Samādhimaraņa (Sańthārā / Sallekhanā)

Published: 16.07.2008
Updated: 02.07.2015


This article is written by Hon'ble Justice N.K. Jain on   Samadhimarana (Santhara/ Sallekhana) after studying and analyzing the views made by the great Jain Saints & Acharyas, expressed in Jain philosophy, literature and scriptures, for the purpose of creating awareness.

This is an eternal fact that a person 'who is born, has to die'. A Man should execute his duty, by keeping himself away from any prejudices. It has also been mentioned in the scriptures, that a person will bear the fruits of his present doings and accordingly he gets his next birth.

I am not acquainted, how a man gets his next birth after death? I am not also aware whether a man gets a place in heaven or not,  even after undergoing Samadhimarana? But, this has been described in  detail in  scientific manner, in Jain Philosophy as well as Jain scriptures. It is said to be a key for an improvement in life as well as it is helpful in the welfare of soul.

Most respected Acharya 108 Shri Vidyanand Ji has gone through this article written by Hon'ble Justice N.K.Jain. After analyzing the article, Maharaj Shri expressed "ej.k eaxye; gks ".  He also gave a lot of blessings which gave us an extreme pleasure and happiness. With a view that other may also get Maharaj Shree's blessings, I am publishing this article written by Hon'ble Justice N.K.Jain, to perpetuate the loving memory of my grandfather late Justice J.P.Jain,  with all humanity.  I sincerely convey his blessings to all.

Gaurav Jain
R/3, Tilak Marg, C-Scheme,
Jaipur 302005 (Rajasthan)

May death be Auspicious!

Ācārya Vidhyānanda Muni

Sallekhanā is a very important topic in Jaina philosophy. It is very important to understand this issue. It is an important path to positively change our life. It is a very minute topic and hence one has to be cautious about it. But presently many of them fail to understand it properly and talk ill of it. Scriptures mention clearly, “Nişpratīkāre”; means one has work for daily living, live properly, but when life becomes irritating and worthless, death becomes inevitable, at that time abandon the attachment to the body; this is Sallekhanā.

Ācārya Samantabhadra in his Ratnakarańdaśrāvakācāra (Sloka No: 122) shows that this type of death is necessary: 

upasarge durbhikşe, jarasi rujāyan ca nihi pratīkāre\\
dharmāya tanuvimocanamāhu sallekhanāmāryāhā.\\

Over and above he further mentions Sakaladarshinha stuvate, which means all the philosophies of the world appreciate Sallekhanā. There is no philosophy in the world, which does not like Sallekhanā. From an ant to a mighty emperor, all like to die peacefully.

Mahākavi Kālidāsa also has written that in ancient times all the people from good families would prefer to die in Samādhi.

Śaiśaveabhastavidhyana yauvane vişayeşinām \
Vārdhakye Munivrttīna yogenāntena tanujyam

There four main events in the life of humans: Birth, Marriage, Initiation, and Death. All these are rarely available. First is available to all, second is a little more difficult, third is got after lot of good deeds are done and the last one is very rarely achieved and a only very auspicious one gets it, but life is fully achieved on death and is an auspicious one. The way one takes a bullet on his chest in the battlefield is known as a martyr, similarly one who leaves the body during auspicious meditation is known as Samādhimaraņa.

Tattvārtha Sūtra mentions that death is also an obligation and it also should be auspicious.

On the topic of Sallekhanā Justice Sri N.K. Jain has written a wonderful book. He deserves my blessings.

Ācārya Vidhyānanda Muni

Samādhimaraņa (Sańthārā / Sallekhanā)

Sallekhanā, sańyāsa, samādhi, nirupādhi and vīriyamaraņa are all synonyms of Sallekhanā.

According to the religious texts, it is an eternal law that an entity, which is born, will also have to die. One can also die prematurely due to the activation of inauspicious karmas (pāpa karma).

One can earn auspicious or meritorious karmas by practicing religious austerities intelligently and die peacefully when one is faced with incurable diseases or old age that makes it clear that the end is approaching fast. If one does not practice religious austerities, then he/she earns inauspicious karmas. In this way death is inevitable in both situations and according to the philosophy of rebirth, he/she will enjoy the fruits accordingly in the next birth/s.

All living beings know that body and soul are different and distinct but from eternity the belief that body and soul are one has taken root. Since one is busy enjoying the subjects of five senses and four passions (anger, deceit, greed and pride) and hence could never understand the real nature of the soul/self. Until one understands the true nature of self i.e. intuition, knowledge and bliss; he will continue to be deluded in attachments and aversions with other living and non-living beings and hence keep on accumulating karmas resulting in the endless cycle of birth and death. Until one experiences the true nature of pure soul, he cannot eliminate the attachment and aversion with other living and non-living beings.  By eliminating attachment and aversion, we will have neither enemies nor friends and a state of equanimity will develop.  Equanimity will result in dissociation of accumulated karmas and further bondage will be stopped. But it is not easy to suppress or destroy desire. Until we acquire complete knowledge about the nature of self, we cannot understand this reality. By taking a vow not to indulge in sinful and ill activities along with repenting upon the wrong deeds done, and contemplating on the nature of the self; developing belief in it (nature of self) and practicing right conduct, one can stop influx and bondage of new karmas.  Penance/austerities will then dissociate all existing karmas resulting in attaining the pure state of the self. This knowledge of the true nature of self is possible only in the company and with the blessings of the monks and holy teachers.

Here I will like to emphasize that till recently, knowledge of yoga, prāņāyāma, meditation etc. was available to a privileged few although these were explained in detail in the holy texts of various Indian philosophies. But now the situation has changed. Yoga, its practice and such techniques had been taught to common persons for whom the credit goes to our sādhus, ācāryas and teachers. As a result a number of people tried to understand Yoga and then started practicing it to maintain good health, concentrate their mind on useful and productive activities and move forward on the spiritual path of purification. Hence it is important to know correct and specific spiritual purification activities.

Till now, even I was ignorant about Sallekhanā and Sańthārā. Now after some efforts, I have found detailed and crisp description of these two doctrines and techniques in Jain literature. Keeping these in mind, I am making a humble attempt of writing this paper to arouse the interest of others too.

Jain philosophy has a detailed discussion on the doctrine and practice of Sallekhanā. True and eternal nature of the self is knowledge and perception (jňātā-dŗşţā). By accepting body and self as same, one cannot understand the true nature of self. But he is an intelligent one who understands body, sensual organs as distinct from the self/soul. By suppressing the desires, the soul gets purified easily. Virtues (dharma) can exist in a pure soul only and it helps in making the self purer. Soul, which is free from the kārmika bondage, is called paramātmā. Once the soul achieves this pure state, it stays happy in all lives to come.

Jain religion is one of the ancient religions that prescribes human values. This religion not only talks about human welfare but also extends it to the animal world. Jain religion asserts that consciousness is present not only in humans, but in all animal world, for example an elephant and even an ant. This has been emphatically stated on the basis of experience by the first tīrthańkara Ŗşabhadeva and reemphasized by the 24th tīrthańkara Lord Mahāvīra. All this knowledge was traditionally handed to the Śrutakevalis and finally to the ācāryas who codified it. This tradition is still maintained by the ācāryas, monks, spiritual leaders, intelligent beings etc.

None of the tīrthańkaras were born in the Jain tradition. There were from the Kşatriya/ Yādava class. They traversed the path themselves and showed the path of winning oneself to others. The one who wins his own self is the Jina and who is a worshipper and follower of Jina is a Jain.

Samādhimaraņa (Sańthārā / Sallekhanā) is the path that changes the life of the individual and is mentioned in the Jain philosophical scriptures and other literature. The issue of death is also discussed in other religious and philosophical systems, but they do not discuss as a rite of the end. They discuss it only from the point of view of attaining siddhis (divine powers) and to know the self (ātma Śākśātakāra). In Vedic literature this path is one among the 16 sańskāras (rituals of life) and also known as Mŗtyū Sańskāra. As a  last ritual of life, any lay follower can performs it. It is worth noticing that this rite by Hindus is performed for the pleasures and gifts are given in the name of the one who dies. We get a little insight about such death as a spiritual death, or for Mokşa. There is less information on the nature of liberation, that is, to liberate oneself from cycles life and death. In Jainism, on the other hand, the importance is wholly on the spiritual death and liberation. In this rite, since there are no passions involved, there is no bondage on the soul.

There are many such examples of lay followers, monks, saints, who after renouncing (dikşa), undertake the rite of Sallekhanā. They not only destroy their attachments, cravings and hatred but also the craving for food and do tapa with equanimity to give up their body. They free themselves from Karmas and attain liberation. Not all are fortunate to follow this path.

Pańdita Āśādhara in his Sagāradharmāmrta has extensively written on this issue and has mentioned that Sallekhanā is under taken when a person lives his life holistically. Kundakundācārya (1st cent.A.D.) has mentioned in his Caritra Pāhuda (Gāthā No. 26) about the special rite of Sallekhanā. Samantabhadra (2nd cent A.D) in his Ratnakarańdaśrāvakācāra (Sloka No. 122) shows that this type of death is necessary: 

upasarge durbhikşe, jarasi rujāyan ca nihi pratīkāre\\
dharmāya tanuvimocanamāhu sallekhanāmāryāhā.\\

i.e. when faced with hurdles, famine, old age, or disease, one should for religion, observe Sallekhanā. To discard ones body in this way is called Sallekanā.  Further he states,

Antakriradhikaraņa tapahafalam  Sakaladarshinha stuvate\
Tasmāt yāvadvibhavan Samādhimarana Prayatitanvyam\\

At the end of life when one attains such a death, it is considered as the fruit of tapa. That is why to attain such a death should be the aim of one’s life. With this the Indian seers have attained the heights of knowledge of the self. At the point of death if there are no passions then the person discards his body without any pain and does not have any fear of death and dies calmly. If one is capable to attain a good destiny (gati) on his own, then the previous bad karmas cannot do anything; but if at the moment of death there is a mental distress even the good karmas will not help him for a good gati (State of existence). In this manner a series of bad destinies continue. Hence it is worth to notice the significance of Sallekhanā.

Taptasya tapasaścāpi pālitasya vratasya ca \
Pathitasya Śrutasyāpi falam mŗtyu samādhina  

(Mrtyu Mahotsava- 16)

It means, penance followed by observing vows, and reading scriptures, give the fruits when one attains the Samādhimaraņa, otherwise all is futile.


One should not therefore doubt that, “when all things happen with Samādhimaraņa, only, then why should one do japa-tapa, one will attain Samādhi at the end of life”. Only by engaging oneself in tapa, lessening ones passions, will lead to a proper Samadhi Death. Probably this is the reason that Kundakunda has given this death a place in Śikśā Vrata. In Samādhimaraņa and the tapa as a form of conduct there is a cause-effect relationship. When difficulties arise, or sudden death arises, or if any wild animals attack, or fire, or storm occurs, then the practice of tapa alone helps. If one spends his whole life in conduct and at the moment of death deviates from the self, then the dośa does not fall on conduct, but possibly lack of self-effort on his part and the lack of self-discipline.

Ācārya Śivakoti says, “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 Sallekhanā and abandon the body.”

One who does sādhanā is a seeker. At the time of death one who engages in his soul is also a seeker. At the end of life, to see body and soul as different and to overcome attachment to the body one has to take refuge in Sallekhanā. But if for the whole life when one when does tapa, but at the end engages in attachment and hatred, his life is wasted.

Ācārya Śivakoti says, one attains many lives if he cannot sustain a proper death even if he in his whole life he works for Jňāna, darśana, caritra. But on the other hand if sallekhanā is pursued than the seeker enjoys the bliss.

Upāsakadhyayana (896) says, an aspirant who is fasting etc. and engaging in studying in order to overcome passions, such a person should come to the sangha and undertake Sallekhanā.

Ācārya Śivakoti who has highly recommended Sallekhanā; says, one who dies at instant that is at that moment with sallekhanā, he never lives more than 7 to 8 lives”. Expressing the importance of sallekhanā, he further writes, “one who is fully engaged in service of a sallekhana practitioner also attains the pleasures of the devagati or heavenly destiny and then attains the highest place (liberation).

Similarly Pujypāda Devanandi (6th Cent A.D.) in his Sarvathasiddhi highlights the importance and necessity of Sallekhanā and says all don’t like death. If at all disease attacks the body then a seeker who undertakes sallekhanā, automatically is liberated from the effect of the disease.                                             

Ācārya Amrtacandra, in his Puruşārthasiddhaupāya (10th Cent. A.D.), wrote that when death is nearing and it is confirmed at that time when aspirant is on the path of liberating from all passions, then how it is that the self is destroyed. One who is engaged in activities with anger has his self destroyed definitely.

All the tīrthańkaras, ācāryas, saints, monks, gurus, have asserted this path as necessary for the wellbeing of all humans.

Sāgāradharmarta has the following numbers of gāthās 8/1, 8/6, 8/7-8, 8/9. 8/12, 9/2 vividly describing Sallehkanā.

In Bhagavati Ārādhanā there are around 2500 gāthās, and there are reflections on Sallehkanā in numbers 25,28,64, 65 and others.  In this text there is a vast description on one of the death called Bhakta Pratyākhyāna.

If a sinner who has committed sins throughout his life asks forgiveness at the end of his life, can liberate him from the guilt. Similarly a sinner who undertakes sallekhanā at the end of his life can attain a good state of existence. Even Vedic literature mentions that one who repents for sins attains a place near God (vaikuntha). Ajāmīla, committed sins through out his life; but towards the end repented by reciting the name of Nārāyaņa, he attained Vaikuntha. Jivandharakumāra, pronounced Namokāra Mantra to a dying dog and tīrthańkara Pārśvanātha uttered this mantra to snakes dying in fire. The snakes attained devagati. Even Manusmrti mentions about sallekhanā. Sant Kālidasa, Kabir, Tukarama also have mentioned it.

After the war of Mahābhārata, Bhişma also asked for voluntary death.

Sallekhanā is a special tapa, which is done for spiritual growth and self-development. Hence after attaining such a death only very few births are left for the person to attain liberation. Once all the karmas are gone liberation is attained. Sallekhanā

This article was written in Hindi and printed in a booklet published by Gaurav Jain, Advocate, in the memory of his late grandfather Late Justice J. P. Jain, with the blessing of Ācārya  Shri Vidhyānanda ji Muni Maharaj.
Share this page on:
Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharyas
  3. Anger
  4. Bhakta
  5. Body
  6. Caritra
  7. Consciousness
  8. Darśana
  9. Deceit
  10. Devagati
  11. Dharma
  12. Equanimity
  13. Fasting
  14. Fear
  15. Gati
  16. Greed
  17. JAINA
  18. Jain Philosophy
  19. Jaina
  20. Jainism
  21. Jaipur
  22. Jina
  23. Karma
  24. Karmas
  25. Kundakunda
  26. Mahābhārata
  27. Mahāvīra
  28. Mantra
  29. Meditation
  30. Muni
  31. N.K. Jain
  32. Paramātmā
  33. Pratyākhyāna
  34. Pride
  35. Pāpa
  36. Pārśvanātha
  37. Rajasthan
  38. Sallekhana
  39. Sallekhanā
  40. Samadhi
  41. Sangha
  42. Sant
  43. Sloka
  44. Soul
  45. Sādhanā
  46. Sādhus
  47. Sūtra
  48. Tapa
  49. Tattvārtha Sūtra
  50. Tilak
  51. Vedic
  52. Vrata
  53. Yoga
  54. samādhi
  55. Ācārya
  56. Ārādhanā
  57. ācāryas
Page statistics
This page has been viewed 1639 times.
© 1997-2020 HereNow4U, Version 4
Contact us
Social Networking

HN4U Deutsche Version
Today's Counter: