Question: I hear friends saying there is nothing in this world that we cannot let go of as once we feel attachment is painful, we will naturally let go. Is this true?
Answer: Due to the power of attachment and delusion, it’s not true that it’s easy to let go of the painful in every case. In most cases, the pain experienced is not even strong enough to urge letting go. For example, there are those who drink till they are dead drunk and wake up to terrible hangovers – over and over again.
Question: Why do some, despite being religious, suffer from depression (already feel the pain), but are not able to let go, and choose to commit suicide instead?
Answer: It takes mindfulness and training to be able to see one’s situation clearly, to let go of what ought to be let go of. Those who give up on life let go wrongly – when they let go of life itself, while still clinging on to their suffering and the delusion that death brings release.
Question: If letting go is detachment and release, these people not only have achieved what they wanted but at the same time create positive karma by donating their organs? Isn’t this a blessing?
Answer: Letting go is not always release. Only letting go of attachment (e.g. to death), aversion (e.g. to life) and delusion (e.g. about life and death) brings spiritual release. The troubled mind state one dies in continues in the next life. There is the immense negative karma created from taking one’s precious human life to deal with too. The suicidal often have negative rebirths as a result. The mind is a powerful force that doesn’t just dissipate into nothingness. Death is not the end of everything due to the power of attachment, which brings about continuation in another life. Those who kill themselves might seem detached – but the truth is, they are actually very attached – to wanting to end their suffering in a deluded way. Donation of organs is meritorious but most who die by suicide don’t have this in mind, and positive karma is only created by having the corresponding intention. If the consciousness of the deceased is still in the body while the body is cut up, there will be magnified pain too, as the consciousness becomes sharper upon death.
Question: Since it takes mindfulness and training to be able to see one’s situation clearly, how can a person who is suffering from severe depression, who has come to a stage where the mind and heart are ‘neutral’ (unconcerned with happiness or sadness) do so?
Answer: It’s not possible that happiness or sadness no longer matters for any sentient being. All beings want True Happiness – even if they are not aware of this, or are unsure of how to advance towards it. Even those who are depressed want to be happy. If happiness or sadness no longer matters, this person won’t even contemplate suicide – because those who do mistakenly entertain death as an avenue to ‘happiness’.
Question: This suicidal person might be resigned to fate, thinking one’s state is due to negative karma from a previous life.
Answer: The workings of karma are dynamic – subject to change, dependent on our present efforts too. It is impossible to be experiencing ONLY past karma ripening, as how one handles it in the present creates fresh karma that intervenes with past karma too.
Question: This person might be struggling, living one day at a time, trying to practise mindfulness, not that the grief can simply be put aside. What kind of training were you referring to earlier?
Answer: Even a struggle is worth it. One who dies in depression is likely to carry the depressive tendency over to the next life. Training can be varied. E.g. meditation and/or chanting, especially mindfulness of Buddha (Amituofo).
Question: To let go of attachment (to death), aversion (to life) and delusion (about life and death) that brings spiritual release, does that mean one has to be a monastic to achieve this highest level of release?
Answer: It is actually very hard to attain the highest release in one lifetime, unless one had already trained well in past lives. However, the next best goal is still possible – by ensuring birth in Amituofo’s blissful Pure Land, where all physical and mental illness will be gone, where enlightenment is guaranteed in this best of Dharma schools. Before that, mindfulness of Buddha helps to alleviate depression too, when his blessings are connected to. There’s no need to be a monastic to train in this Pure Land method of mindfulness of Buddha (nianfo).
Understanding Amituofo Via The Amitabha Sutra (8th Run)