Can being a Buddhist help with depression?

Hear Master Sheng Yen discuss depression:

Some points I picked up:

  • in today’s world, people have to play many roles. This is unlike in the past with agricultural communities where human relationships were much simpler and the roles played were clear and defined.
  • Now, things are also constantly changing. In the past. things changed over a long time.
  • One has to adapt to keep up with these changes (in our many roles) and there is increased anxiety of failing behind and not being able to adapt.
  • One loses his independence, loses sleep
  • Contributing to the increase of mental illnesses, depression.
  • And here is where Buddhism can help us understand all this and provide refuge
  • Master Sheng Yen quoted one principle: To adapt while not changing by applying the principles.
  • Also, to reduce our desires, pursue fewer things we don’t need so as to protect our mental balance
  • One should learn but shouldn’t worry; one should compete but we should not feel afraid
  • Feeling afraid doesn’t do one any good


如得法师 gives a talk on depression from a Buddhist perspective.

This is the first part of a 2-parter. Watch out for the next part.

Second half of 如得法师’s talk on depression

His Holiness the Dalai Lama provides advice which I felt quite succinctly summarises how I can work on negative emotions (depression included).

1min 36sec video

Venerable Ru Jun answers a question on handling depression - 如何走出憂鬱?

good article for one to refer to:

It helps to remind us to find out what are the priorities in our life.

Venerable Ru Jun’s discourse provided me with many learning points.
I try listing down my points in English with the awareness that a lot of the meaning will be lost in translation.

  • how if we have a habit of being critical about other people, we are likely to have a high expectation of our own performance. (my biggest learning point!)
  • With such a fixation, we will be more often disappointed due to our own shortcomings.
  • Unfortunately, with no viable method to manage this fixation, the pressure on ourselves will increase and ultimately can lead to a depressive state.
  • A way to tackle this is to do a recap and to focus on the progress that we have made in improving ourselves rather than being too fixated on our faults.
  • Venerable provides an analogy. A person arm wrestles a strong person and keeps losing. However, he notes the improvement he makes each time he loses. He will take hope and be in a better disposition to keep trying.
  • Another illustration by Venerable, a pretty girl has a small blemish on her. However, she gets teased on her blemish. If she fixates on it. she will see herself as ugly. This is a result of not looking at the full picture.



Venerable Ru Jun continues in his discourse his contemplation on meeting 2 different sets of a mother and the child.

The first mother has a child that has Down Syndrome. The child also has trouble with hearing. The mother was anxious about whether the kid can recover from the hearing problem. The child eventually got better on hearing. The mother then became hopeful about the child making progress in leaning despite the disability.

The second mother had just given birth. The child was having difficult nights and the mother couldn’t sleep due to taking care of the child. The child’s grandmother came to Venerable to supplicate for the kid to sleep better at night so that the mother can also rest better.

From the situation with the two mothers, Venerable Ru Jun had deep contemplation. In the case of the mother with the Down Syndrome kid, all she would be wishing for is for the kid to be normal and to have some learning ability. The first mother would be so envious of the second mother that is just facing issues with the child’s sleeping.

Venerable provided this story to illustrate our usual habit of fixating on the negative things that happen rather than being appreciative of the positive things we have.

This to me is a big factor in our tendency to decent into depression.
In fact, I often fall into this habit of focusing on the things that go wrong.

And to correct this, we will need to review and summarise for ourselves the improvements and positive steps we have taken!

Watch Venerable Ru Jun’s discourse here (starting from 8:40min)