33 MIND IN HARMONY : A BUDDHIST PERSPECTIVE

Thứ năm - 09/05/2019 05:04
by Indu Girish





 
MIND IN HARMONY: A BUDDHIST PERSPECTIVE

 
by Indu Girish*


Todays fast-paced global culture focuses increasingly on materialism. Most individuals, in the desire for achieving ambitions, financial stability, material comfort and a seemingly perfect life, are compelled to pay a price often in the form of bearing excessive physical and mental stress. The frenzied pursuit of progress and prosperity has ironically become the root cause for lack of happiness, contentment, health and wellbeing.

Hectic work schedules, high competition, stress, negative emotions, etc, eat away at their wellbeing – mental, physical and spiritual. The technology around us is also getting smarter, becoming more addictive, seeping into all spheres of life and reducing human contact which also poses a threat to mental health.

Children and adolescents too are not untouched by mental pressures. The brunt of competition, performance pressure, decreased family bonding, swamp of gadgets & social media at an early stage, negative life experiences like discrimination or abuse may take the form of anxiety, negative emotions, depression, etc. Research shows that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14.1 The effects of childhood disorders can be large and also hidden, disrupting education & early careers.
The family members, being primary caregivers, have to provide

* Doctor, Assistant Professor, School of Buddhist Studies & Civilization Gautam Buddha University, Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India
  1. Dev, D. B. (2017).Eradication of Mental Illness through Buddhism, International Jour- nal of Humanities and Social Sciences,[online]Volume 11, No 9. Available at : https://waset. org/publications/10007801/eradication-of-mental-illness-through-buddhism .
 


emotional support to people with mental health problems as well as bear the financial expenditure of treatment. The extent of the burden of mental health problems on family members is difficult to assess and quantify, but cannot be ignored because it has a significant impact on the familys quality of life.

More than 200 forms of mental illness have been recognized throughout the years of psychological research2. Mental health problems affect & burden not just the individuals or their kin but also the society & economy as a whole. With 450 million people suffering from mental health related problems in the world, this hitherto neglected issue poses a major challenge to global development. The risk is higher among the poor, the homeless, the unemployed, the uneducated, the victims of violence, migrants & refugees, indigenous populations, children & adolescents, abused women and neglected elderly. The number of individuals with disorders is expected to increase in view of ageing population and other man-made conditions like worsening social problems, violence, civil unrest, etc. This growing burden amounts to a huge cost in terms of human misery, disability and also economic loss. The WHO has estimated the cost of mental health problems in developed nations between 3% and 4% of GNP. This economic loss amounts to several billion dollars in terms of expenditures incurred and loss of productivity both in developed as well as developing countries.

The external happenings which cause suffering as well as the demands of todays life that gnaw away at mental energies of the youth, the elderly and the children alike, cannot be wished away. It becomes even more essential to bring our minds in harmony to be able to maintain our mental stability & health. Mental health is crucial to the overall wellbeing of individuals and, in turn, of societies & countries. Mental, physical and spiritual health are vital and complimentary to each other. Mental health and related issues need to be recognized and given equal measure of importance as physical health.

A WHO research defines mental health as a state of wellbeing, enabling  individuals  to  realize  their  abilities,  cope  with  normal

 
  1. Ibid.
 


stresses of life, work productively & fruitfully and make a contribution to their communities.3

The need of the hour is not only available & affordable medical treatment but also to look at alternative paradigms & approaches to mental health offered in the timeless teachings of the Buddha that become more relevant in the contemporary period. The objective of this paper is understanding mental health issues by investigating into Buddhist Principles.

Buddhism, a path of profound wisdom & realism, harmony & equanimity, welfare & enlightenment, is the way shown to us two
& a half millennia ago. Buddhist Philosophy focuses on the mind in order to affect a change in human thinking that is the root of all our actions, to correct our misplaced reasoning of right and wrong, to examine the changing values and lifestyle and deal with the human ethical & moral crisis. There is a saying in Buddhism
  • the Bodhisattvas fear causes, whereas ordinary people fear consequences4.

In order to understand the Buddhist concept of health and specifically mental health, it is pertinent to gain knowledge of the Buddhist world view and its various principles.

BUDDHIST WORLD VIEW

In the Buddhist world view, all existences are explained in terms of integrated factors. It is a law of interconnected becoming, of conditionality and relatedness, of causes and effects, known as the Principle of Dependent Origination. This causal nexus operates in the entire phenomena – physical, psychological and moral.

In the physical realm all the things in the universe are interrelated as causes and effects without having a beginning or an end, and the world is organically structured where all its parts are interdependent. Even in human society every component is interrelated. In the same way it works in the psycho-physical sphere, in which the mind (Nāma) and body (Rūpa) are not separate units

 
  1. World Health Organization, (2003). Investing In Mental Health.
  2. Girish, I. (2014). Compatibility of Buddhist Principles and Ecology. In: Buddhist Re- sponse to Environmental Protection. Vietnam Buddhist University Series 22, p. 139-157.
 


but interdependent parts of overall human system5. The individual being is merely a complex unity of five aggregates (Pañcakhandas)
Rūpa or material form, Vedanā – feeling, Saññā – perception, Saṅkhāra – Volitional formations, and Viññāna – consciousness. There is no permanent, eternal or intrinsic self either within them or outside of them. A persons existence depends upon processes of interdependent causal relationship under the natural law: the three characteristics (tilakhana) or dependent origination (Paticca Samuppāda)6. This whole complex interlocking web of events has no first cause in the form of one Supreme Reality as the Creator of this Universe. Usually it is believed that a chain of cause and effect needs a first cause, but for Buddhism there is no original beginning. The succession of causes and conditions has been occurring without any conceivable beginning, without any bounds or limits.

One of the exemplifications of dependent arising are the three marks existence : anicca (impermanence), dukkha (suffering) and anatta (containing no intrinsic self). Anicca – the mark of impermanence is characterized by transitoriness. It explains that whatever comes into existence must at some time pass away. This is evident in the cosmic process, in the course of history and in the course of our lives. The Buddha pointed out that there are no static entities but only dynamic processes which appear to us to be static and stable only because our perception is not sharp enough to sense the changes. The Being itself is really a process of becoming. This teaching of radical impermanence applies to all formation without exception, specially to the five aggregates of clinging, to our own personality. Dukkha is both pain and suffering. It is the Universal truth and Universal characteristic of all conditioned existence. The pain and suffering to a great extent are rooted in impermanence. We crave for a world where we think whatever we


 
  1. Ratanakul, P. (2004). Buddhism, Health and Disease. Eubios Journal of Asian and Inter- national Bioethics.[pdf]. Available at: http://crs.mahidol.ac.th/news/article/Buddhism%20 Health%20and%20Disease.pdf
6.Paonil,W.andSringernyuang,L.BuddhistPerspectivesonHealthandHealing.[pdf].Av- laible at: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.605.3949&rep=rep1&- type=pdf
 


value and love will remain forever, but when we meet the inevitable changes we undergo suffering. The five aggregates in themselves are impermanent, but we take them to be permanent and try to dominate them with our will but when they escape our grasp we meet with suffering and pain.

Anatta – the universal characteristics of anatta explains that there is nothing that can be identified as Self i.e. a substantial ego or entity, a lasting subject existing at the core of the psycho- physical personality as ‘I’ or ‘mine, because as human beings we are compound beings made up of multiple physical & psychological processes and parts which are always in process of changing moment by moment.

The Buddhist world view also comprises a belief in Kamma. It is one of the natural laws that refers to the working of intention or volition. It is a correlation between deed and its subsequent results. In the moral realm this principle of Dependent Origination operates as law of Kamma stating its conditionality of this causal relationship. In essence it can be summarized as : good deeds bear good fruits and bad deeds bear bad fruits. Intention is the inducing force in all human karmas, therefore it is the actual essence as exhorted by the Buddha cetanā ahaṁ Bhikkhave, kammaṁ vadāmiBhikkhus! Intention I say, is kamma. For having willed we create kamma through our body, speech and mind (A.N. III, 415). In the Buddhist view of kamma, our willed actions produce effects, both immediately willed psychological effects and effects of moral retribution. The working of kamma is not however mechanical. Kamma is a willed action therefore it allows much room for variation and improvement. It is not determinism. Since Buddhism does not believe in any Supreme Power that transcends Nature or attribute Karma to any luck or fate, nor that anything comes true by praying, but by intentional activities. Thus we ourselves should have intentions to do good and wholesome karmas. As stated by the Buddha in Dhammapad : Purity and impurity are personal responsibilities, no one else can make you pure (Dh.156).7


7.Paonil,W.andSringernyuang,L.BuddhistPerspectivesonHealthandHealing.[pdf].Av- laible at: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.605.3949&rep=rep1&-
 


THE GOAL OF HUMAN LIFE

Once there is an inner realization of nature of life characterized by suffering, impermanence and egolessness as well as of the nature of mans greed and the futility of the means of getting them satisfied one attains a state of serenity, awareness and pure freedom in which all suffering ceases to exist. This stage is attained by complete eradication of all defiling factors such as Avijjā – being ignorant of the truth, seeing things as self and permanent; Taṇhā – wanting this imagined self to attain various desired objects or states; and Upādāna – clinging and attachment to these mistaken objects and ideas and all that they imply. The Noble Eight Fold Path or the Middle Path is the only way to reach this goal where in all suffering ceases to exist. Eight components are not eight different ways but related factors of one path. The path helps a person to develop his/ her moral strength (Śīla) through the restraint of negative actions and cultivation of positive qualities conducive for mental and spiritual growth. The practice of mental culture (Bhāvanā) deepens the understanding of mind towards all human experience as well as the nature and characteristic of phenomena, life and the universe. In short this leads to wisdom (Paññā). As this wisdom grows so do love, compassion and joy. One develops greater awareness and insight into all forms of life and better understanding of ones own thoughts feelings and motivations. This will lead to the attainment of enlightenment, his ultimate goal – ‘Nibbāna’ in this very life.

UNDERSTANDING OF HEALTH IN BUDDHISM

These important principles work as an underlying substratum in shaping our thoughts and actions. This perception of reality will help in knowing the ways of understanding our health. Knowledge and understanding of these principles will not only aid in determining the method of investigating the causes of illness but also help in providing a solution based on these basic beliefs. In short, these principles could shape a specific health belief and a health system.

Health has to be understood in a holistic manner. Health is an indication of harmony within the individual, in ones relationships


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as well as with ones environment. The concept of health concerns the whole person i.e. his physical & mental aspects, social, familial
& work relationships and the living environment to which he/she relates. Buddhism disagrees with the idea of viewing health or illness only with respect to an afflicted part of the human body. In the Buddhist holistic perspective, disease is the result of the disturbed harmony in ones life. By manifestation of physical symptoms, it draws our attention. Buddhism suggests not merely symptomatic treatment but also prescribes healing in the form of a combined effort of mind & body to restore this harmony to overcome disease.

Besides this holistic view, Buddhism considers kamma as a significant contributing factor towards health & disease. Good health is the fruit of good kamma in the past and good kamma in the present will be the seed for good health in future. This highlights a direct relationship between morality and health. Health depends on the way we live, think, act & feel. Ill health results from unhealthy/ unwholesome living while the practice of Śīla (morality), Samādhi (mental discipline) and Paññā (wisdom) is an aide to achieving sound health.

MIND AND MENTAL HEALTH IN BUDDHISM

Buddhism views mind and body as fundamentally existing in interdependence. The normal function of the body results from harmony of mind and body. Physical health is regarded as equally importantasitisconsideredasameanstointellectualenlightenment, as witnessed in the personal experience of Buddha during the time He was striving for enlightenment. Although Buddhism views mind and body as existing in interdependence, we find most of the teachings of Buddha are directed towards understanding, developing and controlling the mind, leading to perfect purity of conduct, perfect peace of mind and perfect wisdom. Peaceful mind helps in developing a healthy mental attitude resulting in a good state of health. As it has been stated in the Dhammapada that we are the result of our thoughts –

We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts, with our thoughts we make the world(Dhammapada, Yamaka Vaggo, Verse no. 1 & 2)
Like all phenomena, mind is also a conditioned reality. Its
 


existence is interdependent on various factors. Although thoughts seem to arise of their own accord with no prompting direction, other mental and physical processes prepare for their arising. Following the Karmic principle, wholesome thoughts create the propensity for more wholesome thoughts; unwholesome thoughts set the stage for unwholesome thoughts. It is in this sense, at least we are responsible for what we think. While we may not be in conscious control of each and every thought, we can choose which thoughts to entertain and develop and which to disregard and release. Cultivating a discipline for the selection and fostering of thoughts increases our capacity to care for our thoughts with wisdom. The Vitakkasaṇṭhāna Sutta (M.N. 20) provides five very practical techniques for such a discipline. By following the regimen outlined in the Sutta, we are able to influence our thinking patterns and gradually cultivate mind that have greater tendency to generate thoughts more appropriate to wisdom and liberation. Buddha specifically speaks about one feature for the care of mind i.e. the elimination of unwholesome thoughts connected with greed, hatred and delusion8. With abandoning them the practitioners mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness and concentrated. The practitioner is then called the master of the courses of thought. He will think whatever thought he wishes to think, he has severed craving, flung off fetters and with the complete penetration of conceit he has put an end to suffering. Hence it has been aptly said that the source of our happiness and unhappiness lies within us, within our power. Our thoughts aid in improving or weakening our mental and physical wellbeing, ennobling us or degrading us. There is a Buddhist precept also that teaches us that rust which comes from iron can corrode or destroy the very same iron. Human mind has the very same characteristic if it is trained to develop the positive emotions of compassion, forbearance, humility and equanimity it would be happy & peaceful and the physical body would be healthier. But if it nurtures the negative

 
  1. Muesse, M. (2001). Taking Responsibility for Our Thoughts: Reflections on the Vitakkasaṇṭhāna Sutta. Insight Journal. [online]. Available at: https://www.buddhis- tinquiry.org/article/taking-responsibility-for-our-thoughts-reflections-on-the-vitak- kasa%E1%B9%87%E1%B9%ADhana-sutta/.
 


feelings of greed, hatred, or aversion it will destroy a human being like rust on the iron.

Buddhism, thus, considers mental health as being of utmost importance and stresses the training of mind not only to attain the highest state of health but the achievement of the ultimate goal of life.
Since, all our actions originate in our mind, Buddhist principles
& practices try to stimulate the human mind and in turn the
actions,  by  transforming  our  negative,  defiled,  unwholesome
mental formations to positive mental states of compassion, loving
kindness, sympathetic joy and equanimity. Understanding of the
Four Noble Truths not only helps us realize the root cause of our
suffering i.e. ignorance, responsible for all unhealthy mental states
but also offers us a way for gradually overcoming our negative
thoughts and awakening our mind by having a correct world view.

Buddhism originated in search for an answer to Dukkha i.e. suffering, which emerges from the existential problems of life such as sickness, old age, death, etc. This search led Siddhartha to a spiritual journey which culminated in His Enlightenment. The insights which the Buddha gained from His Enlightenment underpin the Buddhist approach to mental health.

Buddhas original concern with the sufferings involved in human life whether physical or mental became the focal point of His teachings and His core teachings are known as the Four Noble Truths.9 The Four Noble truths are the basic framework of the Buddhas spiritual teachings which point the way to the cessation of all suffering by way of radical transformation of our thoughts, freeing them from defilements, making them healthy & pure.

The First Noble Truth is Dukkha, generally translated into English as Suffering. Suffering is a universal phenomenon experienced by all, having various sources such as stress, depression, interpersonal conflict, hatred, anger, greed, behavioural problems,


 
  1. Brazier, C., (2006). A Buddhist Perspective on Mental Health.In: Nurturing Heart and Spirit: A National Multi-Faith Symposium. [online]. Available at: https://buddhistpsychology. typepad.com/my-blog/a-buddhist-perspective-on-mental-health.html
 


etc. but in Buddhism, it is mainly classified into eight types: birth, old age, illness, death, separation from loved ones, association with people one hates, inability to obtain what one desires and clinging to five aggregates.

The Buddha added whatever is felt is connected with Dukkha (yakci vedayitam dukkhasmi (S.N. IV, 216)). According to Buddhist thought all conditional states of life are Dukkha. It also goes further to include the fundamental human dis-ease, our inability to be satisfied with life and our constant craving for more.

Hence, it can be inferred that the problem is not the suffering itself but our response towards it. In the context of mental health, it is a mental dysfunction which manifests in various kinds of mental illness due to the wrong perception of the real nature of things. Mental illness itself is not regarded as a mental affliction, but is rather a symptom of the underlying defilements of craving, hatred and ignorance. These defiling factors bear the characteristic of soiling the mind, resulting in unwholesome behaviour, which in turn gives rise to suffering for ourselves and others.

The Buddha recognized the connection of harmful mental states (unwholesome thoughts) with all painful characteristics of lifecycle when He stated – Birth is suffering, death is suffering, old age is suffering, illness is suffering, separation from loved ones and association with people one hates is suffering, inability to obtain what ones desires is suffering and clinging to five aggregates is suffering. Dukkha is not just suffering, but at a deeper level, vulnerability to suffering & pain emerging out of misapprehension of reality.

The Second Noble Truth concerns the cause of suffering, Dukkha Samudaya. Existence is suffering for individuals because the very basic mental attribute of tṛṣṇā (craving), which lies at the bottom of all desires. It is never satisfying and a individual always finds himself in discontentment because of this. It is a cause of rebirth in Buddhism and is of three types - Kāma tṛṣṇā - desire for sensual objects, Bhava tṛṣṇā - desire for continued existence and Vibhava tṛṣṇā - desire for non-existence. But at the behest of this lies our Avidyā (ignorance) i.e. the absence of the knowledge of the true nature of all things. It is the synonym of Moha and the root
 


cause of all evils. It clouds ones mental eye and prevents one from seeing the true nature of things – anicca (impermanence), anatta (egolessness) and dukkha (suffering). Not knowing the reality of things, we react to desire & craving which further leads to aversion, hatred & ill will. Hence, lobha (greed or attachment), dosa (hatred or illwill) and moha (delusion or ignorance) are three taproots responsible for defiling the human mind. A famous quotation of the Buddha from Anguttara Nikaya makes it clearer :-

O Bhikkhus! There are two kinds of illness, what are those two?physical illness and mental illness. There seem to be people who enjoy freedom from physical illness even for a year or twoeven for a hundred years or more. But, O Bhikkhus, rare in this world are those who enjoy freedom from mental illness even for a moment, except for those who are free from mental defilements. (A.N. II,143).(A.N. V, 157)

According to His analysis in this saying, as long as our actions are influenced by three evil roots of greed, hatred and ignorance, we all suffer from mental illness i.e. a mind not healthy, whether we are aware of it or not.

The Buddha compared these three taproots with bamboo plant and its fruits. He said that they appear in ones mind and destroy ones life, like bamboo reed and banana plant are destroyed by their fruits (S.N. I, 3)

Thus, if we could rid ourselves of this ignorance and craving responsible for soiling our mind we would be mentally happy
& peaceful.

The Third Noble Truth, Dukkha Nirodha, the extinction of suffering concerns the elimination of ignorance and  craving. This state is called Nirvāa’ because the mind is free from all fetters and defilements of ignorance and craving. A person is first partially freed through understanding which comes from right view and right thought (praā vimukti). Following this, all the defilements are eradicated and the mind is entirely freed – a stage called emancipation of mind(ceto vimukti). In this state, the mind operates with complete freedom unaffected by lobha, dosa or moha. Correct wisdom is manifested through the realization of the true nature of all things. Mind reaches its perfect state of peace and
 


tranquility - Nirvāa, the ultimate goal.

The Third Noble Truth is supported by a hope that people can transform themselves by affecting a change in their thinking pattern and develop a healthy mind so that their daily life experience will be constituted of wisdom & compassion.

The Fourth Noble Truth, Dukkha Nirodhagāmini Paipadā, is a path carved out by the Buddha wherein the practical aspect of His teachings takes a concrete form. If one wants to achieve the goal held out in the Third Noble Truth, then the Fourth Noble Truth offers a set of practices to be followed. It explains through the Eightfold Path about developing a right view for correct understanding of the Buddhist principles and following the right attitudes & practices which aids in achieving a perfect mental state – free from all defiling formations. Made up of eight components, its practices fall into three categories of moral self-discipline known as Tisikkhā. The first of these threefold practice is Śīla which comprises of Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood. Mental self-discipline includes Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. Wisdom is constituted of Right Understanding and Right Thought. These are not sequentially practised, rather they are mutually supportive
& interactive and one practices them more or less simultaneously.

il̄a serves as the foundation for the cultivation of the healthy mental states. The practice begins by developing the virtuous qualities as laid out in the Sallekha Sutta of Majjhima Nikāya10 which comprises of the practice of the five precepts, Eightfold Path and other virtues immanent in the stream of our consciousness in the form of wholesome psychic factors (Kusala Cetasika). Cultivation of these positive virtues helps in cleansing the mind from all sorts of evil thoughts and unwholesome mental formations. This cultivation of morality benefits the mind immensely at the psychological level. The mind is enriched by various positive emotions like generosity, compassion, loving kindness & fellow feeling.

The inner healthy state of mind is manifested in various outwardly positive behaviours such as gentleness in speech & bodily actions,

 
  1. M.N. VIII, Mūlapariyāyavagga.
 


non-aggressiveness, concern for others, etc.

Right Concentration (Sammā Samādhi), the final factor in the path means firmly establishing the one-point attention of the mind (Cittassa ekaggatā) or focusing the mind on a single mental object, stable and not distracted. The concentration of the mind is carried out with unfailing effort. This concentration of the mind which precedes the attainment of the four rūpa jhānas is the result of a process of continuous development starting with moral virtue (Śīla) proceeding towards restraint of sense faculties (indriyasavara) and mental & intellectual alertness (satisampajañña). This development enables the meditator to affect an inward purity cleanse his mind of five hindrances (nirvanas)11. This concentration (citta ekaggatā) of the mind is divided into two interrelated systems, namely – Samatha (calm) and Vipassanā (insight).

Samatha meditation is aimed at reaching the states of consciousness characterized by progressively greater level of tranquility and stillness. It has two aspects : a) achievement of the highest degree of concentration and b) progressive calming of all mental processes. By focusing on one single object, the mind withdraws from all external & internal stimuli and finally attains the states of pure & undistracted consciousness.

Vipassanā or insight meditation also starts with concentration exercisesusingappropriateobjectsonwhichonefocuses.Theobjects of this contemplation are classified as fourfold : Kāyānupassanā, vedanānupassanā, cittānupassanā and dhammānupassanā i.e. various moral and intellectual subjects. The procedure is, once a certain level of concentration is achieved, one goes on to examine with steady careful attention and in great detail all sensory and mental processes. Through this contemplation one becomes a detached observer of ones own activity. The aim is to achieve total
& immediate awareness of mindfulness. This eventually leads to the



 
  1. Lien, H, Bhikkhuni. (2010). Right Concentration and Mental Wellbeing. Global Re- covery: The Buddhist Perspective,UNDV Conference Volume. In: The 7th International Buddhist Conference on  the United Nations Day of Vesak Celebrations, 2010. Thailand: Mahachu- lalongkornrajavidyalaya University, p 610-617.
 


full and clear perception of impermanence of all things.12 (M.N. I,
    1. V)

The Viśuddhimagga recommends that both meditations should be experienced in order to achieve insight, to understand the impermanence of all phenomena.

The mind reaches a state of equanimity where it is free from defilements & desires and proceeds to see clearly all things having a common nature of anicca, anatta and dukkha. In relation to vedanā this state is equated with adukkhamasukkha i.e. a feeling of neither pleasantness nor unpleasantness.

In Buddhism, wisdom is the key to realization of the goal of the religion. Right Understanding and Right Thought constitute wisdom. Right Understanding can be said to mean seeing things as they really are’ – understanding the real truth about things rather than simply seeing them as they appear to be. In practical terms it means insight or penetrative understanding.

Wisdom is the antonym of ignorance. When there is dawn of wisdom there is no ignorance. To understand wisdom it is essential to know what ignorance denotes in Buddhism. Ignorance is the idea of a  permanent,  independent  personality  or  self.  The  idea of a permanent self constructs the notion of ‘I. It is this idea of a permanent self which gives rise to the various harmful emotions of attachment, greed, ill will, hatred, aversion, jealousy, anger, etc. and breeds suffering. It is ignorance of the fact that the so called ‘I’ is just an illusion of the ever-changing, interdependent factors which lie at the bottom of all emotional turmoil.

Through Right Understanding we come to realize our own true nature as well as the true nature of the world that everything is caused
& conditioned, whatever is caused is impermanent in character and that impermanence has a characteristic of non-substantiality and suffering. Realizing this, the mind becomes free from clinging to the ego, free from selfish desires & motives.


 
  1. Silva, P. (1990). Buddhist Psychology: A Review of Theory and Pratice. Current Psy- chology. [online] Vol. 9 No. 3, p. 236-254. Available at: http://enlight.lib.ntu.edu.tw/FULL- TEXT/JR-ADM/silva.htm
 


Right Understanding gets perfection only when it is coupled with Right Thought. Ignorance, craving and aversion are said to be the causes of suffering. While Right Understanding removes ignorance, Right Thought removes attachment and aversion. Therefore, Right Understanding and Right Thought together remove the causes of suffering. To remove attachment or greed we must cultivate renunciation and to remove aversion we must cultivate love & compassion. With Right Understanding and Right Thought, the mind develops non-attachment to the ego, stimuli driven pain & pleasures and all mental formations, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, etc. The mind at this stage is tranquil & liberated with pure awareness and calmed. This is the Right Practice, the path leading to purity of mind and a harmonious mind.

Thus, according to Buddhism, for the mind to be in harmony it is necessary to have a correct view of ourselves and the world with respect to the knowledge of the reality of things as they truly are: Anicca (Impermanence), Dukkha (Suffering) and Anatta (non-substantiality) – the three linked characteristics of life in the phenomenal world. The adoption of wrong views makes us see the transitory as permanent, the painful as happy and what is not self as self (some permanent eternal substance within our body). This belief that ‘I’ am a separate self gives rise to attachment, fulfilling endless desires, craving & clinging which is the root cause of all suffering as detailed in the second Noble Truth. Awareness of these realities as they truly exist (anicca, anatta and dukkha) reduces desire & attachment and the mind no longer chases impulses nor clings to the desired objects. In the absence of any thoughts that tend to defile the mind (lobha, dosa and moha) it becomes peaceful, leading to good mental health. Besides changing our thoughts & perception and adopting a correct view of ourselves and the world, our mental health is also dependent on our power to restrain and eradicate the negative emotions as well as our possessive & aggressive tendencies for various mental illnesses. Such control can be achieved by practising morality and meditation. All the Buddhist precepts and meditation practices aim at controlling the senses & impulses and eliminating the unwholesome thoughts, thereby making the mind peaceful, happy and healthy. As the mind gets
 


purified so do actions. The actions which spring from this healthy mind are also good & wholesome, conducive to our mental health.

In recent times, studies have revealed the decisive influence of peoples states of mind, emotions, attitudes and beliefs on how they get sick and how they stay well. Setbacks or distresses to the mind such as separation from loved ones, death, professional failures, financial worries, violence, illness, alienation, obsessions, etc. directly impact the immune system. Buddhism focuses energy inward on training the mind to understand the mental states of happiness as discussed in paper above, to identify and defuse sources of negative emotions and cultivate emotional states like metta, mudita, karuna and upekkha, to bring harmony within ourselves and in our interaction with the world around us.

ABBREVIATIONS

A.N. – Anguttara Nikāya
M.N. – Majjhima Nikāya
S.N. – Samyutta Nikāya

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