Tattvartha Sutra (with commentary)

by Vijay K. Jain | 2018 | 130,587 words | ISBN-10: 8193272625 | ISBN-13: 9788193272626

This page describes the practice of dispassionately abandoning one’s body (sallekhana) which is verse 7.22 of the English translation of the Tattvartha Sutra which represents the essentials of Jainism and Jain dharma and deals with the basics on Karma, Cosmology, Ethics, Celestial beings and Liberation. The Tattvarthasutra is authorative among both Digambara and Shvetambara. This is verse 22 of the chapter The Five Vows and includes an extensive commentary.

Verse 7.22 - The practice of dispassionately abandoning one’s body (sallekhanā)

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and English translation of Tattvartha sūtra 7.22:

मारणान्तिकी सल्लेखनां जोषिता ॥ ७.२२ ॥

māraṇāntikī sallekhanāṃ joṣitā || 7.22 ||

Futher, the householder adopts, with a sense of contentment, the practice of dispassionately abandoning his body–‘sallekhanā’–at the end of his life. (22)

Hindi Anvayarth:

अन्वयार्थ: व्रतधारी श्रावक [मारणान्तिकीं] मरण के समय होने वाली [सल्लेखनां] सल्लेखना को [जोषिता] प्रीतिपूर्वक सेवन करें।

Anvayartha: vratadhari shravaka [maranantikim] marana ke samaya hone vali [sallekhanam] sallekhana ko [joshita] pritipurvaka sevana karem |

Explanation in English from Ācārya Pūjyapāda’s Sarvārthasiddhi:

The loss of the senses and the vitalities at the end of one’s duration of life–āyuḥ–that is the result of one’s own modifications (pariṇāma), is death (maraṇa). The end refers to the particular state of existence. That state which has death as its end is ‘maraṇānta’. That which has ‘maraṇānta’ as its object is ‘māraṇantikī’. To emaciate the body and the passions in the proper manner is ‘sallekhanā’. This means that the physical body and the internal passions (kaṣāya) are emaciated in the proper manner by abandoning their sources gradually at the approach of death.

The householder observes sallekhanā at the end of his life. Shouldn’t the word ‘sevitā’–adoption–be used instead of ‘joṣitā’ in the sūtra? ‘Joṣitā’ implies that the householder observes sallekhanā with a sense of contentment. Hence ‘sevitā’, though clear in meaning, is not used. Without willingness, sallekhanā cannot be imposed on anyone. When there is a sense of contentment, the householder adopts sallekhanā by himself. It is argued that sallekhanā is suicide since it involves voluntary severance of vitalities (prāṇa). No, it is not suicide. In sallekhanā there are no associated faults due to negligence (pramāda). It has been said earlier that the severance of vitalities (prāṇa) due to the activity of the soul tinged with passionate disposition–pramattayoga–is injury (hiṃsā). (see sūtra 7-13).

The householder without ‘pramāda’ is without faults like attachment (rāga). Only the person who kills himself by means of poison, weapon, etc., swayed by attachment (rāga), aversion (dveṣa) or delusion (moha), commits the crime of suicide. But he who embraces holy death observing sallekhanā is free from attachment (rāga), etc.

Hence in no way does he commit the crime of suicide. It has been said by Lord Jina:

“Certainly, non-manifestation of faults like attachment (rāga) is non-injury (ahiṃsā) and manifestation of such faults is injury (hiṃsā).”

Further, nobody welcomes death. As an example, the merchant engaged in sale, purchase and storage of various commodities does not welcome the destruction of his storehouse. If any reason for its destruction arises, he tries his best to safeguard the storehouse. But if its destruction is imminent he tries to save from ruin at least the commodities. Similarly, the householder engaged in acquiring the commodities of vows and supplementary vows does not desire the ruin of the receptacle of these virtues, namely, the body. But when the body faces danger, he tries to avert it in a righteous manner, without violating his vows. In case it is not possible to avert the danger to the body, it makes sense that he tries to safeguard his vows at least. How can such an effort be called suicide?

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