suttametta wrote:I write the following at the risk of
At times he contradicts himself; there is the passage about the monk who attained Arahatship while slitting his own throat, and then he makes a vinaya rule about not throwing yourself off a cliff.
The Vinaya prohibition you mention was laid down in the aftermath of a suicidal bhikkhu jumping off a cliff and surviving the fall but snuffing the unfortunate fellow he landed on. However, the rule itself speaks only of "throwing oneself off" and says nothing of cliffs. The prevailing interpretation in Thailand takes the rule as prohibiting bhikkhus from jumping from any high place for any reason whatever. According to this view the rule has no essential connection with suicide. For example, many years ago in a Thai monastery library I happened to jump down from a stool after retrieving a book from a high shelf. The librarian monk, a Vinaya scholar, came over and gave me a dressing down for (in his view) breaking this rule and told me that in future I should climb down, rather than jump, whenever there was a need to get from a high place to a low one.[*]
On the other hand, among the Sinhalese it seems that "throwing oneself off" is widely understood to be an idiomatic expression that covers all conceivable methods of killing oneself. This is the interpretation given by Ven. Thanissaro in his Monastic Code and was also my own understanding when I (with no suicidal intent) jumped off the library stool. In the years since then I've heard some clever arguments for both readings, but without finding either entirely compelling. My current policy is to play it safe by neither killing myself nor jumping off stools.
But to come to the point, no matter which reading of the rule we go with, it doesn't contradict the fact that certain bhikkhu disciples attained arahatta in the act of killing themselves. If the rule does indeed prohibit suicide, then it simply means that they attained arahatta after committing a dukkata offence (which is very minor and not the sort of offence that impedes dhammaabhisamaya). If the rule doesn't prohibit suicide, then they wouldn't even have committed a dukkata, for none are reported to have opted for leaping from high places as their chosen method.
[*] And applying the Great References, presumably the rule would also include leaping from low places to high ones, thus barring bhikkhus from emulating the rather salubrious-looking practice of the Sisters of St. Beryl: