Author's Diction~Vipin Behari Goyal: RIGHT TO DIE DENIED

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Jain Religious Rites Banned :Death, Law and Literature

“The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.’” Friedrich Nietzsche    
The right to Life is Fundamental Right in Indian Constitution. A literary interpretation is that the Right to Life automatically includes "Right to Die". Otherwise how we would justify that so many millions of people have Right to Life but are not provided with the means to sustain that Life.

Jainism is one of the oldest religions. The last prophet Mahavir is more than 2500 years old. Nonviolence is their main preaching. How such religion can permit voluntary death, if it is at all violent.

Many hundreds of Jain old people opt for Santhra or voluntary death in India.

Emily Dickinson welcomes to death in her poem “Because I Could Not Stop For Death”
Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality....

Walt Whitman says Death is a prize won.
O Captain! My Captain!
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's perception of death is
The Cross of Snow
In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
A gentle face--the face of one long dead--
Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light....

William Blake in his poem On Another's Sorrow see Death as kind relief
Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief,
And not seek for kind relief?..

William Butler Yeats in his poem A Dream Of Death has wondered about solitude death provides.

I dreamed that one had died in a strange place
Near no accustomed hand,
And they had nailed the boards above her face,
The peasants of that land,
Wondering to lay her in that solitude,

 Robert Browning  in his poem A Death in the Desert has given a beautiful description of death.

Almost all writers have praised the mystery and awe of death and old age.

In Harakari Seppuku  is defined as "Japanese ritual of the samurai used either voluntarily by samurai to die with honor rather than fall into the hands of their enemies (and likely suffer torture) or as a form of capital punishment for samurai who had committed serious offenses, or performed because they had brought shame to themselves".


Likewise, in Rajput warrior's ritual of Johar was performed. The act is defined  as the practice of mass suicide carried out in medieval times by Rajput women to save their honor from invaders.[Photo:Kalyan:Johar(self-immolation) by Rajput widows after war]

Another popular ritual was of Sati. Sati refers to the obsolete(?) Indian funeral custom where a widow, was expected to immolate herself on her husband's pyre, or committed suicide in another fashion shortly after her husband's death at war or from other causes.

Voluntary death is not a transgression. It is a highly acclaimed transmission of one form into another for a better purpose. Especially so in Santhara. Jainism otherwise also has a strong belief in penance.

 According to Jainism the Pudgal or Matter has two forms 1. Gross 2. Subtle. Gross matter is perceptible, everything that we see around us, while subtle matter is manifested as Karma. The Karma gets attached to a soul as dirt gets attached to the sticky surface. The object of austerities and penance is to annihilate old karma and stop the influx of new karma.

Dainik Bhaskar-Jain Community protest march against the decision of High Court prohibiting Santhara

How any legal system can stop anyone from achieving the highest objective of salvation. One of the major objections raised is priests of Jain could not produce any religious text in support of the rituals. The Jain scriptures are some of the oldest scriptures known to human civilization. Rig Veda finds a mention of the first prophet of Jain religion. At that time the information was passed from one generation to another by word of mouth. Since the Santhara is being performed for centuries and is part of religion, it cannot be denied on such a paltry ground.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra: “Many die too late and a few die too early. The doctrine still sounds strange: “Die at the right time.”- Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Friedrich Nietzsche)

We have a history of privilege to end life. ~Tall Man Small Shadow. ( A youth is convicted for attempt to suicide and faces humiliation, while an old Jain Lady is revered for Santhara unto death)

31 August 2015

Supreme Court Stays High Court Judgement

Justice seems to be prevailing. Supreme Court stayed the High Court decision that Santhara is also suicide and thus illegal. Various religious bodies of Jain Community had filed petition against decision of High Court of declaring Santhara as illegal. The same tenets were considered while granting stay that have been raised in the article. The Santhara is part of Jain Philosophy, and courts should abstain from interfering in the core rituals of any religion.

According to Durkheim the abnormally high or level of social integration results in suicide. He made an observation that the rate of suicide is low in Catholics since they have normal level of social integration.Low level of social integration results in disorganised society and suicide is seen as last remedy while in high level of social integration the person think himself to be a burden on society and thus commit suicide.
Santhara is also governed by this "Control Theory" of Durkheim.(You may Tweet this).

Social scientists have expressed concern over increase in suicidal rate in soldiers and students. Both of them live a mission oriented life. They work not only for duty but to prove themselves. The high expectation of society, insecurity,apprehension of failure,lack of self confidence,peer pressure are some of the other reasons of suicide. State should provide them stress free environment and society should take care of emotional need of these segments of society.Meditation camp can be arranged to reduce the anxiety by acceptance of inevitable.

Kota in Rajasthan(India), is hub of tuition centres for students aspiring to be IITian or a Doctor. Every month few students commit suicide in this city. Parents have put lot of expectations from their children. Invariably the students have left a suicide note addressed to their parents. In the note, they have apologised for their inability to fulfil the dreams of their parents.

Kamala Das famous English poet could not reconcile her inner world to her external world, her body to her soul, she addresses her monologue to the sea who(personification) can act as medium of her salvation (suicide).

O sea I am fed up
I want to be simple
I want to be loved 
If love is not to be had
I want to be dead,just dead.

© Vipin Behari Goyal
Advocate, Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur, India

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