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Mental illness and rebirth

Does mental illness such as schizophrenia get passed on to subsequent lives or does it end with death because it is a biological disease?

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I don't suppose there's any answer to that. Nobody knows. Some may argue it might be down to past Kamma, but I personally would not like to make either that association OR assumption.

    Kundo
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited May 5

    It's still a very controversial question, as to whether it's a biological illness, or the result of early childhood trauma. There was a psychotherapist in the US, who cured a patient of schizophrenia, by doing very intensive trauma therapy work with her over a few years. If it's "passed down", it may be through inter-generational trauma, not through genetics. The jury is still out on this question.

    However. I've known a couple of cases, in which siblings were healthy, but had a schizophrenic brother. That's not proof, that it's not genetic, but it might be an indicator.

    Trying to second-guess Karma, OTOH, is a losing proposition, as it's unpredictable; it can skip generations. And if someone's born with the conditions to develop mental illness, how could they be responsible for anything they do when severely ill? Karma seeds are created from intentional acts. How intentional a mentally ill person's behavior could be is questionable.

    Kundo
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Interesting article:

    One sentence which jumped out at me (MY Italics & bold) -

    It should be noted here that karmic consequences are generally linked with intentionality, so it is quite reasonable to argue doctrinally that in many cases a person who is mentally ill is not intending harm and therefore not subject to karmic consequences of their deeds.

    Kundo
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @federica said:
    Interesting article:

    One sentence which jumped out at me (MY Italics & bold) -

    It should be noted here that karmic consequences are generally linked with intentionality, so it is quite reasonable to argue doctrinally that in many cases a person who is mentally ill is not intending harm and therefore not subject to karmic consequences of their deeds.

    That’s an interesting point @federica. I used to drink heavily back in the day and sometimes I wonder if the kammic consequences of some of the stupid things I did while drunk will come back to haunt me or will it be exonerated for the same reasons you’ve stated above?

  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @Bunks said:

    @federica said:
    Interesting article:

    One sentence which jumped out at me (MY Italics & bold) -

    It should be noted here that karmic consequences are generally linked with intentionality, so it is quite reasonable to argue doctrinally that in many cases a person who is mentally ill is not intending harm and therefore not subject to karmic consequences of their deeds.

    That’s an interesting point @federica. I used to drink heavily back in the day and sometimes I wonder if the kammic consequences of some of the stupid things I did while drunk will come back to haunt me or will it be exonerated for the same reasons you’ve stated above?

    Yeah I had a period of drinking between 19-21 where I made some asshole choices. My opinion is that I chose to be drunk so the consequences of any choices I made are mine to bear. To me that is different to being mentally ill - from birth or otherwise. But that's just me.
    _ /\ _

    Bunks
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @namaste4130 said:
    Does mental illness such as schizophrenia get passed on to subsequent lives or does it end with death because it is a biological disease?

    Welcome.
    A biological illness has a habit of dissipating with the body. Most schizophrenics can practice grounding techniques such as:

    • prostrations
    • chanting
    • walking meditation
    • 5 rites yoga
    • sitting meditation

    None of these things are possible without a body.

    Shoshin
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited May 6

    At one point I worried if the bardos* would be harder with mental illness because my medication might not work at that time. But then on the other hand my brain itself would be toast at that point.

    So does consciousness happen without a physical brain? Because after the cells in the brain stop metabolizing the processes of life what happens to consciousness?

    If it is a karma thing (and consciousness goes after death) then I suppose at that time either all of the karma is spent and the next rebirth might be without mental illness? Or if the karma isn't all spent then maybe another birth with mental illness? Until the karma is exhausted.

    I think (according to Buddhism) it has to be exhausted eventually. I don't think there is "permanent" karma to be mentally ill every rebirth. So eventually it is exhausted I guess.

    • thinking about it further having experiences with hallucinations and rapid thinking might be good practice for what happens in Bardos? I don't know.
    Shoshin
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited May 6

    @Bunks said: That’s an interesting point @federica. I used to drink heavily back in the day and sometimes I wonder if the kammic consequences of some of the stupid things I did while drunk will come back to haunt me or will it be exonerated for the same reasons you’ve stated above?

    @Kundo said: Yeah I had a period of drinking between 19-21 where I made some asshole choices. My opinion is that I chose to be drunk so the consequences of any choices I made are mine to bear. To me that is different to being mentally ill - from birth or otherwise. But that's just me.

    I think that's a hard one @Bunks, I get your question, but I think @Kundo is on the right track:

    Drinking is voluntary, and as the 5th Precept accurately points out, it's inadvisable to partake of substances which can affect the mind; not because the substance itself may be 'bad' but because of its after/side-effects... So we are responsible for the action and decision of partaking: That's an unskilful action.

    But what we do when in an altered mind-state?

    Out of our Minds?

    Not in our 'Right Minds'...?

    Even the Law itself punishes the person who in a drunken state, caused some kind of damage.
    The alcohol isn't held to be the cause of the problem.
    The choice of the person, to indulge in alcohol, and this act in ways they might not have done, if sober, is the cause of the problem.
    A person is culpable because of their choice.
    The Act of NOT being in their right \mind - was a choice.
    So, no.
    I don't think an inebriated person has that get-out clause.
    But reparation and amends can be made, remorse and abstention are the order of the day, and things can be put right.

    (Hopefully. I'm not taking the extreme cases of death by drunken driving into account here, but I think I can safely assume you're not referring to any such dramatic occasion, @Bunks ... :) )

    Bunkslobster
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    This may be of help @namaste4130

    Audience: Do you know what are the causes of schizophrenia?

    VTC: Well, you have to realize that I’m giving you answers to a lot of these questions based on my current level of ability, okay? Don’t take any of my answers on any of these things as the final word. Ask the Buddha! He knows better. [laughter] And ask my teachers. They know more than me. I’m giving you my understanding.

    Schizophrenia, that is definitely something karmic. You hear stories of the Chinese torturing some of the Tibetans, or the way the Nazis treated the prisoners during World War II. Now think of somebody whose mind is consumed with torturing other human beings—there’re definitely people who do this, they even receive medals for it. They spend much of their time and energy thinking of how to torture somebody cleverly. They get perverse pleasure out of creating stress, pain and distress on other people. It seems to me, that that kind of action would be a karmic cause for insanity in the future life.

    So I think that something like schizophrenia is a combination of the ripening of previous karma, plus the mental factors that are arising at the present. There’re definitely mental factors arising in the present that are coloring the way the person is perceiving something. I would say it’s a combination of the two things.

    It’s very interesting. From the psychological viewpoint, this person doesn’t have a good sense of self. From a Buddhist viewpoint, however, you would say that they have incredible self-grasping. Like a magnet, everything is drawn into an I, me, mine experience. It’s like there’s no space in the mind for anything besides this incredible strong sense of I, which then goes on to generate all this pain and misery. You can see quite directly how this indulgence causes pain.

    When we say that something like schizophrenia has some karmic influence, that doesn’t mean that schizophrenics are bad people. When you look at it, in all of our infinite lifetimes in samsara, we have all done horrible things—not once, but many times. It’s just that we aren’t experiencing those results right now. But we wouldn’t say we’re bad people. It’s just according to what’s ripening at the moment, so it’s not as though somebody was bad, so they deserve to suffer now. Everybody makes mistakes. These people made mistakes. We make mistakes when we’re overwhelmed by this ignorance, we make lots of mistakes. It has nothing to do with being a bad person or being sinful or evil. It just means that our ignorance overwhelmed us and made us make mistakes. >Karma will turn around and we will experience that energy ourselves later. There is no need to start putting value judgments on ourselves and others.

    This is another one of our Western things—we encounter somebody and we immediately want to judge if they’re a good or bad person. From the Buddhist point of view, that’s a completely useless categorization. There’s no such thing as a good person or a bad person; everybody has Buddha nature. Everybody has that basic clarity of mind. It’s just that the mind gets clouded over, like the Seattle sky gets clouded over. Doesn’t mean the sky is bad. The sky is still the sky.

    Also, our whole Western idea of punishment and getting what you deserve. Again, from the Buddhist viewpoint, it’s not ‘you get what you deserve’. There’s nobody sitting there saying “You did this, you deserve this. You get rewarded. You get punished.” It’s not that. It’s just you plant poppies, and poppies grow; you plant roses and roses grow. >That’s it.

    We have to rethink a lot of our very stubborn concepts [laughter]. Also, our whole Western idea of blame. Have you ever thought about how much time in one day we spend blaming? I don’t know about you, but a lot of my energy goes into blaming. It’s like anything that happens that I don’t like, I have to blame somebody for it. I either blame myself and then you get into the whole thing of low self-esteem, or you blame others, in which case I’m the morally self-righteous, indignant perfect one blaming somebody else. And again from the Buddhist viewpoint …

    I mean there’s nothing to blame. There’s nobody to blame. It’s just if causes get created, results come. What’s the use of putting all this mental energy into this judgmental attitude of “I’m bad” or “They are bad”? It’s just “I’ve created certain causes; they’ve created certain causes; everything comes together, you get a result. When you bake a cake, you put in the whole wheat flour and you put in organic oil and the egg substitute and some cinnamon and stuff like that, and when everything’s baked, you get a cake. You don’t blame the cake on the flour; you don’t blame the cake on the egg substitute; you don’t blame the cake on the oil. All these different things came together—lots of different causes, conditions, energies came together—and you got a cake.
    ~Venerable Thubten Chodron~

    Full article "Here"

    Metta <3 <3

    adamcrossley
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I recall reading an article which said they had identified a genetic component to schizophrenia, so some of the symptoms of the illness are going to be just physical. And physical things do dissipate with the body.

    So I believe that with each life the slate is wiped clean, and we begin again. Everything physical and much that is mental disappears with death, only to be reacquired during a rebirth. So I expect our state of mind to be quite different in the bardo than while we were alive.

    But there is no way to truly know, as there are no memories from the time between lives that survives.

    adamcrossley
  • I was very interested in this, so I did some reading on Access to Insight. From what I’ve found in the Pali suttas, the only continuity between lives is one’s craving. Even consciousness is said to be dependent on having (1) sense organs and (2) objects to sense. When these conditions change or disappear, consciousness changes or disappears. The Buddha called the view that consciousness persists between lives “pernicious”.

    In MN 38, a monk called Sāti tells the Buddha, “As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, it is just this consciousness that runs and wanders on, not another.”

    The Buddha responds, “Haven't I, in many ways, said of dependently co-arisen consciousness, ‘Apart from a requisite condition, there is no coming-into-play of consciousness’?”

    A being in the bardo, then, has been totally stripped back, the body, personality, and consciousness all gone. The only thing that propels it forwards into renewed becoming is its unreleased desire. It kind of reminds me of the theory that ghosts are people who died with unfinished business. The Buddhist solution, however, is not to finish one’s business, or achieve all of one’s desires, but not to identify with business at all, or to hold desires in the first place.

    So if schizophrenia is, as Thubten Chodron says, in part an excess of self-grasping, then yes, that could follow you into the next life. But having said that, I’m not sure that’s an accurate description of schizophrenia. I’m not a psychologist, but I expect it’s much more complicated.

    I appreciated VTC’s reminder that this isn’t about blaming anybody, but the Buddha was very clear that it is not possible in the first place to say that this or that is a result of one’s kamma. What we have to work with is what is. Chasing after reasons from our past lives is a wild goose chase.

    KeromelobsterShoshin
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Chasing after reasons from our past lives is a wild goose chase.

    Indeed 💗
    Good post.

    In the Buddhist diaspora, all are on a level of imponderables and attachment to personal madness.

    Becoming sane after physical decay sounds a bit crazy?

    Can the crazed become Buddhas? Sure.
    Soon I will be perfect. Not mad. Not sane. Not alive.

    YAMA YABA DO
    (Trad. Mantra - Bodhi Fred Flintstone) :p

  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    @Bunks said:

    That’s an interesting point @federica. I used to drink heavily back in the day and sometimes I wonder if the kammic consequences of some of the stupid things I did while drunk will come back to haunt me or will it be exonerated for the same reasons you’ve stated above?

    You made the choice to drink alcohol to the point of heedlessness, though. Therefore, you own the transgressions that resulted, whatever they were.

    BunksKundo
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited May 7

    All is not lost, however, Bunks. You can soften the karmic blow, by doing good deeds, and leading an ethical life. The rest of your life is ahead of you, full of karmic potential. :+1:

    lobsterJeffrey
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited May 7

    If we could ask Carrie Fisher about karma; here is what she said before her death:

    “I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.” —December 2000, in an interview Diane Sawyer on ABC PrimeTime

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @adamcrossley said:
    I was very interested in this, so I did some reading on Access to Insight. From what I’ve found in the Pali suttas, the only continuity between lives is one’s craving. Even consciousness is said to be dependent on having (1) sense organs and (2) objects to sense. When these conditions change or disappear, consciousness changes or disappears. The Buddha called the view that consciousness persists between lives “pernicious”.

    Good post. Yeah it certainly is an interesting topic. It is often said to be somewhat similar to sleep and dreams, where you can sense certain things but are not necessarily fully aware.

    A being in the bardo, then, has been totally stripped back, the body, personality, and consciousness all gone. The only thing that propels it forwards into renewed becoming is its unreleased desire.

    However, the Tibetan book of the dead states that in the Bardo there are various encounters with beneficial and wrathful gods and lights of different colours.

    So if schizophrenia is, as Thubten Chodron says, in part an excess of self-grasping, then yes, that could follow you into the next life. But having said that, I’m not sure that’s an accurate description of schizophrenia.

    From what I know, schizophrenia has much more to do with being subject to a variety of delusions. Perhaps an excess of self-grasping might follow you in the next life, but I think then any life lived where you have very strong desires might also be said to do that.

    adamcrossley
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    One's past shapes the present and the present shapes the future....Cause condition effect....

    In the long run..... No time like the present (literately )& (literately) no time to waste

    Where one's life is right NOW is where one STARTS... The next action skillful..or..unskillful is up to the mind that is aware of its creative potential AKA Karma.....

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