Stephen Levine has been working with the terminally ill and the grieving for nearly two decades. His books include A Gradual Awakening, Who Dies?, Healing into Life and Death, and, most recently, Guided Meditations, Explorations and Healings (all published by Doubleday, Anchor Books). He and his wife Ondrea lead workshops and meditations for the dying and their families, and are also the co-directors of the Hanuman Foundation Dying Project. This interview was conducted for Tricycle by Managing Editor Carole Tonkinson.

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Tricycle: Buddhist teachers say that if one commits suicide, it will create negative circumstances for one’s next life. How do you reconcile this with euthanasia?

Levine: From talking to various lamas and meditation masters through the years, I have come to understand that the negative karma that terrifies so many people is the karma for the way in which most people commit suicide—the sloppiness, the impatience, the lack of concern for those left behind. The people Ondrea and I have seen—either through suicide or through an assisted death—leave their loved ones with gratitude and a powerful reinforcement of their love. The act in itself is neither wholesome nor unwholesome.

Tricycle: From a Western perspective, the question of pain is primary, but the Buddhist perspective asks us to consider consciousness. How does this difference in emphasis come into play when addressing the many ethical questions raised by euthanasia?

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