I updated my RSS feed today with Google Feedburner. The new link is http://feeds.feedburner.com/NeverGiveUpBuddhismFamilySchizophrenia and is now on the right sidebar of this website.
Recently I decided to focus my website on the topics of Buddhism and mental health. My memoir is largely about Buddhism, family and mental health, and I’ve decided this is the best focus moving forward. My Buddhist practice and my knowledge of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism has contributed to my mental health and well-being in a variety of ways. The guest post I wrote for Ashley Smith, “Buddhism, My Mental Health & My Happiness” only touched on the different ways Buddhism has influenced, strengthened and supported my mental health.
Ashley’s question, “How does your Buddhist practice view mental illness and address it?” prompted me to do a little research about Buddhism using my relatively small library of books, magazines and other Buddhist literature. It’s interesting because although I found quite a bit of information about illness and treating illness from a Buddhist perspective, I read very little about mental illness. I’m sure this is partly due to the fact that the Buddha taught over 2,500 years ago in India, before mental illness was defined and diagnosed as it is today, much like cancer. Illness and mental illness in particular is unique to each individual, so there aren’t too many Buddhist cures or panaceas for specific illnesses that would apply to any one particular illness like schizophrenia or depression.
Instead, Buddhism takes a broader approach that utilizes both common sense and faith in our own ability to heal ourselves.
“Through contemplation, Shakyamuni [Buddha] concluded that the best medicine is the fundamental life force inherent in everyone’s life, which enables us to draw forth the wisdom and energy necessary to cure our own physical and mental ills. Buddhist medicine’s chief aim is to help individuals develop their natural self-healing powers by cultivating life force through Buddhist practice.”
“Buddhism views illness as an opportunity to attain a higher, nobler state of life. It teaches that, instead of agonizing over a serious disease, or despairing of ever overcoming it, we should use illness as a means to build a strong, compassionate self, which in turn will make it possible for us to be truly victorious.”
– “Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death: A Buddhist View of Life” written by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda (2004).
In terms of my own mental health and the problems that have plagued me over the past few years, I’ve utilized many different approaches. I cut out encouraging quotes and placed them on my altar so I could read them daily while I chanted. I wrote down lists of goals for myself 3-4 times a year to clarify for myself exactly what is was I wanted to achieve, and although these goals often changed, it still helped me to gain a better perspective on my own attitude and what it was I was dealing with. For many years, my reality and my own beliefs were extremely distorted. I was so intimidated by what the mafia voices said to me I believed what ultimately was nothing more than an elaborate web of lies and deceit. Buddhism says nothing specific about auditory hallucinations that repeatedly lie.
What Buddhism does say is that we must view our obstacles as opportunities in order to learn and grow. We must take responsibility for our own lives and make every effort to challenge our weaknesses. I’ve been working on this a lot lately, especially my social skills which are somewhat lacking. I believe that if it wasn’t for my Buddhist practice, I would be much, worse off than I am today. Buddhism and chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo have preserved my mental health by giving me a daily source of encouragement, energy, focus, insight, compassion, hope, and most importantly courage. Courage and self-esteem are both big issues for me, and without chanting, I might never have had the inner strength to bring these qualities forth from my life and use them to fight for justice and work for peace.