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By Nithin Sridhar
The Rajasthan High Court, on Monday, ruled that the Jain practice of “Sallekhana” is illegal and hence punishable under section 306 (attempts to suicide) and 309 (abetment to suicide).
Jaipur-based lawyer Nikhil Soni had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in 2006 against the Jain practice of Sallekhana wherein a person in old age or about to die, will voluntarily give up food and water in a gradual process and undertake fast onto death.
The contention was that the practice of Sallekhana is a denial of Right to Life and should be treated on par with euthanasia and suicide.
In the light of the high court judgment that upholds the equation of Sallekhana with suicide, it becomes necessary to examine whether they are indeed same? Or have the activists working against the Sallekhana missed the nuance of religious principles?
The answer to these questions can only be found by diving into Jain scriptures to know what actually constitutes Sallekhana, its philosophy and purpose. Further, this practice must be understood in the larger context of Indian traditions. Only then, any proper examination and comparison between Sallekhana and suicide can be drawn.
What is “Sallekhana”?
Acharya Abhayadevasuri in his seminal work, “Sthananga Vritti” defines Sallekhana as an activity by which the body is weakened and the internal passions are overcome. A similar definition is given in “Vrhadvrtti” which defines Sallekhana as peeling of internal passions and bodily strength so as to strengthen the spirit.
So, the purpose of practicing Sallekhana is two-fold: to overcome the limitations of the body and to purify the mind. The weakening of the body, and hence overcoming the attachment and dependency on the body is called as “drvaya sallekhana” and the control of the mind and the senses resulting in transcending the mental passions like lust, anger etc. is called as “bhava sallekhana”
In the Jain philosophy, as in Hindu philosophy, the attachment to the body and the senses, the desires and the internal passions like anger and lust are well understood as the root cause of Karmic bondage. Therefore, the spiritual practice of Sallekhana aims to overcome these factors and attain spiritual merit.
Speaking about the spiritual merits of Sallekhana, “Mrtyu Mahotsava” says that those who die a peaceful death devoid of thoughts filled with passions like fear and anger, neither go to narakas (realms of hell, where one undergoes sorrow), nor take birth as animals. Instead, they attain human or heavenly birth. It further says that those who embrace death with an equanimity of mind through “Samadhi marana” (it is end practice taken before death. Sallekhana includes not only the end practice but also the long preparatory practices that may be as long as 12 years), will attain same spiritual merit as attained by those who practice very severe penances in their life.
Who is eligible to practice Sallekhana?
The practice can be adopted by both ascetics and householders. The practice is usually adopted when a person is very old and is approaching death, or by a person who is terminally ill and hence is about to die. It may also be practiced by people in the face of natural calamities that is bound to cause their death.
In other words, people who are on the verge of death and who no longer can practice their obligated duties can undertake the practice of Sallekhana to develop dispassion and equanimity of mind, so that they can die peacefully and gain spiritual merit as well.
But, old age or having diseases as such does not qualify one to opt for the final “Samadhimarana” practices.
“Mulachara” lists following competencies: right-belief, control of senses, detachment, dispassion, patience, courage, and absence of pride.It further says that the practitioner must completely renounce violence, untruth, theft, sex, and material and emotional hindrances at physical and mental levels.
“Bhagavati Aradhana” says that only those who are able to destroy the four passions of anger, pride, deceit, and greed are eligible to embrace voluntary death. “Maraṇavi bhakti” brings out the nuance between longer practice of Sallekhana and the end practice of Samadhi-marana. It says that those who have weakened the body and the passions using external and internal Sallekhana alone are eligible to embrace voluntary death through Samadhi-marana.
Further, people who have worldly duties and responsibilities are not eligible to take Sallekhana as their goal is running away from those duties and not attaining spiritual merit.
It is necessary to clarify here that the term Sallekhana is often used as synonymous to Samadhi-marana and does refer to the spiritual practice of voluntarily entering death. At the same time, at other places the term Sallekhana refers to the initial practices of gaining dispassion and mind-purification, whereas the term Samadhi-marana specifically refers to the final practices leading to discarding the body.
How is the Sallekhana practiced?
In his thesis “A Critical Study of the Concept of Voluntary Peaceful Death ‘Samādhimaraṇa’ in Prakrit and Pali Canonical Literature”, Dalpat Singh Baya gives the following general steps adopted in Sallekhana:
- Detachment from the mundane existence and a strong desire to liberate and do whatever is necessary for achieving liberation.
- Premonition of death by the analyses of the Rishtas or realization that for one reason or the other the body has become weak enough to hinder the performance of one’s spiritual duties.
- Rise of a desire to embrace voluntary peaceful death.
- Search for a supervising monk.
- Migrating to the monastic order of the supervising monk or leaving the house and staying in a temple or a prayer hall for carrying out the practice.
- To confess, criticize, condemn one’s flaws in front of the supervising monk.
- Undertaking external and internal austerities to weaken the body and the passions.
- To accept fast unto death when the body and passions have weakened.
The Uttaradhayayana Sutra says that the Sallekhana can be practiced for 12 years, or 12 months, or 12 fortnights depending upon the circumstances of the individual. In the 12 year duration Sallekhana, for the first four years, the practitioner must give up nourishing foods like milk and curd. He must also practice external and internal penances to cleanse the mind and control the senses.
The next four years must be spent in taking fasts for longer durations like 1-day, 2-day, and 3-day fasts. After that, for two years, one must take only one meal on alternate days. The meals taken should be devoid of taste or special nourishment.
In the eleventh and twelfth year, the duration of the fast must be increased. Finally in twelfth year, he must start fasting for a fortnight or a month at a time.
For overcoming passions, “Vyavaharabhasya” suggests practicing forgiveness (to overcome anger), humility (to overcome pride), straightforwardness (to overcome deceit) and contentment (to overcome greed).
The intake of food and water must be gradually reduced in the twelfth year.
“Pravacanasaroddhāra Vṛtti” says that when the practitioner attains the stage of taking only one morsel of food and one gulp of water in a day, then he must further start reducing the food and water intake until he reaches the stage wherein only one grain of food and one droplet of water is consumed in a day. After reaching this stage, the person is ready to undertake the final vow to voluntary peaceful death.
Therefore, the practice of Sallekhana is a gradual but rigorous process which helps a practitioner to become fully detached and dispassionate about the body, overcome dependency on food and water, and purify the internal impurities like greed etc. before finally embracing a peaceful release from the bodily limitations.
Is Sallekhana same as Suicide?
The Oxford dictionary defines suicide as “the action of killing oneself intentionally.” It further states that suicide is a course of action that is “disastrously damaging to oneself or one’s interests”. Therefore it is an act of self-killing or self-murder. Hence, it can be considered as much ethically wrong as the murder of another person is.
Within the Jaina tradition, the “Purusharthasiddhyupaya” defines “atma-vadha” (self-killing) as an act of severing one’s prana (life force) under the influence of internal passions and through acts such as taking poison, drowning etc.
Therefore, the Jaina tradition recognizes suicide as an act which is very different from that of Sallekhana. The factor that differentiates suicide from sallekhana is that the former is an outcome of internal passions, whereas the latter is the outcome of an equanimous mind devoid of passions. This is the nuance that appears to be missing from the present discourse on Sallekhana.
Various studies across the globe have found that suicides are often related to issues like depression. Many external life events may trigger suicides. People with suicidal tendency are often found with psychological conditions like depression, anxiety etc. Sometimes, work-stress, examination stress, love failure, shame or public dishonor have led people to commit suicide. In other words, suicides are largely an impulsive act guided by factors like anger, frustration, sorrow, jealousy etc. which puts a person under extreme stress. Therefore, the acts of suicide can be clearly established as being rooted in internal mental passions.
On the other hand, Sallekhana, as already shown, is a gradual rigorous process wherein the external attachments on food and water, as well as internal attachment to various desires and internal passions are slowly weakened and eventually removed. After purifying oneself over a long period, the practitioner finally undertakes the fast unto to death with a sound and equanimous mind which is devoid of sorrow, attachment, anger or frustrations.
Elaborating on the differences between suicide and Sallekhana, Dalpat Singh Baya lists following observations:
- Sallekhana is not suicide because here the practitioner leaves the body through ritual practice and not by coming under the influence of internal passions and adopting lethal means as done in suicide.
- Though both are voluntary deaths, the body is killed in suicide whereas it is respectfully and peacefully left in Sallekhana.
- Psychologically, a suicidal person have conflicting desires to live and to die simultaneously. These desires may be conscious or subconscious in nature. On the other hand, the practitioner of Sallekhana, has no such desires. He first overcomes all such desires and only then undertakes voluntary death.
- There is a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness in a suicidal person, whereas no such feelings exist in spiritual practitioner. The spiritual practitioner is dispassionate, self-controlled and practices Sallekhana for spiritual merit. He is further at peace with himself, whereas the suicidal person is agitated, depressed or in anxiety.
Also, it can be added that suicide is an act of running away from worldly responsibilities when one is unable to cope with it. But, Sallekhana is voluntary renunciation of the worldly desires in order to attain spiritual merit. Here, there is no running away from world out of failure or fear, but only renunciation of the world due to detachment and dispassion.
Therefore, it is very clear that Sallekhana is a spiritual practice, a tapas (austerity) that a person undertakes to gain chitta-shuddhi (purification of the mind) and vairagya (dispassion towards the body) and not an emotional attempt at killing oneself as in a suicide.
Practices similar to Sallekhana in other Indian traditions:
A practice similar to “Sallekhana” called as “Prayopravesha” exists in Hinduism. Even in Prayopravesha, the rules like a person must have approached death or is unable to perform other worldly duties are applied.
Apart from this, many saints and ascetics take voluntary Samadhi usually through voluntary control of breath and discard the body. These are the genuine spiritual practices that have been well recognized and practiced from very ancient times. Therefore, branding these spiritual practices as suicide does a great disservice to the Indian religious and spiritual practices.
It is high time that the philosophy and nuances behind various religious practices rooted in Indian tradition be it Hindu, Jaina, Buddhist, or Sikh are highlighted and people are made aware of them.
But this is not to suggest that voluntary or forceful suicides in the name of religion are to be encouraged. Instead, the need of the hour is to discriminate between voluntary spiritual practices like Sallekhana and acts of suicide committed due to various worldly reasons including forced practice of Sallekhana.
A Sallekhana is no Sallekhana if a person is forced by his/her family to practice it. A true Sallekhana is only that which is voluntarily practiced out of intense dispassion towards material objects and with a burning desire for spiritual emancipation.
It is hoped that governments and the higher judiciary will come to appreciate this subtle difference between Sallekhana and suicide as any indiscriminate equating of both does a great disservice to the spiritual tradition of Jainas.
The works referred for writing this article include-
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Heinz has just rolled out a new product that the condiment company says is the "biggest innovation in sauce since the packet itself | Flickr
This announcement could be part of the fast-tracked, "future-focused culinary and packaging innovations" that Steve Cornell, president of Kraft Heinz's US grocery business unit, hinted at earlier this year amid a shortage of ketchup. A surge in takeout and delivery food orders during the pandemic led to a scarcity of ketchup packets, the report said.
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Swiss tennis ace Roger Federer, who is recovering from a right-knee surgery he underwent last month, said on Sunday that it was a difficult process to decide whether to undergo a third right-knee surgery after having two last year. But following Wimbledon, where he was "really unhappy" with his performance in reaching the quarterfinals, Federer opted to go through with it.
Federer, who made a late decision to attend this year's Laver Cup in Boston -- a tournament held between teams from Europe and the rest of the world -- said on the sidelines of the event that the recovery and rehabilitation are "going to take me a few more months and then we'll see how things are at some point next year". "The reception I've received, everybody is so upbeat that I'm here. They wish me all the best and they don't even see the crutches. They just want me to be good again and enjoy the weekend," Federer said in an interview for the event with former world No. 1 Jim Courier.
"I've seen some incredible tennis, some great matches and it's been wonderful. I'm really happy I made the trip," the winner of 20 majors was quoted as saying by atptour.com. On why he opted for a third surgery, the tennis ace said, "I was just nowhere near where I wanted to be to play at the top, top level. But I tried my best and at the end... too much is too much. Now I've just got to take it step by step," Federer said.
Federer received thunderous ovations inside Boston's TD Garden, where he has often been sitting in the front row watching the action or behind the scenes visiting with the players. | Wikimedia Commons
"I've got to first walk again properly, run properly and then do the sidesteps and all the agility work and then eventually I've got to be back on the tennis court. But it's going to take me a few more months and then we'll see how things are at some point next year. "I've got to take my time. I don't want to rush into anything at this point. This is also for my life. I want to make sure I can do everything I want to do later on. There's no rush with anything, so I'm actually in a really good place. I think the worst is behind me. I took the time and, I don't know, I'm just really in a good place. I'm really happy."
Federer received thunderous ovations inside Boston's TD Garden, where he has often been sitting in the front row watching the action or behind the scenes visiting with the players. The former world No. 1 has played in the first three editions of the Laver Cup. "I think Boston is a great city. The stadium is wonderful, the crowds have been incredible. Both teams are stacked with absolute quality and top players," Federer said. "That's what the idea was behind it: that everybody could come together, have the most incredible weekend, learn from one another and then hopefully that's going to inspire them, motivate them and get them going for the rest of this year, next year." (IANS/ MBI)
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By Hitesh Rathi
Cleopatra, was regarded as a great beauty, to preserve her skin, she took her daily bath in donkey milk. Besides, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, prescribed donkey milk for various diseases including fever, wounds, etc. To add to these benefits, donkey milk has four times the amount of Vitamin C than cow's milk has. So, it's no secret that donkey milk is a powerhouse of nutrients for both the skin and body.
Used for Anti-Ageing and Healing
The milk contains essential fatty acids that work as powerful anti-ageing and healing properties. These fatty acids blur the wrinkles on the skin and help to regenerate damaged skin. Plus, donkey milk also contains anti-bacterial properties which are effective in healing skin irritation and redness.
The milk contains essential fatty acids that work as powerful anti-ageing and healing properties.| Flickr
Antioxidant and Nutrient-Rich
Known as a "natural elixir of youth", donkey milk is packed with antioxidants and nutrients. It contains vitamin E, amino acids, vitamins A, B1, B6, C, E, Omega 3, and 6. These properties together make it a rich ingredient when it comes to skin treatment. Moreover, vitamin D is another important ingredient for human skin, and the primary source to get it is through UV exposure. At the same time, too much of that leaves an adverse effect on the skin. Here is when donkey milk acts as a great substitute as it naturally contains vitamin D. All in all, if this milk is applied frequently, it brings a glowing effect while making the skin look brighter.
Known as a "natural elixir of youth", donkey milk is packed with antioxidants and nutrients.| Photo by Jernej Graj on Unsplash
Moisturizer and Softener
By now it's a well-known fact that this milk works as a powerful moisturizer for the skin. Besides, if donkey milk is used consistently, it acts as a great cleanser as well as helps in keeping the skin healthy, hydrated, and soft.
If donkey milk is used consistently, it acts as a great cleanser as well as helps in keeping the skin healthy, hydrated, and soft. | Photo by febri sym on Unsplash
Therefore, donkey milk with its healing, nutritional and rejuvenating properties for the skin is rapidly emerging as a key ingredient for skincare. These are also driving several leading players to roll out personal care products such as soap, cream, etc. manufactured using donkey milk. Moreover, the global donkey milk market is expanding rapidly with the market value projected to reach $68,139.0 thousand by 2027, registering a CAGR of 9.4 per cent from 2021 to 2027. And the growing use of donkey milk as an ingredient in cosmetic and personal care products will significantly contribute toward the growth of this market in the years to come. (IANS/ MBI)
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