Suicide by Fire: How the Indian Ascetic Kalanos Was Mistaken for a Buddhist

Bhikkhu Sujato


Suicide by fire is well documented in later Buddhist texts, especially from China, but it is not attested in South Asian sources for early Buddhism. Greek sources tell us that the Indian ascetic Kalanos committed suicide by fire while travelling with Alexander the Great. In a recent edition of this journal (JOCBS 8, 2015), Georgias Halkias argued that Kalanos may have been a Buddhist monk. However, the evidence he adduces does not establish this. On the contrary, the Greeks described Kalanos in a way that is very much unlike that of a Buddhist renunciant. It remains the case that suicide by fire is not an early Buddhist practice.

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