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death with equanimity

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Chapter – II

THE CONCEPT OF

VOLUNTARY PEACEFUL DEATH

AS OBTAINED IN ARDHAMĀGADH— CANONICAL WORKS

 

2.1

2.1 Introductory –

The concept of Samādhimaraṇa is an outcome of a serious thought given by the profound seers and thinkers, down the ages, to the matter of life and death. They concluded that everyone loves life and fears death. Everyone wants to live and none wants to die.i ‘If death is frightening and at the same time inevitable, a way had to be found to overcome the fear associated with it’, they thought. After centuries and millenniums of deep and profound thought they concluded that the fear of death could be overcome only if one accepted its inevitability and faced it squarely when it stared one in the face. There was also the question of utility of life. There comes a time when the life itself loses its meaning and becomes a burden. Spiritually speaking, when the body becomes so weak due either to extreme old age or incurable disease that it can no longer perform the duties expected of it, it becomes a burden. Then, there comes a time when the enlightened aspirant must realise that it is best for him to accept death as a natural corollary to life rather than to hang on to the slender thread of life. It is then that an enlightened aspirant meets death at its face value and giving up life–support systems such as food, treatment etc, waits for death rather than the death stalking him. It is then that he adopts a disposition of equanimity and does not get perturbed by the imminent death. Actually, he prepares for this inevitable happening even during his life–time so that he is not caught unawares when the event arrives. This preparation is called Sallekhanā iiand embracing the death voluntarily and in a state of peace and equanimity of mind is Samādhimaraṇa. It is not difficult to see that one who has lived well – a life full of piety and good deeds – dies well without fear for he is assured of a good rebirth in which he may enjoy more pleasures and perform more pieties. He thinks, “I have stuck to the path of virtue, so, I don’t fear death”.iii On the contrary, one who has lived a sinful life, steeped in worldly attachment, dies fretfully, fearing death for fear of being reborn in hellish and animal species.iv

The Jaina emphasis on the primacy of conduct in attaining spiritual emancipation has led to prescribing of highly rigorous monastic practices and a very stringent code of conduct for its laity. Severe penance as a means of separation of accumulated karma–matter from the soul and, hence, to purify it to attain spiritual emancipation is a part of such religious philosophy. The concept of Samādhimaraṇa or Voluntary Peaceful Death is also linked to this basic emphasis on rigour. The volumes of Ardhamāgadhī canonical works are replete with the concept of and detailed procedural prescriptions for the practice of Samādhimaraṇa by the ordained monks and nuns as well as the lay followers of the faith.

In this chapter we shall examine the concept and practice of Samādhimaraṇa as given in the Ardhamāgadhī canonical works with special emphasis on the following: –

  1. Ācārāṅga,
  2. Vyākhyāprajñapti,
  3. Samavāyāṅgasūtra,

  4. Antakṛddaśaṅga,
  5. Upāsakadaśāṅga,

  6. Uttarādhyayanasūtra,
  7. Prakīrṇakas, and the others.

iREFERENCES

Section – 2.1.

“Savve jīvā vi icchanti jīviuṁ na marijjiuṁ | – Daśavaikālika. 6.10.

ii “Māraṇāntikīṁ Sallekhanāṁ joṣitā |” – Tattvārthasūtra, 7.22.

iii “Gahio suggai maggo nāhaṁ maraṇassa bīhemi | – Āturpratyākhyān, 63.

iv “Saṁsārasaktacittānāṁ mṛtyurbhītai bhavennṛṇānāṁ |

Mṛtyu Mahotsava, Shri Akhil Vishva Jaina Mission, Etah, 1978, 17.

Section – 2.2.

| Contents |