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Suicide, Karma, and Re-birth.

JohnGJohnG Veteran
edited August 2012 in Buddhism for Beginners
lately, I have witnessed the suicides of several young people. The latest being one who has a small daughter, with a new one on the way. He attempted to end his life by hanging; he survived, but did he really? One of the draw backs of my job, is understanding methodology; this methode of suicide usually denotes a self execution. A message that states "I" am guilty, so I end my life as punishment. As I listend on, I learned that the mother of his children continued to blame him for numerous problems in her life.

Over all these years, I learned that sometimes I felt that the person actually is at peace now; but I also know that I shouldn't have these feelings. So, I ask, what does this do to one's soul, does this add to his/her Karma, or does it end in torment forever, peace?? I have read that it means that the person must return to a similar life to learn what he didn't; but, what if 'this' is what he/she was to learn?

Comments

  • howhow to wrassle a wild zafu. Vancouver BC Veteran
    I guess you are hoping for different answers from the last time you posted about this.
  • JohnGJohnG Veteran
    No sir. That would mean I'm looking for a conveninece of this as an out, nope. The suicide I mention occured on Thursday; The young man survivied, at least physically.


  • ...

    Over all these years, I learned that sometimes I felt that the person actually is at peace now; but I also know that I shouldn't have these feelings. So, I ask, what does this do to one's soul, does this add to his/her Karma, or does it end in torment forever, peace?? I have read that it means that the person must return to a similar life to learn what he didn't; but, what if 'this' is what he/she was to learn?

    It's very difficult to have a meaningful discussion about suicide because it is such a taboo subject.

    I had an uncle who committed suicide when I was young, and I remember so well how the family (the immediate family and brothers and sisters) tried to hush it up and pretend it was just an accident. Yet, anyone who knew of it also knew what the truth was. My uncle committed what I considered to be an unreasonable suicide. He was married to the wicked witch of the west...but he could have gotten a divorce. He had a daughter who was paralyzed from the waist down...but he could have continued to take care of her. I have known several people who committed suicide that I considered in the same category -- tremendous problems in their lives...yes. But problems that could ultimately be dealt with. Problems that might lead to intense sorrow...yes. But such problems, from the loss of the love of one's life to shame over infidelity to a career in shambles, will eventually go away. Of course, for some...perhaps many, the complicating factor is chemical conditions in the brain that make logical thinking through of actions difficult, if not nearly impossible.

    Then there are the suicides which I think are reasonable suicides. Notice that I didn't say right suicides, but rather, reasonable suicides. The person who has terminal brain cancer. To me, committing suicide in such a situation is at least one logical way of dealing with it, though perhaps not the best logical way of dealing with it.

    And then you are asking about the karmic results of suicide. The good people of this forum cannot decide what karma is. Is it just within yourself? Is it something more cosmic? In Asia it tends to be looked at as more of the latter, while in the West I feel it is looked at as more of the former. So the karmic result will look very different depending on which way one looks at karma.

    Is there rebirth or reincarnation. Read back through the many discussions about those topics in this forum, and once again the good people of this forum cannot come to a consensus.

    If you're looking for THE answer, you're not going find it here.

    I don't believe in the concept of imponderables...I think it is natural for human being to ponder, and I think it is right for human beings to ponder, because only if we ponder can we -- as individuals -- come to decisions about right and wrong.

    It is terribly sad -- for differing reasons -- when someone commits suicide, and all I feel I can do is try to understand why they made the decision they did, and were there logical things others could have / should have done.



    SkyLotus
  • JohnGJohnG Veteran
    Seeking an answer where the answer of one creates a multitude of more questions. Maybe I'm just one who needs the concrete; so I have much work to do. :D
  • When I feel confused about these things, I try to remember that people have not settled these issues in hundreds of years. All we can do is make the best decision about what we as individuals believe.
    SkyLotusCarissi
  • JohnGJohnG Veteran
    This instance happened to a close friend of my nephew; he's looking for a fault he did in not seeing this come. It's hard to tell him, that when a person has made a decision to do so, it's not what and how we're taught in EMT or police school.
  • From a Buddhist perspective, nothing happens to the soul as there is no soul. It is still bad karma trying to kill someone, however not as bad as if the attempt is successful.
    I think it's hard to pin down exactly what happens. The suicide attempt could be the fruit (vipaka) of past actions and decisions (karma) or it could be the result of another persons bad actions (karma) or a combination.
    If the attempted suicide is itself a fruit of karma, I don't know how it fits into Buddhist theory.

    Isolated seen the attempt is bad karma but we can only try and guess what the result will be.

  • A person might not necessary commit suicide - as his karma might not necessary substitute other events that lead to suicide. Let us think of these "events" on the most basic level - as the contemplation of suicidal thoughts. If one is by nature very pessimistic about his life, then, we can say his negative suicidal karmic force of habit might be strong - meaning he is likely to contemplate suicide again and again. This is not an endless force - all forces either maintain, fade away or strengthen in time (the law of impermenence). And this person decides whether he wants to do either of the three to his force of habit. He also chooses when to break free from negative paradigms. This person might have other sides of his nature, other aspects of his karma, that give rise to positive karmic forces that spur him to diminish his suicidal intentions. So remember that karma is always dynamic - a single thought can change the whole matrix of one’s karma in an instant - this is how the Buddha in His previous life broke free of being in hell instantly....

    We can’t totally control a person’s thoughts by insulating him from negative influences - but we can play an active role to try to counsel him, encouraging him to see the benefits of living on; the great disadvantages of seeking suicide. Karma works like a web - we are all intricately linked to each other, whether we see it or not, each of us plays a role that affects all others. Thus, karma should not only be seen as a private affair. If there is no collective karma (common karma that affects groups of beings, linking them together), the Bodhisattva’s career in trying to aid all beings would be impossible. Likewise, we would not be able to communicate these very ideas, having no link to each other. It is wise to remember that while one’s attempting of suicide is a personal affair, one often attempts suicide due to others’ certain actions and/or lack of actions. In this one example, we can see how readily we can affect the lives and deaths of other beings.
  • ZeroZero Veteran
    edited August 2012
    Over all these years, I learned that sometimes I felt that the person actually is at peace now; but I also know that I shouldn't have these feelings. So, I ask, what does this do to one's soul, does this add to his/her Karma, or does it end in torment forever, peace?? I have read that it means that the person must return to a similar life to learn what he didn't; but, what if 'this' is what he/she was to learn?
    That's the thing about suicide - its the people still alive doing all the pondering.
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    IMO, all actions, without question, add to karma and it's impossible to discern what the effects will be exactly. So the question "Does it end in 'this", is really impossible to know or answer. All you can know really is good, bad and neutral actions have same corresponding effects. Because karma is such a complex system of interaction that is constantly changing and influenced by past, present and future actions, you would have to be very good at actually seeing the past and actually predicting the future, to know what the effects will be. I don't think anyone here can do that. :)
  • Come to think of it, maybe read this: basics of karma

    Inspired by this thread, I'm re-reading it :)
  • JohnGJohnG Veteran
    Thank you all for the advice, it has helped me greatly in understanding.

    OneLifeForm; From what I've heard it's the combonation of all these, past karma, family, and his own idea that he was alone in this. My nephew is one who will be sticking close to him for awhile; that is until he comes home from the hospital.

    Ficus_religiosa, thank you for the link. Something I will be studying more of. I need all the help I can get. ;)
  • Come to think of it, maybe read this: basics of karma

    Inspired by this thread, I'm re-reading it :)
    This does seem to lean far more toward the "old world" view of karma.

  • Come to think of it, maybe read this: basics of karma

    Inspired by this thread, I'm re-reading it :)


    This does seem to lean far more toward the "old world" view of karma.

    I'm excited to learn about the new view then :) Do you have any information on that?

  • Over all these years, I learned that sometimes I felt that the person actually is at peace now; but I also know that I shouldn't have these feelings.

    evn though you learned you have this feeling
    why?
    you have done something (karma is intention) in your past and this feeling is the fruit of it

    so you have to learn and convince yourself that karma (what you do, say, think with intention of greed or hate or delusion) would bring fruit of karma

    So, I ask, what does this do to one's soul, does this add to his/her Karma, or does it end in torment forever, peace??
    there is no soul accoring to Buddha's Teaching
    only
    cause and effect (karma and karma vipaka)

    without doubt this action brings results in future
    only thing that
    we (people without the power of seeing another's mind) can not say what was the last thought of such person (who suiside)

    following are my inferences from the Buddha's Teaching that i have learned so far:

    if his last thought is anger he goes to hell (for a while not for eternity) according to Buddha's Teaching
    if his last thought is sad (expecting something but not getting it) he becomes ghost
    if his last thought is fear he becomes an animal
    if his last thougt is jelouse he becomes and jelouse god (asura)

    (blockquote)
    I have read that it means that the person must return to a similar life to learn what he didn't; but, what if 'this' is what he/she was to learn?
    suiside is defenitely not the thing that he/she should learn in this life (human)

    human life is a very rare incident according to Buddha's Teaching
    any human who has somewhat intelligency should improve his intelligence before he leave this life
    being a human, availablity of Buddha's Teaching, having some intelligence to understand the Teaching are necessary condition to see the meaning of life

    so his duty for his own life is use that opportunity but not commits suiside and destroy that oppotunity

    person like you have the chance to show them the 'WAY'
    and
    show others who can help people 'like those you have mentioned in OP

  • JohnGJohnG Veteran

    Over all these years, I learned that sometimes I felt that the person actually is at peace now; but I also know that I shouldn't have these feelings.


    evn though you learned you have this feeling
    why?
    you have done something (karma is intention) in your past and this feeling is the fruit of it

    so you have to learn and convince yourself that karma (what you do, say, think with intention of greed or hate or delusion) would bring fruit of karma


    So, I ask, what does this do to one's soul, does this add to his/her Karma, or does it end in torment forever, peace??


    there is no soul accoring to Buddha's Teaching
    only
    cause and effect (karma and karma vipaka)

    without doubt this action brings results in future
    only thing that
    we (people without the power of seeing another's mind) can not say what was the last thought of such person (who suiside)

    following are my inferences from the Buddha's Teaching that i have learned so far:

    if his last thought is anger he goes to hell (for a while not for eternity) according to Buddha's Teaching
    if his last thought is sad (expecting something but not getting it) he becomes ghost
    if his last thought is fear he becomes an animal
    if his last thougt is jelouse he becomes and jelouse god (asura)

    (blockquote)
    I have read that it means that the person must return to a similar life to learn what he didn't; but, what if 'this' is what he/she was to learn?
    suiside is defenitely not the thing that he/she should learn in this life (human)

    human life is a very rare incident according to Buddha's Teaching
    any human who has somewhat intelligency should improve his intelligence before he leave this life
    being a human, availablity of Buddha's Teaching, having some intelligence to understand the Teaching are necessary condition to see the meaning of life

    so his duty for his own life is use that opportunity but not commits suiside and destroy that oppotunity

    person like you have the chance to show them the 'WAY'
    and
    show others who can help people 'like those you have mentioned in OP



    :rolleyes: Now I understand. Thankyou.
  • Suicide is NOT allowed under Buddhism. Definite No No.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    Link to reference, please, @Patr.
  • Suicide is NOT allowed under Buddhism. Definite No No.
    I think the problem here is you "NOT allowed" phrase. You make it sound like one of the 10 Commandments. That's where I would like to see your reference...or is it more of a cultural total taboo?

  • Hahaha, reference.....

    Just look up the five precepts; no killing. Or is it limited to others but not oneself??

    Remember the parable about the turtle and the yoke describing the preciousness of Human birth. Surely that would encompass the gravity of the offence (of suicide).

    Life is about learning, a test for each and every individual. Suicide means flunking, dropping out before the exam is over.

    We have the chance to follow whichever way of life and teaching in human form. The other realms have somewhat limited options, especially the lower forms.

    Everyone has their own thoughts and beliefs in what is right or wrong, but surely there is only one absolute truth. Before the Buddha was enlightened, he lived hundreds of life and each was a lesson in itself, same goes for us. Each person has different lessons to be learnt and mistakes to be made, and at the end of this life, the scores are tallied.

    This will determine our next step (life).

    Sometimes we have to read and assimilate knowledge from books and draw an understanding from them. They should not be taken literally most of the time.

    Dont kill yourself, incredibly bad karma...

    Ciao
  • Hahaha, reference.....

    Just look up the five precepts; no killing. Or is it limited to others but not oneself??

    Remember the parable about the turtle and the yoke describing the preciousness of Human birth. Surely that would encompass the gravity of the offence (of suicide).

    Life is about learning, a test for each and every individual. Suicide means flunking, dropping out before the exam is over.

    We have the chance to follow whichever way of life and teaching in human form. The other realms have somewhat limited options, especially the lower forms.

    Everyone has their own thoughts and beliefs in what is right or wrong, but surely there is only one absolute truth. Before the Buddha was enlightened, he lived hundreds of life and each was a lesson in itself, same goes for us. Each person has different lessons to be learnt and mistakes to be made, and at the end of this life, the scores are tallied.

    This will determine our next step (life).

    Sometimes we have to read and assimilate knowledge from books and draw an understanding from them. They should not be taken literally most of the time.

    Dont kill yourself, incredibly bad karma...

    Ciao
    It's not like Buddhists are forbid killing themselves, therefore "allowed" is the wrong way to put it. Still a very unwholesome action though, as you say :)
    As I see it, Buddhists are not controlled by rules laid down by an angry god, hence only answer to themselves and their fellow beings - and therefore are only guided by their conscience (and not rules). When Buddhists do good deeds, they do it not because they are told to but because they see the benefits for everyone, and vice versa.


  • It's not like Buddhists are forbid killing themselves, therefore "allowed" is the wrong way to put it. Still a very unwholesome action though, as you say :)
    As I see it, Buddhists are not controlled by rules laid down by an angry god, hence only answer to themselves and their fellow beings - and therefore are only guided by their conscience (and not rules). When Buddhists do good deeds, they do it not because they are told to but because they see the benefits for everyone, and vice versa.

    Very nicely stated!

  • Yes, its true that Buddhists are not commanded by an all powerful God, but rules/guidelines/precepts or whatever we call it are not as loose as you mentioned.
    The Vinaya for monks are by all means rules to be abided by.

    Even lay practitioners, when you take the precepts, then they become rules to be followed. Otherwise what good are they? Perhaps its the connotation that the word 'rule' implies...

    Of course you can opt out later and as you mentioned, its all between you and your
    peers, no God to excommunicate you etc.

    The Dharma contains a lot of do's and dont's. You can use it as a rule to be followed or just hogwash. Good thing is Buddhists have a choice, hehe.

    Ciao
  • Yes, its true that Buddhists are not commanded by an all powerful God, but rules/guidelines/precepts or whatever we call it are not as loose as you mentioned.
    The Vinaya for monks are by all means rules to be abided by.

    Even lay practitioners, when you take the precepts, then they become rules to be followed. Otherwise what good are they? Perhaps its the connotation that the word 'rule' implies...

    Of course you can opt out later and as you mentioned, its all between you and your
    peers, no God to excommunicate you etc.

    The Dharma contains a lot of do's and dont's. You can use it as a rule to be followed or just hogwash. Good thing is Buddhists have a choice, hehe.

    Ciao
    The one to make it "not allowed" is yourself. That, you can change again - there's no one above you to use force, once you've decided. I agree that if you make rules for yourself, you ought to follow them. The process for deciding that a rule no longer applies is the fraction of a second you take it back.

  • JohnGJohnG Veteran
    Rules and laws are guides of proper behavior for a people; the idea of what socitey permits, as well as the citizens of that socitey. The same can be applied as that of religious belief. If one chooses to live in a certain society, and religion, the person has an obligation of complying with those rules. If chooses not to, then there's a permitance to leave that society and faith; with no ill will towards either party.

    But to choose to end ones life, to not just leave society for another on the necessity to end one's pain, to me, is a judgement of that societies and religions failure of those laws and precepts.
    But I also acknoledge that it's a human with human failings that govern under those same laws and precepts.
  • howhow to wrassle a wild zafu. Vancouver BC Veteran
    Just about all of Society & religion frowns on suicide. Suicide is the only non redeemable cancellation of that membership. Suicides are just someones suffering being stronger than their wish to retain that membership.

    Suicide, for the rest of us living members touches the primal fear within us all that we are really separate from god.(put the deity or practise of choice here).
    How we respond to that fear largely determines how much suffering a suicide creates for the survivor's. For Buddhists it's our manifestation of the 4 noble truths that help.
  • I was a Buddhist for 20 years prior to becoming an Eastern Orthodox Christian. I'm new to this site, and this is my first comment.

    Both Buddhist and Christians do believe in a next life so the condition of the person who has committed the act must not be forgotten. Their state of despair does not end with the passing of this life.

    From an Orthodox Christian perspective we believe that our thoughts not only have an impact in determining the condition of our lives but others as well, because we are all interconnected even if no longer seen. Therefore we should keep him or her in our heart and pray for their well being.

    Forgive me.
  • In Buddhism, I believe that people are free to do what they want with their life. But, the difference lies in the intelligence of one's action. That is the bottom line. Suicide, though is not prohibited, is nonetheless unskillful. As someone mentioned, it is an opportunity in life. The opportunity to live free from harm, free from any infringement to others is an honrable existence, even if he/she chooses not to do anything beyond that either thru will or thru circumstances.

    One is born thru his own karmic force. It is not easy to discern that karmic force with which one is propelled to take rebirth as we, on the most part, are unenlightened. Our minds are not cleansed of debris. We are clouded in our impurities. Thus, we cannot discern where we have come from or where we are going in the future, but only in the immediate now.

    Thus, in Buddhism, it is advised to be mindful, to be aware of our thought processes with respect to our environments. Though we experience hardships now and cannot see the end of the tunnel, it does not mean we will stay there indefinitely. Day by day as we continue to live and breathe, we are seeing the end of something, moving us an inch at a time toward the end of that long tunnel of darkness. Thus with this idea, one should take what ever stimulus one encounters and acknowledge it and work with it, either thru acceptance or challenge, etc., to defy any low negative state of ending one's life.

    Unless one is fully enlightened, free from the bounds of Samsara, then one cannot assume that the grass is always greener on the other side of the field. Unless one can see without a doubt where one's next existence will be after this current one, then it is not advisable to end one's life. In addition to what I mentioned above as unskillful, it is not in our own hand to do, though it is physically within our own hand.

    Life is given by the four gods---Earth, Water, Air, Fire. Though we think we are accountable for our own karma and that no god has anything to do with it, we are wrong in this perception. We are given free reign on earth, but there are gods everywhere and there is a god for every aspect on life.

    Since human have a small capacity to accumulate so little merits, they are denied thousands of elements. At most, they could only have five elements, for our stamina to earn more is lesser than beings of a higher realm like the devas. But, to go into this may not be suitable as I believe Buddhism is a rather complex, among the most complex, religion in terms of philosophy and dhamma. Suffice it to say it is better to go thru it than over it or what have a person than not facing it as one may compound one's karmic force if not alleviate it in committing suicide.
  • In Orthodox Christianity we also believe that people have freedom of choice.

    If I recall correctly one of the primary percepts of Buddhism is not to take life, and correct me if I'm wrong, that would include not only the ant struggling across my desk, but my own life too.

    Though I no longer have faith in the doctrine of karma as it being the cause of my creation an interesting point has been made with regards to the impurities in the mind, an uncertain future, and if one is not fully enlightened then the freedom from the bonds of Samsara can't be obtained.

    There are different Buddhist interpretations as to the nature of enlightenment, but according to my previous tradition it is understood to have no defining end point. There is no end or limit to spiritual development as is witnessed in the material arena. As an aside, this would be understood the same in Orthodoxy.

    Now, based on the Tibetan tradition, the first step on the enlightened path is the practice of committing positive actions and the refraining from the negative. This is before any real progress can be made in Samatha, or calm abiding mediation.

    If we know, from a Tibetan Buddhist perspective, that a karmic action goes through multiple stages that all contribute to its strength. The most important being the completing stage and whether one feels remorse or satisfaction of the deed committed.

    Now the question is how does one rid the mind from the defilements knowingly committed and those hidden. In Tibetan Buddhism there is a prayer of confession were it is believed they are purified that one prays.

    In Orthodoxy we have prayers of confession too, but as part of our faith we also confess our sins to God in the presence of our spiritual father confessor as a witness. According to our faith he has been given the authority to loose or bind our sins as needed for our spiritual growth. Perhaps one is not remorseful or is having difficulty accepting responsibility for the deed then the priest at his discretion could bind the sin and prescribe a penance in order to heal the soul and extract the sin. Sins are not seen in a legalistic way as in the Christian West, but as actions, be they thoughts, words, or deeds, that distance us from God.

    It is one thing to confess sins to ourselves and God while alone, but quite another with a witness. It is where the rubber meets the road. I would say Orthodoxy could be described as a path of tears. Both of remorse and joy. A joyful sorrow, because there is forgiveness and we are grateful.

    Knowing that I had committed countless negative actions and understanding that it was more likely that I would die prior to obtaining enlightenment in my present lifetime I became deeply concerned about the uncertain future, and this helped me to eventually pursue my present faith.

    In Buddhism is there a formal confession practice, or if not what other guidance does one receive in refraining from negative actions and removing the ones that have been imprinted in the consciousness?
  • JohnGJohnG Veteran
    Silouan, Thank you for the advice, which I will study and adhear; my mother is Ruthinin Byzinten, so much of what you say I am familiar with :D. I have but one problem with the confession to a priest though. I am from the Hazleton area of Pennsylvania, the anthracite coal region, and from my study of the Lattimar Massacar, I have discovered how the coal and iron cops obtained their information, and it was from the confessional. So, I'm very wary of this sacrament.

    But, I also know that there are changes in the way a suicide is dealt with now, in both Orthodox and Latin rituals; the change of not condeming the one who commited the deed to the torments of hell. The way now is to see the person as one who could not go on due to the lack of strainght; no longer an evil person. But those who caused or aided the reason for the pain, are the one's who must seek forgivness. That their sin in this is mortal, and needful of extreme penance here. :rolleyes:
  • You are most welcome.

    Confession is a difficult thing to do, but we must have faith and trust, and remember we are confessing to God. The priest stands by your side as you face the icon of Christ as a witness. I will ask my own spiritual father for some words on the matter if you don't mind.

    May God have mercy on the priests who violated the sanctity of that holy mystery and the souls of those lives taken as a result.

    I will investigate the event as I'm ignorant about it.
  • JohnGJohnG Veteran
    And that is all I can ask. :)
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