[Buddha-l] monks, meditation and trauma

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Tue Apr 7 10:21:51 MDT 2009

> Well obviously, if the person is suffering from relaxation-induced
> anxiety AND they were still interested in learning to sit, they may
> want to address their anxiety with a medical professional first.

I haven't seen or heard from either of them in many years, but last I heard
neither was interested in a second exposure. The first taste was too
traumatic. Both left thoroughly shaken, and were still visibly trying to
shake that off a week or two later.

> Non sequitur. The above quote was NOT responding to your vignette on
> Cambodia, but on the quote directly above my response on Tibetan
> refuges.

Actually, it makes no difference whether you were referring to Tibetan
refugees or Cambodians. The same criticism applies either way.

> Wow, it seems like you really missed my point to try to make this
> implication

And you seem to have missed my point. You have already decided which type of
response is preferred, and assume that brain pathology would back up that
preference. The implication is that someone responding in the less preferred
way (i.e., less preferred by you) must have their negative state
isomorphically imprinted on their brain physiology.

It is also merely presumption -- not fact supported by evidence -- that
certain types of practices and meditations, etc., will better prepare one
for life's adversities, including the sorts of things causing PTSD. That's
an assumption I assume many people on this list would like to have
substantiated, but there is no evidence of that yet. Again, it is a
moralistic or quasi-moralistic projection. When, on the other hand, one
looks at actual extreme cases (e.g., Nazi concentration camps, long-term
drought and famine refugees, etc.) it becomes clear that all sorts of
unseemly mental dispositions are the best predictors of survivability, and
that moral focus can actually be a liability. I am not, btw, reducing
meditative preparedness to "moral" issues. If you prefer the word
"ideological" in this context, it that makes the point clearer, than go with
that. But I do have suspicions that Buddhists or Buddhism-sympathizers have
reasons for investing in the belief that such practices afford practical
protections and immunities (otherwise, why valorize them or imagine they
have magical efficacy?), a belief which, I also suspect, is less common
among serious long-term practitioners who know better. In short, it may be
the case that a better "immunization" from PTSD may be to develop the
character of a mean SOB. Ultimately, no guarantees, either way.


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