Buddhism and euthanasia

Although the first of the five precepts states, “Do not kill any living being” there is no explicit reference to suicide as is euthanasia 1 2

Buddhist speeches

Both the “Vakkali sutra” and the “Channa sutra” ( Samyutta Nikaya ) describe situations in which monks dispose of their own lives to end the physical suffering of a terminal illness.

In the Vakkali sutra

In the Vakkali sutra of Samyutta Nikaya, 3 the monk Vakkali, who is “gravely ill and afflicted”, speaks with other monks of his intention to use a knife for his own suicide. The moment Buddha Gautama knows his intention, he visits him personally to talk to him.

In this sutra it is clear that Vakkali’s decision to end his life with the motivation to end unnecessary suffering associated with his terminal illness has neither reproach on the part of Buddha nor interferes with the attainment of total liberation or Nirvana .

In the Channa sutra

In the “Channa sutra” of Salayatanasamyutta ( Samyutta Nikaya : 35: 87 [4]; pp.1164-1167 of the Bodhi translation 4 ), the monk Channa, who is suffering intensely due to illness, counts the monks Sariputra and Mahacunda that his condition is getting worse and that his pretense is to end his life with a knife.

Sariputra and Mahacunda exhort Channa not to commit suicide, but he decides to do likewise, stating that he has led a life without guilt. Sariputra, believing that Channa could have broken precepts of Patimokkha, the strict moral code of bhikkhu (monks), asks Buddha about the rebirth of Channa. Budha responds that Channa has done nothing wrong and that, in fact, will attain the freedom of the wheel of birth and death.

Point of view of the Dalai Lama

Tenzin Gyatso speaks in favor of euthanasia for those in coma with no possibility of recovery in an article in the Tibet Tibet Committee of the World Tibet Network News, published on September 18, 1996.


  1. Back to top↑ “Vakkali Sutta” of the Samyutta Nikaya
  2. Back to top↑ “Channa Sutta” of the Salayatanasamyutta (Samyutta Nikaya: 35: 87 [4], pp.1164-1167 of the Bodhi translation)
  3. Back to top↑ SN 22.87
  4. Back to top↑ Bodhi, Bhikkhu (2000). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha . Boston: Wisdom Publications. Pp. 1164-1167. ISBN  0861713311 .

Bibliography in English

  • Barnes M (April 1996). «Euthanasia: Buddhist principles». Br. Med. Bull. 52 (2): 369-75. doi : 10.1093 / oxfordjournals.bmb.a011552 . PMID  8759235 .
  • Keown D, Keown J (October 1995). «Killing, karma and caring: euthanasia in Buddhism and Christianity» . J Med Ethics 21 (5): 265-9. doi : 10.1136 / jme.21.5.265 . PMC  1376772 . PMID  8558539 .
  • Lecso PA (1986). «Euthanasia: a Buddhist perspective». J Relig Health 25 (1): 51-7. doi : 10.1007 / BF01533053 . PMID  11651853 .
  • Perrett RW (October 1996). “Buddhism, euthanasia and the sanctity of life .” J Med Ethics 22 (5): 309-13. doi : 10.1136 / jme.22.5.309 . PMC  1377066 . PMID  8910785 .