The Unexpected Can Happen To Anyone

One Suicide Note, Three Lessons

I can’t go on living… I’ve put my best [into] these 14 years I’ve been on this hellhole called earth. I bid farewell to all. Please keep me in your hearts because I know all of you will be in mine. I am not leaving you. I am escaping from the realm of reality into the darkness of the unknown. Because reality is I can’t be with Maryling, and even the strongest man in the world wouldn’t resist the loss of a loved one, that was held so near and dear to your heart. Nothing can stop me now. I am taking my life, because without Maryling I have no life. Funny… Karen was talking about suicide earlier. I never thought it would have anything to do with me.

This is the suicide note of a 14-year-old schoolboy in Florida, who with his 13-year-old girlfriend, committed suicide by jumping into a canal. Neither could swim. After finding out that they were in a relationship, their parents forbade them to see each other, which drove them to take their lives.

Approximately 4000 teens take their lives each year in the USA. And almost 40,000 Americans commit suicide each year, or around 105 each day, or one every 14 minutes.

When things are going well, we can move through our days in relative ease. But when times turn hard, the question of why we are living can come to the forefront, and sometimes with disastrous consequences. It is not easy or pleasant to think about why we are living. Some might think that such thinking will lead to despair.

There are three points from his suicide note that I will focus on here.

He says that he is escaping reality to enter the darkness of the unknown. He makes it clear that he doesn’t know where he is going when he dies, or what awaits him on dying. Not knowing where one is going after death is the dark mind. Darkness can mean many things, but in Buddhism it refers to two things: the mind that is ignorant of the purpose of life, and the mind that does not know what will happen in the afterlife. Essentially they are one and the same thing.

Why do we have dark minds? The fact is that all people are born with such a mind. Buddhism teaches that we have been transmigrating forever with this mind, never truly knowing why we exist. Yet, why we exist, isn’t this the greatest concern for all mankind?

When we do something, we want to know the purpose of why we are doing it. Not only is it meaningless to do something that has no purpose but there would be no feeling of fulfillment in doing. Every activity has a purpose. On accomplishing the purpose, we get a feeling of satisfaction and completion. When doing something without knowing the purpose, we can never reach a moment of satisfaction. With similar reasoning, to feel joy and fulfillment in life, one must know why they are living, that is, the purpose of life.

When we clearly know the purpose of life, we can then overcome hardships. It is not uncommon for people to take their lives when they lose something, because they felt that such a thing was the meaning of their life, what they were living for, just like the two teens. The boy’s meaning in life was his girlfriend. But when such a meaning was taken, what is left is despair and hopelessness. And the heavier the meaning we put into the object of our desire, the greater our despair. We live in a world where all can be lost in a moment. Yet we do not live to suffer, or to be in trepidation over the happiness that we have. It’s no wonder people struggle with anxiety and depression, living in such a world. We live to attain true unshakable happiness.

Finally, in the suicide note, he says that he was talking to Karen about suicide and never imagined that he would be the one making that choice now. We don’t know what is coming to us, when it might be our turn to go through a certain experience. Again this is the harsh reality of life. In Buddhism lectures I have heard about this very reality. We can never be sure that it won’t be our turn next to get into a traffic accident, to be diagnosed with a terminal disease, to lose all our possessions when our home burns down. On television time and time again we hear people speaking when some terrible accident has hit them and they say that they never imagined that it would happen to them. Who knows when it might be our turn.

Life is said to be like walking on thin ice. We never know when the ice might break beneath our feet. Not a moment of life can be taken for granted. Let’s pay attention to the words of Master Rennyo when he tells us to take to heart the serious matter of the afterlife and say the Nembutsu.

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #27 | 2013, The Unexpected Can Happen To Anyone

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