--- 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 the
> 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 

If anybody ever cares what I write, I will someday be credited with 
coming up with the term "emotional metabolism."  :)

I believe that emotions are essential and natural.  They are part of 
human functioning and are not to be denied.  One book I read called 
emotions "emotional signals" that are intended to convey to us some 
sort of message.  We need to find out what they mean to us.

But the dysfunction arrives with attachment to emotions, positive or 
negative.  And this is where Buddhism comes in.  Our meditation 
practice, IMO, speeds up the process of "metabolizing" our emotions 
in the same way that physical exercise incrases our ability to 
healthily digest food.  

So I view depression as a prolonged attachment to one of these 
emotions, thus an anomaly that needs to be worked on by whatever 
means are available.  This may include some type of therapy with some 
kind of professional, but meditation, IMO is the healthiest therapy 
there is.  It is the practice of simply dealing with your emotions 
directly, and confronting them in a relaxed and concentrated state of 
mind.  It's natural and it's human.

Not only meditation, but the rest of the eightfold path as well.  
When one is living one's life in accordance with sila then the 
meditation becomes easier, the process of mental metabolism is helped 
because there is less to "digest." 


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