Of course one of the 4 imponderables is the results of karma. I am just asking if there is any sutta explanation on the effect of killing with malice compared to mercy killing?

Difference between mercy killing and assisted suicide:

Assisted suicide is what it is, killing someone after they ask you to assist their suicide. Mercy killing is killing others out of mercy. For eg if you see an animal in extreme pain who is dying of whatever illness or blood loss, they cannot actually ask you to kill them for themselves so one is killing the other person out of mercy to alleviate their suffering. Or if you were on a battlefield and an enemies legs and limbs are blown to pieces so they cannot harm you any more and are no longer a threat but are in vast amount of suffering and pain so you kill them out of mercy.

  • Those suggestions were not the same question. I was talking about mercy killing not euthanasia or assisted suicide.
    – Remyla
    Apr 5, 2022 at 6:11
  • What's the difference between mercy killing and euthanasia/ assisted suicide? If you have any webpage which explains that, that would be helpful too. Thanks.
    – ruben2020
    Apr 5, 2022 at 6:40
  • Well for eg, assisted suicide is what it is, killing someone after they ask you to assist their suicide. Mercy killing is killing others out of mercy. For eg if you see an animal in extreme pain who is dying of whatever illness or blood loss, they cannot actually ask you to kill them for themselves so one is killing the other person out of mercy to alleviate their suffering. Or if you were on a battlefield and an enemies legs and limbs are blown to pieces so they cannot harm you any more and are no longer a threat but are in vast amount of suffering and pain so you kill them out of mercy.
    – Remyla
    Apr 7, 2022 at 8:07
  • According to the definitions on this page, your definition of mercy killing is called involuntary active euthanasia.
    – ruben2020
    Apr 8, 2022 at 2:46
  • Question reopened as it is very specific and not the same as previous questions.
    – ruben2020
    Apr 8, 2022 at 3:21

3 Answers 3


A parable I heard recently (somewhere on this site, perhaps..?):

Two monks walking in the woods ran across a deer lying on the ground, pierced by an arrow. They stood there, listening to the labored breathing of the animal, debating whether the cycle of reincarnation would begin at the beast's last breath, when the last light of life left its eye, or at some other significant point. But just then the Buddha walked past, pulled the arrow from the deer's side, and continued on his way.

Now in the parable the deer survives and goes back to life in the forest. But would the parable have a different moral sense if the deer had died instead? The Buddha didn't pull out the arrow to save the deer's life or to kill the deer; the Buddha pulled out the arrow to ease the beast's suffering. Or perhaps (if we want to take the parable a step deeper), the Buddha pulled out the arrow to ease the monks' suffering.

It's worth remembering that 'suffering' is not the same as physical pain. Suffering is a mental phenomenon: a tension between the way the world is and the way the world should be that causes distress. The arrow did not cause the deer suffering. The arrow caused the deer pain, and the deer suffered to the extent that it expected a world without such pain. The arrow did not cause the monks any pain at all, but nonetheless they suffered, caught in the trap of intellect as they tried to work out the deeper meanings of the moment. Only the Buddha was free from suffering: he saw, he responded, he let go.

The difficulty with the idea of mercy killing is that it is too easily tangled in intellect and ego. It smacks of rationalization, of the egoic thought: "I have the power to end this person's suffering by my own conscious act, and thus prove what a good and wise being I am." It's a metaphysically dangerous path to tread. But inaction is also metaphysically dangerous, leading one to the cold, callous view that the suffering of others is a mere intellectual curiosity. It's difficult...

A buddha would do what needs to be done in any given situation, but a buddha wouldn't try to know what to do in every situation. The idea that there is one ironclad moral rule that covers all cases is a Tolkien-esque fantasy/illusion.

  • apart from the seemingly unnecessarily exaltation of an imaginary 'Buddha', a very good answer. thank you Apr 8, 2022 at 21:05

Killing is no way to alleviate a being's suffering.

It's like investing in a degenerate gambler's schemes out of mercy, it ruins both.

Being's suffering is intended and is brought about by bad behavior due to ignorance. Killing is such bad behavior and the being you kill can not escape his bad kamma.

If you do this kind of killing then you are fit to be some torturer in hell, someone who kills beings who appear in hell as to liberate them from living there.

  • You have a very black and white view on what is "good and bad" or "right or wrong" You should look at the above quote from AN 6.63. Just to point out to you from a basic POV, there are countless living beings in your body, when you eat or breathe you kill countless living beings when you walk you walk over and kill countless living beings, when you drive your car you kill countless living beings.... Did you intend to kill any of them when you did these actions?
    – Remyla
    Apr 8, 2022 at 21:32
  • Bacteria will die even if i breath and if i kill myself i will be reborn and kill bacteria anyway. yes bacteria have to die if anybody is to end rebirth and on this account you can say 'killing ends by killing' but here you make killing something inevitable and something one does merely by being alive.
    – Usir1336
    Apr 8, 2022 at 22:32
  • So i can give you that there is that inevitable killing but you will have to give that this killing is then good or justified killing because it leads to nibbana for one following the path. In as far as one doesn't follow the path one is blameworthy in one's killing of bacteria and you will have to agree that killing mother is worse than killing bacteria and hence that there are levels to harm in killing.
    – Usir1336
    Apr 8, 2022 at 22:33
  • You have to see that it's stupid to say that an Arahant kills living beings because Arahant breathes. Killing generally does not denote what you are trying to make it denote. In the buddhist texts killing is something specific and not to be done, intentional taking of life is that, suicide is also prohibited no matter how much a learner suffers.
    – Usir1336
    Apr 8, 2022 at 22:41
  • Isn't it logical to you that if mercy killing is ever allowed then one should be allowed to kill oneself for same reason? So with your logic we should just be killing ourselves & eachother as soon as possible when we think it's not worth living. Who is going to decide how much suffering warrants killing someone? It's quite insane but when you talk about bacteria in these terms i can see how you get confused.
    – Usir1336
    Apr 8, 2022 at 22:49

The Pali suttas say killing without mercy is hellish, as follows:

Bhikkhus, possessing.... qualities, one is deposited in hell as if brought there. What...?

Here, someone destroys life; he is murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings.

AN 10.211

The same sutta says having mercy leads to laying down weapons, as follows:

Someone with... qualities is raised up to heaven. What...? It’s when a certain person gives up killing living creatures. They renounce the rod and the sword. They’re scrupulous and kind, living full of compassion for all living beings

The Pali suttas also say what is unwholesome is rooted in greed, hate & delusion, as follows:

And what, friends, is the unwholesome, what is the root of the unwholesome, what is the wholesome, what is the root of the wholesome? Killing living beings is unwholesome; taking what is not given is unwholesome; misconduct in sensual pleasures is unwholesome; false speech is unwholesome; malicious speech is unwholesome; harsh speech is unwholesome; gossip is unwholesome; covetousness is unwholesome; ill will is unwholesome; wrong view is unwholesome. This is called the unwholesome.

And what is the root of the unwholesome? Greed is a root of the unwholesome; hate is a root of the unwholesome; delusion is a root of the unwholesome. This is called the root of the unwholesome.

MN 9

AN 6.63 says kamma is intention, as follows:

Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech and intellect.

And what is the cause of kamma? Contact is the cause of kamma.

AN 6.63

There two or three suttas, such as MN 144, where a monk in the Buddha's time ends their own life using a knife due to unbearable totally incapacitating pain from some terminal illness. In these suttas, other monks do not help them end their life. This said, monks are totally forbidden by Vinaya from helping or encouraging another person end their life. A monk that even encourages another human being to end their life is immediately defeated and is no longer a monk.

Therefore, the kamma of mercy killing, that is, ending the life of a creature that will inevitably & imminently pass away is obviously not as unwholesome as killing due with violence due to hate or greed. However, the question must be asked whose pain is being alleviated? Is it the pain of the injured/dying or the pain of oneself? Also, the question must be asked: "Is there aversion within myself to to dying creature?"

Veterinarians often put down animals. Possibly you can research and read about their experiences, such as here.

Ultimately, Buddhism explains in its 1st Noble Truth suffering is attachment to the five aggregates (rather than physical pain). Unless we have some special psychic power, we cannot know if & how much attachment occurs in the mind of various animals.

For example, on one occasion, I came across a wallaby (small kangaroo) with back legs broken and disabled, recently struck by a motor vehicle. The wallaby did not appear to have much or any attachment. The wallaby appeared to not be asking anything from me. I phoned the local nature-care rescuers but, by the time they arrived, I observed the wallaby's lifeforce end. It was sad but I spent my time letting go of any of my own attachment and reflecting on Dhamma.

  • What I am taking from the MN 144 sutta is that ultimately actions themself are not inherently good or bad, like the action of (mercy) killing itself does not lead one to states of woe, it is the intention behind such actions that lead to such states. The monk was not clinging to this/his life or the next but was just trying to alleviate incurable illness, I assume an illness that he could not overcome and progress towards liberation with.
    – Remyla
    Apr 8, 2022 at 21:41
  • yes, in MN 144, the monk had no desire for another type of life. His intent was only to end his current life because he was totally incapacitated and became a burden to the others who offered to help him. His life was basically over. Apr 8, 2022 at 21:44
  • the monk was obviously already liberated. In Buddhism, non-clinging is liberation. Apr 8, 2022 at 21:45
  • And the Buddha himself stating he was blameless is meaning that he created no negativity because his actions were not born of the 3 poisons? It does really raise a more poignant point that if one is "awake" to a certain degree, sees the fruitlessness of chasing sensory pleasure and is only focused on liberation as a goal, but is unable to attain such a state in this life because of whatever reason, say illness, what would be the point of living at all anyway. Other than "wasting" or "creating" karma in a life not worth living.
    – Remyla
    Apr 8, 2022 at 21:48
  • If the monk was liberated it is a moot point in this discussion as one cannot then become "unliberated" back in samsaric cycle by the negative results of suicide/killing out of mercy. I have once heard that essentially after one becomes an arhant life itself is just a situation waiting to die. Everything is complete, there is nothing to do or any desires. If one cannot create negative actions to bring oneself into a state samsaric existence again it seems suicide is a viable option. Though that itself would be a desire so I doubt one would have the inclination.
    – Remyla
    Apr 8, 2022 at 21:54

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