Hi Rodney,

I've read that many come to practice as a result of such states of 
crisis, such as depression, suicide, divorce, or whatever the 
situation may be, and that this can be a strong stimulus to their 
practice, whereas those of us who come from an intellectual 
perspective (that would be me) don't have the same strong impetus 
for practice (I'm not too good with words, and hope I'm getting the 
idea across anyway). Our Zen teacher said pretty much the same 
during a recent teisho.

I have a friend who has suffered depression for years, and who 
solves this by the chemical route (prescribed by her doc, of 
course), and who is quite satisfied with that, but who doesn't like 
to experience the depression or seek out the root cause of it. Her 
husband of some 30 years passed away last fall, and she was plunged 
into it again. The solution for her was again, chemical 
manipulation. I've suggested meditation, but there are no groups in 
her local area, and while she's kind to be about my interests, she 
is the kind of person who believes in, and prefers, docs who cut & 
sew and prescribe meds, and has had lots of experience with the same.

I have another friend, a member of our sangha, who went through 
terrible depths of depression, and who says he finally got tired of 
crisis after crisis and came back to Zen, having tested the waters 
some years before. He says he feels he can change the pattern of his 
life, his childhood upbringing, the legacy he inherited from his 

I think all emotions are to be accepted in practice, and the crises 
that stem from depression are that of someone who doesn't accept 
this part of their life, who struggles with it.

The program I mentioned is not for getting rid of depression, but 
learning how to deal with it in your life, to accept it. So yes, 
depression is indeed something to be embraced, but I suppose one has 
to go through a kind of spiritual transformation in order to get 

I did read a book by Philip Martin called "The Zen Path Through 
Depression", and it might be useful for the person who started this 
post, but I agree, the individual suffering from depression is the 
one that has to get the ball rolling in terms of wanting to work 
through it. I have other acquaintances who suffer from depression as 
well, but I've never found the right way to help them, I only 
suggest the MBSR course as a simple way of learning to accept it.

What do you think the difference is between ordinary depression and 
spiritual depression, or are they the same? I'm a bit confused there.


--- In Zen_Forum@yahoogroups.com, Rodney Yasushi Horikawa 
> Susan, thanks for a great thought provoking post...
> You know, I get that in modern Western psychology depression is 
viewed as a
> dysfunctional mental state... And I  get that the state of 
> exists along a continuum and that in certain cases there is very 
> chemical balances  that may require pharmacological interventions..
> That said, in the ³psychology² of spirituality doesn¹t depression 
have a
> more ³functional² role on the landscape of praxis? For example, 
doesn¹t both
> Christian and Buddhist practitioners of meditation recognize the 
³dark night
> of the soul² as a critical ³stage² of the path? Isn¹t (spiritual) 
> a state to be embraced?
> I¹m currently reading a wonderful book entitled ³Japanese Death 
Poems ­
> Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on  the Verge of Death².  Like
> practitioners of tea ceremony and calligraphy, Zen haiku poets 
aspire to
> evoke/attain a ³state of  consciousness² called ³mono no aware². 
> Seidensticker, the brilliant translator of the ³Tale of the Genji² 
> ³mono no aware² as the deep spiritual sadness that occurs during 
> simultaneous perception of beauty and the transitory nature of all 
> Ivan Morris, the late great scholar of Japanese literature, 
defined ³mono no
> aware² as spiritual pathos/depression.  In any event, it can be 
argued that
> if spiritual depression was not embraced in certain circles of 
Zen, much of
> haiku, tea ceremony, calligraphy, etc would simply not have 
> So my question is what exactly is the role of depression ­ if any ­ 
in our
> Zen Buddhist practices?
> Gassho,
> Rodney 
> On 5/1/06 4:56 PM, "Susan" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> wrote:
> > There are a number of groups around that teach mindfulness
> > meditation for people with depression and other types of mental
> > problems - but they are not limited to these types of people as 
> > is how I first learned how to meditate, and I don't suffer from 
> > of these problems, I just wanted to learn how to meditate.
> > 
> > "Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction" or MBSR is the name of the
> > program, it is commonly facilitated by
> > psychiatrists/psychotherapists, but not always. The program was
> > developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts
> > Medical Centre and is widely offered throughout the United States
> > and Canada. Doing a simple google search for this program and the
> > city in which your friend is in might bring up something useful.
> > It's an 8 week program in which one practices about 45 minutes 
> > night, and they meet together once a week to talk about their
> > experiences and meditate as a group.
> > 
> > This is a good way to get started and begin to deal with 
> > to boot, without aligning oneself with a particular branch of
> > Buddhism.
> > 
> > Susan
> > 
> > --- In Zen_Forum@yahoogroups.com, "dkotschessa" <dkotschessa@>
> > wrote:
> >> >
> >> > --- In Zen_Forum@yahoogroups.com, "greentealeaf111"
> >> > <greentealeaf111@> wrote:
> >>> > >
> >>> > > How could handle a friend with depression, without becoming
> >>> > > depressed?  What is the Zen teaching on depression?
> >>> > >
> >> > 
> >> > Depends on what you mean by "handle."  If they want to get 
out of
> > it, 
> >> > it's really something they have to do themselves.
> >> > 
> >> > As far as a "zen teaching on depression" it's really just 
like any
> >> > emotion.  You just need to be 100% aware of it, observe it
> > mindfully 
> >> > and continue your practice (zazen or whatever).  Emotions are 
> >> > physiological storms in your body.  Depression is kind of a
> > monsoon!
> >> > 
> >> > If you are worried about "catching" it from another person 
> > you 
> >> > are trying to help them, mindfulness/awareness is really your
> > guard 
> >> > against that.
> >> > 
> >> > -DaveK
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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