Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Buddha Quote: "This sh*t's depressing!"

Lots of talk about depression and medication on Hardcore Zen, Gangsta Zen, and Suicide Girls. On Suicide Girls, Brad created quite a stir with his comments that were taken to mean that he was anti-medication.

{As an aside, should Brad be surprised that members of a site called "Suicide Girls" would have strong opinions on the topic of depression?}

The discussion of depression and antidepressants is soooo relevant to Buddhism in the modern era.

Folks that are unfamiliar with Buddhism sometimes offer the criticism, "It's so depressing - all that 'life is suffering' stuff."

Well hey, people, life is depressing. Although we translate the Buddha's teaching as "Life is suffering," I think the translation "Life is depressing" may be more accurate.

The Buddha pointed it out thousands of years ago - Sickness, old age, and death are inseparable from life itself, and that is some depressing shit! And really, those basic conditions have not changed since then, have they?

Now, true enough, there is a medical solution (medication) to this unsatisfactory condition. However, there is also an organic solution to this depressing issue of suffering, but it requires some work and some insight.

I think a problem with the medical and psychiatric community is that they consider depression to be abnormal. Puh-leeze! You would have to be crazy, insensitive, or just not paying attention to not experience serious depression at some point in your life!

But by really paying attention, questioning your definitions and values, studying some Dharma, and maybe even meditating a little or a lot, you too just might start to see through the cause of your depression.


At February 22, 2007, Blogger muddy elephant said...

Hi Anatman,

It seems there is a modern mode of depression which seems to be mislabeled and misunderstood.

As you say:"The Buddha pointed it out thousands of years ago - Sickness, old age, and death are inseparable from life itself, and that is some depressing shit! And really, those basic conditions have not changed since then, have they?"

I personally don't think that sickness, old age, and death are really that depressing anymore.

On the other hand, I think contemplating the infinity of dukkha is depressing indeed. Not a good idea.

I just have this strong sense that most of what passes for Buddhism nowadays just misses the point entirely when it comes to depression. And so does the antidepressant drug industry.

Thanks, I appreciate all your comments on HZ and GZ.

At February 22, 2007, Blogger Anatman said...

Hi Muddy Elephant:

When I think of dukkha, I think of "existential anxiety." And again, if you never felt this as a deep-rooted, terrifying experience, I think you have not been paying attention.

The flip side of the coin is that if you learn to let go of clinging to that which is impermanent, the source of terror can transform into a source of joy and liberation.

Did you ever see the movie "Jacob's Ladder"?


At the end of the movie, we learn that the demons that were chasing Jacob, trying to tear his flesh from his bones, were actually angels, trying to free him of his mortal suffering. We learn that he had died at the beginning of the movie, and the entire plot was based on his hallucinations as he attempted to cling to his past. In his terror, he saw the compassionate angels as malevolent devils.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing a cup of coffee, Muddy Elephant.

At February 22, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think from what I have seen a lot of people go into Buddhism because they have been 'suffering' from depression.

It's like "Life is suffer. Yeah, I've understood that. Now what can I do to make it stop".

Depression does seem to be a way that you can come to terms with things. When depressed you can be quite realistic but with a slight negative bias.

If anything, someone who is depressed is statistically more in touch with reality than someone who is not. It is very unlikely that the world or you are how you would like them to be. If you focus on the discord then depression is natural. If you give up that focus and accept the difference the depression will lift.

I know from my own experience that nothing really changed when I came out of depression apart from the fact that my mental focus shifted slightly.

At February 22, 2007, Blogger muddy elephant said...

Anatman- I really liked Jacob's Ladder although its been a while since I've seen it. Your interpretation reminds me of the Tibetan Book of the Dead metaphysical account of death: you know the "bright lights"--go toward the bright lights...

The book states that most people don't recognize the compassionate entities and are actually in fear of them.

mikedoe- It definitely seems the majority of interest of "westerners" to buddhism stems from some sort of a profound acknowledgement of what might be deemed depression--which in and of itself seems to be a very western or industrial malaise.

Yes we must be careful with our approach to solving these mental knots. I know I am probably "teaching you dolphins how to swim" but there has to always be a vigilant questioning of our own intentions and experience, a virulent skepticism of the dharma and its teachers...

Of course all this has been said before and you can find these sentiments over and over again in most Zen literature--

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.


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