Welcome your intensity.
For more information, contact:
Gary Schouborg, PhD
"Enlightenment, Depression, and Psychotherapy" (online exchanges).
Enlightenment, Depression, and Psychotherapy
states (to follow James Austin's terminology) may serve various aims: reduce
relevance of ordinary, everyday life is the following. First, it is the
perspective from which presumably most of us are operating while
currently reading this posting.
Second, it is from that perspective that we must therefore decide whether or
not to pursue alternate states; therefore, even if the alternate is promoted
as superior to our present state, the promoter must bridge the credulity gap
by explaining how the alternate state is superior to our current, ordinary
one, which explanation must at least partially involve ordinary terms. Third,
are at least three contributors to depression. The first is helplessness: I am depressed because I have
failed to achieve some goal and see no way in which I can succeed; I feel bad
and am unmotivated to do anything about it. Self-loathing may add to my
torment: I am not just in a depressing situation, but I *deserve* to be; I
have not just failed, but I *deserve* to fail. The third contributor puts the
final nail in the co
(2) Concerning self-evaluation. I can reduce my depression the more I can distance myself from my beliefs of self-worthlessness. Remedies are similar to those indicated to fight beliefs concerning cause.
Concerning duration. I may also reduce my su
identify with my depression is to be unable to think of myself unrelated to
it. Thus, I cannot think of any successes I've enjoyed, of thin
as I understand it, vipassana is a formal technique designed, among other
insight into the *impermanence* of conscious experience directly undermines
contribution 3, duration. Even if my depression lasts interminably, mindful
attention to it reveals di
into *no-self* is often interpreted ontologically, to infer that there is
literally no self there. However, I find it more useful to do as I believe
into *avoidable su
these truths are obvious and believing them only slightly lifts our
depression, if at all. Vipassana is a formal technique for spending quiet
time with ourselves, so that we can directly experience these three truths
within our own consciousness. That is, we directly experience the
impermanence of our inner experiences as well as the intangibility of our
selves; we also experience how our beliefs in permanence and in a
well-defined self causes su
that there is nothing here that suggests that all forms of depression can be
completely eliminated. For example, if my depression is organically induced,
enlightenment does not provide an organic cure. However, it can reduce my su
the preceding is set within the framework of the goal of enlightenment to
> I would define the vipassana technique as the volitional practice of
> mindfulness (to be clearly distinguished from the occurrence of spontaneous
> mindfulness or vipassana after Enlightenment).
the only di
> Exactly as you have quoted ˆ Dogen's "No
> mind, no body." No subject-no object. Therefore, who is to observe what?
> Observation happens.
"Observation happens" has a certain usefulness in helping overcome clinging, but as a description it is inadequate to the experience, which is that *I* (and other individuals) am doing the observing. The issue is what account of that *I* is adequate and thus serves enlightenment. "Observation happens" is a draconian cure for an understanding of *I* that is self-absorbed. If one is self-absorbed (clinging), the solution is not to deny any self at all (e.g., observation happens) -- that would be a reaction formation -- but to move to an account of self that is functional (enlightened). We must go beyond a false dichotomy between self and other to an understanding of self in relation to others.
in fact, this is what
The Theoretical Issue.
The homunculus theory says that to account for human agency and consciousness we must posit a self that is housed in the body. For example, what accounts for the "I" when I say that I am writing this sentence is a self (I) housed in the body. Only *I* experience my consciousness, from within my body; others, on the outside, do not. Since *I* am conscious, *I* am writing, and *I* am not my body, there is an understandable tendency to conclude that *I* (self) am a reality (homunculus) housed in my body.
The problem with any homunculus theory is that it is a pseudo-explanation: it is outside any explanatory web. All explanations fit into a network; they cannot operate in isolation. Thus, if I say that my car moves because there is a little man under the hood who pushes it, the root problem is not that we could look under the hood and see that no little man is there. In fact, we can never prove a negative. If we looked under the hood and did not see anyone, I could claim that there are many little men pushing the pistons. And if you insisted on the role of gasoline, I could then say there are many little men pushing molecules around causing fuel explosions that push the pistons. And so forth, ad infinitum. So the problem with my homunculus theory is not that it can be decisively refuted. Its problem is that it is purely ad hoc. In contrast, my referring to the engine, the pistons, the gasoline, etc. refers to a whole web of realities and explanations that work together.
I disagree with
The Practical Issue of Clinging
Enlightens me is not understanding that the homunculus theory is wrong and
why. What Enlightens me is anicca, anatta, and dukkha -- awakening to the
transitory nature of experience (anicca), the fact that no concept or set of
concepts captures all that *I* am (anatta), and seeing within my own
experience how my failing to grasp anicca and anatta leads to su
my previous email, I showed how this framework helps us see both the nature
of depression and the means of not identifying with it. We can also apply the
> I would put it thus: Identification (or attachment) is being concerned because
> ˆ and simply because ˆ of the feeling of "me" and "mine." (What you would call
Two initial points. The feeling of me and mine can exist or not exist independently of whether one supports the homunculus theory or denies it. What is salient for Enlightenment is the nature of that feeling. Clinging arises when "me" or "mine" are taken absolutely. Non-clinging occurs when they are understood within the framework of anicca, anatta, and dukkha. We cannot operate in practical, daily living without reference to me, mine, you, yours, they, and theirs. The question is whether we are going to understand these concepts absolutely and dichotomously, or as interrelated realities.
> For example, being concerned about an unrelated handicapped or
> sick person is not attachment,
It might be, if I identify with her in an absolute way.
> but when that person is a close relative, the
> additional concern is based on attachment (because he is "my" relative).
Not necessarily, if I don't identify with her in an absolute way. Of course, I agree that the closer the relative, the more I am likely to so identify.
> Similarly, the Enlightened person has no self-image, no image of himself as
> "an Enlightened person" who must conform to certain predefined criteria or
> live up to certain standards. He has no expectations from himself, like for
> example that he should not be depressed. He lives spontaneously, lightly, like
> "a dry leaf in the wind." If he happens to be depressed, he is not concerned
> in the sense that he has no idea that "I should not be depressed" though other
people may entertain such expectations of him because they have very di
> ideas of how an Enlightened person "should" behave. Nor do these expectations
> of the other people bother the Enlightened one.
Exactly, because the Enlightened one sees that she is not identical to (anatta) any particular image or expectation.
Now to the Psychotherapy Issue
> Enlightenment is for the well-balanced,
> psychologically mature individual, and if one is not such, then
> psychotherapies may be needed to bring that about. In the context of
> Enlightenment, all techniques, all therapies serve to bring one to a certain
> preliminary stage from which one could perhaps (if one is so inclined)
> conceive of Enlightenment.
What is the nature of that preliminary stage? Why is it a necessary pre-condition?
> Some degree of tranquillity could certainly be said to be a pre-condition,
> though it would be wise not to be too dogmatic about setting any preconditions
> for Enlightenment.
we should not be too dogmatic about it, then the door is opened for the
possibility that, at least in some cases, a highly neurotic person could
benefit from embarking on the path to Enlightenment without benefit of
psychotherapy. What would such a case look like?
> Two of my colleagues both psychiatrists, one also a senior Vipassana teacher
> at the Igatpuri institute, have done research on this. As far as I know,
> vipassana can be a useful adjunct to treatment in minor neuroses in receptive
> patients. It may be used to give the practitioner an insight into his own
> neurosis. It has also been tried in more severe cases. An experiment was also
conducted in Tihar Jail in
> There was also a report on the practice of mindfulness in relation to
> psychotherapy in the American Journal of Psychiatry, I think a few years ago
> understanding of Advaita in her sessions with patients to great advantage. I
have met the lady when she was in
Several books, perhaps most notably Kabat-Zinn's, have spoken of mindfulness in the service of various kinds of psychological dysfunction.
> When I did need deep body-mind work, many opportunities
were given me as a recreation therapist(at
> years' paid "in-service" at Esalen. I especially benefited from Gestalt
> therapy where important "unfinished" situations would emerge and be dealt
> with. The therapy would make my conflicts obvious(some from childhood
> traumas) and facilitate some process of completion. I was asked to act out,
move, emote, be aware of bodily reactions, to express feelin
> to touch and be touched, thus releasing those "buried parts of me" that took
> up so much psychic energy. The basis was that the truth will make one free,
> so that I'd say to the therapist what I might say to my mother, my lover, if
only I could speak the truth of my feelin
> benefited from body therapies such as rolfing and Feldenkrais movement where
> I experienced kinesthetic feedback and deeper experiential understanding of
> my particular patterns so I could, in a sense, let go and re-organize my
> nervous system in its orchestration of body mechanics. From the
institutional setting of
> enjoying the hot tubs and massages by the ocean's breeze as well as
> participating in therapy groups. What were the benefits/results? I didn't
> feel so controlled by my need to please and the resentments underneath. I
> could say no as well as yes to projects without agonizing. I could more
comfortably be a lover and an enjoyer as well as an activist. As
therapy changed my neurotic su
> How compare with vipassana? If that's even possible, being only a novice
> student who just happens to have the bug to do inner work in meditation. For
> me there's no competition between therapy and meditation. One may or may not
> require either. Further what is often called "meditation" seems to be more
> of a therapy, especially as meditation is often advertised: "Learn to
> concentrate," "Be relaxed," "lose Stress," "Be fully alive,"....
> Contrast this with a Buddhist thangka with the meditator having her/his head
> It seems to me meditation goes beyond therapy and has more universal,
> particular orientation of therapy. Meditation is experiencing totally in all
> areas of life, being present. Its purpose, if it can even be stated, is to
completely release us from su
> understanding reality and finally a state of mind that is free of "ignorance
about the nature of the self." Therapy addresses unique forms of su
> by revealing underlying emotional-organic patterns. I don't think my human
> development ever ends and so I don't see a total resolution of all my
> psychological influences. Yet, at least as a possibility (exemplified in the
> rare lives of "enlightened ones"), in vipassana there may be a final
> resolution of all separation from "ourselves" and the "world."
Take good care,
I don't see why highly neurotic individuals couldn't be Enlightened. They
just wouldn't identify with their neurosis. True, obsessive-compulsives couldn't do concentrative meditation,
because they couldn't free themselves of their preoccupations. But why
couldn't they see their obsessive-compulsive impulses for what they are --
passing experiences -- with which they refuse to identify? We've all (?)
Enlightenment and neurosis can coexist, at least in principle, then vipassana
this framework, vipassana and psychotherapy are interactive and
complimentary. We distinguish the two for historical reasons as well as
emphasis. However, the two should be in the tool bag of both gurus and
therapists. To help clients eliminate or cope with their thoughts and feelin
Since this is an age of specialization, it will usually not be desirable that the same guide address both the spiritual and the psychological needs of the individual. There are usually advantages to focusing on one area or the other. Still, in the individual, the two needs are constantly interacting.
to Nitin and