Is the Practice of Sati, or Widow Suicide, Good?


What was Paramhansa Yogananda’s and Swami Kriyananda’s views on the, now outlawed, ancient Indian Hindu practice of Sati (self-immolation by a widow in her husband’s pyre) ?

Does it spiritually uplift the bereaved lady or is it a kind of suicide/ murder ?

—ravi, india


Dear Ravi,

I cannot say I have ever heard Swami Kriyananda comment upon this practice, nor Paramhansa Yogananda write about it, but I have no doubt whatsoever that both would consider such a practice a misconception of spiritual precepts. Whatever virtue or nobility of intention might be ascribed to such a practice is dwarfed by the taking of one’s own life. We are not a body and a widow is not defined by being a widow. Each of us are a soul made in the image of God without gender or role other than to seek God alone! Sati is therefore an ignorant and misguided practice even if, in its own way, a courageous one from a certain perspective.

You can be assured that this is one of those cultural practices that Yogananda ascribes to all cultures when he commented that every culture seems to create its own “misery-making customs.” Abuses of caste would, of course, be another example.

In how many lifetimes have each of us lived; how many marriage partners have we had? Even the concept of one’s soul mate transcends the marriage relationship and, in any case, would be no justification for Sati.

In joy, peace and divine harmony,

Nayaswami Hriman