There are many mental disorders or illness like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, hypertension, etc. These and many other illnesses are well known and are treated by psychologists and psychiatrists. One problem with all these illnesses is that it is very difficult to determine when these patients should be referred to a doctor and when it is normal.
While above mental illnesses are well known and treated accordingly, there are other illnesses we do not acknowledge. These are illnesses which causes one to murder, rape, steal, bribe, suicide and do all things forbidden by both religion and law. These illnesses of mind are not accepted as illnesses, neither by others nor by ourselves. Even the most stringent law is unable to curb these crimes which are a result of extreme mental illness. Even the society will shun these so called criminals not realizing that even they are affected by the same illness to a lesser or more degree.
There are still other illnesses of mind which are subtle and difficult to recognize. They are greed, lust, anger, fear, jealousy, love, hate, like, dislike, etc which when in extreme conditions can cause one to do above mentioned acts i.e. murder, rape, steal, bribe, corruption, suicide and all things forbidden by both religion and law. We do not heed these mental illnesses until they grow out of proportion and come under purview of law. Even then, we do not realize that they are mental illnesses. These mental illnesses must be recognized and acknowledged before they can be cured. Amazingly neither law, nor science, nor most religions have accepted or analyzed it. Most people recommend meditation as a solution to these problems. Meditation though an effective solution takes a long time to show effect. And whatever effect there is, it is not as dramatic as we expect.
Can these illnesses be really cured? Are these really illnesses? Can there be anyone who do not have these illnesses? Amazingly answer to all these questions is yes! And the answer had existed all the time since last 2500yrs. Though the beneficiaries have reduced dramatically over these years, the solution is as effective as it was anytime before. It’s the Buddha who first analyzed the mind to identify these as mental illnesses/defilement and find the solution called Nirvana. Buddha himself took birth after birth to attain the ultimate perfection to become the Buddha supreme. While not everyone can become Buddha, everyone can attain the same perfection called Nirvana where all mental fetters have ended and one will no longer do anything wrong.
The solution is a simple three step process – morality, mental culture and wisdom. Expanding it further as the Noble Eight Fold Path –
morality: 1. right speech 2. right action and 3. right livlihood
mental culture: 4. right concentration, 5. right awareness and 6. right effort
wisdom: 7. right resolve and 8. right understanding.
As mentioned earlier meditation is not a panacea for the mental illnesses or defilement. It must be accompanied by right efforts, moral behavior in speech, action and livelihood and wisdom. (Wisdom is a much wider term which include understanding karma, rebirth, four Noble truth and dependent origination, and cannot be explained here without losing details). Morality is difficult to achieve without a mind developed through meditation. Meditation without moral behavior is fruitless. Without wisdom & understanding there is no good reason to practice morality or meditation.
While all religions strive for morality, they miss meditation and the concept of ultimate moral perfection called Nirvana. There do exist the concept of ‘devotion to God’, ‘being one with God’, ‘Moksha’ and ‘Apotheosis’ (most likely my next blog) made famous by Dan Brown’s latest book ‘The Lost Symbol’. While Moksha in Hinduism is mostly associated with yogis, ‘being one with God’ stops short of the ultimate moral perfection – Nirvana.
Coming back to mental illnesses, the list in this blog is far from complete. So, how do we deal with more than one illness? How do we know which illness we are suffering from? All these illnesses are the result of Dukkha (roughly translated as suffering or unsatisfactoriness) as per Buddhism – The first of Four Noble Truth in Buddha’s teaching.
Dukkha defined: Dukkha is getting what one doesn’t want, not getting what one wants, disassociation with loved ones, association with those we dislike, illness, old age and death. Thus the definition of suffering covers all the reasons for our mental illnesses. Desire and its resultant attachment is the root cause of Dukkha. This is the second Noble Truth.
It seems all our emotions are mental illnesses. So, are all our emotions mental illnesses or Dukkha? No, there do exist higher emotions which are not based on desire and attachment and are noble emotions. These do not have English equivalents. They are Metta, Mudita, Karuna and Upekka. They need to be cultivated explicitly. Metta is unconditional love for all beings. Karuna is compassion for all those who are less gifted than us. Mudita is being happy in prosperity, success and happiness of others. Upekkha is equanimity, treating all beings alike. Metta meditation is commonly practiced along with other Buddhist meditation.
Mind can Matter and we can be completely free from all our mental illness. Sabbe Satta Sukhi Hontu. May all beings be happy.