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Thursday, June 14, 2018




(First Published on Volume 01 Issue 03, November 2016)

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Acaramga is the first set of discourses of Mahavira whose history can be traced back 2500 years prior. It is the principal ordinance of Jains, similar to Vedas of Hindus, Bible of Christians, Quran of Muslims and so on. It expresses that:
"If an ascetic realizes that now it is gradually becoming impossible for him to sustain the body for his essential (ascetic) duties, he should gradually reduce his food intake through austerities. While reducing the food intake he should also reduce his passions. After reducing passions he should acquire mental serenity. Becoming thin by honing both sides, body and passion, like a plank of wood, that ascetic should make himself stable (free of agitations of body and mind) and rise (prepare to embrace meditational death or Samadhimarana). If that ascetic has enough energy to walk, he should go to a village, city… or capital (any populated place) and beg for hay or a stack of straw. When he gets a stack of straw he should retire into seclusion …… He should then thoroughly clean that spot and make a bed of straw (Santhara) there. Now he should occupy the straw-bed and observe itvarikafast (fasting for a predetermined period)."[1] The predetermined period implies the period till the goal of disposing of Kasaya (anger, ego, attachment and greed etc.) is accomplished or till Santhara is revoked.
When it is the ideal opportunity for somebody to perform santhara, he should ask authorization from the religious pioneer. To begin with he should surrender adoration, contempt and connections. He ought to ask his family and others to pardon him, and ought to likewise excuse them. He additionally ought to sincerely admit his past sins; then he ought to keep up the five incredible promises, the same as the homeless people, and ought to peruse (study) the ordinance until his demise. Next he step by step changes his eating regimen to dairy items, boiling water, and so on. At last, fasting totally and recounting a mantra, he ought to dispose of his body.[2] Santhara begins by progressive fasting, checked out in strict agreement with formal solutions and under the nearby supervision of a friar.
It is prescribed under four conditions:
1. Upasarga – bondage by adversary, which makes the keeping of one's pledges incomprehensible.
2. Durbhiksha - a starvation, where there is no real way to acquire satisfactory sustenance.
3. Tara - old age. Powerlessness to walk or do anything without help.
4. Nitipratikaaraa Ruja-Terminal Illness in which demise is unavoidable and inevitable.
Samantabhadra shows reasons for this type of death is necessary:
“Upasargedurbhike, jarasirujyan ca nihipratikare\\
I.e. when faced with hurdles, famine, old age, or disease, one should for religion, observe Sallekhana.
Further he states,
Tasmatyavadvibhavan Samadhimarana Prayatitanvyam\\”[4]
Toward the end of life when one achieves such demise, it is considered as the product of tapa. That is the reason to achieve such a passing ought to be the goal of one's life.
Acharya Sivakoti once said-“one attains many lives if he cannot sustain a proper death even if he regardless of the possibility that he in his entire life he works for Jnana, darsana, caritra. However, then again if Santhara is sought after than the seeker appreciates the delight.”
Upasakadhyayana- “a hopeful who is fasting and so forth and taking part in considering keeping in mind the end goal to defeat interests, such a man ought to go to the sangha and embrace Sallekhana.”[5]


Santhara and its equivalent words are regularly mistaken for suicide or willful extermination (euthanasia). These misguided judgments should be cleared up and dispersed.
The definition and extent of Santhara must be plainly articulated. Neither quick unto passing nor delayed fasting are the main alternatives under this practice. Santhara is the way to achieve salvation at all conceivable number of birth and passing cycles ahead by intentionally drudging to cleanse the spirit from karmas. As indicated by Jainism, each individual soul, by its tendency, is immaculate and impeccable, with weak recognition, information force and rapture. In any case, from forever, it is connected with Karmic matter and has in this way get to be liable to birth and resurrection in various types of presence. The incomparable object of religion is to demonstrate the route for freedom of the spirit from the servitude of Karma. Santhara is not surrendering life but rather it is particularly taking the passing in its own way.
Indian mythology is brimming with episodes when our Gods have ended their life. Lord Ram took "Jalsamadi" in river Saryu. Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha accomplished demise by seeking for it. As of late Shri VinobaBhave[6] met his end by undertaking fast. So was the situation of Swami Ram Krishna Param Hans and MaaAnandmai. The local deity god of Rajasthan 'RAMDEOJI" has taken living samadhi. Indian Saints each year enthusiastically surrender the body. Cases are there where Jain saints have ended their lives by going on fast, that is, by embracing the act of "Santhara". Shri Raichand Bhai, religious master of Mahatma Gandhi took "Samadhimaran" at 33 years old age.
1.1.                 Santhara is not suicide
Santhara is not surrendering life, but rather it is especially taking the death in its own step. Jainism believes in resurrection thus the results of our Karmas are needy upon own great and awful contemplations, words and deeds.
The ruler called Srenika frequently shows up in Jain stories. He was the contemporary of Mahavira (Jainism's originator), and Buddhist writings called him Bimbisara. In his last years, he was confined to the castle by his child, Ajatasatru. Buddhist writings are dubious about the reason for his demise, however Jain writings express that he arrived in hellfire by the wrongdoing of suicide. This story unmistakably demonstrates that Jainism additionally denied suicide.
Additionally, in Santhara, no movement is included; it is only an instance of aggregate abstention in the matter of encouraging. The individual does not find a way to kill the body yet simply does not take care of it and subsequently the body, extra time, consequently starves lastly stops to exist.
However another component of this eternal practice is that the level of composure and separation ought to be to such an extent that the hopeful or entertainer, even in the wake of taking the promise of Santhara, ought to neither wish for early passing or drawing out life. A quote from Acaramga Sutra is given as under:-

It implies that the Saint undertaking Sallekhana ought to neither one of the wishes to live longer or affected by illness, wish to pass on ahead of schedule. He ought to be impassive both to life and demise. He ought to be in a condition of aggregate composure, which transcends the desire to live or die.
It is specified in Shastras that a man who confers suicide will undoubtedly worst form of Karmas and in his next life he would need to endure on that tally.
It is additionally imperative that no one can take Santhara or Sallekhana at a youthful age by any means. For all intents and purposes all instances of santhara are at the end of life, for the most part in the scope of age of 70s to 90s. In any case, if there is a terminal ailment much prior, under the Jain sacred texts, such a man may maybe experience Santhara at his will and volition.[7]
Justice Tukol, a retired judge of Karnataka High Court in his book "Sallekhana is not Suicide" addresses this viewpoint as under -
“I cannot agree with the view that this omission to take food is an act under the section (309 IPC) because one of the principles of interpretation of a criminal statue is that it should be strictly construed. There is no law which casts an obligation on every individual not to fast because fasting is sanctioned by the most of the religions in India as conducive both to physical and mental health, besides providing an opportunity for worship and meditation. A fast undertaken on religious grounds causes no pain or harm to anybody. Since, such fast is not directed against anybody, so as to cause him mental pressure or anxiety, it cannot be regarded as a harmful act. Every fast which is spiritually motivated exudes an atmosphere of tranquility, peace and piety about it.’’
He further says that - “Facing death in a war, knowing full well that death is the likely result, is, applauded as heroism or virmarana dying for religion is called Martyrdom. Facing death for a noble cause earns the title of a national hero or Savior. It cannot therefore be disputed that death for a noble cause or end has always been hailed by all nations, though under different designations”.
Further, the main psychological and physical features of suicide are – “The victim is emotionally stressed and is overpowered by a sentiment of disrespect, loathing, affront, contempt or trepidation and so on. The fundamental aim of committing suicide is to get away from the result of certain demonstration or occasions identified with disrespect, repugnance, affront, scorn or dread and so forth. TThis kind of intention in case of suicide is far from religious or profound contemplation. The methods and means utilized to commit suicide are weapons, poison, discharge, suffocating, hanging and so forth and the death is sudden in the vast majority of the cases, unless the casualty is safeguarded before. The act is submitted usually in mystery and therefore causes wretchedness or mourning to kith kinfolk and others.” The largest numbers of the persons committing suicide are in the age group of 30 to 44 years.[8]
None of the conditions is satisfied in the case of Santhara. Hence, Santhara cannot be treated as suicide.
1.2.                 Santhara is Reversible
As indicated by the Jain convention, the practice has been taken after right from Rishabhadeva, the first Tirthankara. All the 23 next Tirthankaras, including Mahavira, the last Tirthankara, attempted Santhara. The performer or the aspirant can surrender his santhara vow.
The Gatha 232 of Acaramga Sutra states-

“If an ascetic observing Sallekhanapractices gets sick, unconscious, or dizzy due to lack of food and nutrition, he should stop rigorous austerities, terminate Sallekhanaprocess and accept food.”[9]

[1] (Acaramga Sutra 8/6/225) (Flad-D).
[2] Fasting unto Death- Holy Ritual or Suicide? By HOTTA Kazuyoshi (The University of Tokyo) - The 3rd BESETO Conference of Philosophy, Session 8.
[3] Ratnakarandasravakacara (Shloka No. 122)
[4] Ibid.
[5] Samadhimarana (Santhara / Sallekhana) by Justice N.K. Jain.
[6] Acharya VinobaBhave, one of the greatest Gandhians, stopped taking food and water from the 9th Nov to 15th Nov 1982, i.e. immediately before his death at Paunar Ashram in Maharashtra. The personal exhortations of the then Prime Minister of India who met to persuade him on the 12th Nov 1982 and of Gandhian judges like Justice Dharmadhikari, could not make him change his vow. Finally he died on the 15th Nov 1982. Though the word Santhara was not used, what VinobaBhave did was not at all different from the Jain practice of Santhara.
[7] SANTHARA / SALLEKHANA by Dr. D. R. Mehta, Dr. K. C. Sogani, Dr. Kusum Jain and S. Bothra.
[8] The National Crime Record Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India (2013).
[9] Acaramga Sutra, translated by Shri Amarmuni, p. 444.

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