Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

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Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby Wind » Mon Jun 28, 2010 2:11 am

Some suggest that clinical depression can be caused by chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters (particularly of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine) in the brain. If that is so, could Arahant suffer from such physiological disorder?
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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby Ben » Mon Jun 28, 2010 2:38 am

Hi Wind

Its like asking 'can an arahant suffer from a broken leg'?
My humble opinion is that yes, an arahant can suffer from clinical depression, but there will be no identification with the phenomenology of depression.
kind regards

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in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

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sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby Hoo » Mon Jun 28, 2010 2:47 am

IMO, yes....just like they might catch a cold, develop asthma, have a stroke, etc. An arahant would probably "handle it" better than an ordinary person, but I don't believe any of us are exempt from biology. I've never met an ahahant to ask him/her about it and never seen any reason why the saints wouldn't suffer the same physiological problems that any of us would.

Maybe a lower rate of stress induced ulcers? :)

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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby Ben » Mon Jun 28, 2010 2:58 am

Actually Hoo, stress doesn't induce ulcers.
Although stress and spicy foods were once thought to be the main causes of peptic ulcers, doctors now know that the cause of most ulcers is the corkscrew-shaped bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).
-- http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/peptic ... ION=causes

kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby Wind » Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:12 am

So Arahant can also have mood swings due to chemical imbalances? To me it seems contradictory to be both enlightened and depressed. LOL
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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:14 am

Greetings Ben,

Ben wrote:My humble opinion is that yes, an arahant can suffer from clinical depression, but there will be no identification with the phenomenology of depression.

I humbly share your humble opinion.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby Monkey Mind » Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:17 am

I vote "no". Clinical depression is more than just brain chemistry. It is a complicated interaction between one's neurobiology (including genetics, nutrition, etc.), psychology, and social environment. An arahant might be biologically predisposed to develop depression, but I think enough protective factors would prevent predisposition from coming to fruition.

I vaguely recall the Buddha giving guidance to a depressed bhikkhuni. Anybody got a reference to direct me?
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby Monkey Mind » Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:20 am

Oh, and Ajahn Brahm's talk this week was on depression. Check it out. I tried to listen to it today at work, but I kept getting distracted by work. :tongue:
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby Wind » Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:23 am

Monkey Mind wrote:I vote "no". Clinical depression is more than just brain chemistry. It is a complicated interaction between one's neurobiology (including genetics, nutrition, etc.), psychology, and social environment. An arahant might be biologically predisposed to develop depression, but I think enough protective factors would prevent predisposition from coming to fruition.

I vaguely recall the Buddha giving guidance to a depressed bhikkhuni. Anybody got a reference to direct me?


YAY Good to have a fellow "NO-er". :twothumbsup:

By the way the reason why I believe Arahant's don't suffer from psychological disorders is simply because the brain unlike other body parts does have the ability to re-wire itself to change. Not to mention enlightenment may also shift the chemical balance of the brain to support equanimity, just as happy thoughts or experience can release good feeling chemicals in the brain. I believe enlightenment actually alters the brain mechanism. So yes Arahant can still suffer from bodily pains but mental ones they have all cease. My opinion.
Last edited by Wind on Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby salmon » Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:32 am

Whether biologically they suffer from hormonal or chemical imbalances or not, I believe the people around them will not be able to notice, since their mindfulness would have been so sharp as to catch it before it manifests into anything physical. So in terms of the condition called "clinical depression" I think not, but the biological causes of it (eg, hormonal imbalances), I'd say yes.

Jus think of how would a female arahant be affected with hormonal changes during menstruation? :shrug:
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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby IanAnd » Mon Jun 28, 2010 4:31 am

Monkey Mind wrote:I vote "no". Clinical depression is more than just brain chemistry. It is a complicated interaction between one's neurobiology (including genetics, nutrition, etc.), psychology, and social environment.

I settle down on this side of this opinion for many of the same reasons stated. The reason why is because I've experienced "clinical" depression (although to speak with full disclosure, I was never formally diagnosed with such by any psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, or psychotherapist; but I know from having studied this phenomenon and having read several books on the subject that had I allowed myself to be diagnosed at the time I was undergoing this phenomenon, they almost certainly would have diagnosed it as "clinical" according to the criteria they use) and was fortunate enough to be able to come out the other end.

Wind wrote:Some suggest that clinical depression can be caused by chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters (particularly of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine) in the brain.

The operative phrase here is the one highlighted. There is a lot more to this so-called "disorder" (to use modern "medicine's" current terminology) than just brain chemical imbalances and the like. People can become "programmed" into submerging into depression, through psychological and social conditioning; or there can be an actual mental disease (paranoid schizophrenia comes to mind as one example); or any number of other triggers which can be at the root cause for a person to devolve into a general mental quandary.

The honest question you have to ask yourself if considering the suggestion given above is: what causes the chemical imbalance in the brain? Does anyone remember the teaching on dependent co-arising?

In my own particular case, while I have little doubt that a chemical analysis of my brain chemistry during the time I was experiencing my depression might have yielded a positive hit for chemical imbalances, those imbalances were not the cause, but only a result of previously held wrong views and beliefs about the reality I was facing at the time. I was finally able to find someone who was able to set me on the road to recovery, although his fix was not the kind that really took and held. It was a bandaid. It was only a temporary fix, easily broken through if one did not do the requisite mental work required to bring the condition to an end. I ought to know, because I broke through that fix on more than one occasion over the course of twenty years — until finally I was able to bring the cycle to an end.

It wasn't until I began studying the Dhamma and experienced some breakthroughs there that I was finally able to wrestle that monkey off my back for good. If you understand the five aggregates and the teaching on dependent co-arising really well, you can put an end to any future arising of depression for good. That was what I experienced after I had had some particularly important breakthroughs; and I knew that I would never again experience depression in this lifetime. And, I haven't.

If a person identified as being an arahant ever experienced depression, I would have to seriously question whether or not the person ever achieved arahanthood in the first place. If you really know the source of suffering, that kind of knowledge doesn't leave you in any kind of quandary at all regarding your present reality. On the contrary, just the opposite.
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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby Anicca » Mon Jun 28, 2010 4:37 am

Buddha 101: ""What I teach now as before, O monks, is suffering and the cessation of suffering."
Hmmm... can an Arahant suffer?

I am going to go way out on a limb here over my barnyard surroundings here in Oklahoma and take a wild guess that just maybe, regardless of how crazy it sounds - that the Arahant knows the cessation of suffering...

I vote no.

Now if you ask "Can an Arahant have biological imbalances?" yes - because using conventional speech we are saying the body of the Arahant has a biological imbalance.
If you ask "Can an Arahant have a broken leg?" yes - because using conventional speech we are saying the body of the Arahant has a broken bone.
But if you ask "Can an Arahant suffer?" no.
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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Jun 28, 2010 5:11 am

I'd say the possibility of hormonal or chemical imbalances is just part and parcel of having a body, so an Arahant could have them. Though I'd expect he/she wouldn't proliferate about it in the mind and make it worse, and probably there would be no outward symptoms of what we call depression.
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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby Wind » Mon Jun 28, 2010 5:37 am

IanAnd wrote:
In my own particular case, while I have little doubt that a chemical analysis of my brain chemistry during the time I was experiencing my depression might have yielded a positive hit for chemical imbalances, those imbalances were not the cause, but only a result of previously held wrong views and beliefs about the reality I was facing at the time. I was finally able to find someone who was able to set me on the road to recovery, although his fix was not the kind that really took and held. It was a bandaid. It was only a temporary fix, easily broken through if one did not do the requisite mental work required to bring the condition to an end. I ought to know, because I broke through that fix on more than one occasion over the course of twenty years — until finally I was able to bring the cycle to an end.

It wasn't until I began studying the Dhamma and experienced some breakthroughs there that I was finally able to wrestle that monkey off my back for good. If you understand the five aggregates and the teaching on dependent co-arising really well, you can put an end to any future arising of depression for good. That was what I experienced after I had had some particularly important breakthroughs; and I knew that I would never again experience depression in this lifetime. And, I haven't.

If a person identified as being an arahant ever experienced depression, I would have to seriously question whether or not the person ever achieved arahanthood in the first place. If you really know the source of suffering, that kind of knowledge doesn't leave you in any kind of quandary at all regarding your present reality. On the contrary, just the opposite.


Good post. :smile:
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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jun 28, 2010 6:09 am

Greetings,

This reminds me of the topic we had not long ago about Seasonal Affective Disorder.

In essence, there may be both biological and mental factors which contribute to clinical depression.

The arahant would be beyond the 'mental factors' and would not suffer due to the 'biological factors'.

Whether the end result constitutes the potential for 'clinical depression' is probably a matter of definition, and is more a matter of science rather than a matter of Dhamma.

If the question is specifically asked, "Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?" (as per the topic title) then the answer is no.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby PeterB » Mon Jun 28, 2010 6:39 am

Wind wrote:Some suggest that clinical depression can be caused by chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters (particularly of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine) in the brain. If that is so, could Arahant suffer from such physiological disorder?

I am reminded for some reason of a song by the Bonzo Dog DooDah Band called " Can The Blue Men Sing The Whites ?"
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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby Hoo » Mon Jun 28, 2010 11:42 am

Ben wrote:Actually Hoo, stress doesn't induce ulcers.
Although stress and spicy foods were once thought to be the main causes of peptic ulcers, doctors now know that the cause of most ulcers is the corkscrew-shaped bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).
-- http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/peptic ... ION=causes

kind regards

Ben


Hi Ben,

I still think in those terms when it would be more accurate to say that stress doesn't induce all ulcers but can be a factor, as can medications, spicy foods, or anything else that effects the gastric lining. Until something effects the lining, my understanding is that the bacteria remains a benign passenger. Even then, if the bacteria isn't present, ulcers can still be the result of other factors.

EDIT: I plan to try to quit telling jokes in a forum. I just don't have the timing :)

But to go back to clinical depression, I thought Retro had a good take on it. The arahant may be experiencing poor serotonin reuptake or other brain-chemical problem, for example, but he doesn't *suffer* because of it. He experiences the body but does not suffer because he has ended suffering.(if I understand what Retro and others were saying).
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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby PeterB » Mon Jun 28, 2010 1:24 pm

Without wanting to be pedantic Hoo the evidence is that although stress and an unwise diet can be the means which enable the bacteria to gain a foothold , it is they, the bacteria which stop the body from healing itself as it does with other lesions. Working backwards from effect to cause , if a dose of an appropriate antibiotic is given to a sufferer from stomach ulcers the ulcers will heal even if the diet remains the same and the stressors are relieved. Of course while the stress remains and/or diet remains unamended the likelihood of the ulcers returning remains high.
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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby OcTavO » Mon Jun 28, 2010 1:33 pm

This is a fascinating topic because it drives right to the center of the question of whether mind equals brain.

I've been diagnosed with clinical depression. Having experienced first hand the speed and force with which it can alter ones mood and behavior, and the speed with which a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medication can put thinking back to "normal", I'm not about to underestimate it. It's so clearly biological to me. No different to any other illness.

I side with those who say yes - an Arahant, being a biological organism, can undergo the same biological problems as any of us. When it comes to whether an Arahant could suffer from it, I have to say I truly don't know. Perhaps the very biology of mood disorders precludes Arahantship.
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Re: Can Arahant suffer from clinical depression?

Postby PeterB » Mon Jun 28, 2010 1:38 pm

Interesting point OcTavO...
Chicken and egg.
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