The gift of Ananda
The endocannabinoid ‘anandamide’ acquired its name from the sanskrit word Ananda, meaning “joy” or “bliss”. Ananda was the name of one of the Buddha’s disciples. Shravasti Dhammika’s Buddha and His Disciples tells the story of Ananda, “Ananda’s selflessness expressed itself in three ways – through his service to the Buddha, through his unstinting kindness to his fellow disciples, both ordained and lay, and also to future generations through the crucial role he had to play in the preservation and transmission of the Dharma.” His chapter is “Ananda – The Man Whom Everybody Liked”. As it begins, the Buddha asked his disciples which one would want to help him by becoming his personal attendant. All jumped at the opportunity except one, Ananda. When the Buddha asked him why he had remained silent, Ananda explained that the Buddha would know best who to choose. The Buddha appointed him.
Ananda excelled as an attendant because he took it upon himself to make sure that the Buddha, as much as possible, didn’t have to worry about everyday tasks. This way the Buddha could spend his time teaching the Dharma. Ananda would wash robes, clean the living spaces, fan the Buddha, predict all of the Buddah’s needs, he even slept next to him and massaged the Buddha while he was in meditation or talking.
Ananda was known for his highly efficient memory, he knew how to write (the Buddha did not), and he never left the Buddha’s side. This meant that Ananda became the one most responsible for preserving and continuing the Buddha’s teachings.
Just prior to the Buddha’s final nirvana, he praised Ananda:
“Monks, all those who were fully enlightened Buddhas in the past
had a chief attendant like Ananda, as will all those who will be fully
enlightened Buddhas in the future. Ananda is wise. He knows when it
is the right time for monks, nuns, laymen, laywomen, kings, ministers,
the leaders of other sects or their pupils to come and see me. Ananda
has four remarkable and wonderful qualities. What four? If a company
of monks comes to see Ananda, they are pleased at the sight of him,
and when he teaches Dharma to them they are pleased, and when he
finishes they are disappointed. And it is the same for nuns, laymen
(Shravasti Dhammika, The Buddha and his Disciples).
The story of Ananda seems truly fitting to the endocannabinoid anandamide; always attending to the body’s needs by modulating the immune system as well as both the central and peripheral nervous systems through the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. Anandamide synthesis acts in pain, depression, appetite, memory, fertility, and more. It is synthesized in the areas of the brain responsible for memory, higher thought processes, and areas that control movement. As anandamide is decreased, the activation of our HPA axis (stress pathway) goes up and so does our anxiety. Also, as anandamide is decreased, our fear extinction goes down, which means that we are more likely to hold onto our fears and consolidate bad memories or fear responses. This is the root of both PTSD and anxiety. With anandamide’s regulation of the body, it is as if it is truly our personal Ananda attending our bodies needs; strengthening our neural connections, immune system, gut health, etc. with an intelligence that knows no matter if we are the Buddha, a nun, a king, or a layperson. Anandamide is transmitting messages throughout the body to keep our endocannabinoid system working properly – so that we are healthy and able to focus on what we are doing with this life.
YOUR BODY’S OWN, PERSONAL DISCIPLE
An Article By Evie Louise
Evie Louise is a recent psychology graduate from New York University. She is a certified in International Cannabinoid Clinical Therapy. Evie sees all forms of the cannabis sativa plant as the future of psychiatry, and hopes to use it in her therapy practice as a full spectrum approach to mental health and wellness.