Articles and Opinion
THE UNFINISHED BUSINESS(ES) OF SELF-DESTRUCTION
Jose Antonio Cangco
Dolphins are very interesting animals. They are very intelligent, playful, charming, sociable, easily trainable and helpful to man. They have been known to save human lives by supporting a drowning person afloat with their snouts and there are documented cases when they drove away sharks from unwary swimmers.
However, there is a dark side to dolphins. According to Natalie Angier in her book The Beauty of the Beastly, this comes to fore during the mating season when a gang of male dolphins “kidnap” one or more female dolphins. Then they would guard her very closely, swimming on her side to prevent her from escaping or from being abducted by other male dolphins. With a high brain-to-body ratio, the dolphin is ranked by scientists as one of the most intelligent animals on earth.
Man is much more intelligent than any other animal, unfortunately he, too, has a dark side; he is capable of committing many types of crimes against other men, animals, the environment, and against himself: he is capable of committing suicide. A few persons may see suicide as poetic justice or a heroic step toward some goal, but most upright citizens living in an enlightened society strongly condemn it.
Whatever the reasons why modern society condemns it, self-immolation had been regarded as wrong since ancient times; it was always common knowledge that committing suicide is equivalent to having an “unfinished business.” A widespread notion nowadays is when a person successfully destroys himself, his spirit hangs around for sometime or haunts the familiar places he had been because he had left some unfinished business. In other words, he is attracted back to the places he frequented and loved supposedly to find completion, rest and happiness.
Ancient eastern beliefs claim to have knowledge beyond this. In fact, the master knows that the suicide has left three kinds of unfinished affairs or businesses which he has to bring into completion eventually in the future. It is beyond the scope of this article to take up and cover what these three unconsummated businesses are, but the second is simple enough for us to discuss. It is actually what almost everybody already knows: that the suicide comes again to learn his lesson.
There are several rationales given to the act of committing suicide such as honor, idealism, and desperation. No matter what the arguments are, suicide is never justified and it is committed under only one condition - helplessness. The kamikaze pilot may rationalize his act as a great sacrifice to his country; the leaders of a group of hunger strikers as an act of defiance, or the terrorists as an act to instill fear, yet these are all motivated by helplessness, weakness, fear, and desperation. If Japan were winning the war, the military leadership would have not come up with such scheme; if the protestors were granted what they were demanding for they would instead be rejoicing; and if the terrorists had the sympathy of the people, they would not be blowing themselves up together with innocent civilians.
Eastern philosophy is not very concerned about the reasons and causes of suicide because it is a point already settled that it is wrong and being more important, that its effects to the person doing it are of extreme consequence. The term “unfinished business” has come down to our everyday language to describe the situation the suicide has found himself in; in due time, the suicide will have to finish all the three kinds of unfinished businesses he had left as a result of having ended his own life prematurely.
By committing suicide, the person thought that he would escape from his problems or that the circumstances surrounding his death would improve. In eastern dogma, there is only one way to learn and right a mistake and that is for the person to come back in conditions similar to those he was trying to escape from, and learn things all over again.
The wide spread use of the expression “unfinished business” to refer to the act of suicide is striking for it captures the essence of suicide in terms of eastern religious and metaphysical concepts. The term became part of our street vocabulary, and whether the person uttering it knows the real meaning or not, there is more to it than meets the eye. By discussing a hypothetical case we shall shed light on the mystery which intrigues so many people to what really happens to the suicide.
To illustrate this point, let us assume a middle-aged man running a large family-owned business, who is the most senior officer and makes the final business decisions. The business prospered under his leadership, and he never saw the need for decentralization or to share his responsibilities with his relatives and employees.
One day, despite the advice of his experts, he took a high risk investment and failed. Many of his relatives and employees lost their money and their jobs, they were so furious they blamed and held him accountable. Seeing his predicament with no avenue for a solution, the man committed suicide. Whatever rationale he left in his suicide note, his decision was an act of helplessness and desperation.
Now, according to eastern teachings, he cannot progress on the path of evolution. He was held back by his own desperate action and for him to advance, he should learn that what he did was wrong and against the nature of spiritual development. Hence, he will have to come back to some similar conditions to learn that it is always best to face one’s responsibilities and obligations no matter how daunting they are. Only when he shall have realized that his action of ultimate escapism was wrong will he join the rest of humanity in their journey to spiritual advancement.
Most people have an unconscious fear of suicide and death. This is one way Mother Nature intended us to finish our task and complete the purpose we have come to Earth for. Even the members of cults such as the People’s Temple founded by James Warren Jones in Guyana were afraid to drink juice laced with poison so the deadly cocktail had to be prepared secretly. If one read the moving account about the death of Socrates, although he drank hemlock with his own two hands, one would readily understand that it was an execution rather than an act of suicide.
The truth cannot be hidden. Even popular folklore takes for granted that the suicide is still clinging to his earthly ways, hoping for forgiveness as he has realized that abruptly terminating his own life was wrong, having effectively interrupted and put an end to all his dreams, his aspirations, and the faith, trust and love of others who were genuinely concerned for him. It is believed that he is visiting around, hoping to catch up and undo what he had done. He is burdened with an unfinished business. It is a comfort to the living to know that their dear departed is not left and forsaken, but given another chance to progress.
A very bad scenario, however, is with us throughout the world. Terror groups are trying to destroy the peace and economic gains attained by the free world. Recruiting suicide bombers has become another of their arsenal to sow fear and terror among the populace. They have misguided ideologies and twisted beliefs.
Whatever the reason for committing it, suicide delays one’s journey on the spiritual path because it creates more problems than it solves for the person involved. When problems accrue, our growth upward on the spiritual path is delayed. Just remember that in the greater scheme of things, a terrorist who blows himself up together with other people is also slapped with murder.
Murder or suicide, whatever one’s beliefs are, nobody escapes divine justice.