Suicide is the act of deliberately killing oneself. People commit suicide out of despair, to escape suffering, to avoid shame or humiliation or sometimes as a political statement.
The Tipiṭaka 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).
An unusual way to kill oneself was to forcibly hold the breath (Ja.II,7).
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 sallekhanā 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.
It is an offence entailing expulsion from the Saṅgha 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 one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
‘Buddhism and Suicide’, Damien Keown, Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Vol.3,1996.