death with equanimity



chapter – III


3.1 – 3.13

3.1 Introductory –

The Jaina emphasis on the primacy of conduct and penance in attaining spiritual emancipation has led to prescribing of highly rigorous monastic practices, very stringent code of conduct for its laity and severe penance as a means of shedding of accumulated karma matter from the soul and, hence, to purify it in order to attain spiritual emancipation and, ultimately, liberation. The concept of Samādhimaraṇa or Voluntary Peaceful Death is also linked to this basic emphasis. The treatises of Śaurasenī canons are replete with concept and prescriptions for the practice of Sallekhanā and Samādhimaraṇa by the ordained monks and nuns as well as the lay followers of the faith.

According to the Jaina thought, Samādhimaraṇa is not only a process of giving up the ghost by undertaking fast unto death but also a systematic practice to shed the spiritual flaws like attachment, aversion and passions, quasi–passions etc. The emphasis is always on attaining higher and higher degrees of spiritual purity through the practice of twelve types of penance both – external as well as internal. The aspirant practitioner fully understands that this practice is for enabling him to overcome bodily attachment and, at the same time, for an enhancement of equanimity through the internalisation of his psyche. This enables him in maintaining equanimity of mind in life and in death. This is the reason why Samādhimaraṇa is also known as the art of dying.i Generally, the death is frightening because of one’s attachment for the body and sensory pleasures that can be derived through it. Therefore, a person in the grip of attachment and aversion fears death and tolerates various pains and discomforts and lives a miserable life. However, the concept of Voluntary Peaceful Death suggests that it is better to die an honourable and peaceful soul–purifying death, which also enjoys a religious approval, rather than to live a miserable life. Pt. Ashadhar says that the monks must preserve the healthy body by appropriate food, if diseased it must be treated with appropriate medicine and if the unhealthy body becomes a means of sinful activities and if it does not respond to treatment, it must be given up by the practice of Voluntary Peaceful Death.ii

The ignorant fears death and lives a miserable life while the enlightened one faces death boldly and with spiritual bliss and embraces it in peace. For him the death is nothing but an opportunity to free his soul from the trap of an old and decayed body and, therefore, a well–meaning friend. Such a desire–free death, in a state of equanimity, has been said to be a celebration of death “Mṛtyu–mahotsava or Samādhimaraṇa”.iiiSrimadbhagvadgītā also views death as a change of body–garment by the soul. iv

3.11 Types Of Deaths –

Amongst the Śaurasenī canon–equivalent works, the Mūlārādhana or Bhagavatī Ārādhanā of the Digambara Yāpanīya traditionv mentions seventeen types of deaths which have been listed and described in the following paragraphs:–

1. Avīcimaraṇa, 2. Tadbhavamaraṇa, 3. Avadhimaraṇa,

4. Ādyantamaraṇa, 5. Bālamaraṇa, 6. Paṇḍitamaraṇa,

7. Āsaṇṇamaraṇa, 8. Bālapaṇḍitamaraṇa, 9. Sasallamaraṇa,

10. Balāyamaraṇa, 11. Vasaṭṭhamaraṇa, 12. Vippāṇasamaraṇa,

13. Giddhapuṭṭhamaraṇa, 14. Bhaktapratyākhyānamaraṇa,

15. Iṅginīmaraṇa, 16. Prāyopagamanamaraṇa, and 17. Kevalīmaraṇa.

  1. Avīcimaraṇa “Continuous Death” – Death means decaying of the life–span with time. It takes place continuously every moment of one’s life. This continuous decay of the life’s thread is said to be continuous death or Āvīcimaraṇa.vi

  2. Tadbhavamaraṇa “Death In The Same Organic Class As At Present” – When a living being dies in a particular organic class “hellish, heavenly, human or subhuman” and takes rebirth in the same class, its death in the previous birth is said to be Tadbhavamaraṇa. Alternatively, if a living being dies after earning a rebirth in the same organic class, he is said to die a Tadbhava death. It is possible only in the human and subhuman classes as the hellish and heavenly beings are not reborn in the same class.vii

  3. Avadhimaraṇa “Successively Similar Death” – If a living being dies with such life–span determining karmic bondage that in the next birth also it would die a similar death, it is said to be Avadhimaraṇa or successively similar death.viii It is of two types – 1. Deśāvadhimaraṇa in which the only a part of the life–span determining karma that is presently being enjoyed is repeated and 2. Sarvāvadhimaraṇa in which the life–span determining karma that is presently being enjoyed is repeated in toto.ix

  4. Ādyantamaraṇa “Dissimilar Death” – If the present death is partly or wholly dissimilar to the future death, it is said to be Ādyantamaraṇa.x

  5. Bālamaraṇa “Ignorant Death” – The death of the ignorant, false–faithed, unrestrained ignoramus is called Bālamaraṇa.xi It follows that the deaths of the creatures that are at the first four of the fourteen stages of spiritual development “Guṇasthānas” fall in this category.

  6. Paṇḍitamaraṇa “Enlightened Death” – The living beings that are endowed with right–knowledge, right–vision and right–conduct are said to be enlightened or Paṇḍitas. The deaths of such enlightened living beings are said to be the enlightened deaths or Paṇḍitamaraṇa. The enlightened souls are, again, of four kinds –

a. Vyavahāra–paṇḍita “Practically Wise” – One who is wise in the matters of the world is said to be Vyavahāra–paṇḍita and his death is said to be Vyavahāra–paṇḍitamaraṇa.

b. Darśan–paṇḍita “Vision–wise” – The Living beings endowed with either of the three kinds of right–visions namely destructional “Kṣāyika”, destructo–subsidential “Kṣāyopaśamika” or subsidential “Aupaśamika” are said to be Darśan–paṇḍitas and their deaths as Darśan–paṇḍitamaraṇa.

c. Jñāna–paṇḍita “Knowledge–wise” – The persons or living beings endowed with five kinds of right–knowledge “Mati, Śruta, Avadhi, Manah<paryāya or Kevalajñāna” are said to be Jñāna–paṇḍitas and their deaths as Jñāna–paṇḍitamaraṇa.

d. Caritra–paṇḍita “Conduct–wise”– The persons endowed with either of the five monastic conducts “Sāmāyika, Chedopasthāpanīya, Parihāraviśuddhi, Sūkṣmasamparāya or Yathākhyāta” are said to be Cārtra–paṇḍitas and their deaths as Cāritra–paṇḍitamaraṇa.

Another view holds that only the restrained right–visioned person is said to be a Paṇḍita. It follows that the deaths of those at the sixth to the eleventh stages of spiritual development are said to be Paṇḍitamaraṇa.xii

  1. Osaṇṇamaraṇa “Excommunicated’s Death” – when a deviant is excommunicated from the monastic order he is said to be an Osaṇṇa. The death of such an excommunicated person is said to be Osaṇṇamaraṇa.xiii

  2. Bālapaṇḍitamaraṇa “Mixed Death” – A person endowed with right–vision “Samyagdarśan” but only partly restrained is known as Bālapaṇḍita or ignorant–wise. To the extent that they are restrained, they are considered to be wise and ignorant for their partial lack of restraint. The death of such an aspirant is said to be Bālapaṇḍitamaraṇa or mixed death. It is evident that the death of the part–restrained persons at the fifth stage of spiritual development “Deśavirat Guṇasthāna” is the mixed death.xiv

  3. Saśalyamaraṇa “Rankling death” – Stings are three – false belief sting, passion–sting and desire–sting. When a person dies without atoning for these flaws that constantly rankle his inner self, as if by a sting, his death of is said to be Saśalyamaraṇa. Those who die such a death are the restrained followers of a false–faith, unrestrained ones and the part–restrained ones.xv In the Samavāyāṅga this type of death has been referred to as Antah<śalyamaraṇa.

  4. Balāyamaraṇa / Valanmaraṇa “Death In Flawed Disposition” – When, for some reason, a sincere observer of the right faith and the follower of the liberating path of right–vision, right–knowledge and right–conduct develops flawed mental disposition at the time of his death, his death is said to be Balāyamaraṇa or Valanmaraṇa. It is possible in the case of the spiritually wise persons also that under such disposition they also deviate from their accepted vows and die an unrestrained death.xvi

  5. Vasaṭṭhamaraṇa / Vaśārtamaraṇa “Despondent Death” – When a living being dies a desperate death in a state of gross involvement in or attachment to sensory pleasures, his death is said to be the Vasaṭṭhamaraṇa or Vaśārtamaraṇa. It is always under the states of despondent and angered contemplations.xvii

  6. Vippāṇasamaraṇa / Vaihāyasamaraṇa “Death by self–strangulation” – When, afflicted by unavoidable calamities, the voluntary death, by self–strangulation or hanging by a rope, to save one’s honour or dharma is said to be the Vaihāyasa–maraṇa.xviii

  7. Gṛddhapuṭṭhamaraṇa – When, afflicted by unavoidable calamities, the voluntary death, by using a weapon, to save one’s honour or dharma is said to be the Gṛddhapṛṣṭh<<a–maraṇa.xix However, the Samavāyāṅga mentions two subtypes – 1. Gṛddhaspṛṣṭamaraṇa in which the dead–body is left for picking by the carrion birds “like vultures, etc” to feast over and 2. Gṛddhapṛṣṭamaraṇa in which the death is sought by one’s flesh to be picked by the carrion birds and the living aspirant enters the carcass of a large dead animal like an elephant or a camel etc.xx

  8. Bhaktapratyākhyānamaraṇa “Fasting Unto Death” – In this type of voluntary death the aspirant practitioner gives up all four kinds of food for life and patiently awaits death in a state of mental equanimity. However, he has no restrictions placed on his movements for essential chores and can take care of his own needs and also seek and accept assistance from the others. This is the first kind of least rigorous Samādhimaraṇa and will be dealt with, in detail, later in the chapter.

  9. Iṅginīmaraṇa “Death With Predecided Restrictions” – In this type of voluntary death the aspirant practitioner gives up all four kinds of food for life and patiently awaits death in a state of mental equanimity He confines himself to a predecided place and can take care of his own needs but not receive services or assistance form the others. This is the second kind of more rigorous Samādhimaraṇa and will be dealt with, in detail, later in the chapter.

  10. Prāyopagamanamaraṇa “Death In Ihe Fallen Tree Posture” – In this type of voluntary death the aspirant practitioner gives up all four kinds of food for life and patiently awaits death in a state of mental equanimity. He forsakes all movements and lies motionless, like a fallen tree, at a predecided place and he neither takes care of his own needs nor allows others to do so. This is the third kind of most rigorous Samādhimaraṇa and will be dealt with, in detail, later in the chapter.

  11. Paṇḍita–paṇḍitamaraṇa or Kevalīmaraṇa “Wise–wise Death Of The Omniscient Visionaries” – The parameters of wisdom have been mentioned earlier as worldly wisdom and spiritual wisdom comprising adherence to right–vision, right–knowledge and right–conduct. Those, whose spiritual wisdom is at the pinnacle and on whom the omniscience and omni–vision have dawned, are said to be Paṇḍita–paṇḍita or Kevalī. The death of such an accomplished soul “soul’s dissociation from the body to attain nirvāṇa” is called the Kevalīmaraṇa or Paṇḍita–paṇḍitamaraṇa.xxi

On comparing the seventeen types of deaths mentioned in the Bhagavatī Ārādhanā of the Digambara Yāpanīya tradition and the Samavāyāṅga of the Śvetāmbara tradition, we notice an undercurrent of similarity. However, there are some differences, besides the differences of order in which these deaths have been listed, that may be mentioned. They are as under: –

Bhagavatī Ārādhanā




Avadhimaraṇa has two subtypes –

1. Deśāvadhimarana and

2. Sarvāvadhi–maraṇa

No such distinction is made here.


Not mentioned in the Samavāyāṅga

Not there in Bhagavatī Ārādhanā


Giddhapuṭṭhamaraṇa is by the use of a weapon.

Two types have been mentioned – 1. Gṛddhaspṛṣṭamaraṇa is by picking of flesh by the birds of prey and 2. Gṛddhapṛṣṭamaraṇa is by entering the carcass of a dead animal.

However, Samādhimaraṇotsaha–dīpaka, a work of great importance on the subject of Samādhimaraṇa by an eminent scholar saint, Ācārya Sakalakīrti Gaṇi “Circa 15th Century AD”, mentions only seven types of deaths, namely Bāla–bāla–maraṇa “The most ignorant death of the false–beliefed aspirant”, Bālamaraṇa, Bāla–paṇḍitamaraṇa, three types of PaṇḍitamaraṇaBhaktapratyākhyānamaraṇa, Iṅginīmaraṇa and Prāyopagamana– maraṇa” and Paṇḍitapaṇḍitamaraṇa “the most enlightened death of the omniscient Kevalins”.xxii

3.12 Discreet And Indiscreet Deaths –

It is also apparent from the aforementioned description of seventeen types of deaths that they basically fall in two categories – discreet deaths and indiscreet deaths. Various preceptors have classified deaths on the basis of the procedure to be adopted for embracing the voluntary deaths. These can be grouped under these two categories as under: –

Discreet Deaths –

1. Paṇḍitamaraṇa, 2. Kevalīmaraṇa,

3. Bhaktapratyākhyāna–maraṇa, 4. Iṅginīmaraṇa and

5. Prāyopagamanamaraṇa.

Indiscreet Deaths –

All other types.

3.13 Natural, Forced And Voluntary Deaths –

Yet another classification of deaths is offered by Ācārya Nemicandra Siddhāntacakravartī in his work Gommaṭasāra. As the death is nothing but the separation of the soul from the body, this classification depends on the way in which this separation comes about or is brought about. According to Gommaṭasāra, the separation of the soul from the body takes place in three waysxxiii

  1. Cyut – in which it comes about naturally when the life–span determining karma is exhausted and the life’s thred runs out. In this type of death, no deliberate effort on the part of the dying is required.

  2. Cyāvit – in which case the death is brought about by the employment of external means such as by taking poison, by bleeding to death, by the use of a weapon, by drowning, by falling from a mountain or a tree and other such violent means.

  3. Tyakta – in which case the death is embraced voluntarily and in a state of mental equanimity when the life becomes a burden and spiritually counterproductive.

It follows that Voluntary Peaceful Death or Sallekhanā–Samādhimaraṇa falls in the third category.


Section – 3.1

Rajjankumar, Samādhimaraṇa, Parshvanath Vidyapeeth, Varanasi, 2002, p. 3.

ii “Kāyaḥ svastho`nuvartyaḥ syāt pratīkāryaśca rogitaḥ |

Upakāraṁ viparyasyaṁstyājyaḥ khalo yathā || – Sāgāra Dharmāmṛta, 6.

iii “Jñāninaḥ abhaya bhavetkasmāt prāpte mṛtyumahotsave |

Svarūpasthaḥ puraṁyāti dehīdehāntara sthitiḥ ||

Jīrṇaṁ dehadikaṁ sarvaṁ nutanaṁ jāyate yataḥ |

Samṛtyu kiṁ na modāya satāṁ satosthitiryathā/ ||” – Mṛtyumahotsava, 3, 8.

iv “Vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathāvihāya navāni gṛṇhāti naroparāṇi |

Tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇā nyānyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī ||”

Srimadbhagvadgītā, 2.22.

v “Maraṇāṇi sattarasa desidāṇi titthaṅkarehiṁ Jiṇavayaṇe ||” – Bhagavatī Ārādhanā, 25.

vi “Āyuṣaḥ anubhavanaṁ jīvitaṁ, tacca pratisamayaṁ jīvitabhaṅgasya maraṇaṁ | Ato maraṇamapi tatra Avīci || – Ibid, p. 51.

vii “Bhavāntaraprāptiranantaropasṛṣṭapūrvabhavavigamanaṁ tadbhavamaraṇaṁ | – Ibid, P. 53.

viii “Yo yādṛśaṁ maran,aṁ saṁpratamupaiti tādṛśeva yadi maraṇaṁ bhaviṣyati tadavadhimaraṇaṁ | – Ibid, p. 53.

ix “Taddvividhaṁ Deśāvadhimaraṇaṁ Sarvāvadhimaraṇaṁ iti || – Ibid, p. 53.

x Prakr,tisthityanubhavapradeśairyathābhūtaiḥ sāmpratamupaiti mūrti tathābhūtāṁ yadi sarvato deśat ovā nopaiti tadadyantamaraṇaṁ || – Ibid, p. 53.

xi “Bālasyamaraṇaṁ Bālamaraṇaṁ || – Ibid, p. 53.

xiiSamavāyāṅgasūtra, p. 54.

xiii “Nirvāṇamārgaprasthitātsaṁyatasārthādyo hīnaḥ pracyutaḥ so`bhidhīyate osaṇṇa iti | Tasya maraṇaṁ osaṇṇamaraṇamiti | Osaṇṇagrahaṇena pārśvasthaḥ svacchandāḥ kuśīlāḥ saṁsaktāḥśca gṛhyante || – Bhagavatī Ārādhanā, p.55.

xiv “Samyagdṛṣṭeḥ saṁyatāsaṁyatasya Bālapaṇḍitamaraṇaṁ yato sāvavubhayarūpo bālaḥ paṇḍitaśca | – Ibid, p. 56.

xv “Pārśvasthādirūpeṇa ciraṁ vihṛtya paścādapi ālocanāmantaraṇe yo maraṇamupaiti tanmāyāśalyaṁ maraṇaṁ tasya bhavati |” – Ibid, p. 57.

xvi “Niḥśalyaḥ saṁvigno bhūtvā ciraṁ ratnatrayapravṛtasya śubhaopayogātpalāyamānasya bhāvasya śbhasyānavasthānāt Paṇḍite ca balāyamaraṇam api] sambhavati | – Ibid, p.57.

xvii A. “Vasaṭṭhamaraṇaṁ nāma ārte, raudre ca pravartamānasya maraṇaṁ | – Ibid.

B. “Sukhataḥ kriyate rāmābhogaḥ paścādanta śrīre rogaḥ |

Yadyapi loke maraṇaṁ śaraṇaṁ tadapi na muñcati pāpācaraṇaṁ ||

Ādi Śaṅkarācārya, Vairāgyamañjarikā,.

xviii “. . . suśleśyaḥ prāṇapānanirodhaṁ karoti yattadvippāṇasaṁ maran,amucyate |”

Bhagavtī Ārādhanā, p. 60.

xix “Śastragrahaṇena yadbhavati adbhiddhapuṭṭhamityucyate |” – Ibid, p. 60.

xx Samavāyāṅgasūtra, p. 54.

xxi “Vavahāre sammatte ṇāṇe caraṇe ya paṇḍidassa tadā |

Paṇḍidamaraṇaṁ bhaṇidaṁ caduvvidhaṁ tabbhavanti hi ||

Bhagavatī Ārādhanā, p. 61.

xxii Samādhimaraṇotsahadīpaka, verses 11, 12.

xxiii “Bhūdaṁ tu cudaṁ caidaṁ cadanti tedhā cudaṁ sapākeṇa |

Paḍidaṁ kadalīghādaṁpariccāgeṇūṇaya hodi ||

Visaveyaṇarattakkhayabhayasatthaggahaṇasaṅkilesehiṁ |

Ussā sāhārāṇaṁ ṇiṭohado chijjade āū ||

Kadlīghādasamedaṁ cāgavihīṇaṁ tu cidamidi hodi |

Ghādeṇa aghādeṇa va paḍidaṁ cāgeṇa cattamidi ||

Gommaṭsāra, Karmakāṇḍa, verses 56–58

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