Suicide is the intentional act of taking one’s own life, and unfortunately, is an everyday occurrence in today’s world. In general, suicide is a taboo topic and is often avoided in conversation. However, it is important to recognize the religious implications that arise from suicide and euthanasia. Ancient Indian religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, share some commonalities but also diverge from one another in their perception on intentionally taking your own life. Both religions draw from fundamental ideas held when formulating their individualized overall viewpoint on this topic.
Within Hinduism, suicide is perceived as a dualistic concept. As an overarching rule, Hinduism condemns the act of suicide. Not only does it have horrific consequences to the individual, but it also creates a social stigma around the family involved. Due to this complication faced by exposure, suicides within this religion are often not reported.
Hinduism regards karma as a cause and effect relationship that is enforced by an invisible power and is a direct result of action. The soul, or the atman, is considered to eternal and unchanging, and travels through samsara, or the cycle of rebirth, until liberation is reached.
Liberation, or moksha, allows the atman to become one with God again. Wrongful actions result in “bad karma” and cause the downward movement of the atman, which creates a farther path to achieving moksha. For the duration of human life, followers are expected to strive to attain liberation. The principle of ahimsa, or no violence, is fervently held in Hinduism and is reflective in followers’ everyday lives. This concept extends to oneself as well as others.
For one, suicide is condemned in this religion because all life is considered sacred. Humans life is perceived as precious because only through one of the three human realms can liberation be achieved. Other living things, such as insects and animals, do not receive the same opportunity, so it is crucial followers within this realm take advantage of this. By committing suicide, followers are ignoring the good fortune they have received and are behaving in a way that is sinful.
Also, suicide is unacceptable because it results in the failure to fulfill the unique role given to each individual by God’s creation. Similar to the traditional view of the caste system, each human being is a necessary participant in the society as a whole. Regardless of this designation, it is that person’s responsibility to behave in a way that does not comprise the overall good. When a follower decides to commit suicide for selfish reasons, the cosmic progression of events is affected as well as “disrupting the family lineage, the birth of progeny, nourishment of gods, and the proper function of society” (Jayaram, n.d.). Overall, committing suicide as a willful act is seen as “disobedience to God and His laws” (Jayaram, n.d.).
In the sixteenth teaching of The Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna differentiates between the divine and the demonic in man. The demonic man is characterized as being,
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