Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby BlackBird » Thu Jul 18, 2013 2:05 pm

I must admit I haven't read the meat of this thread, I am simply responding to the OP.

Samvega is something I have always experienced in grand quantities: My counter question is why the need to treat it at all? I harness it for use in helping me to strive toward nibbana, Ven. Thanissaro has written something similar along the lines and it is published on accesstoinsight.

Edit: I see it's already been quoted here.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby chownah » Thu Jul 18, 2013 3:38 pm

santa100 wrote:
chownah wrote:I have looked at the first two links in the thread that santa100 has provided and have not found anything that seems to be a defining statement or description of samvega. I'm still hoping that someone knows of a Sutta reference which can provide some sort of definition of samvega.


The link below might have more info. on samvega and various sutta references..
http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-con ... 7-piya.pdf

Santa100,
Thanks so much for the link. It looks like just what I was wanting! I've read a part of it only since it is rather long. What I've read so far seems to be that the Suttas seem to use the word but not define it while a lot of writers seem to want to say precisely what it is and give detailed definitions....from this I can't help but continue to think that the definitions given are just writers' projections onto the sparse framework of the suttas. But as I said I have only read a part of the article and there are a lot of references so I'll nibble away at it from time to time and see what gives.

Thanks again and I hope others will read some of it and report their impressions.
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby ancientbuddhism » Thu Jul 18, 2013 3:50 pm

The Tathāgata swept past anything psychotherapy has to offer. You cannot talk yourself out of dukkha.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby Kusala » Fri Jul 19, 2013 6:44 am

http://www.tricycle.com/feature/romanci ... a?page=0,0 Romancing the Buddha by Thanissaro Bhikkhu is another profound article.
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby binocular » Fri Jul 19, 2013 8:54 am

BlackBird wrote:Samvega is something I have always experienced in grand quantities: My counter question is why the need to treat it at all?

The usual scenario goes something like this:
A person posts a thread on a forum, or brings up the issue in conversation with friends and family. This person talks about how they feel life as it is usually lived is meaningless, how they are sick and tired of living the way they do, they express an urgency to find a way out, to live a more meaningful life. And often, other people will classify this person as "depressed", "suicidal" or at least as "weird", and advise them to see a psychotherapist and preferrably, get treated with anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications.

More to the point, this often happens on Buddhist forums as well. I've also seen it in other religious/spiritual contexts.

It's amazing with what precision those people seeking help sometimes describe feelings of samvega. And yet they get told - on a Buddhist forum - that Buddhism can't help them, and that they need to turn to Western psychotherapy.


Thanissaro Bhikkhu speaks of this sometimes:

The other problem in thinking that Buddhism teaches non-ego is that those who understand the healthy functions of the ego believe that Buddhism lacks a proper appreciation of these functions. They think that Buddhist teachings are incomplete and need help from Western psychology in order to become a complete training of the mind.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tself.html
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby binocular » Fri Jul 19, 2013 9:08 am

PeterB wrote:That's the one... :goodpost: meditation ( in any tradition ) is not psychotherapy...
And importantly, psychotherapy is not meditation either...

Just as meditation is not dentistry
Nor is it dermatology
Nor is it physiotherapy.

They have different aims and different reasons for being.

The aim of psychotherapy is to restore social functioning by understanding that which disables social functioning.
If one wants to go deeper, or broader ( supply your own spatial metaphor ) then Dr Freud wont help you, and neither will Dr Jung. That's not their job..despite anything that Jungians claim.. :smile:

That kind of attitude suggests that in all the time that the Buddhist tradition has existed, it has not produced viable Buddhist means to deal with whatever problems a person may face in life.
And when Buddhists are sending people to seek help outside of Buddhism, they themselves are implying that they don't have all that much faith in Buddhism either.


/.../
From this perspective, egolessness would be a disaster. A person devoid of ego functions would be self-destructive: either a beast with uncontrolled impulses, or a neurotic, repressed automaton with no mind of his or her own, or an infantile
monster thrashing erratically between these two extremes. Anyone who tried to abandon ego functioning would arrest his psychological growth and lose all hope of becoming a mature, responsible, trustworthy adult. And as we know, selfdestructive people don’t destroy only themselves. They can pull down many of the people and places around them.

This is not only the view of trained Western psychologists. Buddhist communities in the West have also begun to recognize this problem and have coined the term “spiritual bypassing” to describe it: the way people try to avoid dealing with the problems of an unintegrated personality by spending all their time in meditation retreats, using the mantra of egolessness to short-circuit the hard work of mastering healthy ego functioning in the daily give and take of their lives.

Then there’s the problem of self-hatred. The Dalai Lama isn’t the only Asian Buddhist teacher surprised at the amount of self-hatred found in the West. Unfortunately, a lot of people with toxic super-egos have embraced the teaching on egolessness as the Buddha’s stamp of approval on the hatred they feel toward themselves.

These problems have inspired many Western psychologists to assume a major gap in the Buddha’s teachings: that in promoting egolessness, the Buddha overlooked the importance of healthy ego functioning in finding true happiness. This assumption has led to a corollary: that Buddhism needs the insights of Western psychotherapy to fill the gap; that to be truly effective, a healthy spiritual path needs to give equal weight to both traditions. Otherwise you come out lopsided and warped, an idiot savant who can thrive in the seclusion of a threeyear, three-month, three-day retreat, but can’t handle three hours caught in heavy traffic with three whining children.

This corollary assumes, though, that for the past twenty-six hundred years Buddhism hasn’t produced any healthy functioning individuals: that the collective consciousness of Asian society has suppressed individualism, and that the handful
of dysfunctional meditation teachers coming to the West—the ones who mastered the subtleties of formal meditation but tripped over the blatant pitfalls of American money and sex—are typical of the Buddhist tradition. But I wonder if
this is so.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... rtbook.pdf




So you have acted wrongly, acted incorrectly, in bypassing the Blessed One in search of an answer to this question elsewhere. Go right back to the Blessed One and, on arrival, ask him this question. However he answers it, you should take it to heart.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby reflection » Fri Jul 19, 2013 11:35 am

What I do agree with is that the dhamma has more power to cure depression than people may realize.

On this forum a lot of people quickly refer to a psychiatrist in certain topics, but I think that's also because you don't want to be the one who prevents them from going when they may actually really need it, because it is physical for example. This I think you possibly can't judge from behind a computer screen, not even the most skillful monk or psychiatrist. So even when you have a lot of faith in the power of the dhamma, I think it's wise to take precaution and cover all grounds when addressing somebody's issues directly.

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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby chownah » Fri Jul 19, 2013 3:13 pm

Thanks to santa100 and the dharmafarer.org link I've found a sort of definition for samvega:

"Friends, just as when a daughter-in-law sees a father-in-law, she rouses a sense of urgency (to please him), even so, when that monk thus recollects the Buddha, thus recollects the Dharma, thus recollects the Sangha, if equanimity supported by the wholesome is not established in him, then he rouses a feeling of urgency."

This is from MN28.

This does not seem to be an emotional complex requiring any sort of treatment...it also does not seem to warrant the strong emotions used by some to describe samvega but this is just one reference and there are many more.....I will keep on nibbling at the link and report what gives.
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby danieLion » Sat Jul 20, 2013 5:50 am

binocular wrote:That kind of attitude suggests that in all the time that the Buddhist tradition has existed, it has not produced viable Buddhist means to deal with whatever problems a person may face in life.
And when Buddhists are sending people to seek help outside of Buddhism, they themselves are implying that they don't have all that much faith in Buddhism either.

Hi binocular,
Regarding this so-called thing called Buddhism Ajahn Sucitto says in his talk Wisdom:

As soon as the "ism" arrives the wisdom disappears [laughs] because you're trying to make it a solid thing [reification]. Buddhism is just a word that was created in the 19th century by people who believed in "Isms" [laughs] and who wanted to have some solid thing they could hold onto; you know, "I'll label it that." But what is it? It's a huge range of different people doing different things. Wisdom breaks up, keeps looking into the diversities; and when we get stuck this kind of definitely wanting to have something to hold onto is a simplistic fundamentalism. It's easier that way. Attachment to systems and techniques is easier for the mind [at the 3:32-4:43 mark].


This has a lot in common with CBT's and REBT's views on depression.

Ajahn Sucitto also translates domanassa as depression in the introduction he wrote for Ajahn Sumedho's The Way It Is (in reference to dependent origination).

Kindly,
dL
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby BlackBird » Sat Jul 20, 2013 7:31 am

binocular wrote:
BlackBird wrote:Samvega is something I have always experienced in grand quantities: My counter question is why the need to treat it at all?

The usual scenario goes something like this:
A person posts a thread on a forum, or brings up the issue in conversation with friends and family. This person talks about how they feel life as it is usually lived is meaningless, how they are sick and tired of living the way they do, they express an urgency to find a way out, to live a more meaningful life. And often, other people will classify this person as "depressed", "suicidal" or at least as "weird", and advise them to see a psychotherapist and preferrably, get treated with anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications.

More to the point, this often happens on Buddhist forums as well. I've also seen it in other religious/spiritual contexts.

It's amazing with what precision those people seeking help sometimes describe feelings of samvega. And yet they get told - on a Buddhist forum - that Buddhism can't help them, and that they need to turn to Western psychotherapy.



If I saw someone expressing these sentiments I would advise them to start striving for Nibbana, through developing the factors of the NEP, including Bhavana, and then one can harness that samvega for the purposes of spiritual progress.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby Kusala » Sat Jul 20, 2013 7:54 am

ancientbuddhism wrote:The Tathāgata swept past anything psychotherapy has to offer. You cannot talk yourself out of dukkha.


In the words of H.G. Wells...

"The fundamental teachings of Gautama, as it is now being made plain to us by study of original sources, is clear and simple and in the closest harmony with modern ideas. It is beyond all disputes the achievement of one of the most penetrating intelligence the world has ever known. Buddhism is the advance of world civilization and true culture than any other influence in the chronicles of mankind."
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Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby PeterB » Sat Jul 20, 2013 8:38 am

danieLion wrote:
binocular wrote:That kind of attitude suggests that in all the time that the Buddhist tradition has existed, it has not produced viable Buddhist means to deal with whatever problems a person may face in life.
And when Buddhists are sending people to seek help outside of Buddhism, they themselves are implying that they don't have all that much faith in Buddhism either.

Hi binocular,
Regarding this so-called thing called Buddhism Ajahn Sucitto says in his talk Wisdom:

As soon as the "ism" arrives the wisdom disappears [laughs] because you're trying to make it a solid thing [reification]. Buddhism is just a word that was created in the 19th century by people who believed in "Isms" [laughs] and who wanted to have some solid thing they could hold onto; you know, "I'll label it that." But what is it? It's a huge range of different people doing different things. Wisdom breaks up, keeps looking into the diversities; and when we get stuck this kind of definitely wanting to have something to hold onto is a simplistic fundamentalism. It's easier that way. Attachment to systems and techniques is easier for the mind [at the 3:32-4:43 mark].


This has a lot in common with CBT's and REBT's views on depression.

Ajahn Sucitto also translates domanassa as depression in the introduction he wrote for Ajahn Sumedho's The Way It Is (in reference to dependent origination).

Kindly,
dL

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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Jul 20, 2013 4:44 pm

Kusala wrote:Someone posted this article a while back...

Still Crazy after all these Years: Why Meditation isn't Psychotherapy http://www.buddhanet.net/crazy.htm



was first struck by Kornfield’s claim that at least half of the students who attempt to do traditional vipassanâ meditation at IMS cannot do so. This is an extraordinary admission of failure for any meditation teacher or meditation centre. In my experience as a practitioner and as a teacher - and I must admit to having a very limited experience as a teacher - I have only seen evidence of such a large failure rate among the students in circumstances where it was quite clear that the teachers were doing a very bad job.
...
Rubin explains that enlightenment in Theravâda Buddhism is described as completely purifying the mind of the defilements of greed, hatred and delusion. This ideal assumes that the mind can be permanently and completely purified and therefore transformed (83-4 & 87). However, Rubin points out that in 1983 "five of the six most esteemed Zen Buddhist masters in the United States" were involved in grossly unenlightened behaviour such as sexual exploitation and stealing money (88). The question arises: How can these scandals occur if these people are supposed to be enlightened? How can this have happened? Rubin concludes that these scandals suggest that:

... psychological conditioning from the past that inevitably warps personality cannot be completely eradicated and that there is no conflict-free stage of human life in which the mind is permanently purified of conflict....

From the psychoanalytic perspective, a static, conflict-free sphere - a psychological "safehouse" - beyond the vicissitudes of conflict and conditioning where mind is immune to various aspects of affective life such as self-interest, egocentricity, fear, lust, greed, and suffering is quixotic. Since conflict and suffering seem to be inevitable aspects of human life, the ideal of Enlightenment may be asymptotic, that is, an unreachable ideal (90).


One of the selling points of Buddhism is Awakening here and now which implies peace of mind, absence of negative emotional states, etc... To this a Christian can object "who care about peace in this life if the non-believer will burn in hell for all eternity"?

If this ideal is impossible than it all begs the question:
    "Why follow Buddhism if it might not be able to deal with negative mental states"? :jawdrop:

Idea of gaining paramis, following sila and getting a better rebirth seem not too be much more believable than
    "follow the commandments and go to Heaven with Lord Jesus Christ". :rolleye:

The suttas that say that one should not speculate about Kamma almost sounds like one shouldn't speculate about why God did this or did that. God works in mysterious ways... God has a divine plan, and who are we, mere mortals, to know about it? ;)

When we see that good people suffer, the typical explanation is that it is result of previous kamma. But how much more believable is this than saying that
"God sends tough circumstances for people to make them better"? How can we prove either one? We can't...
”Even the water melting from the snow-capped peaks finds its way to the ocean."
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby binocular » Sun Jul 21, 2013 11:06 am

danieLion wrote:
binocular wrote:That kind of attitude suggests that in all the time that the Buddhist tradition has existed, it has not produced viable Buddhist means to deal with whatever problems a person may face in life.
And when Buddhists are sending people to seek help outside of Buddhism, they themselves are implying that they don't have all that much faith in Buddhism either.

Hi binocular,
Regarding this so-called thing called Buddhism Ajahn Sucitto says in his talk Wisdom:

As soon as the "ism" arrives the wisdom disappears [laughs] because you're trying to make it a solid thing [reification]. Buddhism is just a word that was created in the 19th century by people who believed in "Isms" [laughs] and who wanted to have some solid thing they could hold onto; you know, "I'll label it that." But what is it? It's a huge range of different people doing different things. Wisdom breaks up, keeps looking into the diversities; and when we get stuck this kind of definitely wanting to have something to hold onto is a simplistic fundamentalism. It's easier that way. Attachment to systems and techniques is easier for the mind [at the 3:32-4:43 mark].


Is a complete cessation of suffering possible by following an ecclectic approach?
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby binocular » Sun Jul 21, 2013 11:16 am

Alex123 wrote:One of the selling points of Buddhism is Awakening here and now which implies peace of mind, absence of negative emotional states, etc... To this a Christian can object "who care about peace in this life if the non-believer will burn in hell for all eternity"?

If this ideal is impossible than it all begs the question:
    "Why follow Buddhism if it might not be able to deal with negative mental states"? :jawdrop:

Idea of gaining paramis, following sila and getting a better rebirth seem not too be much more believable than
    "follow the commandments and go to Heaven with Lord Jesus Christ". :rolleye:

The suttas that say that one should not speculate about Kamma almost sounds like one shouldn't speculate about why God did this or did that. God works in mysterious ways... God has a divine plan, and who are we, mere mortals, to know about it? ;)

When we see that good people suffer, the typical explanation is that it is result of previous kamma. But how much more believable is this than saying that
"God sends tough circumstances for people to make them better"? How can we prove either one? We can't...

I think that Western Buddhists face a problem that Buddhists from traditionally Buddhist countries do not, and it is a problem that is rarely acknowledged, what to speak of addressed and provided with a solution.

And that is that a Westerner with an interest in Buddhism is very much left to themselves, having to build up their Dhamma practice in the context of an environment that is even hostile to the Dhamma, and having to build up their Dhamma practice without an already given context with other Dhamma practitioners (ie. one isn't born into a Buddhist community that practices according to a particular Buddhist school, but instead has to choose which Buddhist school to follow).
This is an enormous task that people from traditionally Buddhist countries do not face.

And once one has to build things up from scratch like that, it's no wonder one ends up with absurdities, occasional, or not so occasional fanaticism, and all kinds of other problems ...
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby danieLion » Sun Jul 21, 2013 9:20 pm

binocular wrote:
danieLion wrote:
binocular wrote:That kind of attitude suggests that in all the time that the Buddhist tradition has existed, it has not produced viable Buddhist means to deal with whatever problems a person may face in life.
And when Buddhists are sending people to seek help outside of Buddhism, they themselves are implying that they don't have all that much faith in Buddhism either.

Hi binocular,
Regarding this so-called thing called Buddhism Ajahn Sucitto says in his talk Wisdom:

As soon as the "ism" arrives the wisdom disappears [laughs] because you're trying to make it a solid thing [reification]. Buddhism is just a word that was created in the 19th century by people who believed in "Isms" [laughs] and who wanted to have some solid thing they could hold onto; you know, "I'll label it that." But what is it? It's a huge range of different people doing different things. Wisdom breaks up, keeps looking into the diversities; and when we get stuck this kind of definitely wanting to have something to hold onto is a simplistic fundamentalism. It's easier that way. Attachment to systems and techniques is easier for the mind [at the 3:32-4:43 mark].


Is a complete cessation of suffering possible by following an ecclectic approach?

Hi binocular,
It depends on what you mean by "complete cessation of suffering." Suffering is generally an inadequate translation of dukkha, of which there are three types. If you're looking for a cure to depression, especially via the Dhamma, you're just setting yourself up for disappointment. Even after his awakening, the Buddha was still very human.
Kindly,
dL
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby danieLion » Sun Jul 21, 2013 9:23 pm

binocular wrote:
Alex123 wrote:One of the selling points of Buddhism is Awakening here and now which implies peace of mind, absence of negative emotional states, etc... To this a Christian can object "who care about peace in this life if the non-believer will burn in hell for all eternity"?

If this ideal is impossible than it all begs the question:
    "Why follow Buddhism if it might not be able to deal with negative mental states"? :jawdrop:

Idea of gaining paramis, following sila and getting a better rebirth seem not too be much more believable than
    "follow the commandments and go to Heaven with Lord Jesus Christ". :rolleye:

The suttas that say that one should not speculate about Kamma almost sounds like one shouldn't speculate about why God did this or did that. God works in mysterious ways... God has a divine plan, and who are we, mere mortals, to know about it? ;)

When we see that good people suffer, the typical explanation is that it is result of previous kamma. But how much more believable is this than saying that
"God sends tough circumstances for people to make them better"? How can we prove either one? We can't...

I think that Western Buddhists face a problem that Buddhists from traditionally Buddhist countries do not, and it is a problem that is rarely acknowledged, what to speak of addressed and provided with a solution.

And that is that a Westerner with an interest in Buddhism is very much left to themselves, having to build up their Dhamma practice in the context of an environment that is even hostile to the Dhamma, and having to build up their Dhamma practice without an already given context with other Dhamma practitioners (ie. one isn't born into a Buddhist community that practices according to a particular Buddhist school, but instead has to choose which Buddhist school to follow).
This is an enormous task that people from traditionally Buddhist countries do not face.

And once one has to build things up from scratch like that, it's no wonder one ends up with absurdities, occasional, or not so occasional fanaticism, and all kinds of other problems ...

Hi binocular,
"Building things up from scratch" has been necessary for every historical "revival" of the Dhamma, not just so-called "Western Buddhists."
Kindly,
dL
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