Limits of self-sacrifice?


I saw in one sutta that Buddha mentioned that a good (as opposed to fake/bad) friend should give their life to save the life of their friend.

Since we are to treat all beings with equal metta and karuna, it follows that we should give our life for anyone to live. Should I go donate my organs now?

Asking seriously.


Would you kindly be able to share the link to that sutta? That could help the conversation.

First of all, a quick reminder that this forum is not aimed at asking/providing personal advice.

After that, I would also remind one of the stories told by Ajahn Brahm, about the 5 monks and the bandits, which comes to the conclusion that our metta and karuna should also be for ourselves, as it is for others.

Please find below for reference the rule that I was mentioning.

With Metta,


Hi Ric,

I have not heard the story you mentioned from Ajahn Brahm, but,
It is DN 31 where Buddha says

You can recognize a good-hearted friend who’s the same in good times and bad on four grounds. They tell you secrets. They keep your secrets. They don’t abandon you in times of trouble. They’d even give their life for your welfare. You can recognize a good-hearted friend who’s the same in good times and bad on these four grounds.

The context of Digha Nikaya 31 is it’s addressed to laypeople, so is limited. The full Theravada attitude is expressed in Samyutta Nikaya 47.19:

“And how do you watch after others when watching after yourself? Through cultivating [the practice], through developing it, through pursuing it. This is how you watch after others when watching after yourself.”


Thanks for the quote.

The story from Ajahn Brahm is a bit more detailed and probably from a different location. From what I remember, there are 5 monks living in a cave (the head monk, his brother, his enemy, the sick monk who could die any time and the “useless” monk).
A group of bandits wants to hide in that same cave and they reach an agreement with the head monk, that they will kill one person as a warning for all of the monks that the same will happen to anyone who will mention externally where they live.
Who will the head monk decide to sacrifice?

The answer was given above.

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