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There was an incident in the 50s, a monk named Ñāṇavīra Thera commited suicide, he was believed to be a stream enterer and was suffering from amoebiasis.

So I'm curious to know, if someone knows for sure that he's become a stream enterer (or beyond) and doesn't desire to live anymore, can he decide to commit suicide?

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    I'm not happy with the 'suicide' topic. It is a defeater offence (murder) to recommend suicide. What if someone (perhaps mentally or physically ill) misunderstands an answer and thinks it says, "yes" to suicide, and that that answer applies to them? – ChrisW Sep 22 '14 at 9:46
  • That answer doesn't apply to him unless he's a stream enterer. That's why used the term 'stream enterer' specifically to avoid any confusion. – dmsp Sep 22 '14 at 10:09
  • @ChrisW created this to further discuss this issue on meta: meta.buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/328/… – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Sep 22 '14 at 16:03

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I am familiar with the story of Ñāṇavīra Thera, and while I deeply appreciate his work, esp. on 12 Nidanas, which for me is a good evidence that he indeed could have been a stream-enterer, I feel that his suicide was a very unfortunate outcome of the bad karma he created in the past. This karma, in its turn, came from a chain of negative mind states that evidently spanned multiple lives.

While, generally speaking, anyone can decide to commit suicide, a decision to do so is more likely to be made by someone who 1) is not afraid to die, 2) sees the pain associated with continuing to live, 3) has aversion to pain, and 4) does not see much value in continuing to live.

Because stream-enterer is beyond the illusion of self, s\he is not afraid of death. Because s\he clearly sees conditions that lead to arising of pain, s\he sees the pain associated with life. Because s\he is not yet beyond sukha-and-dukkha, s\he can still have aversion to pain. What remains is #4.

The value in continuing to live falls into two categories: the value for oneself and the value for others. Because stream-enterer is beyond the illusion of self, the only reason to carry on this particular life would be the value he or she thinks s\he could bring for others.

In Mahayana tradition, the first idea you learn, right after the basic concepts of Samsara, Nirvana, Enlightenment, and Karma -- is the high ideal of compassion. By this ideal, if I don't have a reason to live for myself, if I can alleviate suffering of even one dog, it is worth to continue living, let alone if I can help one human, let alone if I can help multiple people, let alone if I can teach Sat-Dharma.

So, while stream-entry refers to the same basic milestone that is known as First Bhumi in Mahayana, a Bodhisattva of First Bhumi would only choose to die if doing so would greatly benefit more people than he could benefit by e.g. teaching Dharma. For example, participating in the repair of Fukushima nuclear station could be a great way to die for someone who has no reason to live but does not have an aptitude to teach Dharma. There are many other ways to help humanity and die a hero whose name will be on a monument, instead of becoming a topic of regret that no one wants to mention.

  • wow...+1 for the second half of your answer – dmsp Sep 23 '14 at 0:48
  • Was this part mentioned somewhere or is it your interpretation on the incident? 'This karma, in its turn, came from a chain of negative mind states that evidently spanned multiple lives.' – dmsp Sep 23 '14 at 19:28
  • My interpretation of his biography. – Andrei Volkov Sep 23 '14 at 19:57
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    I'm curious as to why going beyond the self means value could only be brought to others. Others kind of comes from self (by exclusion) so really it must be about the ability to bring value at all, without regard to whether it is other or self? Or is it that a stream-enterer can no longer bring value except to others? – Dan Sheppard Sep 24 '14 at 22:19
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    It's not just ignoring the boundary. For str. entr., there is no value for self because there is no absolute point of reference for "value". But for others, there is still value, because they still have their points of reference. Now, Bodhisattva would go like: "alright, this whole thing is pointless, but there are still others who suffer" - while a non-Bodhisattva stream-enterer could go like: "why bother?" Both are beyond illusion of self vs others, but only Bodhisattva apriori cares about the others. "Bring value for others" means help alleviate their suffering, which is real for them. – Andrei Volkov Sep 25 '14 at 2:40
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I do not find any merit in discussing suicide because in my mind it is not on the path. It is a dead end street. It is like jumping off the train - you don't get to your destination. If someone is a stream enterer, they might still get stuck in the folly of the human mind. Taking one's physical life is a sign that you take the personal self too seriously and that you are under the illusion it is something you must deal with and can deal with, and that it is something you may end. The only way to end the suffering is to stop kowtowing to the personal self and open to the buddha awakening. In this awakening there is no birth, no life, no death. If this is awakening, should we be talking about suicide at all? I think not, unless someone is disturbed and contemplating that fateful error. It is seeds of karma to do harm to any sentient being including oneself. There is no excuse - one who chooses that destiny must deal with the seeds and outcome they choose by default.

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The level of buddhist fundamentalism present in this thread is disgusting. People really think that they have understood the workings of the unknown by reading about the specific experiences of a few people (aka gautama etc) and generalize a structure of awakening. This is laughably sad. Awakening is not a straightforward process nor does it ever happen in two people in the same way. There are exception to almost every map of enlightenment (of which the buddhist map is the absolute weakest and most erronous). Yes a stream enterer can commit suicide, ofcourse. It has happened before in more cases than one. No stream entry does not do what buddhists claim that it does. All that has happened is that the energy in the body has temporarily crossed the threshold of the third eye and touched the crown chakra and the person has temporarily had one of the MANY experiences of trancendance that are possible. And now, the higher energy starts opening up all the unlocked karmic energies in the system and dragging the practicioner through the dark night of the soul. But a small part of the awareness now rests in the higher realm/nibbana and that allows SOME manner of stillness and detachment to remain even as the process of karmic purging begins anew. If a person is a good 'buddhist', indoctrinated to not care about the world, they may feel that they are getting enlightened and not kill themselves and find some solace in the still realm. If on the other hand they really do care about some things in the world or their humanity, the small connection to the formless realm may not be enough to stop them from killing themself. It depends on where the person stands. Trying to use buddhist "if x then y" logic just because it was written in a stupid sutta will only lead you into falsehood. the universe works in far more varied ways than sattopatana or other suttas would have you believe. Look up shamanic death to get a different perspective on the process. Parts of the formless are blissfull and worthwhile while other parts are horrifying and life denying. Just goes to show you how lousy of a track record the fundamentalist buddhist schools have at actually enlightening people that most of them talk so freely and with such confidence about things that they actually have no experience of.

  • written by a stream enterer
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    Obviously not written by a stream-enterer. – Dhammadhatu Nov 8 '17 at 22:09
  • I applaud your answer. Extrapolating universal rules from tiny examples is always problematic. The true goal is to find the universal truth that encompasses all explanations therefore you should never deny any potential viewpoint as they all have something to offer. – Kauva Aatma Nov 8 '17 at 23:47
  • This seems to be applauding "doubt" or "uncertainty" about the fixed law of Dhamma (Dhamma Niyama). This promotes rebelliousness & is the downfall of a monk. The Buddha taught: ""And in this regard, Ananda, the undoing of one who leads the holy life ripens in more pain, more bitterness, than the teacher's undoing or the student's undoing. It leads even to the states of deprivation. Therefore, Ananda, engage with me in friendliness, and not in opposition. That will be for your long-term well-being & happiness." MN 122 – Dhammadhatu Nov 9 '17 at 0:22
  • I dont believe in blind faith dhammadtu. If I did I would still be a southern baptist christian. The wise man is willing to entertain the fact that he may be wrong. – Kauva Aatma Nov 9 '17 at 2:00
  • Plus your quote says "and in this regard..." which insinuates it is limited to some circumstance or situation. perhaps providing the entire context would be a little more straighforward? – Kauva Aatma Nov 9 '17 at 2:10
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This is partly speculation on the part of the editor of the collection of this letters. I have the Sinhala book my self. Hence we do not know what happened. Only we thing we know for sure is that the Ven. Sir was bitten by a poisonous spider. Anything other than this is speculative. So it is best not draw conclusion on speculative incidents.

Also suicide does not seam to be a valid option for a monk as it is a Parajika offence.

In addition this does not set a good example to society hence should not be done.

In case you just believe you are stream entry by mistake then you end in misery. Also your loved ones also end in misery. Hence one should not contemplate, set an example, or in the slightest sense promote this line of thinking

  • Well, even if it's a Parajika offense, the monk doesn't live further to receive any punishment after suicide, right? I agree that it's not a good example for the society. But in the stream enterers perspective he can end the suffering at least in the current human life if he's suffering from an illness. – dmsp Sep 22 '14 at 13:59
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    There are a lot of cases people believing themselves to be Arahants, let alone stream entry, then they were not. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Sep 22 '14 at 14:16
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    Even so, it does not set a good example. Buddhists are to live a model life so other are inspired to learn and try out the Dhamma. So a Stream Enterer should know better. There may be instances like this. But not recommended. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Sep 22 '14 at 14:24
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    Also another aspect is when you become a Stream Enterer, the level of Piti and Passaddhi would be very high aiding to undergo pain. Also before this you experience Stream Entry you have to pass through Sankharupekha nana. By this stage you can endure a lot of pain. Also unlikely any incentive or desire to commit suicide. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Sep 22 '14 at 14:36
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    @dmsp "As I've heard, stream entry is unmistakable" -- this would mean that the person who reached it knows it was reached. It does not mean someone who did not reach it is unable to mistake him/herself as a stream-enterer. – Thiago Sep 22 '14 at 17:12
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It is unlikely the monk named Ñāṇavīra Thera was a stream-enterer because his notes on Dependent Origination are very confusing despite some of his ideas being valid (such as "my birth" & "my death" for jati-marana); however the valid ideas were based on sutta study. In other words, it appears his ideas about Dependent Origination came from study rather than from realisation because if there was genuine realisation he would have explained Dependent Origination correctly, which he did not.

As for suicide, yes, a stream-enterer can terminate life with a liberated mind if living becomes pointless & they do not crave another life; which appeared did not occur with Ñāṇavīra. It seems Ñāṇavīra craved for another life therefore his suicide was blameworthy (per MN 144). It seems Ñāṇavīra did not pass away with a void mind of sunnata but with the self-view of: "I am a stream-enterer & I have seven more lifetimes until I attain Nibbana".

The realisation of a stream-enterer is explained very clearly in many suttas (SN 56.11; MN 56; etc), namely: "All that is subject to arising is subject to cessation". Ñāṇavīra appeared to not terminate life with this realization but, instead, with the contrary idea that: "I am a stream-enterer subject to re-arising".

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A stream enterer cannot commit suicide. In other words, will not commit suicide out of "not having the desire to live anymore". They don't have such "desires". Suicide is an act of ego and mentality. Considering that a Sotapanna have eradicated the 3 primary mental hindrances; which are ego belief, doubt on reality, and clinging to delusions, they will not "desire" or get involved in selfish acts that originate out of certain life views. A Sotapanna has very little depression, because they live in reality so they act accordingly. And if they are to commit suicide, they will do it consciously, and for a good reason. Not out of desire nor depression. Remember that a sotapanna is 1/4 awake, and they know where they are going.

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    Combining the two sentences, "A stream enterer cannot commit suicide" and "if they are to commit suicide they will do it consciously" is a bit confusing. Could you reference some scripture on this subject? – ChrisW Nov 10 '14 at 4:05
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Breaking vows. Not to kill is a vow. Taking ones one life amounts to killing. Unless one has good reasons like sacrificing ones life to save the whole world, otherwise not possible to be enlightened this way.

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Yes, a stream enterer can commit suicide.

A stream enterer is a person who experiences Nibbana, Ultimate Reality-(whatever you call it doesnt matter) and after the first experience of limitless blissfull happiness, they will experience it time to time that brings them temporary limitless happiness. A stream enterer is simply "captured" by the ultimate reality and whether he likes it or not, the Ultimate Reality will inform, shape, transform, purify him. A stream enterer's whole life becomes very intense, involuntary meditation without the person's applying of any meditation techniques. And unlike the vast majority of the meditators believe Stream Etry-Sotapanna stage is a very difficult stage. It is true that before the attainment of stream entry, a meditators, has great development in spirituality and greatly purifies their mind that will benefit them in the current and next lifes. But after the realization of Nibbana for the first time, they will start to face and purify their subconscious mind, which is much more intense and complex. Anyone, who practises intensive meditaton, mindfulness and morality can achieve this goal. Even in a short period of time. But the danger is, If a person who has a heavy mind with lots of suffering that comes from current and past lives can have a very difficult time(even considering suicide seriously) during the Ultimate Reality's natural purification process of this person's mind. So it is always better to have a guide, spiritual teacher, guru, patience, and necessary support systems for anyone who is interested to spirituality(sotapanna or not soesn't matter). Because "the dark night of the soul" is different for different people(and generally it is not just one night lol) and I think most people can get through it with patience. But just have the necessery support systems and don't confuse Stream-Entry with sakadagami-who goes beyond of the "dark night of the soul" and only have remnants of greed and anger in their minds that cannot disturb their peace of mind. Don't practise alone, have a guru, sangha who will support and assist you whenever you need. And don't underestimate the suffering of your mind, If you become a sotapanna or not doesn't matter. And even that the Sotapanna(except temporary blissful states) is far from true happiness, he/she will benefit greatly from their achievements afterlife. So it is always great news to achieve this state, even If the majority of people doesn't understand the true dynamics of this state.

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My personal opinion is that a stream-enterer will not commit suicide. If I am a stream enterer in this life my next goal is to move to the next level. I consider stream-enterer is almost an Arahant considering that he most have another seven lives. There is a great discussion on this point in Dhamma Wheel. https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=27879&p=397389&hilit=

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As thought proper by some. The side-effects of reaching the Dhamma-grounds is, that through right view, right understanding, one is no more able to perform (even strong deliberatly and planned in this case) deeds which cause one to fall into lower realms. React of situations as if they would be hell-like, how could that be? How comes that one falls into such states to even consider such seriously? Once the Dhamma is realiced, it's no more possible to be that burdened by the loka-dhammas (incl. happiness and pain, lose and gain...). Simply foolish action, when thinking even on rational consideration for one who should not have a problem at this level.

As for one practicing, stong pain, deathly pain, has to be endured, counts as destruction of defilements by enduring.

Althought it might get agains certain attachments to such deeds, and might be understandable thinking in usual pattern, this case has to be considered as a "loser"-case and far away from holding it as heroic, as the sell does...

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There are a few examples of the Buddha saying that an arhat has killed themselves and then attained final nirvana In general, there is an ambivalence in Buddhism toward suicide by arhats, due to the popularity of suicide in ascetic India.

See e.g. Peace in the Buddha's Discourses, p23.

I don't really have an opinion on the topic, but think in some extreme cases of unremitting physical pain it can make sense. And what about martydrom

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