Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Buddhism and Depression

I have heard some Buddhists say that Buddhism is depressing them. Then I found this.

Over the last 30 years that I have been doing in-depth interviews with meditators, I have met many who meditate regularly and have become depressed. When I ask them about their practice, they often reveal that they have interpreted the Buddhist or Hindu teachings they are studying in such a way as to detach themselves from their desires, their ego, their loves, and their passion. In other words, they have cut themselves off from everything interesting and thrilling in life.

Depression is a natural result of loss, and if you internalize teachings that poison you against the world, then you will of course become depressed. Detachment techniques were intended only for monks and nuns. Detachment is the DEFINITION of what defines a monk or nun: they take vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience. In other words, they cut themselves off from the desire to make or acquire money, they cut themselves off from their sexual desire, and they cut themselves off from any rebelliousness and independence. This amputation can be a blessing for a soul who really is a monk or a nun, and needs to just go join an ashram. But if you are not a monk or nun, cutting yourself off from life is as depressing as cutting off your foot. It's a loss, and you will suffer grief over the loss.


  1. This is not the way of meditation, this is how it can be used incorrectly. When used to detach from life, it is a weapon we turn on ourselves. When we use meditation and its mindful capacity we become joyous and happy. We find peace, contentment and true equanimity. Our minds and emotions quiet down and a sense of peace arises. Happiness follows. We then realize we can generate our own energy and our own joy.

  2. It would be so nice if meditation did bring people peace of mind, make them joyous and happy for everyone who practiced, but this doesn't work for everyone, as you can tell by reading other posts on dangers of meditation that are in this blog. But I don't believe that it is their meditation that makes them depressed as stated in the article, but the teachings that are depressing them. And these are the teachings of Buddhism.

    I never tried to cut myself off from life when I was a Buddhist, and that teaching actually bothered me because I believe we are here to enjoy our life, help others, and to grow in kindness and love for our fellowman. You don't need meditation to do this, and in fact, meditation does not even help one become kinder, much less moral.

  3. Not Always So!
    While meditation can certainly devolve into some sort of misguided asceticism (really Aversion) the Buddha warns continually against this misconception, for BOTH monks and lay disciples (having, of course, tried it himself for many years). However real detachment from desires,loved ones and passions IS detachment from ego. Because of this many people, after meditating for a while, begin to see that what formerly 'enchanted' them - even spiritual joy - has become dry and sterile. The ego is not being fed and a kind of depression ensues.( St. John of the Cross describes the painfulness of this faze the "dark night of the soul"). However if one is working with a teacher who has passed through this kind of difficulty - and it CAN be exceptionally hard, all ones previous values seem pointless, vacant - then one may be encouraged to keep going - right to the 'bitter end', the end of your former illusory self and life, and the sudden realization called 'awakening'. Real spiritual work is hard! The hardest thing one can do really.
    Of course this doesn't mean we give up on caring for family and other responsibilities, its just that these SEEM quite hollow for a time, but we press on!(We all die anyway, lets get it over and done with! See through birth and death, see what the finger is pointing to...Original Nature, the Authentic you!).
    T.S. Eliot puts it this way:
    "It is a state of complete simplicity,
    costing not less that everything."