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Notes on counselling

Aftermath of suicide — a consciousness perspective

Dr. Soumitra Basu


Suicidal behaviour does not end with the demise of the subject but has social and cosmic ramifications. The aftermath of suicide where others can get unknowingly affected also deserves attention. The occult implications necessitate a consciousness-based counselling approach.

Academicians are justifiably working hard to find all possible ways to prevent suicide, the rate of which seems to have soared since the turn of the millennium, with the USA alone registering a 30-year high in 2016. Suicide arises in a complex and multifaceted background and no one single criterion carries the statistical power of being self-relevant. Though the majority of subjects committing suicide satisfy the criteria of one or more psychiatric disorders, there is also an increasing acknowledgement that instead of viewing suicidal behaviour as symptomatic of psychiatric diseases, suicidal tendency per se could constitute a distinctly unique dimension by itself which could co-exist with psychiatric disorders in a single individual (1). However, there is another aspect of suicide that also needs an equally engrossing attention –- the after-effects of suicide that affects not only the vulnerable but also unsuspecting subjects.

As a practising psychiatrist, I have again and again felt how significant are the moral injunctions against suicide that are elaborated in scriptures of all traditions. A misdeed like suicide does not end with the individual’s unfortunate demise but has social and cosmic effects that trigger off multiple reactions at different points in space and time. It was only in the late 1980s that psychiatry started acknowledging how devastating the aftermath of suicide was for relatives. It was recommended that bereavement postvention programmes should be part of a comprehensive package that included prevention and intervention components affiliated with existing mental health services(2).

Aftermath of suicide

In fact a consciousness perspective from an integral psychological standpoint reveals the various ramifications of suicide:

a. There is often a familial relationship in the transmission of suicidal behaviour and the tendency to impulsive aggression though no genetic pathway has been unravelled (serotonin-linked genes have been considered as candidates but nothing specific has emerged). Ernest Hemingway’s family alone accounted for five suicides in four generations! Obviously there is a psychopathology involved and its effects can be carried over several generations. It is not surprising to discover suicide and suicidal attempts down the line across several generations, especially among first-degree relatives, but there are also other forms of psychopathology that can be triggered off.

b. Though all suicides are not due to psychiatric causes (there are significant social causes as well) there is a psychological insecurity, irrespective of any cause that can affect members of the family, and such an event can haunt a subject throughout his or her lifetime and may even resurge as post-traumatic stress much later in life.

c. It is not only the family of the suicide victim that is affected, neighbours and close friends are also affected and some of them can really become depressed. Once when in an overcrowded Outpatient’s clinic, where I had less time for clients and hence had to act intuitively, I asked a depressed youngster if there was a suicide close to his home; he instantly replied that a neighbour had committed suicide just outside his window a few weeks back triggering off his depression. I realised that it was not enough to note down the history of suicides in the family but also in one’s social circle.

d. Finally, the more important significance of suicide that surpasses the clinician’s arena is the occult perspective of the act. It is a misnomer to think that the act of suicide needs courage. Quite the contrary. The Mother explained that one commits suicide as one is a coward (3). In fact the cowardice reaches a point where the will-power is completely broken, facilitating an overwhelming collapse by negative occult forces swarming in the cosmos and which drives the subject to the dastardly act. The occult connection does not end with the completion of the act; it continues to exert its influence as after-effects, affecting unsuspecting subjects.The negative occult vibrations that get a passage through this act now find a playing field in the arena where the act was committed. If it had been committed in a house or a hostel, the overall harmony gets breached while vulnerable subjects, family members or boarders, inhabitants of such space, often get caught up in the occult contagion to unnecessarily suffer from misery and misfortune which are usually and unknowingly attributed to ‘ill-luck’. If the dastardly act had been committed in public places, gardens,on roads or railway-tracks or in water-bodies, then also at times there can exist negative formations in such spaces affecting vulnerable subjects.

Sin and suicide

The religious and moral injunctions against suicide as a grave misdeed, albeit a sin, seem justified. If it is at all a sin, it is a sin of epic proportions with social and cosmic dimensions. In the classical Indian tradition, suicide generates negative karmic ramifications that persist in a vital plane of consciousness to work out effects in future lives, thus offering no escape to the individual self. The Old Testament was somewhat casual about suicide and did not convey any condemnation. In fact, Christian churches started strongly condemning suicide since Augustine, as part of an ideological war against the Donatists, explained that though Judas had committed a crime by betraying Christ, he had committed a more heinous crime by committing suicide (4).

Maloney explains how Russian spirituality views sin to affect cosmic harmony:

“Sin is darkness that covers the spiritual eyes of the soul…Such disorder and lack of harmony have an impact on the entire world. The social aspect and cosmic dimension of sin can be seen in Russian spirituality that posits a relationship between earth and man’s good or bad relationship to God, his fellow man and the rest of creation. Dostoyevsky captures the ancient Russian insight, dating probably from pagan times, when he describes earth as a holy mother that a human being can offend, soil and perpetrate evil against. Aloysha, the monk in The Brothers Karamazov, bends down to whisper his sinful deeds into the bowels of the earth as he seeks reconciliation with the cosmic harmony that he supposedly upset by his sins (5).”

Restoring harmony

This remarkable insight gives a clue: the cosmic harmony has to be restored by subjects affected by suicide committed by others so as to come out of their unwarranted distress. This requires a multi-modal approach. Firstly, vulnerable subjects should be screened for psychopathology and if so indicated should be subject to remedial measures. Secondly, coping strategies to counter stress in affected families need to be introduced and periodically upgraded. Thirdly, programmes that lead to an experiential widening and deepening of consciousness are needed to help vulnerable subjects outgrow the ego and facilitate a spiritual perspective. Fourthly, an occult intervention with remedial measures may be needed in selected instances ranging from cleansing of auras, use of adjuncts like camphor to sensitize space and harnessing higher superconscient forces or circumconscient cosmic forces from a soul-poise to ward off negative influences and consolidate positive forces.

The alternative

In a world plagued by alienation, meaninglessness and boredom, suicide prevention programmes can also turn out to be ineffective unless the philosophy of life is addressed. When all cognitive solutions prove inadequate, it is the spiritual fount that gives sustenance. If someone asks the alternative to the banality of life, it would be difficult to give a rational answer. What if a person who has lived with dignity and is now alone, bed-ridden, at the mercy of nursing staff, does not want to live an undignified life and opts for suicide. Or should one wait fervently for the Divine Grace for one to be lifted up from the miseries of life?

Sri Aurobindo answers:

“Suicide solves nothing — it only brings one back to life with the same difficulties to be faced in worse conditions. If one wishes to escape from life altogether, it can only be by way of complete inner renunciation and merging oneself in the Silence of the Absolute or by a bhakti that becomes absolute or by a karmayoga that gives up one’s own will and desires to the will of the Divine.

“I have said also that the Grace can at any moment act suddenly, but over that one has no control, because it comes by an incalculable Will which sees things that the mind cannot see. It is precisely the reason why one should never despair, — that and also because no sincere aspiration to the Divine can fail in the end (6).”


1. Tatarelli R, Pompili M, Girardi P (eds). Suicide in Psychiatric Disorders, Indian ed. New York: Nova Science Publishers; 2009, p.1.

2. Canadian Task Force on Suicide. Suicide in Canada. Ministry of National Health and Welfare; 1994.

3. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 7. Cent. ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1979, p. 23.

4. Kelleher MJ et al. in Contemporary Psychiatry, Volume 3, (ed. Henn F, Sartorius N, Helmchen H, Lauter H). New York: Springer Books; 2013, p. 134.

5. Maloney GA. Prayer of the Heart. Indiana, USA: Ave Maria Press; 1981, p. 93.

6. Sri Aurobindo. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Volume 35. 1st ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 2011, p. 620.

Dr. Soumitra Basu, a practising psychiatrist and member of SAIIIHR, is the Director of a school of psychology, Integral Yoga Psychology. He is also one of the editors of NAMAH.

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