Q.407 Why not commit suicide?

Q: Since the world as perceived by our senses is mithyA, and we are Brahman, any suffering or pleasures that we derive during the ‘vishva’ or ‘taijasa’ state are mere illusions. As this realization dawns, I am forced to conclude  that living or dying (both concepts being associated with the vishva state) are meaningless.

Rather than meditating etc, and deciding to live life as it is with the knowledge that it is mithya, why shouldn’t someone just end his existence in this state? He is Brahman anyway and it doesn’t matter if he lives or dies in an illusory world borne out of his senses.
Rest assured, this is more of a rhetorical question, to understand if any of the proponents of vedanta have addressed this.

The very act of my writing to you is in itself irrelevant in the broader context.

A: This is the sort of question that Ramana or Nisargadatta would answer with the question ‘Who is asking?’

The point is that the world and its vicissitudes are real for the jIva. Hence the teachings about karma and rebirth. If the jIva ends his/her life before gaining Self-knowledge, there will be rebirth according to the accumulated karma. Also the pleasures and sufferings during waking and dreaming are not illusions; they are mithyA – a world of difference! It is only from the vantage point of absolute reality that you can say that living and dying are meaningless. The unenlightened do not commit suicide as a result of believing that their lives and the world are real. The enlightened do not kill themselves even though they know that their life as a jIva is not real. Indeed, they KNOW that their true self cannot be killed!

5 thoughts on “Q.407 Why not commit suicide?

  1. Q: “Rather than meditating etc, and deciding to live life as it is with the knowledge that it is mithya, why shouldn’t someone just end his existence in this state? ”

    Yes, in the Advaita tradition, ‘the full-fledged understanding of the identity of the individual and brahman’ itself is said to be the death of the person. That means, though the body of that individual does go by the name tag that it had in the empirical world, it will continue its existence without any claimant of ownership. This is called as jIvanmukti. It is immaterial for the Self-realized individual whether the body is living or dead.

    The brihadAranyaka upanishad compares such a body to a slough that a snake sheds.The body will disintegrate in its own time like any other creature on the earth.

    The end of the physical body is called as videhamukti.

    It is said in the scriptures that a “jIvanmukta” himself can or may decide when to attain videha mukti. A recent example is that of Shri Chandrasekhara Bharati, the 34th Acharya of Sringeri. He ended his life on Sep 26, 1954. Sringeri Math describes the day in the following words:

    “The Jagadguru of His own volition decided to free from the fetters of His mortal body. On Sunday, September 26, 1954, He got up very early in the morning and walked towards Tunga; a servant followed at a slight distance. He stepped into the water without heeding the servant’s warning about the depth of water at that spot, and advancing further into the current had a dip. Then he did Pranayama, and dipped again. The servant saw the Acharya’s body floating down the current. In consternation the servant plunged into the river, caught hold of the Acharya, but in the effort lost his consciousness. A gentleman who happened to hear the shouts of the servant, brought the two ashore. The servant was soon restored to life but ‘nothing could be done in the other case’. It was reported that His Holinesses body was in an erect sitting posture with legs crossed as at the time of contemplation and was straightened out only in an attempt to restore respiration and that there was no sign of drowning or of suffocation or of any struggles for life. His Holiness had ever been in the best of health, and His passing away naturally baffled all doctors, just as He was baffling them even when He was alive. In life as in death he was equally an enigma to all who sought physical explanation for spiritual experiences.”

    There are many such examples in the unknown annals of true Swamis in India.


  2. Living and dying are meaningless.

    If one is an ajnani, and have heard these teachings, why wouldn’t one investigate to see if the teaching is true or not.

    And if one is a jnani, there is no more identification with the body-mind, or any personal desire/fear, so there is no particular reason to actively seek a premature end – unless it is for the sake of others.

    As Ramesam says: “It is immaterial for the Self-realized individual whether the body is living or dead.” As an aside, this is exactly why the plethora of neo-advaitan commercialisers should be handled with the caveat emptor proviso.

  3. On a different tack, here is an excerpt (slightly modified) of something I wrote some years ago on the concept (and reality?) of death and its different connotations and applications:

    ‘Inevitably, we have mentioned ‘life’ as in apparent contrast with or opposition to ‘death’, and we are not just staying with a conceptual analysis of these terms. “Death”, however, is not a complementary opposite of “life”, such as male–female, positive-negative, and many other pairs of opposites.The case is comparable to those in which a quality is either present or lacking (e.g. colored and colorless, good and bad, beauty and ugliness), but with an important proviso,as we shall see shortly. Other than in living organisms or bodies, in which the word ‘death’ can be properly applied as being within the empirical realm of phenomena, this term cannot be taken as a metaphysical principle in the way ‘life’ can be (or is!).

    Philosophically, death – and we start with a concept – is not the opposite pole of life, because only life IS, just as we can say that only being IS, and the same with ‘good’ and ‘beauty’ – these are substantial realities or aspects of reality that are permanent, stainless in themselves, and unchanging (sometimes called ‘archetypes’, or Platonic Ideas). As the Greek philosopher, Parmenides, said, “being is; non-being is not”; in this same sense, badness ‘is not’, ugliness ‘is not’ – they are not positive qualities or principles, that is, transcendental or metaphysically existing; it is as if these two pretended to take away, rob, part of the substance of their presumed counterparts, which alone are really real. That pretense is futile… only a pretense.

      • Life and Death can never meet together
        Like an Electron and Positron to annihilate each other.
        But Death takes its revenge on a Form that Life enliveth
        Life meekly moves out, the Form crumbles and Death surely winneth.

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