Karma and Mental Illness

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
jenjaminbackson
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Karma and Mental Illness

Postby jenjaminbackson » Sat Mar 29, 2014 9:28 pm

I work in a rehabilitation unit for people suffering from severe mental illnesses. Due to their medical condition and the intense delusional hallucinations can come come with it, namely schizophrenia, some clients have a history of violent behaviour, grievous bodily harm and even murder and pedophilia. Sometimes these actions come from a state of mind that by no fault of their is not in touch with reality. To add to this, most sufferers resort to alcoholism and drug abuse to help deal with their symptoms and as you can imagine the lifestyle and mindset that is accompanied by these past times does not do much for ones karma.

I recently read a little on what might happen to your karma if you where to harm a family member, I personally know someone, who in the confusing and tormenting depths of delusion severely harmed his brother. Who wouldn't lash out with the nearest knife if they thought their mother was a mind controlling demon trying to steal their soul and eat their eyes (not even joking) I would be very interested to know peoples views on this karma in respect to the unfortunate situation of not being in control of your own mind. What is left for these men and women after they pass, after they have spent a lifetime of unavoidable torment and suffering. I'm struggling to put this problem into perspective.

Thanks

Jenjamin

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cooran
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Re: Karma and Mental Illness

Postby cooran » Sat Mar 29, 2014 10:46 pm

Hello jenjaminbackson, all,,

Not an answer to your question, but this may be of interest:

Psychotic Buddha
http://psychoticbuddha.blogspot.com.au

With metta,
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

jenjaminbackson
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Re: Karma and Mental Illness

Postby jenjaminbackson » Sat Mar 29, 2014 10:54 pm

This looks like a great resource, thank you very much. Still very much interested in everyones views.

Jenj

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Re: Karma and Mental Illness

Postby culaavuso » Sat Mar 29, 2014 11:42 pm

jenjaminbackson wrote:I would be very interested to know peoples views on this karma in respect to the unfortunate situation of not being in control of your own mind. What is left for these men and women after they pass, after they have spent a lifetime of unavoidable torment and suffering. I'm struggling to put this problem into perspective.


Many problems come from not being able to control our own minds to varying degrees. Through the many lives of wandering on it's likely such unfortunate circumstances have been encountered many times. The negative results are not permanent, and there is always the opportunity to start working to overcome the results of any degree of negative actions. Even murderers can become arahants with the appropriate effort.

SN 22.59: Pañcavaggi Sutta wrote:"Form, monks, is not self. If form were the self, this form would not lend itself to dis-ease. It would be possible [to say] with regard to form, 'Let this form be thus. Let this form not be thus.' But precisely because form is not self, form lends itself to dis-ease. And it is not possible [to say] with regard to form, 'Let this form be thus. Let this form not be thus.'

"Feeling is not self...

"Perception is not self...

"[Mental] fabrications are not self...

"Consciousness is not self. If consciousness were the self, this consciousness would not lend itself to dis-ease. It would be possible [to say] with regard to consciousness, 'Let my consciousness be thus. Let my consciousness not be thus.' But precisely because consciousness is not self, consciousness lends itself to dis-ease. And it is not possible [to say] with regard to consciousness, 'Let my consciousness be thus. Let my consciousness not be thus.'


SN 15.14: Mata Sutta wrote:From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. A being who has not been your mother at one time in the past is not easy to find... A being who has not been your father... your brother... your sister... your son... your daughter at one time in the past is not easy to find.

Why is that? From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — enough to become disenchanted with all fabricated things, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released.


SN 15.3: Assu Sutta wrote:Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a mother. The tears you have shed over the death of a mother while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans.

Long have you (repeatedly) experienced the death of a father... the death of a brother... the death of a sister... the death of a son... the death of a daughter... loss with regard to relatives... loss with regard to wealth... loss with regard to disease. The tears you have shed over loss with regard to disease while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time — crying & weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — are greater than the water in the four great oceans.


MN 86: Angulimala Sutta wrote:I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi at Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's monastery. And at that time in King Pasenadi's realm there was a bandit named Angulimala: brutal, bloody-handed, devoted to killing & slaying, showing no mercy to living beings. He turned villages into non-villages, towns into non-towns, settled countryside into unsettled countryside. Having repeatedly killed human beings, he wore a garland (mala) made of fingers (anguli).
...
"At long last a greatly revered great seer
for my sake
has come to the great forest.
Having heard your verse
in line with the Dhamma,
I will go about
having abandoned evil."

So saying, the bandit
hurled his sword & weapons
over a cliff
into a chasm,
a pit.
Then the bandit paid homage
to the feet of the One Well-gone,
and right there requested the Going-forth.

The Awakened One,
the compassionate great seer,
the teacher of the world, along with its devas,
said to him then:
"Come, bhikkhu."
That in itself
was bhikkhuhood for him.
Then the Blessed One set out wandering toward Savatthi with Ven. Angulimala as his attendant monk. After wandering by stages he reached Savatthi, and there he lived, near Savatthi, in Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's monastery.
...
Then Ven. Angulimala, dwelling alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, & resolute, in no long time reached & remained in the supreme goal of the holy life for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing & realizing it for himself in the here & now. He knew: "Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for the sake of this world." And thus Ven. Angulimala became another one of the arahants.

Bakmoon
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Re: Karma and Mental Illness

Postby Bakmoon » Sat Mar 29, 2014 11:57 pm

The Suttas consistently teach that our karma is the result of Cetana, which means will or intention, (I can't find the references now so I will post them soon or wait for someone else to do so) so I would say that there is little if any negative karma resulting from attacking a family member if it is the result of mental illness.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

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Re: Karma and Mental Illness

Postby culaavuso » Sun Mar 30, 2014 12:26 am

Bakmoon wrote:The Suttas consistently teach that our karma is the result of Cetana, which means will or intention, (I can't find the references now so I will post them soon or wait for someone else to do so) so I would say that there is little if any negative karma resulting from attacking a family member if it is the result of mental illness.


Two sutta quotes may be relevant:

AN 4.235: Ariyamagga Sutta wrote:And what is kamma that is dark with dark result? There is the case where a certain person fabricates an injurious bodily fabrication, fabricates an injurious verbal fabrication, fabricates an injurious mental fabrication. Having fabricated an injurious bodily fabrication, having fabricated an injurious verbal fabrication, having fabricated an injurious mental fabrication, he rearises in an injurious world. On rearising in an injurious world, he is there touched by injurious contacts. Touched by injurious contacts, he experiences feelings that are exclusively painful, like those of the beings in hell. This is called kamma that is dark with dark result.


AN 6.63: Nibbedhika Sutta wrote:Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect.

binocular
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Re: Karma and Mental Illness

Postby binocular » Sun Mar 30, 2014 7:13 am

jenjaminbackson wrote:the unfortunate situation of not being in control of your own mind.

The underlying assumption seems to be that people who seem "normal" (and who are not institutionalized) are in fact in control of their minds.
It's not clear how true this assumption is.
Maybe the "normal" people are also not in control of their minds, it's just that the "karmic autopilots" they are on are more in line with the social norms.

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Aloka
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Re: Karma and Mental Illness

Postby Aloka » Sun Mar 30, 2014 8:28 am

jenjaminbackson wrote:What is left for these men and women after they pass, after they have spent a lifetime of unavoidable torment and suffering


I think its worth noting that the Buddha said that the precise working out of the results of kamma is an unconjecturable.


AN 4.77 Acintita Sutta: Unconjecturable

"There are these four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them. Which four?

"The Buddha-range of the Buddhas is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"The jhana-range of a person in jhana...

"The [precise working out of the] results of kamma...

"Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"These are the four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.077.than.html



Kind regards,

Aloka

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Re: Karma and Mental Illness

Postby jenjaminbackson » Sun Mar 30, 2014 2:15 pm

I think I am starting to see..

Karma spans across uncountable lives and cannot be quantified to foresee any solid result in the next life. The attempt to pin down or guess the result of the karma that's witnessed in this life will only bring suffering?

So in regards to people who accumulated bad karma as a result of their mental illness, not only do the actions lack the type of intention needed to constitute bad karma, but in fact the process of trying to figure out the result is non-beneficial and perhaps even fuelled by my own ego and fear?

Jenj

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Re: Karma and Mental Illness

Postby Ananda26 » Thu May 08, 2014 3:41 pm

jenjaminbackson wrote:I work in a rehabilitation unit for people suffering from severe mental illnesses. Due to their medical condition and the intense delusional hallucinations can come come with it, namely schizophrenia, some clients have a history of violent behaviour, grievous bodily harm and even murder and pedophilia. Sometimes these actions come from a state of mind that by no fault of their is not in touch with reality. To add to this, most sufferers resort to alcoholism and drug abuse to help deal with their symptoms and as you can imagine the lifestyle and mindset that is accompanied by these past times does not do much for ones karma.

I recently read a little on what might happen to your karma if you where to harm a family member, I personally know someone, who in the confusing and tormenting depths of delusion severely harmed his brother. Who wouldn't lash out with the nearest knife if they thought their mother was a mind controlling demon trying to steal their soul and eat their eyes (not even joking) I would be very interested to know peoples views on this karma in respect to the unfortunate situation of not being in control of your own mind. What is left for these men and women after they pass, after they have spent a lifetime of unavoidable torment and suffering. I'm struggling to put this problem into perspective.

Thanks

Jenjamin


If one kills mother or kills father, one would be reborn in hell.
The first of the 5 precepts is abstaining from killing.

The fifth of the 5 precepts is abstaining from intoxicating drink and drug causing heedlessness and infatuation. In Long Discourse #31, Buddha warns about intoxicating drink and drug causing heedlessness and infatuation as being one of the ways of losing one's substance.

These are the 5 precepts: Abstaining from killing, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from sexual misconduct, abstaining from false speech, and abstaining from intoxicating drink and drug causing heedlessness and infatuation.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Karma and Mental Illness

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu May 08, 2014 4:33 pm

jenjaminbackson wrote:I would be very interested to know peoples views on this karma in respect to the unfortunate situation of not being in control of your own mind. What is left for these men and women after they pass, after they have spent a lifetime of unavoidable torment and suffering. I'm struggling to put this problem into perspective.

In the Buddhist monastic discipline, it's an offence of defeat to intentionally kill a human being, even to recommend abortion or to practise euthanasia. There are three other rules entailing defeat for a bhikkhu, who can then no longer remain as a bhikkhu.

However, for every rule, not only these four, there is an exemption clause for one who is mad. In that case, there is no offence. So, my take on it, is that if a schizophrenic kills his own mother or father while thinking that he or she is fighting off demons, he or she is not guilty of the heavy kamma of killing his/her own parent. That is my opinion based on the exceptions in the Vinaya rules.

Insanity is also a defence in law.

Madness is a result of previous kamma, which may have been done in a previous life, or in this very life. There are both cases of congenital madness, and madness after taking drugs.
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Re: Karma and Mental Illness

Postby waterchan » Thu May 08, 2014 5:55 pm

So basically, when a monastic is insane the entire Vinaya is thrown out the window?
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Karma and Mental Illness

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu May 08, 2014 7:53 pm

waterchan wrote:So basically, when a monastic is insane the entire Vinaya is thrown out the window?

No, the Vinaya also applies to insane monks, but the Vinaya rule says that there is no offence if one is mad.
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Re: Karma and Mental Illness

Postby Mkoll » Thu May 08, 2014 10:11 pm

jenjaminbackson wrote:I think I am starting to see..

Karma spans across uncountable lives and cannot be quantified to foresee any solid result in the next life. The attempt to pin down or guess the result of the karma that's witnessed in this life will only bring suffering?

So in regards to people who accumulated bad karma as a result of their mental illness, not only do the actions lack the type of intention needed to constitute bad karma, but in fact the process of trying to figure out the result is non-beneficial and perhaps even fuelled by my own ego and fear?

Jenj

No need to beat yourself up. You asked a good question and I think there are some good answers regarding the relationship between intention and kamma.

Trying to figure out kammic results may be harmful, but the Buddha did recommend that every one of his followers think about it every day.

"There are these five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained. Which five?

"'I am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging.' This is the first fact that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.

"'I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness.' ...

"'I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death.' ...

"'I will grow different, separate from all that is dear and appealing to me.' ...

"'I am the owner of my actions,[1] heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.' ...


"These are the five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.
-AN 5.57
Peace,
James


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