Buddha's practice of austerities for six years. Where in the suttas?

I can only find reference to the Buddha having practiced austerities for six years in the therāpadāna:

As a result of that karma,
I practiced great austerities
in Uruvela, six long years,
and then achieved Awakening.

Is there any sutta that indicate this six years duration?

Afaik SN 4.24 is the closest when it says
“Now on that occasion Mara the Evil One had been following the Blessed One for seven years, seeking to gain access to him but without success.”

And the commentary (according to B.Bodhi) says that 6 (striving) +1 (already enlightened) years are meant.


Apart from SN4.34 as per @Gabriel’s post, it may not be spelled out but can be inferred from the stages he went through as recorded in MN26 and MN36.

It is reasonable to expect he spent at least one vassa with each of the brahmin teachers, and at least a couple of years or vassas developing almost to conclusion what is nowadays preserved as the gradual practice of sallekhana among Jain’s most austere circles (i.e. the gradual giving away of ingestion of solid and liquid food towards a sort of spiritual suicide or “voluntary religious death”).



I watched this video posted above and felt bad for this man. He has spent his entire life attached to harshness and according to Buddhism he might find harshness in his next life.


The search for six years returns 9 suttas of varying relevance.

The search for six years auster.* returns one result that isn’t relevant.

The search for six years mortif.* is somewhat relevant because it discusses mortification (austerity) at length. And then proceeds to outline the six years well spent to realize the end of the spiritual path. However, that six years is a prescription for us, not a record of his experience.

Note: SCV does not search all the suttas, only a subset of those on SC.

I would be careful with this; to a Jain it is not suicide at all and is something very honorable.


It’s useful to relate to how intentional death is seen in religions. I think in Buddhism the Buddha didn’t show strong rejection of it compared to Abrahamic faiths?

Yep, for them it’s a legitimate way to attain moksha, Nibbana!

It could be found in other ‘religions’: Buddhism, Native American and African Religions, Atheism, and Agnosticism here.

I can’t really speak for the Abrahamic faiths, but I think there are a few rare occasions in the suttas where the Buddha allows for a mendicant to “take the knife” if they are already an Arahant and have some sort of debilitating sickness/disease.

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Thank you for this sobering wisdom. I have added “suicide” to SCV search examples.

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If eternal hell doesn’t exist taking the knife is less taboo.

Indeed. However Bhante Sujato does translate as suicide. “Taking the knife” only occurs once in the translations. The term “suicide” is quite shocking and disturbing yet reveals 7 suttas. Bhante is quite…direct.

This terminology is antiquated. As a psychiatrist suicide is a common symptom of depression. It’s shocking nature is reduced which means I can respond to it appropriately.

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