Empowering Santhara through Law

This article was written by Nayan Jain a student of HNLU.

May death be Auspicious!

-Acarya Vidhyananda Muni[1]

  1. Introduction

Jainism is a venerable Indian religion that preaches way to liberation, harmlessness and renunciation. They are disunited into two major sects, viz, sky clad sect (Digambara) and the white clad sect (Shvetambara). According to Jainism animals and plants contains living souls. Each soul is deliberated of equal value and is treated with compassion and respect. They tries to embrace worldly resources in a minimal and necessary amount. Their belief holds in reincarnation and in attaining supreme liberation, i.e., absconding the perpetual cycle of birth, death and rebirth so that the eternal spirit lives permanently in a state of happiness.This can be attained by eliminating karma from the soul.

Jainism is a cult which practices self-help, i.e., there is no concept of god and priest in it. Instead, there is a concept of Tirthankaras. According to Jain mythology, over a long period of time, their religious teachings are gradually forgotten, which are again disseminated by a rare individual who renounce the world to conquer the continuous cycle of death and rebirth. In each half of cosmic time cycle, exactly twenty four such individual or Tirthankaras are born. Latest of present cosmic time cycle being lord Mahavira whose teachings are mentioned in the sacred texts called Agamas.

Also, there are religious people viz. monks and nuns, who preaches simple, veracious, strict and austere lives.The ‘three jewels’ or the three main principles are right belief, right conductand right knowledge.There are fivegreat vows(mahavratas) in Jainism. They being-

S. No. Vows Meaning
1. Ahiṃsa Not to hurt any living being by actions and thoughts
2. Satya Not to lie or speak what is not commendable.
3. Asteya Not to take anything if not given.
4. Brahmacharya Chastity / Celibacy in action, words & thoughts.
5. Aparigraha (Non-possession) Detachment from material property.


  1. The classification of death in Jainism

One of the most seasoned canon Uttarajjhayahas chiefly classified death in two ways, one is akamamarana which is the demise of a wrongdoer (undesired passing) and the other is sakamamarana which is the death of the well-behaved (desired death). Another canon calls the previous “the death of a fool (balamarana)” and the latter “the demise of an astute man (pandiyamarana).” Santhara is incorporated into “the demise of an astute man” and suicide is incorporated into “the death of fool.” This report fundamentally manages the previous part, i.e. “the demise of a wise or astute man”.

3.     Santhara

Santhara is an ancient and continuing fundamental spiritual practice. Sallekhana, sanyasa, samadhi, nirupadhi and viriyamarana are all equivalent words of Santhara. The other equivalent words of Santhara are Samadhimarana and Paṇḍitamaraṇa. The idea is that honorable demise ought to be in a condition of Samadhi, that is, in a state deprived of all interests and Kasayas (like indignation, conscience, connection and insatiability and so forth). The expression “Santhara” is initially utilized as a part of Acharang, the principal sutra, incorporating the main arrangement of saying of Mahavira, said to have been conveyed before 2500 years prior.

The fundamental idea hidden the practice of Santhara is that a man who is the expert of his own fate ought to determine himself to take after the best strategy for leaving the body. Jainism talks about death intensely and in a valiant tone. Santhara is a retreat to peace in genuine sense, to act naturally completely free from all diversions, for unadulterated examination and thoughtfulness.

The sacred men say that Santhara is surrendering the body (by fasting) when there is an unavoidable cataclysm, serious draught, seniority or hopeless illness, keeping in mind the end goal to watch the control of religion.[2]

Santhara truly implies a bed of hay: the practice infers the name Santhara in light of the fact that when the demise approaches, the wannabe or entertainer sits or rests a bed of hay, disavowing all interests, connection and admission. The other idea and term is Sallekhana. The word Sallekhana is gotten from the words – “Sat” and “Lekhana”, “Sat” signifies “Samyak” i.e. a genuine and appropriate and “Lekhana” implies progressive debilitating of interests/wants. This is joined by progressive surrendering of sustenance and water.

While the Shvetambara custom uses both the words, i.e., Santhara (which is at the phase when one is confronting demise) and Sallekhana, (which is steady withdrawal of sustenance and water). In Digambara convention, the word Santhara is not utilized. Rather they utilize the term Sallekhana which has two structures specifically-

  • Niyama-Sallekhana (repudiating sustenance and water step by step for a repaired period which may go to 12 years) and
  • Yama-Sallekhana (which is undertaken when death is fast approaching)[3].

Santhara of Shvetambara convention is along these lines proportional to Yam-Sallekhana of Digambara custom. Further, the word Sallekhana utilized as a part of Shvetambara convention resembles Niyam-Sallekhana of Digambara custom.

Sarvarthasiddhi (the Digambara organization’s most seasoned critique) clarifies that “Sallekhana” implies legitimately (sal) dispersing (lekhana) the body and the interests. To be specific, Sallekhana implies dispersing in due request the inside interests and the outer body by disavowing their cause.

Before acknowledging upon the legitimacy of Santhara practice one needs to comprehend the mystical moral and social ideas of Jainism which are unique in relation to other religion. Jain power isolates the Universe into interminably coinciding however autonomous, classifications, one Jiva-the spirit and second Ajiva-the non-soul. The body is the non-soul. Soul is the focal subject in Jain framework. A definitive objective of a human life in Jainism is the acknowledgment of the spirit viz. Atma Darshan after its liberation from the trap of non-soul of the body.

Every single living being realize that body and soul are distinctive and unmistakable, however from time everlasting, the conviction that body and soul are one has flourished. Since one is caught up with getting a charge out of the subjects of five senses and four passions (anger, deceit, greed and pride) and henceforth would never comprehend the genuine way of the spirit/self. Until one encounters the genuine way of unadulterated soul, he can’t wipe out the connection and repugnance with other living and non-living creatures. By tolerating body and self as same, one can’t comprehend the genuine way of self. In any case, he is a shrewd one who comprehends body, exotic organs as unmistakable from the self/soul.

The Ontology of Jainism is that there is a dualism of body or ajiva and soul or jiva. Further, Jainism trusts that body is subservient to soul. Insofar as body serves the spirit, it has its handiness. The minute body, due to maturity or terminal ailment, stops to help soul, a man may thoroughly get withdrew to the body to the degree that he doesn’t bolster it.

Likewise, Jainism has confidence in resurrection thus the outcomes of our Karmas are needy upon our own great and terrible considerations, words and deeds. Each living being is in charge of its own exercises the results of which work out naturally. One can’t escape from one’s Karmas with the exception of by encountering their outcomes, great or terrible. The Karmas prove to be fruitful and are along these lines in charge of our Karmic bodies.

  1. Key elements in Santhara
  • Disposing of Kasaya (anger, ego, attachment and greed so forth.) which gather karmas and which prevents one from liberation.
  • To be totally detached to the material world and body by not bolstering oneself in some additional conventional circumstances like fatal illness, maturity bringing on insufficiency and so forth.
  1. Procedure to Perform Santhara

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).”[4] 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.[5] 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:

“Upasargedurbhikşe, jarasirujāyan 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\\”[7]

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.”[8]

6.     Santhara- Suicide? Euthanasia?

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[9] 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.

  • 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.[10]

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.[11]

None of the conditions is satisfied in the case of Santhara. Hence, Santhara cannot be treated as suicide.

  • 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.”[12]

  • Santhara is not Euthanasia

The most imperative recognizing highlight between Santhara and willful extermination is that, euthanasia is mainly motivated by physical reasons i.e. to dispose of the physical agony and enduring. Unexpectedly, the fundamental reason for Santhara is otherworldly i.e. the cleansing of soul. It is a procedure of cleaning ones soul through Tapas or Penance, which prompts honorable end of this life and profoundly wealthier start of the following life.

Also, Bhagwati Aradhna classifies Santhara into two main categories, i.e., internal and external. Internal Santhara is to slowly minimize or diminish the four Kasaya (anger, attachment, ego and greed) whereas, external Santhara refers to slow detachment from body.

It is underlined that the external santhara is of no quality, in the event if it is not practice with the internal santhara. The external and internal santhara are indistinguishable and composite in entirety. However, in euthanasia, immaculateness of soul or purging of interior mental state or fortifying of other good virtues are given no thought by any stretch of the imagination.

The relevant excerpts from Bhagawati Aradhana and Sagaradharmamrta are mentioned as-

The choice to start santhara and the subsequent method, in point of interest, rests totally with the entertainer; it is a simply deliberate act. Sarvarthsiddhi vehemently expresses that no outside organization or individual can drive anyone to attempt santhara.

  1. Legal validity

Article 25 of Constitution of India 1950, guarantees every Indian citizen has a fundamental right to profess and practice his religion freely.This right is subject to interests of health, public order and morality. Any law which curtails the freedom guaranteed by the Constitution cannot have the sanctity of law and the same would be unenforceable by any authority or in any court of law.

It is submitted that the practice of santhara does not interfere with public order, health or morality. Santhara is zenith of radiance of life and demise. It is not an immolation but rather advancement of soul. It is not a tragedy. Article 26 lays down that every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right to manage its own affairs in the matter of religion.

An individual right to practice santhara is also safeguarded by right of privacy. This practice of santhara has been prevalent from time immemorial and was also taken in consideration by Privy Council in the year 1863.

The privilege is additionally ensured under Article 29 of the Constitution of India. It can’t be denied that the minorities have their own particular society and in this manner any area of the natives dwelling in the domain of India having society of its own has the privilege to conserve the same.

In the case of The Commissioner, Hindu Religious Endowments, Madras v/s Sri Lakshmindra Thirtha Swamiar of Sri Shirur Mutt[13], The Seven Judges Constitutional Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Mahajan, stated that- “Religion is a matter of faith with individuals or communities and it is not necessarily theistic. There are well known religions in India like Buddhism and Jainism which do not believe in God or in any Intelligent First Cause. A religion undoubtedly had its basis in a system of beliefs or doctrines which are regarded by those who profess that religion as conducive to their spiritual wellbeing, but it will not be correct to say that religion is nothing else but a doctrine or belief. A religion may not only lay down a code of ethical rules for its followers to accept, it might prescribe rituals and observances, ceremonies and modes of worship which are regarded as integral parts of religion, and these forms and observances might extend even to matters of food and dress.’’

Hon’ble Supreme Court in Smt. Gyan Kaur v. State of Punjab[14] stated that, “a question may arise, in the context of a dying man, who is, terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state that he may be permitted to terminate it by a premature extinction of his life in those circumstances. This category of cases may fall within the ambit of the ‘right to die’ with dignity as a part of right to live with dignity, when death due to termination of natural life is certain and imminent and the process of natural death has commenced.”

It is hence derived out that freedom of religion in the Constitution of India is not kept to religious beliefs only; it reaches out to religious practices and is also subjected to the limitations which the Constitution itself has set down.

  1. Conclusion

It can’t be denied that Jains have their own particular society and along these lines any segment of the natives living in the domain of India having society of its own has the privilege to monitor the same. The Jain people group is a religious minority group, furthermore, it is a social minority and in this way it is the order of the Constitution that the State shall not impose upon it any other culture which may be local or otherwise. The State has no power to coerce Sadhak who has taken the vow of santhara. In terms of statistics, santhara is embraced both by men and women of every single class and among the instructively forward Jains. Santhara is thought to be a presentation of most extreme devotion, decontamination and reparation. Religious and philosophical convictions assume an essential part in the social acknowledgment of ceremonies like santhara. For Jains, as additionally for Hindus, for example, the ideas of moksha and resurrection are connected to the nature and nature of death. The motivation behind santhara is to purify the soul, set it up for resurrection and, by picking demise through this technique, turn into the determiner of the following birth. The idea of a wonderful demise as the ideal end to this life and the perfect start of the following is founded on philosophical, otherworldly and religious fundamentals. Yet, it is unrealistic to survive legal examination under the current legitimate structure. The main trust in santhara, it appears, lies in decriminalization of suicide and lawful acknowledgment of willful extermination.

[1] Acharya Vidhyanand Muni is one of the senior most principal philosopher and a versatile Jain monk who has dedicated his entire life in preaching and practicing the noble concept of nonviolence (Ahimsa) through Jainism.

[2]AcaryaSivakoti “when there is no rescue, when wild animals approach you, on proper conducive food is attained in famine, when no proper rules of conduct can be followed or when old age appears or when diseases are there, then in such a case it is necessary to take Sallekhana and abandon the body.”

[3] Sallekhana, by Ramesh Chandra Bazal, Flag-G, verses 19 and 20 of Samadhi MahotsavaDeepika.

[4] (Acaramga Sutra 8/6/225) (Flad-D).

[5] Fasting unto Death- Holy Ritual or Suicide? By HOTTA Kazuyoshi (The University of Tokyo) – The 3rd BESETO Conference of Philosophy, Session 8.

[6] Ratnakarandasravakacara (Shloka No. 122)

[7] Ibid.

[8] Samadhimarana (Santhara / Sallekhana) by Justice N.K. Jain.

[9] 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.

[10] SANTHARA / SALLEKHANA by Dr. D. R. Mehta, Dr. K. C. Sogani, Dr. Kusum Jain and S. Bothra.

[11] The National Crime Record Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India (2013).

[12] Acaramga Sutra, translated by Shri Amarmuni, p. 444.

[13] AIR 1954 SC 282.

[14] JT 1996(3) SC 339.

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