This is all really interesting to me, meloncolin, and if you wrote too much for someone else, they can just skip over it.
I wonder if doctors here in the United States are more inclined to see depression as biologically based than doctors in the UK (where you are, right?) I know at least two people who are on anti-depressants here with no idea of getting off.
I think there is a fair amount of psychiatrists in all countries who champion the idea of depression being a physical illness (caused by faulty biology) but from what i have seen the American Psychiatric Association seem to have a LOT of influence amongst psychiatrists and doctors and they are the main proponents of the whole chemical imbalance theory. If you ever get to read the DSM put out by the APA you’ll see how rediculous it is, they give a description for just about every type of human behaviour there is, label it an illness (without providing any scientific evidence) and prescribe a drug for it.
There are a few prominant psychiatrists such as Thomas Szasz and Peter Breggin who are highly critical of the APA and their pseudo science (which is a good thing) but in a stunning about-face of logic they have no problem associating themselves with the CCHR (Scientology) who aren’t exactly the masters or reason as you probably well know.
Szasz and Breggin are at the far end of the scale, they are totally against things like antidepressants and suggest they are damaging etc etc. For a more moderate opinion there is Dr Joseph Glenmullen who is critical of the chemical imbalance theory and the APA, but believes antidepressants can be helpful and still have a role to play, but more care should be taken when administrating them and they should only ever be used as leg-up.
There are a few good videos on youtube about this, unfortunatly most of them are propaganda pieces from the scientologists.
I think as you get more involved in meditation you will find there is just as much misinformation, guess-work and hype regarding meditation as there is about medication! I hope you feel like writing more about your experience - this is probably not going to be a simple journey
Well, the most important thing regarding buddhism and meditation is to keep Ehipasiko in mind- (dont just believe- come and see). If you try it out and it works then the proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say. There is a section in one of the pali suttas where the buddha gives a teaching of some sort and asks a disciple if he is ok with everything the buddha has just said, the disciple replied ‘i have no reason to believe half of what you have said- because i haven’t seen it for myself’. The buddha replied ‘excellent- this is the way everybody should practice’.
Couple that with the various peices of science out there showing positive changes to key brain structures of meditators (i think the university of wisconsin does the most amount of research on these types of things)
You can’t trust a Buddhist teacher to understand what you’re going through. I know this because I watched my guru die from alcohol and drugs. He had no idea how to deal with it because had he stayed in Tibet, he would have never been exposed to these possibilities.
As a rule of thumb that i like to use- if a monk demands money for his teachings and promises this that and the other then run the other way. If a monk offers his teachings and welcomes a donation by choice then they are the ones to listen to.
I dont know if i mentioned in earlier posts but the reason i investigated meditation and buddhism was after seeing an interview with leonard cohen (what a poet!) who told of his story of a life long depression that no religion or drug seemed to have much of an effect on, until he became a monk and lived in a zen centre for a few years. Its quite an interesting little tale
there is a video of it here:http://www.sharonrobinson.net/html/press.html
just click on ‘filmed interview’ up the top
To be honest i am very wary of the later mahayana and vajrayana (tibetan) schools of buddhism. They incorporate a lot of asian culture and superstituion which has nothing to do with what the buddha taught. I think i am familiar with the tibetan guru you are referring to….he was certainly not an honerably man from what i have read. Ive visited many other buddhist centres and monastries of all demoninations that look more like golden palaces than places of solitude- these are the ones to run away from i think!
Let’s consider you a pioneer in the field - you have help available if you want to try various meds again, and you can experiment with meditation. If a meditation teacher has never experienced clinical depression, they should listen to you.
On the medical side, since some of them are already interested in a ‘mindfulness’ approach, this could be built upon by people with a genuine practice. There’s an interesting book by some psychologists in San Francisco - Sacred Mirror, nondual wisdom and psychotherapy -
As depression is quite a large problem in developing countries and that so many people end up turning to things like meditation to try and solve this ive come across a few people in my area that are/were in the same position and the abbot of the monastry here, although never having been through depression as far as i can tell, seems to have his finger on the pulse when it comes to the issue. Ive had a few brief conversations with him about depression and his understanding of its causes and how to solve it had left me convinced that he had seen enough people and enough symptoms and recovered people that he was pretty clued up on the issue. Since i started to make a bit of headway with my depression i started writing some things down about my experience, im hopeing i’ll be able to put them together into some sort of free e-book people can download i’ll ask the abbot here if he could add some things to it as well. It would be a nice conclusion to the whole debacle!
In regard to your friends you mentioned that were on antidepressants- are they working for them and they are worried that they dont know what will happen if they get off or are they on a round-about of sorts where they are trying to find one that works?
If its the former then i’d suggest they stay on them if they are working and look into learning meditation, seeing a psycologist or looking into some sort of philosophy so they can identify what it is that is making them depressed so they can deal with it when they come off the drugs.
If its the latter then it might be worth them trying to stick with it and find an antidepressant that works (that is, if their depression is severe) because they can be very helpful, even though the waiting times can be frustrating.
Im not a doctor btw
Here are some good books your friends might enjoy- most are small and easy going which is good if your trying to read and depressed at the same time:
Depression: The Way Out of Your Prison
by Dorothy Rowe (highly recommended)
The Depression Book: Depression as an Opportunity for Spiritual Growth
by Cheri Huber
The Zen Path Through Depression
by Philip Martin
Thanks for the references, and thanks especially for the elaboration on what you’ve learned yourself. I’m pleased to hear that you’ve met a Buddhist teacher who you feel understands what depression can be like. So there’s no need for you to search, just to go ahead with what you already know, and do the practice.
I agree with you about Tibetan Buddhism and some of the other so-called Mahayana offshoots. It should be possible now to make comparisons and discriminate between what might help us and what might not. I do think that is going to vary among individuals, as we were saying earlier. I have one friend who is involved with a Tibetan teacher, and believes the cultural stuff is just part of the package.
My teacher, Trungpa, was not, as you said, honorable, and that’s exactly why many of us were attracted to him. He seemed to be breaking all the rules, and we liked that. Most of us were disgusted by the religious traditions we’d been exposed to, and we didn’t see any particular superstition or heavy belief system in what we were getting into with Trungpa. He brought in the Tibetan practices very gradually, after we had done a lot of sitting practice. Then he developed the Shambhala teachings specifically to appeal to a more secular orientation - ‘The Way of the Warrior’.
I would not recommend that at all now, even though I don’t regret my past involvement. I’m much more likely to recommond Eckhart Tolle (and it was helpful to hear from you that you find his writings boring) or some of the teachers under the Advaita banner. I’m thinking of starting a ‘video satsang’ group this winter, to share my tapes and dvd’s. I’m most influenced by Adyashanti, at this point, but not involved with his organization.
You mentioned money, and I agree that can be a tip off. It must be a challenge though, for teachers to figure out how to manage this. Do we expect a person to have a day job, and then be willing to give talks in the evening? One approach is to throw out the notion of spiritual teachings altogether, and just say ‘This is It’. But I like having some guidance available, and I don’t mind paying a reasonable fee, just as I would for therapy or yoga instruction or having my carpet cleaned.
Great discussion. I believe, as an atheist, that I should never throw out the baby with the bath water and I think Eckhart Tolle points to aspects of being and consciousness that we ought not to ignore and that we ought to actively explore.
Talks at Google: Eckhart Tolle in Conversation with Bradley Horowitz
I do think that Guru model developed in early medieval India and then Tibet is rapidly dying.
Not so sure that the radical dzogchen and neo advaita movements are really going to go too far though. (Where an iconoclastic model is used to pass on teachings and practices.) We’ll see.
I don’t think Eckhart Tolle has had any training from anybody but he does reference all sorts of traditional sources. Like Watts, then Wilber, he has exposed huge numbers of people to at least the spirit of what is conveyed in dzogchen and advaita.
Trungpa’s story, like Muktananda’s and Adi Da’s and so many others, are wonderfully helpful tales that all of us should note or use as helpful lessons!