Suicide Cases in the Suttas and the "authenticity"(early/late etc) of the texts


Thanks Gene. I did thought of ending my life before. Fortunately, I didn’t take my life. Mara definitely knows how our mind works and we really need to use this suffering to see the Dhamma. :pray:


Many of us do think of ending life when we are sick for different reasons such as medical bills, family stress, not calm mind, pain, depression, no treatment, etc. As a lay Buddhist, maybe we should be more aware of people around us and try to give support them in different ways so we can help them cope with suffering. I felt people that decide to end their life because society wasn’t there to support them. Be it Buddhist or non-Buddhist, we really need to help them and let them know unnatural death (euthanasia) is not the last option. :pray:


Absolutely. Maybe this is why the Buddha said it’s only not a fault, if you’re an arahanth - but his word isn’t the law, and as mature human being need to make up our minds to face numerous differences ethical decisions that we have to face. This doesn’t mean we ignore what the Buddha said on the contrary we factor that into our decision making process. Other factors include what is in line with precepts/vinaya, what is compassionate, what’s best for ourselves and others, the legal situation, social norms, etc.


While this question is old, the lateness of this sutta could possibly be questioned & investigated based on the notions below:

“That’s Māra the Wicked searching for Vakkali’s consciousness, wondering:
“Eso kho, bhikkhave, māro pāpimā vakkalissa kulaputtassa viññāṇaṃ samanvesati:
‘Where is Vakkali’s consciousness established?’
‘kattha vakkalissa kulaputtassa viññāṇaṃ patiṭṭhitan’ti?
But since his consciousness is not established, Vakkali is extinguished.”
Appatiṭṭhitena ca, bhikkhave, viññāṇena vakkali kulaputto parinibbuto”ti.

My impression is the notions of patiṭṭhita & appatiṭṭhita viññāṇa are spoken of in a different manner in the core suttas (eg. SN 22.53; SN 12.38, etc) than as in SN 22.87.

Also, SN 22.87 appears to refer to a literal ‘relinking consciousness’ (later-day ‘patisandhi-vinnana’) which appears not so literal in the core suttas. For example, suttas about ‘rebirth’ (‘upapajjati’) appear to say ‘beings’ (‘satta’) are ‘reborn’ rather than consciousness is reborn. The idea that consciousness is reborn in Dependent Origination, for example, at least to me, appears to be a interpretative thing rather than a literal thing. It seems DN 15 is the only sutta containing the literal notion of a consciousness entering into the mother’s womb and contains language similar to suttas such as DN 14; DN 16; DN 28; DN 33; AN 4.127; AN 8.70; MN 123; which could be candidates for ‘lateness’ . MN 123 appears to be a late sutta, even mythological, given it contains an account of the Buddha walking and talking immediately upon child birth; in the style of later-day Jataka Tales.

Also, the terms ‘viññāṇaṃ samanvesati’ in SN 22.87 appear to be used differently than in SN 35.246

It seems there is only one another sutta with the same theme of Mara searching for a consciousness of a deceased bhikkhu, namely, SN 4.23

I think the phrase below is sufficiently authentic because it can be interpreted in both a mundane (lokiya) & supramundane (lokuttara) manner.

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

Yo kho imañca kāyaṃ nikkhipati aññañca kāyaṃ upādiyati tamahaṃ ‘saupavajjo’ti vadāmi.

Of note: If ‘kāyaṃ upādiyati’ is interpreted in a supramundane manner, it could suggest Channa was not necessarily an Arahant but merely a Noble One adept at non-grasping (non-upādiyati; non-sakkaya ditthi).

Regards :slightly_smiling_face:


If you have doubts, it is very likely you are better off not taking such drastic action. And as long as you feel you can make progress in your practice and in your understanding of the Dhamma, then you really do have everything to live for. If you reflect wisely on your illness, it will be a great lesson to help you appreciate the nature of life.

I wish you the best of luck and much progress on the path.

The roots of unwholesome action are desire, ill will, and delusion (AN 3.69). The sutta says any action based on these three roots is unwholesome/unskilful (akusala). The same sutta says that any action done in the absence of these roots are kusala. In other words, it is always the motivation that decides the ethical quality and the kammic outcome of any action.

This is also clear from the standard description of abstention from killing in the gradual training or in the ten courses of wholesome actions. This is how it is expressed:

They give up killing living creatures, renouncing the rod and the sword. They’re scrupulous and kind, living full of compassion for all living beings.
… pāṇātipātaṃ pahāya pāṇātipātā paṭivirato hoti, nihitadaṇḍo nihitasattho lajjī dayāpanno sabbapāṇabhūtahitānukampī viharati. (MN27)

Or in the negative version:

It’s when a certain person kills living creatures. They’re violent, bloody-handed, a hardened killer, merciless to living beings.
Idha, gahapatayo, ekacco pāṇātipātī hoti, luddo lohitapāṇi hatappahate niviṭṭho adayāpanno pāṇabhūtesu. (MN 41)

As you can see, motivation is included in these definitions. Not killing means being compassionate, whereas killing means being merciless. From these more complete statements on morality, we can infer that kamma and morality are all about intention or the motivation that drives the intention, in agreement with AN 3.69 and similar suttas. So when we say that we have precepts against killing and stealing, these are not absolute. They are approximations, albeit usually good ones.

No doubt it is linked to being foolish. But the Pali word rendered as “blameworthy” in AN 3.7 is savajja, which means something like “at fault”. This word is more closely linked to immorality and bad kamma than upavajjā. The problem with translation is that the same word in English may sometimes render different Pali words.



Thank you for your response. Yes, I realize that motivation matters. As does acting with an undeluded mind. Conceivaby, I could act with a motivation of love and generosity and yet still be deluded and do bad kamma. For instance, a priest who sacrifices a goat may be blind to the suffering of the goat, and yet filled with love and generosity, wanting to benefit themself and others by sacrificing it to their god. They could also reason that the goat is fulfilling one of the purposes for which it was created by being sacrificed, and so it is good for the goat to be sacrificed.

If we look at AN 3:28 dealing with lying, there seems to be little room for doing it even with a motivation of compassion:

And who has speech like dung? It’s someone who is summoned to a council, an assembly, a family meeting, a guild, or to the royal court, and asked to bear witness: ‘Please, mister, say what you know.’ Not knowing, they say ‘I know.’ Knowing, they say ‘I don’t know.’ Not seeing, they say ‘I see.’ And seeing, they say ‘I don’t see.’ So they deliberately lie for the sake of themselves or another, or for some trivial worldly reason. This is called a person with speech like dung.

Here lying in court for the sake of oneself or another is specifically listed as breaking the precept, not merely lying for trivial worldly reasons. Considering the cruel tortures someone might be subjected to at the time of the Buddha for commiting a crime such as theft, one might argue that one could skilfully lie to the court in order to save a person from extreme suffering if one did so with compassion, but the text seems to preclude this.

Presumably, what makes lying in court unskillful even if done for the sake of another is delusion, as there is no question it could be done with a motivation of lovingkindness. The question is whether one truly benefits the other by lying to protect them from punishment.

When there seems to be so little wiggle room even for telling a compassionate lie, I am even more doubtful about wiggle room surrounding killing out of compassion, without any clear example of such an act endorsed by the Buddha anywhere in the suttas.


AN3.100 should allow us to be less categorical and extremist when it comes to the kammic consequences of acts, even if that is the choice of ending one`s life due to extreme sickness and discomfort.

SN42.8 reminds us that from the perspective of kamma the big picture of one`s behavior and choices can make a difference.

In it the Buddha teaches how the Jain-like bias to judge and condemn others to hell due to some acts is not a very wise approach. It also teaches us that the very thought of guilt and judgement may indeed doom us to be reborn in hell!

Take some teacher who has this doctrine and view: ‘Everyone who kills a living creature, steals, commits sexual misconduct, or lies goes to a place of loss, to hell.’
And there’s a disciple who is devoted to that teacher. They think: ‘My teacher has this doctrine and view: ‘Everyone who kills a living creature, steals, commits sexual misconduct, or lies goes to a place of loss, to hell.’ But I’ve killed living creatures … stolen … committed sexual misconduct … or lied. They get the view: ‘I too am going to a place of loss, to hell.’
Unless they give up that speech and thought, and let go of that view, they will be cast down to hell.

By linking the teachings found in these two suttas I understand that the safest bet is to develop as early as possible the four brahmaviharas as that would be key to develop the boundlessness of heart which could later on (this life or another) help dissolve any mistaken or extreme choice made due to unforeseen hardship such as a sickness or health condition which may force one to choose for assisted euthanasia.



An 3:100 discusses trivial bad deeds, and the examples given do not say that killing is good kamma, but rather that bad kamma is unable to do much damage to an expansive mind. I do agree that creating an expansive all encompassing mind oriented towards the good of the other, means that negative acts, especially trivial ones, will have little to imperceptible impact on such a mind.

However, I do not agree that mercy-killing necessarily constitutes trivial acts, and even if it does, I find it interesting in and of itself to discuss whether killing in that way can ever be considered skilfull, according to the EBTs. All I have seen so far is evidence that lovingkindness and compassion should be the basis for the decision not to destroy life, not that lovingkindness and compassion in certain situations renders an act of killing skilful.

Also, the point here is not to condemn anyone to hell or saying that certain acts inevitably leads to hell. At least that is very far from my motivation. The Buddha is clear that one may go to heaven despite (but not because of) heavy negative kamma. Rather, we live i a society that takes for granted that mercy killing of animals is skilful, and in a matter of a few decades, euthanasia will become the norm in western countries, I believe. While I do think people should have the right to decide for themselves whether or not they should live or die, the question remains if it is wise to end life prematurely, and if it is compassionate towards the health personell and loved ones involved.


Compassion motivates people to help the physical, mental, or emotional pains of another and themselves.
The biq question is , killing someone else and our own where a person not even achieve stream entry yet , the outcome would be disastrous .
Because of human limited wisdom and unable to fathom out how the working and the Relevancy of kamma vipaka , there come about its legalization of mercy killing , euthanasia and abortion and therefore rationalise it as skilful killing .




On the one hand there’s the precept of not killing living being (which includes oneself), on the other in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta the Buddha knowingly ate some pork even though he knew it was going to kill him, so that is arguably not different from suicide (the Sutta also says the he would have been able to keep himself alive for much longer, if Ananada had asked him to stay around for longer, so he chose to die rather than keep on living, which is arguably the same as suicide). So the precept and that Sutta are somewhat contradictory for me personally.


*@irene, I agree, but as pointed out earlier, the Buddha says that an arahant can end their life blamelessly (in the eyes of the wise), but nobody else. He also says nobody except a Buddha can digest the meal he is about to eat. Which is why he had it buried so nobody else would consume it, human or animal. Some have taken this ability to digest literally, but to me it is an obvious parallell to the other texts discussed in this thread. Only a Buddha could do what he was about to:

I doubt the Buddha simply ate a meal he knew to be poisoned because he was tired of living. While it is impossible to know for sure, it seems more likely to me that he was intentionally poisoned and allowed it, perhaps to save the sangha. He was a friend of king Pasenadi of Kosala, who had recently been killed by his own son in a power struggle. Perhaps he knew or was promised the sangha would be left alone if he was no longer around, but that the new king would otherwise wipe it out because of Gautamas friendship with Pasenadi. Cunda would have been coerced into preparing the poisoned meal. The Buddha may have seen this coming months in advance, and decided that the survival of the sangha was far more important than his remaning a few years more on planet earth. Speculative, I admit, but not implausible in my opinion.


We seem to be entering the realm of speculations.
I do not know that that dish was poisoned, even if something was wrong with it.
Is very old gossip still poisonous, or now safe to consume?


On living on for an eon (if one assumes that was possible), is that really suicide? For example, if one has in one’s possession a longevity pill, which would allow one to live for a thousand years, and one simply chooses not to take it and instead live an ordinary life span, that’s hardly suicide?

On the Buddha’s death, Stephen Batchelor had some interesting speculations here, heading in the direction of what Vidar was alluding to, much of it gleaned from suttas or commentaries. For some of it, he might well be adding 1+1 to get 3, but there’s probably some truth to some of his narrative. The general gist is that it was rather a dangerous time for the Buddha, Buddhism and its survival. The Buddha’s two chief attendants were recently dead (one, according to the commentaries, murdered by Jain supporters), the three major regional support bases were in turmoil or not welcoming. The Buddha may have had enemies who wanted him dead (read the link for more detail). Maybe he simply had some suspicions about the meal he was going to eat (the circumstances somehow seemed off). The article says:

But what’s the point in killing an old man who is already dying? Batchelor points out that the best revenge the Buddha’s enemies could have taken on him was to kill not him but Ananda, his faithful attendant. Ananda was the only one left after the death of Sariputta and Moggallana to have memorised the entire teachings of the Buddha. “If you killed Ananda, you killed Buddhism,” points out Batchelor. “By insisting that he alone be served with the pork and the leftovers be buried, the Buddha prevented Ananda from eating it.” The Buddha “hastened his own death”, according to Batchelor, “in order that his teaching would survive”.

Maybe he wasn’t even certain beforehand, but after eating the food, pretty much knew he was poisoned. Or perhaps he did foresee that the only way that Ananda wouldn’t end up dead in the upcoming months, and the bulk of his teaching perishing with Ananda, was to eat the food. Sacrificing one’s own life to save one’s friends would not be suicide either (if someone else is doing the killing anyway). If it was poison, Cunda might not have necessarily been aware. He might excitedly have talked about hosting the Buddha as he was procuring ingredients, including sukara-maddava, pig’s delight (there’s a whole controversy about exactly that was), for the following day’s meal (and perhaps enemies or followers of some rival sect spotted a chance opportunity).

Or maybe he was simply an old man at the end of his days who just died of food poisoning (and later narrators couldn’t quite reconcile themselves to such a mundane reason and embellished things a bit; who knows). Anyway, details are scant (and perhaps as ERose implied speculation like this isn’t helpful).


Like I said, it is speculative, but it seems to me that there is something fishy going on whenever I read that account. There is something we are not being told. It may be that Steven Batchelor’s account is more plausible than my suggestion, but I do believe that something along those lines may very well have happened.


It’s very difficult to speculate with accuracy on this subject, it seems. My sense from the Buddha’s last day and hours is that he behaved the way an 80 year old man with a mesenteric infarction might. The description in the SuttaCentral suggests the Buddha was old, and ill, and aware his body was failing. Before Cunda’s culinary offering, the Buddha was noted in days prior to be ill. The text seems more consistent with an elderly man’s mindful last days, than a poisoning.


Perhaps you might surrender these suspicions if you reread SuttaCentral
and consider these thoughts:
would the Buddha have required this of Ānanda for Cunda if there was any blame or negative kamma in this event?

You should get rid of remorse in Cunda the smith like this: ‘You’re fortunate, friend Cunda, you’re so very fortunate, in that the Realized One became fully extinguished after eating his last meal from you. I have heard and learned this in the presence of the Buddha.

There are two meal offerings that have identical fruit and result, and are more fruitful and beneficial than other meal offerings. What two? The meal after eating which a Realized One understands the supreme perfect awakening; and the meal after eating which he becomes fully extinguished through the natural principle of extinguishment, without anything left over. These two meal offerings have identical fruit and result, and are more fruitful and beneficial than other meal offerings.

You’ve accumulated a deed that leads to long life, beauty, happiness, fame, heaven, and sovereignty.’ That’s how you should get rid of remorse in Cunda the smith.”

Out of concern for Cunda, Ānanda, the Dhamna, or even you and me, would the Buddha spoken falsely? There being other reasons for an entirely natural death, is that not more likely? Is this perhaps more consistent with what the Buddha taught of kamma, Right Speech, guarding one’s thoughts?

What do you think?


I don’t think he spoke falsely, Cunda probably didn’t have any choice in the matter, and he may have warned the Buddha during their conversation the day prior. I also don’t think the account is 100% historically accurate. I seriously doubt that the Buddha would’ve blamed Ananda in the way he does “If only you had taken this clear hint“. That seems far more likely to have been added later by disciples, in my opinion.

EDIT: Like I’ve said earlier, I don’t know that this is the way things happened, but I find it strange that the Buddha somehow knew that the food would kill him and still ate it. That is what the account clearly implies, or he wouldn’t have had his disciples bury the food. Or made the statement about only a Buddha being able to digest it, which to me seems to parallel “only an arahant can use the knife blamelessly”. If he meant it literally, then he was wrong first of all. Second, it would be a strange thing for him to say that his body had some special powers that other bodies didn’t, by virtue of the fact of him being the Buddha. That seems to contradict what he says about his old frail body elsewhere.

In the end I don’t know. It may have been a completely natural death. But something smells fishy when I read the account, like there is more to the story that we do not know.


Did he say, this will kill me? I understood it to be, recognition of last meal… or perhaps, last gifted meal, which apparently reminded him of that meal gifted before his Awakening. But asking that it be buried, and not shared… that does indicate something was not safe with it. But rot happens, parasites happen; many things can go wrong in food.

It is difficult for me to consider someone being physically close enough to a Buddha maintaining & acting on murderous intent. The thought is ugly, and so sad. I’d rather not dwell on it.

I assumed “what only a Buddha could digest” as the awareness of his own impending death, the death of a Buddha. (Quotation marks only used to set concept apart, not a quote.)

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.