Is suicide OK?

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Queequeg
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Is suicide OK?

Post by Queequeg » Fri May 26, 2017 12:00 pm

I've always been told that suicide is not a feasible option according to Dharma. Our karmic momentum picks up where we leave off, and if the suicide is stressful this will impact our experience in the between, likely very adversely. I recaall one Pali Sutta in which several bhikkus kill themselves with a knife. The Buddha condones the suicides because the decedents were arhats. Also jatakas where the Buddha gave his life for the benefit of others.

The below article relates the story of a Canadian who chose to die under the assisted suicide law. It's a 'rational' death. I can see the appeal of choosing to go this way.

What is the view of suicide in Mahayana? Is a death like the one related here acceptable?

https://nyti.ms/2rXBF0m
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Karinos
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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Karinos » Fri May 26, 2017 1:45 pm

I believe for Mahayana PoV killing a vessel (your own body) which may serve to bring sentience beings to enlightenment would be considered selfish
from Vajrayana PoV killing yourself (or anyone else for that matter) equals killing a Buddha

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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Jeff H » Fri May 26, 2017 3:11 pm

I think the rules of Buddhism are generalities for guidance, not commandments. In the context of this man’s life, and his understanding of the interconnectedness of the universe, it’s hard to see how waiting for the natural end would have benefited him or anyone else.

Karma is a natural law, not judgment; it’s just the way things work. We study it to help guide our actions. Karmic effects are determined by various factors which Tsongkhapa categorizes under: Basis; Attitude; Performance; and Culmination. He says this about killing:
The basis of killing is a being who is alive. Moreover, the Levels of Yogic Deeds adds the qualification “other,” as in “another living being.” This is in consideration of cases of suicide, and when there is a sin of commission that lacks culmination. (Lam Rim Chen Mo, vol. 1, p.218)
He also quotes the Treasury of Knowledge which says:
If the killer dies prior to or at the same time as the victim there is no actual infraction, since the killer has then assumed another life. (p.219)
It seems to me that Shields’ action is a textbook case of a good life and death. However, even though it may not have been a “culminated karmic action”, nevertheless the basis (a living being) was there, the attitude (intent to kill that being) was there, and the performance went as planned -- all prior to the death of the killer/victim. Therefore, I believe there must be a karmic effect, but it would be greatly mitigated by the context.

How do we assess the karmic actions of Dr. Green and the others who were involved?
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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Ayu » Fri May 26, 2017 4:53 pm

My teacher (a Tibetan Khen Rinpoche in Gelug tradition) was asked this question and he said, suicide is regarded as killing and this should be "avoided".

I understand this statement as: we should try to avoid suicide and try to find better solutions without killing ourselves. But I don't think, he spoke out a doctrine here and I believe it depends on the circumstances. I can imagine situations were it is a better karmic decision to help someone in permitting suicide than to deny any help.
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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Nicholas Weeks » Fri May 26, 2017 5:47 pm

Suggest Harvey's Introduction to Buddhist Ethics, ch. seven on Suicide & Euthanasia. Here is how that chapter begins:
While Buddhism emphasizes that there is much dukkha in life, this can,
paradoxically, help dissuade a Buddhist from giving in to despair. If
dukkha is to be expected in life, then there is less reason to take particular
problems so personally: as the world conspiring against one. Reflection
on the idea of phenomena as not-Self can also help a Buddhist to avoid
being dragged down by unpleasant experiences. Reflection on the principle
of impermanence should urge him or her to realize that all bad
things come to an end, sooner or later. Reflection on the principle of
karma should mean that he or she is more willing to live patiently
through the results of his or her own prior action – and maybe learn
something about the nature of life in the process – rather than sow the
seeds of future suffering by new, rash actions.

Of course, someone faced with some weighty suffering might kill
himself or herself in the hope of something less intolerable after death;
yet there is no guarantee that matters may not be made worse by this act.
From the Buddhist perspective, the next rebirth might be as an animal
preyed on and eaten by others, as a frustrated ghost, or in a hell: so
suicide may lead on to something more ‘intolerably painful’ than the
present life. Even in the case of a human rebirth, there are many possible
forms of severe suffering.

One of the three forms of craving is craving for annihilation
to get rid of unpleasant situations. Where one’s whole life-situation
is perceived to be so unbearable that one says ‘no!’ to it, it may
culminate in suicide. However, as it is craving which impels one through
the round of rebirths, the state of mind which prompts suicide will be a
crucial cause of yet another rebirth, along with its problems. So as an
attempted escape from the sufferings of life, suicide is, according to
Buddhist principles, totally ineffective. It will only be followed by a
further rebirth, probably lower than a human one...
Distrust everyone in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!
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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Crazywisdom » Fri May 26, 2017 6:15 pm

Not so good for Mahayana. Worse for Vajrayana. The body is a mandala of Buddhas. This is to be shared not destroyed.
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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Wayfarer » Fri May 26, 2017 11:21 pm

Notice in the article quoted 'a doctor told [the subject] more than a year before that he had a rare and incurable disease called amyloidosis, which caused proteins to build up in his heart and painfully damage the nerves in his arms and legs.'

So this article is really about euthanasia rather than suicide per se. The subject had an incurable and fatal illness, which was bound to lead to death, and chose to die voluntarily before the disease had run its course.

Euthanasia is also a very controversial subject. Here in Australia there was a doctor, now debarred from medicine, who campaigned passionately for the legalisation of euthanasia. I have noticed that campaigners for it become rather obsessive about it. The problem that I see with it comes down to the 'slippery slope' argument - that once you have a culture where 'assisted dying' is acceptable, then there's a risk that the elderly, infirm and ill might be 'assisted' to die, even though they themselves really have not made that decision.

As for suicide, I can imagine some circumstances in which it is justified, but I think they would have to be extreme circumstances, like, to avoid some dreadful fate or being put in a position where there was absolutely no choice. But I think realistically such circumstances would be extremely rare. Whereas in 'developed countries', so-called, suicide is one of the leading causes of deaths, behind and sometimes even in front of car accidents. My feeling about it, as a Buddhist, is that committing suicide to escape the reality of existence never solves anything. Those problems will continue to manifest until you can surmount them somehow - the only way out of them is through them. That is a very difficult thing for many people to accept, and I wouldn't say it directly to someone who was mentally and emotionally tormented, but I think it's nevertheless true.
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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Malcolm » Sat May 27, 2017 12:41 am

Queequeg wrote:I've always been told that suicide is not a feasible option according to Dharma.
If you are free of afflictions, then you can off yourself with impunity. At least one arhat did so.
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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Grigoris » Sat May 27, 2017 7:01 pm

I think that in order to answer the question one would have to know the "who" and "why" and even then it would be difficult to draw any real conclusions.

Until now it seems it is only "OK" for Arhats, non-regressing Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, so I guess that excludes it being OK for the majority of us here.
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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Mantrik » Sat May 27, 2017 7:41 pm

I don't see a clear line defining suicide.

There are people who take physical action to kill themselves.
There are people who take deliberate decisions not to act (eat, for example).
There are those who seem able to decide to die and can choose the time to simple depart.
There are those who lose the will to live and stop trying, for example when a their loved one dies.

The first two would probably be regarded as suicide in law, but I'm not sure I would classify the other two as 'suicide''.

Is there a universal 'Buddhist' definition. If not, to discuss whether 'it' is OK is a bit odd. I tend towards the usual advice - ask your Guru about a specific case, not generalities which are ill-defined.
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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by seeker242 » Sun May 28, 2017 12:45 am

A monk who encourages someone or assists someone in suicide is subject to expulsion from the sangha. If it was ok, that probably would not be the case!
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!

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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Wayfarer » Sun May 28, 2017 2:09 am

There was a controversy in the early Sangha as to whether termination of one's life - I think through fasting to death - was permissible or not. I seem to recall that this had happened when the Sangha had been established for some years and was geographically dispersed. The Buddha was told about it and (I think) gave a talk discouraging such behaviour. However I can't recall the other details - as I say, I think it is a fairly obscure debate in the early Sangha. I had a brief look at AccesstoInsight and couldn't find it, however there's a discussion (and rejection) of the Jain practice of fasting unto death in relation to this sutta.

I think, generally, the idea of suicide is classified as a fallacious understanding of 'cessation' - that one can attain cessation of dukkha by the ending of one's life. But, of course, the Buddha would say that so long as the causes of dukkha persist, then so too must their consequences, if not in this life then another. There's no escape by such means.
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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun May 28, 2017 2:29 am

One of my teachers who have talked about euthanasia generally had a low opinion of it. I don't know how they would respond to cases of extreme pain etc., but the argument is generally that it's better to have palliative care and an aware death process, rather than to simply avoid pain.

When the teacher in question addressed this subject he did say something like "maybe I'll feel differently if I die of something really painful", or thereabouts.
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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Jesse » Sun May 28, 2017 10:20 pm

1 Suicide Every 40 seconds.
http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/05/world/who ... de-report/

Watch it in real time!

http://www.worldometers.info/

It's always easy to have an opinion on matters that don't affect us. The only judge of when suicide is acceptable is the person deciding to do it.
“Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of one's desires, but by the removal of desire” – Epictetus

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Queequeg
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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Queequeg » Tue May 30, 2017 10:47 pm

Thanks, all.

I notice my question was posed inartfully and implicated morality by asking if suicide is "OK" or "acceptable". I did not mean that, except to the extent that as a Buddhist, there is a standard of measuring good/bad based on whether the acts tend toward awakening or not.

Shield's death is presented as an ideal - one which the target audience of the New York Times would probably agree with. As Buddhist, this "rational" approach to the end of life does not sit well with me, regardless of circumstances. Though there is a part of me that appreciates being able to enjoy one's own wake - to be able to toast my friends and family before I go would be a very nice thing, and I suppose if I have the time to plan, I'll do something like that. But planning for and taking direct action that brings about my death is something I have never considered as an option. In the face of excruciating pain, I would like to consider it, but, I fundamentally see it it as a turning away and seeking escape from the ripening of my karma. I did it to me.

Wayfarer brings up a point that I share - "The problem that I see with it comes down to the 'slippery slope' argument - that once you have a culture where 'assisted dying' is acceptable, then there's a risk that the elderly, infirm and ill might be 'assisted' to die, even though they themselves really have not made that decision."

I am concerned that as a society we treat life and death clinically - its the victory of the materialist logic. The equation becomes only a question of quality of life - depending on where the threshold is drawn, the question of life and death is little more than an actuarial calculation. It saddens and frightens me to consider how materialism has prevailed and comes to define everything as religion and philosophy retreat. The few instances where materialism was taken to its extremes in the 20th c. were pretty horrific. Its tempered now, but in questions like this suicide/euthanasia... its becoming more insidious.

Pardon my half formed thoughts.
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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Wed May 31, 2017 6:16 am

I am concerned that as a society we treat life and death clinically - its the victory of the materialist logic.
That's pretty much it, and is exactly the sort of thing my teacher talked about. You hear a lot about 'death with dignity', but death with dignity isn't simply euthanasia, if it is at all. Death with dignity is being guided through the process, having palliative care and support etc. It's as if we have begun to confuse "death with dignity" with simply unhooking someone's life support because they signed a DnR. I'm iffy on the ethics of euthanasia itself, but on the larger subject I feel like his criticism (and yours here) was on the money.
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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Kaccāni » Wed May 31, 2017 1:48 pm

Sit back and relax.
The body will die all by itself.
It doesn't need help doing that.

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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Jesse » Wed May 31, 2017 7:30 pm

Kaccāni wrote:Sit back and relax.
The body will die all by itself.
It doesn't need help doing that.

Best
Kc
Of course, it doesn't need help, but there can come points where the pain is far too intense to live anymore, yet the body will still cling to life.
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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Grigoris » Wed May 31, 2017 10:00 pm

Jesse wrote:The only judge of when suicide is acceptable is the person deciding to do it.
Not really an unbiased and objective judge.
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"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
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Re: Is suicide OK?

Post by Jesse » Wed May 31, 2017 10:09 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Jesse wrote:The only judge of when suicide is acceptable is the person deciding to do it.
Not really an unbiased and objective judge.
Depends on the situation, however, what right does anyone else have to interfere with such a decision? People think they have rights over other people's decisions, and when it comes to decisions of this magnitude, really nobody has a right to an opinion other than the person in question.

Do you really want society (in it's ignorance) claiming to have authority over your life, and death? I would rather not live in such a world, and such a world could not exist. If euthanasia is not legal, that simply means people will commit suicide on their own. Risking harm to others, and risking putting themselves into unbearable circumstances, such as a coma, brain damage, etc.

In the end, people have all rights over their own lives, and any attempt to impede on this right will only cause more harm.

To make this clear, I am not talking about suicide in relation to mental illness, where in most people actually want help, or to get better. We are talking about suicide in cases where the person has very few to no alternatives except to suffer tremendously until their natural death.
“Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of one's desires, but by the removal of desire” – Epictetus

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