The Buddha's suicide

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Digity
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Re: Did Buddha Knowingly Kill Himself?

Postby Digity » Mon Feb 03, 2014 4:45 am

Why did they later embellish the Buddha's life story? Isn't that tantamount to lieing, which seems like bad karma considering what they're lieing about.

I honestly don't know what to make of all the stories about devas and Jakarta tales, etc. In my opinion, it's doesn't matter that much, because the main message about the path and walking it doesn't get lost due to these stories. If anything, many of them illustrate important lessons. However, the idea that they're embellishments really doesn't sit well with me.

diptych4
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The Buddha's suicide

Postby diptych4 » Mon Aug 10, 2015 2:19 pm

The ‘Voluntary’ Death of the Buddha - So Does Buddhism Deliver?

Nobody, ever, appears to have commented upon the fact that the details of the Buddha's final demise, as recorded in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, strike right at the very heart of Buddhism itself. The Sutta reveals a crotchety old man who not only chose both the time and place of his death, but that he also had nothing but the highest praise and gratitude for the man whose meal finally hastened it, and thus ended the sufferings which attended his old age.

Events begin at Rajgir, where the octogenarian Gautama decides, for reasons unstated, to begin a long trek northwards. During this arduous journey he complains to his disciple, Ananda, that his ageing body is now like an old chariot held together by string, and that he can only escape its sufferings whilst he is in trance. He falls desperately ill at Vaisali, recovers, and after announcing that he will die three months hence, he journeys laboriously on to his final resting place at the ‘little wattle and daub town’ of Kusinara. His comments to Ananda clearly show that he had intended to die at Kusinara, and his journeyings, forever northwards, would support this view.

Moreover, from the details that we are given of the final meal itself – given to the Buddha at Pava, by the local blacksmith, Cunda – it seems highly likely that this was intended to be fatal. Before the mysterious meal of 'sukara-maddava' is served, the Buddha instructs his host that it is to be given to him only (the other monks receiving sweetmeats and rice) and afterwards orders that the toxic remains of it are to be buried in a pit. Having falling mortally ill from this meal, the Buddha then insists that not only Cunda should receive neither censure nor blame, but that he has, indeed, performed a greatly meritorious act, which can only be compared, in its cosmic implications, to the meal given to the Buddha just before his Enlightenment. It would thus appear that the Buddha praised Cunda's meal because it both hastened and caused his death, and that this death was therefore planned and deliberate (and here, we may recall his earlier declaration at Vaisali giving notice of his impending demise).

From these details we must surely agree with Vallee-Poussin’s statement that ' In the case of Sakyamuni we have to deal with a voluntary death'. Despite present orthodox Buddhist admonitions against suicide, it would appear that it was then considered acceptable as a means of obtaining final release, with the Buddha himself condoning the suicides of both Khanna and Kallika, the Jains practicing their 'Great Renunciation' by starving themselves to death, and certain other sramanas choosing to immolate themselves by setting themselves on fire. But what does all this say about the promise of Buddhism to achieve release from suffering by following the Eightfold Path? Are we thus to suppose that this release is only attainable to us (and was to the Buddha) in the post-mortem state - and is therefore unverifiable - and that T.S. Eliot was right in declaring that ‘even the most exalted mystic must ultimately return to the earth’?

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Aug 10, 2015 2:31 pm

:redherring:
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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby ryanM » Mon Aug 10, 2015 3:25 pm

:stirthepot:

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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby Coyote » Mon Aug 10, 2015 4:20 pm

I think you bring up some interesting points. It is correct to say that dukkha is not fully ended until anupādisesa nibbāna, as far as I can see. Until then:

    I don't delight in death, don't delight in living. I await my time like a worker his wage. - Thag 14.1

    "Monks, there are these three kinds of suffering. What three? Suffering caused by pain, suffering caused by the formations (or conditioned existence),suffering due to change. It is for the full comprehension, clear understanding, ending and abandonment of these three forms of suffering that the Noble Eightfold Path is to be cultivated..." - SN 45.165

From these details we must surely agree with Vallee-Poussin’s statement that ' In the case of Sakyamuni we have to deal with a voluntary death'. Despite present orthodox Buddhist admonitions against suicide, it would appear that it was then considered acceptable as a means of obtaining final release, with the Buddha himself condoning the suicides of both Khanna and Kallika, the Jains practicing their 'Great Renunciation' by starving themselves to death, and certain other sramanas choosing to immolate themselves by setting themselves on fire.


Are you saying there are parallels to Jain ritual suicide in the suttas?
Last edited by Coyote on Mon Aug 10, 2015 4:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Aug 10, 2015 4:42 pm

I am not condoning suicide, but the reality is we all die. No one gets out of this world alive. An arahant has gone beyond the craving for existence, the craving to continue. It is not really suicide, but just not going any extra effort to keep the body alive, since the task is done.

Alternatively, it could be hagiography in the same way Jesus was reported to have wished his death and that it was all some sort of divine plan, even though he said "father why have you foresaken me" while dying on the cross. It could be to elevate the status of the founders of religions to omniscience, that they wanted to die and expected it in some way.

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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby diptych4 » Mon Aug 10, 2015 4:47 pm

Coyote wrote:I think you bring up some interesting points. It is correct to say that dukkha is not fully ended until anupādisesa nibbāna, as far as I can see. Until then:

    I don't delight in death, don't delight in living. I await my time like a worker his wage. - Thag 14.1

    "Monks, there are these three kinds of suffering. What three? Suffering caused by pain, suffering caused by the formations (or conditioned existence),suffering due to change. It is for the full comprehension, clear understanding, ending and abandonment of these three forms of suffering that the Noble Eightfold Path is to be cultivated..." - SN 45.165

From these details we must surely agree with Vallee-Poussin’s statement that ' In the case of Sakyamuni we have to deal with a voluntary death'. Despite present orthodox Buddhist admonitions against suicide, it would appear that it was then considered acceptable as a means of obtaining final release, with the Buddha himself condoning the suicides of both Khanna and Kallika, the Jains practicing their 'Great Renunciation' by starving themselves to death, and certain other sramanas choosing to immolate themselves by setting themselves on fire.


Are you saying there are parallels to Jain ritual suicide in the suttas?


Not at all, merely pointing out that in those days there would not appear to have been the kind of moral aversion to suicide that we find in later Buddhist commentaries.
Last edited by SDC on Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Corrected quotes for clarification with poster's permission

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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby mal4mac » Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:31 pm

diptych4 wrote:
The Sutta reveals a crotchety old man...



Crotchety means "irritable". Would you like to point out where the sutta describes the Buddha as irritated?

diptych4 wrote:... ended the sufferings which attended his old age.


The Buddha did not suffer.

diptych4 wrote:... he complains to his disciple, Ananda, that his ageing body is now like an old chariot held together by string, and that he can only escape its sufferings whilst he is in trance.


A driver might have a car with a broken down engine and say to a friend, "the poor old heap is suffering." Here, of course, the car isn't suffering, the driver is using "suffering" as a metaphor for "not fit for purpose". The Buddha's body is no longer fit for purpose - he can't walk around the country teaching any more - so he might as well junk his body.

Are you using an old translation? "Trance" is now replaced by the term "concentration" in better translations. The Buddha was perfectly concentrated at all times therefore he is teasing Ananda a bit here - and also suggesting that, if he was an ordinary person, he would be suffering great torment. In reality, the Buddha is not suffering at all.

diptych4 wrote:Despite present orthodox Buddhist admonitions against suicide, it would appear that it was then considered acceptable as a means of obtaining final release


If an ordinary person commits suicide they will not attain para-nibbana, but are likely to suffer a bad rebirth.
- Mal

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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby diptych4 » Mon Aug 10, 2015 6:39 pm

mal4mac wrote:
diptych4 wrote:
The Sutta reveals a crotchety old man...



Crotchety means "irritable". Would you like to point out where the sutta describes the Buddha as irritated?


Well, he gets pretty teed off with Upavana for standing in front of him on his deathbed - who wouldn't? - and despite Ananda's pleas, orders him away. We are told that he is 'not pleased' with Upavana. That sounds to me remarkably like irritation.

mal4mac wrote:
diptych4 wrote:... ended the sufferings which attended his old age.


The Buddha did not suffer.


Read the Sutta. That's not what he tells Ananda. 'Only when the Tathagata, by ceasing to attend to any outward thing, and by the cessation of any separate sensation, becomes plunged into that concentration of heart which is concerned with no material object, only then is the body of the Tathagata at ease' (Ling translation). If that isn't suffering then I'm Betty Grable.
Last edited by SDC on Mon Aug 10, 2015 9:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Quoting correction

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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby m0rl0ck » Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:17 pm

To answer the second part of your question, yes it delivers. Buddhist practice has made me more content in my own life day to day and i know others who feel likewise about it.
It isnt about being in some kind of trance periodically, practice makes you happier and more centered day to day, moment to moment.
You have to actually do the practice though, to see the benefits and many people dont seem to be up to it, or maybe they just never become desperate enough to cultivate the commitment needed to stick with it.
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"Mt. Sumeru."
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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby diptych4 » Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:15 pm

m0rl0ck wrote:To answer the second part of your question, yes it delivers. Buddhist practice has made me more content in my own life day to day and i know others who feel likewise about it.
It isnt about being in some kind of trance periodically, practice makes you happier and more centered day to day, moment to moment.
You have to actually do the practice though, to see the benefits and many people dont seem to be up to it, or maybe they just never become desperate enough to cultivate the commitment needed to stick with it.


I'm not questioning whether Buddhist practice improves your general experience of life - 55 years of that has amply proved to me that it does - but whether it delivers on its promise to finally put you beyond ALL suffering. The Sutta reveals that it didn't do that for the Buddha whilst he was still alive, that he appeared to have sought relief from his present sufferings through arranging his own death, and that the implications of this need exploring.

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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby mal4mac » Mon Aug 10, 2015 9:21 pm

diptych4 wrote:
I'm not questioning whether Buddhist practice improves your general experience of life - 55 years of that has amply proved to me that it does - but whether it delivers on its promise to finally put you beyond ALL suffering. The Sutta reveals that it didn't do that for the Buddha whilst he was still alive, that he appeared to have sought relief from his present sufferings through arranging his own death, and that the implications of this need exploring.


No it doesn't, here's a quote from the sutta:

"But when the Blessed One had entered upon the rainy season, there arose in him a severe illness, and sharp and deadly pains came upon him. And the Blessed One endured them mindfully, clearly comprehending and unperturbed."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... html#fn-17

Notice he was "unperturbed". There were pains, but no suffering.
- Mal

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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby mal4mac » Mon Aug 10, 2015 9:34 pm

diptych4 wrote: 'Only when the Tathagata, by ceasing to attend to any outward thing, and by the cessation of any separate sensation, becomes plunged into that concentration of heart which is concerned with no material object, only then is the body of the Tathagata at ease' (Ling translation). If that isn't suffering then I'm Betty Grable.



Maybe he had Parkinson's disease, or a similar disabling disease. He did not suffer from the disease, even if his body was shaking and useless for everyday matter like walking & teaching. Perhaps using concentration he could undermine the trembling or convulsions in his body. He explicitly says in the sutta that his job is done, he's given a vast amount of teachings and now his Sangha is fully equipped to do the teaching. The evidence throughout hundreds of suttas is that he was beyond suffering, being an Enlightened being.
- Mal

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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby cooran » Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:15 pm

Yes - I think that understanding what 'suffering' is - the meaning of it in the Teaching of the Buddha, is important.

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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby Dhammanando » Tue Aug 11, 2015 12:30 am

diptych4 wrote:
mal4mac wrote:
diptych4 wrote:Crotchety means "irritable". Would you like to point out where the sutta describes the Buddha as irritated?


Well, he gets pretty teed off with Upavana for standing in front of him on his deathbed - who wouldn't? - and despite Ananda's pleas, orders him away. We are told that he is 'not pleased' with Upavana. That sounds to me remarkably like irritation.


Bad translation. The Pali doesn't say that the Buddha was "not pleased" but only that he dismissed (or perhaps "rebuked" — apasādesi) Upavāṇa. It was the visiting devas who were not pleased, for Upavāṇa was obstructing their view of the Buddha.

If, however, the sutta had reported that the Buddha was not pleased with Upavāṇa, that would still fall a long way short of attributing "crotchetiness" to him.
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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby samseva » Tue Aug 11, 2015 1:20 am

diptych4 wrote:I'm not questioning whether Buddhist practice improves your general experience of life - 55 years of that has amply proved to me that it does - but whether it delivers on its promise to finally put you beyond ALL suffering. The Sutta reveals that it didn't do that for the Buddha whilst he was still alive, that he appeared to have sought relief from his present sufferings through arranging his own death, and that the implications of this need exploring.

The suffering mentioned in the above text is physical suffering. There are two kinds of dukkha; physical and mental. Mental suffering completely ceases after the attainment of Nibbāna, whereas physical suffering only ceases after the breakup of the aggregates of an Arahant (Parinibbāna). Even for an Arahant (or the Buddha), physical dukkha is painful; although no mental dukkha arrises from it, as described in the Sallatha Sutta.

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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby Anagarika » Tue Aug 11, 2015 1:21 am

Nobody, ever, appears to have commented upon the fact that the details of the Buddha's final demise, as recorded in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, strike right at the very heart of Buddhism itself.


I'm guessing that the paucity of commentary on this thesis derives from the lack of evidence for such a conclusion.

If you wish to consider the elements described in the lengthy Mahaparinibbana Sutta as descriptive of a planned suicide, you are entitled to make that argument, but not much in this lengthy discourse suggests that the Buddha orchestrated the end of his life. Rather, at an advanced age, tired, sick and in pain (albeit mitigated by jhana), the Buddha understood that his time was drawing near, and while in Kusinara, he entered this final stage. Even though Ananda suggested that he not pass in Kusinara (it not being at that time a prominent town) the Buddha reflected on the town's past glory. It seems to me that he knew his time was coming, and the town of Kusinara was suitable enough. Were he organizing a planned suicide one might think the Buddha and Ananda would have planned for a more prominent location, amidst kings and supporters, and not the local clansmen of a small town.

I also take note of Ananda's behavior, weeping in the doorway of the vihara in Kusinara. Were the Buddha planning a suicide, would not Ananda have known of this or have been part of the grande plan? Would he have wept in a doorway, or would he have been more engaged or involved in the process, were it a planned process, sanctioned by the Buddha? Instead, Ananda leans against a doorway and weeps, saddened by the impending passing of his weakened, ill Teacher in this unexpected place. Cunda's meal likely was a full meal that aggravated what had been a longterm progressive dysentery or mesenteric infarction, and not a singular poisoned meal, as some have suggested. It was buried only because the Buddha did not want the dana of Cunda to an ill man confused with the act of a poisoner.

I'm not a scholar in this area, and only a student reader of these Suttas. But in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, I see no evidence of a suicide ideology or plan, and to suggest otherwise, and to tie this suggestion to an internal contradiction in the Dhamma, seems unfounded and unskillful.
Last edited by Anagarika on Tue Aug 11, 2015 1:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby SarathW » Tue Aug 11, 2015 1:34 am

I wonder how Buddha can suicide if there is no Buddha to die!
If we are talking about the five aggregate, it will destroy in it's own accord.
We can keep an old building alive for few years by patching it up.
So Buddha also would have kept his body for some time by will power.
In this case Parinibbana is no different to someone decided to retire from his work.
:shrug:

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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby Pondera » Tue Aug 11, 2015 5:46 am

"My heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, was released from the effluent of sensuality, released from the effluent of becoming, released from the effluent of ignorance. With release, there was the knowledge, 'Released.' I discerned that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.' MN 19


He has taken rebirth up by the very root. That is the underlying meaning of "an end to suffering." Nirvana in the here and now. Nothing further for this world. Sure. Nirvana here and there. Crotchety old man here and elsewhere. But the conditions for a rebirth - the effluent of sensuality - of becoming - of ignorance ; all extinguished.

Rebirth is a huge underlying assumption in Buddhism. Some say take it or leave it. Maybe this will be of interest http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/truth_of_rebirth.html
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Re: The Buddha's suicide

Postby mal4mac » Tue Aug 11, 2015 9:26 am

samseva wrote:The suffering mentioned in the above text is physical suffering. There are two kinds of dukkha; physical and mental. Mental suffering completely ceases after the attainment of Nibbāna, whereas physical suffering only ceases after the breakup of the aggregates of an Arahant (Parinibbāna). Even for an Arahant (or the Buddha), physical dukkha is painful; although no mental dukkha arrises from it,...


The Third Noble Truth is usually stated as "The Truth of the Cessation of Dukkha" [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Noble_Truths] Are you saying this should amended to "The Truth of the Cessation of Mental Dukkha"? Sorry, I can't see that. Surely the Buddha was totally free from physical suffering, even if he still felt physical pain. So, in my (intellectual!) understanding, physical pain only ceases after the breakup of the aggregates, but physical dukkha ceases on attainment of Nibbana, in this life, along with mental dukkha.
- Mal


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