Suicide can be a thorny topic for monastics and it’s been one that has come up in questions to me lately. Obviously suicide is harming a being(yourself) and therefore to be avoided if at all possible, but it’s hard to not come across as harsh saying that in a case where compassion is needed and where for many people there is a great divide in the view between murder and suicide.
This especially becomes thorny when people know of the one or two cases where monks have killed themselves in the canon(either being arahants or becoming arahants in the process). In trying to explore this topic the thought came to me to explore the texts themselves and see if Bhante Sujato and Ajahn Brahmali have explored these texts and what their views are on the “authenticity” of these texts are.
Vakkali - https://suttacentral.net/en/sn22.87 [SN22.87]
Channa - https://suttacentral.net/en/sn35.87 [SN35.87]
I’m not familiar with any other suttas where a monk “used the knife” but if there are everyone feel free to add them. Interesting enough both of these Suttas where monks use the knife take place when the Buddha was staying at Rajagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrel Sanctuary. Both monks are gravely ill and both have fellow monks who go to check in on them with the stock sick phrases " are you bearing up", " I hope your painful feelings are subsiding etc". Both monks are questioned as to their insight and then left to their devices, where they use the knife. The only major difference I see is that Vakkali is visited by Devatas. Then the monks go to the Buddha both times and he declares their blamelessness in using the knife.
So am I reading too deeply into this? or is it just a simple cut and dry thing that as long as you are an arahant or close enough to it then suicide is blameless, but is harmful otherwise? What of the “authenticity” of these texts, the fact that in thousands of pages there is only one or two cases etc? I’m certainly no scholar, nor do I plan to be one, so I rarely post on here, but I’d like to get some more expert opinions.