II Monograph. Appendix B : Readers Respond

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1) How do we account for deaths like J˝aneshwara’s and Rama’s?                           

 - S. G. Mudgal*


I give below a few examples :

i) J˝aneshwara, at the age of 22, entered Samadhi;

ii) Manek Prabhu, at the age of 40, did likewise;

iii) Raghavendra Swami, at the age of 71, entered Vrindavan; (Vaishnava equivalent of Samadhi);

iv) Vadiraja Swami, at age of 120, entered Vrindavan.

There may be many more.

They were all yogis and used to be in Asampraj˝ata Samadhi. Very often, the happiness of God vision in Samadhi made them to remain in that state longer, and more often.

Thus, you can see that these cases do not fall within the purview of Suicide and Psychiatry. They were all perfectly normal individuals. Their contribution to Philosophy and Religion is unparalleled. For example, J˝aneshwari, Amrtanubhava, Upanishad Khandartha, Parimala, Mahabhashya Commentary, Yukti Mallika, to name a few, are famous works. They are not the works of diseased persons.**

Again, they also knew their mission. J˝aneshwara told his brother Nivrttinatha, who was also his guru: “Well, brother, my time has come. Permit me to leave this body.” On being permitted by his Guru and brother, he got his samadhi built. On the appointed day, at a chosen time, he entered it, and asked his followers to close the entrance, once he reached the asampraj˝ata samadhi.

Same was the case with Manek Prabhu.

Raghvendra Swamy told his disciples in advance, the day, time, month and year of his leaving the body. It is recorded history that he exists in his astral body, in the Vrindavan. Sir Thomas Monroe, Collector of Bellary later Governor of Madras, records in the Madras Gazetteer, his interview with the Swamiji more than a few decades after he entered Vrindavan.

Thus, these cases have be the understood in a different way as they fall within the field of Psychology of Religion, and Para-Psychology. They were not distressed nor depressed. They were not schizophrenic. Again they have also to be understood is the context of Indian eschatology. The West believes in only one birth. This is not so with philosophies which have their origin on the Indian soil, except of course, the Carvakas.

Such individuals leave the body because their self is ‘home sick’ (Miss Underhills’ terminology). Their discarding the body can only be described as entering into Samadhi (or vrindavan). This was true of Rama as also Laxmana, who entered the river Sharayu and underwent jalasamadhi.

This is how their leaving the body (or death, as you have put it) can be understood. Again there are four kinds of bodies which a Jiva has : (a) Sthulasarira (b) Anirudhasarira (c) Lingasarira and (d) Svarupasarira. Only when the Lingasarira is destroyed, one attains find redemption.

This is how I understand the above and other similar cases. All Indian schools (except Carvaka), have condemned suicide. Further, they have appreciated leaving the body by the yogic method. Kalidasa refers to the Raghu dynasty with appreciation as ‘yogenante tanu tyajam’ i.e. those who leave the body at the end by entering into Samadhi. Thus, the correct way of describing the physical end of such persons is discarding the body, or leaving the body, i.e. ‘Tanu Tyajam’.


*Prof (Dr.) S.G. Mudgal M.A., Ph.D., has been a distinguished Professor of Philosophy with a deep study of Indian thought.

** Prof. Mudgal is making the point that not all such deaths are the result of psychopathology. He is obviously referring to the 2% cases of suicides in which no abnormality could be found even by recent psychiatric researchers. The point is indeed well taken and psychiatrists must beware of using their methods to make sweeping generalisations. But they must do something about the 98% with psychopathology, which is indeed very important, and legitimately their domain. - Eds.)



2) Suicide Rates Under-reported

(In a communication, Prof. K. S. Jacob, M.D., Ph.D., Prof. of Psychiatry, Christian Medical College, Vellore, shares the findings of their interesting rural study using verbal autopsies conducted between 1994-9 as a collaborative study between their Dept. of Community Health and Dept. of Psychiatry. This was published in BMJ, Vol. 326, dated 24 May 2003. The study makes the point that suicide rates are grossly under-reported. Accurate data-collection can give a true indication of real suicide rates. We share concluding remarks of their study below.- Eds)


“Verbal autopsies can give a good idea of the cause of death from suicide in the developing world, where coroners’ verdicts are not available. A community health programme in the Kaniyambadi region of India found that recent studies in India have under-reported suicide rates by two to three times. The independently verified method used verbal autopsies and found the rate in 1994-9 was 95.2/100 000 population, nine times the national average. The high rates are not likely to be peculiar to Kaniyambadi; they reflect more accurate data collection. Sentinel centres that accurately monitor suicide are needed in the developing world.“ (Joseph et al, 2003)*

(* Joseph A., Abraham S., Muliyil JP, George K., Prasad J., Minz S., Abraham V.J., Jacob K.S., (2003), Evaluation of suicide rates in rural India using verbal autopsies, 1994-9; BMJ, 326, 24 May 2003,1121-2.)



3) I am thrilled!

“I am thrilled to receive your monograph on suicide prevention. I have gone through its contents and find that you have made an in-depth analysis in language that is simple and elegant. I am proud to have known you for almost 30 years, right from our under graduate days in KEM. Keep up the good work.”

Quresh B. Maskati

M.S., D.O.M.S., F.C.P.S. (Hon. Opthalmic Surgeon, Wadia Childrens’, Saifee and Habib Hospitals, Mumbai.



4) Convert into actionable points

I congratulate you for your article “Towards a suicide free society”. It is very timely and also comprehensive.

Coincidentally, I have also been writing about suicide prevention in the context of suicides in Chandigarh as well as suicides of farmers in Karnataka.

I personally think that each one of the topics you have taken up should be convertible in actionable point, so that people at the level of individuals, families, communities, professionals, administrators and media can respond to the same.* I hope you will find my approach relevant to your future work. I again congratulate you for this very important initiative.

-R. Srinivasa Murthy ,

Prof. of Psychiatry, NIMHANS


*Editors Note :

 Prof Murty makes a very valid point, for the problem having being identified, what concrete steps could be taken in the form of points of action need to be identified by concerned individuals and agencies as well. Let us make a start with some points:

I) Identify the population at risk:

a) those living alone.

b) widows without children and without financial security.

c) people living alone in lodging homes for prolonged periods.

d) those who suffer great financial loss or severe loss of self-esteem.

e) people without social or financial support e.g. recent farmers suicides

f) those who have made past suicidal attempt.

g) psychiatric patients with suicidal ideation, or with past suicidal attempt.

h) those chronically ill with medical illnesses like cancer, AIDS, Chronic renal disease, other debilitating illnesses etc.

i) Students failing SSC, HSC exams with stressful parent -child interaction at home and/or no one to communicate with.

II) Establish Centers to treat Depression.

III) Remove Social Stigma attached to suicide/suicidal attempt.

IV) Socio-political changes may be necessary, but gross destabilization is to be avoided. Help at risk population, specially migrants with poor financial/ social support.

Mens Sana Monographs [MSM]: A Mens Sana Research Foundation Publication