We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.
When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves
The Buddha

DrUnderstanding Depression
All of us experience a bout of sadness, mood swings, pessimism and lethargy once in a while. The good thing is that very soon something inspires us and we are back to being cheerful. However, for many people the tears refuse to stop and the spell of gloom continues through weeks, months or years. They experience intense feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness and believe that there will be no change in their inner state. They lose interest in all activities including their favourite pastimes and withdraw into loneliness. These people are suffering from a prevalent psychological disorder known as depression. It affects people of all age groups and cultures. Globally, around 300 million individuals have depression while in India there are more than 10 million cases of depression per year.

The person suffering from depression feels low and sad most of the time and nothing seems to uplift his mood. He is perpetually drained out, tired and has little energy to carry out even the essential daily activities. The sleep is disturbed, the appetite decreases and the body hurts badly as if suffering from chronic fatigue. The depressed person feels that he has failed completely or that the world has turned against him. Under extreme circumstances, he may feel that life is not worth living and contemplate suicide.

Psychiatric and Psychological Treatment
The standard treatment for this condition recommended by the medical science is a combination of medication, psychotherapy and brain stimulation techniques. There are different types of antidepressant medication that can be given to control the symptoms of depression, including- SSRIs (Citalopram, escitalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine and sertraline), SNRIs (Cymbalta and venlafaxine), Atypical antidepressants (Bupropion and mirtazapine), Tricyclic antidepressants (imipramine and amitriptyline) and Monoamine oxidase inhibitors. While each class of antidepressants has its own side effects, the SSRIs are considered the safest as they cause fewer reactions. Psychotherapy helps a person to talk about depressive thoughts and feelings in order to understand their symptoms better and develop effective coping skills. The most widely used psychotherapies for depression are- CBT (Cognitive-behavioral therapy), psychoanalysis, interpersonal therapy, hypnotherapy and NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming).

When a person does not get better with medication and psychotherapy, ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy) or TMS (Transcranial magnetic stimulation) are used as a last resort to stimulate the nerve cells and neurotransmitters in the brain. Although, there is good evidence to show that medication, psychotherapy and brain stimulation are effective in treating symptoms of depression, but this seems to help people only in the short-run. Clinical experience has shown that over a period of time, people either experience a relapse, develop another psychological problem or have a compromised quality of life. People treated for depression with these interventions continue to have problems with their sense of self, and struggle to maintain their relationships, work and social interaction. This happens because contemporary psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience try to understand and treat depression from a reductionist perspective by looking at the brain or mind in isolation.

Indian Spiritual Perspective
In contrast, the Indian psychology approach elucidates, we are not just a man born out of matter possessing a physical body and a thinking mind. We are a part of cosmic consciousness that has taken up a form in order to evolve. Our true self is this eternal cosmic consciousness and not the ephemeral body, mind or identity. Paramahansa Yogananda explained that although the mind exists within this consciousness, it remains bottled up in ignorance and is unable to connect to the consciousness. We become depressed because we are disconnected from our true self and erroneously believe that our body, mind and identity constitute who we really are. In the Yoga Sutras, Maharishi Patanjali highlights that there are five components or klesas that sever our ties with the true self and precipitate depression- avidya (ignorance), asmita (sense of isolated self), raga (attachment), dvesha (repulsion) and abhinivesa (clinging to the known).

Avidya makes us so engrossed in the outward changing world and the shifting inner temperament and we are unable to sense the eternal omnipresent consciousness. Asmita makes us egoistic and we develop a delusion of separation. Raga and dvesha work together to weaken our will by making us chase pleasure and avoid pain. Abhinivesa prompts us to cling to our current level of awareness and we don't feel strong enough to explore the gradations of consciousness. A permanent cure for depression can be found when an individual works through these klesas, stops identifying with the changing prakriti (primal matter, nature) and realizes that he is the cosmic self.

The Mother explained that this can be achieved when we learn to connect to the higher mind and the psychic being within us. In order to do this, a consistent and conscious effort needs to be made in uprooting the negative thought bodies and creating a luminous thought entity. Thereafter, we ask the flame of Divine aspiration within us to put its grace and force on the luminous entity so that it develops wings and glides into the universe to manifest itself. Furthermore, a total, sincere and active surrender to the Divine makes us realize that our real self is untouched by sadness, depression, suffering and mood swings. It is only the outer, superficial and unevolved layers of the being that feel the torment of negativity. Through these practices and realization, our consciousness transcends all kinds of internal and external negativity. Consequently, there is a complete freedom from depression.