Advertisement

Suicide in Ancient Hindu Scriptures: Condemned or Glorified?

Chapter

Abstract

What is the position of the ancient Hindu scriptures on suicide and attempted suicide? Are these human processes condemned? If yes, do the scriptures explain why and how? If they are not condemned, do these scriptures approve or glorify suicidal behaviour? Is there adequate consistency among the various ancient scriptures on recommended attitudes towards suicide and attempted suicide? The Prasthanatrayi, or literally, the three points of departure are the Upanishad texts, the Brahma Sutra text and the Bhagavad Gita text. All other scriptures of India admit the authority of these three texts. Among these three, the Upanishads are accepted as being the highest, being a part of Shruti, or literally, heard scriptures as the Smriti, or literally memory, is the product of the human mind. This chapter reviews the ten principal Upanishads and the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, which has the status of an Upanishad. In addition, the Brahma Sutra and the Yoga Sutra texts will also be reviewed. The commentaries of Adi Shankaracharya on the first twelve texts will be used to understand the positions of these texts on suicidal behaviour correctly. The Yoga Sutra, a text elucidating the practical aspects of Vedanta, was not commented upon by Adi Shankaracharya but has an ancient commentary by Maharishi Vyasa himself, which will be used in this chapter. The chapter examines the relevance of the position of these texts on suicidal behaviour to modern Indian culture and laws, spanning several thousands of years.

Keywords

Upanishad Srimad Bhagavad Gita Suicidal behaviour Condemned or glorified Ancient Hindu scriptures 

References

  1. Battin, M. P. (2015). The ethics of suicide: Historical sources. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Camus, A. (1975). The myth of Sisyphus (J. O’Brien, Trans.) Harmondsworth, London: Penguin Books (Original work published in 1942).Google Scholar
  3. CDC. (2015). Definitions: Self-directed violence. Atlanta, GA: Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/definitions.html.
  4. Durkheim, E. (1951). Suicide: A study in sociology (J. A. Spaulding & G. Simpson, Trans.). New York: Free Press (Original work published in 1897).Google Scholar
  5. Gambhirananda, S. (2003). Chandogya Upanishads (Vol. 1). With the Commentary of Shankaracharya. Kolkata: Advaita Ashram.Google Scholar
  6. Gambhirananda, S. (2006a). Eight Upanishads (Vol. 1). With the Commentary of Shankaracharya. Kolkata: Advaita Ashram.Google Scholar
  7. Gambhirananda, S. (2006b). Eight Upanishads (Vol. 2). With the Commentary of Shankaracharya. Kolkata: Advaita Ashram.Google Scholar
  8. Gambhirananda, S. (2006c). Bhagavad Gita. With the Commentary of Shankaracharya. Kolkata: Advaita Ashram.Google Scholar
  9. Gambhirananda, S. (2011). Brahma Sutra Bhashya of Shankaracharya. Champawat: Advaita Ashram.Google Scholar
  10. Leenars, A. (2010). Edwin S Shneidman on Suicide. Suicidology Online, 1, 5–18.Google Scholar
  11. Madhavananda, S. (2004). The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. With the commentary of Shankaracharya. Kolkata: Advaita Ashram.Google Scholar
  12. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (2016). Suicide. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/suicide.
  13. Prasada, R. (2005). Patanjali yoga sutras. Allahabad, Munshiram: Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.Google Scholar
  14. Shneidman, E. (1973). Suicide. Encyclopaedia Britannica (Vol. 21, pp. 383–385). Chicago: William Benton.Google Scholar
  15. Shneidman, E. (1993). Suicide as psychache. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 181, 147–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Swami Krishnananda. (2000). On reason and higher life. Retrieved from http://www.swami-krishnananda.org/disc/disc_17.html.
  17. WHO. (2016). Suicide. WHO. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/topics/suicide/en/.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations