Chapter

A Buddhist perspective on suicide

Somparn Promta and Prakarn Thomyangkoon

in Oxford Textbook of Suicidology and Suicide Prevention

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

ISBN: 9780198570059
Published online July 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199640461 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/med/9780198570059.003.0005

Series: Oxford Textbooks

A Buddhist perspective on suicide

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The basic morality of Buddhism is based on the content of the five precepts: killing is an evil; stealing is an evil; sexual misconduct is an evil; lying is an evil; and taking intoxicants is an evil.

Buddhism does not consider killing merely in its form but in its origin, and judges whether or not it is immoral case by case, according to its complicated and contextual factors. Suicide is a type of killing, and the moral rules applying to all types of killing, apply also to suicide. All of the precepts in Buddhism are written in general form, meaning that there is considerable room for interpretation. This chapter discusses interpretations of cases when suicide may be considered as morally wrong and when it can be morally acceptable. Generally speaking, suicide is not necessarily an evil in the Buddhist perspective: some are morally acceptable. All sects of Buddhism agree that death is just a transformation of life, and that we live to die and we die to live again. Therefore, suicide is viewed differently from other religions, which do not believe in life after death or reincarnation.

The chapter concludes with epidemiological data concerning suicide in different Buddhist countries in Asia, which show a range of 6/100,000 in Thailand to 35/100,000 in Sri Lanka. In accordance with the statistics, the Buddhist religion may impact the suicide rate differently depending on the national context.

Chapter.  9915 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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