A Buddhist Perspective on Suicide

Happy Feet Two Australian Premiere With Robin Williams And George Miller At Entertainment Quarter In Sydney. By Eva Rinaldi via Wikimedia Commons

Happy Feet Two Australian Premiere With Robin Williams And George Miller At Entertainment Quarter In Sydney. By Eva Rinaldi via Wikimedia Commons.

One of the most effective ways to combat depression is to do the exact opposite of what you feel like doing: taking care of yourself.

via The Huffington Post (please click through to read the entire piece):

The news of Robin Williams’ passing is shocking and touching so many of us. I was waiting for a friend at a bar when I first heard. All around me people erupted in a variety of emotional reactions as the word quickly spread. In the time since, a common reaction has been deep sadness, often paired with a sentiment of “I never thought someone like him would kill themselves.”

What we mean when we say “I never thought someone like him…” is that we can’t wrap our minds around certain people whom we deem successful or joyful or wise suffering from the same sorts to the demons that we ourselves face. Studies have shown that one in ten people in the United States are afflicted with depression. Robin Williams is said to be one of these people. In response to the news of Williams’ death his friend Harvey Fierstein wrote, “Please, people, do not f– with depression. It’s merciless. All it wants is to get you in a room alone and kill you. Take care of yourself.”

Yet for anyone who has suffered from depression or had suicidal thoughts, you know that self-care is the last thing you want to do when you feel that down. I teach meditation, and write books about how it effects our everyday life. That is the form of self-care that I preach. The sort of people who want to learn about meditation aren’t the “All is well and good in my world” type. They are people who have come to terms with the fact that they suffer. They are people finally looking at big transitions in their life, strong emotional states, and feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. So you would think that having taught meditation for thirteen years and worked with these people I would be a pro at this whole “take care of yourself” thing.

I have never publicly admitted this, but given the stigma around mental health issues and suicide I feel that I need to now: two years ago I was suicidal. I had written a best-selling Buddhist book and had begun working on the second one when the rug was pulled out from under me in a multitude of ways. My fiancé left me, quite out of the blue, without any recognizable reason. That set me down a self-destructive road which was only heightened when, a month later, due to budget cut-backs, my full-time job was eliminated. The straw that broke the camel’s back came a few weeks after that; one of my best friends died of heart failure at the age of 29. I felt estranged from my family, and two major support structures, my fiancé and my friend were now gone, so I began to self-medicate in a destructive way. I knew better, but the vastness of my depression consumed any thoughts around self-care and regular meditation.

I cannot explain how fathomless my sadness was during that period. I had a roof I would go up to every single day and contemplate jumping. I convinced myself that my first book was out there helping people, so maybe I should finish the second one. I sat down and wrote the second half of that book, which oddly enough comes out next month. It gave me purpose, and during that short period of time friends started to catch on something was wrong with me.

Continue reading.

7 Comments on "A Buddhist Perspective on Suicide"

  1. Tchoutoye | Aug 14, 2014 at 5:37 pm |

    The concept of reincarnation should be depressing enough to put any Buddhist off suicide.

    • BuzzCoastin | Aug 14, 2014 at 6:36 pm |

      according to Da Buddha
      there is no you
      only a collection of tencencies
      and in Buddhism (Theravada Buddhism)
      it is the tendencies that reincarnate

  2. Mark Pugner | Aug 14, 2014 at 6:23 pm |

    Love the disclaimer at the end.

    blah,….., blablablah buddha hurrah, bladogblah,… , but a therapist may prove more helpful at that time.

  3. BuzzCoastin | Aug 14, 2014 at 6:38 pm |

    once you lose your connection to Tao
    no amount of things can restore the happiness
    obtained when going with the flow
    nanu nanu

  4. Rhoid Rager | Aug 14, 2014 at 7:24 pm |

    Depression is awful. It feels like one is a marble twirling down a funnel–each revolution draws the marble closer to the hole at the bottom. The path gets shorter and shorter….the choices become more constricted. The walls grow ever higher, until all that’s left is the hole. The hole is visible the entire time, which makes it that much worse. At some point the hole begins to look like salvation. But the people one leaves behind don’t feel that way, hence the stigma.

    Taking care of animals was a bigger help than any therapist for me. Also, making things with my hands was another comfort.

  5. Aipeed Teaitchse | Aug 14, 2014 at 10:36 pm |

    This guy seems like a nice fellow and I don’t doubt his sincerity in wanting to help people who are dealing with depression. But to take the suicide of a renowned comedian and turn it into a pity party for your-self does not reflect the precepts of Buddhism very well. In this article, you only mention Robin Williams 5 times and each time have only the most generic statements to make such as “Robin Williams is a person” and “Robin Williams ended up taking his life” then quickly talk about your self again. By contrast the word “I” appears about 40 times and in the middle of it all you try to sell copies of your books and post 12 minutes worth of video footage of him-self – in one video, it becomes clear that Buddha was not his first or even second choice of subject matter for his book and in fact was a compromise after the title “Walk Like L. Ron Hubbard” was rejected in favor of “Walk Like A Buddha.”

    And while barely acknowledging any actual Buddhist teachings such as ignorance and desire being at the root of all negative action including suicide, he dismisses the power of meditation and strongly advises depressed people to seek out psychiatrists. Meanwhile, as we now know how Robin Williams was dealing with depression, it is a pretty safe bet his psychiatrist prescribed some form of SSRI, most of which have listed side effects such as “may cause suicidal thoughts and actions.” The mainstream media has failed to address the very real and very dangerous behavioral patterns SSRIs cause, and instead has actually been encouraging more people to start taking them.

    Again, I do believe he meant well, but this is article isn’t about Robin Williams, Buddhism, or meditation – it’s about his own ego and it’s desire for his dear readers sympathy. I’m not trying to bring him down, but I hope that as he continues on his path to enlightenment, his ego takes a back seat to the subject matter he’s trying to discuss.

    • mannyfurious | Aug 15, 2014 at 12:21 pm |

      That’s the culture we live in. Everything that happens matters only insofar as how it effects “me.”

      I’m guilty of this myself, (<–see, I rest my case) although I'm at least aware that I'm a self-indulging, self-centered twit.

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