Thursday, January 01, 2015

Mercy Killing

I have clearly heard teachers in American Zen Buddhism imply that mercy killing may be mandated by the precepts in certain circumstances.  So I guess I'm going to have to reconcile that with this bit from a Chinese Buddhist site that says mercy killing is necessarily a no-no.


n. yeti said...

I am going to go out on a limb here and refer to the ancient Indian view of birth and death through the Vedas, which informed Shakyamuni Buddha's discourse. Without getting into the metaphysics of the question, death is actually the beginning of the cycle, not the end. I think it is important to consider death not as the end of life but the beginning of it (and indeed for those of good merit who have used their lives wisely, it is "the" opportunity for liberation from the cycle of death and birth). So in the question of euthanasia, I think we can look at it in terms of giving rise to birth; it is a beginning of transfiguration. On what terms is it best to approach this realization? If the life is sustained, it prevents the opportunity of liberation; if life has not run its course, and karma remains to be fulfilled in life, then early death is unfortunate because it also robs the being of the opportunity of liberation. In the absence of a DNR or some such affirmation it can be agonizing for loved ones to make this decision.

In terms of assisted suicide, my sense is that it is generally a bad idea, but as I am not in such extreme circumstances neither will I cling to any dogmatic view on it nor pass judgment on others. For Buddhists who have somehow convinced themselves this life is all there is, I can see how this question would be very difficult indeed, because it would seem to be the end, not the beginning.

Thomas Armstrong said...

I don't know -- and doubt that anyone can know -- if there is life after death.

Is mercy killing "permissible"? Certainly, there are circumstances when it clearly seems to be the most humane action to take. To my mind, each of us is the best judge of how to conduct our life, including with respect to factors likely to shorten it or extend it.

From Buddhism, I seek wisdom, not dogma. I don't expect much that is instructive re death. Death is something we will each meet as a new -- and likely unwelcomed -- experience.

n. yeti said...

Thomas, what do you think Buddha meant about the deathless (pali: amata) in that case?