BMC has redefined a Phrase in 3rd Parajika (Murder) rule and conclude that “Assisted Suicide” is “Murder”.
BMC (Thanissaro) page 81:
b) Arranging an assassin. As the rule indicates, a bhikkhu may commit an
offense under this rule not only by using any of the six above-mentioned means
of taking life but also by “searching for an assassin.” The Vibhaºga explains this
phrase in the rule simply with a list of weapons: a sword, a spear, a harpoon (§—
BD omits this item), a skewer/stake, a club, a stone, a knife, poison, or a rope.
There are two ways of making sense of this list. One is that, because the Pali
word for assassin is literally “knife-carrier” (satthah›raka), the Vibhaºga is taking
pains to explain that an assassin might also use other weapons aside from a
knife. The other way of interpreting the list, favored by the Commentary, is to
view the Vibhaºga’s list as an attempt to define the word satthaharaka—which,
according to the Commentary, is a general term for a murderous weapon. The
Commentary then goes on to say that the entire phrase searching for an assassin
means setting up a stationary device, as described above. There are two
problems with this interpretation, the first being that the word satthaharaka
clearly means “assassin” in other parts of the Canon (see, for example, MN 145);
the second being that this interpretation makes the phrase entirely superfluous:
setting up a stationary device is already covered by another part of the rule.
Thus we will follow the first interpretation of the Vibhaºga’s explanation of the
phrase: It is indicating that an assassin may use any weapon at all.
The question remains, however, as to how this interpretation is not
redundant with commanding under the explanation of the ways of taking life. The
answer appears to be this: The word satthaharaka is most commonly used in the
Canon in the context of an assisted suicide, in which a person who wants to die
but cannot bring himself to commit suicide arranges for someone else, a
satthaharaka, to kill him. Thus the inclusion of this phrase in the rule means that
a bhikkhu intent on dying who arranges for someone else to do the job for him
would incur all the derived offenses leading up to the actual death. At present,
this would rule out trying to get a doctor to arrange an assisted suicide for
oneself. If one were to help arrange an assisted suicide for someone else, the case
would come under commanding, above, as would the case of arranging an
assassin for someone else not at that person’s request.
As we will see below, cases where one tries to kill oneself without arranging
for someone else to do the job would not come under this rule. The apparent
reason for making a distinction and including the act of “searching for an
assassin” to kill oneself under this rule is that, in doing so, one would be asking
another person to take on the seriously unskillful kamma of taking a human life.
Both Vinaya and Commentary, doesn’t consider “assisted suicide for oneself” as “Murder”. This is a grave misinterpretation of 3rd Parajika rule.
Again, BMC goes on to misinterpret the Minor rule on “Suicide” and justifies a suicide if it doesn’t endanger others.
BMC (Thanissaro) page 85:
The Commentary extrapolates from this case to apply the dukka˛a to all
attempts at suicide, including even the decision not to take food when motivated
by a desire to die. However, it then runs into the question of how far this penalty
applies to a bhikkhu who is ill. Its verdict: As long as medicine and attendants are
available to him, the penalty would still apply. But then it lists two cases where
the penalty would not apply: (a) A bhikkhu is suffering from a long and serious
illness, and the attendant bhikkhus are fed up with caring for him, thinking,
“When will we be free of this sick one?” If the bhikkhu reflects that, even with
medical care, his body won’t last and that the bhikkhus are being put to
difficulties, he incurs no penalty in refusing food and medicine. (b) A bhikkhu—
reflecting that his illness is harsh, the forces of life are running out, and yet the
noble attainments appear to be within his reach—may refuse food and medicine
The Commentary’s deliberations here show how difficult it is to legislate in
this area, and there are reasons to question the way it applies the Great
Standards here. Case (b) is apparently derived from SN 4.23, where Ven.
Godhika takes his life and gains arahantship just moments before death; and
from SN 35.87, where the Buddha says that one who puts down this body
without taking up another body dies blamelessly. However, in arriving at its
verdict in this case, the Commentary has to add the factors of motivation and
perception to the equation, factors that are absent from the rule on which the
judgment is based. It also leaves unanswered the question of how harsh the
disease has to be, and how near the anticipated attainments, to qualify for this
This same holds true for case (a), which entails even more dubious reasoning.
The Commentary’s judgment here has no clear precedent in the Canon; there is
no clear line for deciding exactly how bad the illness and how fed up the
attendants have to be for this case to apply; and why should the feelings of other
people determine when it is or is not allowable to refuse food?
It is worth noting that the origin story to the original rule here gave the
Buddha the opportunity, had he wanted it, to formulate a general rule against
attempted suicides, but he chose not to. He later formulated this subsidiary rule
only when a bhikkhu attempted a suicide in a way that endangered the life and
safety of another person. Thus a more appropriate way of applying the Great
Standards to this subsidiary rule would be to extend it only to cases of that sort:
where a bhikkhu’s attempts at suicide would bring danger to another person’s
life and limb.
As for ways of attempting suicide that do not endanger others, it seems
better to follow the Buddha’s wisdom in not legislating about this issue at all, and
to treat it as a matter of Dhamma rather than Vinaya. In other words, one
should keep in mind his comment in SN 35.87 that the only blameless death is an
arahant’s. If, lacking that attainment, one chooses to refuse food when ill to
speed up one’s death, one should be heedful of the risks that death and rebirth
The above is merely an speculation which misinterprets the explicit Minor rule laid down by the Buddha.
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