Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Apr 27, 2012 1:37 am

This question comes out of some recent discussions here and elsewhere. I know the topic's a bit heavy so bear with me..

The standard Buddhist argument against suicide is, basically, that suicide is impossible. If one tries to annihilate oneself through such a "short-cut" method, the result will simply be renewed existence, and probably an unpleasant one at that.

Suppose, though, that there is no rebirth. Following the overall Buddhist perspective on things, would suicide be a desirable and logical choice?

After all, isn't the goal cessation of the aggregates? And if suicide actually worked, wouldn't cessation of the aggregates occur? We are encouraged to cultivate zeal and desire in pursuit of the goal -- so were one to become convinced that there is no rebirth, what would be a reason for sticking around?

Besides fear of rebirth, are there any other good arguments (from a Theravada Buddhist perspective) against suicide?

I can think of a few possibilities: 1) desire not to harm others through an action that might cause suffering, 2) it violates the precepts, 3) the path involves realizations and fruits along the way to nibbana (jhanas for example), which would not be obtainable through the "short cut", 4) the Buddhist path involves gnosis and the same cannot be said of annihilation through a sudden act, and 5) nibbana is not annihilation. Not sure whether these arguments stack up.

Your thoughts?
User avatar
Lazy_eye
 
Posts: 822
Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:23 pm
Location: Laurel, MD

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby Buckwheat » Fri Apr 27, 2012 5:17 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Besides fear of rebirth, are there any other good arguments (from a Theravada Buddhist perspective) against suicide?

Suicide generates a ton of suffering for many people. My grandfather killed himself ten years before I was born and it still created suffering in my life.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
Buckwheat
 
Posts: 927
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 12:39 am
Location: California USA

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Apr 27, 2012 5:30 am

Greetings Lazy,

Lazy_eye wrote:Besides fear of rebirth, are there any other good arguments (from a Theravada Buddhist perspective) against suicide?

The following come to mind...

- The standard precept not to kill
- The Vinaya precept for monks not to recommend or suggest suicide

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14656
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby reflection » Fri Apr 27, 2012 6:25 am

Because it is craving for non-becoming in an extreme way.
Of course the hurt done to others is also a big thing to consider.
User avatar
reflection
 
Posts: 1115
Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 9:27 pm

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby paarsurrey » Fri Apr 27, 2012 10:12 am

Buddha taught of a middle path; if one follows Buddha one won't commit suicide; despite sufferings he did not teach or allow one to commit suicide.

Thanks
I am an Ahmadi peaceful Muslim

http://paarsurrey.wordpress.com/
paarsurrey
 
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:24 pm

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby daverupa » Fri Apr 27, 2012 10:59 am

For the agnostic: it's not a sure bet, while continued practice here and now is.

:candle:
    "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]
User avatar
daverupa
 
Posts: 4126
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Apr 27, 2012 11:30 am

daverupa wrote:For the agnostic: it's not a sure bet, while continued practice here and now is.

:candle:


Good point there...

Thanks to all for your responses. :namaste:
User avatar
Lazy_eye
 
Posts: 822
Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:23 pm
Location: Laurel, MD

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby manas » Fri Apr 27, 2012 7:44 pm

Hi Lazy_Eye

It's such a big 'what if' (ie 'what if there is no next existence, dependent on our previous kamma?) and the stakes are so high, that I would never take the risk. However, even if I were not a Buddhist - I still could not hurt my kids and (surviving) parent like that. Not to mention my brother and sister, and my spiritual guides and mentors. So even if I was somehow convinced that there were no existence after death, and if my life was unbearable, I would still not do it - I would just do whatever (non-lethal means) it took to ease the pain instead, and wait it out.

metta

:anjali:
User avatar
manas
 
Posts: 2109
Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 3:04 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Apr 27, 2012 8:45 pm

This is why both annhilism and eternalism are wrong view according to the Buddha, both views lead to these kinds of conundrums and neither do anything in service of the main point of the Buddhas teaching the cessation of Dukkha.

Is Dukkha really this bad for you? If so I suppose best to get it over with then, if not then embrace the uncertainties in life and learn to not be controlled by Dukkha.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
User avatar
Goofaholix
 
Posts: 1926
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby Aloka » Fri Apr 27, 2012 9:31 pm

Your thoughts?


Hi LazyEye,

Whatever one believes in terms of rebirth, suicide would not only cause suffering for oneself and others, but would be killing a chance for enlightement in this life that we're living here and now. To me its this life that's important for potential freedom from dukkha, not some woolly idea about the future.

kind regards

Aloka
User avatar
Aloka
 
Posts: 3612
Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:51 pm

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Apr 27, 2012 10:45 pm

Aloka wrote:Suicide...would be killing a chance for enlightement in this life that we're living here and now.


But herein lies the problem. Enlightenment=cessation of the aggregates. The Buddha compared it to a flame being snuffed out.

So why wait? If there is no rebirth, then if someone dies right now, he/she has for all practical purposes achieved "enlightenment in this life that we're living here and now". That person has gained complete freedom from dukkha in all its forms.

I know this topic is not easy to discuss dispassionately and I don't mean to stir anyone up. It's an aspect of Buddhist teaching which I am trying to clarify for myself as I venture further into study and practice. The standard answer, as I mentioned above, is that suicide wouldn't actually achieve cessation; rather, it would lead to renewed existence, complete with some bad vipaka as a result of wrong views and an act of violence.

What I'm wondering is what other answers might be put forward from a Theravada point of view. I'm finding the responses in this thread helpful in untangling the question.

If i had a friend who was considering suicide and asked me why, from a Buddhist point of view, he or she shouldn't do this, I'm not sure how I could respond other than by asserting the possibility of rebirth. Assuming the person knew something about Dhamma, they could easily point out that existence is dukkha and cessation the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice. So I don't know what other kinds of skillful responses there might be.
Last edited by Lazy_eye on Fri Apr 27, 2012 10:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Lazy_eye
 
Posts: 822
Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:23 pm
Location: Laurel, MD

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby Aloka » Fri Apr 27, 2012 10:56 pm

So why wait? If there is no rebirth, then if someone dies right now, he/she has for all practical purposes achieved "enlightenment in this life that we're living here and now".


I'm sorry but that seems to be a completely illogical statement to me. How can someone dying mean that they've achieved enlightenment? Enlightenment is for the living not the dead.

with kind wishes

A.
User avatar
Aloka
 
Posts: 3612
Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:51 pm

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby Lazy_eye » Sat Apr 28, 2012 12:24 am

Aloka wrote:I'm sorry but that seems to be a completely illogical statement to me. How can someone dying mean that they've achieved enlightenment? Enlightenment is for the living not the dead.


If enlightenment means cessation of the aggregates, who or what is left to experience it? Consciousness is one of the aggregates. So by definition nibbana without remainder -- that is, complete cessation of the aggregates -- means there is no one left to have cognitions or experiences.

There's a natural temptation to think of nibbana as a state of being. My understanding, though, is that it is better seen as the process of letting go, carried to its culmination.
User avatar
Lazy_eye
 
Posts: 822
Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:23 pm
Location: Laurel, MD

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby Ben » Sat Apr 28, 2012 12:41 am

Lazy_eye wrote:What I'm wondering is what other answers might be put forward from a Theravada point of view.


That's a really difficult question. If it were someone that was actually contemplating suicide then i would be encouraging them to, or getting them, some immediate professional help.

If it was the subject of a dispassionate academic discussion then I would argue that the path should be one that leads one from suffering to liberation and that walking on the path is not only good for oneself but for others as well. I can only imagine that the last mindstate of someone who is so acutely depressed that they see the only way out of their situation is by killing themselves as anything but intense misery. As others have rightly pointed out suicide visits unspeakable harm on those closest to oneself.
kind regards,

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16071
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Apr 28, 2012 1:02 am

Greetings Lazy,

Lazy_eye wrote:If enlightenment means cessation of the aggregates, who or what is left to experience it?

I think this is one of those wrongly framed questions.

Should you have a bit of time to review it, there was an interesting discussion here...

Five aggregates of appropriation (upādānakkhandha)
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=12178

... that digs deep into precisely what the aggregates are and aren't.

But none of that is likely to benefit your friend.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14656
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby ground » Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:01 am

There are only three assumptions that invalidated suicide
1. rebirth driven by kamma and samsara
2. equanimity as the only appropriate way of being

1 would show the futility of suicide and 2 would show the inappropriateness of suicide.
But why would one assume 2? Simply because it is the only way that eliminates dukkha and experiencing this one may discard 1 and not bother about "is it only temporary or is it permanent?" because this kind of bothering is a manifestation of lack of equanimity and therefore it is dukkha.

Lazy_eye wrote:I can think of a few possibilities: 1) desire not to harm others through an action that might cause suffering, 2) it violates the precepts, 3) the path involves realizations and fruits along the way to nibbana (jhanas for example), which would not be obtainable through the "short cut", 4) the Buddhist path involves gnosis and the same cannot be said of annihilation through a sudden act, and 5) nibbana is not annihilation. Not sure whether these arguments stack up.

1 may be an aditional assumption to sort of "invalidate" suicide, yes (no. 3).
2, 3, 4, and 5 are actually manifestations assuming rebirth/kamma/samsara.

Kind regards
User avatar
ground
 
Posts: 2592
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 6:01 am

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby reflection » Sat Apr 28, 2012 12:38 pm

I hesitated first to reply like this, but I think it'll be ok. So, while my first reply was more pragmatic, I will now reply from a theoretical point of view. I'd say the question is not valid. Why? To clarify, this was the question:
"Suppose, though, that there is no rebirth. Following the overall Buddhist perspective on things, would suicide be a desirable and logical choice?"

And these are two situations, nr 1 being what you state classical Therevadan Buddhism teaches.
1. There is rebirth. The end of rebirth is nirvana, the cessation of aggregates A. This is the highest happiness.
2. There is no rebirth. The death is the cessation of aggregates B.

I renamed the aggregates A & B, because in situation 2, they wouldn't be the same kind of aggregates as in situation 1, as they aren't sensitive to rebirth. You see, in the statements there would otherwise be an inconsistency. It's like saying, I've got here two red apples, but one is green. But that can't be. Actually, both aggregates are apples, but not the same kind of apples, so renamed A & B to indicate their colors. Are you with me me so far?

So far, with this correction of renaming the aggregates, we're fine. But than comes the dangerous assumption you make: that in situation nr 2, the cessation of aggregates B is also the highest happiness, as situation 1 says about aggregates A. But who'se going to say that that's true? You can't just equate the two if the aggregates are different. A red apple doesn't taste like a green apple.So we also can't follow the "overall Buddhist perspective" anymore. In other words, in situation 2 you would invariably take along an assumption hidden in situation 1, an approach that is not valid. And thus, the question can't be answered.

I could have said it shorter by saying a view of non-rebirth doesn't apply to the Buddhist perspective (at least the perspective as you sort of defined it), but I hope this makes something clear or at least gets you thinking that it may not be so easy to equate nirvana to something.

Whatever ones view of rebirth is and whether one does or does not agree with statements 1 or 2 doesn't matter here. The above reasonng is true, if I'm not missing anything. Please correct if this is not so.

With metta,
Reflection
User avatar
reflection
 
Posts: 1115
Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 9:27 pm

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby Dan74 » Sat Apr 28, 2012 1:36 pm

I guess with the same logic, if Parinibbana is nibbana with no effluents, the ultimate nibbana, which is the great goal, the Buddha should've killed himself the moment he attained liberation.

Seeing that he did not, shows, in my view, that there was a value in living for him, that it was not simply for the complete cessation that one practices.
_/|\_
User avatar
Dan74
 
Posts: 2631
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby Sarva » Sat Apr 28, 2012 1:41 pm

Hi Reflection
That is a fresh perspective, if I understood correctly you are saying that the aggregates property changes depending on rebirth being true or not. Feel free to correct me if I misunderstood . :)

It lead me to the thought which is that in both cases it is both A and B aggregates themselves which lead to suffering and the desire to end life regardless of their likelyhood of rebirth or not. What might be different is the desire as to what lies after death.

I read that a monk approached the Dali Lama and explained that he was not making progress with his study and would he be able to do so in his next life. The Dali Lama answered that he probably would, he later found out that the monk had killed himself [1].

This is clearly wrong view, but it implies that the desire for what lies after life is also a role in bringing the aggregates to an end.

Just a thought.

metta
[1] The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, 1999.
Last edited by Sarva on Sat Apr 28, 2012 1:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
“Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.” — SN 22:86
Sarva
 
Posts: 209
Joined: Sun Mar 18, 2012 5:49 pm

Re: Buddhism, rebirth and suicide

Postby Sarva » Sat Apr 28, 2012 1:42 pm

Dan74 wrote:I guess with the same logic, if Parinibbana is nibbana with no effluents, the ultimate nibbana, which is the great goal, the Buddha should've killed himself the moment he attained liberation.

Seeing that he did not, shows, in my view, that there was a value in living for him, that it was not simply for the complete cessation that one practices.

Hi Dan
Could the value have been not to introduce further craving or aversion, I wonder?

:)
“Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.” — SN 22:86
Sarva
 
Posts: 209
Joined: Sun Mar 18, 2012 5:49 pm

Next

Return to General Theravāda discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Coyote, robertk and 4 guests