Is Not Choosing Life
If one is sick and refuses to seek further
treatment because he believes death is part of the natural
process of life, is it considered suicide?
Suicide is usually defined as the intentional
taking of one's life through action or inaction for wrong reasons. (As
opposed to noble sacrifice to help others, as exemplified by Bodhisattvas. Don't
try this if you are not ready! An unready mindstate will "backfire" despite the
best of intentions.) If there is a reasonable cure and one refuses, it is
suicide through intentional inaction. If sickness is a good enough a reason
to simply die, everyone would let babies who are ill to fend for
themselves? But no one in his right mind will - for
inaction would almost be direct murder.
However, in terminal
cases where the likeliness of cures working is not probable, choosing to
die naturally and willingly with peace of mind is not exactly suicide - it might
be wiser than struggling to stay alive. The decision, however, lies with the
Euthanasia, or dying by "mercy-killing" (whether
self-administered or through instruction of others) is not a wise idea - it
is active killing in the attempt to "shorten" suffering. The disadvantage
is that though one dies wishing to terminate pain in this life, the karma
of pain through sickness might (not definitely - as the workings of
karma are hard to discern in detail) not be exhausted with the end of
this life, and might carry on in the next life. This means it is only the
pushing back the problem of not "facing the music", in fact worsening it.
The person might thus be reborn very sickly in a new
life, probably with a short lifespan. It is thus much wiser to be
brave and face the inevitable pain now - although we all know this is
much easier said than done.
The crucial difference between the plain
suicidal and those graciously letting go of life is the state of mind
- is it filled with greed (for a new life, or for life to go on and on
indefinitely), hatred (of present life and its problems) and ignorance (of the
dynamics of life, death and rebirth)? Or is it filled with compassion and
wisdom? The Buddha advised, "The body might be sick,
but the mind should never be."
Making crucial decisions of choosing life or
death can be very painful and tricky - especially for our own loved
ones. The matter of financial difficulties and pressure in keeping a family
member who is very ill alive by life support systems is also a very real
concern. There is no straightforward answer as there are many different
conditions governing each unique situation. What we should always ensure is
that we make decisions with the best of intentions with all the compassion,
wisdom and resources we have.