HBV Newsletter – December 2020

Beat Depression Forever with Meditation
By Dylan Charles
Source: The Waking Times

Doctors and psychiatrists are well-versed in the science of antidepressants. They’ve established a body of research showing how levels of certain brain chemicals fluctuate to affect mood, and they can chemically stabilize someone’s mood with pills.

But truly healing from depression involves many intangible factors such as diet, the support of family and friends, belief systems, self-identity, frustration with work, resolving or coming to terms with childhood trauma or past events, and so on. There really is no one-pill-chemical solution to heal people from depression.

In an article entitled, The Real Cause of Depression Has Been Completely Overlooked, Christina Sarich looks at some of these intangibles.

“Many of us with depression can think back to multiple instances of child abuse, negligence, and abandonment. We were likely raised by narcissistic parents who themselves, were abused. If our parents happened to be fairy-tale perfect, society did its own number on us, either bullying the innocent, exposing us to broken families and rampant poverty, or simply mind-controlling the heck out of us into thinking that because we don’t fit the images paraded before us, we are somehow lacking or inferior.

Our brains are trying to help us live. They become depressed and anxious because they are calling those wounds to the surface so that they can be healed. If we keep medicating them, the wounds will only crash to shore with more vengeance, until we finally understand the Higher Purpose of pain. Just as food can be toxic to our bodies, so can stress. Adverse childhood experiences coupled with real depression-instilling societal norms upheld today have created an epidemic of depression.” ~Christina Sarich

What we do know is that depression takes place in the brain. Some amalgam of thoughts, memories, and brain chemicals combine to cause it. And since it is somehow a function of the brain, then we can employ the tools at our disposal to manipulate how the brain works.

Of course the drug companies have their stake in recommending pills, but the simple (and free) act of meditation can go along way in recovering from depression.

For starters, meditation is an act that increases connection. It allows us to see clearly just how much control we have, or don’t have, over the thoughts and emotions running through the mind. It allows us to identify patterns and programs at work in the mind, by allowing us to isolate the inner happenings of the mind from the external influences inundating us each day.

Furthermore, scientific studies have demonstrated that meditation can be highly effective. In a 2016 article entitled, How Running and Meditation Changes the Brains of the Depressed, Melissa Dahl reports on one such study:

“To test this, Alderman and his colleagues recruited 52 young adults, 22 of whom had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and referred by a university counseling clinic. (The rest of the participants were “typically healthy” individuals.) Twice a week for eight weeks, all of the study volunteers reported to the lab for MAP training sessions, during which they spent 30 minutes in “focused-attention meditation” and 30 minutes running on a treadmill. At the start of the study, they all took surveys measuring their depression symptoms, as well as a test designed to measure their cognitive control — that is, their ability to harness their own attention. They repeated these tasks at the study’s conclusion, and the researchers’ analysis shows a decrease in self-reported depressive symptoms for both groups — but especially for the group with major depressive disorder. Both groups improved their performance on the cognitive-control test, too.”

Furthermore, according to Reset.me,

Amazingly, a slew of recent studies have found that meditation does actually “shape” the brain; it corrects damage from stress, enhances connectivity between the two lobes and even promotes cell growth in key regions that are underdeveloped in depressed people, like the hippocampus. This means that meditators are changing the actual structure of their brains, thereby rewiring their emotional reactions and thought patterns to a calmer baseline on a physical level. This makes them more resilient to depression permanently.”

Although it is difficult to explain in strict scientific terms, meditation is indeed a powerful tool for overcoming depression. It can positively impact the regulation of thoughts and emotions. We even see it working in schools and prisons to help reduce troublesome behavior and violence. And we see it working to create peace in our world, and we know that with dedicated practice it can create peace in the troubled mind of those suffering through depression.

Interesting Buddhist News from around the World:
Undecaying body of the diseased Buddhist monk:

https://www.buddhistdoor.net/news/tibetan-monk-shows-no-signs-of-decay-26-days-after-clinical-death

Buddhism in Uganda:

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/dec/07/ugandan-monk-bhante-buddharakkhita-buddism-buddhist-uganda-africa-mindfulness-meditation

How Jeff Bridges got his start with Buddhism:

https://www.nickiswift.com/271976/what-most-people-dont-know-about-jeff-bridges/

HBV Newsletter – October 2020

Where Is the Soul?

Various religious groups zealously campaigning for followers, the Buddha’s society produced famous speakers and debaters. They address audiences and argued in public debates, highlighting the soundness of their views. Those who impressed the public most won members to their groups.

Succhka, a strong believer in the soul, was such a famous debater with many victories.  Opponents evaded him, fearing certain defeats. Saccaka’s strength in debates is evident in his own words about himself. Exaggerating his superior skills, he once said, “If I were to engage a senseless post in a debate, even that post would tremble, so what shall I say about a human being?”

One day Saccaka met Bhikkhu Assaji, one of the very first ordained disciples of the Buddha, while Bhikkhu Assaji was going for his alms. As both stopped for a brief, friendly conversation, Saccka inquired about the teachings of the Buddha. “How does your master train his students?” Saccaka asked. Bhikkhu Assaji replied that the Buddha’s training of monks was mainly based on the teaching of impermanence. He further said that the Buddha had accepted nothing permanent in the individual or the world.

That reply annoyed Saccaka considerably because the Buddha’s was an entirely different philosophy from his. “If what I have heard from you is actually what the Buddha teaches, his view is disagreeable, indeed,” Saccaka said. He then expressed his willingness to visit the Buddha one day and to “help the Buddha dispose of his evil view.”

Keeping his promise, Saccaka one day visited the Buddha with a group of about five-hundred people. Some in the group were Saccaka’s supporters while others were either admirers of the Buddha or just curious visitors.

It is interesting how the group behaved in the presence of the Buddha.  Some had a cordial chat with him; some others bowed down in front of him; several visitors just introduced themselves to the Buddha; many others remained silent. After the initial noisy but friendly behavior, everybody, including Saccaka, gradually settled down and sat for a serious conversation.

When total silence prevailed in the atmosphere, Saccaka began to speak. “Sir, I would like to ask you a certain question. Would you allow me permission to ask it?” he told the Buddha.

 “You may ask whatever you wish to,” the Buddha replied.

Saccaka first asked about the Buddha’s view with regard to the concept of the soul in an effort to verify what he heard from Assaji. After hearing from the Buddha that he refrained from accepting such a view, Saccaka challenged the Buddha’s point of view. He gave several speculative reasons to justify the theory of the soul.

The Buddha’s counterargument was based on the analysis of the human being. First, he separated “the human being” into five aggregates: material form of the body, feelings, perception, mental formations, and consciousness. Next, he asked Saccaka which of them would be the permanent, unchanging entity. 

That question seems to have baffled Saccaka. He replied that each of the five aggregates is a part of the self. Looking at the enthusiastic audience of over five-hundred people, Saccaka then said, “This great multitude of people also thinks so.”

“What do these people have to do with you, Saccaka?  Present your own claim,” the Buddha replied assertively.

Saccaka then confirmed his assertion that all five aggregates represent the self.

The rest was easy for the Buddha. He argued that each of the five aggregates, including the consciousness, would be impermanent. When Saccaka eventually agreed with the Buddha’s claim that even human consciousness would be impermanent, the Buddha had already won the debate, for Saccaka would hardly defend a permanent entity in the ever-changing human consciousness.

The end of the debate is the most interesting part of the entire episode. Of course, Saccaka never became a follower of the Buddha, but he appreciated the Buddha’s wisdom by inviting the Buddha for lunch at Saccaka’s residence the following day. The Buddha accepted the invitation.

Majjhima Nikaya: 35; The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha:: 322-331

Monthly Dhamma Deshana on Feb. 29th

Monthly Dhamma Deshana on Feb. 29th
In 2020, monthly Sila program and the monthly Dhamma Deshana will be given on two different days. The February Dhamma Deshana will be delivered on Saturday 29th by Ven. Kiramba Rathanasiri Thero. You will receive details of this program in the 2nd week of Febrauary.

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