MASS MURDER & BUDDHISM: Buddhism holds ‘special attraction’ for mentally ill?

Some saw the tragedy as an opportunity to challenge the peaceful stereotype and unveil some topics Buddhists most often discuss only among themselves. Is the peaceful Buddhist an illusion? Do Buddhists and Buddhist temples deal directly enough with the topic of mental illness? And, in fact, might Buddhism hold a special attraction for people who are mentally ill?

“As Buddhism has spread in the West, it has put forth and maintained an image of being a peaceful religion,” Buddhist ethicist Justin Whitaker, author of the American Buddhist Perspective blog, wrote Tuesday. “This is a myth.”

Buddhism can seem particularly appealing to “mentally unbalanced people seeking to right the ship of their lives, to self-medicate, to curb their impulses, or to give them a firmer grip on reality,” Clark Strand, a contributing editor to the Buddhist publication Tricycle magazine and a former Zen monk, said in an interview.

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