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Q&A: Suicide


A Reader recently wrote:

A friend of a friend of mine recently killed herself. My friend, raised in a Christian environment, knows from what she has been taught that people who commit suicide wind up in the worst part of Hell.

What is the Buddhist perspective on suicide?

And my response:

Suicide is bad, no matter what perspective you have.

Buddhists do not have a Hell, at least not in the same way Christians do, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t repercussions. Remember, the very first Noble Truth is that all life if suffering. Suffering is the norm, not the exception. Many people in the West have been trained (more and more so through the media) that life should be happy and wonderful, and if it isn’t, then something is wrong. This is very misleading. Life is life; sometimes it’s wonderful, but that’s just not a sustainable goal. All life is suffering; you can avoid it for a while, but not forever.

Buddhists don’t go to hell. They do, however, have to deal with karma and rebirth. Suicide causes a great deal of suffering, both to yourself and those left behind. Causing suffering brings on bad karma, and chances are that if you’re suffering now, a bad rebirth will only make things worse.

It sounds awful to say that suffering is normal, and that you should ‚Äúsuck it up and move on,‚Äù but that’s really the only solution. Life is suffering, but there is an end to suffering, and that end is the eightfold path. Meditation can be a big help with combating depression, but medication and therapy can be as much of a help as more Buddhist solutions. Just because we’re Buddhist does not mean we cannot take advantage of modern medicine and treatments too. But as we all know, you have to make an effort to get better, and with depression, that’s not easy. Nothing is easy with depression.


4 comments to Q&A: Suicide

  • Tristan

    In this you mention the subject of rebirth. This is a topic i have been struggling with recently.

    In the Q&A podcast it was mentioned that new souls can not come in to the world. If that is the case how is the population explotaion explained?

    Surley there must be millions of souls that have been around for hundreds of thousands of years and also thousands of new ones every single day?

  • I said it was my OPINION that there were no new souls. Others may say differently.

    Explaining the population explosion is not hard, since we have no idea how many living beings there are on the planet now and in the past. Remember, just because there are six billion humans on the planet now, doesn’t mean that half of those people weren’t some form of animal previously.

    As far as souls that have been around hundreds of thousands of years, yes, I would agree with that. But new souls? The Bodhisattvas (I guess we’ll talk about them soon now that the subject has come up) pledge to stay behind until ALL beings have achieved enlightenment… That can NEVER happen if new souls are constantly being added to the mix.

    I agree with you that reincarnation is hard to grasp. I can’t honestly say that I’m completely convinced either, but I do like it better than some of the other alternative afterlife scenarios.

  • Tristan

    I agree with your opinion, that there are no new souls. I guess that does raise the question: “where did they all come from” though. Perhaps there is a higher society that understands and we will only be able to comprehend this when we free our selves.

    I do wonder sometimes, if human beings are souls that have moved up the ranks from animals, like you suggest. This would be similar to the cast system Hindus belive in. When we think about it like this can we stil say that extinsion of a species is a bad thing? Perhaps they have all moved on. I do contemplate how far back we can take it. Perhaps ants or even bacteria are souls. As the human population grows (and other species) I wonder if; what we consider lesser forms of life are reducing. I don’t think there is any research to back up this theory to date but find it fascinating.

  • “This would be similar to the cast system Hindus belive in”

    That’s where Buddhism got a lot of their foundational material.

    I wouldn’t think classical Buddhists would get too upset at extinctions of species if they occurred naturally– nothing is permanent after all. However, extinctions caused by humanity is another story.

    “Perhaps ants or even bacteria are souls.”

    I’m reminded of a TV commercial for facial tissues that was on not too long ago. It had a bald guy running around letting ants out of the house and otherwise being kind to living things. It implied heavily that he was Buddhist. At one point,he had to sneeze, and grabbed an anti-bacterial tissue to contain the sneeze. He sneezed into the tissue then he noticed on the box that it “kills germs” and looks at the camera in terror at what he’d done. It was funny.

    Do ants and bacteria have souls? There’s really no way to know. Most people connect souls with sentience, so there are limits. But who can really know?