SPIRITUAL HEALING

Buddhist Spiritual Medicine for Mental Health Illness

Shi Yao Lian and Shi Yao Hai, Practitioners Buddha's Alchemy

May 24, 2017

In Buddhist medicine we view psychological imbalance as belonging to one of two causes, either physically induced by internal or external trauma, or of spiritual nature. Internal trauma includes causes like poisons, or toxins like heavy metals, drugs, or chemicals that destroy brain function. External trauma is something like a brain injury caused by blunt force or an accident. We know that the brain is actually able to repair itself after injury, and resume normal functioning if given the appropriate circumstances and environmental triggers. This is true if the cause of the injury is completely removed, and the treatment includes detoxification and nutritional supplementation of adequate rejuvenative substances. Psychological imbalance that does not fall into the categories of trauma induced injury and therefore does not have a need for physical repair, is spiritual in nature, and has one main remedy. That remedy is the creation of meaning.

Physiological needs (meeting the physical needs of the body sufficiently to survive) and meaning summarize the two governing drives over all human beings. Both are functional needs, and if they are not provided for sufficiently, a person dies.

There are many means by which one can instigate physical healing for trauma induced brain injury. The topic is extensive, and the appropriate means are somewhat unique to each individual’s constitution, and so should be explored in more detail based on what those constitutional requirements are. Spiritual healing, which at its core contains the Truth about meaning, is universally applicable, and ultimately the most significant form of healing. It targets the root cause of all ailments, thereby disabling the future growth of suffering (the emotional response to our interpretation of our environment and circumstances). In fact, this is the gift that Shakyamuni Buddha brought to humanity. Over the course of 40 plus years, Buddha taught the methods and means of rising above the perceived limitations and habituated patterns of the mind that produces such suffering. From this wisdom arises the knowledge of the heart, the ultimate conqueror of all conditioning and suffering. This is the path of the Unconditioned, the path of the Deathless.

“Whoever is overcome by this wretched and sticky craving, his sorrows grow like grass after the rains.

But whoever overcomes this wretched craving, so difficult to overcome, from him sorrows fall away like water from a lotus leaf.

Just as a tree, though cut down, sprouts up again if its roots remain uncut and firm, even so, until the craving that lies dormant is rooted out, suffering springs up again and again.

Beset by craving, people run about like an entrapped hare. Held fast by mental fetters, they come to suffering again and again for a long time.

Let go of the past, let go of the future, let go of the present, and cross over to the farther shore of existence. With mind wholly liberated, you shall come no more to birth and death.”    Shakyamuni Buddha

The Beginning of Spiritual Healing – Understanding Meaning

Meaning is so core and essential to the survival of humans that even severely negative meaning is better than no meaning at all. Meaning may even supersede physiological needs. If a person in their life determines that life is meaningless, they either commit suicide, or they lay down and die.

When a person is looking for spiritual answers or fulfillment in life, it is really meaning that they are looking for.

Reinforcement of meaning is created by two things from a Buddhist perspective. The first is feeling which is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. The second is interpretation. Interpretation is either self-focused (for self-advantage or benefit), or purpose focused. Although feeling is an experience of its own, it can be guided or even created out of interpretation.

In order to have and sustain a self-focused meaning (which is ultimately at the root of suffering), a person must participate with negating what is not self (anything other than self), and as such can develop aberrant and negative behaviours. When one is focused on self as a priority, negative patterns are created to make everything else not important at all. Due to the interpretations of self and not self, negative emotions, thinking and behaviours arise in response to the environment. These all become established reactive patterns that a person lives by.

In contrast, when one works on developing purposes that are not self-serving, then patterns are developed that lead to fulfillment. These patterns, as a side effect, create meaning in one’s life that is positively reinforcing and sustains fulfillment, happiness, and joy.

“Whoever is overcome by this wretched and sticky craving, his sorrows grow like grass after the rains.

But whoever overcomes this wretched craving, so difficult to overcome, from him sorrows fall away like water from a lotus leaf.

Just as a tree, though cut down, sprouts up again if its roots remain uncut and firm, even so, until the craving that lies dormant is rooted out, suffering springs up again and again.

Beset by craving, people run about like an entrapped hare. Held fast by mental fetters, they come to suffering again and again for a long time.

Let go of the past, let go of the future, let go of the present, and cross over to the farther shore of existence. With mind wholly liberated, you shall come no more to birth and death.”

Shakyamuni Buddha

Feelings run a person’s life. Positive feelings make a person light, unburdened, content, happy and joyful. When a person is motivated by positive feelings, they tend to be less negative, less stressed, less problem focused, and less disdainful of life. This is true in direct proportion to how many positive feelings they cultivate. Cultivating positive feelings and ceasing practice of the negative ones can rid one of all negative experiences in life regardless of external circumstances. This means that no matter what is happening in life and around you, your feeling states remain consistent.

The barrier for most people in cultivating positive feelings is interpretation. That is, looking at the world in negative ways. To understand how to overcome this, we must look at how negative views are created. There are two factors: the mechanisms that create the patterns that create the views (the way we “see” or interpret things), and the view that sustains those patterns.

The mechanisms are patterns of thinking and behaving that result in emotions and feelings. One learns thinking patterns that are negative, and acts upon them, resulting in negative emotions. The viewpoint that sustains negativity is: “there is nothing I can do about it”. This is in effect learning helplessness. Helplessness is made worse by depending on outside circumstances and people to fix it for you.

The Skillful Creation of Meaning

What overcomes learned helplessness is hope. Hope is created by learning to believe in something that is beyond what you currently know to do. The focus is to create a belief that you can change your situation, which in turn helps overcome helplessness and dependency. What you believe in has to be bigger and outside of your personal circumstances. It is what you draw on and trust to use as an anchor and stabilizing factor.

When you experientially learn to use your mind from awareness and not from emotion, you will discover a part of yourself that is capable of using learning, and applying it to do anything. This is your true nature, which is not caught in the dramas of emotions that people normally put themselves through. We can see that emotional interpretations are not real when we observe two people in the same circumstance deal with and process their situation differently. One may be negatively emotional and ineffective, and one may be not negatively emotional and effective.

When a person is aware of watching what is going on, and that they are watching it, they can stay out of emotion. The watcher is always the same, it never changes despite external circumstances constantly changing, coming and going. What occupies your mind this minute or day is not what occupied it yesterday, last week, or last year. What doesn’t change is the part of you that watches all of this happen. If you strive to constantly remember that you are watching events in life, and keep that awareness of the watching foremost in your mind, you will be cultivating mindfulness. Cultivating mindfulness is the first step in consciously changing how one experiences life.

Cultivating meaning begins by knowing your true nature. Practice this mindful watching as an initial step towards cultivating meaning.

We will explore what the result of watchfulness is, and the next steps to creating meaning in the next post.

Want new articles before they get published?
Subscribe to our Awesome Newsletter.

Send this to friend