Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

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DiabloRojo
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Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by DiabloRojo »

1) No-self (anatman) can be viewed as depersonalization.

2) Emptiness (sunyata) or maya can be viewed as derealization.

3) Dispassionate detachment can be viewed as dissociation.

There may be some crucial differences but there are also similarities. I'm interested in how you might parse distinctions between what Buddhism describes and what could be interpreted as pathology. Recently I've been reading a translation of Longchenpa's "Finding Rest In Illusion" where he goes on quite a bit about reality being like a dream or a magical illusion so this got me thinking about what an unsympathetic opinion of enlightened rhetoric might be. I looked over the forum for the right section to place this question and wasn't quite sure where to put it, but settled on the Academic Discussion section since I'm wondering about western psychology in addition to dharma. In the spirit of that, if you know of any good articles dealing with these sorts of comparative issues please post links.

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Ayu
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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by Ayu »

I believe, it is quite senseless to argue about buddhist philosophy from a Western psychological view, if you have no clear experience in buddhist practice.
The danger to compare apples with oranges is very likely.

Western psychology looks at the phenomena of mind from a pathological POV. Buddhist psychology speaks of meditative experiences in a very calm and protected setting.
Those two situations of experience are diametrically different and thus it is false to compare them.
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tkp67
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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by tkp67 »

Has anyone ever qualified the dangers of comparing psychology and Buddhism?

Not only does the premise in and of itself is counter intuitive I am confident both buddhism and psychology even in the worse hands are no more dangerous than the normative conditions people are already suffering from.
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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by DiabloRojo »

Ayu wrote: Sat Oct 03, 2020 7:35 am I believe, it is quite senseless to argue about buddhist philosophy from a Western psychological view, if you have no clear experience in buddhist practice.
The danger to compare apples with oranges is very likely.

Western psychology looks at the phenomena of mind from a pathological POV. Buddhist psychology speaks of meditative experiences in a very calm and protected setting.
Those two situations of experience are diametrically different and thus it is false to compare them.
This doesn't address similarities between enlightened rhetoric and derealization or anything else mentioned above. Derealization is the feeling that reality isn't real and large swaths of Buddhism consider seeing the world as an illusion to be a fruition of meditation. I've spent time meditating but don't find the mere in-group assertion of the superiority of Buddhist practice to be very valuable.

As indicated originally, there are similarities and differences, so the apples and oranges analogy isn't apt.

I could put it like this:

What makes no-self not like depersonalization?
What makes emptiness not like derealization?
What makes detachment not like dissociation?

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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by DiabloRojo »

tkp67 wrote: Sat Oct 03, 2020 2:27 pm Has anyone ever qualified the dangers of comparing psychology and Buddhism?

Not only does the premise in and of itself is counter intuitive I am confident both buddhism and psychology even in the worse hands are no more dangerous than the normative conditions people are already suffering from.
I don't think either is necessarily dangerous. I'm interested in whether what is considered enlightened in one cultural background is considered pathological in another. That does not mean that Buddhism is being judged by psychology or vice versa.

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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by Ayu »

DiabloRojo wrote: Sun Oct 04, 2020 4:53 am
What makes no-self not like depersonalization?
What makes emptiness not like derealization?
What makes detachment not like dissociation?
The setting, i.e. the situation and most of all the motivation. The reason, the source of the perception.

I give you the example: a body temperature of 37,5°C & sweat could be either a sign for an upcomming sickness or just a symptom after doing sports for one hour.

The buddhist with realisation of detachment is happy and moreover understands dependend arising. The mental sick only lost their foundation without proper protection. The buddhist is founded in Dharma which is a solid protection. If you need more evidence, you must try buddhist practice for a long time. ;)
I see no sense in arguing this back and forth again. (Just saying precautiously that I explained enough now.)
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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by Ayu »

DiabloRojo wrote: Sun Oct 04, 2020 4:53 am ... I've spent time meditating but don't find the mere in-group assertion of the superiority of Buddhist practice to be very valuable.
...
And of course this estimation is valid for you. Buddhist practice is not for everybody. You can decide for yourself. Maybe even if you try to reach accomplishments in a wrong way you could really get a depersonalisation disorder. But this would be a sign of wrong practice, not of wrong buddhism.
For me, buddhism makes complete sense. I wouldn't say it is superior to anything else though. It is just a valid path for those who can adjust to it well.
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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

I don’t think it’s a correct assumption that these states match up with goals on the Buddhist path.

I think perhaps Rob Preece has written some on this subject.

Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche also had a great understanding of Western views of the mind and has written in this vein.

Can I ask what your actual background is? The psychotherapeutic landscape of today is actually pretty favorably disposed to Buddhist ideas in my opinion.

There may be psychologists and psychiatrists who think that Buddhists run the risk of triggering psychopathologies through their practice, but I doubt they are a sizable group.

You also might want to look at some Buddhist texts that cover incorrect deviations from the path encountered in meditative practice. IIRC The Practice of Mahamudra by Chetsang Kyabgon contains some plan-language explanations of these.

Great Doubt by Boshan also covers some of these.

Here's a quote:
THE DISEASE OF EMPTINESS

If you’re unable to rouse doubt when practicing Zen, you may come to regard the physical and mental worlds as utterly emptied, with nothing at all to cling to and nothing to hold on to. Unable to discern your own body and mind or the world around you, denying inner and outer, you make everything into one emptiness. Then you believe this emptying to be Zen, and the one who emptied it all to be a buddha. You imagine that the four postures of going, staying, sitting, and reclining are done within emptiness. This too is simply your wavering mind; it is not Zen.

Continuing in this way you end up in false emptiness, sunk in dark ignorance. Attached to it, you become as if demon-possessed and proclaim that you’ve attained enlightenment. All because you fail to realize that what you’re doing has nothing to do with true Zen inquiry. If you genuinely inquire, with one koan you’d rouse this doubt and wield it as a razor sharp sword — whoever comes in contact with its blade will be annihilated. Otherwise, even though you may reach a state of emptiness where no thoughts arise, it is still ignorance and far from final.
Essentially, I would say that these disorders are roughly equivalent to deviations from the Buddhist path that happen due to incorrect practice, they are manifestations of incorrect practice descending into nihilistic views. So if you want to do a comparison that is where I would start..rather than with Western sources trying to make direct comparisons to what they likely don't understand. There are a ton of works covering this sort of issues within Buddhism. The Tibetan tradition is also full of similar warnings, though sometimes translated with somewhat more challenging language, in my opinion.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by Brunelleschi »

DiabloRojo wrote: Sat Oct 03, 2020 7:07 am 1) No-self (anatman) can be viewed as depersonalization.

2) Emptiness (sunyata) or maya can be viewed as derealization.

3) Dispassionate detachment can be viewed as dissociation.
I mean, all these psychopathological states generally happen during episodes of intense anxiety - such as panic attacks. The cause is generally prolonged periods of low-intensity anxiety and stress. This is generally not the cause when meditating.

However, I have seen statements that the realization of emptiness(or being close to it) will most likely induce great fear - in fact that tells you you're on the right track. I think the quote is from Lama Zopa Rinpoche, I can try to find it later. Furthermore, realization are sometimes described to happen in a violent and unsettling way. E.g. Dogen who described it as if he were a barrel of water and the bottom was removed - and the shock of realization caused him to weep for several days (paraphrasing here).

So, to summarize my view - I don't see it as an impossibility that psychopathological states could share some overlap with realizations. The problem is of course that they're named psychopathological for a reason. The definition of psychopathology itself means that the persons day-to-day functioning is impaired in some way. This is not the case with realization.
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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

DiabloRojo wrote: Sun Oct 04, 2020 4:53 am
Derealization is the feeling that reality isn't real and large swaths of Buddhism consider seeing the world as an illusion to be a fruition of meditation.
The reason why this line of comparative inquiry is problematic is because assumptions are being made, on which the comparisons are based, and the assumptions may not be entirely accurate.

The suggestion that “reality isn’t real”
(As a psychological condition)
is akin to a Buddhist idea of
seeing reality as an illusion
Is already a case of making a comparison
based on somewhat of a misunderstanding.
So, first, that misunderstanding has to be clarified.

What the teachings say is that
our experiences of a reality that is infinite
extend only to the limits of our own perceptions,
and that based on these very limited perceptions
we develop mental patterns of attachment and aversion,
with which we establish an identity of “me”
that we experience as both continuous
and independently existing,
and that clinging to this very limited “me” identity
leads to dissatisfaction (suffering) because, in fact,
it doesn’t really exist.
According to Buddhist teachings,
That is the reality.
It’s not a denying of reality.
That is very different from derealization,
which is a kind of confusion.
Buddhist teachings hold that perceived phenomena
have no intrinsic reality to them, meaning
A car has nonessential “car-ness” to it.
Derealization is the experience that that car isn’t really there at all, that it isn’t real in the sense that if you walk onto a busy highway, nothing will happen to you
becsuse it’s not real.
Do you see the difference?
EMPTIFUL.
An inward outlook develops outward insight.
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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Regarding depersonalization (and perhaps dissociation), I think one needs to make a distinction between the real-time action itself, and the psychological motivation from which the action emerges, intentionally or unintentionally.

If one only considers the real-time action of an individual, without context, then it’s like discussing long length of rope: with a rope, one can descend from a burning building and live. But with the same piece of rope, one can commit suicide.

I think depersonalization, by definition, must include a kind of shutting out process. One sees one’s actions (Buddhists like to say “actions of body, speech and mind” to include words and thoughts as well as physical movement) purely as if someone else’s, as in the movie Psycho, where Norman Bates thinks his mother is the murderer.

Buddhist meditation on watchfulness (or “mindfulness”) as well as practices where one is observing, almost as if from a third-party viewpoint, one’s own thoughts, motives, attachments and so on, is very different.

If I, as student of Buddhism, get angry or lose my temper, not only is there the immediate mental experience of that (which is what most people never go beyond) but hopefully (if I’ve been practicing) there is a sort of “secondary mind” which one cultivates and which functions as an observer of that Immediate moment of anger. So, I can “catch myself” you might say.

To put it briefly, “watch your thoughts”; there are thoughts, and there is thinker of those thoughts, and then there is the mind observing the thinker of those thoughts.
At no time should there be the experience that “someone is having those thoughts, but it’s not me”.
Further, it’s all one mind. Not two or three.
One can certainly get to a level where one is watching one’s own actions just as if they were watching the actions of a character on a TV show. As a positive thing, this is complete watchfulness. But as a negative experience, consider the person who is so overly self -conscious, or overly self-critical, so fixated on a “self” that they can barely leave the house.
So, again, you have to look at the behavior of actions in context.
EMPTIFUL.
An inward outlook develops outward insight.
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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by tkp67 »

DiabloRojo wrote: Sun Oct 04, 2020 4:56 am
tkp67 wrote: Sat Oct 03, 2020 2:27 pm Has anyone ever qualified the dangers of comparing psychology and Buddhism?

Not only does the premise in and of itself is counter intuitive I am confident both buddhism and psychology even in the worse hands are no more dangerous than the normative conditions people are already suffering from.
I don't think either is necessarily dangerous. I'm interested in whether what is considered enlightened in one cultural background is considered pathological in another. That does not mean that Buddhism is being judged by psychology or vice versa.

DR
Just to be clear I am specifically referring danger implied in comparing buddhism and Psychopathology. Within the traditions are some practices that without proper guidance may have a potential danger. They aren't readily available so I don't see them being a facet of comparison which is why I posed that specific question.

There are some scientific papers, one in particular does an amazing job going through the various traditions and then lining up all the correlates in western science from neurological to psychological.

Here is where it can be perceived as either beneficial or detrimental. From someone who does not practice buddhism but is looking from a western perspective to integrate facets to explore reported benefits see it as beneficial. This however is just the integration of granular aspects with targeted benefit.

From the perspective of buddhism it is incomplete as it lacks the same basis and objective. The "compass" these teachings point one's development is missing. Can they be used in a way that the psychological objectives is counter inventive to the buddhist objectives? Even so I still think the need of those suffering is greater the danger of it being adopted either in whole or in parts. I don't know it this justifies supporting comparatives.

Since I have followed a lifetime trajectory of traditional psychological/psychiatric to buddhism with many twists and turns in between I can report that the totality of buddhist practice has been more beneficial than any component thereof. Since I followed this trajectory I might be personally tone deaf to the dangers of these practices in people where both are foreign.
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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by DiabloRojo »

The issue for me is that much of this difference-making is concerned with causes and conditions (meditating in a temple or having an episode) or is related to consequences (someone becoming functional or dysfunctional, happy or sad) which is interesting in its own right but what I'm primarily interested in is content.

Padmasambhava's comments on derealization were very cogent imo. There's not much I can add other than the general sentiment that some Buddhist texts seem to go pretty far with everything being like a dream, magical illusion, or whatnot... but I think he hit the nail on the head when he indicated that nothing goes so far as to say if you walk out on a highway in front of a car you won't get hit.

As far as content goes how is anatman not like depersonalization? Both seem to say that as far as a self goes there isn't a there there.

I've studied Buddhism for about a decade. I have also participated in artistic communities where some interesting individuals who took part happened to have diagnosed mental illnesses. In talking to them I found some of the experiences of episodes they described to have similarities to spiritual content in certain religions while other experiences they described sounded frankly hellish.

I would not consider the designation "pathological" to necessarily be a judgement other than to say that in a certain context the mental state is considered aberrant. For your sense of self to drop out like water in a bucket would be considered pathological in most contexts but in Buddhism it is a realization. Other than causes, conditions, and consequences what is the difference in content between a realization of anatman through Buddhist practice and similar states that in another context are considered "depersonalization".

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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Be careful comparing similarities of things based on what only appears to be a result, when the causes for that appearance are different.

Otherwise, it’s like looking at two people who each carry an empty plate, one has just finished a delicious and filling meal, and the other has not eaten for two days: simply by looking at the similarity of the two plates, one may assume that the two people share the same experience.
Sure, they both experience holding an empty plate now, and from our side, it looks the same. But from their side, the actual experience is very different.

Likewise, this is the problem when comparing mental disorders with moments of realization. You’re only looking at the empty plate, at two different people having some experience of “no self” as the end result. But simply having “no self” on its own doesn’t mean anything.
You can just as easily say that person with Alzheimer’s is experiencing a high degree of non-attachment, because they have little or no connection to where they are or who is around them. But that’s not the case at all, in terms of what Buddhism is talking about.
EMPTIFUL.
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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by tkp67 »

I personally find myself thinking along the same line at times. I am not discounting the personal relevance or value.

Understanding the correlates, catalysts, potentiation, etc doesn't often lend to superior understanding of these things outside the conditions of one's life. Basically it doesn't seem to translate well outside the conditions of our own life.

I do think that from an academic standpoint if someone was doing a thesis or dissertation with the objective to understand the correlates, the variations and both challenge and opportunity in understanding them juxtapose but without integration might bear some fruit.

This is why I asked if the dangers have been qualified/quantified.

It was to plant a seed so minds might consider how this could be accomplished. The first step is understanding both independently of one another and then comparing them from that basis.
DiabloRojo wrote: Mon Oct 05, 2020 5:45 am The issue for me is that much of this difference-making is concerned with causes and conditions (meditating in a temple or having an episode) or is related to consequences (someone becoming functional or dysfunctional, happy or sad) which is interesting in its own right but what I'm primarily interested in is content.

Padmasambhava's comments on derealization were very cogent imo. There's not much I can add other than the general sentiment that some Buddhist texts seem to go pretty far with everything being like a dream, magical illusion, or whatnot... but I think he hit the nail on the head when he indicated that nothing goes so far as to say if you walk out on a highway in front of a car you won't get hit.

As far as content goes how is anatman not like depersonalization? Both seem to say that as far as a self goes there isn't a there there.

I've studied Buddhism for about a decade. I have also participated in artistic communities where some interesting individuals who took part happened to have diagnosed mental illnesses. In talking to them I found some of the experiences of episodes they described to have similarities to spiritual content in certain religions while other experiences they described sounded frankly hellish.

I would not consider the designation "pathological" to necessarily be a judgement other than to say that in a certain context the mental state is considered aberrant. For your sense of self to drop out like water in a bucket would be considered pathological in most contexts but in Buddhism it is a realization. Other than causes, conditions, and consequences what is the difference in content between a realization of anatman through Buddhist practice and similar states that in another context are considered "depersonalization".

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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by Malcolm »

DiabloRojo wrote: Sun Oct 04, 2020 4:53 am
What makes no-self not like depersonalization?
Loving kindness.
What makes emptiness not like derealization?
Compassion.
What makes detachment not like dissociation?
Bodhicitta.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by steveb1 »

Well, my wholly amateurish reply would be to invoke the cliche that it is neither the mind nor the ego that "gets enlightened". That is, the emergence of Bodhi cannot be identified with, or reduced to, mere psychology. This is why I tend to be mistrustful of views that attempt to explain the Unconditioned by the (mentally/neurologically) conditioned, the Unborn by the (nature and nurture) born, and attempt to deal with the qualitative in terms of the quantitative. As regards normative human (ego) psychology, "enlightenment is not a state of mind".
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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by Brunelleschi »

Malcolm wrote: Mon Oct 05, 2020 3:46 pm
DiabloRojo wrote: Sun Oct 04, 2020 4:53 am
What makes no-self not like depersonalization?
Loving kindness.
What makes emptiness not like derealization?
Compassion.
What makes detachment not like dissociation?
Bodhicitta.
This.
DiabloRojo
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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by DiabloRojo »

Malcolm wrote: Mon Oct 05, 2020 3:46 pm
DiabloRojo wrote: Sun Oct 04, 2020 4:53 am
What makes no-self not like depersonalization?
Loving kindness.
What makes emptiness not like derealization?
Compassion.
What makes detachment not like dissociation?
Bodhicitta.
In this case depersonalization experienced as a positive thing with accompanying lovingkindness defines it as a quality of enlightenment whereas depersonalization with neutral or negative emotional affect defines it as pathology. I'm still looking for how the content of seeing yourself without a self and the world as in some sense illusory is differentiated from the hypothetical experience of a mental case or a meditator. Religious epiphanies are characteristic of psychosis so you could say that the crazy has a spiritual side or that the spiritual has a crazy side but there is definitely some connection. People are simply more inclined to accept something as spiritual if it fits within their framework of acceptability.

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Re: Eastern Enlightenment Vs. Western Psychopathology

Post by DiabloRojo »

steveb1 wrote: Tue Oct 06, 2020 8:04 pm Well, my wholly amateurish reply would be to invoke the cliche that it is neither the mind nor the ego that "gets enlightened". That is, the emergence of Bodhi cannot be identified with, or reduced to, mere psychology. This is why I tend to be mistrustful of views that attempt to explain the Unconditioned by the (mentally/neurologically) conditioned, the Unborn by the (nature and nurture) born, and attempt to deal with the qualitative in terms of the quantitative. As regards normative human (ego) psychology, "enlightenment is not a state of mind".
Recognizing this perspective that absolute enlightenment is not a state of mind I would just add that the Buddhist tradition does spend quite a bit of paper describing different mental states one might experience through samadhi or satori. The relevance here is in regard to having an experience that changes your perception of what reality is. Someone could meditate their way into an experience of no-self. Perhaps meditation is as artificial as a sensory deprivation tank. I don't think it is per se, but when investigating claims made around meditation and Buddhism it seems significant to notice that people have all sorts of spiritual (and hellish) experiences through sensory deprivation, acute stress, mental disorder, intoxication and meditation. Meditation is considered a method of investigating truth because it can yield certain results. We find other conditions, practices and situations can yield similar results. Of course we could judge some of these causes based on negative effects produced. But, alas, from this criticism meditation and the Buddhist tradition would not be immune either.

DR
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