insecurity perpetually gaping underfoot. When this insight dawns, even if only momentarily, it can precipitate a profound personal crisis. It overturns accustomed goals and values, mocks our routine preoccupations, leaves old enjoyments stubbornly unsatisfying.”—Bikkhu Bodhi

2 Likes