What is the Buddhist perspective on suicide?

Chan Master Sheng Yen: According to the Buddhist teaching of cause and effect, since one has not realised the truth of all phenomena, or is not liberated from life and death, suicide is pointless. When one’s karmic retribution is not exhausted, death by suicide only leads to another cycle of rebirth. This is why Buddhists do not support suicide, and instead, encourage constructive living, using this life to diligently practise good, thus changing the present and the future for the better.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama: Some people commit suicide; they seem to think that there is suffering simply because there is the human life, and that by cutting off the life there will be nothing… But, according to the Buddhist viewpoint, that’s not the case; your consciousness will continue. Even if you take your own life, this life, you will have to take another body that again will be the basis of suffering. If you really want to get rid of all your suffering, all the difficulties you experience in your life, you have to get rid of the fundamental cause (greed, hatred and delusion) that gives rise to the aggregates that are the basis of all suffering. Killing yourself isn’t going to solve your problem.

Ven. K. Sri Dhammananda: Taking one’s own life under any circumstances is morally and spiritually wrong. Taking one’s own life owing to frustration or disappointment only causes greater suffering. Suicide is a cowardly way to end one’s problems of life. A person cannot commit suicide if his mind is pure and tranquil. If one leaves this world with a confused and frustrated mind, it is most unlikely that he would be born again in a better condition. Suicide is an unwholesome or unskillful act since it is encouraged by a mind filled with greed, hatred and delusion. Those who commit suicide have not learnt how to face their problems, how to face the facts of life, and how to use their mind in a proper manner. Such people have not been able to understand the nature of life and worldly conditions.

Ven. S. Dhammika, Good Question Good Answer, 2008, p26: When one person murders another they might do it out of fear, anger, fury, greed or some other negative emotions. When a person kills himself or herself they might do it for very similar reasons or because of other negative emotions like despair or frustration. So whereas murder is the result of negative emotions directed towards another, suicide is the result of negative emotions directed towards oneself, and therefore would be breaking the Precept. However, someone who is contemplating suicide or has attempted suicide does not need to be told that what they are doing is wrong. They need our support and our understanding. We have to help them understand that killing themselves is perpetuating their problem, surrendering to it, not solving it.

7 thoughts on “What is the Buddhist perspective on suicide?”

  1. But what about in the case of severe mental illness such as Alzheimer’s or an incredibly deep physically debilitating, painful disease such as bone cancer etc.?

    1. Suicide is taking the life of oneself, hence Buddhist does not support it even in the case of severe illness, be it mental or physical.

      From the perspective of Karma & Rebirth, we have past life, present life and future life. Whatever actions we have done in the past, we experience the result in this life; whatever actions we do now will reap future results. Hence, the pain and suffering one experiences is due to the past actions (note: not punishment, but cause and effect). Even if one commits suicide, can one guarantee a healthy body in the next life? In fact, one might end up with even more severe illness.

      Hence, it is better to accept our current situation and do more purification practice (repentance / ask for forgiveness). Do more good deeds.

      While the body is in pain, it is a living being! We should send loving kindness and compassion (positive karma) towards it rather than killing it (negative karma).

  2. I do not find purpose in life. Tried yo kill myself about a month ago. I realty do not know what to do now or how to do it. I feel solitude but not in a nice way, in a sad one. I also think that there I no way to change de world as cruel as it is, and for me there is no reason to live is I can’t help the world be a better place

    1. Sorry for the late reply. I hope my answer offers you another perspective dealing with this troubled world and hope it helps.

      From the Buddhist perspective, Killing oneself is a NO! NO!. The chances of us being able to take rebirth in the human form is difficult to come by and we should treasure this human life. The Buddha compared the chance of taking rebirth in human form as a handful of earth in your hand compared to the earth at large. If we look around, animals produce more compared to human. Also, because of this precious human rebirth, we are able to learn, analyse and make positive changes in our life and even achieve the fullest potential, to gain enlightenment and achieve Buddhahood.

      While life seems difficult and sometimes too overwhelming, if we take a different perspective, that all the encounters/problems are, in fact, part and parcel of life, it provides us with an opportunity to learn and grow wiser. Hence, do not see problem as problem but an opportunity for growth. Do you notice all Buddhas sit on lotus? Why? The lotus does not see the mud as dirt, rather it absorbs the nutrients from it.

      While we cannot change the world, we can change ourselves. Be kind to ourselves and the people around us. Perhaps could do some volunteer work in your neighbourhood / community. Instead of asking WHAT and HOW, just let go of all thoughts and get out into the community and DO GOOD.

      Keep an open mind, just DO GOOD without expectation. Give yourself a chance, explore what it is like when you just do it. Would like to hear from your experience when you embark on the journey of doing good.

      May you be well and happy
      With metta
      Ven Faxun

    2. Dear Andrea, I am so sorry to hear about your suicide attempt and the all the pain and confusion you must be in. I’m a 60-something gay man who had a rough childhood and I continue to deal with suicidal thoughts/depression.

      1. First, I consider my suicidal thoughts as a kind of smoke detector – it goes off when there is an imbalance/instability in my life – I am not giving myself something that I need to feel better/happy. I usually look at my diet, exercise, medications, social life… to see if I need to make changes to my life that will bring more happiness.
      As for the suicidal thoughts/urges – I would say that it is important to remember – all thoughts and feelings are temporary. When I get overwhelmed with suicidal thoughts one practice I have is to breath in/out deeply and slowly and focus my MIND ON MY BREATH and just repeat in my mind/thoughts something simple like – IN/OUT, or “breathing in I know I am breathing in a short breath” or breathing in I calm my mental formations (ie. suicidal thoughts), breathing in I smile to my depression. Of course, you can create something meaningful to you. I am only trying to break the succession of suicidal thoughts.

      2. Once you are over the suicidal thoughts, you need to have an emergency plan to protect yourself and your precious life. Whether that is having a suicide hotline phone number on your cell phone or going for exercise at the gym or for a walk, calling a friend, or something small – buying yourself flowers. One of the good things about getting older – is that you being to understand what contributes to depression and what methods pull you out of depression, so it doesn’t takes less time to get out of the depression

      3. It sounds like you are suffering from depression, so I would say that the best long-term solution might involve medication and some type of therapy. They have online therapy these days, and some therapists have a sliding scale. The unfortunate reality is that psychiatrists do not know what medications will be effective, so it is trial and error. And it usually takes usually a few weeks to feel the effects of medication.

      Well I hope this helps, please take care of yourself. Sincerely, John

      1. I am not sure if you will ever see this. But I ended up here for a particular reason and when I read your comment ‘suicidal thoughts are a smoke signal’ something happened that I don’t understand but am grateful to you for.

        1. I came here looking for what Buddhists think about suicide. I am not Buddhist, but my best friend was. He was a USMC vet with horrible PTSD, and took his life on August 2nd. Let me tell you, suicide is not the way. The amount of pain that has been caused to everyone who knew and loved him has been horrible. For me, I feel like a huge piece of me is gone. He was my absolute best friend… we made music together, I filmed his live shows for him, we were very close. If only he talked to me, reached out… he would still be here. I know what he struggled with mentally, and it wasn’t anything that he couldn’t overcome with the love and support of his family and friends. But he was keeping it all to himself, embarrassed to even share that part of himself in fear of being treated differently. Fear is a big factor to what drives people to suicide… the fear of not being able to handle and control their own life. But to overcome that fear, only proves to yourself how strong you really are. Please, find something to make you happy. Start something new and rediscover how important you are to everyone and everything in the world.

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