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Concept of Death in Jainism

here are two camps on the pilgrimage of life-birth and death. If life is an art, death is also an art.

Jainism has taught the art of choosing death. Jain acaryas have spoken of 17 types of death. It would be interesting and informative to know only the names of these types :

(1) Avici-marana,
(2) Avadhimarana,
(3) Atyantika-marana,
(4) Vasarta-marana,
(5) Valana-marana,
(6) Antahsalya-marana,
(7) Tadhava-marana,
(8) Bala-marana,
(9) Pandita-marana,
(10) Balpandita-marana,
(11) Chadmastha-marana,
(12) Kevali-marana,
(13) Vaihayasa-marana,
(14) Guddhapristha-marana,
(15) Bhaktapratyakhyana-marana,
(16) Inginta-marana,
(17) Padopagamana-marana.

Life and death are mysterious events. If a soul has not fixed up its next birth before death, then he gets the life (birth) according to the thoughts going on in his mind at the ultimate moment of death. Ordinary souls taking to raudra and arta dhyana get a low type of birth while souls undertaking dharma or sukla dhyana (higher types - good types of dhyana) get a birth in a higher class.

The earlier Jain acharyas, while contemplating death, said that in one ‘samaya’ a soul can have one, three, four or five deaths. The soul having ‘Kevali marana’ attains to liberation and becomes free from the cycle of life and death.

The types of death referred to above are for ordinary souls. Out of these types of death akama marana and sakama marana need to be properly understood.

Akama marana - He who is attached to objects of sense, does not want to die. Yet he dies when his life-span is over. He dies helplessly. This death is, therefore, called ‘Akama marana’ (dying, though not willing to die).

Ignorant souls, who do not believe in the other world, rebirth and liberation and who adopt the maxim ‘If this world is happy, who cares for the other world ?’ lead a sinful life. They are happy with sinful karma but die with loud cries at the time of death. A person dying this type of death, moves in the cycle of life and death till infinity.

Sakama marana - He who is not afraid at the time of death, dies by welcoming death as a festival. This type of death is sakama-marana (dying willingly). He who is born, necessarily dies. There is no way to avoid death. Then why raise a hue and cry about and against death ? Thinking on these line, he who entertains good thoughts at the time of death, requests for pardon of others and dies with good feelings. This type of death is called sakama marana.

There are different types of sakam marana - samadhi marana, anasana, santharo, and samlekhana.

To accept death, after forgetting all wordly sorrows with a calm and religious mind is ‘Samadhi-marana’ : Anasana (fasting) has already been referred to while discussing this type of penance. Santharo is a type of anasana - voluntary invitation to death after giving up food and movement.

Samlekhana is also a kind of penance. As it is connected with death, it has been referred to here. An aspirant performing samlekhana performs a special type of penance of definite time-limit, but this penance becomes ‘a type of thorn’ with the yearning after enjoyments in this world or the other world. Therefore the performers of this penance should take to it without any desire for fruit and with a pure mental attitude.

Akama marana is also called ‘Bala-marana’ and sakama marana is called pandita-marana also.

For further study please read ‘Uttaradhyayana ‘Sutra’,
Bhagvati Sutra’, etc.


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