Do EBT circles promote Suicide?

One of the criticisms directed to EBT circles is that they promote suicide.

Classical theravādins suppose that the reason is the absence of Commentary.

How about defending?

This was in reference to several (3 or more) Westerner Monks who are Suttanta only and killed themselves.

  • Ven NyanaVira (Clearing the Path)
  • The monk from the what-the-buddha-saiddotnet website
  • A monk who lived near to the Island Forest Hermitage where ven Nyanavira was from… recently last year or so.

The problem is being totally Suttanta and not believing the commentary…

It should be noted that anyone who was alive during the time of the Buddha let alone someone who ordained during the time of the Buddha had incredible amounts of pārami, usually well planned / determined through many eons. This should not be attempted by anyone.

I think the Suttanta people:

  1. Miss the commentary note about ven Channa’s luck and dhamma urgency to attain at the near time of death
  2. They don’t understand the well thought out planning / determination to ordain under a living Buddha. This is also true with those who attain is such a short amount of time. They somehow believe this is possible after reading a few suttas, or a single nikāya.

For some reason, these suicide suttas are considered controversial and the suttantrika followers claim these commentary explanations are: “one of the many band-aids that the commentary puts puts onto the suttas to fix things”. I have also had a conversation about this before with Western monk. They felt suicide was okay to do.

For me…the commentaries make total sense for this topic.

I think these claims are kind of sick. There seem to be some individuals on an active internet campaign to do every thing possible to smear those who don’t agree with them on the commentaries. This is just one more attempt. I’d recommend not trying to politicize personal tragedy.


haha That’s a ridiculous non-sequitur… like those bad infomercials: “That’s because she didn’t use Our Brand Laundry Detergent!” :rofl:

Like, I’m glad you found the commentaries helpful… But these monks probably had other issues besides not reading your favorite book. :roll_eyes:

I am all for politicizing “personal” tragedies when they are in fact caused by political problems. For example, calling for gun control after a mass shooting is entirely appropriate.

The problem with this campaign is that it’s farcical and patronizing to suggest that these monks’ mental-health issues could have been solved if only they had “believed the commentary” :magic_wand:


Some people on that forum need metta and karuna above anything else.

I am not saying that anyone here has already done that, but I see a potential for it, so let me state it:

I think it is best to ignore provocations and avoid responding in kind. They have different opinions, they may have difficulties tolerating disagreement and departure from their cherished traditional orthodoxy, but let’s not enter into a spiral of unfriendly speech, which may happen very quickly if we are not careful. Let’s value friendliness more than our differences.


I’m very sorry about the way I introduce it. And I didn’t expect this kind of heating up either.

Without reading the points made by both sides, how can someone get a clear picture of it.

Anyway I invite hereby only the people with metta for an constructive discussion, who can pay attention to the droctrinal aspects of the claim disregarding the personalities of both camps.


The “note” above sounds like a contradiction & wrong. It sounds like a contradiction because there were no Commentaries when the Buddha was alive. It sounds wrong because it ignores the fact many bhikkhus in the suttas took their lives when the Buddha was alive; not only Channa in MN 144 & the other two but the many bhikkhus who were practicing asuba in SN 54.9.

Nanavira believed in rebirth. But, not similar to Channa in MN 144, Nanavira seemed to not have a deadly illness. Note, my personal view of Nanavira is he was confused, he did not want to return to England and he had ideas similar to the Commentaries, namely, he was a stream-enterer and his suicide was for the sake of practising Dhamma in the next life. While what I say cannot be known or proven to be a fact, my impression is Nanavira committed suicide influenced by the same ideas in the Commentaries you are promoting.

This monk also believed in rebirth. This monk made many webpages with horrific pictures about rebirth in hell. His teachings seemed to be very Theravada or Mahavihara. Are you sure this monk rejected the Commentaries? Regardless, if this monk had serious physical illness or otherwise had some mental illness, how do you believe the Commentary would have helped him? What special ‘magic’ did the Commentary have to help this monk stay alive? Thank you :dizzy:

MN 144 is clear enough. MN 144 says Channa was blameless because Channa did not seek another ‘body’ (‘kaya’). Where as my personal impression of your personal ideas is they are about seeking another ‘kaya’ in the future. Therefore, my personal impression is your personal ‘urgency’ or ‘craving’ here is undermining the Buddha’s teaching in MN 144. The only way to attain the Dhamma is to “let go”, as the Buddha taught about Channa in MN 144. The Buddha said:

When someone lays down this body and takes up [attaches to] another body, I call them ‘blameworthy’.

Yo kho, sāriputta, imañca kāyaṁ nikkhipati aññañca kāyaṁ upādiyati tamahaṁ ‘saupavajjo’ti vadāmi.

But you are making it sounds like Channa believed he was a Self and it was the Self of Channa seeking full enlightenment for Him Self. Similarly, you are making it sound like a Self seeks to ordain under a future living Buddha. Channa was already living with a living Buddha. Since MN 115 says there is only one Buddha in a world system, Channa the Self must be still waiting 2600 years and yet there is no new Buddha because the Suttas of the last Buddha prevent a new Buddha. I imagine a New Buddha can only arise after the Teachings have disappeared. But the Teachings have not yet disappeared. Even worse, Bhikkhu Sujato has put the Teachings into the Electronic Internet Cloud where they will last a long time.

In summary, MN 144 says the mind of Channa was free from attachment & had no want for any type of new ‘kaya’ (‘body’). But your Commentaries seem to undermine this message of the Buddha and, instead, make it sound like a Self is urgently seeking enlightenment for the Self. :dizzy:

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Ok, I’ll bite.

For me the premise of “suttanta only” is simply wrong. Non Therevadan Buddhists who are interested in the EBT’s are often also very interested in the commentaries, we just don’t take them to be as authoritative as orthodox Therevadans do.

Second. Suicide is 9ne of the the leading causes of death in the west for people aged between 14 and 45. So it’s not clear that more western monks commit suicide than is proportional to the general suicide rate amongst westerners.

Third. None of the monks mentioned promoted or encouraged suicide, unless indirectly by example, in fact I am pretty sure that all of them would have had a lot of shame and uncertainty about it.

Fourth the EBT’s, specifically the Vinaya, are pretty unambiguous in opposing suicide, even without the gloss of the commentaries.

What’s going on here has nothing to do with suicide or with sutta versus commentary. It has to do with (a hopefully small minority of) Therevadan Buddhists who are sulking because some people choose not to join their religion.

For the record I am not a Therevadan because I grew up in a country where I had absolutely no connection with that community and I would guess that that explains why a lot of people who are interested in the suttas are not Therevadan.

The reason I don’t now convert to Therevada is because they say and believe a bunch of silly ridiculous things like:

The Buddha was omniscient except while asleep
The body in the jhana formula means the mind
The Buddha taught there is no self he just didn’t say it clearly
And now also
Western monks commit suicide because they’re not Therevadan.

I think my ultimate problem with organised religion is that unless you can find a very specific niche you get constantly bombarded with middle brow idiocy and xenophobia masquerading as piety.

Hi. If you read my reply, I wrote ‘kaya’ in inverted commas. The word ‘kaya’ does not literally mean ‘physical body’. There is nothing ‘Theravada’ or Commentary about this. For example, DN 15 says:

“Suppose there were none of the features, attributes, signs, and details by which the categories of mental or physical [group of] phenomena are found. Would either linguistic contact or impingement contact still be found?”

“Yehi, ānanda, ākārehi …pe… yehi uddesehi nāmakāyassa ca rūpakāyassa ca paññatti hoti, tesu ākāresu …pe… tesu uddesesu asati api nu kho adhivacanasamphasso vā paṭighasamphasso vā paññāyethā”ti?

In fact, it is your ideas that seem close to the Commentaries & Theravada because I doubt there is one well-known Guru that says kayanupassana in Satipatthana refers to the contemplation of each of the aggregates, i.e., the entire ‘kaya’ (‘group’) of aggregates.

In other words, it seems to not matter who or what claims to be ‘EBT’. The views of most ‘EBT’ seem imbued with ideas from the Abhidhamma & Commentaries because these ideas have become so pervasive in Buddhism. :slightly_smiling_face:

Sorry @CurlyCarl but I was not referring to your comment, and I honestly have no idea what you are talking about.

I’ve been around a bit. Never heard this, ever.

All you have to do these days is say something is something for it to be so. “One of the criticisms” that this member wants others to have towards the EBTs is “such and such”, and as long as it is implied that a large number of people already share that view, it can be spoken about as a widespread, established issue. Get enough people to take that for granted and you’ve bolstered the impact exponentially.

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Thanks for bringing this question to our attention.

The short answer is no.

And I agree that this is not only wrong, but using this kind of using personal tragedy to buttress a sectarian view is disgusting.

The real reason for such suicides has nothing to do with doctrine. It is because of unaddressed mental illness. Western Buddhism, of all kinds, attracts people who are lost and confused, and among them are many who either have sought treatment for mental illnesses, or who probably should have. But in many Buddhist communities of any affiliation there is little recognition of the symptoms of mental illness, or the need for any appropriate treatment, so such people can continue for many years in robes. If they stay long enough, they may even end up becoming revered as aloof ascetics or as renowned teachers. But so long as they have no community to offer them support and clear their path, they drift further from any sense of groundedness. This is a widespread and under-recognized problem, and it needs to be addressed seriously for what it is.


I very much have metta for all involved. However it is a bad faith argument they are making.

I also have lots of metta for the families and spiritual companions of all of the commentary following monks who commit suicide each year. So much metta that I would never dream of using them to make arguments against the commentaries.

If you would like to have a more even-minded conversation, you might start by changing the title of the thread to something more neutral like “Could studying the suttas alone lead someone to have a positive view of suicide?” But honestly, it’s hard to get the train back into the station.


This argument is utter bunkum.

First Precept : You should abstain from killing living beings.
Note : There is no exception for yourself.

If a person is contemplating suicide, what is the reason? Unbearable suffering in the present life? A craving for getting something better than this reality or becoming something better in another life?

If there is Craving and Suffering, there is a Self, there is an existing living being - and by killing it the person is blameworthy.

For an Arahant, there is neither Craving nor Suffering. So no matter what dukkha-vedana may arise in the aggregates, there is no craving to interfere in the working of what does not belong to oneself. What could possibly be gained?