Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
Nox
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Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by Nox » Wed May 01, 2019 6:38 pm

Just so everyone is on the same page, schizophrenia is a person split off from reality, not someone with split/multiple personalities.

Can a schizophrenic, or others with severe mental illness that heavily impacts the persons ability to grasp reality, ever attain enlightenment or even so much as any progress in their meditation practice?

Nowadays many schizophrenics make full recoveries, often only with medication however. So in addition to the main question stated above, does the typical medication, antipsychotics, affect ones ability to see clearly?

Any insights would be appreciated. Reference to specific sutras or teachings would be prefered. Asking this as I can’t find anyone giving a full answer to this type of question.

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Jerafreyr
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by Jerafreyr » Thu May 02, 2019 3:27 am

When I was young I was diagnosed with depression. I was supposed to take zoloft which I never took. Battling with those extremely dark states of mind for decades was terrible (almost hung myself at one point) until I made the perceptual exchange of self and other. I give my life to the dharma which many worldlings would label as an unhealthy obsession. My days are now filled with many joys as I seize upon any opportunity to be generous. It makes everyone else happy and somehow fills me to the brim with the four immeasurables. Many times during the day my eyes tear up from this spontaneous happiness... But maybe that is my mental illness :rolling:

If you can choose how to deal with appearances, whether internal or external, you can change your perception of reality and thus make progress. I have no official citations, just my personal experiences.

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Miroku
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by Miroku » Thu May 02, 2019 6:39 am

I would like to remind posters and readers to exercise caution in case of such topic. Dharmawheel is not a medical forum and thus no real advice can be given here. Such heavy illness has to be ultimately cured by doctor. Therefore let's keep it just theoretical.
“Observing samaya involves to remain inseparable from the union of wisdom and compassion at all times, to sustain mindfulness, and to put into practice the guru’s instructions”. Garchen Rinpoche

Punya
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by Punya » Thu May 02, 2019 7:44 am

Making progress through meditation? Well, that would depend on the individual. A number of teachers these days emphasise very short sessions throughout the day though, which could be beneficial.

Making progress to enlightenment? There are other methods besides formal sitting meditation. In the Tibetan tradition, the two methodologies that immediately come to mind are the Lojong slogans formulated by Chekawa Yeshe Dorje (there are many modern modern commentaries on this including those by Pema Chodron, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Traleg Rinpoche) and the Eight Verses for Training the Mind by Geshe Langri Thangpa, which HH the Dalai Lama has taught on many times.

For different take on even what non-buddhists can I do to progress towards enlightenment, you could check out Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche's Hinamudra teachings
https://www.siddharthasintent.org/resou ... udra-2018/.
We abide nowhere. We possess nothing.
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Vasana
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by Vasana » Thu May 02, 2019 8:05 am

Nox wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 6:38 pm
Just so everyone is on the same page, schizophrenia is a person split off from reality, not someone with split/multiple personalities.

Can a schizophrenic, or others with severe mental illness that heavily impacts the persons ability to grasp reality, ever attain enlightenment or even so much as any progress in their meditation practice?

Nowadays many schizophrenics make full recoveries, often only with medication however. So in addition to the main question stated above, does the typical medication, antipsychotics, affect ones ability to see clearly?

Any insights would be appreciated. Reference to specific sutras or teachings would be prefered. Asking this as I can’t find anyone giving a full answer to this type of question.
It's not something that can be answered so easily since every case of schizophrenia or even just any mental imbalance will be unique. Mental health conditions are approached differently in different traditional Buddhist cultures and countries and the accuracy, quality and appropriateness of any diagnosis and treatment will be influenced by the skill and in some cases wisdom of the doctor. This is by no means a reccomendation to abandon western treatment since pharmaceuticals and even a good look at diet may be more ideal in many instances but it may help build a more holistic understanding of any health conditon- again Its impossible to say anything with much certainty since everyone has their own physiology, genetic factors, environmental influences, diet, medical history etc etc.

It's best to exercise caution and take it slowly. If a person is unstable then building stability slowly is a lot wiser than trying to run too soon. There are different teachings and training methods for different capacities of people. A *skilled* teacher /physician will make an *informed* asssesment of the student and reccomend something to start with under ongoing *supervision*. I emphasise skilled and informed because if they're not then there's no guarantee that the reccomendations will actually help. Also the approach would vary dependent on what kind of Dharma tradition the person is most attuned with.
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

Simon E.
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by Simon E. » Thu May 02, 2019 11:47 am

:good:

Sound advice.

I would just add that in the UK at least Mental Health professionals are discouraged from thinking of individuals as 'schizophrenics'..Instead they are encouraged to see those individuals as experiencing one of the various types of schizophrenia. It is not their identity or essence.
“Why don’t you close down your PC for a while and find out who needs your help?”

HH Tai Situ.

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Minobu
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by Minobu » Thu May 02, 2019 4:07 pm

There was a guy i recall in Nichiren shoshu's Soka Gakki..

He was bombarded with voices in his head ...all the time...his doctor told him he just had no option but to live with it....this is early 70's toronto..

So he found Nichiren's practice and tried his best to do it and all the Gakki asked of him...

He became very close to my father at one time , who was also practicing...but this was after what happened to him.

when we met he was totally cured...

so here is what happened ...Some doctor in chicago was offering a new way of dealing with full blown schizophrenia..

they would fast totally with only water for a month...they were not allowed to just sit around and wait , they had to go for walks and stay somewhat active...also all were monitored and watched 24/7 ....this was done under full doctor's watch.....

at the end of the month they broke the fast with one grape...He was cured totally...i met him well after the treatment...

So he would say the chanting brought him to the perfect doctor for him...

he chanted solely to be cured.

TrimePema
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by TrimePema » Fri May 10, 2019 9:51 am

As long as theyre not completely gone into a totally different reality where there is no way for them to receive transmission, I would think it's kind of irrelevant to the path :)

edit: meditation is meditation. either you're aware of it or you're not. meditation for a schizophrenic is the same as meditation for anyone else. it's all the same delusions and illusions

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Vasana
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by Vasana » Fri May 10, 2019 1:16 pm

TrimePema wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 9:51 am
As long as theyre not completely gone into a totally different reality where there is no way for them to receive transmission, I would think it's kind of irrelevant to the path :)

edit: meditation is meditation. either you're aware of it or you're not. meditation for a schizophrenic is the same as meditation for anyone else. it's all the same delusions and illusions
nope, this really isn't the case. not all delusions are equal in terms of how they manifest nor are all meditation instructions equal in how they influence the body and mind . Even people with no history of mental imbalances can find themselves worse off if they meditate too intensely, incorrectly or without proper guidance or understanding of how to regulate the further ends of the mental/emotional or physical spectrum.
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

TrimePema
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by TrimePema » Fri May 10, 2019 8:35 pm

Vasana wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 1:16 pm
TrimePema wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 9:51 am
As long as theyre not completely gone into a totally different reality where there is no way for them to receive transmission, I would think it's kind of irrelevant to the path :)

edit: meditation is meditation. either you're aware of it or you're not. meditation for a schizophrenic is the same as meditation for anyone else. it's all the same delusions and illusions
nope, this really isn't the case. not all delusions are equal in terms of how they manifest nor are all meditation instructions equal in how they influence the body and mind . Even people with no history of mental imbalances can find themselves worse off if they meditate too intensely, incorrectly or without proper guidance or understanding of how to regulate the further ends of the mental/emotional or physical spectrum.
sounds like you think meditation is an action

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Vasana
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by Vasana » Fri May 10, 2019 9:15 pm

TrimePema wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 8:35 pm
Vasana wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 1:16 pm
TrimePema wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 9:51 am
As long as theyre not completely gone into a totally different reality where there is no way for them to receive transmission, I would think it's kind of irrelevant to the path :)

edit: meditation is meditation. either you're aware of it or you're not. meditation for a schizophrenic is the same as meditation for anyone else. it's all the same delusions and illusions
nope, this really isn't the case. not all delusions are equal in terms of how they manifest nor are all meditation instructions equal in how they influence the body and mind . Even people with no history of mental imbalances can find themselves worse off if they meditate too intensely, incorrectly or without proper guidance or understanding of how to regulate the further ends of the mental/emotional or physical spectrum.
sounds like you think meditation is an action
That's what you drew from my above 2 posts?
Sounds like you are not seeing my point of view . Are you familiar with how Buddhist cultures describe the physiology of mental health? If so you'll understand how this relates with meditation and how meditation can in turn effect mental health.

One of the translations for meditation is cultivation and this involves attentiveness and mindfulness. Cultivating is a verb, an active process. Attending to what's happening in the mind and applying the 8 antidotes to the 5 faults is still activity. So even if you contend meditation isn't an action, there can still be faulty meditation.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_fa ... _antidotes
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

TrimePema
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by TrimePema » Fri May 10, 2019 11:56 pm

Vasana wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 9:15 pm
TrimePema wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 8:35 pm
Vasana wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 1:16 pm


nope, this really isn't the case. not all delusions are equal in terms of how they manifest nor are all meditation instructions equal in how they influence the body and mind . Even people with no history of mental imbalances can find themselves worse off if they meditate too intensely, incorrectly or without proper guidance or understanding of how to regulate the further ends of the mental/emotional or physical spectrum.
sounds like you think meditation is an action
That's what you drew from my above 2 posts?
Sounds like you are not seeing my point of view . Are you familiar with how Buddhist cultures describe the physiology of mental health? If so you'll understand how this relates with meditation and how meditation can in turn effect mental health.

One of the translations for meditation is cultivation and this involves attentiveness and mindfulness. Cultivating is a verb, an active process. Attending to what's happening in the mind and applying the 8 antidotes to the 5 faults is still activity. So even if you contend meditation isn't an action, there can still be faulty meditation.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_fa ... _antidotes
it's just my own thoughts. i understand what you're saying and where you're coming from but you're looking at meditation as a tool and not as the path itself.
cultivation denotes what happens in the state of awareness of ones own natural condition. lucidity of this naturalness is called meditation. there are different "forms" of meditation or ways to meditate (cause lucidity) and any certain type of form may increase ones own capacity to "do" this but generally speaking all of the faults are simply things that one is doing instead of doing nothing and letting the meditation/cultivation take place. imo, your view is valid in the following way: yes, it is difficult to remain in meditation without mindfulness AND remaining in meditation increases mindfulness capacity or shamatha but at the same time what meditation is actually for is progressing on the path toward enlightenment, which is the full complete cultivation of the intrinsic nature of all of reality (which requires shamatha to be developed first). being schizophrenic or not has nothing to do with this UNLESS (maybe) one is so removed from reality that it is impossible to comprehend the instructions - of course, its possible this person could still realize meditation on their own and remain in that state from time to time or something.

"even though the meditator may leave the meditation, the meditation will not leave the meditator" - HH Dudjom Rinpoche

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Vasana
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by Vasana » Sat May 11, 2019 6:21 am

without knowing what the rest of their psychological profile is like (people rarely just have single conditions) we are just in the realm of hypotheticals and as such saying that meditation has no *potential* influence seems irresponsible to me. It's better to be safe than sorry.
Classical Buddhist literature discusses potential pitfalls of mindfulness and meditation, such as makyō (hallucinations) and "Zen sickness" – a sense of imbalance and loss of identity. So these warnings should not be glossed over by teachers of Buddhist inspired techniques.
Check out this balanced review of a study;
Does meditation carry a risk of harmful side effects? https://www.nhs.uk/news/lifestyle-and-e ... e-effects/

In ayurveda, mental conditions are often related with the wind element /vata/ rlung. There isn't a history of speaking about 'meditators' wind imbalance' and the many 'Nyams that can arise for no reason. If a person has an underlying tendency even towards anxiety or depression then it's possible for prolonged meditation without proper instruction to cause harm. The same applies for those with dissociative conditions and also PTSD. This doesn't mean everyone with these conditions will experience negative effects from meditation but since we have seen a number of news stories, anecdotes and studies about difficult experiences it should be fairly straight forward to take an equally cautious approach with schizophrenic conditions. Maybe you haven't encountered these stories before?
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

TrimePema
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by TrimePema » Sat May 11, 2019 9:04 am

the question is whether someone with schizophrenia can make progress to enlightenment through meditation. The answer is unequivocally YES.

If someone has PTSD or depression and meditation causes them to be aware of their thoughts and they follow a thought chain into some kind of extremely delusional reality-altering world concept that they substantialize resulting in causing a breakdown THE MEDITATION HAD FAULTS. The whole process is that they should become aware of their habitual conceptualization so although it is potentially dangerous (maybe) for someone with schizophrenia to meditate (although this is dangerous in a VERY relative way and limited way), the merit from their commitment to progressing on the path for the benefit of all beings VASTLY outweighs the dangers.

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Vasana
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by Vasana » Sat May 11, 2019 9:36 am

Yeah, we're in agreement for the most part. I emphasized receiving proper instruction, guidance and supervision in my first post. Its impossible to say that the merit will outweigh the dangers since we don't know what states and actions will follow if they have challenging experiences. People have come out of Vippasana retreats in handcuffs before!

The words we share on the internet can have positive or negative effects beyond our awareness or original intention...I would rather follow the precautionary principle even if in the majority cases, meditation would bring more benefit than harm. If there is just a slight *chance* of harm, then it's out ethical responsibility to speak about it just as pharmaceutical companies are held responsible for listing potential side effects even if they occured in just a handful out of a 1000 people.

The same applies for seeking medical advice online and when people ask about breathing practices. Most people aren't going to end up in any serious trouble from basic breathing practices but since there is a chance people can apply some techniques incorrectly, it's our responsibility to ensure that the person is aware of the risks so they can make informed choices and ideally meet a qualified teacher.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

TrimePema
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by TrimePema » Sat May 11, 2019 10:06 am

Vasana wrote:
Sat May 11, 2019 9:36 am
Yeah, we're in agreement for the most part. I emphasized receiving proper instruction, guidance and supervision in my first post. Its impossible to say that the merit will outweigh the dangers since we don't know what states and actions will follow if they have challenging experiences. People have come out of Vippasana retreats in handcuffs before!

The words we share on the internet can have positive or negative effects beyond our awareness or original intention...I would rather follow the precautionary principle even if in the majority cases, meditation would bring more benefit than harm. If there is just a slight *chance* of harm, then it's out ethical responsibility to speak about it just as pharmaceutical companies are held responsible for listing potential side effects even if they occured in just a handful out of a 1000 people.

The same applies for seeking medical advice online and when people ask about breathing practices. Most people aren't going to end up in any serious trouble from basic breathing practices but since there is a chance people can apply some techniques incorrectly, it's our responsibility to ensure that the person is aware of the risks so they can make informed choices and ideally meet a qualified teacher.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle
I get that but the thing is someone also has to be the devils advocate to your caution. It's rare to be interested in meditation or Dharma much less actually progressing on the path so to discourage or turn people away from the most basic aspect of Dharma practice, which is also the primary tool for progressing on the path, would be difficult for me. With any practice it is most important to BE GENTLE!!!
I mean it's possible to make some argument like "if you engage in the path incorrectly and abandon it you will never become enlightened" but I heard if you crash into the Guru's car you will still receive the blessing.

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Vasana
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by Vasana » Sat May 11, 2019 10:16 am

I sympathize with the devil's advocate function, don't get me wrong, but that should ideally already be covered in any balanced discussion about meditation as it is in the article above. I also said different teachers will describe different skillfull means to suit different people. If a person can't meditate for whatever reaaon they can still accumulate merit and make progress. These other means might even have the function of balancing the person's mind in the process. Using the precautionary principle isn't about discouraging people.

Also, the OP mentioned Sutra approach.
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

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Miroku
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by Miroku » Sat May 11, 2019 10:36 am

Just wanna pitch in. Lets not forget that buddhism is not just meditation. Many other aspects of the path can be applied by anyone really. For example ethics. It could be argued there is no right concentration without good ethics.
Also reciting sutras and dharanis could be of help and provide purification. If that one counts as "meditation" probably depends on the state of mind, however it helps on the way towards enlightenment.
“Observing samaya involves to remain inseparable from the union of wisdom and compassion at all times, to sustain mindfulness, and to put into practice the guru’s instructions”. Garchen Rinpoche

tkp67
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by tkp67 » Tue May 14, 2019 2:18 pm

I am 52 and while I am not schizophrenic but I suffer from such intense BP/BPD/PTSD as well as other serious brain dysfunction. At 16 I was given a prognosis of permanent institutionalization at best. I put intense efforts into treatment both modern and alternative.

Buddhism has helped me finally achieve a measure of joy and normalcy in light of some very horrific karma much of which was not a resultant of choice in this lifetime and effected me on a cellular leve

Furthermore and please to not take this as a prostylization but rather a testimony in hope directly related to the power of all teachings the and practitioners of Buddhism without prejudice or bias I was not even able to still my mind for decades unless unconscious regardless of vehicle until I started chanting. I mention this because after years of practice I was able to learn sitting meditation through a teacher as part of parallel therapy from a Buddhist practitioner.

The potency of a quite mind and the impedance for some such as my self is such that simply being able to achieve a measure of success has literally changed my life in ways no other vehicle.

My seed that is my faith in these teachings has born fruit and I hope this serves to help those who practice and teach how this has tangible results for those that suffer from mental illness

tatpurusa
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Re: Can schizophrenics make progress to enlightenment through meditation?

Post by tatpurusa » Wed May 15, 2019 10:53 pm

Nox wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 6:38 pm
Just so everyone is on the same page, schizophrenia is a person split off from reality, not someone with split/multiple personalities.

Can a schizophrenic, or others with severe mental illness that heavily impacts the persons ability to grasp reality, ever attain enlightenment or even so much as any progress in their meditation practice?

Nowadays many schizophrenics make full recoveries, often only with medication however. So in addition to the main question stated above, does the typical medication, antipsychotics, affect ones ability to see clearly?

Any insights would be appreciated. Reference to specific sutras or teachings would be prefered. Asking this as I can’t find anyone giving a full answer to this type of question.
I believe a much more appropriate method for that would be shamanism.
Shamanism is capable of transforming the very same persons that in the West would be declared mentally ill and treated as such into shamans and healers.
But this process needs a close relationship to an authentic shaman and long-term accompaniment by him.



Bon integrates both shamanistic practices (originating from Siberian shamanism) with meditation and other healing practices.
In such a case meditational practices should begin when the person already got stabilized by shamanism.

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