The tragic suicides by three IIT students has jolted the whole nation. Equally alarming are the World Health Organization (WHO) statistics that over one million people commit suicide every year. This figure is more than the total annual deaths due to wars and murders combined. WHO calls this disturbing global trend more people being killed by themselves than by others a tragic social health problem. The Bhagavad-glta (16.8-9) describes that spiritual ignorance and material infatuation are the cause of selfdestructive mentality. Empirical findings vindicate the inverse correlation between spirituality and suicide. The spiraling suicide rate in recent times has been concomitant with the overemphasis on material pursuits and a corresponding rejection or neglect of spirituality. Sociological surveys show that spiritually minded people enjoy much better mental health than their materialistic counterparts.
Suicide cases highlight the gross imbalance in material and spiritual values in contemporary society. When people lack spiritual knowledge, they naturally live for worldly goals. Their entire sense of identity and self worth comes from the pursuit and achievement of materialistic aims such as wealth, sensual pleasure, possessions and positions . This narrow minded definition of success in terms of material achievements lies at the root of suicidal thought. Why? Because people pursuing such goals will sooner or later be confronted with a situation where they will fail to gain or fear the failure to gain what they crave for. And similarly those who possess
these things will be faced with situations where they lose or fear to lose what they live for. In such situations people become so identity-less and purposeless that they feel life not worth living. And destroying one's very existence appears to be the only escape.
For example, a student who considers getting top grades to be his life's only goal will feel euphoric on becoming a topper. But he is equally prone to be devastated if he fails. If he thinks that marks are the be all and end all in life, he may well consider his life a disgraceful failure and decide to end it.
How can spirituality help in such a situation? The Bhagavadgita (14-4) helps us understand our eternal identity as spiritual beings, beloved children of God. The Gita recommends various spiritual practices and especially the chanting of holy names as a practical means to help us experience the reality of God's love for us. When enlightened by the wisdom of Lord Krishna's words, our life becomes motivated and directed by a glorious purpose to lise all our abilities and resources in the service of God and all His children, to thus revive our dormant love for God and to share that treasure of peace and joy with all living beings. We become empowered by the conviction that even if everything goes wrong and everyone misunderstands us, still one person cares for us, understands us and stays unflinchingly with us at all times – God. Mahatma Gandhi has remarked about the potency of the Gita to offer solace amidst distress, "When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and I see not one ray of hope on the horizon, I turn to Bhagavad-gita and find a verse to comfort me and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it everyday." As we grow spiritually, we learn to tolerate and eventually transcend adversities.
We see life in proper perspective not as a 100 m sprint in pursuit of fleeting pleasures, but as a 100 km marathon in pursuit of everlasting joy. We learn to see reversals like storms during our journey of Hfe. A storm certainly disrupts our plans, but it is not the end of the world. We find shelter and wait for the storm to pass, knowing it to be temporary. Never do we doubt that the storm may last perpetually. Similarly the Gita (2.14) guides us to tolerate difficulties knowing that they are temporary.