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death with equanimity

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(Chapter II, cont.)

2.7 – 2.75

2.7 Voluntary Peaceful Death in Ardhamāgadhī Canons –

Ardhamāgadhī canonical works are full of descriptions and prescriptions regarding the practice of voluntary peaceful deaths. The salient features of these descriptions are as under: –

2.71 Ācārāṅga –

The very first of the primary canonical works “Aṅga Āgama”, Ācārāṅga enjoys the reputation of being the compilation of Lord Mahāvīra’s own preaching codified into maxims by His principal disciple – Gaṇadhara Sudharmā.i Its period of compilation and codification is believed to be the 5th century BC.ii It is divided into two parts called Śrutaskandhas. The first Śrutaskandha being the older of the two, contains nine chapters and the second one contains sixteen.iii

The eighth section “Uddeśaka” of the eighth chapter of the first part, entitled ‘Vimokṣa’ deals with the subject of Sallekhanā and Samādhimaraṇa.ivVimokṣa means complete detachment from one’s physical and emotional environment for which renunciation and penance are essential.vVimokṣa also means liberation for which complete and irresidual separation from karmic encumbrance is essential. This can also be achieved through renunciation and penance.vi

This section of the chapter also contains detailed description of three types of voluntary peaceful death and also the preparatory practice of Sallekhanā in its longest, medium and shortest durations of twelve years, one year and six months respectively. It says that when the body of a spiritual aspirant becomes weak and unable to carry out monastic duties, he must renounce all external and internal attachment and accept fast unto death. He must, however, remain unconcerned about life or death and accept both with equanimity. He ought to desire neither life nor death. He must stop all bodily and vocal functions and remain engrossed in the contemplation of the Self. He must endure whatever afflictions befall him during his practice of this vow of voluntary death. He ought not to succumb to the most vicious and violent afflictions or the most pleasurable and inviting enticements.vii It also mentions the four essentials for the successful completion of this observance as – restraint, knowledge, patience and detachment.viii

Of special interest are the circumstances under which the Ācārāṅga recommends embracing of voluntary death by an aspirant. The three such circumstances areix

  1. When the body becomes so weak and decayed that one is unable to continue with the practice of one’s right monastic or householders’ conduct. Under such physical state it is better to embrace voluntary death rather than to compromise the right–conduct. It does not consider protecting life at the expense of the right monastic conduct.

  2. When a monk feels that he has become totally dependent on the others due to old–age or disease and that he is now only a burden on the religious order, he must develop a detached attitude towards his body and accept fast unto death.

  3. When a spiritual aspirant feels that there is no way in which he can preserve his right monastic conduct and righteousness, he must prefer immediate voluntary death by stopping to breathe, etc rather than to subject himself to degrading compromise of his monastic dignity.

It is clear that the Ācārāṅga neither negates life nor talks of running away from it. It only says that when the death knocks at one’s door or when it becomes impossible to live with monastic propriety, righteousness and dignity and without compromising one’s monastic vows, it is better to embrace voluntary death in accordance with scriptural dictates.

As far as the regulation of obtaining food is concerned, the Jinakalpī monks, who lead a lonely life, could not accept the food brought by others “householders” and for them there was no choice but to go on a fast unto death when they became incapable of begging their own food. However, for the monks staying in monastic groups, as at present, though there is a provision of accepting food brought by the other monks, the following four restrictions have been mentionedx

  1. Some monk may resolve that he would bring food for the other monks as well as accept that brought by them.

  2. Some monk may resolve that he would bring food for the other monks but not accept that brought by them.

  3. Some monk may resolve that he would not bring food for the other monks but accept that brought by them.

  4. Some monk may resolve that he would neither bring food for the other monks nor accept that brought by them.

Mentioning the three forms of Samādhimaraṇa – Bhaktapratyākhyāna, Inginī–maraṇa and Prāyopagamana–maraṇa, the Ācārāṅga says that in the first kind there is no restriction on any kind of movement by the aspirant; in the second kind his movements are restricted to a specified area and in the third there is no movement what–so–ever. Also, there is progressive reduction in acceptance of services – in the first kind “Bhaktapratyākhyānamaraṇa”, the aspirant practitioner may serve his own needs, look after himself, as well as accept the assistance from the others, in the second kind “Iṅginīmaraṇa” he may serve his own self but may not receive the others’ assistance and in the third kind “Prāyopagamana or Pādapopagamana–maraṇa” he neither takes care of his own needs nor accepts assistance from the others. Essentially, these are the three gradually progressive stages of Santhārā.xi

2.72 Sthānāṅgasūtraxii

The fourth section of the second chapter of this third primary canonical treatise contains a description of Samādhimaraṇa. It describes various kinds of deaths in pairs such as Valanmaraṇa–Vaśārtamaraṇa, Nidānamaraṇa–Tadbhavamaraṇa, Giripattana–maraṇa–Tarupattanamaraṇa, Jalapraveśa–maraṇa, Agnipraveśa maraṇa, Viṣabhakṣaṇamaraṇa–Śaśyāvapāṭanamaraṇa, Vaihāyasamaraṇa– Gṛddhapṛṣṭhamaraṇa, and Bhaktapratyākhyānamaraṇa–Prāyopagamanamaraṇa. The last two being the types of voluntary peaceful deaths. Though it also describes the Nirhārim and Anirhārim types of Prāyopagamana–maraṇa, it is surprising that it omits the third kind of enlightened death – Inginīmaraṇa – altogether. Sthānāṅga divides these kinds of deaths into basically two kinds – 1. Noble death “Praśasta–maraṇa” and 2. Ignoble death “Apraśasta–maraṇa”.xiii The noble death is one that is embraced in a state of mental equanimity and peace and in the absence of passions. The two kinds of Samādhimaraṇa, mentioned in the last pair, come in this category.xiv On the contrary, the death in the throes of passions is said to be ignoble death and the twelve types, mentioned in the first six pairs, fall in this category.xv

2.73 Samavāyāṅgasūtraxvi

The seventeenth Samavāya of this fourth primary canonical work mentions seventeen types of deaths, of which the following seven are related to voluntary peaceful death and the rest ten more or less fall in the category of voluntary violent deaths, which may not be peacefulxvii

1. Bālapaṇḍita–maraṇa,

2. Paṇḍita–maraṇa,

3. Chadmastha–maraṇa,

4. Kevali–maraṇa,

5. Bhaktapratyākhyāna–maraṇa,

6. Iṅginī–maraṇa, and

  1. Prāyopagamana–maraṇa.

However, under exceptional circumstances such as when one’s right and righteous conduct are being threatened even the Vaikhānasa–maraṇa and the Gṛddhapṛṣṭha–maraṇa have been accepted by the Jaina tradition.xviii

2.74 Vyākhyāprajñapti “Bhagavatīsūtra”xix

The subject of death is dealt with in the second set of hundred aphorisms “Śataka” of the Vyākhyāprajñaptisūtra. Like Sthānāṅga, Vyākhyāprajñapti, alias Bhagavatīsūtra, also divides various kinds of deaths into two basic categories of ignorant death “Bāla–maraṇa” and enlightened death “Paṇḍita–maraṇa”. These have again been sub–divided into two and twelve types. Thus, just like Sthānāṅga Bhagavatīsūtra also mentions fourteen kinds of deaths. These have been listed in section 2.21 of this chapter. The main difference from the Sthānāṅgasūtra being that while the Sthānāṅga mentions the two main categories as noble death “Praśasta–maraṇa” and ignoble death “Apraśasta–maraṇa”, the Bhagavatīsūtra states them as ignorant death “Bāla–maraṇa” and enlightened death “Paṇḍita–maraṇa”.

2.75 Upāsakadaśāṅgaxx

The seventh primary canonical treatise, Upāsakadaśāṅga is the only canonical work that contains the detailed and not so detailed life–sketches of ten of the most illustrious and contemporary lay followers of Lord Mahāvīra. Their five minor vows “Aṇuvrata”, three qualitative vows “Guṇavrata” and four educational vows “Śikṣāvrata” have been vividly illustrated through the biographical stories of these ten lay followers, each of whom embraced voluntary peaceful deaths at the culmination of their life–long practices and, thus, attained noble rebirths.

The ten lay followers “Upāsaka, Śrāvakas or Śramaṇopāsakas” whose life–sketches have been presented in this work are – 1. Ānanda, 2. Kāmadeva, 3. Cūlanipitā, 4. Surādeva, 5. Cullaśataka, 6. Kuṇḍakolika, 7. Sakaḍālaputra, 8. Mahāśataka, 9. Nandinīpitā and 10. Sālihīpitā.xxi

1. The first chapter of this treatise presents a most detailed life–sketch of Ānanda Śrāvaka xxii in which a graphic description of his severe penance resulting in complete drying up of his body–juices and his skeleton–like appearance has been given.xxiii At the end of his purifying penance Ānanda accepted the peaceful fast unto death.xxiv As a result of his severe penance and death through a month long fast unto death, in a state of equanimity of mind, he achieved a noble and heavenly rebirth, as a god of the life–duration of four Palyopama, in the heavenly land situated in the North–East angle of the great heavenly ground – Saudharmā–vataṁsaka – of the first Saudharma–kalpa heaven.xxv From there he would be reborn in the Mhāvideha region and on achieving complete and irresidual separation from the karmic bondage, he would be liberated from the mundane existence and become a Siddha.xxvi

The accounts of remaining nine Śrāvakas are as follows: –.

  1. The second chapter contains a brief biographical sketch of Kāmadeva Śramṇopāsaka, in which his encounters with various fearful afflictions caused by nether gods in the forms of a ghost, an elephant and a serpent are given.xxvii

  2. The third chapter contains the biographical sketch of Cūlanīpitā Śramṇo– pāsaka.xxviii

  3. The fourth chapter contains a brief biographical sketch of Surādeva Śramṇopāsaka.xxix

  4. The fifth chapter is a brief biographical sketch of Cullaśataka Śramṇopāsaka.xxx

  5. The sixth chapter is a brief biographical sketch of Kuṇḍkolika Śramṇopāsaka who defeated a heavenly god in a debate on the theory of destiny.xxxi

  6. The seventh chapter contains a brief biographical sketch of Sakaḍālaputra Śramṇopāsaka who became the Lord’s lay follower only after a detailed discussion with Him about His teachings.xxxii

  7. The eighth chapter is a brief biographical sketch of Mahāśataka Śramṇopāsaka who was tormented by his own sensually perverted wife.xxxiii

  8. The ninth chapter is a brief biographical sketch of Nandinīpitā Śramaṇopāsaka,xxxiv and

  9. The tenth chapter contains a brief biographical sketch of the Śramṇopāsaka called Sālihīpitā.xxxv

Like this, this primary canonical work brings out the importance of voluntary peaceful death in the lives of even the lay followers of the Jaina faith.

i Devendramuni,Jaina Āgama Sāhitya Manana Aur Mīmāṁsā, Udaipur, 1977, p.50.

ii Prākṛta Sāhitya Kā Itihasa, Ibid, pp. 36–39.

iii Prākṛta Bhāṣā Aur Sāhitya Kā Ālochanātmaka Itihāsa, Dr. Nemichandra Shastri, Varanasi, 1988, p. 165.

iv Ibid, p. 73.

v Ibid, p. 71.

viĀcārāṅgasūtra, Part–I, Comm. Madhukarmuni, Beawar, p. 239.

vii Prākṛta Bhāṣā Aur Sāhitya Kā Ālochanātmaka Itihāsa ibid, p. 73.

viiiĀcārāṅgasūtra, Ibid, Part–I, pp. 278, 290, 294.

ix Jain Sāgarmal, Ardhamāgadhī Āgama Sāhitya Mein Samādhimaraṇa Kī Avadhāraṇā, Jinavāṇī – Aug. 94, pp. 32–33.

x Ibid, p. 34.

xi Ibid, p. 35.

xii A. Ibid, p. 39.

B. Sthānāṁgasūtra, Comm. Madhukarmuni, Beawar, 2/4/411–416.

xiii Sthānāṅgasūtra, Ibid, p. 89. ‘Q. from ‘Maraṇa Ke Vividh Prakār’, Dr. Rajjan Kumar, Samādhimaraṇa Kī Avadhāraṇā, Āgam Saṁsthān, Udaipur, 2002, p. 111.’

xiv Ibid, p. 112.

xv Ibid, p. 111.

xvi A. Ibid, p. 39.

  1. Jain Dharmacand, Samavāyāṅgasūtra Ek Paricaya, Jinavāṇī, Apr. 2002, p. 60.

C. Jaina Āgama Sāhitya Manana Aur Mīmāṁsā, Ibid, p. 106.

xvii Jain Sāgarmal, Ardhamāgadhī Āgama Sāhitya Mein Samādhimaraṇa Kī Avadhāraṇā, Jinavāṇī – Aug. 94, pp. 39.

xviii Ibid, p. 40.

xixVyākhyāprajñapti, 2.1.

xx A. Śrī Upāsakadaśāṅga sūtra, ABSJS Saṅgha, Beawar, 1994.

  1. Upāsakadaśāṅga : Ek Anuśīlan, Sushila Bohra, Jinavāṇī, Apr., 2002, pp. 185–194.
  2. Jaina Āgama Sāhitya Manana Aur Mīmāṁsā, Ibid, pp. 139–160.

xxi “Āṇande Kāmadeve ya, Gāhāvai Culaṇīpiyā |

Surādeve Cullasayae, Gāhāvai Kuṇḍakilie |

Saddālaputte Mahāsayae Nadiṇīpiyā Sālihīpiyā || – Upāsakadaśāṅga sūtra, Sūtra 2, p. 17.

xxii Ibid, Chapter 1, pp. 17–48.

xxiii “Tae ṇaṁ se Āṇande samaṇovāsae imeṇaṁ eyārūveṇaṁ urāleṇaṁ viuleṇaṁ payatteṇaṁ paggahiyeṇaṁ tavokammeṇaṁ sukke jāva kise dhamṇisantae jāe |

Ibid, Sūtra 14, p. 42.

xxiv “. . . evaṁ sampehei sampehittā kallaṁ jāva apacchima māraṇantiya jāva kālaṁ aṇavakaṅkhamāṇe viharai | – Ibid, Sūtra 14, p. 43.

xxv Ibid, Sūtra 17, p. 48.

xxvi “Goyamā µ Mahāvidehe vāse sijjhihii | – Ibid, Sūtra 17, p. 48.

xxvii Ibid, Chapter 2, pp. 49–59.

xxviii Ibid, Chapter 3, pp. 60–65.

xxix Ibid, Chapter 4, pp. 66–68.

xxx Ibid, Chapter 5, pp. 69–70.

xxxi Ibid, Chapter 6, pp. 71–76.

xxxii Ibid, Chapter 7, pp. 77–90.

xxxiii Ibid, Chapter 8, pp. 91–99.

xxxiv Ibid, Chapter 9, p. 100.

xxxv Ibid, Chapter 10, p. 101.

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