Sunday, March 12, 2006

The illness of the century - Depression

[disclaimer:
our spiritual advices are not intended to replace the help of psychiatrist, professional treatment and prescribed medicines.]

“Depression is the product of no knowing what our real identity is.”

“All the problems in out life only exist due to our egoistical desires.”

Victims of consumerism

A person who sincerely seeks the truth, even if they have not yet found it, now have the maximum justification and validity that is needed on the path.

Fear of failure.

How can we leave the concept of taking and learn the way of giving?

“Life is very difficult, there are problems at each step; but the biggest problems are found within ourselves.” Srila Guru Maharaj

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently published a report that brought to light the fact that depression is the fastest-growing illness in the world, representing a grave threat to humanity. Depression is a product of not knowing correct action or thought due to a false perception of our true identity. In today’s society, from a very young age we are brought up in an environment of competition. We are told that we must consume all that we can, which for a person of few resources becomes a mental torture. We are told we should be like the super stars, even though we generally do not fit their aesthetic parameters. Thus society feeds us a goal that can not be met, which is far from the day-today realities of life. There is a gulf of difference between expectation and reality.

In accordance with the most ancient scriptures of wisdom, the Vedas, the purpose of life is to understand and realise our eternal spiritual identity - atato brahma jijnasa – wherein our self esteem finds rest in the purity of its true nature. We are temporarily living on this planet in order to fulfil a sacred work. All that God has created and all that He has given us is sacred. For that reason, it is wrong to deviate from His purpose for the common good; such a way is a defiant position. As members of an organic whole we must gain our satisfaction by fulfilling our God-given humble and beautiful role. To do otherwise, would be a rebellious, separatist act, leaving us like a non-functioning organ or sense. The perfection of the hand is in feeding the stomach; the organic part serves the organic whole. If it were not so there would be problems and the whole organism would die due to lack of nutrition. Likewise, if someone in a group puts himself against the common purpose he will cause problems and will be seen as a rebel opponent. Contrary to the theory of evolution, life is not an accidental product from matter where all ecological niches are ordered solely due to chaos. There is a given niche for all life forms, as life was created in an ordered form.

The purpose of life is to fully determine the appropriate niche service one has in this world; how you as a part fit into the complete whole. Just as there is no need to give to a mother a book of rules and regulations of how she should be with her baby, because in her heart her intuition tells her what is natural as her duty, in the same way we must seek out are natural function in this world and human society. Inevitably, we must share ourselves with the world, its environments and people by always looking for natural harmony as part of our spiritual growth.

When we fall into the illusion of exploitation and think that we must favour our interest at the cost of the rest, this causes depression. By harming others we will receive the same sufferings that we are causing, first in a subtle form and later in a grosser form. By being surrounded by and part of the exploitative tendency we will always live in fear of failure, in fear that someone else will come along and take what we have, and in fear that our future progress will be threatened. This fear causes depression.

Self esteem which is dependant on the pride of what we have, not what we are, creates other problems; pride comes before the fall. Material acquisitions, such as a nice house, expensive car, social position, etc, are just temporary and bring an illusory sense of wellbeing. Such things can be easily lost within this life, and will certainly be lost at our death. By putting emphasis on valuing a person by what they own, people show that they do not know the mystic reality of the beauty of our God-given life. Under the illusion of material wealth, or lack of, it is easy to become depressed and to fall into intoxication as an escape from facing our true nature. Pride from the falsity of ownership does not satisfy the soul. Once a person becomes habituated to falsely identifying happiness in external criteria then intoxication, from alcohol, pills or powder, is often used to cover the emptiness, and the situation gets steadily worse. Destroying the brain’s neurons and with the deterioration of mental health and will power the person lives an unnatural reality wherein they can not determine the factors that are perturbing them. They may believe that their unhappiness is due to a lack of intoxicant, material possessions, social and career positions, or a host of external factors based on social, political, economical or environmental criteria.

One such deceiving factor about depression was given to society through the theories of Sigmund Freud, who claimed that our traumas and neurosis are because we have restricted and inhibited our sexual lives. The Vedas teach us that sex desire needs to be regulated, controlled and channelled. Sex life should never cause pain or anguish to another person; it should be protected within a sacred marriage bond. The satisfaction of family life depends on understanding that the sacredness of sex life is in the ability to bring to the world another living being and in the responsibilities this entails. The logo therapy of Victor Frankl annulled Freud’s theories by demonstrating that a person will only maintain a sense of wellbeing and have the capacity to resist the many tests in life when s/he feels s/he is being responsible for his or her part as part of the common good. This is enhanced when the common good is seen as absolute and God-given, not only as a relative humanistic supposition.

We should not think that depression can be counteracted by the invention of new psychiatric medicines. Depression must be dealt with at its roots, where for the majority of people it is difficult to get to as they are not prepared to question their concepts about existence and the meaning to life. When the underlying philosophy of material evolution is atheistic, lending an utterly meaningless interpretation to why we are alive, would it not be better to take another look at a spiritual perspective on life?

Some basic questions for a person who wants to get out of depression:

How can I manage the resources that God has put at my disposal so that they can really benefit everyone?

How can I contribute to something that benefits me and all who surround me?

How can I achieve the position where my activities are in agreement with my heart-felt ideals?

Upon acting on the answers to these types of questions, personal wellbeing will start to manifest itself. Depression is not an incurable illness, but our materialistic society is very far from knowing how to cure it because it is materialism that is the very cause of the illness. The cure is in the timeless, deep wisdom that is found in the company of those who have dedicated their lives to spiritual understandings and practices. So that this medicine becomes tangible to each of us, the Vrinda mission offers retreats in their country communities. Thereby those who are depressed due to the materialistic vision of this present world, not knowing the real reason to live, nor what to do, can immediately experience, within a monastic environment, the beauty of being a contributor and servant to the spiritual cause. With the help of mantras, the chanting of God’s names, one can experience a spiritual awakening and come to know our true inner knowledge, affinity and beauty.

Teachings of Sripad Paramadvaiti Swami

Editor Gopananda dasa

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