Beware the Shadows: Unmasking Distorted Paths in Buddhism – A Call to Caution in Navigating Spiritual Terrain

Recently, a distressing event unfolded in Sri Lanka, where a self-proclaimed Buddhist lay teacher and his followers tragically took their own lives. Reports indicate that nearly eight individuals were involved in this unfortunate incident. In the aftermath, I examined the teachings of the individual responsible for this group, specifically focusing on the misinterpretation of “Asubha” meditation. Notably, the improper instruction of this meditation technique was identified as a concerning factor.

This situation draws parallels with a historical event from the time of Buddha, where monks practicing “asubha” meditation resorted to suicide. In response, Buddha wisely advised them to cease the meditation practice if it led to internal conflicts.

The practice of “asubha” meditation is unfortunately misapplied in numerous locations, posing a risk of mental harm and veering away from the righteous path of Dharma. Consequently, I earnestly urge you to focus solely on the “Kayaghatanu” section, adhering to the guidance outlined in the “Satara Satipattana” Sutra. This approach ensures a more accurate and beneficial engagement with the meditation, safeguarding your mental well-being and aligning with the principles of Dharma.

There is a concerning trend in Sri Lanka where certain fringe sects are distorting the essence of Buddhism, potentially sowing seeds of social discord against the Buddhist community. Among these groups is the faction that propagates the unfounded claim that “Buddha was born in Sri Lanka.” This assertion is not only historically inaccurate but also threatens to foster animosity towards Buddhism in the country.

Another group, led by a monk named “Pitaduwe Siridhamma/ Samantha Badra”, assumes the title of Buddha, a self-proclamation that deviates from traditional Buddhist principles and raises questions about the group’s authenticity and intentions.

Furthermore, the “Nirukthi” group; Waharaka Abhayarathana, Dhamma and you sect, which deliberately distorts the Pali language, poses an additional challenge. Manipulating the sacred language of Buddhism can lead to misinterpretations and misrepresentations, potentially undermining the core teachings of the faith.

It is crucial to address and rectify these distortions, as they not only endanger the integrity of Buddhism but also have the potential to incite social tension. Efforts should be made to promote accurate teachings, discourage misinformation, and foster a harmonious understanding of Buddhism within Sri Lanka’s diverse society.
This article serves as a cautionary message, emphasizing the importance of adhering to authentic Buddhist teachings. The analogy drawn from Buddha’s wisdom highlights the potential dangers of practicing Buddhism incorrectly or misinterpreting its principles. According to the analogy, engaging with Buddhism in a misguided manner is likened to catching a snake by its tail—a risky endeavor. Just as a snake caught in such a way can turn around and bite its captor, practicing Buddhism without proper understanding and interpretation may lead to unintended consequences or spiritual harm.

Buddha’s teachings emphasize the significance of accurate understanding and application of the Dharma to avoid pitfalls and setbacks on the spiritual path. The cautionary tone of the article serves as a reminder to approach Buddhist practices with mindfulness, sincerity, and a commitment to authentic teachings to prevent potential harm and ensure a harmonious spiritual journey.


I am riddled with guilt for having posted about the suicide subject just a few days ago.

My questions were asked out of personal interest and in a quest to understand Buddhist philosophy. I have no ties to Sri Lanka Buddhism whatsoever.

I will refrain from further public inquiry into delicate subjects.

Suicide is not the middle path. It is negative clinging resulting in great suffering.


The Buddha in fact teaches ānāpānasati instead of asubha practice. He has made a mistake for some monks (see Ānāpāna Saṃyutta of SN/SA).

Asubha practice is not included in the SN/SA suttas regarding the ‘mindfulness’ (sati) practice for ‘samatha’.


Lots of karuna to these poor beings, may they find true Dhamma in the next lives. :pray:


It appears Gunaratana promoted mass suicide for the purpose of obtaining a quicker rebirth. The victims included his wife & three young children. The same poisonous concoction was used in all the deaths. It may be drawing a very long bow to claim that asubha practice was a cause of these unfortunate deaths. See links below.

“Investigations have revealed that the 47-year-old religious philosopher and teacher Ruwan Prasanna Gunaratne had conducted preaching sermons while promoting death by suicide without delay in order to expedite attaining the next birth.”

Daily News

Ceylon Today


@moderators: I think this topic doesn’t belong in “Discuss of EBTs,” although it certainly belongs somewhere. :pray:


Thanks so much for letting us know of these upsetting developments. So much suffering created by the sheer power of delusion!

Is there somewhere we can learn more about what he was teaching and why people were taken in?

Some time ago I wrote an essay, Suicide by Fire, refuting the suggestion that suicide was a spiritual practice in early Buddhism.


Dear Venerable Bhante,
Thank you for your reply! Indeed, as I delved into his sermons following recent incidents and perused various articles, it became apparent that this lay teacher primarily engages in Vajrayana, incorporating fundamental concepts from Theravada. In the context of bodhichitta, he advocates for the sacrifice and self a Bodhisattva’s life, promoting such suicide himself.
Concerningly, there are allegations suggesting that lay guru Gunaratana endorsed mass suicide to hasten the process of rebirth, resulting in tragic deaths, including those of his wife and three young children. All victims (more than 10 people) reportedly consumed the same poisonous concoction.

My goodness, such a sad distortion of the Buddha’s teaching! How can it be that a teacher whose every word was marked with gentleness and moderation can be twisted to such horrifying ends!

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