Depression and Right View - Dhamma Wheel

Depression and Right View

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
sekha silapada
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Depression and Right View

Postby sekha silapada » Sat Oct 13, 2012 4:10 am

Hey all,

I have a question on right view of desire and depression. I used to practice Buddhism, and after a while it made me feel empty and made life feel meaningless. I viewed desire as harmful, so I worked to get rid of desire, but it ended up making me depressed, feeling as though everything was pointless. I mean, yeah, sure Nibbana and all, but life should be enjoyed in the moment, and how can life be enjoyed unless one has desire? Even simple things, like a cool fall breeze, brings joy because it is desireable (because such breezes are rare for most of the year, you can't control when you receive them, they feel nice). If things are no longer desirable, you can no longer extract joy from them.

I took a break from Buddhism, still had/have depression, but have slowly gained some desire back, which was hard. But I feel better when I have desire to do positive things. So I've been purely secular the past few years. However, recently I've been feeling the pull of Buddhism again- other than the eventual desire issue, I liked my life when I was practicing Buddhism. I like the ethics, I found many teachings helpful, and I like the structure and community. However, I don't want to delve back into Buddhism without a clear understanding of desire in Buddhism, as I don't want to have a similar experience as I did in the past. One could say "well, take what you find helpful, discard what you don't find helpful", but my thought is if Buddhism contains the truth, then what if the things I find "unhelpful" are simply things I just don't like? I would want to follow the whole system, as I personally don't find picking and choosing to practice what you find agreeable or convenient be very growth stimulating. I want to understand why the Buddha said desire is harmful, and how. Is there something I'm missing?

I was reading a recent thread where people were discussing "good" versus "bad" desire. I feel like the idea is very logical to me- some kinds of desire can be positive/helpful, some negative/harmful. I'd love to think/know that this is what Buddhism teaches. But I don't know how well this fits into a Buddhist context- again, I was taught that all desire should be removed. So, I was wondering if anyone knows of any suttas or references to the distinction of good/bad desire in Buddhist scripture.

In conclusion, I don't know whether the view on desire I have been taught it a right view, and if not, I would love some explanation on desire and right view/what I'm missing.

I'm sorry if this isn't the most coherent post; trying to convert complex feelings like this into word is difficult!

With metta,

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Re: Depression and Right View

Postby Ben » Sat Oct 13, 2012 4:41 am

Greetings Sekha and welcome to Dhamma Wheel.
I'm not sure what you were doing previously and I get the impression on your past focus on 'working to get rid of desire' was just something unhelpful and unwholesome.
I would advise you to practice sila (morality), samadhi (concentration/samadhi meditation) and panna (wisdom/vipassana meditation) which when done properly and under the guidance of a teacher - will help you to eradicate the root defilements which cause suffering.

If you do still have depression then I would also urge you to seek assessment and treatment by your physician - if you haven't already done so. Major depression is a life-threatening condition if left untreated. Many people find that the co-treatment approach to depression of medicine and meditation to be extremely beneficial.
wishing you all the best,

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

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Re: Depression and Right View

Postby SamKR » Sat Oct 13, 2012 5:34 am

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Re: Depression and Right View

Postby Mal » Sat Oct 13, 2012 12:48 pm

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Re: Depression and Right View

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Sat Oct 13, 2012 1:21 pm

Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

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Re: Depression and Right View

Postby xtracorrupt » Sat Oct 13, 2012 1:52 pm

after a a level of insight, one will comprehend that you don't actually need anything to obtain happiness, after losing attachment u will lose anxiety and not require anything to be happy, happiness will come naturally
theres is no need for needing

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Re: Depression and Right View

Postby Mal » Sun Oct 14, 2012 11:02 am

sekha silapada
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Re: Depression and Right View

Postby sekha silapada » Sun Oct 14, 2012 5:35 pm

Hi everyone, thanks for taking the time to write a reply :hug:

You all made good points, some thoughts I found particularly helpful were:

*Keep focus on the main objective of Buddha's teaching- it is not to get rid of desires, but to get rid of suffering and achieve real peace. What is the use of trying to become desireless if that only brings suffering?

*There is a difference between the joy of active desire and joy that is experienced naturally without craving or seeking it.

*There's a difference between getting rid of desire through experience, and trying to get rid of desire through intellectual brow-beating. The latter doesn't bring the benefits of the former, because the idea hasn't been experienced firsthand. It is better to get rid of desire through experience, by practice of the 8 fold path, and growth of sila, samadhi, and panna. That will naturally remove defilements, and the peace of desirelessness will come naturally.

As for the suggestions to see a professional, I have been receiving treatment for my depression. :smile: I just wanted to make sure that if I were to practice Buddhism at this time in my life, it wouldn't lead to a relapse of deep depression. It doesn't seem it would, as I wouldn't be focusing on removing desire, but rather practicing the 8 Fold Path (which would naturally lead to a removal of desire without the negative side effects I previously experienced). But any personal thoughts on practicing Buddhism with depression would be appreciated

It's like the chicken and egg scenario- I don't know whether my wrong practice of Buddhism caused the depression, or the depression led to a mistaken application of Buddhist practice. I'm suspecting the latter, but again, I'm not sure. It could likely be a combination of both wrong practice (trying to force myself to prematurely bend to concepts that are meant to come naturally) and depression that led to my poor experience. In any case, the clarifications on desire were much appreciated!

with Metta,

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drifting cloud
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Re: Depression and Right View

Postby drifting cloud » Mon Oct 15, 2012 11:38 pm

hey Sekha,

Re: desire, you might also find this thread helpful: viewtopic.php?f=24&t=14397

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Re: Depression and Right View

Postby polarbear101 » Thu Oct 18, 2012 7:59 am

"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

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Re: Depression and Right View

Postby rowyourboat » Thu Oct 18, 2012 10:53 am

Keep the precepts- it will keep you away from remorse and guilt/shame.

Develop a mind(fullness) of metta as much as possible through the day (off the cushion).

Develop joy and bliss (piti, sukha) whenever you can.

Focus on objects which bring you wholesome joy.

See if you can focus deep into the low mood and try to get at the clinging which is causing the suffering. If you get it correctly when you remove it, the suffering should disappear. This can be tough to do though but it works.

Work with CBT- it will show you the ignorance inside in terms of a self: 'I am worthless' etc can be challenged.

With metta
With Metta

& Upekkha

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