A Reader Wrote In:
Hello, I’ve just found your website and podcasts. I’ve wanted to start studying Buddhist philosophy since 2008 when I was volunteering in Nepal, but only now I feel like I have the dedication to really pursue it.
Right now I’m listening to podcast 46, and there was a part that I wanted to address. In the podcast, you briefly talk about addiction and mind-altering substances, and how they can make the mind less clear and so on. I do understand this perfectly clear, it makes sense, but I was just wandering what would a buddhist say about psychiatric disorders? I myself am schizophrenic and more or less I understand that most “heavier” drugs imitate the effects of schizophrenia. That’s why it sort of sprung to my mind. What’s also interesting is that I’ve been told that intense meditation can actually be harmful for schizophrenics, that it may trigger hallucinations. Are there some precautions I should take before taking on meditation?
So what would be your Buddhist view on schizophrenia and the like? I’m sorry if this has been answered somewhere on the site before, but I just felt like asking it myself. I’ve often wondered why I am schizophrenic and what kind of attitude I should have about the whole thing. I’m not anywhere near finding my own answer, most of the time I just dismiss the question and try not to think about it. I hope you could give me some insight into how Buddhism sees my disorder as. Maybe I then can find a new way of looking at the whole situation of my sickness.
J. from Finland
And my Response:
Just last week, I put up a post “Magic Mushrooms” which revisited the topic of drugs and addictions. Generally speaking, most Buddhists see mind-altering drugs as bad, but there are limitations on that. I don’t know the specifics of your case, but since you are on these medications based on your doctor’s prescriptions, I would assume that you would suffer more without the drugs calming your mind than if you did without.
From the Buddhist perspective, having a clear mind is very important to successful meditation, and good meditation is necessary to attaining Enlightenment. Depending on the symptoms or effects of your schizophrenia, you probably have a hard time meditating on your own. The drugs may actually be beneficial in your case. It’s unfair and a unfortunate that you have this condition, but there isn’t much you can do about it on your own, at least so doctors would tell us. If current science says drug X will help you, then by all means use it until something else comes around. Some drugs have side effects, and only you and your doctor can judge whether those effects (hallucinations in your case) are bad enough to merit changing prescriptions.
Either way, you are going to have a hard time of it. Do your best, keeping in mind the rules of karma, make the best of the hand you’ve been dealt and live as an example for others.