(How to Die) of the book “Sannyasa-Dharma”
by Late Shri Champat Rai Jain
The one undertaking or business of the sādhu (homeless ascetic) is the overthrow of death, which is held in the utmost dread by the generality of mankind.
The sādhu aims at its destruction from the very commencement, nay, he cannot be said to have any other aim or ambition in life than the mastery of this, the most dreaded of foes.
He gave up all undertakings and occupations on the eight step (pratimā) of the householder’s path, distributed and gave away all his possessions, excepting a few wearing apparel, on the ninth step, renounced all concern with worldly matters on the tenth step, and dissociated himself with all else except the ”langoti” (a narrow strip of cloth worn by men to hide their nudity), the feather whisk and the bowl on the eleventh.
The langoti, too, is gone now! In a word, he has no earthly ambitions and pursuits left to obsess his mind as a sannyasin. Personal comforts he no longer seeks; for he has his body completely under control, having risen even above the automatism of bodily functions, such as excretion, urination and the like, to a very great extent.
He enjoys the bliss appertaining to his real nature now all the time that he can remain absorbed in the samādhi (undisturbed attitude) of Self-contemplation, but he knows that the happiness he thus enjoys is but a shadow of the real thing, though enrapturing even as such.
He longs to remove the cause which stands in the way of his enjoyment of real bliss. With respect to knowledge also he knows that there are infinitely greater treasures in the soul than he is able to avail himself of in his present state, and he is anxious to reach the all-embracing all-sufficing knowledge speedily. The same is the case with life which has the terrible monster Death staring it in the face!
The saint knows that immortality is the nature of the soul, and he is bent on the destruction of the causes that stand between him and life abundant and infinite and full.
He further knows that the one cause of all these short-comings and troubles of his is the association of matter, which is also the form which the dreaded Foe, namely, Death, assumes and without the disruption of which it cannot be overpowered.
He believes that the tearing asunder of Spirit from matter is possible, but only for him who is endowed with the most resolute iron will. He is aware of his own deficiency in respect of the requisite quality of will, without which Self-contemplation, the cause of the separation between Spirit and Matter, cannot be accomplished in the desired way.
This means that he cannot hope to conquer Death in one life, but expects to train himself steadily for the final contest, through a course of training extending over several (usually from three to five) lives. Nor is he dismayed at the prospect of delay; for what is a delay of four or five lives, as compared with the infinity of lives he had had in the infinity of time that is known as the past, and the infinity of those the soul shall have to assume in the future, as an unemancipated ego?
The sādhu knows that merit acquired in one life is not destroyed or nullified by death, but becomes the main factor in the shaping of the conditions of the next life and leads to desirable and beneficial kinds of reincarnations in the future.
Thus, the amount of indomitable iron will which he develops now will secure for him a rebirth in conditions and surroundings that will make it easier in the next life to adopt and practise the rules of Right Conduct. He therefore, issues his challenge to the terrible Foo in language such as this.
I know I am not able to destroy thee in this life, or in the next one to come, or even in the one following the next one. I shall, therefore, be unable to resist being devoured by thee for some time yet; but l shall so arrange matters that each time that I pass down thy omnivorous throat, I may be developing my will more and more.
Thus if I have no will to defy thee with this time, next time I shall have an ounce of it, and in the second, about a pound, then a ton, and, finally, an irresistible, inexhaustible store! Then. I shall crush thee through the fingers of my hand, so to speak- Beware, then, and let my challenge be registered!’ The challenge thrown out, the sādhu is never afraid of death, but seeks to encounter it howsoever and wheresoever it may come.
He does not for that reason run away from any place, nor turn away, through fear, from any situation in which he finds himself placed. As already said life has but one occupation for him now the conquest of the eternal enemy! And he goes about fearlessly, ready to face it anywhere and at any time, unflinchingly.
If he is insulted or attacked by man or beast or even by any form of super-human agency, he will not move an inch, but will strive his utmost to remain absolutely tranquil and unruffled, avoiding even the cherishing of an angry thought in his mind.
He has destroyed all sense of attachment to his body, and cannot, therefore, regard its afflictions and inflictions as his own in any sense. He who beats or insults his body, therefore, does nothing which he can or ought to resent.
Similarly, he has no love left in him for his personality the name which he bore when he was not ordained, and the appurtenant personal paraphernalia that he possessed as a householder. It is not possible for anyone to disturb him by slandering his good name, for that reason.
When attacked he does not even wish for a speedy termination of the assault or trouble or discomfort. He, simply turns his attention inwards and throws himself in the attitude of kayotsarga (detachment from the body), till the assault be over, or death put an end to the trouble. The idea of a flight will never enter his mind; for what should one not afraid of, but rather anxious to meet, death fear or flee from?
The Master’s ‘death’ is the dissociation between Spirit and Matter, as in the case of the Tirthankara, whose body is dispersed, and vanishes, like camphor, leaving the Spirit pure and undefiled, which as such immediately ascends to the topmost part of the Universe, to reside there, for ever, in the enjoyment of Infinite.
All-embracing Knowledge, Infinite Perception, Unending Bliss, Infinite Life, that is immortality, and all other Divine attributes. The Wise man’s mode is the death of the saint. He dies but in a tranquil state, neither grieving for nor lamenting the approach of the end in any way.
The bala-pandita is the death of the self-controlled, partly-disciplined householder, whose interior is illumined with Right Faith.
The bala form of death is the death of the uncontrolled true believer.
The bala-bala signifies the mode of dying of the soul that is steeped in ignorance and wrong-living. The difference between the bala and the bala-bala death lies in the fact that the former is the death of a faithful but undisciplined being, while the latter is the death of the very worst type, implying ignorance and want of self-control.
The pandita-pandita ‘death’ leads to the immediate realization of the coveted Supreme Status, It is no death at all, is reality, being simply a translation to the Abode of Gods, the pure Perfect Souls in nirvana.
The pandita death leads to the highest heavens, where the saint enjoys great felicity and pleasure, for very-very long periods of time, whence descending he is reborn, in due course, in auspicious and desirable surroundings amongst men. Here he soon finds himself surrounded by all sorts of felicities and facilities and inducements for the acquisition and practising of the Right Faith.
The bala-pandita death leads to lower heavens, where, also the felicity is great. The bala-pandita soul also is reborn amongst men on the termination of the heavenly incarnation.
The bala death leads to a human birth, and may even lead to heaven in favourable circumstances.
The bala-bala death always leads to undesirable conditions, except where tapaścharaņa (asceticism) is practised under the influence of a faith which, though not of the right sort, enjoins its practising, in which case the individual will reach lower heavens, and will subsequently, in ordinary cases, be reborn amongst men under inauspicious circumstances.
In the worst cases, the bala-bala death is the source of the most undesirable conditions and surroundings. The soul is sure to descend into hells, which may be for a very-very long term of life, in the very worst cases. Those who die in the bala-bala mode generally descend into the animal kingdom, and may be reborn amongst minerals and plants.
Some even sink back into what is known as nigoda, which is almost like an unending eternal stupor. The bala-bala death will also lead to a human birth where some sort of active goodness is present to modify the effect of evil and vicious ignorance.
The form of the future rebirth is usually fixed about the time that a third of the life-force (the force of longevity) remains to be gone through in any particular form. If it is not fixed then, it will be fixed when a third of that third remains to be gone through, and again, if not determined even then, when a third of the remainder is left to live, and in any case at the moment of death.
But what is fixed in this manner is the general type of the gati (one of the four main types of embodied existence, namely, human, celestial, sub-human and hellish).
The actual form and other attendant circumstances would seem to depend on the nature of the thoughts and feelings actually prevailing in the mind at the moment of death, so that where these are characterized by tranquillity, self-knowledge, and veneration for the Tirthankaras, Liberated Ones, Saints and Scripture, the conditions of rebirth will be of the most auspicious and the least undesirable type; and vice versa.
It would thus seem that the two psychical or psychological factors which play the greatest part in the determination of the nature of the future re-incarnation are character and feeling, the former determining the gati, and the latter, the actual grade of being in the particular gati.
The sādhu, therefore, does not suffer death to come to him unprepared, but determines to control his disposition and inner feelings both. The former is altered by the acquisition of Right Faith and illumined with the light of Right Knowledge, and the latter is controlled by the rules constituting Right Conduct.
Hence, where Right Faith is acquired too late, that is to say after the type of the gati has been fixed for the future rebirth, it is powerless to replace it in that very life, though, short of this, it will do much to modify, for the better, the nature of the conditions of existence within it.
This is because the stamp of disposition once firmly impressed on the karman sarira (an invisible inner body which is the repository of character) is indelible for that life, though capable of modification by subsequent deeds to a very great extent.
Thus, if a person has already incurred the liability to be reborn in the tiryancha gati that embraces all forms of the mineral, the vegetable and the animal kingdoms, and includes even the lowest and therefore the most undesirable form of life, known as nigoda, no subsequent change of beliefs, on his part, in that particular incarnation, can cancel the liability that has been incurred, though the tinge of his prevailing convictions and thoughts at the last moment of life may be such as to lead him to be reborn amongst the best forms of existence within its range.
Similarly, if a person has engendered the karma for a rebirth in hell, it is possible for him by his subsequent good actions and right beliefs to reincarnate in the best of the conditions that are available in that gati, or to descend to the lowest and the most dreadful of its grades by further perverse thinking and living.
The death the saint aspires to attain to is termed samadhi-marana or sallekhanā, that is to say the death of self-control. Even advanced householders aspire for this auspicious form of death. The saint does not like to die like a fool, as a rat in a trap, so to speak.
He selects his own time and conditions for death. He perfects himself for it through a long course of training so that he should not flinch or be deterred in his resolution at the moment of the supreme test.
The course recommended extends over a period of twelve years which is to be divided into six unequal parts and devoted to the performance of desire eradicating asceticism.
The first four years he should devote to the special form of tapas known as kāyakaleśa (bodily afflictions), to be followed by a similar period characterized by the avoidance of the six rasas, namely,
|(1) milk||(2) curds|
|(3) ghee (clarified butter)||(4) oils|
|(5) sugar||(6) salt|
Thus disciplined the saint may hope to be able to control his inner conditions and future destiny both at the moment of death.
The time for sallekhanā death should be such as is pleasant, and not likely to add to the discomfort of the saint. The place should also be one where trouble and inconvenience and discomfort are not very likely to be encountered.
The saint who performs sallekhanā places himself under the guidance of a well-qualified and experienced acharya (leader of saints) who superintends the ceremony, and appoints other saints to take care of and attend upon him.
Sallekhanā is performed either at a time deliberately chosen, or, in case of accidents, when the probability of death is almost tantamount to a certainty. If there be doubt, and the saint is not willing to undertake sallekhanā at once, he should adopt a qualified vow for a certain period of time, after which sallekhanā is to be terminated if death does not occur in the interval, but there is no other difference between the qualified and the regular form.
Even when deliberately undertaken sallekhanā death is not suicide. It is not inspired by any of those sorrowful or gloomy passionate states of the mind that amount to an unhinging of the mental balance and imply a fit of temporary insanity characteristic of a suicide’s mind.
On the other hand, it is characterised by the utmost degree of mental clarity and urged by the pious ambition to control one’s destiny, and, through it, ultimately, death itself.
Except as indicated above sallekhanā is forbidden in the Scripture of Truth as will be evident from the
“Bhaktapratyakhyana-marana (sallekhanā) is not proper for him who has many years of saintly life before him, who has no fear of starvation from a great famine, who is not afflicted by an incurable disease, and who is not faced by any sudden cause of death.
Whoever desires to put an end to his life while still able, with his body, to observe the rules of the dharma and of the order properly falls from the true path!” (See the Bhagwati Aradhana).
The sādhu, intent upon the observance of the sallekhanā vow, begins by giving up solid foods, taking to such sustaining liquids as milk, curds, whey, and the like, and, finally, comes down to hot water, which, too, is given up, as soon as he is able to sustain himself on the strength of his indomitable will.
He now refrains from all kinds of foods and drinks till the last moment of life. If trouble comes and the cravings of hunger and thirst are overpowering, he engages himself in holy meditation, going over in his mind the amount of food and water which he has taken in the course of the infinity of lives through which he has passed, in the infinity of time that is known as the past.
If the quantity that has been absorbed by him thus far has not produced satiety or satisfaction, it is not likely that what he would take now in the shape of food and drink would do so either!
Thus, by dwelling upon his undisciplined past, and comparing the horrors of the different grades of life, through which he has passed as an incarnating ego, with the advantages arising from self-discipline, he is soon enabled to destroy the longings of the fleshly nature; and under the instruction of the holy acharya, who is at all times watchful over his great undertaking and ever ready to dispel disturbing agitation, with the ambrosia of sweet discourse, speedily overcomes all forms of distractions.
With reference to attending to the bodily comforts and needs, there are three kinds of the pandita death which the saint aspires to attain.
(1) The prāyopagamana, which precludes attending to bodily needs and comforts altogether,
(2) the ingini marana, that admits of one’s attending on one’s self, but forbids receiving help or assistance from another, and
(3) The bhakta pratijnā that permits attendance and service of both kinds.
Of these, naturally, the first kind of the pandita marana is regarded as the most meritorious, as it leads to the greatest development of the will. The next in the order of merit is the ingini marana, and last of all comes the bhakta pratijnā.
The saint performing the prāyopagamana mode of sallekhanā death becomes, towards the end of the process, completely estranged, in thought, from his body, which is henceforth allowed to lie like a log of wood, uncared for and unattended by its owner, who does not allow anyone else either to attend to its needs.
Massage is permitted in the other two forms of the sallekhanā death, and the cleaning of the bodily impurities with purified water.
In addition to saints even householders may join in the service of a sādhu that is embarked on sallekhanā death, and they can render valuable service when he is unable to move about from enfeeblement, by arranging to have their own food prepared nearer to his residence, thus placing themselves in a position to offer him suitable food, nearer at hand, in strict accordance with the rules.
In addition to those forms of help already referred to, the purification of his seat, the kamandalu (water gourd) and the pichchi may also be done for him by another.
At night he may lie on smooth even ground after it has been duly seen to be free from insect life, or use a mat of straw or dry grass, a wooden plank or a slab of stone. These will have to be ‘insect-freed’ likewise. Towards the end of the sallekhanā death the saint endeavours to conquer sleep itself, and spends the whole of his time in holy meditation.
Those who attend on a saint duly set out on the accomplishment of the sallekhanā death should be endowed with great faith and wisdom, and should refrain from all kinds of show of sentimentalism that might cause him to waver in his resolution or to be agitated in thought.
They should exclude all undesirable visitors and hangers-on and should always endeavour to strengthen him in his arduous faith and conduct, by means of the narration of stories of great ascetics who have successfully gone through the trying ordeal, as well as of discourses on the merit of dharma, propounding the doctrines of Faith and describing the terrible sufferings which unemancipated souls have undergone and shall have to undergo in their migratory career in the future.
The effect of these narrations is extremely soothing, and wonderful altogether.
It brings into manifestation something of the higher energy of the spiritualised will that is an attribute of the soul, and that speedily puts an end to all kinds of lower cravings and undesirable forms of feelings, filling the mind with the utmost degree of vairagya (spirit of renunciation).
With his soul resting, as it were, on the unshakable rock of Right Faith, his mind illumined with the light of pure Truth, that is Right Knowledge, and his actions all regulated and controlled by the highest form of will-developing vairagya, namely, Right conduct, the saint is more than a match for evil karma and the pain that is the progeny of karma.
He disregards his suffering as a champion athlete disregards the few scratches that he gets in a scuffle against his adversary.
Thus filled with the spirit of holiness and vairagya, he recites the great Obeisance mantram (auspicious formula) till the mortal coil is shuffled off, and sallekhanā terminates in a re-birth in the soul-enrapturing scenery and surroundings of the heavenly regions, the abodes of devas (celestial beings)!