Suicide (attavadha or attamàraõiya) is the act of deliberately killing oneself. Sometimes it was also referred to as `taking the knife' (satthahàrati, S.V,320). People commit suicide out of despair, to escape suffering, to avoid shame or humiliation, or sometimes as a political statement. The Tipiñaka records a case of a young husband and wife committing suicide because the woman's parents were determined to break up their marriage (M.II,110) and of a group of monks who killed themselves out of self-disgust (S.V,320). The Buddha mentioned that people would sometimes stab themselves, take poison, jump off cliffs or hang themselves because of self-directed anger and rage (A.IV,97-8). Religious suicide was sometimes practised in ancient India too. Jain monks undertook a practice called sallekhanà which involved fasting to death.
According to Buddhist ethics, suicide is a negative action similar to murder. Whereas murder follows from destructive emotions and intentions directed towards another, suicide involves the same or similar negative states directed towards oneself. Of course someone contemplating suicide does not need being told that what they are thinking of doing is wrong, they need emotional support and counselling. When a desperately ill monk talked of killing himself Sàriputta counselled him with these words: `Do not kill yourself Channa. Live. I want you to live. If you do not have suitable food or medicine I will get it for you. If you do not have suitable care I will care for you. Do not kill yourself. Live. I want you to live'(M.III,264).
It is an offence entailing expulsion from the Saïgha for a monk or nun to encourage someone to commit suicide or to assist them in doing so (Vin.III,71). Suicide is virtually unknown in Bhutan, while Sri Lanka has had for many years an unusually high suicide rate.