Curing Depression with Spirituality
By Sri Nandanandana das (Stephen Knapp)
Depression, according to recent statistics, is practically an epidemic, with over 70 million people suffering from its affects, such as a feeling of moroseness, uselessness, lack of energy, inability to sleep, and a poor attitude toward life in general, among other symptoms. Depression causes a pessimistic view of things. It also discourages enthusiasm and stifles one’s initiative. It may also produce despair and bring about sickness in the mind and body. It can make one resort to rash and thoughtless actions that a person may later regret. Much of the time such thoughts are completely unnecessary. Thus, it is imperative that we help cure depression so that people can live with more happiness, ingenuity, energy, and are thus able to reach a higher potential in life. The reason for depression may be different for each person, and there are a variety of causes. So it must be analyzed and understood. So what can we do to help cure such an attitude, as long as it is not a biological problem?
Spiritually, there are many ways to help take care of this condition. So let us take a deeper look at this.
CAUSES OF DEPRESSION
Physical, Biological or Medical Factors
1. There are physical factors such as digestive problems, diabetes, anemia, or other diseases which cause discomfort. This will naturally cause a lackluster mental disposition. Having parasites is another biological factor that will deplete a person of their energy and well-being.
2. Sometimes the diet will also cause depression. There may be a lack of vitamins and proper nutrition. Or there may be too much of something, like sugar, which can also cause highs and lows in blood sugar levels which will certainly create changing mood shifts.
3. There is also the depression that new mothers may feel right after giving birth to a child. The hormones are often quite imbalanced at that time and a new mother may feel a multitude of changing feelings about things.
4. A weak nervous system, or overwork and tension are also causes of a depleted mental disposition. And a negative attitude itself can cause further digression in one’s outlook on life.
1. It is often seen that something as simple as the weather or a cloudy day can cause melancholy and depression.
2. One’s social status that may be viewed as unsatisfactory may also cause one to feel dejected.
3. Sometimes a young girl in one ethnic group may be attracted to a boy from another group and then be very depressed and disappointed because such an arrangement would never be approved by the parents.
4. Having a husband that forces the wife to be or remain alienated from their surroundings or from family and society will also cause loneliness and depression in such a woman. This is also found amongst certain ethnic groups or religions.
5. Associating with other negative people or listening to music with dark lyrics or messages, will also cause a person to have a most negative outlook.
6. Being a victim of a burglary or robbery, or losing everything in a fire, tornado, hurricane, or similar causes.
Psychological or Emotional Factors
1. There may also be the recollection of bad habits or mistakes that we wish we could have corrected or had never done that still haunt our memory with guilt.
2. Emotions that are aroused such as anger, revenge, jealousy, and envy will also affect a morbid state of mind.
3. The inability to face difficulties or worries about the future can also bring depression. Unnecessary fear and anxiety will also cause despair.
1. Other unknown causes such as curses that have been cast can affect one negatively.
2. There are other subtle influences, such as ghostly beings, that may affect a person in the wrong way.
3. Disappointment in, or the perceived neglect from, one’s spiritual master or religious organization that a person may belong to if things do not go well, can also cause deep scars and depression that can affect a person for years.
These are a few of the causes that may bring about a feeling of depression or misery in a person. And what is worse, if the depression is not remedied, then it can escalate to feelings of suicide. When a person in despair feels that all of their basic defenses are broken and there is no one to turn to, nor can they find a comforting voice to console or support them, then they may conclude that there is no way out but through death. If their cry for help is not heard or seems to be ignored, or if they do not know where to find help, then suicide may be considered as a last resort. But it must be understood that suicide is never the end. And suicide, and the state of mind that one has to compel one to commit suicide, is never a way for progressing into the next realm. Death is never the final act. It only opens the door to additional challenges that must be met or endured, depending on how one leaves their body.
SUICIDE AND THE REACTIONS THAT FOLLOW
Depression is very common today, and almost everyone goes through it at some point in life. Many are not able to overcome this negative state of mind. They seek medical and psychiatric treatment, and in extreme cases even resort to suicide, thinking that such a step will solve all of their problems or allow them to escape from life.
All the Vedic scriptures and sages of the East and the West have vehemently condemned the act of suicide. They declare emphatically that absolutely nothing is solved or gained by getting rid of the physical body by force. On the other hand, the results of suicide are disastrous in the extreme.
Scientists and psychologists today, researching in psychic phenomena, have corroborated some of the teachings of the sages. The sages state that at the time when the soul is to depart from the body, the dying person sees, as on a cinema screen, all the actions done by him during the present lifetime, from childhood up to the moment of death. And from all these varied scenes, the most prominent one arrests and engages the soul’s attention, and the soul leaves the physical body in that state of consciousness.
If there is intense attachment to someone or something, then the soul will depart with that person’s image in mind. Intense hatred means that the hated person’s image will remain in the mind as the predominant thought or image at the time of death.
A person who had been strongly addicted to liquor and drugs will leave the body with thoughts of liquor and drugs, or the desire for more intoxication. Sometimes they leave the body while under the influence of intoxicants, which has a most regressive affect on entering the next realm. On the other hand, a person who had lead a pious and virtuous life, with thoughts of God, will depart from the body with thoughts of God. The last thoughts determine the conditions and nature of the next birth. This is what the sages have said about the phenomenon of death.
This argument seems reasonable because the last dominant thought in our mind at the time when we just drop off to sleep can often be the thought that dominates our mind the next morning. It is for this reason that we are advised to sing the Divine Names of God or hymns at the time of death in order to focus the attention of the dying person on holy and noble thoughts.
It is needless to add that if the soul departs from the body with thoughts of anger, hatred, jealousy, worry and fear, or in a state of great mental turmoil, then such thoughts and agitation will be carried over and immediately experienced in that realm also. In fact, this state of mind will help determine which realm we go to next. That is why sages say that suicide does not solve anything whatsoever. On the contrary, it makes the condition of the soul much worse.
They give an analogy to explain this truth. When we experience a nightmare during sleep, we wake up abruptly with a shock. But we feel a sense of relief at the same time, because the consciousness has rushed back to the refuge of the physical body. In suicide the soul does not have a physical body to return to as in the case of a nightmare. Hence, it undergoes great misery and suffering, perhaps more than during its sojourn in the physical body. Furthermore, it is said that such a soul has to roam about as a ghost for a long time contemplating his misfortune for the foolishness of killing himself. Plus, you also leave others, such as parents or your children and friends, in so much pain as you leave them behind to suffer your absence, losing you, wondering what went wrong. This is also your responsibility for which you are accountable.
As the body is a precious instrument given to us by God for realizing Him, forcefully discarding it will bring adverse reactions. The repercussions may last for a long time and the soul may encounter unfavorable conditions for many births. Hence under no circumstance should one resort to this most thoughtless and rash action of suicide. You never know where life is going to take you, so please hang on and find out. Often times we take things too seriously. Life is but an adventure if we can just detach ourselves a little bit. The only thing that really matter is how much spiritual development you make in this life. Everything else will pass.
BLESSINGS IN DISGUISE
Adversities, trials, difficulties, calamities, diseases, afflictions, pains and sufferings are all blessings in disguise. They strengthen the will and increase the power of endurance. They turn the mind more and more towards God. They instill in us discrimination and dispassion. They draw out all our latent faculties. They force us to perform even beyond our ability. They develop all the talents and capacities lying dormant within us. As it is often said, if it doesn’t kill you, it only makes you stronger. It is often the reversals or challenges in life that draw out of us many of the abilities that we never knew we had.
It is easy to bask in the sunshine of prosperity. The crucial test is your reaction under adversity and hardship. God wants us to enjoy eternal bliss and peace. For this purpose the body and mind have to be thoroughly purified and strengthened, then they may be able to bear the pressure of His matchless bliss and peace. This process of purification and strengthening cannot be affected without one confronting adverse conditions and circumstances.
Furthermore, nature’s law of cause and effect operates with relentless precision. Many of the difficulties that we encounter in life are but paybacks or lessons that we need to learn because of past karma. The wise and discriminative person will allow the effects of his past actions to bear fruit by meeting all the conditions of life with patience, good cheer, calmness and faith in God.
HOW TO OVERCOME DEPRESSION
In spite of what a person who is suffering depression may think, it is actually very easy to overcome depression from a spiritual point of view. It is not at all as difficult as one imagines. And this is a major issue, since it is all a matter of perspective or point of view, which is based on the mental disposition. This attitude and perspective is what must be changed. Mind has the mysterious power of magnifying a problem and making it appear formidable and bigger than it is. Do not listen to the promptings of the mind. Reject them ruthlessly and throw them out.
Although spirituality may not be able to cure all forms of depression completely, it will certainly help. In many cases, developing oneself spiritually can lay the groundwork so that if you are depressed, you may change your view which may allow you to rise above a depressed state of mind. In other cases, it can lift you right out of any depression or despair that you may feel. Here are some practical hints that will enable you to triumph over this malady once and far all. These recommendations range from attending to physical or medical factors, through external, psychological, and up to metaphysical factors:
1. First try to analyze yourself thoroughly and find out the cause of the problem. Do not be hasty. Sit calmly and think over the matter. Spend some days over it if necessary. Put your thoughts down on paper and reflect over them. If necessary get the assistance of someone whom you love and trust and who will be sympathetic to your feelings. Pray to God within to lead you to the right person.
2. Do not listen to the promptings from within that your problems cannot be solved and overcome. The Divine within you, and the loved ones around you, can effectively solve or dissolve all your problems. Just do not give up.
Physical and Health Problems
3. For physical and health problems, these must be understood and adjusted and cured as best as possible. See your doctor or go to a health clinic to find out what is the cause of your difficulty or pain, and then work on resolving it.
4. Keep the body fit by doing regular physical exercises, and by participating in healthful activities. A hike in the countryside will be refreshing and invigorating both mentally and physically.
5. A pure, nourishing diet is very important for the health of both the body and the mind. Take more fresh fruit and vegetables. Take health tonics. They are available from health stores. Vitamin tablets from natural products may be highly beneficial.
6. The nervous system must be strengthened by means of proper exercise, relaxation, pure food and regular prayer. A regular yoga routine is also most favorable. A useful nerve and brain tonic may be prepared as follows: Soak eight dates, a similar quantity of almonds and four cardamoms in a bowl overnight. In the morning remove the skins from the almonds. Reduce the ingredients to a paste, add honey and butter and take with warm milk. This delicious tonic rejuvenates the nervous system quickly.
External, Psychological and Emotional Factors
7. Check undesirable habits. Overcome them by developing virtuous qualities. Lead a life of purity, righteousness, and simplicity. Such a life will free you from worry, fear and depression.
8. Also, select your association carefully. Choose those people who are also on the spiritual path to be with or converse with. You may also have to be around those people who are not spiritually inclined, or who are negative or materially and sensually motivated, but you do not have to give your confidential reasoning or outlook to such people. You hold yourself back from bringing them into you circle of trust and confidence.
Being selective in who and what you associate with also means to avoid viewing too much television, movies, or materialistic music. Also do not frequent places where gambling takes place, or where liquor is served, or where there is evil company. Also you must avoid literature or magazines that discuss or promote violence, sex and crime because that will do one of two things: Either it will make your consciousness disturbed with new desires or temptations, or it will make you feel less hopeful or even hopeless regarding the condition of the world. Things are hard enough as it is than to make things more difficult on ourselves by associating with the wrong people or media.
9. Do not try to evade or run away from your problems, difficulties and trials. Face them bravely through calm reflection and discrimination, knowing that the Divine within is your guide, protector and savior. Know also that everything in this world that you now hold so dear is not lasting, and will soon disintegrate and pass away. You are only a passing pilgrim on this earth plane.
If you constantly reflect and discriminate thus, then all such emotions and feelings that have such a tenacious hold on your mind will be loosened, and an inexpressible freedom, lightness and joy will fill your heart.
10. Be content. A person who is truly content can find happiness everywhere. When such joy comes from within, there will be no need to look elsewhere for fulfillment. But how do we do this? Adopt the life-style of “simple living and high thinking”. A great deal of unhappiness today may be traced to unfulfilled desires. There is no end to desire. Each desire breeds a host of new ones. Modern man longs to own TV sets, video recorders, dishwashers, expensive cars, swimming pools and other items of luxury. Reduce your desires and lead a life of contentment and simplicity. In other words, have only what you need, and need only what you have. But this contentment is the self-sufficient spiritual happiness that comes from within. External happiness that is based on the conditions of our surroundings will guarantee you only future disappointment because they all have a beginning and an end. This may sound simple enough, but another saying is that even a child of eight years old may know this, but hardly a man of eighty can truly practice it. That practice is the goal, but only those who have knowledge of this objective have a chance to attain it. Thus, the knowledge of the goal itself is also a rare treasure that you have, and a reason to rejoice.
11. Help others. Use your talents and make a contribution to the well-being of other people. Focusing on relieving the troubles and difficulties of others can always help you rise above thinking only of your own problems. You may serve the sick and needy through a service orientated institution. If you take up some useful activity for the good of others, you will have no time to think about yourself. Losing oneself in selfless service is one of the most dynamic methods of overcoming depression. If you give cheer, joy and happiness to others, you will also receive cheer, joy and happiness in return.
12. Know that for every problem that confronts you—however difficult and complicated it may seem to be—there is the requisite guidance, strength and wisdom readily available to you from the Divine dwelling in the chambers of your heart. God is nearer to you than your life-breath. Turn to the Lord with a childlike faith and experience the miraculous results.
13. Forgive yourself. If you are haunted by memories of abuse or actions you have done that you now greatly regret, then learn to forgive yourself. We are all human beings and none of us are perfect. The faults or guilt that you may carry are burned up in the fire of remorse. Let go of such memories and let God do the rest. Let yourself be open to the guidance that God has always been willing to give you. Sometimes it is the reversals in life that make us realize how fragile we are, how vulnerable we are, and how we must acquire the shelter and guidance of something far bigger than we are, and someone far more caring and loving than we are. And there is none better than the Supreme Person.
14. The constant repetition of some beneficial formula or affirmation will strengthen the mind considerably. This is especially for those who have been negatively conditioned because of being ill-treated, demeaned, criticized, or abused without proper love and respect sometimes over the course of years, or who have low regard for themselves as low. Such repetition is called auto-suggestion. Here are some proven affirmations for this purpose. Repeat them as many times as possible during the course of the day, and when you are just about to fall asleep at night:
A) I am Thine. All is Thine. Thy will be done, O Lord.
B) Let go and Let God.
C) What cannot be cured can be endured.
D) What does not kill you only makes you stronger.
E) Whatever has happened has happened for the best; whatever is happening now is happening for the best; whatever is to happen in the future will happen for the best.
F) Through the Grace of God, I am getting better and better every day in every way.
Another saying of mine is:
Everyday I try to live in a way to keep myself in a state of balanced awareness. That way everyday is an adventure. I am not attached to any particular thing or outcome, so I never get angry or upset over things. Everyday is simply another part of the adventure, another day of coming closer to realizing my true spiritual identity, and I remain in a state of joy, wonder and appreciation.
Metaphysical and Spiritual Factors
15. The easiest way to tap into the Divine power within is to repeat God’s holy Names. Select from the scriptures the Divine Name which means the most to you and repeat it constantly, without a break. One of the most recommended in this day and age is the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra. You can chant it mentally or as japa meditation. In a short time you will experience its power. In this one method of spiritual practice all the holy scriptures of the world are unanimous. The power latent in the Divine Name is like the power latent in the seed of a tree. Just as the seed needs soil and water to enable it to germinate into such a big plant, so also the Divine Name needs to be constantly repeated to make its power manifest.
The Divine Name and spiritual practice will also raise the vibrational level of your mind and then stifle the agitation that may exist therein. This will also create a shield of resistance or protection from any dark subtle beings or curses that may try to affect you in a negative way, or that try to create difficulties in your life. The benefit of spiritual practice is that the higher your own vibration becomes, the more you will rise above all other forms of darkness, confusion, negativity, or evil forces and influences. The clearer your views of life and your purpose in it will be.
The Divine Name is the one sovereign, infallible remedy to get rid of depression once and for all. On the highest of levels of spiritual development, you can enter a spiritual ecstasy that allows you to forget all troubles, difficulties and material conditions. But that is another topic.
16. Attend regular prayer services in the temple or ashrama. The holy vibrations will give you added mental and spiritual strength to cope with your problems.
17. Study the scriptures daily. This will give you discrimination, which will give dynamic strength to the mind. It will be your most effective weapon to seal the lower promptings of the mind.
Through such spiritual practice, you must realize that you are not your body and mind. Nor are you the suffering that can come from identifying with them and whatever happens to them. You are different from all of that, from the drama that goes on around you. If you actually realize this, you can rise above all the good or bad that happens. You cannot allow yourself to become overwhelmed by what takes place in the world or in your own life, or you will become totally ineffective in doing anything about it.
If people ridicule you and criticize you for petty reasons, you do not have to believe or accept it. You can deflect such things by the strength of knowing yourself truly, and then move on in your own self assurance of that understanding of who you really are.
Your spiritual identity is always whole and complete. You simply have to get back to that and reconnect to your real identity. Love and light is always surrounding you. It is you. You just have to connect with it. When you do that you will know there is no reason to sit in darkness and cry. There is much good and worthwhile about living. This becomes all the more obvious as you increasingly reawaken the perception of your spiritual identity, which is filled with light and love in connection with God. The source of all light and love that shines on all beings. It is only we who separate ourselves from that spiritual light, we who create the darkness. It is all a matter of focus, of changing our perspective. It is only we who deny ourselves the potential of receiving a million miracles that could come out of nowhere, unexpected, but always possible by God’s grace.
18. Develop a constant attitude of gratitude toward God for having provided you with your physical and material needs. This will give you an abiding sense of contentment and peace, and free you from depression, cares, and worries.
Even physical deformities or deficiencies are but outward appearances that do not necessarily hamper the person’s inner being, unless the person allows them to do so. No one is born without the inner tools to master one’s purpose in life and make their outer expressions manifest their real inner potential. The secret is to find your purpose.
19. Select any suitable method or a combination of these methods and put them into immediate practice. You will succeed with patience. Never despair. There is enormous power within you. Tap that power diligently and come out victorious. Then share your knowledge with others and be a blessing to this world.
At the height of spiritual realization you will understand that all there is in the end is love. The foundation upon which the universe manifests is compassion, and that compassion is to help and support you, only if you are open to it. Only if you are willing to perceive it, like the sun shining on everyone, unless they cut themselves off from it. But it is up to you to learn how to adjust your vision and to accept the lessons that are meant to mold you into the better person that you are meant to be. We must remember that we are all here for a reason. If you were not meant to be here, you would not be here. You would be someplace else. But you are here, so do not be afraid or hesitant to find your destiny and fulfill your purpose. Providence will lead you in the right direction.
Anyone who is charge of an ashrama or temple should understand these points about depression so they may more appropriately know how to advise or direct a person in need.
There is an old Buddhist saying that if you have a problem and cannot solve it, then why worry about it? And if you have a problem that can be resolved, then why worry about it? Worry will not make it any better. So let us be free of too much worry and concern.
There is another old occult saying that points out how every problem is only a temporary illusion. They may have a cause, a beginning, but they also have an end. They are all temporary and it is not to our advantage to get so wrapped up in the illusion or temporary nature that we forget the real goal of life, which is to focus on our spiritual progress.