Long-Term Depression

Long-Term Depression

Date Posted:
October 2005

Rinpoche wrote this letter to a person who had suffered from a low-grade depression for a long time.

It is very understandable that it is difficult to live in the West, where all the objects that give rise to desire are advertised constantly, in a society that puts particular effort into advertising those objects. When you are living in the family-life environment, also, you must expect hardships. This involves always fighting with the enemy, your own delusions, and having to defeat them. You have to do that as much as possible, for your own benefit, your own good rebirth and liberation, and, most importantly, in order to bring about all sentient beings’ happiness now, in future lives, and up to liberation and enlightenment. One has to try as much as possible. It doesn’t mean you must succeed all the time. It’s as if you are living in the nest of a poisonous snake. Such an environment is not like the places where the ancient Tibetan, Nepali, and Indian yogis lived as hermits, in caves. For example, when you go sightseeing in Tibet, all you go to see is caves and statues. There’s nothing other than that. So, of course, the overall environment is different, with much less distraction. Nowadays, there is more distraction in Tibet, since the communist Chinese brought in movies and other entertainments.

It is very important, too, to have a stable morning and evening practice. This is extremely important for stabilizing your life. It helps always to purify and collect merit, and if you are doing lam-rim meditation, this brings you closer every day to enlightenment, for yourself and for all sentient beings.

Please read the book called the Wheel of Sharp Weapons. This explains where problems like yours come from. Any problem you have, including depression, you can read about in this book, which explains how to use the problem to cut through the ego and self-cherishing thoughts. Self-cherishing is the main enemy to bodhicitta, which is what you need to achieve enlightenment and to enlighten all sentient beings. This is the best technique for you to heal your depression.

Try to always have deep in your heart, in your mind, an awareness of impermanence and death. Death can happen at any time. If you are able to keep this awareness, it will help you continue to practice, and will remind you to practice. It will also help stop a strong desire and clinging to this life, which lead to all the distractions and interruptions to your practice, to your mind, and to your life, and prevent you from putting an end not only to samsaric sufferings, but particularly to the sufferings of the lower realms. These sufferings are the result of desire. Detachment—renunciation—brings liberation, which helps to develop bodhicitta, which leads to enlightenment.

After getting up in the morning, rejoice that you did not die in the night. Rejoice in your perfect human rebirth, and at having met the Dharma. This human rebirth gives you the opportunity to create the cause of happiness, unbelievable happiness. Then rejoice at having met Mahayana teachings, which makes it possible to achieve enlightenment, and at having met tantra, which allows you to achieve enlightenment quickly, using every second of your perfect human rebirth—your one precious rebirth, which is like a whole sky filled with wish-granting jewels. Without a human body, however much wealth you have, you cannot achieve enlightenment in this life and cannot stop rebirth in the lower realms.

Rejoice. This gives you a strong determination to practice, to live your life in bodhicitta. Think, “I must practice and live in bodhicitta, no matter how much unhappiness I have, and no matter how many problems or ups and downs I have with anybody, in any circumstance or any place.”

The most important thing is to make efforts to develop bodhicitta. No matter how easy or how hard it is, keep in mind the thought of benefiting others and achieving enlightenment for others. That is the best attitude to have, toward your family and toward all others. As much as possible, perform all your other activities with that attitude.

Even if you are just going to the beach, go with that thought, wishing to benefit others. You might not succeed all the time, but you must try, since you want happiness and others’ happiness and to eliminate suffering. This is the most important thing.

If possible, recite OM MANI PADME HUM while meditating on bodhicitta, the shortcomings of self-cherishing, and the benefits of cherishing others.

Make sure you set your motivation strongly before going to work. Make sure your motivation for all the activities in daily life is the enlightenment of all sentient beings. The important thing is bodhicitta. Set your motivation so that many actions become Dharma, the purest cause of enlightenment. And try to control anger by practicing compassion and patience.

With bodhicitta, you can change your life.