DEALING WITH DEPRESSION
Hitting rock bottom is hard. The only consolation is that you can’t fall any farther! So, you may as well get up, brush yourself off and start the
climb all over again. Hopefully, sadder perhaps, but wiser!
What makes us fall? How can we rise? These are questions worth pondering!
We all know those dreaded low moods when nothing makes sense, nothing has value. They incapacitate us and paralyze us! Modern medicine has few
answers! Pop some pills or go for psychiatric counseling. The pill popping is only temporary relief. Sometimes counseling has value, but it also has
its limits. Well! Those suffering from those low paralysis – inducing moods can take heart from the fact that they are in good company! Lord Krishna,
the Lord of the Cosmos, spends 18 chapters in the Bhagavad Gita trying to talk the greatest warrior of the age, Arjuna, out of his depression. In
fact the first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is called “Vishada Yoga” or the “Yoga of Dejection” Krishna succeded (but it takes him a long time) to
rouse Arjuna from his stupor. His method is to turn Arjuna’s mind set right around by creating the proper attitude to the situation he is in. Lord
Rama, the seventh Avatar of Lord Vishnu, as a teenager also fell into deep despair. Listless, he lost interest in all the kingly pleasures which
surrounded him in the palace.( A passage in Yoga Vashistha defines his state of mind in a charming fashion. “The young Rama looked upon all the
charms of the court dancing girls who tried to seduce him as he would look upon trees in the forest”) This time it was a Rishi, sage Vashistha, who
provided the counseling to the prince. His advice comes to us thousands of years later in the form of the scripture Yoga Vashistha.
There are many ways to bell a cat! Yoga has its own unique arsenal of tools to deal with the wayward human mind. But many primitive societies also came up with a few tricks of their own!
An interesting account of the manner in which West African tribes deal with depression was given recently in the newspapers. Andrew Soloman,, an
English writer was suffering from depression . This is common enough!
Swamiji called this “Neurasthenia” and said that in 20 years (he was talking 50 years ago) that Neurasthenia would be the most common disease in
the world! It literally means ” a sub -conscious desire to die!” Or a severe loss of interest in life!
A Senegal based friend told him how Senegalese tribes dealt with depression. Solomon went to Senegal to witness the ritual called a ndeup.
He ended up being the centre of the ritual! His account is interesting!
Madame Diouf (the priestess in charge of the ceremony) gave Soloman a shopping list for the ndeup the ceremony to be undertaken, a list that
included a calabash (a bowl fashioned from a gourd) three kilos of millet, sugar and kola beans, two live-cockerels, two roosters, and a ram. For the n
deup, Soloman stripped to a loin cloth, had his chest covered with ground millet, and got into a wedding bed in the center of the village with the
ram. Villagers danced around him and then the ram’s entrails were torn out from the animal and wrapped around Solomon. Village women filled their
mouths with water and spat it on him, washing the blood-off.
Surprisingly, Soloman said, he felt great when the ritual ended. It may have been the immense relief he felt when it was all over and he was still
alive! So much for the African method which seemed to work very well on the foreigner. But an aftermath of this is even more interesting!
Later, in Rwanda, Solomon heard about western mental health workers being expelled from the country. They apparently were considered totally useless and ineffective by the Africans! A local man explained why: “There was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again. When you’re depressed, and you’re low, you need to have your blood flowing. There was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy. There was no acknowledgment that the depression is something invasive and external that could actually be cast out of you again. Instead , they would take people into these dingy little rooms and have them talk about bad things that had happened to them.”
As for me I would prefer to side with the African view! Depression is difficult to deal with verbally! It is coming from the sub-consciousness, a
manifestation of unresolved conflicts and desires! The sub-conscious does not speak in any language. It’s language is symbols. The Africans choose
symbols very appropriate to their culture, for them. Even for a foreigner it worked, suggesting that human beings all over the world at a
sub-conscious level share certain basis characteristics and have similar needs which must somehow be fulfilled. If these needs are not fulfilled,
depression will engulf the psyche. In Yoga – Hindu Culture this is recognized and provided for. Basic desires – needs – Kama – are legitimate.
Need for food , for wealth, for sex, for status, for power… these needs of the human being must be fulfilled if one is to be healthy not only in
mind, but also in body and emotions. But Yoga teach that these needs must be fulfilled within the limits of Dharma. Dharma is the moral law of the
universe. Do your Dharma and fulfill Kama and Arthi is an counseling of the sages. Sage Vedavyas said! “O man! I stand before you shouting at the top
of my lungs! Do your Dharma and satisfaction in Artha (accumulation of wealth) and Kama (satisfaction of emotional and physical desires ) will
automatically come to you! But Alas! No one listens to me!”
This was 5000 years ago! It doesn’t seem to have changed much, does it, even five millennia later!