In my practice I have seen over and over again that one of the leading causes of sadness and sorrow often times centers around a fixation on one’s own problems. The more people focus on their problem, the stronger the problem becomes. This pattern becomes a central factor in depression. This is especially true for problems that have mental and emotional causes such as material losses or the betrayal by a loved one. In both of these cases it appears to us that external factors were the cause of our suffering.
While Tibetan Medicine can be studied as purely a science, it also has a fundamental base in Tibetan Buddhist knowledge which informs the value system of Tibetan Medicine which can help us understand how our own mind is the root origin of our suffering, not external circumstances themselves. This knowledge doesn’t require being Buddhist to understand. In fact most religions or even good-hearted people can at least understand these concepts on a basic level.
In Traditional Tibetan Medicine it is considered that there are distant causes of disease, immediate causes of disease, and then conditions that develop these causes into an actual disease. The root cause of disease is considered to be ignorance. Ignorance means seeing ourselves as a separate self from the rest of phenomena, and this leads to the arising of three emotions: attachment, hatred, and confusion. These three emotions are responsible for the formation of the immediate causes of disease, the physical elements our bodies are composed of that can become imbalanced by the conditions of season, provocation, diet, and lifestyle.
When we talk about seeing ourselves as separate from the rest of phenomena we are talking about that good ol’ buddy of ours commonly referred to as….the ego. When someone does something hurtful or the world seems to go all the wrong way, Mr. Ego is always there to protect us by reassuring us that the suffering we are feeling isn’t our fault, it’s that guy’s or that thing’s fault. That doesn’t mean we don’t blame ourselves, but we can always trace the path of pain back to a belief that something outside of ourselves was the cause of this suffering. When we hold onto this kind of belief we get depressed, because we start to build walls of separation around ourselves and the world around us. We are the victim of the world’s wrong doings. The more we hold onto this view the lonelier and unhappy we become.
By understanding this we now know one of the best natural treatments for depression: GENEROSITY! When we practice genuine generosity, giving selflessly, we are creating the positive circumstances in our lives to go beyond the ego. Genuine generosity means giving something of value to the recipient without ANY motivation for reciprocation, not even gratitude. When we practice putting others before ourselves, by offering our energy to others, we take the focus off ourselves. This has so many benefits!
This natural treatment for depression, the act of generosity, does so much for the world and, if genuine, for our own condition. Here’s a little summary of the benefits of generosity in a semi-sequential order:
- We benefit others.
- We can feel good about benefitting others.
- We realize that our own problems might be a lot smaller than those of some of the people we benefit.
- We break out of isolation and loneliness.
- We might find ourselves out making good connections with others and actually be appreciated (without expecting it of course!)
- We attract prosperity. (That doesn’t necessarily mean material wealth. Everyone knows material wealth doesn’t equal happiness by now!)
- We stop fixating on our problems.
- Last, but not least, if we are diligent in our generosity, the power of our ego slowly diminishes and a lasting happiness can develop.
This is probably the most natural treatment for depression. We can always apply it. It doesn’t rely on anything outside of ourselves. No counseling, no pills, no meditation. Just simply being a warm hearted human being. Pass it along.
Photo courtesy of Asenat29