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A Buddhist Approach to Mental Health 1

Homage to the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the Highest Self—Enlightened One!

Rasika Wijayaratne

Published: 2015-03-20 — Updated: 2019-01-16

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The mental state of a person is something that can constantly change due to various internal and external factors. At times these factors are capable of overwhelming and de—stabilising the mind if not properly dealt with. It is up to the individual to ensure that they can effectively function in society while maintaining their inner peace and stability, thus ensuring that they are capable of making a positive contribution to their own life, to those close to them as well as to wider society.[1]

There are various external factors in everyday life that can negatively impact on an individual’s mental stability. Pressures from the work place, the family home, friends and relatives and other areas of their life, can all negatively impact the mind. The factors are wide and varied, but the end result is the arising of various negative forces within the mind that are capable of de—stabilizing it and even affecting the sanity of the individual in some instances. It is very important to understand however, that all forces within the mind are actually self—created in response to external events from the outside world, as well as in response to internal events from within oneself.

It is an individual’s inability to understand (delusion or moha in the Pali language) and skilfully deal with external and internal pressures that cause them to lose their mental equilibrium.[2]

“The Noble Eightfold Path 1.” Click on the video to play it. View Full Video >
Most Buddhists unsuccessfully attempt to seek answers to their problems outside of the Dhamma (Lord Buddha’s teachings) without knowing that the Lord Buddha equipped his followers with all the necessary ‘tools’ to effectively combat life’s pressures. It is up to the individual to know and diligently apply these teachings in their life to gain the necessary results as ‘Lord Buddhas only show the way.’

There can be no inner peace nor stability for one who has no control over his/her mind.[3] The Lord Buddha emphasised the importance of self—control as the foundation for inner peace, harmony and happiness. He also showed the ultimate way to gain this self—control in the Noble Eightfold Path.[4] The Noble Eightfold Path comprising sila (morality), samadhi (concentration) and pañña (wisdom); leads one to greater understanding (pañña — wisdom) of oneself and the external world, inner peace, stability, happiness and to the lasting peace of Nibbana (realization).[5]

Treading the Noble Eightfold Path is no mean task, especially for those who have had no prior exposure to such forms of self—discipline and training. Therefore it is important for such individuals to take to the training gradually, so as to not cause any additional pressures to arise from it. It is also wise to seek the guidance of an experienced spiritual teacher to help and advice them in their endeavours.

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One can never underestimate the importance of good spiritual friends to guide, encourage and help one along the path. In the absence of such guidance one needs to rely on oneself while utilizing resources such as the Internet, including its online Buddhist community comprising learned and wise monks and lay disciples for guidance.

Many pressures are unskilfully self—created within the mind in response to various internal and external events, which are the product of unclear understanding and thinking (delusion or moha in Pali). The Lord Buddha emphasised the importance of self—control as the corner stone of happiness and mental stability and showed that the most skilful way of gaining this self—control is by treading the Noble Eightfold Path, comprising sila (morality), samadhi (concentration) and pañña (wisdom), which leads one to inner peace, happiness and to the lasting peace of Nibbana.

It is essential for beginners to start along this path gradually and to seek the guidance of good spiritual teachers as well as good friends, while utilizing resources such as the Internet and its online Buddhist community for guidance where required. The more one endeavours along the Noble Eightfold Path, the more one will be at peace.

May you attain the lasting peace of Nibbana!


  1. This article was written for the Ehipassiko Buddhist journal to cover the theme of ‘Buddhist Meditation and Mental Health.’
  2. This is no mean feat however and can require years of self—training and self—discipline in line with the Lord Buddha’s teachings.
  3. Until one attains Nibbana (enlightenment) one cannot expect to have full and perfect self—control over oneself. It is important to understand and bear this in mind and to not be ‘too hard’ on oneself during one’s journey there.
  4. See the Noble Eightfold Path.
  5. One may find it easier to start out by first becoming established in dana (giving), sila (virtue) and bhavana (meditation) and then slowly progressing onto the Noble Eightfold Path. It is also important to know of and become established in guidelines enumerated in discourses such Sigalovada Sutta by the Lord Buddha especially for lay people. See the Sigalovada Sutta here and here

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May all be happy and well!


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