Jyotishacharya Shastri Pundit Roshan Singh – Rohininandan das
Under normal circumstances suicide was and is considered a mortal sin in Hinduism for various reasons. Manusmriti states that libations of water, which are usually offered to the departed souls, should not be offered to those who commit suicide.
Suicide in Sanskrit is called atmahatya meaning murdering the soul or the Self. The very word conveys amply the attitude of Hinduism towards suicide. Suicide is murdering oneself, pure and simple. One can understand why Hinduism views suicide with such negativity as a despicable and sinful act from the following reasons.
1. Disregard for human life. In Hinduism all life is sacred, even the life of insects and animals. Human birth is especially unique and precious, which is attained only at the end of numerous births and deaths. Only humans have the unique opportunity to work for their liberation. Hence wasting away such a great opportunity is very sinful and bad for one’s own karma.
2. Disruption of God’s creation. In God’s creation, each human being has a unique role and responsibility, which none else can fulfill. As a son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister, friend, benefactor, teacher, etc., each individual participates in the orderly progression of the world and society. Willful act of suicide for selfish reasons interrupts that process and the orderly progression of events, disrupting the family lineage, the birth of progeny, nourishment of gods, and the proper function of society. It is evidently a willful disobedience to God and his laws.
3. Bad karma. Suicide, which is motivated by dark passions, evil intentions, ignorance and delusion, implies the misuse of the autonomy and opportunity given by God to the beings to perform their duties and work for their liberation. Therefore, it is certainly an evil act and a very bad karma.
4. Dereliction of duty. The human birth entails certain duties and obligations towards oneself, others, gods and ancestors. When a person commits suicide such duties remain unattended. This is gross negligence of obligatory duties, which in Hinduism is considered bad karma having consequences not only for the individuals responsible but also for those who may be affected such actions.
5. Disservice to gods. Each living and breathing human body is divine. It houses the individual soul as well as several divinities who depend upon it for their nourishment. If the body is prematurely killed or destroyed, the divinities who reside in it are permanently deprived of their nourishment. They are certainly not pleased when humans deprive them of their food and dwelling through suicide or acts of self-destruction.
According to Hindu beliefs if a person commits suicide, he goes neither to hell nor heaven, but remains in the earth plane as a bad spirit and wanders aimlessly until the end of the ordained or expected span of life upon earth in the current birth. Thereafter, he or she goes to hell, where the suffering continues even more severely.
In the end, the lost soul returns to the earth to take birth and start from there afresh to continue its journey in the Samsara (the cycle of births and deaths) and complete its previous karma. In other words, suicide interferes with the destiny and delays the journey of a soul in the mortal world. It reverses the spiritual clock by a few hundred or thousand years and endangers one’s spiritual wellbeing.
Hindu scriptures therefore aptly describe suicide as the murder of the self (atmahatya). Suicide also hampers the stay of one’s ancestors in the ancestral heaven. As the suicide of their descendent deprives them of their nourishment from the sacrifices, their astral bodies wither and lose strength, forcing them to return to the earth rather prematurely.
Finally, as stated before, when a person commits suicide for any reason, that person causes a lot of grief and suffering to his or her family and close relationships, besides disrepute. It is a bad karma in itself, with negative consequences.