Buddhism, Depression, and Cultural Appropriation

General discussion, particularly exploring the Dharma in the modern world.
[N.B. This is the forum that was called ‘Exploring Buddhism’. The new name simply describes it better.]
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Buddhism, Depression, and Cultural Appropriation

Postby ADepressive » Tue Aug 20, 2013 8:25 pm

I certainly don't demand any sort of help here, and if this can create a kind of discussion that's useful on its own, then I'd be happy. I would like to share what I have to say, though, if that's okay.

Recently, I've received more treatment for my major depression. My last therapist and my current therapist both used mindfulness techniques in our sessions. A therapist in the hospital, I remember, handed me Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha. I read it and loved it. It helped me a lot. At the time. Two suicide attempts later, and I've decided I need to do something. My current therapist has given me CDs by Pema Chodron and Sharon Salzberg. They've helped me immensely in addressing my obsessive thinking with compassion, even my suicidal thoughts!

The problem I have is the obsessive thought concerning whether or not I should continue this sort of practice. I'm not Buddhist. I don't know enough about Buddhism to become Buddhist. What it seems like I'm doing is cherry-picking ideas from the Buddhist tradition espoused by white, Western followers of Buddhism. I feel as though this is a kind of cultural appropriation, and whenever that thought comes to me, if I'm meditating like a CD says, I have to stop.

On the other hand, like I said, this practice is helping me considerably. I'm literally very desperate for help handling these harmful sorts of thoughts, and this seems like help.

Do you think it would be appropriate to continue this sort of practice? Or should I be doing research with non-Western Buddhists? Or should I be doing it at all and instead focus on my own tradition? (My own tradition is Catholicism, and we have a ... bad relationship from when I was young.)

Thank you for your time,


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Re: Buddhism, Depression, and Cultural Appropriation

Postby wisdom » Tue Aug 20, 2013 8:28 pm

View Buddhism for now as a science of the mind. It has been said by many modern teachers of the tradition that the techniques in Buddhism can be of benefit to anyone if they are applied with sincere intent. You don't have to convert to any religion or adopt any belief in a religious authority in order to benefit from Buddhism. Its my opinion that the Buddha would not want that anyways, he basically rejected the religious authorities of his time.

If Buddhism speaks to you more deeply, you will always be welcome to go as deep as you desire. I hope this helps.

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Re: Buddhism, Depression, and Cultural Appropriation

Postby Luke » Tue Aug 20, 2013 9:52 pm

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Re: Buddhism, Depression, and Cultural Appropriation

Postby Konchog1 » Tue Aug 20, 2013 10:51 pm

Race has always been a minor issue with Buddhist converts until 'modern' people invented a major issue.

Do as you wish.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats

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Re: Buddhism, Depression, and Cultural Appropriation

Postby ADepressive » Wed Aug 21, 2013 1:18 am

Thank you all for your kind and helpful words. =)

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Re: Buddhism, Depression, and Cultural Appropriation

Postby MalaBeads » Wed Aug 21, 2013 1:48 am

I am well aware of my idiocy. I am also very aware that you too are an idiot. Therein lies our mutuality.

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Re: Buddhism, Depression, and Cultural Appropriation

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Aug 21, 2013 3:31 am

I am also a culturally anglo-saxon westerner with no ancestral or ethnic relationship with Buddhism. Am I Buddhist? I check that box on the census form. Occassionally it will come up in conversation, i.e. 'that's not very Buddhist of you' when I make an off-colour joke or lose my temper. But I have come to think of 'Buddhist' as an adjective rather than a noun - I am not necessarily a Buddhist, but I attempt to learn from, practice and reflect on Buddhism, so am somewhat Buddhist.

Besides the modern world is a complete melting pot with ideas from all over being mixed together. The key thing is to find the wisdom-mind in your own being. If Buddhist teachings help with that, then they're useful and should be assimilated.
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: Buddhism, Depression, and Cultural Appropriation

Postby Nemo » Wed Aug 21, 2013 3:47 pm

Buddhist psychology in incredibly advanced. It has been around for a few thousand years with the sole motivation of ending human suffering. Take from it whatever you can. I would also add that accumulating merit(good Karma) by good deeds is one of the more powerful practices to alleviate suffering. That is one of the teachings at the heart of Buddhism.

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