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The Buddhist View on Suicide


The next first appeared on the Suicide Women web site in 2013. I’ve revised it somewhat.

Probably the most well-known rock and roll suicide is, in fact, Kurt Cobain. To me, although, a very powerful rock and roll suicide was one you most likely by no means heard of; the suicide of Robert “Iggy Nition” Morningstar, lead singer of the f-Fashions. 

The f-Fashions have been a Kent, Ohio-based punk rock group of the early 80s. They have been one of many first punk bands I ever received to see up shut. I beloved their melodic pop-punk sound, closely influenced by bands like The Ramones and The Dickies who blended singable melodies with crunchy guitars. Inexperienced Day got here alongside a lot later and have become superstars with that very same sort of sound.

All people known as the f-Mannequin’s singer Iggy as a result of he regarded somewhat like Iggy Pop, although I believed he resembled Ric Okasek of The Automobiles an entire lot extra. Iggy killed himself at a Christmas celebration on the finish of 1983. He left the celebration and disappeared into the basement, the place he was found lifeless the next morning by his girlfriend. Iggy and I shared a home in these days, although it was not the home the place the celebration was held. Just a few years later I ended up residing on the home the place Iggy killed himself. So I’ve a powerful, unusual reference to Iggy. I’ve by no means forgotten how unhealthy it harm to know he was gone.

In 2013 a good friend of a number of pals of mine again in Akron, Ohio, killed himself. His title was Tyler. I didn’t actually know him. Lots of my pals did know him effectively, although. And so they have been fairly unhappy that he’s gone.

In reference to Tyler’s loss of life I used to be requested what the Buddhist view on suicide was. I can’t recall a single occasion of Eihei Dogen, the founding father of the sect I used to be ordained in, mentioning suicide in any of his many writings*. 

The very distinguished suicides by self-immolation (setting oneself on hearth) which have been carried out by sure Buddhists in Vietnam and elsewhere have led some individuals to the mistaken conclusion that Buddhism sees suicide as a noble act. This isn’t true. 

Suicide is usually frowned upon by Buddhists as one thing to be averted as a result of it’s regarded as an act that tends to result in a much less auspicious rebirth. It’s counted among the many “actions which might be troublesome to beat” in one in every of Buddha’s recorded talks. It’s not believed that one is condemned to Hell eternally for killing oneself the way in which the Catholic custom has it. However it’s thought that one is organising circumstances that may make one’s subsequent delivery harder than the life one chooses to finish prematurely. It’s because committing suicide causes a lot ache and struggling to those that know and love the one who chooses to take their very own life.

I take all that stuff about rebirth with an enormous grain of salt, myself. Even when we actually do get reborn after we die, how can anybody can say what kind of subsequent life an individual is more likely to have understanding solely the truth that the particular person killed himself? There’s much more to any particular person’s life than simply the way it ends. For those who imagine in rebirth, the whole thing of the particular person’s life determines how she or he will probably be reborn, not simply the very last thing the particular person did.

When coping with suicide, imprecise speculations about rebirth don’t actually assist. It’s a solution to keep away from the true query of what will we do when confronted with the truth that somebody we cared about killed himself. Nobody ever is aware of the appropriate factor to do or to say when one thing like this occurs. It’s extra essential simply to be supportive. In reality, I’d say that discussing what kind of subsequent life the particular person is more likely to have is among the least supportive factor you may do.

I got here precariously near killing myself one sunny day within the Spring of 1992. My life was shit. I used to be residing in a decrepit punk rock home in Akron, Ohio. My girlfriend had dumped me. I had no cash, no abilities, no prospects. I’d launched 5 information on an indie label that had gotten some good press however had gone nowhere when it comes to gross sales. My goals of constructing a residing as a songwriter and musician have been clearly by no means going to return true. I felt like all I needed to sit up for was eking out a meager existence within the muddy Midwest.

I put a bunch of rope within the trunk of my automobile and drove out to the Gorge Metro Park, simply down the road from the place I lived. My plan was to hold that rope out as far-off from individuals as I might, discover a sturdy tree and do the deed. However once I stepped out of my automobile I noticed some children enjoying within the area proper close to the parking zone. I noticed I might by no means discover a spot far sufficient off the trail the place there wasn’t some probability somewhat child out for a hike, or a younger couple on the lookout for a make-out spot, or an outdated man with a picnic basket and an image of his late spouse would possibly discover me. Then I thought of my mother and the way bummed out she’d be if I killed myself. And I thought of how Iggy Morningstar killed himself ten years earlier and the way I used to be nonetheless not over that. I put the rope again within the trunk and went house.

I used to be working at Tassajara monastery when Robin Williams dedicated suicide. However very oddly, on the day that occurred I met somebody who informed me that my e-book There may be No God and He’s At all times With You had performed a big position in stopping her from killing herself  (although we didn’t get the information until the next day since there isn’t a Web, TV or radio at Tassajara). She confirmed me how she had copied out the part that she mentioned saved her life. Right here it’s:

That is what I imagine relating to suicide. Your life isn’t actually your individual to do with as you please. That’s a misleading ego-based fallacy. You might be intimately related to each particular person and factor you come into contact with. You don’t finish on the borders of your physique. You aren’t your individual possession to throw away.

Generally individuals think about they’ll terminate their struggling by killing themselves. I don’t imagine that. The concept that committing suicide will finish your struggling comes from the idea that you just and the world by which you reside are two various things. You imagine you could depart this world and thereby depart struggling behind. However my very own sense, after years of zazen observe, is that this isn’t true. I’ve spent a very long time watching the boundary line between what I name “me” and what I name “the remainder of the world” blur and fade.

So what I’m saying right here goes somewhat additional than simply the outdated the-show-must-go-on–kind factor, whereby individuals say you might have a duty to your family and friends to not go off and blow your brains out within the greenhouse. I’d add that you just even have a duty to your self and even to the universe as an entire not to try this. If you happen to kill your self, the struggling you thought was yours alone spreads out like a wave to these elements of the universe you’ve been taught to think about as separate from you. And so they actually aren’t. They’re you too.

Most individuals appear to really feel that, if nothing else, suicide at the least helps the one who does it to flee the ache of life into full oblivion. However I don’t assume that’s true both.

I don’t base this perception on acquired knowledge from others or on beliefs handed right down to me. I don’t base it on speculating about what’s almost certainly to occur to 1 who commits suicide. I base my perception alone actual experiences. In my deeper and extra related moments I’ve seen that there actually isn’t any oblivion into which I’d escape.

I don’t know what life was like for Robin Williams or for “Iggy” Morningstar or Kurt Cobain or anybody else who killed themselves. My instructor, Nishijima Roshi, was deeply involved in learning suicide. He by no means mentioned why. However it’s an enormous situation in Japan. Maybe somebody he knew dedicated suicide, or maybe he’d thought-about it himself. Each are very seemingly.

Nishijima Roshi typically referenced a e-book about suicide that he favored very a lot known as Man In opposition to Himself by Karl Menninger. That and Menninger’s Love In opposition to Hate gave the impression to be his favourite books except for Shobogenzo.

As soon as, when answering a query about suicidal despair, Nishijima mentioned that individuals who undergo from suicidal despair have been normally “too intelligent.” I can see that in Robin Williams. The identical factor that gave Robin Williams the power to do these superb rapid-fire improvisations was most likely an enormous drawback when he wasn’t on stage. I can’t think about what it could be prefer to be that intelligent.

I’ve handled despair all my life, which is among the causes I nearly ended up killing myself. I’ve by no means been identified with Medical Melancholy as a result of I by no means had the money to see a physician about my stuff when it was at its worst. I’ve typically puzzled if I’d have been identified and prescribed something for it. I’m fairly certain I’d have. It was unhealthy. However I’m not intelligent sufficient to have had it as unhealthy as Robin Williams did, I’m certain.

It’s laborious to recover from despair irrespective of how a lot of it you might have. You can not assume your means out of it. You possibly can at all times discover a good purpose to assume every part sucks. If you happen to’re intelligent sufficient, you possibly can give you infinite causes. Some say it’s “unhealthy chemical substances” like Kurt Vonnegut talked about in his novel Breakfast of Champions that causes your despair. Maybe those self same chemical substances trigger you to over-think every part. Some say these chemical substances can solely be introduced again to manageable ranges with treatment. I don’t have the ultimate reply right here. However I do really feel that almost something a drug can do to us, we are able to additionally do for ourselves. Nonetheless, it might take an entire lot of time and work to get to that time and generally there’s a necessity for extra drastic motion.

That way back day once I walked away from killing myself modified me eternally. I made a decision to dwell. However I additionally determined I used to be now not sure to something that got here earlier than that day. I made a decision that conceptually I had already killed myself. Now I might do something, completely something in any respect.

All the best issues which have occurred to me in my life have occurred since that day. Issues have been so unimaginable since then that I generally surprise if I’m the principle character in some bizarre existentialist film and that there’ll be a twist ending by which the viewers will understand that I actually did kill myself that day.

If you happen to’re considering suicide, my recommendation is go forward and kill your self. However don’t do it with a rope or a gun or a knife or a handful of drugs. Don’t do it by destroying your physique. Do it by chopping off your former life and moving into a very new path. 

I do know that’s not straightforward. I do know it would even appear not possible. If you happen to’d have requested me earlier than that Spring day in 1992 I’d have informed you it was completely not possible for me to do any of the issues I’ve carried out since that day. At first it appeared like I used to be proper, that it was futile to even attempt to get out of the morass I used to be in. It took greater than a 12 months of very laborious effort earlier than issues began to alter even somewhat bit. However once they did, they actually modified.

Possibly that’s not the place you’re at, although. Possibly you’re simply caught there making an attempt to determine how to reply to the information that somebody you cared about determined to finish her personal life. Possibly you simply need an evidence. Possibly you simply need it to be prefer it was earlier than. Possibly you want you’d carried out one thing completely different, mentioned one thing completely different, been someplace the place you may have prevented it.

You’re not alone. Everybody who has ever recognized somebody who killed themselves had the identical questions and second guessed themselves the identical means. However know that these are simply ideas. They’re not actual. They don’t imply a lot. The human mind likes to prepare issues. It tries its finest to make sense of no matter it encounters. However some issues simply don’t make sense. We don’t like that. However it’s the reality.

It’s laborious to let go of those sorts of ideas. However it’s the one solution to cope with them. They don’t lead anyplace. They don’t assist. 

Letting go is less complicated mentioned than carried out. If you happen to discover you could’t let go though you wish to, then simply let go of letting go. Simply depart the truth that you possibly can’t let go as it’s and do one thing else anyway. No matter you do might be tremendous. See a film, take a stroll, watch the geese, go to work. It’s all tremendous. Simply since you’re not grieving within the stereotypical socially accredited methods doesn’t imply something.

* Since I wrote this piece, I found one reference to suicide in Dogen’s writings. It seems in a chapter known as GYOJI (Pure Conduct and Observance of the Precepts) Half 2. It may be present in Shobogenzo E book 2 (Nishijima/Cross translation) Chapter 30. Right here it’s.

Zen Grasp Kyogen mentioned:

Making 100 calculations and a thousand plans solely

for the sake of [our own] physique,

We neglect that the physique will grow to be mud in a grave.

By no means say that the white-haired communicate no phrases:

They’re simply the individuals to inform us of the underworld.

So though we make a whole lot of calculations and hundreds of plans to spare [the body], finally it nonetheless turns right into a pile of mud in a grave. Worse nonetheless is to be fruitlessly scampering east and west within the make use of of the king and residents of a small nation, and therein being made to undergo numerous hardships via innumerable our bodies and minds. Those that assume mild of their very own physique and life due to a way of loyalty appear unable to neglect the customized of formality suicide following the loss of life of a lord. The way in which forward for these pushed by [such] obligation is barely darkish clouds and mists. Many individuals since historic occasions have been utilized by small vassals and have thus thrown away their our bodies and lives on the earth of widespread people. These have been human our bodies that ought to have been treasured, as a result of they may have grow to be vessels for the state of reality. Now we’ve got met the appropriate Dharma, we must always study the appropriate Dharma in observe, even when it means throwing away our bodies and lives as numerous because the sands of the Ganges. For which is it value relinquishing physique and life: some futile small particular person, or the broad, nice, profound, and everlasting Buddha-Dharma? There might be no trigger for both the sensible or the inept to vacillate between advancing and retreating. We must always quietly think about that earlier than the appropriate Dharma has unfold via the world, even when individuals wish to abandon their physique and life for the appropriate Dharma, they can not achieve this: they may dearly like to be in our place at this time, assembly with the appropriate Dharma.

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