[Buddha-l] monks, meditation and trauma

lharrington at wesleyan.edu lharrington at wesleyan.edu
Sat Apr 4 15:04:55 MDT 2009

I'm doing some research with a psychologist who works with Tibetan monks
 suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the wake
of being imprisoned and tortured. In particular, they're grappling with
severe and invasive flash-backs (involuntary memories of their torture)
that occur while they are meditating, and which effectively end their
meditation  session. I'd like to know if there is any reference in
Buddhist meditative literature that alludes to this kind of experience, and
perhaps offers an explanation or an antidote.

Towards that end, I’ve re-read a range of Indian and Tibetan sources,
searching for a commentarial tradition or genre of literature which might
be fruitful to pursue. My sampling has included obvious Nikaya sources, A
including Pali suttas and Buddhagosa’s Visuddhimagga;
Mahayana commentaries within the lam rim and blo sbyong genres, focusing
on works ranging from Atisa’s Lamp for the Path(byang chub gyi sgron ma)
Tsong kha pa’s Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path (lam rim chen
mo), and Gampopa's Jewel Ornament of Liberation (thar rgyan);
Tantric commentaries focusing on everything from  the 6 Yogas of Naropa to
the Kalacakra.

In addition, I’ve done a literature review of secondary sources on trauma,
meditation and PTSD, with an emphasis on studies of Tibetan and Buddhist
communities. (I am happy to share a bibliography with interested readers.)

So far, I haven’t found much to work with. The only reference to anything
close to a flash-back are allusions to memories of past lives. Does
anybody have any suggestions about where I should focus my research?

Thank you,
Laura Harrington

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