Q: Since feelings, perceptions and thoughts require a body-mind, and who I truly am is Atman (= brahman), then why should one not commit suicide in order to escape their mental suffering? When they die they will only remain as ‘brahman’. I know the concept of karma is used to scare people away from suicide, but this doesnt exist since brahman (who you really are) feels nothing and does not experiernce it. So what do you have other than the concept of karma to logically persuade someone out of suicide?
A: It is the person that ‘suffers’ and contemplates suicide, because he believes himself to be the body-mind and identifies with the perceived pains and negative emotions. If you KNOW that you are Brahman, then you also know that you are not the person. There may still be physical pains and the mind may still throw up negative emotions but there is no longer any identification. You know that you are even now perfect and complete; there is no identification with body, mind or world because you know they are not real. Indeed they are your own ‘manifestations’, simply the effect of past causes that affect the body-mind appearance. They do not affect who-you-really-are. Why try to change them?
But unless the person knows this, you are never going to convince someone who is contemplating suicide. They need more empirically conventional solutions such as drugs and counselling!
If you are not happy with this response, I can throw it open to the other bloggers and see if they come up with anything better.
Hi The Questioner [Q: 487],
Dennis has given a well-expressed and succinct view about suicide from the perspective of Advaita.
Here’s another take on the problem.
From the everyday life we live, we observe that there is no suffering or wanting in our deep sleep (which is almost like death). But we wake up next day to face the same old world of travails and tribulations. So what guarantee is there that we will not continue life after death (which is comparable to deep sleep)?
You have yourself said in your question that “feelings, perceptions and thoughts require a body-mind.”
On committing suicide, one undoubtedly ends his/her gross physical body. But how about the problem related to the mental body (mind)? What reason is there to assume that the mental body (mind) also ends with the gross body?
Advaita says very clearly that the mental body does not die along with the physical body. We see in our daily life too that the mental body continues to be active and agile even though the physical body is dead-tired and goes to sleep. The mental body (mind) creates its own world (the dream world) and continues its activity with vim and vigor moving around with no concern for the physical body which is lying on the bed (almost dead!).
As a matter of fact, Advaita tells us that we have three layers of bodies – the gross body (that all of us interact with in our awake world); the subtle body with which we move around in our dreams and a still subtler causal body in which all our basic tendencies and impressions are stored in an encrypted format. On the death of the physical body, subtle and the causal body move on in search of another suitable abode to settle in and continue the mischief they are accustomed to.
Unless one clearly understands this and totally, totally disassociates himself with all the three bodies, there is no liberation by just ending the grossest of the three bodies.
“Suffering is exclusively the result of attachment or resistance, it is a sign of lacking readiness to go on, to flow with life.” – Nisargadatta
It is worth reflecting that Buddha came to the conclusion that ALL life is suffering – we all suffer, that is the nature of our ego – but that there is a path out of it. So our task in life is to find that path.
If the realisation that ‘who you truly are is Brahman’ is truly there, then there can be no mental suffering – since mental suffering can only arise with erroneous identification with a body-mind. And since realisation means dis-dentification with body-mind, then there can be no cause for mental suffering.
If this realisation is not there, but the words have been understood linguistically only, such that mental suffering is still there . . . then the promise of the words is surely enticing enough to be worth the investigation into their reality?
And, if we see that all life is suffering, and it is not just personal . . . then rather than suicide, why not dedicate some time to pursuing karma yoga (nothing to lose!) – working desirelessly to reduce the suffering of others? Then see what personal mental suffering is left.
When this state of enlightenment is achieved, who remains as the doer of all the actions that must still persist if you are to remain in the body-mind experience?
When you die, who decides or chooses whether to incarnate or not again and which form to take?
I experience the body-mind as a person who makes decisions, but if God is the doer then I really have no agency over anything. Even if the truth is that God and the person share the same source, the experience of suffering for the person is very real. Even if everything is nothing more than a manifestation, the experience is undoubtedly real and the idea that the person has no say creates a sort of hell doesn’t it? You may be Brahman, but you experience this manifestation as real and there is no way out without efforting and hoping that something will happen. Who decides whether after all your effort, you will actually achieve Moksha. There is no guarantee, so who is deciding?
The other part of this is sincerity. What if I cannot intend Moksha with sincerity? Even now the motivation for Moksha often is to “run away” or escape the suffering associated with body-mind identification. The experience is still of the person and mind making the decision to seek liberation which means the motivating factor for some is fear. Fear of further suffering, fear that you will have to go through all of this again. Has Brahman then seemingly trapped itself in the manifestation with only these rules to set “it” free?
Advaita is reasoned through with logic, but I can’t seem to make the connection between that reasoning and the necessity to do all these different things in seeking enlightenment with no guarantee. I cannot change my motivation to seek one thing or another. What can I do?
Death is not the final solution to the problem of suffering.
Buddhism – Euthanasia and Religion
Comment received from questioner:
“I don’t feel like this is satisfactory because if there is no more identification with the body-mind, what is the point in a continued existence? also, if we are ‘not our body-mind’, does this mean so called ‘sin’ cannot ‘separate’ us from Brahman?”
There is no “point” in existence, irrespective of identification with the body-mind. We simply make up a point of existence to assuage a desire to have a meaning to life. Whether or not one identifies with a body-mind, if one looks at it honestly, there is no meaning to life, apart from some value invented by our mind, conditioned by parents or by society.
If there is no identification with the body-mind, then any concepts about the point of continued existence can no longer be relevant – because you are not the mind that cab generate such questions! And, given this lack of identification, there is no urge to prematurely end existence; since that urge would indicate a desire, and a desire can only arise when one identifies with the mind.
The question ‘what is the point in a continued existence’ can only arise from the point of view of identification with the body-mind; not otherwise. That can be deduced from logical analysis, even if one is not self-realised.
Very clear and well-reasoned (and true)! But…
If one is a (presumably depressed/dispirited/disillusioned) seeker who accepts that the teaching of Advaita is (probably?) true but does not personally feel in any way liberated (probably quite the contrary), isn’t what you say an argument FOR committing suicide?
Doesn’t one have to resort to the ‘earlier’ teachings of karma and rebirth to justify continuing in thie life until such time as the ultimate truth IS realized?
HI Dennis, I think that aspect of the question was separately (and differently) answered by Ramesam and I on 1 August.
You don’t expect me to remember that far back, do you? 😉
I see you are correct – apologies!
Comment received from questioner:
“saying evil is only ‘relative’, does not explain why evil exists and so on. it is merely a language game constructed to conceal the problem.
the problem is ‘why does light diminish?’ the wound or disease or a person may be a privation of health, but why does the light diminish? why is the ruleset of this world built in such a way where this can occur?”