Ҿ˹˹ѧ
PDF
ePub

2

)

fellow-creature,” will be severely punished in the infernal regions. No pardon will be granted them ; they are

; not, like other sinners, allowed to claim their good works as a set-off against evil, whereby they might partly escape the agonies of hell and receive some reward for their virtuous deeds. Sometimes suicide is classified by the Chinese as an offence against religion, on the ground that a person owes his being to Heaven, and is therefore responsible to Heaven for due care of the gift.3

“ The Japanese calendar of saints,” says Mr. Griffis, “is not filled with reformers, alms-givers, and founders of hospitals or orphanages, but is overcrowded with canonised suicides and committers of harakiri. Even to-day, no man more ... surely draws homage to his tomb, securing even apotheosis, than the suicide, though he may have committed a crime." 4 There were two kinds of harakiri, or “ belly-cutting,” one obligatory and the other voluntary. The former was a boon granted by government, who graciously permitted criminals of the Samurai, or military, class thus to destroy themselves instead of being handed over to the common executioner ; but this custom is now quite extinct. Voluntary harakiri, again, was practised out of loyalty to a dead superior, or in order to protest, when other protests might be unavailing, against the erroneous conduct of a living superior, or to avoid beheading by the enemy in a lost battle, or to restore injured honour if revenge was impossible. circumstances harakiri cleansed from every stain, and ensured an honourable interment and a respected memory." It is said in a Japanese manuscript, “ To slay his enemy against whom he has cause of hatred, and then to kill himself, is the part of a noble Samurai, and it is sheer nonsense to look upon the place where he has dis

Under any

Ciles, op. cit. ii. 365. 2 Ibid. ii. 363.

* Alabaster, Notes and Commentaries on Chinese Criminal Law, p. 304.

+ Griftis, Religions of Japan, p. 112. Chamberlain, Things Japanese',

p. 219 sqq

Rein, Japan, p. 328. Kuhne, in Globus, ixxiv. 166 sq. A very full account of the ceremony of harakiri is giver in Mitford's Tales of Old Japan, ii. 193 199., from a rare Japanese manuscript.

[ocr errors]

1

3

[ocr errors]

embowelled himself as polluted.”] In old days the ceremony used to be performed in a temple.?

Among the Hindus we meet with the practice of selfimmolation of widows-until recently very prevalent in many parts of India ?—and various forms of self-destruction for religious purposes.

Suicide has always been considered by the Hindus to be one of the most acceptable rites that can be offered to their deities. According to the Ayen Akbery, there were five kinds of suicide held to be meritorious in the Hindu, namely :- starving ; covering himself with cow-dung and setting it on fire and consuming himself therein ; burying himself in snow ; immersing him

; self in the water at the extremity of Bengal, where the Ganges discharges itself into the sea through a thousand channels, enumerating his sins, and praying till the alligators come and devour him ; cutting his throat at Allahabad, at the confluence of the Ganges and Jumna. To these might be added drowning at Hurdwar, Allahabad, and Saugor ; perishing in the cold of the Himalayas ; the practice of dying under the wheels of Juggurnath's car ;' and the custom of men throwing themselves down from certain rocks to fulfil the vows of their mothers, or to receive forgiveness for sins, or to be re-born rajas in their next state of transmigration. It is also common for persons who are afflicted with leprosy or any other incurable disease to bury or drown themselves with due ceremonies, by which they are considered acceptable sacrifices to the deity, or to roll themselves into fires with the notion that thus purified they will receive a happy transmigration into a healthy body.8 Suicide was further resorted to by 1 Mitford, op. cit. ii. 201.

of Manu, vi. 31. 2. Ibid. ii. 196.

p. 664. Ward, View of the Memoir of Central History, &*c. of the Hinloos, ii. 115 India, ii. 206 sqq. Chevers, Manual

Rajendralála Mitra, of Medical Jurisprudence for India, Aryans, ii. 70. p. 665. Cf. supra, i. 473 sq.

6 Sleeman, Rambles and Recollections John Malcolm observes (op. cit. ii. 206, of an Indian Official, i. 132 sq. n. I) that the practice of suttee was Malcolm, Memoir of Central India, not always confined to widows, but

ii. 209 sqq.

Forsyth, Highlands of that sometimes mothers burned them- Central India, p. 172 sq. selves on the death of their only sons. 7 Sleeman, op. cit. ii. 344 sq.

4 Chevers, op. cit. p. 664. Cf. Laws 8 Ward, op. cit. ii. 119.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

5

Ibid.

3 Malcolm,

$94:

Indo

Sir

1

Brâhmans for the purpose of avenging an injury, as it was believed that the ghost of the deceased would persecute the offender, and, presumably, also because of the great efficacy which was attributed to the curse of a dying Brâhman. When one of the Rajput rajas once levied a war-subsidy on the Brâhmans, some of the wealthiest, having expostulated in vain, poniarded themselves in his presence, pouring maledictions on his head with their last breath; and thus cursed, the raja laboured under a ban of excommunication even amongst his personal friends. We are told of a Brâhman girl who, having been seduced by a certain raja, burned herself to death, and in dying imprecated the most fearful curses on the raja's kindred, after which they were visited with such a succession of disasters that they abandoned their family settlement at Baliya, where the woman's tomb is worshipped to this day. Once when a raja ordered the house of a Brâhman to be demolished and resumed the lands which had been conferred upon him, the latter fasted till he died at the palace gate, and became thus a Brahm, or malignant Brâhman ghost, who avenged the injury he had suffered by destroying the raja and his house. At Azimghur, in 1835, a Brâhman “threw himself down a well, that his ghost might haunt his neighbour." The same idea undoubtedly underlies the custom of “sitting dharna,which was practised by creditors who sat down before the doors of their debtors threatening to starve themselves to death if their claims were not paid ; o and the sin attached to causing the death of a Brâhman would further increase the efficacy of the creditor's threats.? At the same time religious suicide is said to be a crime in a Brâhman. And in the sacred

1 Chevers, op. cit. p. 659 $19. scongiuri giuridici contro i creditori,' Crooke, Popular Religion and Folk. in Rivista italiana di sociologia, ii. Lore of Northern India, i. 191 599. 58. For the practice of dharna see van Mökern, Ostindien, i. 319 599. ibid. p. 37 s99.; Balfour, Cyclopadia

2 Tod, quoted by Chevers, op. cit. of India, i. 934 sq. ; van Mökern, op. p. 659 sez.

cil. i. 322 sq. 3 Crooke, op. cit. i. 193.

Cf. Jones, quoted by Balfour, * Ibid. i. 191 59.

8

7

op. cit. i. 935. 5 Chevers, op. cit. p. 663.

8 Ward, op. cit. ii. 115. Forsyth, 6 Ch. Steinmetz, Gli antichi op. cit. p. 173

6

2

books we read that for him who destroys himself by means of wood, water, clods of earth, stones, weapons, poison, or a rope, no funeral rites shall be performed by his relatives ; that he who resolves to die by his own hand shall fast for three days; and that he who attempts suicide, but remains alive, shall perform severe penance. The Buddhists allow a man under certain circumstances to take his own life, but maintain that generally dire miseries are in store for the self-murderer, and look upon him as one who must have sinned deeply in a former state of existence.3 It should be added that in India, as elsewhere, the souls of those who have killed themselves or met death by any other violent means are regarded as particularly malevolent and troublesome.4

The Old Testament mentions a few cases of suicide." In none of them is any censure passed on the perpetrator of the deed, nor is there any text which expressly forbids a man to die by his own hand ; and of Ahithophel it is said that he was buried in the sepulchre of his father. It seems, however, that according to Jewish custom persons who had killed themselves should be left unburied till sunset," perhaps for fear lest the spirit of the deceased otherwise might find its way back to the old home. S Josephus, who mentions this custom, denounces suicide as an act of cowardice, as a crime most remote from the common nature of all animals, as impiety against the Creator ; and he maintains that the souls of those who have thus acted madly against themselves will go to the darkest place in Hades.' The Talmud considers suicide justifiable, if not meritorious, in the case of the chief of a vanquished army who is sure of disgrace and death at the hands of the exulting conqueror, or when a person has i Vasishtha, xxiii. 14 sq.

i Kings, xvi. 18. 2 lbid. xxiii. 18 sqq.

cabees, xiv. 4 399. 3 Hardy, Manual of Budhism, p. 479. 2 Samuel, xvii. 23.

4 Crooke, Popular Religion and Folk. Josephus, De bello Judaico, iii. 8. 5. lore of Northern India, i. 269. Fawcett 8 Cf. Frazer, “Burial Customs as Nayars of Malabar,' in the Madras illustrative of the Primitive Theory of Government Museum's Bulletin, iii. the Soul,' in Jour. Anthr. Inst. xv. 72. 253

9 Josephus, op. cit. iii. 8. 5. I Samuel, xxxi. 4 sy. 2 Samuel, Cf. i Samuel, xxxi, 4.

10

xvii. 23

2 Mac

6

7

6

10

[ocr errors]

1

2

3

5

reason to fear being forced to renounce his religion. In all other circumstances the Rabbis consider it criminal for a person to shorten his own life, even when he is undergoing tortures which must soon end his earthly career ;? and they forbid all marks of mourning for a selfmurderer, such as wearing sombre apparel and eulogising him. Islam prohibits suicide, as an act which interferes with the decrees of God. Muhammedans say that it is a greater sin for a person to kill himself than to kill a fellow-man ; and, as a matter of fact, suicide is very rare in the Moslem world.

Ancient Greece had its honourable suicides. The Milesian and Corinthian women, who by a voluntary death escaped from falling into the hands of the enemy, were praised in epigrams.? The story that Themistocles preferred death to bearing arms against his native country was circulated with a view to doing honour to his memory. The tragedians frequently give expression to the idea that suicide is in certain circumstances becoming to a noble mind.' Hecuba blames Helena for not putting an end to her life by a rope or a sword.' Phaedra " and

10 Leda 12 kill themselves out of shame, Haemon from violent remorse. 18 Ajax decides to die after having in vain attempted to kill the Atreidae, maintaining that “one of generous strain should nobly live, or forth with

Instances are, moreover, mentioned of women killing themselves the death of their husbands ; 15 and in Cheos it was the custom to prevent

11

13

nobly die.” 11

on

aer

1 Guitlin, 57 B, quoted by Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, p. 77, n. 163. Cf. 2 Maccabees, xiv. 37 sqq.

2 Ab Zara, 18 A, quoted by Mendelsohn, op. cit. p. 78, n. 163.

3 Mendelsohn, op. cit. p. 77. * Koran, iv. 33.

I have often heard this myself. Cf. Westcott, Suicide, p. 12.

6 Lisle, Du suicide, pp. 305, 345 sq. Legoyt, Le suicide ancien et moderne, p. 7. Morselli, Il suicidio, p. 33. Westcott, op. cit. p. 12,

7 Schmidt, Die Ethik alten Griechen, ii. 443.

8 Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca his-
torica, xi. 58. 2 sq.

9 See Schmidt, op. cit. ii. 442 sqq.
10 Euripides, Troades, 1012 599.
11 Idem, Hippolytus, 715 399.
12 Idem, Helena, 134 $99.
13 Sophocles, Antigone, 1234 $94:
14 Idem, Ajax, 470 599. Cf. ibid. 654
13 Euripides, Supplices, 1000 $99.
Pausanias, iv, 2. 7.

5

[ocr errors]
« ͹˹Թõ
 »