Attainments or Mental Disorders?

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Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby Matticus » Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:00 pm

I've read that many meditation achievements such as losing the body and and forgetting yourself are signs of progress in your cultivation work. It worries me that many of these achievements at a certain stage are almost always directly correlated with a mental disorder known as Depersonalization Disorder and Dissociative disorder. Suzanne Segal is a person whose experiences arise a sense of caution in myself when engaging in meditation practice. She began to experience depersonalization in her childhood. From the beginning She thought she was experiencing a kind of madness. It's important to keep in mind that she continued to see her condition as a disruptive problem Throughout her life. She sought help from both experts in Buddhism and Transcendental Meditation and Psychiatrists and Psychologists. I should mention Suzanne also had her own degree in Psychiatry. The Buddhist and other spiritual experts would congratulate her for seeing the reality of things The Doctors diagnosed her with a Depersonalization Disorder. Later in her life she had a recovered memory of childhood abuse. Before her death she began to relate too the problem more as a psychological disorder where previously in life she saw it as a metaphysical or spiritual issue. Some thoughts and opinions would greatly
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Re: Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:21 pm

Dear Matticus,

Welcome to Dharma Wheel! :smile:

The dividing line between it being an attainment and a mental disorder has to do with consciousness/mindfulness. If you aware of what is happening and why it is happening then it is an attainment, if you are not aware and the experience begins to have a life of its own, then it is a mental disorder.

I'll put it another way. We all have conversations in our heads with ourselves right? We "hear" ourselves talking and even arguing with ourselves. So what makes this any different to a schizophrenic? A schizophrenic loses sight of the fact that the voice in their head is just themself talking to themself. We though are conscious of this fact. Hence we do not suffer from a mental disorder, even though all the ingredients are there.

Is that clear enough?
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby kirtu » Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:35 pm

Well an easy difference is that depersonalization disorder is a defense mechanism to protect oneself against psychological trauma and is characterized as not being fully attentive or present in the moment and as having ceded control over oneself, often without a choice, to another person. In order to survive people have learned to suppress emotions and emotional response (although I was never diagnosed with depersonalization issues I am speaking from first hand experience here).

I'm not sure what you mean by losing the body per se, but in samadhi one can lose attention on the body and just focus on mantra, visualization, the breath (less likely to happen with the breath but not impossible - when/if nimitya arises then one only sees that in one's mind at least for an instant) or some other object of meditation. Also if one is totally engaged in a physical activity attention on the body is reduced and one may have a reduced experience of the body (this is always true anyway but people do not seem to be aware of it).

As for forgetting yourself, this too may mean different things ranging from a reduction of the ego (a reduction of an obsessive focus on one's self that apparently most people indulge in) to an actual eradication of the ego at least from any normal perspective (in fact the ego is still there). A person can experience and come to know directly many different things: natural purity, a lose of an obsessive sense of self and other, an awareness that all sentient beings really arise from causes and conditions, etc.

In the case of depersonalization a person replaces their ego or control with another person's ego or control. This is a life and death fight or flight/fear strategy for survival. I was able to escape it after leaving a traumatic situation but had an experience that I would say is like not knowing that one is alive until I was about 24 although I was still seemingly functional in the world (but another aspect to this is that I had been cut off from normal development so it could also have been like the disorientation that people released from long term incarceration report - and I just thought it was normal). One of my sisters probably hasn't been able to and is essentially channeling our abuser (although I'm not certain - I have urged her to get psychiatric counseling).

In some degree of awakening people see that the ego is just a myth, an organizing story that is attached to in an emotional way.

Lot's of people have discussed this BTW. Over on Tricycle you should definitely be able to find past discussion on this exact topic.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

“All beings are Buddhas, but obscured by incidental stains. When those have been removed, there is Buddhahood.”
Hevajra Tantra
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Re: Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby Jesse » Thu Feb 23, 2012 12:56 am

This is one of the better articles I've read on the subject:

http://www.isabelclarke.org/psychosis_s ... nguage.htm

I believe the defining difference is, if it liberates you and makes you a happier, healthier person - good
If it's causing you or others suffering - not good.

The line can be thin with some people. It's an unfortunate reality.
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Re: Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby DarwidHalim » Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:26 am

I've read that many meditation achievements such as losing the body and and forgetting yourself are signs of progress in your cultivation work. It worries me that many of these achievements at a certain stage are almost always directly correlated with a mental disorder ...


If we think we lose the body and forgetting yourself can cause mental disorder, I think it can happen. This is because we misunderstand Buddhist teaching.

1. Losing the body.
What does it mean by losing the body?
First of all, we are not losing the body. The body is always there. The meat is always there. The blood is always there. What we rejected is the NOTION of self. Knowing there is no self, we know this body is not mine. This body is just the product of causes and condition like the big tree in your neighborhood, and the sun in the sky. Claiming this body is yours, is like claiming the tree is yours and the sun in the sky is yours.

By knowing exactly there is no basis to claim this body is not yours, this body is just a series of dependent origination, you really feel you dont have body. It is the feeling that this body is yours, make you have the body. If you don't have that feeling even when the body is there, the meat is there, ten bone is there, you won't feel you have the body. The feeling that you don't have the body comes from the perfect and crystal clear understanding from the teaching of no essence.

If you see your neighbor manggo tree, because you don't have that feeling that the mango tree is not yours, wherever you go you don't carry this notion or memory "that is my mango tree". Because you don't carry that memory, you don't have the body of mango tree.

But, for the owner of the mango tree who dear that mango tree so dearly, wherever he goes, he always carries the notion of that mango tree. Wherever he goes, he always have the body of mango tree.

It is not the appearance of that manggo tree that make you have the mango tree, but the notion or idea, that mango tree is mine that make you have the mango tree. Same thing with this body. It is not the not having the appearance that make you don't have the body, it is the notion or belief that "I don't have body because of crystal clear understanding about no essence" that make you know you actually don't have body.

The body that we claim everyday is just a claim. Just because you claim the sun is yours, it doesn't make that sun is yours. Claiming this mango tree which I bought is mine, doesn't mean that mango tree is mine.

If people haven't realized wisdom of emptiness, and already can claim I don't have body although my eyes see the appearances of this body, soon or later it is possible they will go mad.

2. Forgetting yourself.
It is not forgetting yourself that make you don't have self, but it is your crystal clear wisdom of emptiness that make you see clearly you don't have self that make you don't have self.

This topic is huge, so it is better I don't discuss it further.

Same again, if people think can not having a self simply by forgetting it, they will go mad. Only people who have the crystal clear realization of no essence (wisdom of emptiness), can have the proper feeling of not having "yourself" or "myself" or "I" or "you" etc.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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Re: Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby wisdom » Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:27 am

One of the main characteristics of Depersonalization Disorder is detachment. This is different from non-attachment. The idea of detachment as its understood in psychology is the feeling of being apart from something you *want* to be a part of. Non attachment is the ability to remain unattached to things that you in reality want nothing to do with. Someone who has realized emptiness is not *detached* from their self, they no longer falsely impute the existence of a self and they are OK with that, hence its not a psychological disorder. Furthermore conventionally they may still put on the display of having a self, personality, and so forth. While they do not feel "detached" from that display, they are not clinging to it as inherently real.

In essence madness and attainment are really not the same at all.
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Re: Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby maybay » Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:26 am

I think you can find a better role model than this person.
People will know nothing and everything
Remember nothing and everything
Think nothing and everything
Do nothing and everything
- Machig Labdron
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Re: Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby gyougan » Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:00 pm

By modern psychiatry, The Buddha could certainly be classified as a lunatic.

Also, some time ago I was reading the Meditation Sutra (観無量寿経) and there Vaidehi bows before the Buddha and tells him how she wants to get out of this rotten Saha world. She felt this world is a terrible place full of suffering where she does not want to live. The Buddha praised her for being wise.

But modern doctors would think she's depressed and prescript pills to her.

The Western view is that there's something wrong with you if you don't like Samsara and this Saha world.
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Re: Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby Jesse » Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:28 pm

gyougan wrote:By modern psychiatry, The Buddha could certainly be classified as a lunatic.


Almost certainly, as well as many other historic religious figures. Not that I have anything against psychiatry in general, but imho it's become just another industry for acquiring wealth by any means, rather than a means of helping people.

For example:
(Reuters) - Millions of healthy people - including shy or defiant children, grieving relatives and people with fetishes - may be wrongly labeled mentally ill by a new international diagnostic manual, specialists said on Thursday.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/ ... WX20120209

Prozac for everyone!
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Re: Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby Quiet Heart » Sat Feb 25, 2012 3:55 am

:smile:
Can I just add here that one of the vital steps in deciding the "real" value of any "attainment" or "understanding" you do get is going back over the events some time later...and re-evaluating that "attainment".
That requires mental discipline and mindfulness and sometimes can make that glorious attainment look pretty shabby in the cold harsh light of the day after.
Rather like waking up with a hangover the morning after the best party EVER...and looking at the mess it caused in your house.
But it has to be done if your honest and serious about your practice...and really trying to gain something from that practice.
Otherwise, however, what's the point?
:smile:
Shame on you Shakyamuni for setting the precedent of leaving home.
Did you think it was not there--
in your wife's lovely face
in your baby's laughter?
Did you think you had to go elsewhere (simply) to find it?
from - Judyth Collin
The Layman's Lament
From What Book, 1998, p. 52
Edited by Gary Gach
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Re: Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby Nemo » Sat Feb 25, 2012 4:07 am

Using the experiences of one disturbed woman with tonnes of emotional baggage and a deadly brain tumor as a guide to meditation may be somewhat counter productive.

You are worrying about theoretical problems. Why not do some meditation and see what happens for yourself.
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Re: Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby Buddhist Prime » Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:31 am

Attainment!!!

Actually, before I knew as much as I do now, I was working as a security
officer at an airport. On one day after getting off of work, I was in my car
listening to 107.5 the buzz late at night when Sex Phones came on, people
talking about weird sex things.

Anyways this man asked if it was possible to bust a nut without jerking off.
The doctor said yes if you concentrated very hard you could do it, in fact
women can do it easier, because their muscles are on the inside, and they
can just squeeze themselves to joy.

I thought, shoot that would be cool, I'm at work, my boss pisses me off, then
I would just sit back, concentrate, and ooh-ahh overcome that negative BS.
So I decided to do this when I got home to do an experiment!

After I got home, got in the shower, I started thinking dirty thoughts, and
my little Gohan went Supersaiyan. The shower was actually one of those
bathtub shower ones with a shower curtain.
Behind me is the shower head, to my right the shower curtain, in front and
to my left are the two adjacent walls. In each of the corners are two
shelves that hold soap and shampoo stuff. On the top shelf is this big
bottle of Horse Mane Conditioner.

After about 10 minutes of serious concentration, a strange feeling like the
ones experienced in OBE related sensations, of my consciousness pulling
itself up thru my legs, out of the arms, everything centralizing in the
middle of me and slowly raising up thru my body finally stopped somewhere in
my head, sahasra or ajna chakra, I'm not sure, by this time I'm looking
straight up, in a state of OMG WTF is going on here. Then my head bowed down
involuntarily and I was looking straight at that Conditioner bottle, when
all of sudden I felt that energy build up exit the area between my eyebrows,
and saw the Conditioner bottle shoot right off the shelf, a couple of flips
then landed. Everything happened like a split second after the energy
exited.

I was blown away, I figured there's gotta be a logical reason for what
happened, maybe the shower head's water hit it off, but the water came no
where near it. Maybe one of my family members hit the other side of the
bathroom wall in the laundry room and that did it, unfortunately no one was
home yet. And the bottle was full, it had weight.

That day I realized the potential power in the sexual urge, and how to
channel it, from that day on everything changed for me.

It took me an additional 10 years, from Christianity, all of the religions,
and finally with Buddhism being able to answer it, but I just want other's thoughts on this.
Finally found my answer in Clear Light of Bliss:
http://www.amazon.com/Clear-Light-Bliss ... 327&sr=1-1
My Profile, everything you ever wanted to know about me and why:
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=7649
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Re: Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby LastLegend » Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:16 pm

If you still suffer and you don't live effortlessly, then it is not attainment. That is suffering.

And from the story of the OP, it seems that the woman has had some bad mental experience prior to practicing meditation that I think might be therapeutic or might not depend on how she takes it. And no if meditation is done correctly with a teacher as a guidance, you will be ok.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
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Re: Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby deepbluehum » Tue Mar 27, 2012 5:52 pm

What the f is wrong with being disordered? Order is the slave master's whip. No buddha thinks you are a being that needs his help. Not all the buddhas talk like Sunday School in Omaha, Nebraska. There is no being. This is just a show. Every motivation to action is just to make a show. What do you think will happen when people take on enlightenment en mass? Disorder. Disorder. Disorder. er. er. .er .... Tribes of nomads on electric Harleys camping in the nature preserve. The Rockies and Sierras and Cascades and Appalatians populated by ghosts and yogis and yoginis doing karmamudra to electronica with soulful vocals. The extremists climbing the snow mountains in winter to drink fresh water and stare into the sky, eating pine nuts and deer carcass. Dharma man is not a society man. He is not judged by social norms. Not in the tantric world.
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Re: Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Mar 27, 2012 7:02 pm

I sincerely hope that you never suffer from mental illness, that you never end up locked in a psychiatric ward, that you never end up a half starved crazy bum having to scavenge food out of rubbish bins, that you never reach the point where you are so out of it that you consider friends as enemies and enemies as friends.

You see the examples you give are of people that have chosen to live and think like that, people with mental disorders do not have the luxury of the ability to choose to be consciously "crazy".
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby deepbluehum » Tue Mar 27, 2012 7:13 pm

Whose to judge. Most bums will turn down any help. They just want to be left alone. So leave em alone. If a bum is happy and you are not, who has something? Even if you are crazy. Okay. Be crazy. Try not to hurt someone. Be loving and kind, even if you are crazy. Give hugs and say nice things. Not everyone can fit into your regimented sane asylum. I look at where "sanity" has gotten us and I would rather be crazy. I don't want anyone, man or god, to mistake me for someone complicit in this horror. 100% I am crazy. I got here by mistake. Took a wrong turn. I'll be leaving now. Thank you very much for all your help. Bye bye. It was nice knowing ya. Really. It's been a pleasure. I'll just be seeing you then. Okay. Bye. Bye. Bye.
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Re: Attainments or Mental Disorders?

Postby Matticus » Sun Apr 15, 2012 11:57 am

Nemo wrote:Using the experiences of one disturbed woman with tonnes of emotional baggage and a deadly brain tumor as a guide to meditation may be somewhat counter productive.

You are worrying about theoretical problems. Why not do some meditation and see what happens for yourself.


I very much agree with this. I suppose I was using her case as an example of someone suffering with what she percieved as a mental disorder and what others thought was spiritual attainment. There are many shades of gray in what people percieve as a disorder. I think psychology uses 5 D's or something like that. Deviant to society, disruptive to yourself, disruptive to your family. Things like that. On the other hand, many tribes belive hearing things or seeing spirits is perfectly acceptable and normal in their society. Ours is most definitly not one of those. Bottom line is that I find that many "attainments" of meditation also appear to have some sort of corresponding "mental disorder". I've read lots of stories about the Trancendental Meditation craze that swept through our Universites in the (60's, 70's??) Many of these students without pre-existing conditions developed them using the "method" prescribed to them by some Guru's. Many developed forms of depression, depersonalization, bi-polar, schizophrenia. When the students reported these effects to their Guru's, they recieved verbal praise, a pat on the shoulder and told to go back under their tree. By no means do I belive this is the result of all meditation. I belive they had a severely incorrect practice, and an inept "Teacher" looking to make a few bucks of the impressionable rebels of the age. All I "think" i'm saying, is that It would be smart to research edible plants before you go off into a forest and start munching on leaves and stems you find. I found this information doing research about meditation. Just covering my bases before I eat the proverbial "plant".
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