There's a question regarding the Dhamma that I really wish to rectify and clear up with you and that's regarding the suicide cases of Channa, Vakkali and Godhika - When I first came across these cases, I was really disappointed and discouraged to practice the Dhamma because I saw Dhamma as the way to prevent people from committing such acts in the first place, but if by practicing the path of Dhamma and reaching Arahant stage and this is a possible blameless result, I became very disillusioned and anxious over the path, moreover hearing the cases of Bhikkhu Samahita and Bikkhu Nanavira also fuelled this, creating a fear that this may be a possible outcome of developing the path.

My mental clarity and wellbeing plummeted since hearing these cases, since it raised a lot of doubts and confusions, esp because Dhamma used to be something that gave me hope and is foundational to me, but now there's a lingering sense of hopelessness if this is a possible result of the practice. When I ignore this topic I feel good again, but when it resurfaces again to my mind I feel quite hopeless and anxious again, I know there's so many people who have heard of these cases and who most certainly haven't responded to these cases adversely and in a negative way, so my question is, in light of such cases what is the best way that one should view/understand such cases so that one's own practice and wellbeing isn't affected and that one can continue to practice the path with security, hope, joy, contentment and composure, and walk the path correctly without falling into wrong-views?

The ways I have tried to understand and view such cases is that they were cases of euthanasia and since they are highly debated as to whether those 3 monks were arahants before or after they committed suicide, I have realised it is better to instead focus on the 10 Great Disciples of the Buddha who embodied the Dhamma to a greater extent such as Arahant's Mahakassapa, Sariputta, Moggalana, Subhuti, Rahula etc, and hence are the best role-models for one walking the path, Sariputta in fact says

"The Teacher has been served by me; the Awakened One’s bidding, done; 70 the heavy load, laid down; the guide to becoming, uprooted. And the goal for which I went forth from home life into homelessness I’ve reached: the end of all fetters. I don’t delight in death, don’t delight in living. I await my time as a worker his wage. I don’t delight in death, don’t delight in living. I await my time, mindful, alert." This quote is what has personally given me hope that those cases of Suicide are from non-Arahant monks - and thus I have learned to place my faith again by discarding these controversies, and listening to the Dhamma of every monk who have talked on this manner, who have all labelled it is as an akusal (unskilful deed) that must be removed from the mind.

I feel like I've answered my own question in many respects, but I still would love to hear another Dhamma practitioner's perspective on this, so that I can reach a more holistic and objective understanding on how to move forward and best navigate myself through these knots & controversies in the Dhamma and not fall into wrong-views.

Thank-you so much for taking the time to read this post, I really sincerely appreciate it.

  • Would you welcome an answer from the perspective of the path of the Bodhisattva? I ask because this question primarily deals with Pali canon sutta and mentions two Theravada practitioners, but I think the perspective from the path of the Bodhisattva would be beneficial... – Yeshe Tenley May 21 at 10:25

First of all you are equating the breakup of an Arahant's body to the breaking up of the body of a non-Arahant, the two are not the same.

Death is spoken of a as a requisite for birth. There is no birth for an Arahant, this is a difference. An Arahant doesn't die, with the breakup of the body they become completely released from all modes of being.

You are also slipping by the fact that Arahants are more or less the same in mind, different only in body.

It's not like one Arahant is depressed and kills himself whereas another is more psychologically resilient.

As i see it, Ven. Channa used the the knife because he considered that his being there wasn't needed as he was gravely ill. He had done his work here and had every right to end it as he sees fit.

In some circumstances Arahants do choose to go early but that is as far as it goes.

As for Ven. Nanavira and Ven. Samahita, i have little to no interest in reading works of disciples and will probably never know what Nanavira wrote in his notes. I just think reading the words of the teacher is superior that's all.

I was sympathetic to Ven. Samahita due to him always taking the time to pay homeage but he also said some strange things like 'consciousness being like radiation', went on that anti-muslim rant earlier due to a medicine and later killed himself.

Whether he was this or that doesn't matter to me as even if he was an Arahant it is of no help to me now.

As to controversies, imo the Sutta are explicit enough for anyone to make up their own mind and even writing commentary.

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    Thanks for the very helpful answer. Here is a relevant quote: > SN22.56:5.2: Those who are well freed are consummate ones. > SN22.56:5.3: For consummate ones, there is no cycle of rebirths to be found. – OyaMist May 20 at 11:59
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    Also here: " The Dhammapada Chapter 2, Heedfulness 21. Heedfulness is the path to the Deathless. Heedlessness is the path to death. The heedful die not. The heedless are as if dead already." - dhp 21. – Letsbuddhism May 20 at 14:50
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    The heedful are the arahants because it is said that lower disciples have work to do in regards to heedlessness. – Letsbuddhism May 20 at 15:21

Obviously they were cases of euthanasia, since the monks were elderly with physical bodies afflicted by uneasing physical conditions.

The Buddha declared Channa, Vakkali and Godhika were all blameless &/or extinguished. They were blameless &/or extinguished because they did not cling to life as "self" nor did they long/crave for another life.

Whether or not they were Arahants is not relevant. What is relevant is there was no clinging.

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