What is the Vedic perspective on passive euthanasia?

by Chaitanya CharanAugust 10, 2014

Answer Podcast

Transcribed by: Geetanjali Nath

Question: What is the vedic perspective on passive euthanasia ?

Answer: The key is that we neither try to artificially contrail life nor artificially expand life. So generally euthanasia involves curtailing life by administering of some drug that end life. So that is in one sense, is interfering with nature , playing with nature, so that is undesirable according to scripture, because the body is not our property , in the sense that we are not created it, it is a gift given to us by God and we don;t have the right to destroy that body. So we all have to endure some amount of karma in this life, based on what ever we have done in the past, and if we try to escape that karma and int he process further do bad karma of destroying this body, then the previous karma will come any way, and what we have done is, we have created a further bad karma and that will also come upon us. So therefore euthanasia itself is not recommended, and often euthanasia is administered not so much because the person wants to end life, also that also happens some times, but it happens because the care givers or those who are mentally care givers  , no longer want to care for the person. So that that’s why euthanasia is often not mercy killing, it is convenience killing. People feel it is inconvenient to maintain the person and that;s why they want to end the life, and that is unfortunate. So curtailing life artificially is not desirable. Now on the other hand, prolonging life is also not desirable. especially when there is no scope of recovery, then prolonging life is not really purposeful. because the purpose of life is not just living , the purpose of life is not just existing, the purpose of life is living so that we can elevate our consciousness. We can do constructive activities int this world and we can purify ourselves and ultimately progress on our spiritual evolution. and attain God consciousness. and attain eternal life with God and that required purification, and if that purpose is not possible because say if the person is in coma, and the doctor say that there is no chance there is , no realistic chance of that person coming out of coma, then prolonging the life by using artificial instruments, for a long long time , that is not desirable. Prabhupada when he was asked this question about prolonging life with artificially , he said that  , what is the point of it > let the soul go to the next body and let the soul continue its evolution in a future body, which is healthier and which is more competent for constructive activity. and even from the practical point of view. Prabhupada was not just philosophical he was practical, he said why does one need to spend resources on something which is not benefiting a person actually, apart from keeping that person simply existing, without existing just like vegetable, without doing anything, it is not hard hardheartedness, this is simply clear headedness. So now passive euthanasia refers to circumstances something like this. That generally the term passive euthanasia is not that a person is administered some drug to end the life , rather that which will , the person is keep alive by artificial support systems, and then those support systems are withdrawn, and that can be called as passive euthanasia. So now that is a as we look at the Prabhupada’s example for the conversation, Prabhupada says, why not let  the soul progress on onward journey, so of-course passive euthanasia had to be carefully administered, there should be multiple checkup and vitrification that there is indeed no possibility of recovery, no realistic recovery, one can always say that the miracles are possible. but in general if the uniform medical opinion is that there is not possibility of recovery from coma and is gone for a long time then passive euthanasia , in that specific circumstances , may be the best course of action for that particular soul and for the care givers also. For the optimum utilization of their resources/ so now this is of-course a decision which has to be taken very  carefully otherwise it can become a licence for responsibility and cruelty also . Now in the vedic tradition , stopping food and water as a voluntary way to doing austerity is a respected form of ending life, it is called a prayopavesha vrata, the idea is that a person decides that now I have lived my klife and now I wish to end my life, and for that purpose I will start fasting, and then the person often goes to a forest and sits in a vrata and meditates in the absolute truth and slowly gives up the body, so that is ofcourse , it’s a bheshan vrata, it is not very easy to follow, but that is a honoured form of leaving the body. so there the purpose is , first the state is consciously choosen, and it is chosen for the sake of spiritual elevation.and it is chosen with an attempt to focus on the consciousness on the absolute truth. ?So now that we will have a spectrum over here, that is active euthanasia we can say , if we want to use the word, where the person or the czaregivers consciousnesly choose to curtail life, that is undesirable. Then there is passive euthanasia where one does not prolong life that won.t continue on its on. One does not prolong it by artificial means, that is under some circumstances , with proper guidance and vigilance, that is , that may be the best way for the soul to continue on its spiritual journey, and then there is , from the vedic perspective. prayopavashem, where a person voluntarily chooses, so the difference between active euthanasia, and prayopavesha is that , often euthanasia is chosen primarily to avoid pain and there si very little emphasis on spiritual consciousness at that time, the focus is basically just to end one’s suffering. Where as the focus in prayopavesha is to transcend ones suffering by absorption in higher spiritual reality and in fact in some extent it involves voluntary suffering, because fasting from food and water is not a quick way to dying, as it is in active euthanasia, just take one chemical and it is finished, It is slow and its often painful, but one by absorbing in the absolute truth to transcend the pain. So in general the principle is , that we don’t artificially curtain or prolong life and specific application has to be done carefully considering what will be the best for the individual , in term of either recovery in this life, or in terms of spiritual evolution here in this, or in the next life.

Thank you

Hare Krishna.

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Chaitanya Charan

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