Was Thích Quảng Đức an arahant despite being a Mahayanist?


Thich Quang Duc was a Thien (Vietnamese Chan) monk of the Mahayana tradition. He is known to have immolated himself alive while being totally impassive, as a sign of protest against a ruler hostile to Buddhism. In fact, he declared the nianfo of Amitābha Buddha just before he struck the match that caused his immolation.

Do you think he is arahant, or at least sotapanna, despite being a Mahayanist?
More broadly, do you think a mahayanist can become an arahant (or at least sotapanna)?

I ask this question because it was when I saw the image of his impassive immolation that I thought that there might be a possibility of ending suffering, and from then on I became interested in Buddhism. However, I follow the orthodox Theravada.

Thanks in advance

May all beings attain the Buddha’s View.

No ariya could commit suicide as they cannot break the 5 precepts, the ones in the canon who did became ariyas after thier attempted suicide, not before.

I dont think he became an arahant while burning alive either. He was likely just someone of high jhana attainments so his concentrative powers allowed him to stay still while being burned alive.

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Thank you very much.

However, Bhikkhu Godhika committed suicide while having reached (temporarily) nirvana (so he committed suicide while having reached enlightenment). Wasn’t he ariya at the time of the suicide?

Not nibbana, jhana.

Bhikkhu bodhi: "(V 320,24-25). Spk: He reflected thus: “Since the destination
after death of one who has fallen away from jhana is
uncertain, while one who has not fallen away is certain of
rebirth in the brahma world, let me use the knife”

Apparently he slit his throat, felt aversion to the pain or fear, and used those objects to develop vipassana and go through path and fruits and vipassana knowledges in the time before bleeding to death .


Thank you very much, it’s very interesting!

However, there are two things that sow doubt in my mind, please.

The first one is that the sutta says that Godhika went into “mind liberation” 7 times, but Godhika does not say “I went away from temporary mind liberation 7 times, let me use this knife”, but he says “I went away from temporary mind liberation 6 times, let me use this knife”. This suggests that at the time he wants to use the knife, out of the 7 mind liberation he has reached, he has only left 6 out of 7, so at the time he wants to use the knife, he is still in mind liberation. Now, jhana is an absorption where you cannot think about the concept of the knife. So I feel that there is a problem in interpreting mind release as jhana.

My second doubt concerns this other sutta:

“So, Reverend Channa, you should pay close attention to this instruction of the Buddha whenever you can: ‘For the dependent there is agitation. For the independent there’s no agitation. When there’s no agitation there is tranquility. When there is tranquility there’s no inclination. When there’s no inclination there’s no coming and going. When there’s no coming and going there’s no passing away and reappearing. When there’s no passing away and reappearing there’s no this world or world beyond or between the two. Just this is the end of suffering.’” And when the venerables Sāriputta and Mahācunda had given Venerable Channa this advice they got up from their seat and left.

Not long after those venerables had left, Venerable Channa slit his wrists.

When someone lays down this body and takes up another body, I call them ‘blameworthy’. But the mendicant Channa did no such thing. You should remember this: ‘The beggar Channa slit his wrists blamelessly.’"


Please see here.

Suicide: Sutta versus Commentary

144. Channovādasutta
Advice to Channa

So what does the commentary say?

  1. Satthaṃ āharesīti jīvitahārakaṃ satthaṃ āhari, kaṇṭhanāḷiṃ chindi. Athassa tasmiṃ khaṇe maraṇabhayaṃ okkami, gatinimittaṃ upaṭṭhāsi. So attano puthujjanabhāvaṃ ñatvā saṃviggo vipassanaṃ paṭṭhapetvā saṅkhāre pariggaṇhanto arahattaṃ patvā samasīsī hutvā parinibbāyi

A rough translation summary is below:

He used the knife to take his own life. He cut his throat. Then at that moment, fearful of death fell upon him. The gati nimitta (sign of death-destination) appeared. He realized he was not enlightened and knowing that, he got the urgency in dhamma and practiced vipassana. Fully grasping by knowledge the saṅkhāre he reached to become an arahant and attained parinibbāna.

Many people dispute this explanation and that is why people who are suttanta kill themselves.

No never, according to Theravada.

Suicide is not included in 5 precepts. It is not Killing. Suicide is a minor offence for monks.

But Venerable Thanissaro’s BMC incorrectly include a type of suicide (a bhikkhu asking someone else to kill the bhikkhu) into the 3rd Parajika (Murder).

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Thank you, so much for helping me clear my doubt! You are luminous to me, and I didn’t know Bhante Subhuti had mentioned it!!!

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It is a minor offense for monks, just as killing insects is. But that necessarily mean its not included in the 5 regular precepts?

It is a shame that the translator took liberties to call it “slitting wrists” especially where the commentary says otherwise. But nowhere in the “mula” does it say cutting one’s own wrists or even close to that. Here is the pāḷi. The “idiom” is only two words.

Satthaṃ, āvuso sāriputta, āharissāmi, nāvakaṅkhāmi jīvitan”ti.

The meaning is is literally "the knife (on oneself), I will take (use) "
Because it is controversially interpreted from Westerners to wrongly believe that arahants can kill themselves, it should be properly translated. After all that is what the commentaries are for. Unfortunately, this wrong interpretation has been used by some suttanta Westerners to take their own lives.


Thank you so much Bhante!!!