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SCHIZOPHRENIA AND BUDDHISM
by Buddha of Kilburn


I was diagnosed with schizophrenia ten years ago. Since then I have converted to Buddhism. My girlfriend is a Christian and we are happy. Feng Shui dominates our life and I am perpetually trying to eschew my schizophrenia roots. However, the subject of this article is the links between schizophrenia and Buddhism: how the latter can provide aids for sufferers of the former and how Buddhism offers a superior substitute to the philosophy of the mental health system.

Before they are diagnosed as such and before they are led into the throes of a mental hospital, people with schizophrenia often do not know what is going on. "What is going on?" is a good question for any Buddhist to meditate on. However, following the diagnosis of schizophrenia, people are often trained or led to believe that they are feeling "awful". The onus is very much on the individual. Instead of being trained to think "There is an awful feeling here", they are trained to think "I am feeling awful". This completely contradicts the Buddhist doctrine of "No-I", whereby there is held to be no 'me', 'my', 'mine' or 'I' distinguishable from any other sentient being. It also burdens the individual, for obvious reasons in a poorly way, with responsibility, without giving the wider picture. Buddhism gives the wider picture in the context of universal suffering; Buddhism, being a religion, tends to have more far-reaching tendrils than that of the mental health system. The latter tends to be restricted to the lower echelons of society and is very parochial in its outlook.

As a "schizophrenic", I was "enlightened" by Buddhism to find that it wasn't necessarily "me" who was suffering - that, in fact, suffering was universal. "Who is it who is feeling this way?", I would ask; it isn't me, because there is no "me". That was very helpful. Then I met a few people who were also of Buddhist inclination and I learnt that we could share the Dharma/truth/readings without being under an umbrella of doctors, legality and hospitalisation. I had found my freedom.

The mental health system purports to help people live independently, but independently of what?! We all are born and die independently. Whereas the mental health system implicates people in a cycle of repeated hospitalisation, Buddhism merely points out that we are all subject to the cycle of Samasara - that of birth, death and rebirth.

In the analogy of life as a play - one in which suffering is intrinsically found, my role is that of "schizophrenic". This may mean that at times I am not polite and obtuse, but at heart I remain a Buddhist. As a "schizophrenic", I never knew what I was going to do next, which is fine because as a Buddhist, being prepared for death means scuppering all but the remotest of plans.

What's more, schizophrenia and its being dealt with by the mental health system epitomises the egocentric view of the world predominant in the West. It's a solipsistic view that I am "it", whereas in fact it (the world) is quite the opposite. We are a global community of sentient beings, not icebergs prone to being cold and lonely.