Buddhism and euthanasia

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There are many different views about Buddhism and euthanasia.

Theravada Buddhism[edit]

In Theravada Buddhism, a lay person daily recites the simple formula: "I undertake the precept to abstain from destroying living beings."[1] For Buddhist monastics (bhikkhu) however the rules are more explicitly spelled out. For example, in the monastic code (Patimokkha), it states:

"Should any bhikkhu intentionally deprive a human being of life, or search for an assassin for him, or praise the advantages of death, or incite him to die (thus): 'My good man, what use is this wretched, miserable life to you? Death would be better for you than life,' or with such an idea in mind, such a purpose in mind, should in various ways praise the advantages of death or incite him to die, he also is defeated and no longer in communion."[2]


In other words, such a monk or nun would be expelled irrevocably from the Buddhist monastic community (sangha).[3] The prohibition against assisting another in their death includes circumstances when a monastic is caring for the terminally ill and extends to a prohibition against a monastic's purposively hastening another's death through word, action or treatment.[2]

Thanissaro Bhikkhu[edit]

American Buddhist monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:

Thus, from the Buddha's perspective, encouraging a sick person to relax her grip on life or to give up the will to live would not count as an act of compassion. Instead of trying to ease the patient's transition to death, the Buddha focused on easing his or her insight into suffering and its end.[4]

Tenzin Gyatso[edit]

The Dalai Lama was cited by the Agence-France Presse in an 18 September 1996 article entitled "Dalai Lama Backs Euthanasia in Exceptional Circumstances" regarding his position on legal euthanasia:

Asked his view on euthanasia, the Dalai Lama said Buddhists believed every life was precious and none more so than human life, adding: 'I think it's better to avoid it.'
'But at the same time I think with abortion, (which) Buddhism considers an act of killing ... the Buddhist way is to judge the right and wrong or the pros and cons.'
He cited the case of a person in a coma with no possibility of recovery or a woman whose pregnancy threatened her life or that of the child or both where the harm caused by not taking action might be greater.
"These are, I think from the Buddhist viewpoint, exceptional cases," he said. "So it's best to be judged on a case by case basis."


  1. ^ This is the first of the Five Precepts. It has various interpretations.
  2. ^ a b Thanissaro Bhikkhu (1994). Buddhist Monastic Code I: Chapter 4, Parajika. Retrieved 2007-11-11 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/bmc1/ch04.html.
  3. ^ There are only four offenses (parajika) that could lead to such an expulsion for a monk; eight such offenses for a nun (bhikkhuni). The other three parajika for monks are: engaging in a sexual act; stealing; and, falsely claiming to have achieved advanced spiritual states (such as jhanic absorptions or nibbana) (Thanissaro 1994).
  4. ^ Thanissaro Bhikkhu “Educating Compassion” Article link at Access to Insight

Further reading[edit]