Can We Donate Organs After Death?
The article, “The Right to Live or Die” (BTG May 2011) helped me understand the Vedic perspective on euthanasia. I want to know what the Vedic scriptures say regarding donating body parts like eyes, hearts, kidneys, etc. For the soul, the dead body is of no use. Is there any harm if the dead body can be used for benefitting someone else? Also please let me know the importance of cremation in the Hindu tradition.
Our reply: The Vedic understanding is based on the concept of responsibility. Compassion when expressed responsibly benefits the recipient; the same compassion when expressed irresponsibly can harm the recipient. The scriptures inform us that we are responsible for our thoughts, speech, and actions. Sometimes, the consequences of these are visible in the moment and sometimes they appear after some time possibly even after our departure from this world.
When we donate organs to someone, we assist him in his activities to the extent to which he is dependent on the specific organ being donated. For example if it is a nose, he benefits only as far as the activity of “smelling” is concerned. If the organ being donated is a critical organ, like a kidney, the recipient benefits to a far greater extent.
If the recipient, after accepting the donated organ leads his life in a way to benefit himself or others, part of the benefits accrue even to the person who enabled him to perform such activities, such as the organ donor. We are spirit souls and not the body, and so we will receive the benefits even if we have departed from the body, the source of the donated organ. Conversely, if the recipient engages in harmful activities, those reactions will also find their way to the organ donor.
Thus it is up to an individual’s discretion whether or not he wants to donate his organ(s). The individual has to make a responsible decision.
Srimad-Bhagavatam mentions the example of Dadhichi Muni who voluntarily gave his bones to be used for making a weapon in a fight against the demons. Such donation of body parts is in the highest category since it was in accordance with the Supreme Lord’s desire.
About cremation: The Vedic way of life is aimed at purification and so comprises ten samskaras (reformatory practices). The last samskara performed for a soul in connection with a particular body is the antyesti-samskara, in which the deceased’s body is burned in public. This helps the soul become free from any residual attachment to the body or to things in connection with it family, home, etc. That kind of attachment, if it remains, will oblige him to accept another body. In case of some enduring attachment to the things of this life, the soul may refuse to accept another body and may continue to exist as a ghost. The burning of the body also ensures quick disposal of material elements. Concerned primarily with the destruction of the body, the atmosphere during a cremation ceremony also helps the relatives understand the temporariness of the bodily conception of life.
Yugavatara Dasa’s “The Expressway to Devotion” (June 2011) is simply outstanding. His articles keep getting better and better. As soon as I get each month’s BTG, his article is the first thing I read. I am really inspired.
(Radha Vrndavanacandra Dasa)
BTG Getting Bolder
I received the June 2011 copy of Back to Godhead. I cannot exactly pinpoint the reason, but I found this copy to be very enlightening and highly readable. I must state that I did find some older issues dull and not very enlivening.
Syamananda Dasa’s note regarding the Internet and the new Facebook culture is a bold and clear view of where we are headed. The note is well conceived and articulate, and expresses what some of us probably had in the back of our minds.
Replies to the letters were written by Nanda Dulal Dasa.
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