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death with equanimity

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(Chapter VII, cont.)

7.23 – 7.25

7.23 The Buddhist Tradition –

The Buddhist philosophy does not approve of voluntary deaths as religiously approved forms of death. However, Pāli literature of the Buddhists mentions the voluntary deaths of monks and householders who have generally used violent means of embracing death. Under circumstances of incurable diseases and extreme forms of misery Lord Buddha had approved of their voluntary deaths and pronounced their deaths as noble and yielding the ultimate spiritual benefit of nirvāṇa. As to how a death sought by using violent means such as disemboweling by using a weapon, etc can yield peaceful death in a state of equanimity of mind, beats established logic but there is no reason to doubt the words of Lord Buddha who was an enlightened Arhata. In any case, the modern analysts have termed these deaths as suicides.i

7.24 The Christian Tradition –

In accordance with the commandment – “Thou shalt not kill, neither thyself nor another”,ii the Christianity forbids suicide or voluntary death of any kind. To emphasise this precept, the church refused to perform the last rites on the bodies of the suicide cases. However, it seems that the earlier Fathers approved of suicides, which were committed to secure martyrdom, to avoid apostasy or to protect virginity.iii

7.25 The Islamic Tradition –

The Holy Koran says that only Allah is empowered to permit the souls to die and any one who kills himself flouts the will of Allah.iv It clearly and unequivocally shows that the Islam is against any form of voluntary deaths and forbids them altogether.

From the above mentioned discussion, it is plain that though all religions condemned suicides and considered them unethical and amoral, various faiths have put forth various reasons to approve of and recommend voluntary deaths as noble and meritorious deaths to be embraced here that could yield noble and heavenly pleasures in the world hereafter or even yield the ultimate fruit of separation of all karmic bondage from the soul and yielding spiritual emancipation and liberation from worldly transmigration, which has been depicted as most painful and miserable. All religious philosophies, especially those of the East, tote the promise of heaven and liberation in return for most arduous and rigorous austerities and penances. It is the desire of every religious person to seek this freedom from Karma and liberate; he is ready to go to any extent in achieving this.

As it is quite logical to assume that no death, voluntary or otherwise, can yield the desired fruit of liberation unless the soul has been purified and emancipated. It is, therefore, pertinent to reflect on the issue of the stage at which a person can be considered to be of sufficient spiritual purity to derive desired benefit from the extreme practice of voluntary death and may be permitted to undertake its practice even under religious tutelage.

Religious convictions and patriotism and other such lofty motives have been the source of noble inspiration for human actions. So, the ultimate decision whether voluntary death in accordance with any religion is suicide will depend upon the motive, the means adopted and the consequences that ensue therefrom.v

i a. “Buddhism condems suicide but there are stories of individual monks having committed suicide in a heat of passion by hanging, falling down from the mountaintops, etc.”

Ibid, p. 66.

b. “Besides, the stories of suicide by Siha, Sappadāsa, Vakkali and Godhikā disclose that Buddhist monks and nuns resorted to suicide.” – History Of Suicide In India ibid, p. 107.

ii Samādhimaraṇa, ibid, p. .35.

iii Sallekahanā Is Not Suicide ibid, p. 68.

iv “Nor can a soul die except by Allah’s leave.” – The Holy Kur`ān, Sura 3.A.145.

v Sallekahanā Is Not Suicide ibid, p. 69.

Section – 7.3

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