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death with equanimity

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(Chapter III, cont.)

3.2 – 3.22

3.2 Voluntary Peaceful Death “Sallekhanā– Samādhimaraṇa” –

Although most of the Jaina canonical works have delved upon the subject of Sallekhanā and Samādhimaraṇa and the Arddhamāgadhī canonical works distinguish them as the preparatory penance and the practice of the end–practice of one of the three types of fast unto death, the Śaurasenī canonical and canon equivalent works mention them synonymously to mean the end–practice leading to weakening of the body and the passions and thence to the death of the aspirant practitioner. i This end–practice is equally applicable to the ordained monks and the lay followers of the faith. However, there seems to be some difference of opinion amongst various Ācāryas and preceptors as far as the rigour with which these two categories of aspirant practitioners may observe this practice. This point has been brought out more clearly while giving the definition of Sallekhanā by Ācārya Vasunandī.

The clear–cut conceptualisation of this practice as presented by Ācārya Samantabhadra, in his treatise entitled ‘Ratnakaraṇḍa Śrāvakācāra’ is unique and deserves a mention here. He says, “The voluntary giving up of the body by a spiritual aspirant in a state of mental equanimity, for the sake of upholding his spiritual dignity, when he may not otherwise be able to perfom his religious duties due to the circumstances of calamitous afflictions, famine conditions, extreme old–age, incurable disease, or similar life–threatening situations, is known as Samādhimaraṇa or Voluntary Peaceful Death.” ii

Ācārya Vasunandi has defined Sallekhanā as applicable to the lay followers of the faith and says, “The lay follower “Upāsaka” who renounces all physical and volitional encumbrance “possessions and attachment thereto” except the clothes that he wears to cover his nakedness, gives up three types of food and sustains himself on fluids alone after confessing and criticising his conduct flaws and repenting for them in front of the guru while staying in his own house or in the Jina–temple is said to observe the fourth educational vow of Sallekhanā”.iii Here, it must be clarified that while all other works like Mūlārādhanā, Ratnakaraṇḍa Srāvakācāra, etc by various Ācāryas mention giving up of all encumbrance and all types of food by the aspirant practitioner “Kṣapaka” undertaking the practice of Sallekhanā and make no distinction between the practices to be undertaken by the ordained ascetics and the lay followers, Ācārya Vasunandī allows the lay followers, undertaking this practice, to give up only three types of foods and permits wearing of clothes and taking of fluids. This is perhaps due to the fact that works like Mūlārādhanā etc mention two types of practices – Autsargika “renunciational practice in which no exceptions to the laid down rigorous norms are permitted” and Āpavādika “exceptional practice in which the exceptions of wearing clothes and taking fluids may be made under exceptional circumstances of objection to nakedness by the family and taking of fluids necessitated by the rise of bile and resultant hyper acidity”iv and Ācārya Vasunandī has deemed it fit to prescribe only the exceptional practice for the lay followers who may not be able to undertake the more rigorous renunciational practice. This is also, perhaps, due to the consideration of the extremely weak condition of the lay aspirant weakened by disease, etc. Pt. Ashadhar also confirms this view in his work Sāgāra Dharmāmṛta when he says, “If the Kṣapaka “aspirant lay practitioner” is unable to bear the hardship of thirst and give up all four types of foods, he may be permitted to give up only three types of foods and allowed to take water, which is given up only when the death becomes imminent”. v

3.21 The Period Of Sallekhanā –

The scriptures of Śwetambara tradition mention a minimum period of six months, a medium period of one to four years and a maximum of twelve years’ of body and passion–weakening “Sallekhanā” for the practice of Voluntary Peaceful Death.vi‘Jaina Sūtras’, edited by F. Max Muller and translated by Hermann Jacobi, also mentions the maximum, medium and miminum periods for this practice as twelve years, one year and six months.vii In Bhagavatī Ārādhanā, Ācārya Śivakoṭi also mentions a maximum period of twelve years for this purposeviii and says that the Lords Jina have so preached that in the first four years the aspirant practitioner “kṣapaka” must endeavour to get used to observing various kinds of penance and, thereby, prepare his body and psyche for the more severe penance that is to follow. In the next four years he should gradually, progressively and systematically give up various types of foods so as to weaken the body enough for the practice of the next phase of Sallekhanā in the last four years. ix In the first two of the last four years, the kṣapaka must subsist on food devoid of much taste or nutrition “Nirvikṛti”, for the next one year he must take only the rice–soup “kāñjī”; in the first six months of the last year he must practice medium penance and culminate his practice by practising the most severe form of penance in the last six months. x Like this, we see that the scriptures of the two traditions are unanimous about the period of Sallekhanā. However, we must appreciate that under emergent circumstances when the aspirant, desirous of embracing death in a state of equanimity, does not have much time at his disposal, his Sallekhanā may last for a much shorter duration – from less than forty–eight minutes “antarmuhurta” to any longer one in the case of aspirant practitioners who undertake it when they are very old, critically ill and nearing their deaths. Most practices of Samādhimaraṇa that are practised in the present times fall in this category as can be seen from their durations.

3.22 The Synonyms Of Samādhimaraṇa –

The Jaina preceptors have thought of Voluntary Peaceful Death in its various aspects, implications and ramifications and named it variously in varying contexts while its essential features remained unaltered. It has been taken as synonymous to Santhārā, Sallekhanā, Paṇḍitamaraṇa, Sakāma–maraṇa, saṁnyāsamaraṇa, Antah<kriyā, Uttamārtha, Udyuktamaraṇa, etc. These terms have been briefly elaborated in the following paragraphs: –

  1. Santhārā “The Death–bed” Santhārā literally means bed. In the present context the grass–bed, wooden platform or even bare ground or rock on which the aspirant practitioner of Samādhimaraṇa lies down is said to be Santhārā. Practically, it means ‘mounting the “voluntary” death–bed’. To take up Santhārā means giving up food for life and to await the imminent death in a state of mental equanimity.

  2. Sallekhanā “Weakening” Sallekhanā or Saṁlekhanā means weakening. It is external as well as internal. In the present context, externally it means weakening of the body and internally the weakening of the soul–tainting passions. It means embracing Voluntary Peaceful Death by gradual weakening of the body by undertaking progressively severe penance and, finally, undertaking fast unto death while constantly endeavouring to weaken the passions, attachment and aversion as well.xi

  3. Paṇḍitamaraṇa “Enlightened Death”xii – The voluntary death embraced by an enlightened “endowed with right–belief and restrained” aspirant who has realised the fact that when the body becomes so incapacitated that it is no longer able to discharge its duties, it is best to embrace death rather than to make the soul, entrapped in such a body, to incur sins through flawed performance of the duties, is known as enlightened death or Paṇḍitamaraṇa.

  4. Sakāmamaraṇa “Voluntary Death” – Embracing death voluntarily for the accomplishment of a noble spiritual cause in a state of equanimity and after overcoming attachment, aversion and passions is Sakāmamaraṇa. It is marked by spiritual accomplishment, detached disposition and attainment of a spiritually meaningful goal.

  5. Saṁnyāsamaraṇa “Unaffected Death”Saṁnyāsa means renunciation of all worldly affection and attachment. Samādhimaraṇa is also known as Saṁnyāsa–maraṇa as the aspirant practitioner undertaking it gives up all worldly attachments even to his own body and voluntarily embraces death. It is the renunciation of worldly affection and attachment that gives him equanimity.xiii

  6. Antaḥkriyā “The End–practice” – The practice of Samādhimaraṇa is undertaken at the end of one’s life’s tenure and it is, in a way, the last practice that an aspirant practitioner undertakes. Hence the name Antaḥkriyā or ‘end–practice’. Ācārya Samantabhadra says that the omniscient Lords have held that it is the essence of all penance and, therefore, it ought to be practiced at the end of an aspirant’s life as such.xiv

  7. Uttamārtha “The Noble Cause” – There is no gainsaying the fact that the practice of Samādhimaraṇa is undertaken for the accomplishment of the noblest of all goals – the goal of gaining spiritual liberation. From this aspect of Samādhimaraṇa, it is the Uttamārtha or the noble cause.xv

  8. Udyuktamaraṇa “Deliberate Death” – The aspirant practitioner undertakes the practice of Samādhimaraṇa deliberately with due ceremony and rituals after repenting and expiating for his flaws and after forgiving all and begging forgiveness of all. It is, therefore, deliberate death and not an ordinary or accidental death.xvi

From the foregoing account of various synonyms of Samādhimaraṇa it becomes evident that they only represent one or the other aspect of this comprehensive practice in which the aspirant practitioner weakens his body as he controls his flaws of attachment, aversion and passions to attain equanimity of disposition and that is how his voluntary death becomes the peaceful death that yields the fruit of spiritual emancipation and, ultimately, final liberation.

i A. Samādhimaraṇa, ibid, p. 10;

B. “Samyagkāya–kaṣāyalekhanā Sallekhanā |” – Sarvārthasiddhi, 7.22.

Section – 3.2

ii “Upasarge durbhikṣe jarasi rujhāyāṁ ca niḥpratikāre |

Dharmāya tanuvimocanamāhuḥ Sallekhanāmāryāḥ ||”

Samantabhadra, Ratnakaraṇḍa Śrāvakācāra, Bharatiya Anekanta Vidvat Parishad, Mujaffarnagar, 1997, verse 122, p. 227.

iii “Dhariūṇa vatthamettaṁ pariggahaṁ chaṇḍiūṇa avasesaṁ |

Sagihe Jiṇālae vā tivihāhārassa vosaraṇaṁ ||

Jaṁ guru sayāsammi sammamāloiūṇa tiviheṇa |

Sallekhaṇaṁ cautthaṁ suttee sikkhāvayaṁ bhaṇiyaṁ ||

Vasunandi Śrāvakācāra, Pārshvanath Vidyapeeth, Varanasi, 1999, verses, 271–72.

iv A. “Āvasadhe vā appāugge j ovā mahaḍḍhio hirimaṁ |

Micchajaṇe sajaṇe vā tassa hojja avavādiyaṁ liṅgaṁ ||” – Mūlārādhanā, 2.79.

  1. Hīmānmaharddhiko y ovā mithyātvaprāyabāndhavaḥ |

So`vivikte padaṁ nāgnyaṁ śataliṅgo`pi nārhati || – Sāgāra Dharmāmṛta, 8.37.

v “Vyādhyādyapekṣayā`mbho vā samādhyarthaaṁ vikalpayet |

Bhṛśaṁ śaktikṣaye jahyādapyāsannamṛtyukaḥ || – Sāgāra Dharmāmṛta, 8.65.

viŚrī Ācārāṅgasūtra, ‘Ed.’ Muni Atmaramji, Pt. I, p. 592.

vii Jaina Sūtras, Pt. II, Vol 45, ‘Ed.’ F. Max Muller, Tr. Hermann Jacobi, Motilal Banarasidass, Delhi, 1989, p. 229.

viii “Ukkasaeṇa bhattapaiṇṇākālo Jiṇehiṁ ṇiddiṭṭhaṁ |

Kālammi sampahutte bārasavarisāṇi puṇṇāṇi ||” – Bhagavatī Ārādhanā, verse 254.

ix “Jogehiṁ vicittehiṁ du khavehai saṁvaccharāṇi cattāri |

Viyaḍī ṇijjūhittā cattāri puṇo vi sosedi ||” – Ibid, verse 255.

x “Āyambilaṇivviyaḍīhiṁ doṇṇi āyambileṇa ekkaṁ ca |

Addha ṇādivigaṭṭhehiṁ ado addhaṁ vigaṭṭhehiṁ ||” – Ibid, verse 256.

xi “Samyagkāyakaṣāya–lekhanā Sallekhanā | – Sarvārthasiddhi, 7.22.

xii A. Uttarādhyayanasūtra, 5.3.

B. “Pṇḍitasya maraṇaṁ Paṇḍitamaraṇaṁ | Vyavahārapaṇḍitaḥ, samyaktvapaṇḍitaḥ, jñānapaṇḍitaścāritrapaṇḍitaḥ iti catvārau vikalpaḥ | – Bhagavatī Ārādhanā, 54–55.

xiii Puruṣārthasiddhayupāya, p. 75. Q. Samādhimaraṇa ibid p. 12.

xiv “Antaḥkriyādhikaran,aṁ tapaḥphalaṁ sakaladarśinaḥ stuvate |

Tasmādhay-vaddhibhavaṁ Samādhimaraṇe prayatitavyaṁ ||

Ratnakaraṇḍa Śrāvakācāra, 123.

xv “Uttamalesāguṇao paḍivanno uttamaṁ aṭṭhaṁ |” – Santhāragapaiṇṇayaṁ, 22.

xvi Santhārā Kyoṅ Aur Kaise, p. 68. ‘Q. Samādhimaraṇa, ibid, p. 12.’

Section – 3.3

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