Date of Thesis

5-1-2013

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Comparative Humanities

First Advisor

James Shields

Abstract

Anxiety, depression, and tragedy are all unavoidable aspects of existence that we find ourselves grappling with at some point in our lives. In those darker moments we often look beyond ourselves for a means to cope with our struggles in the hopes of transcending into enhanced states of being. The world¿s religions have provided various answers to problems of mental and physical affliction. Across cultures and throughout history, numerous techniques for ¿mending the mind¿ have emerged, conditioned by a number of factors, including the normative values of a society as well as the scientific advances and technologies available for therapeutic application. Buddhism encompasses a broad tradition of beliefs, practices, and philosophies that, taken together, aim at eliminating suffering from the human experience. It is suggested that anyone who comes to understand and practice Buddhist teachings¿Dharma¿will rise out of the life of suffering and into a condition of awakening or nirvana. With this as an intended goal, a person who is unfulfilled in their life or who is experiencing feelings of depression will, it might be assumed, find great potential in turning to Buddhism as means for alleviation of these states. In contemporary western society, however, the most common route for eliminating emotional distress is to take antidepressant medication, which aims for immediate relief of the negative feelings and experiences that arise from depression. As I will argue, while this may be a successful approach to masking unwanted feelings, it in fact fails to treat the actual roots or cause of the undesirable experiences. Moreover, such a ¿therapeutic¿ approach lacks any aspect geared towards developing a consistently rewarding lifestyle. I will argue that the incorporation of Dharma¿both a set of ideas and as a form of practices¿into daily routines and modes of thinking provides the means for a balanced lifestyle, allowing the individual to relieve suffering and depression in a manner that the narrow scope of western medicine cannot provide.

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