Buddhism and suicide

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Buddhism and suicide

Postby PsychedelicBuddhist » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:34 pm

Suicide is an uber sensitive, often worrying, and controversial topic so before I start this thread, let me make one fact as clear as day- I am not suicidal, suicidal ideation is not part of my being, I do not condone suicide, and I'm making this thread solely for the purposes of rhetorical discussion.
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Buddhism is one of the few (if not only) religions that has my utmost respect and I view it more as a philosophy and style of life than a theological endeavor. Having read several books on the matter, including some works by Alan Watts, my understanding of how this construct works is that an individual, through practicing meditation, changing his worldview perspective, and attaining enlightenment, escapes the bland, unpleasant loop of the sukha and dukha that 99.9% of the world seems to be entangled in. This is often described as a moment of realization, or waking up if you will, and entering a state of bliss (otherwise known as Nirvana) where everyday, petty pains that seems to cause colossal amounts of suffering (jealousy, anger, sickness, fear) begin to entirely diminish and often simple pleasures like the scent of flowers, the sounds of birds, and so forth seem to become even more euphoric and ecstatic. Have I got it right? I'm not a Buddhist scholar, I've only recently begun exploring this religion but I'm loving every minute of it.

Now, what causes a bit of confusion to me is the contradiction between the view of the world as fading and the view of the world as every individual being a spiritual entity (from what I understand, Buddhism preaches both). The first view, and I believe most buddhists agree with this, is that the world, or the universe at large, is something that is in a constant state of change and decay, or in other words there is absolutely nothing here that is permanent. This is where I assume the whole idea that clinging to people, personal possessions, and so forth is deemed as being a silly source of unnecessary pain by the Buddhists because, as Alan Watts puts it, it's like trying to grab water with your bare hands- it's a futile thing to do because it will all slip away and you'll simply become frustrated and anxious. With this in mind, isn't the self/ego also merely temporary? The ego is a network of experiences, memories, and genetics that create YOU and determine things like what experiences you consider important and worth pursuing, what provides pleasure and pain to your self, and what your degree of appreciation/focus towards said experiences is. Since we've determined that the ego will disintegrate and break away with time and death, isn't all this "soul building" (view of every individual as a spiritual being that must learn, get enlightened, and flourish) unnecessary? Isn't it as futile and silly as trying to build an empire and hoping that when you die, you'll be able to retain your wealth and power? If the self isn't permanent, then when you die and say are reincarnated, why should you have any relation to your past self? It's not like you'll have his memories/achievements/etc handed to you when you're born, right? So isn't "soul building" another form of clinging?

To fit suicide into the equation, looking at this from a solely objective perspective, isn't it technically easier to escape the dukha by simply terminating your existence instead of spending years meditating to escape it all? Does Buddhism deem suicide as immoral? If so why? Isn't the outcome of enlightenment and suicide somewhat similar? Isn't suicide the ultimate form of "not clinging" because you choose to potentially terminate your attachment with EVERYTHING that exists, including yourself?

Sorry if these are stupid questions, I've been reading a lot recently and trying to get the facts clear. :reading:
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Re: Buddhism and suicide

Postby daverupa » Tue Aug 06, 2013 2:06 pm

PsychedelicBuddhist wrote:Have I got it right?


One general corrective is to note that nibbana is the cessation of greed, hate, and delusion, and not a location to which one goes or escapes. Nor does Buddhism teach that every individual is a spiritual entity - the premise of Buddhism is that all sensible phenomena have dependencies, not that there are core essences.

While you might have a grasp of impermanence on the cosmic stage, the key thing to note is that clinging to a sense of self is a problem which renews itself; it's probably confusing to think of it in terms of "my self is impermanent" because that's still talking about a self and trying to lay experience alongside that idea. Strive to recognize that it is just craving arising and ceasing, because that's what the Dhamma is designed to explain and address.

The idea that the ego will disintegrate isn't really an idea that has a place in the Dhamma, either. What gets taken (upadana) for the ego is a constellation of dependencies which are amenable to various inputs, including the training. "Soul building" has nothing to do with this training.

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Suicide ultimately treats the individual as a discreet and isolated entity. Buddhism points out that this view is simply nescient, myopic, and that action based on such a foundation is therefore bound to be an inadequate solution.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Buddhism and suicide

Postby cooran » Tue Aug 06, 2013 8:25 pm

Hello all,

This may be of interest:

Buddhism and Suicide - the Case of Channa - Damian Keown, University of London, Goldsmiths
http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma/suicide.html

With metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Buddhism and suicide

Postby reflection » Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:34 pm

Hi,

I'm happy you find Buddhism interesting. As for many people new to Buddhism, you start off with a lot of questions. Enough to talk about for hours. However, I will just touch upon a few points that I think are your main questions.



Have I got it right?

I need to say that Alan Watts is inspirational, but he is not a key figure to understand Buddhism through. When he taught his philosophy, he blended multiple eastern religions, including Hinduism and Taoism, into one thing, let's call it Alan Watts-ism. So if you want to understand Buddhism and not Alan Watts-ism, you'd be better off reading material by people who's main focus has been Buddhism - like Buddhist monks.

The explanation of nirvana also becomes different. It's for one thing, certainly not meant to make sensual experiences more ecstatic. Instead it is to detach from them, being totally unattached to anything.

So isn't "soul building" another form of clinging?

It shouldn't be, but for many people it is. The seeming paradox is that first you practice for your own happiness, but as soon as you realize there is no "you", the practice happens by itself - not out of craving.



Isn't it technically easier to escape the dukha by simply terminating your existence instead of spending years meditating to escape it all? Does Buddhism deem suicide as immoral?

It won't, because this is forgetting rebirth. (One example where Alan Watts departs from most Buddhists) If you end your life, that won't end suffering, because there will be a new life. But suicide isn't immoral per se.


Hope this helps.
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Re: Buddhism and suicide

Postby manas » Thu Aug 08, 2013 2:37 am

PsychedelicBuddhist wrote:This is where I assume the whole idea that clinging to people, personal possessions, and so forth is deemed as being a silly source of unnecessary pain by the Buddhists because, as Alan Watts puts it, it's like trying to grab water with your bare hands- it's a futile thing to do because it will all slip away and you'll simply become frustrated and anxious. With this in mind, isn't the self/ego also merely temporary? The ego is a network of experiences, memories, and genetics that create YOU and determine things like what experiences you consider important and worth pursuing, what provides pleasure and pain to your self, and what your degree of appreciation/focus towards said experiences is. Since we've determined that the ego will disintegrate and break away with time and death, isn't all this "soul building" (view of every individual as a spiritual being that must learn, get enlightened, and flourish) unnecessary?


Greetings PB,

as I currently understand it, this 'soul building' is just an activity of the mind. It's not that anything gets created by it that wasn't already there in the first place. We folks who have yet to reach right understanding, tend to identify with things such as the form of our body, feelings of pleasure or pain (in the sense of "I am experiencing pleasure...pain"), and other phenomena, as being either 'me' or 'mine', when on closer examination they are proven to not be fitting to be regarded as such. Our physical bodies wear out and eventually die and disintegrate. Feelings of pleasure, as well as of pain, come and then go. Since we can neither hold on to our bodies nor our feelings, regarding them as 'me' or as 'mine' is going to result in a lot of suffering for us. An easy example is an old person terminally ill, still wishing for physical pleasure but only receiving pain, and what's more, nearing death. If one believed that one's physical body was oneself, imagine the grief and sorrow when it was time for that body to pass away? So we ought to examine whether it is fitting or not, to cling to the idea of the body as self, or feelings as self (or as being experienced by self), or of anything else that is subject to arising and dissolution. Anything which is inevitably going to break apart one day, why would we want to identify with that?

Identifying with ephemeral things that pass away, OR choosing not to identify with them, both of these are mental activities. The difference is, one of them leads to stress, the other towards greater ease.

PsychedelicBuddhist wrote:To fit suicide into the equation, looking at this from a solely objective perspective, isn't it technically easier to escape the dukha by simply terminating your existence instead of spending years meditating to escape it all? Does Buddhism deem suicide as immoral? If so why? Isn't the outcome of enlightenment and suicide somewhat similar? Isn't suicide the ultimate form of "not clinging" because you choose to potentially terminate your attachment with EVERYTHING that exists, including yourself?


But if you were trying to end your life, motivated by aversion or even a desire to escape the troubles of Samsara, your mind would not be free from craving, and so there would be rebirth, along with even more dukkha due to the unwholesome kamma of having killed oneself. Even the desire not to exist is still a desire. The only way to not have to reappear in Samsara is to abandon craving for sensuality, becoming and non-becoming. We don't get out of here by merely wishing it, we have to become desireless. And that is generally a long-term project.

kind regards
manas
:anjali:


NB If any more senior member finds any inaccuracies in my above reasoning, please point it out.
Primum non nocere: "first, do no harm."
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