Following the death of Buddhist teacher Michael Stone, a friend of his offered a poignant reflection on “the myth of the heroic self” for Tricycle magazine. There, Matthew Gindin asked:
What are we to make of his tragic struggle and death, particularly in the light of his daily practice for many years of Dharma disciplines believed to reduce suffering and stabilize the mind?
Michael is certainly not the first dharma practitioner to struggle with mental illness or the self-destructive use of a substance. Many before him have succumbed to alcoholism, substance abuse, depression, mental disintegration, and even suicide. When this happens, the usual takeaway is a call to clear away the stigma surrounding mental illness. That is important and needs to be said. But I want to focus on a different, if related, lesson: the myth of the heroic self.