Question: If one committed suicide, is there anything we can do to help the person? Is it true that the person will undergo seven lifetimes of suffering thereafter?
Answer: It is generally agreed that the act of suicide is so drastic and impressionable in impact upon the consciousness that once done, there is the tendency to do it again. This can be understood in a simple manner… For example, one who had killed oneself over a ‘trivial’ problem is likely to do so again over future problems of similar ‘light’ or ‘heavier’ gravity, as the threshold of withstanding suffering before giving up has already been set lower, forming a new actionable tendency.
Each time this tendency asserts itself, it might reinforce itself, out of a mix of attachment (to ‘escape’) and aversion (to the problem) that are yet to be dissolved. To deludedly take the ‘easy way’ out by dying can thus literally become a die-hard habit. This is why it is kinder and wiser to oneself to seek appropriate help to face one’s challenges bravely, to never take one’s life, which is to jump from the frying pan into the fire of suffering, repeatedly, partly as a form of echo-like karmic retribution.
Some believe this tendency to repeat can be within the bardo state (中阴) itself (intermediate state when the consciousness has left the body after death) every seven days for seven times, before actual rebirth. Some believe this tendency to repeat seven times can happen in future lives. As for the number of repetitions, it is hard to see any fixed number to be universal, as it should depend on how strong the impression of suicide was and how quickly it transforms or fades away.
There is also the general teaching by the Buddha in the Arya Sanghata Sutra《僧伽吒经》that suicide, being murder of a precious human rebirth, with the mind state of intense hatred, fear and/or regret can lead to hell swiftly as a worst-case scenario — ‘Killing one’s own life definitely receives the suffering of hell, immediately falling to the ground like an anxious arrow shot.’ — (杀害自身命，必受地狱苦，寻即堕于地，如被忧箭射。) Some might become ghost beings (hungry ghosts or wandering spirits).
What can be done to help those who committed suicide is to offer the power of meritorious virtues (功德) and guidance (引导) as much as possible to relieve suffering (whether already reborn or not) and expedite a speedy good rebirth, the best of which is Amituofo’s (阿弥陀佛: Amitabha Buddha) Pure Land (净土). More meritorious deeds can also be done in the name of the deceased, such as by donation to Dharma and good causes, such as printing of Dharma books for circulation and proper liberation of lives. Dharma chanting ceremonies (法会) can also be signed up in the name of the deceased to help dedicate merits to the person.
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