How to Overcome Depression?
World Health Organization (WHO) defines Depression as
A common illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that one normally enjoys, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks.
In addition, there may be a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or even committing suicide.
In India, the National Mental Health Survey 2015-16 reveals that nearly 15% Indian adults need active intervention for one or more mental health issues and one in 20 Indians suffers from depression.
Lately there has been a rise in awareness about mental health problems. Especially during the lockdown period, a spate of suicide cases was seen, and much media attention was given to them. There were panel discussions, celebrities voicing their trysts with such problem. So all in all, we know that the mental disorders very much exist in our society and as the statistics suggests, the cases are rising more than ever.
So what are the causes of depression, of which suicide is the most terrible of the outcomes? It was seen that in almost all cases, the person was suffering from fear or loneliness.
Caused by uncertainty about future. What is going to happen? What will be my financial, emotional, social state in future? Shri Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita, “antavat tu phala tesam”, that means the objects in this world are all temporary. They are not going to last forever. And no matter how much we convince ourselves otherwise, our experiences tell a different story. Somewhere down in our heart we know that everything’s got to go away. And when we are not able to resolve this inner conflict, it leads to mental stress. And if not dealt properly, it gets aggravated to depression as well.
Human-beings are social animals and by nature want to love and be loved. But in this world of cut throat competitions, friendships are forged on the basis of self-interest. Relationships are inspired by mutual benefit, but mostly end in exploitation of one by other. In this situation, even in crowd one finds oneself alone. And unfulfilment of one’s sentiments, delicate emotions again leads to a pessimistic outlook and ultimately depression.
Under the influence of the material energy of the Lord, the living entity misidentifies itself with matter and thus seeks happiness in a place, which the creator has described as ‘dukhalayam’, seeks permanence in a place,
which the creator has described as ‘asasvatam’ and seeks security in a place, which is described as ‘pada pada yad vipadam’. That there is danger at every step. The mor
e one is attracted by the allurements of this material world, the more one is entrenched in the reactions of fruitive work. The more and more that person gets trapped by the modes of material nature and descends into darkness.
The root cause of mental problems is this misidentification with the body (gross and subtle) and to consider the unruly demands of especially the subtle body as ones real needs. Inevitably they are not fulfilled and if they do, the resultant happiness is not up to the expectation.
The Fire Spark
The Vedic aphorism, ‘ānandamayo 'bhyāsāt means the spirit is by nature full of happiness [VS 1.1.12].
Srila Prabhupada explains in SB 4.25.12, Purport
Being part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the living entity is also seeking complete enjoyment. However, complete enjoyment cannot be achieved separate from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In his wanderings in the different species of life, the living entity may taste some type of enjoyment in one body or another, but full enjoyment of the senses cannot be obtained in any material body.
Therefore, it is behoves an intelligent person to understand it’s real identity as a spark of the spiritual whole.
Let us understand this by an example of a fire spark. The spark of the fire is a fragment of fire, possessing the same qualities as light and heat, albeit in smaller quantity. Due to some reason, a spark may get separated from the fire and now depending on where the spark may fall, would decide its future.
In case, it falls in water, it will extinguished beyond any hope of revival, losing all its fiery qualities.
In case, it falls on ground, it may retain some of its original nature and if something is done in time, there is a hope of revival, else it will suffer the same fate as the one which fell in the water.
Lastly, the spark may fall on dry grass, there it has the best chance to retain its original nature, so much so that it may be able to join back the fire again.
The scriptures compare the three circumstances to the three modes of material nature. The living entity, being the fragment of the Supreme Soul possesses the qualities viz: sat (eternity), cit (knowledge) and ananda (bliss). Due to inconceivable reason, if it falls down from its constitutional position, the soul gets associated with the three modes of material nature. Mode of ignorance is like spark falling in water and mode of passion is akin to spark falling on ground. All qualities lost, there is minimal scope of a living entity to revive its eternal blissful and knowledgeable nature. However if the living entity chooses to associate with mode of goodness, not only the soul is able to retain its original nature, and there is a big chance of revival of its original god consciousness.
The first step is to move from the ignorance to knowledge… tamaso ma jyotir gamaya… That is to gain transcendental knowledge about our own constitutional identity from a bonafide source. Surely under good guidance we will realize we are a spirit soul, a part and parcel of the Supreme Sentient being.
Knowledge gained is just half the work done, we need to progress to the vijnana part, where once we realize the sambandha jnana, we start acting in the way. That is to connect with the Supreme Self. The Vedas describe that Supreme Self as ‘raso vai sah’. The Supreme Lord is the reservoir of pleasure. Just like a bulb is instantly illuminated once it touches the live wire connected to the power source. Similarly through the live wire of devotional service, one can be in touch with the Supreme Self. Just like even before the sun rises, the darkness is obliterated, similarly at beginning of the devotional service, all the distress will go away (kleshaghni) and would attract all auspiciousness (shubhada). Thus situated in transcendence, a person can cross over the lowly modes of material nature and derive supreme bliss.
Therefore the real solution to all mental problems is to engage its propensities to serve the supreme and then we can be free of the endless trappings of mind.
brahma-bhutah prasannatma na socati na kanksati samah sarvesu bhutesu mad-bhaktim labhate param
One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me. [BG 18.54]