Psychology of idolizing death
In response to the above enquiry.
First of all, I want to thank you sincerely for this enquiry.
There are several themes concerning this subject. They are: (1) glorification of martyrdom, (2) the glory of death, (3) the death wish and self immolation, (4) the psychology of seeking release from mental anguish, physical suffering and shame through death, and (5) death by killing as the final solution.
In ancient China as well as in some ancient Western cultures, and in today’s radical Islamic cultures, martyrdom is glorified. The psychological aspect of the act of martyrdom is the glorification of physical sacrifice.
Death is the ultimate physical sacrifice. Even in Christianity, Christ’s death on the cross is the ultimate sacrifice to wash away our sins. It is an act of unselfishness. To die for others is the ultimate unselfish act. This is seen in our show of respect for those who have sacrificed their lives in battle as well as in the death of those who sacrified themselves in saving and rescuing others.
The glory of dying for others and the ultimate unselfishness in dying for others are the ultimate glory.
The perversion of this concept is the death wish of suicide bombers. In fanatical Islam, this perversion is “glorified”.
Self immolation by Tibetan monks is not considered a glorified act. It is a personal act of protest. It is an act to express personal mental frustration since the reason for such self immolation cited has always been “to protest Chinese political suppression of Tibet”.
On the other hand, committing suicide to escape personal mental anguish and physical suffering such as many cancer patients have done is considered inglorious and sacriligious.
In Chinese, Korean and Japanese cultures, committing suicide is also a way of taking ultimate responsibility for personal dereliction of duty, and an act of “repayment for shame”.
Harakiri is the Japanese “tradition” that illustrates this. This is also demonstrated by the suicide of the South Korean school master out of a sense of “guilt” and “shame” following the boat disaster that caused the drowning of several hundred high school students, and the suicides of Chinese and Japanese students who fail to pass the national entrance exam. They killed themselves out of a sense of “shame” for not passing the exam.
Death by killing was the “final solution” of the “Jewish problem” in Nazi Germany. Death by killing as the final solution can also be seen in present day Africa where both Muslims and Christians are being killed as a solution.
This concept of death by killing as a final solution is well illustrated in the Arabic mentality of eliminating Israel from the face of the earth. It is the ultimate solution that “glorifies” Islam.
Thus in the case of the glorification of martyrdom, in the cases of suicide bombers, in the case of making the ultimate physical sacrifice of dying for others, in the case of taking ultimate personal responsibility for dereliction of duty, in the cases of committing suicide to resolve “shame”, and in the concept of killing by death as a final solution to glorify Islam, the element of “idolization of death” is amply demonstrated.
In Buddhism, death is not glorified. Death is considered a passage to the spiritual world and towards reincarnation. However, high priests who leave their physical bodies incorrupted, physical bodies that do not decompose, are idolized.
One case is that of Dasha Dorjo Itigelov (Dashi Dorzho Itigilov, 1852-1927) whose body was exhumed in 1955, 1973 and on September 11, 2002. It was a demonstration of physical incorruptibility.
A basic premise of the idolization of death is thus the glorification of self sacrifice for others.