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death with equanimity

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(Chapter II, cont.)

2.3

2.3 Sallekhanā and Santhārā “Samādhimaraṇa” –

The different connotations of these two terms have been hinted at earlier. Although, commonly employed synonymously, they differ in finer details. This section dwells on this issue at length.

2.31 Sallekhanā –

Defining Sallekhanā in the Sthānāṅga Vṛtti, Ācārya Abhayadevasūri has said, “The activity by which body is weakened and passions are overcome is Sallekhanā “.iJñātā–dharmakathāsūtra Vṛtti also endorses this definition.ii Many other works interpret the term Sallekhanā as peeling off the passions and the bodily strength in order to strengthen the spirit.iii To so weaken the body is physical “Dravya” Sallekhanā while to weaken and overcome the passions is internal or volitional “Bhāva”Sallekhanā. Jaina thought considers the body and the passions as the reasons behind all karmic bondage. Therefore, to weaken these two is of paramount spiritual importance. Acharya Pujyapadaiv and Acharya Shrutsagar v have also emphasised weakening of the body and the passions before embracing voluntary death. According to Shri Chamundaraya, as expressed in his work ‘Cāritrasāra’, “Weakening and overcoming of the body and passions, by overcoming the reasons thereof, is Sallekhanā.vi Sallekhanā is, therefore, a continuing practice aimed at weakening of the body externally and the passions internally. Even in the case of Maraṇāntika Sallekhanā, it ends in the death of the aspirant practitioner only when he accepts and undertakes the practice of Santhārā at the end of it. An open–ended Sallekhanā is, actually, a preparatory penance that prepares the aspirant for the final end–practice of Santhārā or Samādhimaraṇa. The very fact that the Sallekhanā that is aimed to end in the death of the aspirant is qualified by the adjective ‘maraṇāntikī “ending in death”’ sets it apart from Santhārā, which is essentially a practice meant to end in the death of the practitioner. Also, the fixing of specific periods for this practice like twelve years, twelve months or twelve fortnights proves that it is an open–ended penance, which is always not meant to end in death.

The Ācārāṅga is categorical in stating that a monk must gradually reduce his food intake and weaken his body in order to prepare for the end–practice of Santhārā when he feels that his body has become incapacitated due to various reasons and he is unable to bear it any longer.vii According to Ācārya Samantabhadra, Antima Māraṇāntika Sallekhanā must be practised in the cases of acute afflictions like long famines, extreme old–age and incurable diseases that cannot be treated or cured.viii

2.32 Santhārā –

Santhārā, on the other hand, is the end–practice that the aspirant undertakes in order to embrace voluntary death and that ends in the death of the practitioner. All three types “Bhaktapratyākhyāna, Iṅginī and Padapoapagamana” of fasts unto death belong to this category.

Its importance is evident from the fact that it is considered to be the fruition of lifelong penance by an aspirant practitioner.ix Observance of severe penance and rigorous vows for a long time also become fruitful only if one attains equanimity of mind at the time of death.x The spiritual gain that the practitioners of severe penance and extreme bodily tortures gain, can be gained by the practitioner of Samādhi–maraṇa, who dies in a state of equanimity of mind.xi One who dies a peaceful death devoid of despondent and angered thoughts is not reborn in hellish and animal species. Such a noble person of pious thoughts certainly gains noble human or heavenly rebirths.xii

However, some Ācāryas such as Umāsvāti, Samantabhadra and Śivakoti do not distinguish between Sallekhanā and Santhārā and take them as synonyms.

i “Saṁlikhyate`nayā śarīra–kaṣāyādi iti Saṁlekhanā | “ – Sthānāṅga 2, Uddeśaka 2 Vṛtti.

ii “Kaṣāya śraīra kṛaśatāyām Sallelkhanā |” – Jñātādharmakathāṅga 1/1 Vṛtti.

iii A. “Saṁlekhanaṁ¤dravyataḥ śarīrasthabhāvataḥ kaṣāyāṇāṁkṛaśtā`pādānaṁ saṁlekha–saṁlekhaneti | – Vṛhadvṛtti.

iv “Samyakkāyakaṣāyalekhanā Saṁlekhanā | – Tattvārtha Sarvārthsiddhi, 7–22, p. 363.

v “Sat Samyak lekhanā kāyasya kaṣāyāṇāṁ ca kṛśīkaraṇaṁ tanūkaraṇaṁ |

Tattvārtha Vṛtti, 7–22; Bhāṣya, Bhāratīya Jñānapīṭha Kashi, p. 246.

vi “Bāhyasya kāyasyābhyantarāṇāṁ kaṣāyāṇāṁ tatkāraṇahāyanayākrameṇa Samyaklekhanā Saṁlekhanā || 22 ||

viiĀca=rāṅga, 1–8–67.

viii “Upasarge durbhikṣe jarasi rujāyāṁ niḥpratikāre |

Dharmāya tanu vimocanamāhuḥ saṁlekhanāmāryāḥ¤||”

  • Samīcīna Dharmaśāstra, 6–1 p. 160.

  • Mṛtyu Mahotsava, ibid, 1. ‘Q. Ātmamukti, Beawar, 1992, p.98.’

ix“Antaḥkriyā`dhikaraṇaṁ tapah, phalaṁ sakala darśnaḥ stuvate |

Tasmādhyāvadvibhavaṁ, Samādhimaraṇe prapattitavyaṁ ¤||”

Mṛtyu Mahotsava, ibid, 2.

x “Taptaśya tapasaścāpi pālitasya vratasya ca |

Paṭhitasya śrutasyāpi, phalaṁ mṛtyuḥ samādhinā ||” – Mṛtyu Mahotsava, ibid, 23.

xi “Yantfalaṁ prāpyate sadbhirvratayāsabiḍambanāt |

Tatphalaṁ sukhasādhyaṁ syānmṛtyu–kāle samādhinā || – Mṛtyu Mahotsava, ibid, 21.

xii “Anārttaḥ mānmartyo śānti na tiryagnāpi nārakaḥ |

Dharmadhyānī puro martyo`naśanī tvamareśvaraḥ ||” – Mṛtyu Mahotsava, ibid, 22.

Section – 2.4.

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