Fork: Authenticity of the Suttas on Suicide

Continuing over from the latter part of this threadin our conversation with @josephzizys on the authenticity of the suttas concerning the suicides of Ven. Channa, Vakkali, Godhika, the congregation of mendicants for asubha practice, etc.

Hello again!

I would generally agree, but the suttas don’t actually use the word in the same grammatical structure or declension; it varies even in the well known ones. For this reason, with my limited Pali knowledge, this particular part doesn’t stand out.

I agree going off of mere concept is slippery, but if a concept is discussed with the same root word in differing grammatical configurations between suttas and is familiar, there’s more ground to stand on generally. Something to consider and watch out for though!

I assume the Milindapañha got it originally from this sutta. It comes up in the Salistamba Sutra I believe? An early Mahāsamghika one on dependent origination. I don’t think it appears elsewhere in the early canon, but as you say, the line from MN 28 is similar. They’re often connected to: paticcasamuppāda = Dhamma, Dhamma = Buddha, therefore seeing paticcasamuppāda = seeing the Buddha.

This story is in the suttas as well and realizing now, did we check / consider that one? Anyway, in the story, the Buddha is responsible for teaching the asubha practice specifically to that congregation, not just the solution. This goes against the idea of him being a perfect teacher, let alone omniscient or free of mistakes. He also does not notice because he is on retreat; that he wouldn’t notice the slaughter would only be expected of someone not in the place with no phone or internet. He returns and sees most people are gone. The immediate assumption when people are missing isn’t usually that they all killed themselves, but even so, he asked Ānanda what happened immediately; it’s possible his tone was much more concerned or urgent, and if not, he noticed immediately upon returning.
I can’t speak to the authenticity of the event without double checking the research, still. Maybe tomorrow.

Nice catch! I think there’s good reason to assume the Godhika sutta is a later composition for several reasons. To what extent there is a kernel of truth in it I’m not sure.


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No we did not! SN54.9! again, this seems not just the same story, but the same text, minus some of the similes and the “fake monk” figure.

ānāpānassatisamādhi occurs nowhere else in the Vinaya, so my feeling is that the term emanates form SN54, although it occurs nowhere in the suttas apart from SN54 either.

It’s more common than ānāpānassati by itself, in raw numerical terms, although again, ānāpānassati seems fairly confined, in MN it occurs only in MN62 and MN118, and it should be noted that the Agama parallels for those 2 suttas are not in MA but in EA17.1 in the case of MN62 and SA815 SA803 SA812 SA811 and SA810 in the case of MN118 so the association of anapana and SN is strengthened.

And by SN I mean SN54, outside of which the entirety of SN’s material on anapanasati is;

“Mendicants, when mindfulness of breathing is developed and cultivated it’s very fruitful and beneficial.
…” “Ānāpānassati, bhikkhave, bhāvitā …pe…”


AN doesn’t fare much better… AN1.296 AN1.394 and the sequence beginning at AN5.96 do barely more than mention it in passing giving;

A mendicant practicing mindfulness of breathing who has these five things will soon penetrate the unshakable.”
Imehi kho, bhikkhave, pañcahi dhammehi samannāgato bhikkhu ānāpānassatiṁ bahulīkaronto nacirasseva akuppaṁ paṭivijjhatī”ti.

AN6.115 and AN9.1 and AN 9.3 basically add:

You should develop being easy to admonish to give up being hard to admonish, good friendship to give up bad friendship, and mindfulness of breathing to give up a distracted mind.
Dovacassatāya pahānāya sovacassatā bhāvetabbā, pāpamittatāya pahānāya kalyāṇamittatā bhāvetabbā, cetaso vikkhepassa pahānāya ānāpānassati bhāvetabbā.

and AN10.60 gives the 16 step version of anapana given at MN119 (where it is called kāyagatāsati)

AB only mentions anapanasati twice, both times in the Kathuvatthu, KN mentions it once in the Udana, once in the Itivutakka, once in the Theragatha and then 34 times in the Nidessa and patisambhidamagga, it’s mentioned in the visuddhimagga 35 times…

All this is to say that I am of the opinion that there are very clearly 2 strata of meditation practices in the EBT’s, the first, jhana, is thick on the ground in all the books, the second, sati, is much more common in SN and less common in DN

anyway,I think I will have ot give all this some more thought and revise this response, which is a bit all over the shop.

just to recap:

the suicide suttas are essentially the following; MN144 and SN35.87, SN22.87 and SN4.23, and Bu Pj 3 and SN54.9 and last and most unlike the rest Ud8.9.

I find what I take to be late or contentious features in all of them, and doubt we can really attribute an attitude to suicide to the Buddha.


Hi. I will attempt to be objective here. Hopefully, my objectivity does not run into the bus of another’s subjectivity (because my impression is strong adherents to the ‘rebirth’ doctrine are those who often seek to debunk these euthanasia suttas and even call them ‘suicide’ suttas).

For me, the smoking gun (excuse the double pun) in SN 4.23 & SN 22.87 is the Buddha saying Mara was searching for the consciousness of Godhika & Vakkali. Now, I will note it was Mara here who certainly believes Godhika/Vakkali’s consciousness may be reborn or ‘established’; and not explicitly the Buddha.

The literal doctrine using the same Pali terminology literally referring to consciousness entering into a mother’s womb (MN 123, DN 14, DN 14, DN 28, etc) seems certainly a late doctrine, possibly even later than the Patisambhidamagga & Abhidhamma Vibhanga, where they appear not mentioned. Note: even Sujato recent concluded the ending of the Metta Sutta, which includes the part about “entering a womb”, was a later addition.

Again, the idea of consciousness being "established (patiṭṭhita)’ is generally a here & now doctrine in the suttas (e.g. SN 22.53) rather than a transmigration doctrine. Therefore, what seems to be the use of ‘patiṭṭhita’ in SN 4.23 & 22.87 for the notion of ‘transmigration’ again may point to a late doctrine.

In summary, the literal doctrine of ‘consciousness’ transmigrating from life to life seems a very rare and also late doctrine in the Suttas. MN 123 in particular demonstrates this (where a new born child walks, talks & utters a prophecy about ‘himself’). :slightly_smiling_face:

As for MN 144, Sariputta quibbling with the Buddha after the Buddha already rebuked him seems strange.