The following article investigate this quite thoroughly...nowheat wrote:Some comments in that Other Rebirth Thread got me thinking that I don't actually know if the Buddha ever took a stand on suicide, or what implications it would have in terms of rebirth. Anyone have thoughts or citations?
Suicide as A Response to Suffering by Michael Attwood
http://www.westernbuddhistreview.com/vo ... ering.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
After a few cases studies and some analysis, he concludes thusly...
Metta,I approached this subject expecting to find clear statements against suicide but, perhaps surprisingly, it is not possible, from a study of various instances in the Pali Canon, to come to any hard and fast conclusion regarding suicide. There appear to be times when suicide in that context at least does no harm, though these must surely be very rare. The ethical principles of Buddhism, however, do give us some useful guidelines and there are other indications that suicide is not an acceptable response to suffering in general. Certainly self-harm is unhelpful and a cause of future suffering, and suicide does generally involve self-harm. Taking a slightly broader look at the Pali Canon, we find that the practice of self-torture or self-harm as spiritual exercises is specifically rejected by the Buddha, as, for instance, in the Kandaraka Sutta. Elsewhere the Buddha says, �one who seeks delight in suffering ... is not freed from suffering. One who does not seek delight in suffering ... is freed from suffering.� Self-harm simply leads directly to suffering. Although it would seem that in principle suicide is self-harm, some of the cases cited in the Pali Canon are exceptions in that they result not in suffering, but in the complete release from all suffering!
Violence in any form is not simply a breach of the precepts in a legalistic sense; it actually increases the suffering in the world. In general any action that is based upon unskilful states of mind, such as despair and grief, leads only to more suffering. From a Buddhist point of view death is no answer to suffering since we are simply reborn and cannot, it seems, escape the ripening of our karma. Clinging to life and clinging to death being equally causes of suffering, we are presented with dilemmas. This study has hopefully shown that we cannot prejudge a situation ethically. We must weigh each case carefully, and even then we may, like Saariputta, who was �foremost in wisdom�, make a mistake.
In his seminal book, Suicide: A Study In Sociology, Durkheim suggests that one of the main causes of suicide is a failure to connect with other people:
�In this case the bond attaching man to life relaxes because that attaching him to society is itself slack. The incidents of private life that seem the direct inspiration of suicide and are considered its determining causes are in reality only incidental causes. The individual yields to the slightest shock of circumstance because the state of society has made him a ready prey to suicide.�
Durkheim also discusses other causes such as mental illness, but underlying this type of suicide is a failure, in Sangharakshita�s terms, to imaginatively identify with other beings. One experiences one�s self as isolated and unloved. Objectively neither of these things is true, but subjectively the experience can be intense and seem inescapable. To overcome it one must strive to make that imaginative leap to identify with people. One must go out to people, search one�s own experience and use it to empathise with others. The Buddha gives us many clues as to how to do this:
�Having traversed all quarters with the mind,
One finds none anywhere dearer than oneself.
Likewise, each person holds himself dear;
Hence one who loves himself should not harm others.�
Here then are the beginnings of empathy. In Durkheim's terminology one must strengthen, must exercise even, that bond one has with society, so that it becomes strong, flexible and robust.
One glimmer of hope comes from the close call stories of Sappadasa and Siiha. In the �positive nidana� series we see that from suffering arises faith. They are very much aware of their suffering, and somehow in the midst of it they not only gain a greater perspective on it, but they also gain insight into reality itself. It is as though we can go from the depths of despair straight to insight, that in the experience of suffering insight is somehow more accessible. Sangharakshita alludes to this possibility in his Guide to the Buddhist Path in the section on the six realms of conditioned existence. In writing about the hell realms (mental suffering and despair being the psychological counterpart of the this realm) he tells us that the Buddha who appears in this realm offers the being there am.rta. �Am.rta�means �deathless�which is a synonym for Nirvaana. �It is as though there is nothing left for us to do about our suffering except to go, as it were, straight to Nirvaana. There is no other hope for us: all worldly hope has foundered.�
The first of the Buddha's Noble Truths tells us that we cannot run away from pain, that it is there in everything we experience in the world. In responding to those who are contemplating suicide, or who have attempted it and lived, we face a difficult task. All the ethical case studies and all the legalistic workings out of ethical principles may well be useless in the face of extreme suffering. Telling someone who is in extreme physical or mental pain that by �taking the knife� they are breaking the precepts, or that they are only hurting themselves, would be unlikely to dissuade them. What seems important is the imaginative identification. If we are able to empathise with others then we will be more able to face our own suffering, and therefore in a better position to help others face theirs.