Oct 24

Kalu Rinpoche | What is the Tibetan Buddhist way to deal with the depression

Q: When some people have a depression, modern science use medicine for serious patients and try to control the chemical release and the balance in their brain. I am wondering what is the Tibetan way to deal with the depression.

A: I think you are trying to say is the Tibetan Buddhism method. I think from my perspective and how I have overcome my own personal depression is examining the very cause of the depression, examining that. When you are in depression, you are in denial, denial of reality, denial of everything around you, and even there’s many people around you, you still feel a sense of completely lonely, and helpless and weak, and isolated, and little bit of, not so much of a paranoia, but when you go through very deep stage of depression, then you are unable to manage everything. Starting from the closest people around you, they are unable to manage with you, you are unable to manage with them.

When you are going through the depression, you are in a complete denial of any realistic surrounding around you. Even myself as a practitioner, to overcome my depression, there was a time where I say to myself, “I cannot face my depression, this is terrible, this is terrible” and you have a kind of bubble in your mind. And in order to overcome this depression, I believe, from my own personal experience, is to examine the depression itself, to examine the meaning of the suffering. And then also finding a sense of spiritual growth, dharmic growth, a spiritual growth within us. And to stay a little bit alone, not to be with too much with people, stay little bit alone, and then practicing little bit, doing some kind of retreat, I think that helps a lot.

Because when you are going through depression, you are becoming more vulnerable if you are with a lot of people, because it is very natural for people to take advantage of you, people misuse you, people want to betray you, or do many harmful things, unknowingly and knowingly at the same time. So when you are going through depression, and when you think you are going through a depression, I think the best way is to be a little bit alone for few months, and do retreat, to do practice, to do meditation, and then also do some six arm mahakala practice, or Avalokiteshvara practice, I think it’s very important.

Because many people, what happens is when people go through depression, other people who sees their friend or family member who going through depression, they always try their best to give a hug, give a shoulder to hug, and giving the right speech, and trying to portray the right environment, but that is not going to help in the long run. That may relieve some kind of hopelessness state of mind, but in the long run, the person who is depressed have to cure themself. That way to cure themself, is be a little bit far away from the people, as possible, at least not depend too much on other people, and then spend little bit time to examine your emotion, to examine the depression, and examine the other person’s hatred towards you that you have strongly afflicted in your mind. You know, try to examine the other person’s projection towards you, try to examine slowly, first you examine yourself, then you examine the projection of the other person’s anger, jealousy, hatred towards you, then you can overcome, in time.

But not overnight. So that is something I had to go through, and it was not easy, but because we think, “oh, talking to some people may help”, yeah, it definitely does help, but the only way that can help you from the depression is to do practice alone, and then look inward. Because the very idea of depression is that people betrayed you, misuse you, took advantage of you, then you have that hatred to them also. You have a hatred to yourself, you have a hatred towards other. There is no such as a depression without hatred. Depression is linked with a sense of hatred, and sadness, and a sense of abandoning all together. So when people think about hatred, they often think of something to do with a punching bag and trying to hurt other people, but that is not true. You can have hatred and sadness at the same time, sense of betrayal. And then all that combined together creates a depression. Sense of loneliness, loneliness, for some people don’t even suffer with loneliness. They just feel betrayed, and they have a sense of hatred, but wanting to respond with hatred but unable to do that. They have a certain, some emotion mixed together.

So basically depression is not something that always alone, or loneliness. The depression also linked with people who betrayed you, misused you, take advantage of you, you feel helpless, you feel worthless, you feel like a piece of meat, not as a human being, but like a piece of meat hanging in this kind of planet, moving around like, kind of worthless, you feel like being dead and alive at the same time. And so you feel like that.

But when you do retreat, when you do practice. Like so for me, what I did, was you know when people betrayed you, take advantage of you, again and again, again again, what happened was that I changed my whole schedule. Like before, in the beginning, 10 years ago, when I started my activities after my 3 years retreat. What happened was weekend here retreat, Saturday Sunday teaching here, teaching there, giving empowerment, so then next Saturday Sunday you go to other centre, you do teaching, empowerment, meditation, then next Saturday Sunday you go to the another place, doing Saturday Sunday, like some kind of meditation, and then practice, and then the other time you go to the universities of the different places, and you give a speech about the Buddhism so on and so forth, and that’s something I’ve been doing, but at the same time there was not a single space in between that I can tell other people that “hey, everybody, I am feeling depressed, little bit betrayed by other people, I feel little bit hatred, it’s overwhelming, not just one, but several of them”. So you have this kind of overwhelming sensation.

So what I did was I changed the style of my schedule and I make it into a retreat. So basically when I come to one place, I come earlier, and I stay in the countryside and I do one week retreat with everybody. We try to push that, at least 3 – 4 days of retreat. Gathering together. It didn’t help me overnight, but gradually it helped me very much. Because when you are travelling a lot, here and there, in my case I have to travel, like an example, online or travel, anything. So basically the engagement is constantly over there, that is the realistic of my responsibility. And also dharmic responsibility. And then for me, so I changed that, and then I made it into a retreat, every place I go. Like short term retreat, 3 days, 1 week, 3 days, 1 week, like that. And then travelling less, but more focus on retreat. So that is a way that I try to adapt and change into my own favour. Based on my lifestyle, responsibilities.

So you as an individual being, if you are going through a depression, you have to find a way, how you can adapt in a certain level in your life, but practicing dharma is not something you should abandon. Practicing dharma is something you must continue. Keep your practice very simple. Don’t do all these wrathful practice here and there, just keep the practice very simple, Green Tara, Medicine Buddha, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, just keep it simple and just continue that. And then slowly, slowly, slowly, you will overcome your depression.

Because like I said previously, the very essence of the depression, is people when they have been betrayed and misused many many times by other people, then you have this kind of worthless feeling, then at the same time, unable to respond with hatred, and being stuck at the same time, so the depression is not always about the loneliness. People who are not alone, people who have husband, and wife, and children, and who has good job, they also suffer through depression, because the depression is not about loneliness. Can link with some people with loneliness. So that’s that.
So that’s my explanation.


Kalu Rinpoche
FB Livestream 4 July 2020