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SciTech What Is The Sikh Viewpoint On Euthanasia, Mercy Killing Or Assisted Suicide?

Chaan Pardesi

Oct 4, 2008
London & Kuala Lumpur
There has been a massive debate about this subject, but not among Sikhs;neither from a Sikh viewpoint.For many number of reasons they either do not feel comfortable with it or pretend it does not exist.Two more reasons come to mind, it may be our granthis are not geared to think about the modern day dilemnas outside the traditional remit of Gurbani,or/and one does nothave enough knowledge/reference from the guidance in Gurbani to discussthe subject. The Christian religion, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism etcall have expressed views on the subject.I believe that to respond tosuch modern day issues that arise[ in the public domain] we must lookto the Gurbani.Whether a Sikh can take someone's else life out of compassion and view it as an act of mercy,we sikhs must first considerand understand how the Gurus viewed life.

A quick reference from the nets offers view of Buddhism on Euthanasia.There are many different views among Buddhists on the issue ofeuthanasia, but many are critical of the procedure.

An important value of Buddhist teaching is compassion. Compassion isused by some Buddhists as a justification for euthanasia because theperson suffering is relieved of pain. However, it is still immoral "toembark on any course of action whose aim is to destroy human life,irrespective of the quality of the individual's motive."

In Theravada Buddhism a lay person daily recites the simple formula: "Iundertake the precept to abstain from destroying living beings." ForBuddhist monastics (bhikkhu) however the rules are more explicitlyspelled out. For example, in the monastic code (Patimokkha), it states: "Should any bhikkhu intentionally deprive a human being of life, orsearch for an assassin for him, or praise the advantages of death, orincite him to die (thus): 'My good man, what use is this wretched,miserable life to you? Death would be better for you than life,' orwith such an idea in mind, such a purpose in mind, should in variousways praise the advantages of death or incite him to die, he also isdefeated and no longer in communion."It is reasonable to conclude that this opposition to euthanasia alsoapplies to physician-assisted death and other forms of assisted suicide.

In the Christian religion there is the CATHOLIC view:
The declaration on Euthanasia is the Roman Catholic Church's officialdocument on the topic of euthanasia, a statement that was issued as bythe Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1980.
Catholic teaching condemns euthanasia as a "crime against life" and a"crime against God". The teaching of the Catholic Church on euthanasiarests on several core principles of Catholic ethics, including thesanctity of human life, the dignity of the human person, concomitanthuman rights, due proportionality in casuistic remedies, theunavoidability of death, and the importance of charity.

The PROTESTANTISM:protestant denominations vary widely on theirapproach to euthanasia and physician assisted death. Since the 1970s,Evangelical churches have worked with Roman Catholics on a sanctity oflife approach, though some Evangelicals may be adopting a moreexceptionless opposition. While liberal Protestant denominations havelargely eschewed euthanasia, many individual advocates (such as JosephFletcher) and euthanasia society activists have been Protestant clergyand laity. As physician assisted dying has obtained greater legalsupport, some liberal Protestant denominations have offered religious arguments and support for limited forms of euthanasia.

HINDUISM offers two Hindu points of view on euthanasia. By helping toend a painful life a person is performing a good deed and so fulfillingtheir moral obligations. On the other hand, by helping to end a life,even one filled with suffering, a person is disturbing the timing ofthe cycle of death and rebirth. This is a bad thing to do, and those involved in the euthanasia will take on the remaining karma of thepatient. However, the same argument suggests that keeping a personartificially alive on a life-support machines would also be a bad thingto do.

It is clearly stated in the Vedas that man has only to trust worthyfriends in life, the first is called Vidya (knowledge), and the 2nd iscalled Mrityu (Death). The former is something that is beneficial and a requirement in life, and the latter is something that is inevitable sometimes even unexpected. It is not the euthanasia that is the act ofsin, but worldy attachment which causes euthenasia to be looked upon asan act of sin. Even a Sanyasin or Sanyasini if they decide to, arepermitted to end his or her life with the hope of reaching moksha i.e.emancipation of the soul.

ISLAM:-Islam categorically forbids all forms of suicide and any actionthat may help another to kill themselves. It is forbidden for a Muslimto plan, or come to know through self-will, the time of his own deathin advance. The precedent for this comes from the Islamic prophetMuhammad having refused to bless the body of a person who had committedsuicide. If an individual is suffering from a terminal illness, it ispermissible for the individual to refuse medication and/or resuscitation. Other examples include individuals suffering from kidneyfailure who refuse dialysis treatments and cancer patients who refusechemotherapy.

In addition, to above religions, Jainism, Judaism, Shintoism andConfucism has offered a view point and expressed their stand.However,the fifth largest religion of 30,000,000-Sikhi is absent with its view on the subject.

Gurcharan Singh then asks,Can a credible central Sikh view be evolved from discussions here and formed, and offered to a inter religiousforum discussions?With no resposne for some time,he adds "Perhaps the acid test of morbidity is too powerful and nauseative to handle over this subject for most of us,Sikhs"

But then Jaswant Singh ji says..." This is a very difficult question.Perhaps, reflection on the Sikhi concepts of accepting God’s Will(bhana mannana), treating life as sacred and accepting suffering aspart of life would provide the answers.

Sdr. Ajit Kaur ji adds, "WAHEGURU gave us life n WAHEGURU will take us back when our time is up...We have to accept GODS will... who are we to question HIM??

Sr Rajinder Singh from Taman Teratai Mewah Darbar,explained ,"Sikhism believes that everything happens in Hukam(Supreme Command). A Personcan do action only after thinking. The action which happenedpractically is actually part of Hukam (Whether Good or Bad in eyes ofpeople). Sikhism does not believe in Karmic Philosphy at all. In Sikhi, there are two types of Karma: Dukrit Karma and Sukrit Karma.Dukrit Karma is thinking against Hukam and Sukrit Karma is to walk inHukam. Person could only think against Hukam but could not Act against Hukam. What action is going on in world are all in hukam whether good or bad(Temporally). As Guru Nanak give us viewpoint that ""Hukmey andarsab hai. Bahr Hukam na koye"". This is the reason why Gurbani saysthere is no sin, no virtue(Paap punn hamre bass nahin). No Believe inHeaven or hell. To understand God with help of gurbani with our ownmind(Buddhi) and stablize yourself and walk under supreme power is aimof sikh. Guru Gobind Singh killed many animals and so guru hargobindwhile hunting, as common people call it sin but actually it is not. Tounderstand Hukam is not small thing (HUKAM BOOJH PARAM GATI PAAYI), onewant to attain Highest salvation need to Discover Hukam.

For example, If someone think to murder 10 persons, but he was able tomurder only 5 and other 5 was saved. Both acts happened in Hukam, butHukam used that person(who we will call murder) as his ingredient tocomplete his wish. Now Temporal people will cry that murderer have madea family orphan and forget this fact that everything was planned bySupreme Power. Even you will try to convice them that everything donein Hukam they will say that No Hukam never do bad.

On Other Side, when tsunami come and thousands houses vanish and manybecame widow and many become orphan then same people say that God orNature have done all this which is also part of Hukam.
Thats why Hukam is topic of deep research and Gurus and Devotees havedone this. Guru Gobind Singh never cried before God that you havekilled my son, and even haven't cried before aurangzeb(read zafarnama).His became a wanderer, house gone and wife became angry with him. As Guru Gobind Singh was discoverer of Hukam and Understand hukam and was on Paramgati. He know what Hukam is so he never question Oh GOD why you do that to me, or this all was not done by Hukam or god but done bycommon people.

If everything is done by God then nothing is good nothing is bad butthinking which comes in mind is bad. The action is never bad. We could think against Hukam but could not do anything against Hukam"

Concluding the "difficult" and very sensitive topic,Gurcharan Singh says..

[Thanking the participants....Very informative and enlightening both Sr Rajinder Singh ji, Sr Jaswant Singh Ji, and Srd Ajit Kaur ji].I said somewhere earlier,a Sikh view can only emerge if we consider and lookat how our Guru Ji views life.An analysis of Guru Granth Sahib wouldquickly make it clear that the Guru sahibaan had great respect forlife.They viewed life as a GIFT from Akal Purkh Karta Purakh.A Sikh has to accept that the life he/she has was decided by our KARMA and that GOd has determined how many "breaths" we breathe.Akal Purakhs injuntion has been preordained how long we live and whether we have to suffergoes against the increasing modern practices of living wills,euthanasia or mercy killing.Therefore I think we can safely say thereis no place for mercy killing, euthanasia or assisted suicide in Sikhi,as it believes death occurs when God -akal Purakh commands."The righteous judge of dharam is relentless, he counts each and every breath, says ang 1354 in Guru Granth Sahib ji.The Guru sahibaan advocate that suffering is a part of the human condition and has placein the Waheguru's scheme.AS such suffering prompts man to turn his thoughts to Waheguru.
ਦੁਖੁ ਦਾਰੂ ਸੁਖੁ ਰੋਗੁ ਭਇਆ ਜਾ ਸੁਖੁ ਤਾਮਿ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥-Suffering is the medicine,and pleasure the disease, because where there is pleasure, there is nodesire for God-Ang 469.In other words individuals should have moralcourage to bear suffering -this can be achived through NAAM.Guru Arjansahib ji tells us in the first line of Sukhmani Sahib ." to the one who meditates on HIM, there comes a perfect peace, and all pain and sorrows depart.Mediate on Him who contains the universe.Whose HOLY Naam is the whisper on the lips of the entire creation",ang 262Guru Granth Sahib ji.

Sikh Guru sahibaan believed that suffering is part of the operation ofKARAM, and human beings should not only accept it without complaint but also act so as to make the best situation that has been given them.Individuals should live and suffer the tests of The Akal Purakhhas put in their life and demonstrate and an acceptance of Akal Purakhshukam;to demonstrate their faith and trust in the Maker.It is just not karma of the sufferer that is affected but also that of his/ hercarers.Looking after a terminally ill individual may be seen as a testfor the carers, which he/she must bear in order to progress spiritually.

As Waheguru has given life and as Sikhs we are supposed to live to thewill of Waheguru-BHANA , no one has the right to decide when lifeshould conclude;that is a decision for Waheguru.What if a living willis made?Accordingly a Sikh should not follow through such requests as it means crossing a moral boundary and taking life before AkalPurakhs'command.

Up to now it all sounds wonderfully easy and absolute,but the AkalPurakh has given individuals free will.What should a Sikh do when confronted by a particular situation, such as coma or cancer may be dependent on their own individual circumstances and their discoursewith Guru Granth Sahib.
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