by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, The Buddhist Channel, May 1, 2016
A student brought a friend who had contemplated suicide while depressed to see Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The following is Rinpoche's advice
It is also very useful to think that depression is not that undeserved for me. I deserve to have this, because I have done negative actions, various ones, all sorts of negative actions, in the past, and not just in this life, but from beginningless rebirth, therefore I deserve to experience this.
The great bodhisattva saint Shantideva said: “In the past I gave such harm to others, therefore I deserve to receive this.” This is another very basic practice to make the mind happy, by accepting it and also by thinking of it as a result of karma done by oneself. When you think, “This is my karma,” it makes everything very simple. Whatever problem there is, this thought prevents there being too much fuss.
Generally, problems in life are created by the mind. This moment’s thought creates this moment’s problems. This moment’s thought is created by the mind of the past.
In the hundreds of volumes of teachings called the Kangyur, the Buddha explained depression that you can’t find a reason for, and also sudden states of depression and unhappiness that come when you wake up in the morning, and similarly in the evening. In his teachings on the shortcomings of not practicing the five lay vows, Buddha explained that depression that suddenly happens at nighttime is the result of sexual misconduct committed in the past. Since the action was performed out of self-cherishing, it becomes negative karma.
One solution is to purify the mental continuum of these sufferings. The purification is not only in order not to experience depression. There are many other sufferings to be experienced in the human realm, as well as in the lower realms. By purifying the cause of those negative experiences, suffering for so many eons can be avoided.
Performing Medicine Buddha practice, confession to the 35 Buddhas practice with prostrations, and Vajrasattva practice purifies not only the karma of sexual misconduct but also all other negative karmas.
The other technique is to apply the methods I mentioned before for transforming the mind into positive thoughts, looking at depression as positive rather than only negative, by thinking of the benefits of depression.
As I have mentioned, you can recall how powerful it is to use that depression for meditation in order to generate a good heart and loving compassion. You can recall how this depression becomes the most powerful means of purifying the heaviest negative karma and the most powerful means of collecting the most extensive merit. That is how depression becomes the quickest path to achieve enlightenment.
This way, your depression is really very positive. It becomes so precious, like a jewel. You can make it so beneficial for other beings. You can use it to cause all happiness for all sentient beings, especially to bring them to enlightenment, by thinking of the benefits of the problem and using this technique for transforming problems into happiness. When you don’t know or don’t think of the benefits of the problem, your mind labels it a problem. You label it negative and then exaggerate. Then you think how terrible it is, how terrible I am.
One very important thing to be able to apply the methods I explained - especially to use depression to develop the thought of loving compassion - is to make a strong determination every day.
Every morning, after you think of the meaning of your life, make this strong determination: “From now on, especially today, I won’t let myself be controlled by ego, self-cherishing thought, and will never be separated from cherishing others and from loving compassion, even for one second. I will never allow myself to be bothered by problems, to be disturbed by them, to make a mountain from this molehill.”
Make a very strong determination: “I’ll be strong. I won’t do that.”
Generate courage in the morning. Plan out your day. Then you can be ready when it comes, like an army that trains for years before the actual fight, so that when an enemy comes, they are ready. Similarly, you prepare in the morning to fight your self-cherishing thoughts. If you’re not prepared, you can miss the chance to achieve great inner peace and to use your problem to cause happiness for all sentient beings.
Please, I would want to remind again that, when the suicidal mind arises, there’s an external spirit involved, besides karma. The person doesn’t know, starts to hallucinate, thinking this is the only solution for peace and happiness. But it’s totally opposite to that.
Therefore, at the beginning, as I have said, you should look at your mind as the baby or the student and yourself as the teacher. Therefore, you don’t listen to the mind, as the baby. It’s very dangerous.
Before you follow the mind, analyze whether the shortcomings of an action are greater than the benefits. Do whatever has the greatest benefit or at least greater benefit and fewer shortcomings.
Otherwise, if you don’t analyze, it’s very dangerous. It stops you from having vast amounts of merit, and giving enormous benefits to others.
Besides past negative karma, those outside spirits also harm you when the suicidal thought arises, so don’t follow it. Just ignore it. Let it disappear, like wind passing through.