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Sikhism and Mental Illness

Discussion in 'Business, Lifestyle & Leisure' started by namjiwankaur, Dec 19, 2012.

  1. namjiwankaur

    namjiwankaur
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    Sat Nam _/|\_

    I was watching Dr. Oz interview Joel Osteen Monday afternoon. Joel Osteen, a celebrity minister, surprised me when he said he isn't sure if people are hearing "evil forces" when they hallucinate voices.

    As someone who struggles with mental illness, I was shocked that anyone in this day and age could say someone with schizophrenia, for example, is actually hearing evil spirits. :(

    How does Sikhism explain mental illness, hallucinations, etc? How does the Sikh community typically react to those who have mental illness? Are there any Sikh organizations for people with mental illness?

    Blessings
    Nam Jiwan
     
    #1 namjiwankaur, Dec 19, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2012
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  3. Harry Haller

    Harry Haller United Kingdom
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    Bhenji

    I find nothing in your writings that suggest you are in any way mentally ill.We are all individuals, We all look at life in different ways, for those of us that feel the need to be honest and truthful about the way we feel, science has kindly coined a phrase, schizophrenia, be wary of embracing labels my dear sister, what society may call mentally ill, I would call 'the gift of God'.
     
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  4. Archived_member15

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    mundahug

    So very true brother Harry ji.

    I would say that the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji teaches that the divine light is within everyone:

    And also that there are two ways of seeing things, including ourselves as you wonderfully point out: a critical, judgemental, dualistic eye that separates people into "categories" and "labels" (ie normal, abnormal, straight gay, male, female, black, white) and what the Gurus call, "the single eye of equality".

    The great Sikh ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh was scarred by smallpox during his childhood, leaving him blind in one eye.

    It is said of this great Emperor that when questioned once about how the disability of having only one good eye and the other blind affected him, he is described as having replied: "God wanted me too look upon all religions with one eye, that is why I was deprived of the other".

    ]The wit and wisdom contained in the above saying gives us much to ponder. He is an example of how a true Sikh treats disabilities - not as a curse, not as a blight, not as a "label" but as you say a blessing, "a gift from God" in his divine providence.

    To see the world through "one eye", to recognise the underlying unity of reality rather viewing it through a biased, black-and-white dualistic mindset - this is beyond doubt one of the most important lessons that a human being can learn. The repeated message that one's goal should be a reuniting of opposites, an end to the differentness of things that is a mark of this world, a grasping of oneness - in short, the experience of unity both within and without.

    It is taught very clearly in the Granth and I was impressed by the candid way in which the Gurus expressed this crucial truth:



    Jesus also taught that we must see the world through a "single eye".
    Jesus lamented, "Those who are with me have not understood me". His frustration was palpable.


    The Gurus expressed the same basic, perrenial truth but I would say in a clearer fashion.

    For Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:



    Your words Harry Ji, also remind me of the scene with Jesus and the blind man:



    As you can see the discsiples assume that the man born blind was cursed with his disability as a result of some sinfulness either on his part or committed by his parents. Jesus dismisses this primitive and judgemental notion, instead teaching that the man was born with blindness so that "God...might be revealed in him", in other words as a blessing, to reveal God's glory. Jesus furthermore tells us that the truly blind people are the Jewish religious authorities who ostracize, look down upon and cast out the blind man because they believe his physical disability to be a result of his being born in sin ie conceived by his parents through adultery or fornication, of which his blindness was the punishment. Jesus says that it is the Pharisees who are truly blind!

    Jesus thus agrees perfectly with you brother Harry ji.
     
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    #3 Archived_member15, Dec 20, 2012
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  5. namjiwankaur

    namjiwankaur
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    Harry ji,

    Thank you for your supportive words. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and am unable to work because the symptoms are very severe. But I hearyou when it comes to labels and that tendency for people to designate someone as "the patient". Once someone is viewed as their label vs. a human being, it creates a lot of havoc in relationships in the home, etc..

    One thing I love about Sikhi is the music (its similar in Sufism and even more so now that I have been initiated into a Chisti lineage because they believe music can help us be close to God). When I was a teenager, I coped by escaping into music. It was literally my lifeline.

    Only in the past several months, have I really taken in the fact that God was the music. I was never alone. I was an atheist back then or at least agnostic. But now that I know music is like a micro version of the Sound Current, I almost cry knowing God came through all those songs I played over and over. Alhamdulillah! (Praise God!)

    Again Harry ji, thank you. And I appreciate your perspective very much.

    I went to a Christmas party today at the clubhouse (our county offers services to people with mental illness to help them have a social life). I felt like a wall flower as always. I know doctors are very quick to label people with mental illness. I was initially diagnosed as schizophrenic. True schizophrenia can be a very debilitating disease. There are some medications that help people a lot more than the old days and they have fewer side effects. Yet, even at the party, I felt bad for two schizophrenic men. One was so heavily medicated, he just stared at the ground in a daze. The other one was struggling a lot with voices today.

    I wonder why Joel Osteen believes the auditory hallucinations are evil beings speaking. In this day and age.

    Since we're on the topic of mental health/mental illness, I want to share a link to NAMI. My membership has lapsed; I think I will, God-dess willing, renew it.

    Nam Jiwan :tablakudi:

     
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    #4 namjiwankaur, Dec 20, 2012
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  6. namjiwankaur

    namjiwankaur
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    Sat Nam

    Vouthon ji

    Some Hindu scholars have done some wonderful commentary on Jesus' sayings. One way they view Jesus' reference to the "single eye" (*see below) is that he was speaking of the Third Eye.

    "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." (Matt: 6:22)

    Back to the topic though. I just thought of chardi kala and how much it can improve one's perspective during struggles and tests, whether physical or emotional. Do Sikhs rely heavily on the philosophy of chardi kala? Is it something Sikh children learn when growing up?

    On the other hand, what if a person suffers from a biological depression. Are Sikhs aware that sometimes chardi kala can't fix certain things? For example, if a new mother had post partum depression, would she be encouraged to see a doctor or would the Sikh community think that the attitude found in the practice of chardi kala would fix things?

    Thank God-dess for chardi kala though. I wonder if I can find some jewelry that has the words so I could wear it as a reminder on my bad days.

    Nam Jiwan peacesign
     
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  7. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Are we talking about Sikhism and mental illness. The question is a good one, but I don't see much so far about that. Hello?
     
  8. namjiwankaur

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    OK, back to the question I posed.

     
  9. namjiwankaur

    namjiwankaur
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    Also I wonder what effect something like chardi kala has had on your mental health, in the long run over your life time and also during specific experiences. Has it inoculated you against mental illness, so to speak, or relieved the symptoms of an emotional struggle in any way?

    :mundabhangra:
     
  10. Harry Haller

    Harry Haller United Kingdom
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    If you were to ask my wife how she finds living with me, she would probably reply that if she knew who she was going to wake up with, it would be helpful. However, I do not see the state of my brain as an illness, or a health problem. Many artists, in many fields have had similar problems, and created the most beautiful art that has been born out of their suffering, I feel honoured to be associated with such people.

    Sure you have good days, and bad days, the goal is to have more good days than bad days, today for instance is a bad day..

    So how does Sikhism help? Well the concept of Chardi Kala is a huge help, I do not pray, or ask for help, meditate or listen to Kirtan, so all I am left with is just Chardi Kala. What this means on a basic level, is to keep busy, to use common sense to differentiate between what are valid thoughts, and what are unvalid thoughts, in the past, most bad days can be made worse by giving weight to unvalid thoughts, rather than seeing which thought passes the Chardi Kala test. If it does not pass the CK test, then it is a pointless time wasting thought, which will do nothing other than drag you down if you allow it. Yes, some of us also have more than two hearts in our breast, but in reality, between the two extremes of personality we may possess, lies a million options, it is our choice, who we wish to be, sometimes it can be easy to forget we have a choice, sometimes its easier to follow a script because thats what we do.

    In my mind at present are a hundred thoughts, all quite bonkers, but none pass the CK test, so they mill around, clogging up my head, and I will keep working till I am tired, and then I will go home and sleep. Tommorow is another day, and although I may sink lower than some, although I have sunk so low as to hit rock bottom, I also know I have the capacity, by the same token to wake up on a snowy winter day and feel happiness and good thoughts running through me like a rocket through the sky, on those days, I am insufferably happy, like a bouncing ball, on those days I taste happiness at its highest peak, all thoughts are in Chardi Kala.

    I also find that the more I am in connection, the more I respect the Gurmukh way, rather than the manmukh way, the more days I am happy. Today is the end product of 3 or 4 days without any connection, without respect for Hukam, the shop is a mess, I cannot find anything, my desk is awash with chocolate wrappers and energy drink cans,

    Depression can be hugely indulgent, it embraces the negative within you, gives it a voice, a personality, I guess that is why Chardi Kala is so important, I would go as far as to say that depression can be the biggest thief of all.
     
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