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death with equanimity

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(Chapter VI.4 cont.)

6.4 (5) – 6.4 (7)

CASE–STUDY No. 5

SALLEKHANĀ OF SRĪ MANDHARMUNI

Srīmandharmuni, a monk from the sky–clad tradition of the Jainas, hailed from Belgaum in the Karnataka state. He was ordained a monk at the ripe age of sixty–six and devoted his monastic life to practising penance and other monastic duties such as scriptural study, etc.

Preparatory Penance –

At seventy–nine, when he had become quite weak due to old age, he requested for the vow of Niyam Sallekhanā and was given it on the 8th of August, 1999 at Santagiri “Kothali–Kuppanwadi” in the state of Maharashtra by his guru Ācārya Kalpaśrutanandi who also acted as Niryāpakācārya and supervised his practice of preparatory penance – Sallekhanā and later that of Yama Sallekhanā or fast unto death with the help of six others who acted as niryāpakas.

Samādhi –

At the end of a two month long preparatory penance, the kṣapaka took the vow of Yama Sallekhanā in the form of Bhaktapratyā–khyānamaraṇa kind of Samādhimaraṇa on the 10th of October, 1999 and breathed his last on the 23rd October, 1999 after a peaceful fourteen days’ fast unto death.

His mortal remains were consigned to the flames after taking them out on a palanquin in a ceremonial procession marked by devotion and reverence for the pious departed soul who died a noble death of Samādhimaraṇa. The ceremony was attended by a large crowd of reverent devotees who accompanied the cortege to the accompaniment of chanting of holy hymns and shouting of slogans praising the pious soul of the kṣapaka.

CASE–STUDY NO. 6

 SAMĀDHIMARAṆA OF SĀDHVĪ KANCHANKANWAR

This 72 year old nun who hailed from the historical family of Bhamashah, the mentor of Mewar, who offered all his wealth to Maharana Pratap when his coffers were empty to the last coin and who was desperate to fight the war of Mewar’s independence against mighty Moghul armies of Akbar the great. This supreme timely help from this charitable and patriotic Prime Minister enabled the Maharana to uphold the flag of independence of his land.

True to the great tradition of her erstwhile family, this nun also set about to secure the independence of her soul by undertaking the ultimate penance of ‘Voluntary Peaceful Death’. With the permission of her spiritual master, Ācārya Mahāprajña, she took the vow, of fast unto death, at Devgarh, the place of her birth and monastic ordination, on the 22nd Nov. 2001 after a preparatory penance of 38 days. Her practice was conducted under the supervision of Sādhvī Naginaji, the head nun of her group who also administered the vow to her. During this time she spent her time in self–contemplation, scriptural study and prayer. It goes without saying that her strong spiritual motivation kept her calm and composed during the arduous 27 days that elapsed before she breathed her last in a peaceful state of mind.

Her own group of nuns, members of her erstwhile family and others in the town venerated this brave nun who was well set on the path of spiritual emancipation and praised her to glory.

Her body was kept for public viewing and thousands came to have her last glimpse and bowed their heads in veneration. Her mortal remains were taken out, on a palanquin, in a ceremonial procession and consigned to the holy fire to the chant of holy hymns and devotional songs. She died a noble death in keeping with the noble traditions of the forefathers of her erstwhile family.

CASE–STUDY No. 7

 SALLEKHANĀ OF ĀRYIKĀ MANOGYAMATĪ

When this 79 year old nun of the sky–clad tradition of Jainas found that her old and much weakened body was unable to bear the rigours of monastic life and thereby incapacitated to perform her monastic duties, she decided that it was time for her to resort to a graceful departure from this world rather than to compromise her vows. She took the vow of sallekhanā from the head nun of her group Gaṇinī Āryikā Supārśvamatī Māt-ājī and practised her end–practice of Samādhimaraṇa in Udaipur. According to Brahmacāriṇī Pramilaji she undertook this practice at the end of a six month–long preparatory penance and her fast unto death “Yama–sallekhanā” lasted for eleven days during which time she maintained and displayed perfect equipoise.

Her practice was conducted under the direction of Gaṇinī Āryikā and assisted by 30 ascetics of the religious order “saṅgha” of Ācārya Vardhamānasāgarjī. The kṣapikā spent her time in self–study, contemplation and prayer and remained engrossed in spiritual thoughts. She underwent the essential process of confession of her conduct–flaws, that might have taken place through her entire life, in front of the Gaṇinī Āryikā and that of forgiveness from and to one and all.

It was on the 7th of November, 02 that her feeble body could no longer hold the ebullient spirit that yearned for freedom and she breathed her last. Everyone praised the kṣapikā’s deeply religious life and her mortal remains were taken out in a customary procession to the chant of holy mantras and consigned to flames to the glorious shouts of multitudes that gathered to bid farewell to this gallant nun. She died a noble death in keeping with her noble nun’s life.

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