A number of problems the West stem from mis-information in Buddhist commercial media. Public reports of claims of cures, stress relievers, and alternative lifestyles to explore in Buddhist places. There is another more serious problem with a profusion of mentally ill being encouraged to seek out Buddhist places in order to seek a treatment or cure in the USA. Unfortunately due to the overblown tripe offered in the top 3 Buddhist commercial rags and oft-repeated by writers, online news media and such; creating false expectations of a most vulnerable group of people we have populating the United States the dabbler, seekers and the new eager group of mentally ill.
It’s with extreme disgust that this misinformation is out there in the first place, just to make a buck! Also even worse is there is a small number of opportunist overseas people of all countries and in all traditions and those business-oriented westerners here who look at it as free money for themselves or their guru, teacher or cause!
It’s immoral that people take advantage of people who are vulnerable, very inexperienced with Asian culture, even by shyster westerners; who worse yet twist their victims minds into sometimes irreversible confused thinking of the most bizarre kind! They are kept by these tricksters on a mental leash just so they give money to the guru, teacher or the temple! Pathetic! Worse still for the person, this kind of mental dependence lingers after they leave the abuse and return to their independent lives.
One of the worst cases has been unfolding on Sugato’s Blog and it made me think just how bad this situation is, I wish it known among the Buddhist community at large and post it on my blogroll. This is one of many cases of abuse that I know about. See Daisy replies… in the Blogroll sidebar.
Update: Daisy commented on this post that she is not mentally ill, in her stories and she was not abused. She should have done it in her replies as I thought she was really suffering and tried to offer advice to ease her mind and encouraged her to seek counseling. Instead she posts in the middle of another unrelated article in Sugato’s Blog that whole comment and then some. 6/14/11 Inserted by Ven. Hong Yang.
And I’ll tell you that it is most often the case that people with mental health issues and even the dabbler, seek out these places and teachers quite eagerly and very methodically insisting on accepting their teachers or places and staying out of false expectations, or while in delusion states or as in the case of dabbler sheer stubbornness/naive; often to the extremes of making the situation they experience worse for the community and worse for themselves due to large egos, stubbornness and serious lack of common sense.
I feel these groups of people should be limited to what they don’t want to do; which is have active therapy with professional licensed therapists or psychiatrists concurrently with Buddhist training. Buddhism is meant for well people, not meant for mentally ill or for dabbler who often leave the practice on a whim. However, that means they can contribute and do very well when they have structure, supervision and guidance to read sutras, volunteer in some way, do outside community charity work, join in community events, join in community chanting services as per their capability. They should not engage in any visualization or advanced meditation from any school or tradition neither group has the diligence to keep it up properly and for the ill they can relapse into an episode.
Eventually when they are done trying, they leave, bitter, angry, fuming, and blame their sanghas, all monks and nuns in the world and defame the Triple Jewel for years! Every case I have encountered in the online forums and elsewhere, in person and overseas has this trait. Their efforts to win the gods over, get Buddha to hear them, benefit from the many services held for them, methods of practice, all the kindness shown them by the community is now turned over into evil thinking due to failed expectations… no cure or expectations gained successfully.
Some traits of these types drawn to Buddhism may be all wrapped in mental illness which they hide at first or don’t realize for themselves but later confess suffering to, lucky if you get them to tell you on the first meeting. They are very verbal smart manipulative people, often set in their view of things, inflexible in approach to training, have clear ideas of what they want out of it, they are mostly not quiet types more likely to be extroverted having some kind of observable oddly:
- insisting on a cure but also may not speak of it as what they are seeking
- very clingy and childlike,
- grasping at methods and want to achieve the highest levels possible, immediately shows signs of delusional states but refuses to recognize them as delusions identifies them as progress.
- expecting deep personal relationships from the guru/dharma teacher and community from the first moment of contact.
- confesses or not the lack of adequate or a refusal of standard mental heath supervision though licensed psychiatric professionals.
- over grandiose goals, like this lifetime achievement of nirvana with supernatural powers:
- hearing voices, seeing images believing they are true Buddhist manifestations and reporting nonsensical conversations,
- reporting ordinations, empowerment through dreaming, hallucinations, audio disturbances, sense disturbances, reports of pseudo-jhana states,
- reports of ghosts pestering them,
- invisible forces grabbing them, raping them stroking them in comfort or slapping in punishment.
- extreme meditation practice of more than 2 hours, over many days, taking their life or losing jobs due to meditation/temple duty, withdrawal from enjoyments and family, lies about reality.
- overeager for empowerment, no visible sign of practice, just wants to accumulate more empowerment; likes magic, likes wicca, likes to mix with nonBuddhist practices.
- mixes prescriptions just before services, comes to community high on something, drunk during services, obvious motor problems in rapid tongue and points it out to you often, argues incessantly over everything, including what Buddha taught.
- comes into Theravada place preaching Mahayana is best and ‘your all wrong because your selfish!’
- comes into Mahayana place preaching Theravada is best and ‘your all wrong and made up!’
- comes into your place throwing things, jumpy…etc. condems you all to hell….
- absolute denial of facts when the dharma master or teacher explains or questions them, their view is the most correct defying standard Buddhist teachings, even if you show them. Dismissive of common sense explanations and refusal to seek help for themselves.
- refuses to care for body, may not be washing, eating, drinking in efforts to prolong psychotic state or remain in delusion.
- refuses to rest or sleep
- nonstop activity or talking
- overuses stimulates or ‘uppers’ or combines them with energy drinks/herbs
- follows a book from someone they hardly know or never met over a qualified master even when in the company of the monastic offering guidance.
- wants to learn but refuses opportunities to join in activities, services or listen to dharma talks, so what do they really want in this case?
- disjoined conversations with others in your presence
- the pressure of meeting monastics creates stressors for them causing uncertainty and conflict so they blurt, sometimes swearing every other word; just don’t take it personally they don’t like it when they are doing it, so have a little more grace to over-look this.
- playing mara the tempter, they often try to offer the ‘forbidden’ objects, events, and engage monastic inappropriately in trying to touch, innuendo of sexual nature, providing off-color remarks and joking about them. Getting the monastic disrobed is a fantasy here, and not meant for real harm. Set the limits and if they don’t listen, just walk away.
Westerners do not have a market on this among Buddhist communites. Most often overseas communities are not understanding the mentally ill and they try various non-therapeutic means if they do not know about western psychiatry or have access to a western taught doctor there. Fortunately this is changing already, most temples in the USA know their hospitals and centers nearby and use them if they need to provide assistant to familys and people in need.
Be that as it may, many monastic and laypeople involved with Sanghas need to train with their mental health agencies to be first responders so they can effectively receive and train people with mental health issues or people just plain stressed over life and avoid problems during episodes or can get help for people when they need it.
There is a program in the USA called Mental Health First Aid for those not in professional psychiatry; like bosses and co workers, priests, monks and nuns, school teachers, friends and family. It’s the basics on what to do in an emergency situation, how to talk to people in their unwell state or in a highly stressed state; how to effectively get them help they so richly respectfully deserve. Seek out this program. I took it last year and it’s quite easy to follow and apply. It helps to clarify how to help someone who needs it.