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Osho on Suicide and Mahavira method of Santhara (causing death to oneself as a spiritual discipline)

Question - One who commits suicide also tries to kill himself voluntarily. And until he is dead completely, he remains aware of the process of dying too: that the body is becoming cold, or the life energy is shrinking, and so on. But he cannot come back in the body after having reached the final state. Isn't suicide similar to the experiment in voluntary death?

Osho - Suicide can be used as an experiment in willpower, but normally people who commit suicide don't do it for that reason. Ordinarily, the man who commits suicide does not do it feeling himself responsible for it. Mostly he feels people are driving him to commit suicide; certain circumstances, certain events are compelling him to end his life. If the circumstances were not such, he would not have attempted the suicide.

This man, for instance, was in love with someone, but his love was not returned. Now he wants to end his life. Had his love been reciprocated, there would have been no need for him to embrace death. In fact, this man who is contemplating suicide is not doing so with any readiness to die really. He is willing to live only on one condition. Since the condition has not been fulfilled, hence the denial of life. The man is not interested in dying actually; the truth is, he has lost interest in living.

So basically this kind of suicide is a forced one. Therefore, if a person who is about to end his life can be stopped even for two seconds, perhaps he will not attempt it the second time. Just the delay of a couple of moments can be enough, because in those moments his mental resolve will fall apart -- it was put together forcibly.

A man committing suicide is not making a resolve. The fact is he is running away from making the resolve. Ordinarily, a man who has killed himself is not a brave man; he is a coward. Actually, life was asking him to exercise his will; it was telling him, "The woman you loved before... now make a resolve and forget her." But the man didn't have the capacity. Life was pointing out to him: "Forget the person you loved before, love someone else." But the man didn't have the guts.

Life tells someone, "You were rich until yesterday, today you are bankrupt. Nevertheless, live!" He doesn't have the courage. He is not able to make a determination and live. He sees only one way out: self-destruction. He does this in order to avoid making firm resolves. Meeting death like this is not a demonstration of his positive will; rather, it is a show of his negative will. A negative will is of no use.

Such a man will be born with an even weaker soul in his next life -- with a much more impotent soul than the one he had in this life, because he escaped from a situation that had offered him an opportunity to arouse his will. It is as if a child runs away from his class as the examination hour approaches. In a way, he has shown his determination too. Thirty students were taking the exam, but this fellow decided to run away. This indicates a negative will. The will to appear for the exam was a positive one; it meant willingness to put up a struggle. But the boy escaped from the struggle.

An escapist shows his determination too. When a man confronted by a lion runs and climbs up a tree, in a way he also uses his will. But that won't necessarily make him a man of will, because after all, he is running away, he is escaping. A suicidal tendency is essentially an escapist tendency. There is no resolve in it. Death can be used, of course, for the purpose of exercising willpower -- but that's a different matter.

Osho on Suicide and Mahavira method of Santhara

For example, in the Jaina tradition death has also been used to strengthen willpower. Mahavira is the only person in the world who allowed if any seeker wished to use death for this purpose. No one else has given such permission. Only Mahavira has said one can use death as a spiritual discipline -- but not the kind of instantaneous death which occurs by taking poison. One can't build his willpower in one instant; it requires a long span of time. Mahavira says, "Go on a fast, and die of hunger."

It takes ninety days for a normal, healthy man to die of hunger. If he is weak in his resolve -- even a little bit -- the desire for food will return the very next day. By the third day he will begin cursing at having created such a nuisance for himself, and will start finding ways to get out of it.

It is very difficult to maintain the desire to stay hungry for ninety days. When Mahavira said, "Stay hungry and die," there was no room for anyone to create any deception, because in ninety days... anyone who has even the slightest lack of will would escape much earlier in the process. So there is no way to deceive.

If Mahavira had given the permission to die by taking poison, drowning in a river, jumping off a mountain, it would have been a matter of instant death. Of course, we all manage to make a resolve good enough for one moment. But a warrior good for showing only a moment's bravery is of no use on the battlefield, because he will become a coward the next moment. He will turn out to be a coward with as much resolve as he was brave a moment ago.

So Mahavira has given permission to commit santhara, causing death to oneself as a spiritual discipline. If anyone wished to put himself through a final test, even if it meant meeting death voluntarily, Mahavira had given permission for it. This is truly very significant and worth giving a thought. Mahavira is the first person on this earth who has authorized that a seeker can follow this discipline. There are a couple of reasons for it.

For one thing, Mahavira was fully assured that no one dies really. Hence he felt there was no need to worry so much about death, and he found no harm in a seeker pursuing this discipline.

Secondly, besides being experienced himself, Mahavira was also confident that if a man were to seek death unwaveringly for fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety, or a hundred days, the very greatness of that event is bound to transform him.

We all experience a moment or two when the thought of death crosses our mind. There is hardly a person in the world who has not wished to die at least a few times during his life. Of course, that he didn't die is a different matter. The fact is, such moments do come when a man wishes to die. But then he takes a cup of tea and forgets the whole thing. The wife gets fed up with her husband and contemplates hanging herself. Then the husband comes home with tickets for the movie. That's it, the woman drops the whole idea. She finds it too boring.

Once I had an occasion to stay at a place where a Bengali professor and his wife were my next-door neighbors. The very first night of my stay I heard loud noises coming from the other side. There was a terrible fight going on between the husband and wife. I could hear everything through the wall. The husband was threatening to kill himself. I was in a quandary. There was no one else around except me, and things looked rather serious. I wondered whether I should go over and help. Although it was the first night and the couple were total strangers to me, I felt it didn't matter if we knew each other or not. I said to myself, "They are my neighbors; I'll be responsible too if the man dies." Nevertheless, I restrained myself in the hope that when the man would actually walk out to kill himself I would go and stop him.

Then for some time all was quiet. I thought the matter was settled between the two and that both had cooled down. But still I felt I should go out and see what was going on. So I came out. The door next to my room was open and the wife was sitting inside. The fellow had already gone.

I asked her, "Where did your husband go?"
She said, "Don't be worried, he has gone away like this many times before; he'll be back soon."
I said, "But he has gone to kill himself!"
She said, "You need not be worried, he is sure to come back."

And indeed, about fifteen minutes later the husband returned. I was still waiting outside. I said to him, "You have come back?" He was unaware that I knew he had gone to commit suicide.

He said, "Can't you see the clouds have gathered? Looks like it's going to rain. I had not taken an umbrella with me, so I came back." A man wanting to kill himself drops the idea if he is without an umbrella! This is how it is.

We all think of dying many times, but not for the sake of dying really. The idea comes to us because there is some problem in our life. We think of ending our lives because we lack resolution. Just a little trouble, a little difficulty, and one rushes to end it all.
One who wants to meet death because he can't face the problems of life is not a man of will. However, if a man sets out to have a direct, positive experience of death, if he is on his way to know what death is with a positive attitude, if he has no conflict with life, if he is not against life, then even in death this man is searching for life. This is a totally different thing.

There is yet another significant factor involved in this matter. Ordinarily, we cannot determine our birth. Although ultimately we do influence birth, but our determination of it happens through our unconscious state. We never know why we will be born, where we will be born, and for what purpose we will be born. But death, in a way, is something which can be determined by us. Death is a very unusual event in life, it's a very decisive happening.

Nothing can be clearly determined by us as far as birth is concerned -- that is, where to take birth, the purpose of taking birth, the circumstances surrounding the birth, and so on. But about death we can certainly decide how we are going to die, where we are going to die, why we are going to die. We can definitely determine the way we want to die.

So Mahavira had given permission to follow the discipline of death for this reason also, that one who will die applying this method will automatically become the determiner of his next birth as well, because one who has managed to choose his death, who has arranged to die voluntarily, for him nature provides an opportunity to choose his next birth too. This is the other side of it.
If one exits from the gate of life with dignity and grandeur, in full knowledge, then the other gates will become wide open and welcome him with high regard and honor too. So those who wish to determine their next lives should first go through death with their own willingness. This was also the reason why Mahavira gave his permission. So the point is, an ordinary man wanting to commit suicide is not a man of will.

Source - Osho Book "And Now, And Here"

Related Osho Discourses:
Osho on Mahavira
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Osho on How to Die Consciously So that we can have a Conscious Birth
Osho on Bardo - Bardo is the greatest contribution Tibet has made to the world
Osho on Grief over death - If you have not loved the person deeply, then you will grieve very much

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