Jain views on suicide

There are a variety of religious views on suicide.

Abrahamic religions

Judaism

Suicides are frowned upon and buried in a separate part of a Jewish cemetery, and may not receive certain mourning rites. In actual practise, every means is used to excuse suicide—usually by determining either that the suicide itself proves that the person was not in their right mind, or that the suicide must have repented after performing the deadly act but shortly before death occurred.

Assisting in suicide and requesting such assistance (thereby creating an accomplice to a sinful act) is however forbidden, a violation of Leviticus 19:14 ("Do not put a stumbling block before the blind"), which is understood as prohibiting tempting to sin as well as literally setting up physical obstacles.[1]

Suicide is sometimes acceptable in Jewish law. Taking one's own life may be seen as a preferred alternative to committing certain cardinal sins.[2] Most authorities hold that it is not permissible to hasten death to avoid pain if one is dying in any event, but the Talmud is somewhat unclear on the matter.[3]

Mass suicide has had a long-standing history in Judaism where it was also acceptable to other alternatives. According to the 1st-century CE Jewish historian Josephus, Herod the Great fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE as a refuge for himself in the event of a revolt. In 66 CE, at the beginning of the First Jewish-Roman War, a group of Jewish extremists called the Sicarii, overcame the Roman garrison of Masada. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, additional members of the Sicarii and numerous Jewish families fled Jerusalem and settled in the mountaintop fortress, using it as a base for harassing the Romans.[4] This 960-strong Jewish community at Masada collectively committed suicide in 73 CE rather than be conquered and enslaved by the Romans. Each man killed his wife and children, then the men drew lots and killed each other until the last man killed himself.[5]

Christianity

According to the theology of the Roman Catholic Church, suicide is objectively a sin which violates the commandment "Thou shalt not kill".[6] However the gravity and culpability for that sin changes based on the circumstances surrounding that sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 2283 states, "We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives." Paragraph 2282 also points out that, "Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide." The Catholic Church used to practice that persons committing suicide could not have a Catholic funeral mass and burial. However, the Church has since changed this practice.[7]

Conservative Protestants (Evangelicals, Charismatics, Pentecostals, and other denominations) have often argued that because suicide involves self-murder, then anyone who commits it is sinning and is the same as if the person murdered another human being. An additional view concerns the act of asking for salvation and accepting Jesus Christ as personal savior, which must be done prior to death. This is an important aspect of many Protestant denominations, and the problem with suicide is that once dead the individual is unable to accept salvation. The unpardonable sin then becomes not the suicide itself, but rather the refusal of the gift of salvation.

Most Fundamental Denominationalists (traditional Baptists) view suicide as any other sin. John Piper speaking at a funeral at Bethel Baptist Church in 1981 said, "No single sin, not even suicide, evicts a person from heaven into hell. One thing does: continual rejection of God's Spirit. Our friend, we believe, gave up that resistance and accepted the forgiveness of Christ. What sort of momentary weakness, what brief cloud of hopelessness caused her to take her life remains a mystery."

The view of scripture on the topic is such that, once a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ, every sin they will ever commit is paid for if they continue to "walk in the light"(1 John 1:7), and "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" if they continue to walk according to the spirit (Romans 8:1). These Christians believe suicide to be a sin, but do not believe it is impossible to find salvation. (Romans 4:8). Judas, who committed suicide in despair, is generally believed to have been damned, for his suicide and/or for his actions which caused the death of another. Other interpretations, however, suggests Judas may have committed suicide as an act of repentance, along with returning the "blood money" (Matthew 27:3-5). Other Biblical examples of suicide (Saul and his armor-bearer in 1 Samuel 31:4-5, Samson in Judges 16:16:28-30, Ahitophel in 2 Samuel 17:23, and Zimri in 1 Kings 16:18) describe people who are considered failures in their life. The narratives, however, do not explicitly condemn them for the act of suicide.

Eastern Orthodoxy, on the other hand, has never made any absolute statement about people who commit suicide. There have been those in the history of the Church that have killed themselves rather than be tortured and demoralized by invaders (see Dance of Zalongo). They also feel that perpetrators of suicide are most likely “not in their right minds” and that God will have mercy on them. In any case the Orthodox Christians leave the fate of suicide victims up to God and avoid making judgements.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, suicide is viewed as wrong, although the victim may not be considered responsible for the act depending on the circumstances.[8]

Some other denominations of Christianity may not condemn those who commit suicide per se as committing a sin, even if suicide isn't viewed favorably; factors such as motive, character, etc. are believed to be taken into account. One such example is the The New Church.[9]

In early Christian traditions, attitudes to suicide were notably different from today. In the fourth century, after several Christian women had committed suicide to avoid rape, Bishop Augustine declared that they had done "what was right in the sight of God".[10] During the years of Jewish persecution of Christians, many Christians chose to become a martyr by committing suicide. This became so common that the Jewish rulers decided to ban public mourning for all those who died by suicide, and prevent Christian suicide victims from being buried on hallowed ground, in an attempt to stigmatise and discourage the practice.[11]

In more modern times, Henry Pitney Van Dusen, the former president of New York's Union Theological Seminary and a presbyterian minister, signed a pact before committing suicide with his wife, Elizabeth. Both elderly, the Van Dusens believed that their increasing frailties prevented them from living the life they wanted to live, and believed that nursing homes were "virtual tombs" which artificially kept people alive who God may otherwise have allowed to die.[10]

Islam

Islam, as with other Abrahamic religions, views suicide as one of the greatest sins and utterly detrimental to one's spiritual journey. A verse in the Quran instructs;
"And do not kill yourselves, surely God is most Merciful to you."
— Qur'an, Sura 4 (An-Nisa), ayat 29 [12]

Most Muslim scholars and clerics consider suicide forbidden and similarly include suicide bombing as being equally forbidden.

Abu Dawud: "This puts suicide bombing and suicide into proper perspective within Islamic traditions, ultimately denouncing suicide of any form."

The prohibition of suicide has also been recorded in statements of hadith, (sayings of Muhammad). For example:

Narrated 2:23:446
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "Whoever purposely throws himself from a mountain and kills himself, will be in the (Hell) Fire falling down into it and abiding therein perpetually forever; and whoever drinks poison and kills himself with it, he will be carrying his poison in his hand and drinking it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever; and whoever kills himself with an iron weapon, will be carrying that weapon in his hand and stabbing his abdomen with it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever."
— 7:71:670

Furthermore, Jafar al-Sadiq, the sixth Shia Imam, has said the following with regards to suicide:

Abi Walad said, I heard Aba Abd Allah say: “Whoever kills himself, intentionally, he will be in the fire of hell for eternity.”

Dharmic religions

Hinduism

In Hinduism, suicide is normally frowned upon. Generally, committing suicide is considered a violation of the code of ahimsa (non-violence) and therefore equally sinful as murdering another. Some scriptures state that to die by suicide (and any type of violent death) results in becoming a ghost, wandering earth until the time one would have otherwise died, had one not committed suicide.[13]

Hinduism accepts a man's right to end one's life through the non-violent practice of fasting to death, termed Prayopavesa.[14] But Prayopavesa is strictly restricted to old age yogis who have no desire or ambition left, and no responsibilities remaining in this life.[14] Another example is dying in a battle to save one's honor.

Jainism

Jainism doesn't permit suicide. But for advanced monks, it's allowed with restrictions. Jain munis have been known to starve themselves to death.[15] The practice of non-violent fasting to death which is sanctioned by Jainism is termed Santhara.

Buddhism

According to Buddhism, individuals' past acts heavily influence what they experience in the present; present acts, in turn, become the background influence for future experiences (the doctrine of karma). Intentional action by mind, body or speech have a reaction. This reaction, or repercussion, is the cause of conditions and differences one encounters in life.

Buddhism teaches that all people experience substantial suffering (dukkha), in which suffering primarily originates from past negative deeds (karma), or may result as a natural process of the cycle of birth and death (samsara). Other reasons for the prevalence of suffering concern the concepts of impermanence and illusion (maya). Since everything is in a constant state of impermanence or flux, individuals experience dissatisfaction with the fleeting events of life. To break out of samsara, Buddhism advocates the Noble Eightfold Path.

For Buddhists, since the first precept is to refrain from the destruction of life, including one's self, suicide is seen as a negative act. If someone commits suicide in anger, he may be reborn in a sorrowful realm due to negative final thoughts.[16][17] However, unlike Christianity and other religions, Buddhism does not condemn suicide, but rather states that the reasons for suicide are often negative and thus counteract the path to enlightenment.[18]

There is one Buddhist tale of a bhikkhu named Godhika[19] who had repeatedly attained temporary liberation of mind but was unable to gain final liberation due to illness.[19] Godhika chose to take his own life while in a state of temporary liberation to be reborn in a high realm.[19] The Buddha was quoted as saying

Such indeed is how the steadfast act:

They are not attached to life.

Having drawn out craving at its root

Godhika has attained final Nibbaana.[19]

There is a similar story of a bhikkhu named Vakkali who committed suicide upon becoming an arhant.[19] Ultimately, tales like these point to a Buddhist belief that suicide may be acceptable ("good") if it will lead to non-attachment. However, people who have achieved enlightenment do not commit suicide. In both above cases they were not enlightened before attempting suicide but they became enlightened during or following their deaths.[20]

In an entry in the The Encyclopedia of Religion, Marilyn J. Harran wrote the following:

Buddhism in its various forms affirms that, while suicide as self-sacrifice may be appropriate for the person who is an arhat, one who has attained enlightenment, it is still very much the exception to the rule[21]

The Channovàda-sutra gives yet another example of an arhant who committed suicide.[22]

Neopagan Religions

Wicca

In Wicca as well as numerous other Neopagan religions, there is no general consensus concerning suicide. Some view suicide as a violation of the sanctity of life, and a violation of the most fundamental of Wiccan laws, the Wiccan Rede. However, as Wicca teaches a belief in Reincarnation instead of permanent rewards or punishments, many believe that suicides are reborn (like every one else) to endure the same circumstances in each subsequent lifetime until the capacity to cope with the circumstance develops.[23]

Cult suicide

Main article: Cult suicide

References

20. Matther, Herper, http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2011/11/14/what-we-dont-know-about-suicide/  ; Forbes.com, 2011

External links