Suicide is the act of intentionally killing oneself. People who feel that all hope is lost for them in their current life take to this practice through various methods such as intentional drug overdose, shooting themselves with a gun, or even jumping off of a high building. It is such a horrible practice that others often wonder what would drive someone to such an extreme.
The main causes for attempted suicide are feelings of hopelessness and despair. These feelings are quite natural in all of us and we all at some point or another have given some thought to the idea of ending our lives prematurely. In the end, most of us don’t take any serious steps towards the practice because the sadness we feel isn’t extreme enough. According to Vedic philosophy, this material world is a place full of miseries, so frustration is inevitable for anyone striving for material perfection. We living entities are all spirit souls at our core, having eternally existing spiritual bodies, but due to some cause or another, we find ourselves in this world.
Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, created this world which is governed by the three qualities of goodness, passion, and ignorance. Living entities possess these qualities which guide us in our activities. The mode of goodness represents pious activity, passion represents fruitive activity, and ignorance represents inactivity or laziness. Human beings are involved primarily in the mode of passion, where we work tirelessly to procure wealth, religiosity, and sense gratification. These three modes of nature are part of the material world, having karma associated with them, which results in us continually taking birth, life after life. We may work very hard to accumulate wealth to live a comfortable life, but all of that disappears at the time of death. At that time, our desires and work in our current life, our karma, determines what type of body we receive in our next life.
Work performed in the mode of passion is binding and unsatisfying in the end. We may work very hard on a project and see it to its completion, but the feeling of satisfaction doesn’t last very long. As soon as one task is complete, another one arises. If we are unsuccessful at any time, we are prone to lament our failures. James Hetfield, the lead singer of the heavy metal band Metallica, wrote a song about feelings of suicide called Fade to Black. He wrote the song after the band’s equipment was stolen early on in their career. One of the lyric lines is as follows:
“Yesterday seems as though it never existed. But death greets me warm, now I will just say goodbye.”
At the time of the the theft, the band was steadily gaining in popularity. Yet from the lyrics we see just how intense Hetfield’s emotions were after suffering such a setback. The mode of passion is so strong that it can make people lose their sense of logic and understanding. Lord Krishna describes the mode of passion this way in the Bhagavad-gita:
“O chief of the Bharatas, when there is an increase in the mode of passion, the symptoms of great attachment, uncontrollable desire, hankering, and intense endeavor develop” (Bg. 14.12)
Regardless of the success we may have, we are bound to fail at something or feel a hankering for something new. According to the Vedas, being in the material world means always hankering after things we want and lamenting for the things we don’t have. When this lamentation reaches an extreme level, the thought of suicide creeps into the mind.
There are many short term remedies that aim to stop someone from committing suicide. Suicide prevention hotlines provide a way for the distressed to seek help anonymously by talking to trained counselors over the phone. Talking to someone, whether it is a friend or a counselor, usually helps potential suicide victims because it gives them a feeling of hope, something to live for. These are good temporary solutions because if one regains their hope in life, they can continue in the mode of passion, which is preferable to the act of suicide. Suicide is highly frowned upon by the Vedas and most other major religions.
Resuming life in the mode of passion may temporarily alleviate one’s despair, but it doesn’t stop the effects of the fourfold miseries of life, namely birth, old age, disease, and death. These four things are guaranteed for anyone who lives by the modes of nature, so minor adjustment to one’s fruitive activities doesn’t change this fact. The real way to eliminate suicidal tendencies is to rekindle the lost relationship with Krishna, or God.
When Lord Krishna came to earth in the form of Lord Rama many thousands of years ago, He was married to Sita Devi, the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune. The couple was happily enjoying married life in the kingdom of Rama’s father, Maharaja Dashratha, when suddenly their life was turned upside down. Lord Rama was ordered to leave the kingdom and live as a recluse in the forest for fourteen years by His father, who was fulfilling a request made by his youngest wife, Kaikeyi. Lord Rama, ever devoted to the welfare of His father, gladly agreed to the order. Just prior to leaving, the Lord went to tell Sita what had transpired, with hopes of dissuading her from following Him. Forest life is akin to being homeless, so the Lord didn’t want to subject His beautiful and chaste wife to these hardships. Such is the nature of the Lord, He always looks out for the welfare of His devotees.
“If you do not agree to take me with you, surely will I do away with my life by drinking poison, entering into fire, or drowning myself in water.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)
Sita insisted on coming along. The two went back and forth in a debate format, with each person presenting sound and cogent arguments in favor of their position. As part of her case, Sita declared that she was so devoted to Rama that she would surely commit suicide if the Lord didn’t agree to take her. Now here we see the only legitimate reason for one to ponder suicide. In material endeavors, we are bound to have successes and failures, thus we shouldn’t overly lament our losses or overly rejoice over our gains. However, separation from Krishna, or God, is the greatest loss one can suffer. In fact, it is the root cause of all our miseries. Krishna is the reservoir of pleasure, but we seem to have forgotten this fact through the actions of maya. Maya is God’s illusory energy that runs the material world and clouds our judgment. We seek happiness in all other areas of life, not knowing that pure bliss comes from having a loving relationship with Krishna. By immersing ourselves in the mode of passion, we spend all day and night forgetting about God, thinking that we are the doers and that we are the cause of our fortune and well-being. Thinking ourselves to be God, which we are not, we are bound to fall prey to feelings of despair.
One may think that Sita Devi’s lamentation means she too was affected by maya. That is not correct since she wasn’t lamenting separation from any ordinary husband, but more importantly, separation from God Himself. This is the nature of pure devotees, or bhaktas. They don’t lament over material things. They understand that Krishna is the only source of pleasure in their lives, so anything besides Krishna in essentially meaningless. A devotee is never happy when he or she is separated from Krishna.
Since God resides in the spiritual world and we reside in the material world, aren’t we always separated from Him? This is certainly true for those in the conditioned state, but this rule isn’t absolute. According to Lord Chaitanya, Krishna’s incarnation as a devotee who appeared in India some five hundred years ago, there is no difference between God and His name. We may say the word water over and over again, but it doesn’t mean that water will come to us. However, if we say the name Krishna, then He immediately comes to us. All the great Vaishnava saints and devotees, including Vyasadeva, Valmiki, Tulsidas, and Hanuman, agree that in this age Krishna incarnates through His holy name. If we constantly chant the Lord’s name in a loving manner through recitation of the maha-mantra “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, God will always be with us.
From Sita Devi’s statement, we get a glimpse into just how great a devotee she was. She not only threatened to kill herself at the thought of separation from Rama, but she proposed to do it through some of the most painful methods possible. Willingly drowning or throwing oneself into a fire are not the typical methods of suicide, and they are quite painful. Her statement represents her pure and unadulterated Krishna consciousness. For a devotee, being separated from Krishna is the equivalent of death. Sita’s devotion was so strong that the Lord was forced to take her along, for He knew she wouldn’t survive if He were to leave her behind after such a plea. Learning from Sita’s example, we should all try to think of Krishna as much as we can during the course of a day, so that we may never forget him. Thinking of Him is very easy, for we can chant His name, read stories about Him, prepare nice food preparations to offer to His deity, sing songs about Him, and talk about His glories with others. These methods are very simple and easy to undertake, and they go a long way in fixing up our consciousness. If we always think of Krishna, He will always think of us, and thus our hope and despair will disappear forever.
Categories: glories of sita devi