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death with equanimity

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(Chapter VI.4, cont.)

6.41 (8) – 6.41 (10)

CASE–STUDY No. 8

SALLEKHANĀ OF ĀRYIKĀ VIŚUDDHAMATĪ MĀTĀJĪ

On the 17th of January1990, at the age of 60, Gaṇinī Āryikā Viśuddhamatī requested her guru, Ācārya Ajitsāgarjī, to give her the vow of twelve yearlong “Niyam” Sallekhanā, a penance preparatory to embracing ‘Voluntary Peaceful Death’. The Ācārya blessed her and gave her the vow and became her Niryāpakācārya. After the samādhi “peaceful death” of Ācārya Ajitsāgarjī, the onerous role of Niryāpakācārya devolved on his disciple, Ācārya Vardhamānsāgarjī.

As a part of her preparatory penance she started taking food on alternate days since the rainy season of the year 1998 itself. From the rainy season of the year 2000 AD she started taking food after fasting for two days at a time and limited her food intake to only two types of grains and two kinds of tastes. She gave up all grains except rice on the 27th June, 2001 and gave up that, too, on the 27th July 2001, her 38th day of initiation as a nun. On 1st December, 2001 she ascended the samstāraka at Nandanvan, a peaceful retreat three Km away from Dhariyavad, and took little liquid food after fasting for three days at a time.

Finally, at the end of twelve yearlong preparatory penance, on 16th January 2002 the venerable Āryika took her last sip of water and, giving up all the four kinds of food, took vow of fast unto death “Yama Sallekhanā by way of Bhaktapratyākhyāna–maraṇa” at the hands of the Niryāpakācārya Vardhamānsāgarjī. In her end–practice she was assisted by Gaṇinī Āryikā Suparśvamatī and other nuns of her order. The members of her erstwhile family – her brother, etc. were also present.

Samādhi –

After six days of waterless fasting the day of her soul’s departure from the confines of the material body came and on 22nd January 2002, in full consciousness, she breathed her last after uttering the great hymn of Namaskāra mantra. Her devotees, who were present in thousands, witnessed her grand departure.

Her mortal remains were consigned to flames after taking them out on a decorated palanquin “Vaikunṭhī” in a ceremonial procession at the chant of holy hymns and slogans. She departed as grandly as she lived the years of her pious life.

CASE–STUDY No. 9

SAMĀDHIMARAṆA OF SHRI R. L. NAGORI

Shri Ratanlal Nagori, an eighty–eight year old doughty businessman politician from the mofussil town of Bhindar suffered from the weakness wrought by extreme old age and an incurable illness and found it well nigh impossible to perform his temporal and spiritual duties. He silently contemplated the noble form of ‘Voluntary Peaceful Death’, at the appropriate time. He was supported in his resolve by his deeply religious daughter, Kamaladevi and the equally religious son–in–law Shri Madanlal Pitlia. Finally, he was able to gain permission from his three brothers and two sons and took the vow on the 13th of March, 2003 at the hands of Sādhvī Taramatijī who also stayed on, with three other nuns of her group, to oversee the practice that lasted for ten days.

The practitioner “kṣapaka” was calm and peaceful during the entire period of practice and took the pain and hardships in his stride. Possibly, his strong motivation saw him through his ordeal. He spent his time in self–contemplation, listening to religious preaching by the attending nuns, chanting of holy hymns, praying and meeting and answering the queries of large number of visitors who thronged for a glimpse of the gallant practitioner of this heroic practice, who never regretted his decision to embrace death voluntarily. The kṣapaka duly went through the process of forgiving everyone and begging forgiveness of all.

Others in the town were generally well disposed towards this practice. The Jaina community was proud that a member of their class was undertaking this rare and ultimate practice.

The kṣpaka’s son, Shri Kiran Nagori who was interviewed by the researcher in connection with this practice, reported that while the Jaina community were quite reverent towards the kṣapaka, they did not look at the practice as something unusual but it were the people from the other communities that were moved to wonderment and talked about it with a sense of awe.

Finally, the death visited the kṣapaka on the 27th of November, 2003 and this deeply religious person breathed his last in peace. His mortal remains were put on a decorated palanquin and ceremoniously taken out in a grand procession to the chant of holy hymns and hailing by the crowd that thronged the streets Bhindar in thousands and consigned to fire as per the prevalent practice in the community. Death comes to everyone and is generally mourned but the gallant practice of ‘Voluntary Peaceful Death’ by Shri Nagori converted his death into a celebration. The gallant grand old man of Bhindar passed away equally grandly.

CASE–STUDY No. 10

IDEAL SALLEKHANĀ OF MUNI ANEKĀNTASĀGAR

In this age and time when the general trend is to run for life, Muni Anekānta– sāgar, a doughty old monk of the sky–clad tradition of the Jainas, presents a glaring contrast when he is creating living history by being near the end of the twelfth year of his penance “Niyam Sallekhanā” preparatory to accepting the end–vow of fasting unto death “Yama Sallekhanā”.

Munijī accepted the vow of Niyam Sallekahanā at the hands of his spiritual master Ācārya Vimalsāgarji, on the 28th of February 1992 at Etah, as a Kṣullaka, even before he was an ordained ascetic. The reason that prompted the seventy–two year old Kṣullaka to take this extreme step were his age–weakened body and consequent inability to move about. He took the monastic vows two years later and has spent his entire monastic life preparing for the most sought after end–practice of Samādhimaraṇa by way of Bhakta–pratyākhyānamaraṇa, which he is going to accept on the 27th of February 2004 as soon as he completes twelve years of preparatory penance. It is only a miracle of penance that since accepting the vow of Niyam Sallekhanā his condition has improved and he is able to move about freely. Munijī was full of verve and enthusiasm when the researcher went to interview him and gave all the details of his practice himself. He seemed to be looking forward to the day when he would take the vow of fast unto death and finally free his soul from the confines of his body for a better existence.

Presently, his Sallekhanā is being conducted, as per the provisos of this practice mentioned in the holy book ‘Bhagavatī Ārādhanā’, under the overall supervision of Niryāpakācārya Bharatsāgarjī and assisted by eight monks of his religious order.

Munijī ‘s life–style has been that of an ideal and most devout Jaina householder to start with and them that of a flawless monasticism. He has been consistently maintaining a peaceful disposition and spends his time in scriptural study, contemplation, prayer and in meeting and blessing the visitors that come to see him in large numbers.

He has already given up all kinds of solid food and takes only liquid food once in four days. He has already confessed his flaws in front of the Niryāpakācārya at the time of renouncing solid food and will forgive and beg forgiveness of all and become free from all spiritual stings before he takes the vow of Yama Sallekhanā on 27–02–04.

Death is frightening for most of us but not for Muni Anekāntsāgar who is ever–ready to welcome it whenever it may come to him. He is prepared for it bravely and boldly. His will, undoubtedly, be a noble death.

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