Perennial peace and perfection are the main targets of the wise souls who are really tired of transmigration and untold vissicitudes of the world.
The royal road to ever-lasting bliss is the practice of right penances and austerities. Acharya Samanta Bhadra says, “Dharmnath Tirthankara had burnt the huge forest of karmas by the fire of penances and had attained everlasting bliss.”
All the efforts and penances become barren and worthless if the aspirant does not meet his end like a valiant and invincible wairior. He should meet death with peace, serenity and equanimity. This sort of death is called Samadhi-Maran. It is in fact the gate-way for the future advancement and progress on the path of liberation. Real Nirvana is hard to achieve.
Its causes compromise of several things amongst which peaceful parting is conspicuous. With a view to have auspicious death, the whole life must be regulated and pure. Those who aspire for genuine peace should embark upon the path of Samadhi-Maran.
Death should not be at all dreaded. Since it is the lot of every mundane soul, why should we not meet our end with tranquillity and peace ? We ought to remember the inspiring words of Acharya Pujya Pada Swami, ‘‘My soul is verily immortal; why should I then be terrified ?’’ ]
Every individual in this world is acquainted with the ferocious and awe-inspiring death. When Buddha, in dream observed a man in the clutches of death, his heart became disgusted with temporary pleasures of the world and he renounced royal splendour to embrace the life of a recluse.
Not only human or subhuman beings are victims of death, but the gods and goddesses are not exception to this universal law. The Buddhist philoso-phers point out that all substances are momentary therefore they die the next moment. All objects are in the jaws of death. Shelley’s remarks are noteworthy
“Death is here and death is there,
Death is busy everywhere.
All around within, beneath,
Above is death—and we are death.”The Epicurion suggests us to forget all about death and devote ourselves licentiously to the luxuries of the universe. He admonishes us against the hardships of penance as futile and encourages us to eat, drink and be merry.
Frankly speaking the merry-making-at any cost-philosophy is dominating the whole world, therefore all appear to be busy in their sense—gratification —campaign. Few care for the soul.
Theosophy believes in life after death. Dr. Annie Beasant says “When the soul at death leaves the body of flesh, it is clothed in a violet-grey body made of ethers, or of matter of different densities, all rarer than the gases of earthy it.is in these kinds of ethers that light, electricity, Rontgen rays, etc,, And the medium in which they express themselves as ‘modes of motion.
Gross and unclean living, indulgence in animal passions and appetites, thicken and coarsen the astral body, drawing into it the coarser kinds of astral matter, while a temperate and pure life, control of the lower nature, and high and unselfish thoughts, attract to it the finest and rarest sorts of astral materials.
The immortality of the soul is thus supported : “The soul being incorporeal is simple since it is both uncompound and indivisible into parts. It follows that what is simple is immortal…. and what is subject to dissolution is compound; consequently the soul being simple and not being made up of diverse parts, but being un-compound and indissoluble, must be in virtue of that incorruptible and immortal.” (Ante Nicene Christian Library xx. 115).
The Bible speaks of the immortality of the soul in these words, “Neither can they die any more.” ( Luke xx. 36 )The spiritualists have stronger and more con-vincing grounds to hold that the living substance is in fact immortal and it goes on its unending journey from one body to another from infinity.
The soul has to reap the harvest of its noble or evil deeds and in consequence thereof, it becomes happy or distressed. As the soiled, rugged and rotten clothing is discarded and is replaced by a better and more decent dress without effecting the identity of the person; similarly the soul sheds away its worn- out, frail and emaciated mortal coil and puts on a fresh body in accordance with its past activities and mental dispositions.
In common parlance this abandonment of the body is deemed as death, which is wrongly interpreteted by the ignorant as the destruction of the Self. The wise comprehend that the soul’s existence and immortality remain intact and they are unperturbed by the decay and destruction of the physical frame.
The general rule applies to all living substances that what is existent cannot be non-existent. Naturally therefore the decay or death of the body does not affect the inherent nature of soul. Wordsworth say
“Our birth is but a sleep and forgetting,
The soul that rises with us, our life’s star
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar ”
Johnson says :—
Dead is my youth and so my age must die,
But I remain, imperishable I.
This great grand truth that the soul is infact immortal, and lifeless matter cannot shower any blessing upon the soul, nor can it cause any disaster or calamity, is not kept in sight by the worldy-wise man.
Therefore the wiseacre waste all his time and energy in terrestrial, evanescent and deceptive materials to placate the body and provide it with all possible luxury and comforts.
The Hedonists make all endeavours for pleasures of the body and they e ven put to shame the brutes in their vile and vicious efforts. To achieve their sense- gratification they feel no compunction or remorse of conscience in killing innumerable fellow beings.
In their impossible and futile endeavours to postpone death for their fleeting soul from this mortal coil, they undergo all privations and indescribable pangs vainly hoping, that ultimately their desire will be fulfilled, but only disappointment comes to their lot and constrains them to comprehehd that they were in fool’s paradise.
The wise do not live in darkness, since they from the very beginning understand that our chase after material comforts and luxurious and pompous living is in fact similar to the mad race of a thirsty deer for water in the deceptive mirage of a sandy desert.
The person equipped with right and scientific vision of the affairs of the world treats the soul’s stay in the tody as a show of some drama, therefore he develops the attitude of thorough detachment from mundane matters and sincerely exerts to acquire his divinity, immortality and omniscience accompanied by everlasting bliss of Nirvana.
As long as the soul is immersed in the mire of attachment, anger, aversion, infatuation, greed, vanity and similar other evil inclinations and does not discriminate between his body and soul, there is no hope of any progress on the path of spiritual evolution and unfolding of divine treasury of Godhood and beatitude. He should not be a slave of senses, and animal appetites, but he is required to curb his passions and have complete control over mind and senses.
He should not play hide and seek with his own conscience. He should fearlessly face the unmosked truth. Thus his outlook undergoes a wonderful change in all walks of life. He aspires for liberation from material possessions and passions, which perpetuate Karmic thraldom and bring about his transmigration in this world. He no longer dreads of death.
He has learnt a new lesson from Lord Jinendra that Samadhimaran—death with mental peace and equanimity should be aspired for, since it ultimately leads to immortality and bliss. To achieve this objective he has to keep his whole life regulated, disciplined and fully controlled.
He begins to love death and treats its arrival as the greatest and sublimest festivity of life, whereby he can carve out most glorious future marked with unprecedented development and undreamt of blessings, but he is not entangled in these lovely bounties which are created by auspicious karmas.
He acquires that balanced and scientific vision whereby he is not elated by prosperity or dejected by penury or privations in life. His mental equilibrium remains unperturbed against all odds.
He takes necessary care of his body, nourishes it properly when it is in order, but when it is indisposed he provides it with necessary treatment to acquire its vitality and vigour. It is to be carefully noted that the Jain scriptures have not sanctioned suicide.
Bhagwati Aradhana ordains; “Bhakta- Pratyakhyana Marana ( death-vow ) 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 effected by an incurable disease and who is not faced by any sudden cause of death.
Whosoever 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.”
When inspite of all care, precaution and fondling, the frame goes on taking undesirable turn and rapidly decays giving a definite assurance and intimation that it won’t survive any more under all circumstances, the wise is admonished not to waste his precious moment and energy in his helpless and futile efforts to fulfil the freaks of his frantic frame and its comforts but to vigilantly utilize every moment to uplift the soul and guard it against the onslaughts of vicious thoughts and debasing tendencies.
The thoughtless ignorant soul remains engulfed in stygian chao’ic darkness, for it foolishly shudders with fear to have a peep into the intrinsic attributes of the pure and perfect soul.
If he happens to grasp the basic truth that this material world is not related to the conscious self in any way, all joys and sorrows due to success and failures, victory or defeat, prosperity or adversity vanish in no time. He will be soon released from the agonies of the successive births and deaths and enjoy the ambrosia of perpetual bliss and everlasting life of perfection and purity.
He should come out of the dark den of attachment for non-soul, and realise the fact that the matter is neither the kith nor the kin of the soul. What relation can there be between dull darkness and luminous light ? He should muster all courage and take inspiration from the soul which is imbedded with infinite power and carefully concentrate upon his Divinity, which has been lost sight of due to his absorption in dead and deceiving material cosmic panorama.
When he observes that his body is decaying, the senses are not functioning properly, the sharp intelligence is becoming dull and the mind is shrouded with infatuation and delusion, he vigilantly sees that his soul is not robbed of its sublime virtues by the domination of animal passions.
The great Jain Yogin Acharya Kundakunda reminds us of the Divine Sermon that every soul is blessed with infinite knowledge, bliss, conation and power and not even a particle of matter is related to it. Divinity is the birth-right of every living being. In John ( x. 34 ) the divinity of the soul has been thus supported “I said, ye are Gods” Mandu- kopanisad says, “sra^r ?ru – This Self is Brahman”.
When the aspirant valiantly wages war against ignoble mental dispositions and spiritual hindrances of ignorance, delusion and passions, the terrifying and awe-inspiring demon of death disappears. His conviction upon soul’s invincibility is not disturbed by Himalayan hardships. The scriptures point out that a person equipped with right faith and scientific attitude of life attains liberation in seven or eight incarnations in this woeful world, if he is blessed with Samadhimaran-death with equanimity.
This unique type of death’ ultimately leading to immortality blesses very few fortunately beings — hardly one out of millions. History relates that the great Mourya Emperor Chandragupta, grandfather of Priyadarshi Asoka had relinquished royal pleasures and embraced the life of a nude Jain anchorite and had the good luck to leave his mortal coil by pious death known as Sallekhana.
This fact has been recorded on the Chandragiri hill in the renowned Jain cultural seat of Sravanbelgola (Mysore State). The inscriptions of the said sacred hill also relate that several saintly figures had died with peace and serenity from there. In the Jain sacred literature of remote past we have reference of saints and noble laity, whose progressive and prosperous lives were adorned with this ideal death.
Poet Jinasen points out in his great Sanskrit work Mahapurana that Lord Rishabha- Deva, the first JainTirthankara in his previous incar-nation was known as king Mahabala, who attained heaven after his fast unto death for twenty-two days with remarkable peace of mind and serenity.
Mechanical Age In our present world the monster of materialism has caught hold of all nations in the form of mars and mammon and that people think themselves more to be machines than souls blessed with divine attributes.
It is surprising to learn that even in this age we had in our midst the great saint, His Holiness Charitra Chakravarty Acharya Shantisagar Maharaj, who had taken the great vow of Sallekhana penance at the age of 84, when his body became a hindrance in his ideal observance of the highest type of non-violence, since his sight had become much dimmer.
His mighty soul left the mortal coil after 35 days’ fast. The saint had given up all food and during the last period of fortnight he had abandoned even water. When I approached the saint and prayed for giving some information about himself of that period of unique penance His Holiness had said, “I do not feel any pang of hunger or thirst nor do I experience any trouble or inconvenience.
I feel as if I am sitting in my own castle undisturbed because I am constantly devoted to Self-absorption and meditation”. I had spent 26 days at the feet of the great sage and I am reminded of John Donne’s verse, which appears to give expression to the mental picture of such noble minds, who fearlessly face death.
The poet sings :— Death be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so, For those, whom thou think’st thou dost over-throw, Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me… …Death, thou shalt die.
Westerners like Rice, Stevenson and many a Indian under Western sway, unable to fathom the real significance of this pious death find fault with it and dub the same as suicide pure and simple. This charge is baseless and erroneous and is the outcome of ignorance of the real state of affairs.
The aspirant resorts to fast unto death, when he is sure of the fact that his end is drawing near and that his unavoidable circumstances are such that he cannot faithfully and sincerely fulfil his sacred vow of non-violence-Ahimsa towards all creatures great or small, he as an honest and honourable person has no other alternative but to rejoicingly invite death, rather than pass his time as a miserable, down-hearted coward and lead the life of disgrace, calumny and sin.
Poor and weak souls are unable to understand his commendable stand and invincible courage against the horrors of dreadful death, therefore they cast aspersions against those, whose, feet should have been venerated and adored by them with due devotion. In suicide one aims at finishing life immediately being moved by low passions and evil inclinations but in the case of Sallekhana or Samadhi- Maran the aspirant has not the least desire to.
bring his end immediately. His aim is to take care of his sacred vows and moral obligations. As he gives topmost priority to that activity which elevates the soul, he has no time or energy at his disposal to lavishly spend it for foul and filthy frame In pious death the saint is inspired by lofty and sublime ideals of purity, peace, compassion, self-control and the like.
The sinner condemned by suicide is the victim of evil prospensities like anger, lust, greed, pride, disgust, disgrace, infatuation etc.
Due to his low\morals and mental weakness he is unable to see the world in the face and feels that by entrance into the den of death, he will improve his lot, therefore he cuts the cord of life by hook or crook without minding the evil consequences in the life hereafter. He in fact is a coward, and a spiritless soul.
On the contrary the view of the enlightened and courageous sage on the proximity of death is that of a hero, when he is assailed by the hordes of robbers in the shape of evil thought. This spiritual hero crushes evil inclinations and acquires sober and serene attitude.
He rivets his attention upon the soul. He neither longs for death nor does he desire to prolong his life. Being motivated by noble and sublime ideals he shuns all attachment for friends and relations.
He believes that the soul has been all alone wandering in this world. The associations of friends is simi ar to the assembling of birds upon a tree in the evening, which fly away in different directions on the arrival of dawn. He gives up all desires for deceptive pleasures of the senses. He detests even the pleasures of the Lord of celestials.
He aspires the bliss of beatitude and immortal life. Like a wise merchant, this pilgrim on the path of liberation, when his ship of body dashes against destructive rocks, shrewdly leaves the ship and cautiously moves to the shore with his valuable treasures.
Therefore when the non-violent sage sees that his body is not helping the soul for achieving its inborn and natural attributes, on the other hand it is acting as an impediment for spiritual progress, he pays no heed to the needs of the body, which was rightly called by St. Francis “brother ass”. In this respect the remarks of Rai Bahadur Justice J. L. Jaina are worthy of attention—“An incurable Jain Saint gives up food because it cannot be got without breach of his vows.
He cannot be false to his vows. Even to save his life he does not want to kill himself. That will be sinful suicide. But he has no attachment for the body and does not want to waste his time in irreligious efforts to prolong it. He gives himself upto the calm of renunciation and thus he meets his end like a self- ontrolled joyous hero”.
This Samadhi-maran is like a charming innocent swan moving in a pure and calm pond, whereas suicide is akin to a heron, which has the charm of the swan but whose cruel character is soiled with the blood of innumerable small acquatic creatures.
The rules framed by our legistators forbidding suicide cannot come in the way of the sage who takes recourse to the greatest penance for spiritual purity and safety against the forces of evil and violence. The self-controlled and highly cultured lives of these monks illumine all humanity like a light-house in the sea.
The mental attitude of these heroes has been depicted thus by Poet Dryden :— Death has no power the immortal soul to slay. That when its present body turns to clay, Seeks a fresh home and with unlessened might, Inspires another frame with life and light.”
The person with firm faith in soul’s immortality on the eve of death bids farewell to all world with its blessings, beauties and bounties and renounces all desires. The great Jain Saint Shanti Sagar Maharaj in the course of his Sallekhana penance had told me that he had no desire for even his Nirvana-Liberation, since desire is the ultimate cause of soul’s wanderings.
The souls of inner illumination possess unique out-look. Acharya Gutiabhadra says, “What can karma ( destiny ) do to saints, who possess the faculty of discrimination, whose wealth is possessi- onless-ness and to whom pious death itself is as dear as life.”
“Verily, Karma subjugates those who desire longevity and aspire for wealth. What injury Destiny can inflict upon them, whose desire has been extinguished ?” The sage treats death as the best friend because it is through death only that the soul enjoys the fruits of his noble actions and penances.
In this context Gandhiji’s words are very pertinent and enlightening — ‘Life becomes livable only to the extent that death is treated as a friend, never as an enemy.
To conquer life’s temptations summon death to your aid. In order to postpone death a coward surrenders his honour, his wife, his daughter and all. A courageous man prefers death to the surrender of self-respect”.Tendulkar-The Mahatma, Vol. VIII P. 249.
The following reference from Hindu scripture Manusmriti is pertinent, “On the appearance of some incurable disease and the like, facing Northeast and maintaining himself only on water and air and established firmly in Yogic contemplation, he should move steadily onwards till the body falls down. This mode of dying ter med,‘Maha-prasthana’, is the one enjoined in the scripture.
Therefore it is forbidden to die in contravention of the prescribed from. G. R. Jain in his ‘Jainism and World Problems’ ( p. 180 ) observes, “It is Senecca however, whose views come up nearest to the Jain Sallekhana, He says, “He, who waits the extremity of old age is not far removed from a coward..J will not relinquish old age, if it leaves my better part intact.
But if it begins to shake my mind ; if it destroys its faculties, one by one, if it leaves me not life but breath, I will depart from the putrid and tottering edifice. I will not escape by death from disease as long as it may be healed, and leaves my mind unimpaired I will not raise my hand against myself oh account of pain, for so to die is to be conquered.
But if I know that I must suffer without hope of relief, I will depart, not through fear of pain itself, but because it prevents all for which I live.’ (Lecky’s History of Europeon Morals-chapter 11). The following observations of the great Jain scholar and philosopher professor A.
Chakravarty clarify all doubts in this regardNcelakeshi—Tamil work’s Introduction pp 160-161 “This Sellekhana Vrata is taken by persons who are in the Jaws of death, and who find no escape therefrom.
When they realise that they have only a short span of life in this world after realising that they are not going to be saved from the Jaws of death, they take a vow that they will not take any more care about their wordly possessions including their own body in order to spend the remaining valuable short span of life in devotion and worship and purifying of heart and not to be worried by anything else This Jalle- khana is very often misinterpreted as meaningless starvation to death or as killing oneself—a conduct which is quite inconsistent with the principles of Ahimsa.
While preaching mercy and love to all living creatures, inflicting pain or himsa on oneself will certainly be an inconsistent course of conduct. But Sallekhana is not such a voluntary pain on one* self as an end in itself. On the otherhand, it is just an attempt to better one’s own spiritual condition, when the end is realised as inevitable.”
In this respect the elucidation of Acharya Pujyapada is very significant. : “It is argued that it is suicide, since there is voluntary severance of life etc. No, it it is not suicide, as there is no passion. Injury consists in the destruction of life actuated by passion without attachment etc. there is no passion in this undertaking. A person, who kills himself by means of poison, weapons, etc ; swayed by attachment, averson or infatuation commits suicide.
But he who practises holy death is free from desire, anger and delusion. Hence it is not suicide, “It has been taught by Lord Jina that the absence of attachment and other passions is non-injury and that rise of feelings of attachment and the other passions is injury”.
For instance a merchant collects commodities for sale and stores them. He does not welcome the destruction of his store-house. The destruction of the store-house is against his wishes and when some danger threatens the store-house, he tries to safeguard it. But if he cannot avert the danger he tries to save the commodities at least from ruin.
Similarly, a householder is engaged in acquiring the commodity of vows and supplementary vows. And he does not desire the ruin of the receptacle of these virtues, namely the body. But when serious danger threatens the body, he tries to avert it in a righteous manner without violating his vows In case it is not possible to avert danger to the body, he at least tries to safeguard his vows.
How can such a procedure be called suicide ?” ( Reality : p. 205-6 ) It is to be noted that ordinarily a monk takes every care for the preservation of the body because it is of primary use in his penances / and supreme type of meditation.
This human form is deemed superior to the bodies of celestials, because man’s body is such whereby all sort of penances can be practised and the huge forest of karmas can be burnt in the conflagration of concentration.
Therefore if the body prolongs, it will help the saint in his mission of self-purification and shedding away of karmic shackles which hinder soul’s progress towards attainment of Divinity.
But when the saint sees that now his body is becoming inimical against soul’s progress and it is going to destory all his treasures acquired by penances and pious practices, he bids adieu to the body and devotes his full attention to the Self.
He meditates upon this noble Truth : “When my Soul is deathless, why should I fear ? My soul is free from all diseases, therefore why should there be any anguish ; I am not a child or a young man or an aged person. These appellations are appended to the material body”.
The spiritual guide sounds a note of warning in these edifying words ; “Oh, Soul ! thou art knowledge-bodied ; the physical frame is now tottering. It abounds in innumerable insects. Never thou be afraid, if.this body perishes.”
f Such noble thoughts provide infinite mental courage and inner sustenance to the fasting soul. These sublime ideas also serve as spiritual delicacy and vitality to the soul, who is waging a terrible war against world-victor Death.
This wise and commendable step of the saint is known as Sallekhana, when the passions weaken like the body which becomes emaciated and weaker every moment for want of nourishment, but the soul power is increasing wonderfully and the host of karmas acquired in ‘several past incarnations is rapidly destroyed.
This state of affairs promises most brilliant career of the soul from every standpoint. Marvellous are the results of this Sallekhana, therefore every aspirant prays for Samadhi-maran —the ideal death, which is the gateway to perennial peace and bliss.