The Nirvana of Palakmati

By Dr.Pradeep Apte
(As narrated to me by Mr Hanskumar Jain s/o Late Mrs Palakmati Jain and derived from Handwritten notes by her in the last days) There are some revealing events in life which occur quite rarely and if you have been a close witness to the event, then you must share it with others. Such events apart from being rare are also very subtle in their nature and many a times go unobserved. Birth and death are two very common events that we see occurring every day, the one of arrival and the other of departure. Usually these do not mean much to you unless the people involved are very close to you, then you celebrate birth and mourn death. This is the conventional way of going about it, but after being a close witness to the demise of my mother, I felt that this dreaded thing called death could also be a celebration, a celebration of Nirvana. Those last days, those last moments, the way she lived through them with a stoic calm can stand as an outstanding ideal for all our coming generations. Thus, I felt that this Nirvana which I saw would be worth sharing with others as one day or the other we all have to inevitably confront death. Before we come to those last days let us have a brief overview of Palalmati’s life. It was on Thursday, 20th February 1936, that the couple Gulabchandji and Anokhibai was blessed by a daughter. This beautiful little baby was their third child and born in a small quiet town called Khandwa in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. They named her ‘Palakmati’ which means like a flower petal, and indeed she was like a fair, tender, flower petal. Unfortunately, she lost her mother at a very early age, but ‘Bhaiji, her father, left no stone unturned in showering all the love that he could on her. She had a regular schooling up to 5th standard, there after her elder sisters trained her well in domestic work. Apart from this she also imbibed the traditional ways life that were prevalent in those times and above all was the strong backdrop of the Jain religion which got ingrained in her. At the age of 19 she was married to Sitabchandji, the third son of Seth Gulabchandji of Pandhana. Palakmati was very determined to get herself educated to the utmost, after finishing all her day to day work she would read a lot of books. This reflected in her overall behavior and thoughts which almost conveyed the feeling that she was highly educated. She was very enthusiastic and ambitious about her children getting the best education and touching the highest of the high. This she felt towards not only her own but

towards all children and it could be seen in the happiness that shined in her eyes on hearing about the success of anyone. To day whatever I have achieved and to whatever position I have reached in my profession and life, I owe it to her, in fact this applies equally to my two younger brothers and sister as well, we all owe it to her! She showered her immense love on all the daughter-in-laws that came in this family, faultfinding or criticizing them was not in her nature. In order to evaluate anybody one good means is to have a look at the traditional background or the conditioning of their parents and in the case of our mother Palakmati we imbibed a lot from her which has stood in good stead to all of us throughout our lives. Take the example of our sister who, after the untimely demise of her husband in a car accident, had to struggle a lot to rehabilitate herself and her family. During this period of struggle her loving mother stood by her, in fact she derived all her strength from her and could manage to live through it all with a smile. It is this strength to face calamities with a smile that we have learnt from our mother that has placed all of us well in life and would continue to do in the coming days. Palakmati, although very strong minded could not escape the vagaries of the body through ill health, which at times made her quite helpless. It was thirty years back that she was first afflicted by Cancer a much dreaded and incurable disease. But, due to her strong will she pulled out of that disease then and life went on as usual in her cheerful self. During difficult financial situations in the family she very strongly stood by her husband which was a great moral support to him. Although married, she never forgot the responsibility of attending on her father whenever the time, opportunity and situation demanded. It was about six to seven years back that the cancer which had afflicted her in the past started spreading to other parts of the body. Despite of the pain and discomfort that she was undergoing during this period, she never made it obvious. She continued her working ability and maintained the smile on her countenance, which was purely due to her strong willed nature. Her health started deteriorating from the beginning of January 2008 and things became worse on 21st January when she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. We never knew then that the stage was set for us to witness one of the most unusual dramas in life, so close to us and so memorable to be.

Those Last Days

21st January 2008
Our mother, Palakmati’s condition began deteriorating and at 2 AM she had to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of a local Hospital. The Doctors on examining her took the decision to operate, which really came hard on us for we knew that she wouldn’t

be able to talk anymore. But now there was no way out so we had to concede to this rather disturbing prospect.

22nd January 2008
At 8 am the operation began and was over in about an hour, a tube was inserted and now she had lost her voice. Gradually the effect of anesthesia started wearing off and by nightfall she was in her usual self. She took a pen and piece of paper lying around on the table near her and these were the first words she wrote: Do not switch on the heater, in the morning there was a current flowing from it. No talking anymore now. O Lord, give me so much strength that my faith in you may not deter. Then further... The doctor had come; I am feeling very uneasy and distressed.

23rd January 2008
Now the time had come…Palakmati knew very well that it had come…what was at the back of her mind thirty years ago… the time for it had arrived. She recollected that she had thought about it when she was first inflicted by cancer, but then she had intuitively felt- not yet, it could not be yet, her family needed her and she had to live. She did live through it all these years, but now she felt the job was done, let the children do what was medically possible, she had made her resolve. The children had been brought to see her she wrote: Do not bring children here, No talking anymore, I have to write only. Her grandson Anurav was suffering from a cold, so she wrote Do give Anurav the special masala tea for his cold. To a close visitor Reena Bhabhi she wrote: Utter the Namokar loudly. Why she loved the Namokar mantra so much? Jains throughout the world chant this great incantation (mantra) with full faith and belief. Through this mantra one invokes the soul, not any individual. It has five lines: (1) NAMO ARIHANTANAM (2) NAMO SIDDHANAM (3) NAMO AYARIYANAM (4) NAMO UVAJJHAYANAM (5) NAMO LOYE SAVVA SAHUNAM This means: (1) I bow before the Arihantas. ( Paying homage I convey my veneration to the conquerors of Karmas.) (2) I bow before the Siddhas. ( Paying homage I convey my veneration to the perfected and liberated souls.)

(3) I bow before the Acharyas. ( Paying homage I convey my veneration to the leaders of Jain order.) (4) I bow before the Upadhyayas. ( Paying homage I convey my veneration to the teachers of the scriptures.) (5) I bow before all the Sadhus. ( Paying homage I convey my veneration to all the mendicants/monks in the world.) Sincerely, done, this fivefold veneration to pure souls wipes away all sins, it is the most auspicious. To another visitor: The Pudgal (gross matter body) has to bear the pain; you all are attending on me. In Jain philosophy anything that does not have life or a conscious is Ajiv. Ajiva literally means without a soul and therefore, they cannot accumulate any karmas. They have no birth, death, pleasure, or pain; they are achetan (inert). Ajivas are divided into the following five categories: (1) Dharmastikay (Medium of Motion). (2) Adharmastikay (Medium of Rest). (3) Akashastikay (Space). (4) Pudgalastikay (Matter). (5) Kal (Time). The word ‘Pudgal’ is made up of two terms: Pud means supplement (addition) and Gal means disintegration (division). In other words, what continuously changes by supplementation and/or division is called Pudgal or matter. All matter in the universe are called Pudgals.Pudgal has form or shape, Pudgal can be experienced by touching, tasting, smelling, or seeing. Like Jiva, Pudgal is also mobile; the karman particles that attach to our souls are also Pudgal. Pudgal can only be divided and subdivided to a certain extent that it is not possible to further subdivide it. In the room, while two of her daughter-in-laws were disputing as to who would stay there she wrote: Do not pressurize any individual to sit here and attend on me, I am quite alright alone. To Dr Vidya she wrote: Let only that much consciousness remain in me that I may remember God. Dr Vidya replied: Your consciousness is an unusual one and worth appreciating. She then wrote a message to all of us: You all do not be afraid, consider the soul to be distinct from the body; do not hold on to any attachments. Then she wrote to me when I expressed my inability to see her suffering: Hansu, you say that you cannot see me suffering, but my understanding is that I don’t believe myself to be the body anymore and reside in the soul only and I pray for this understanding to remain. The body is the body and cannot be done away with, she continued to suffer and bear all the pain. To Anurav, she wrote: Do not hold on to attachments with us, you build your future like your father. Then for all of us she wrote:

This being and living has come alone, let it go by. I ask for forgiveness from all of you, please forgive, let my good deeds remain and let the children benefit from the rewards of these good deeds. In Jainism forgiveness is a virtue, Jains feel that the values like love, joy and peace can be achieved only through caring for others, understanding the pain of others and reaching out to other human beings. Anger, confusion, egoism and intolerance cause harm to one's self and to the 'other'. But the negative energies suffocate, choke, distress and disturb. Love should not be in the form of words alone. It should reach out to people who need peace, mercy, joy, comfort, sympathy, food, clothing and medicines. This is love in its active, not passive manifestation, but true love is forgiveness for self sake.

24th January 2008
Her struggle continued and she used to feel quite uneasy she wrote to Purnima, her daughter: I think this uneasiness that I feel has been sent to give me something to keep you awake, stay till the doctor comes and tell him about the uneasiness Further commenting on her children: It is only after performing many a meritorious deeds that we are bestowed with such children. She always had the highest regard and respect for religion, that is what made her strong and that is what also made her take up the ultimate resolution. I am telling all this as long as the consciousness is there in me, the day I am free from consciousness you must keep reciting the religion, and always have the ‘Jinvani’ close by like carrying it in a bag. Despite of being in tremendous pain and feeling the enormous uneasiness, she always maintained the strong desire to hear the ‘Namokar’ We all then wrote a special note for her: To our respected mother Palakmati, By holding the thought ‘my family, especially Hanskumar, cannot bear to see my suffering’ you are getting trapped into attachments and feeling guilty about your sickness that you are causing us all this trouble and therefore you repeatedly ask for forgiveness. Religiously speaking this is not correct; whatever teaching you have imparted to us in life, only the rare ones get. We have learnt to stand up strongly in difficult situations from you; probably that has been the key to our progress and success in life. You must remove this thought from your mind that your illness has been a cause of trouble and botheration to all of us. Actually had there been anyone else in your place we have served him with the same dedication as towards you. This is what we have learnt from you and we would continue to do so in the future as well. In your present condition, do as you best please to do without holding on to any attachments or burden on your mind. Although seeing all this suffering does sometimes shake our faith in God, but then this is what destiny is all about, the inevitable.

In fact you should forgive all of us if we have erred and give us your blessings to be strong enough to face all calamities in life and emerge victorious in all endeavors. It is due to the consequence of your teachings imparted to us that to-day the whole family stands united in this difficult period. So, you just drop all attachments to the family and immerse yourself in the love that you hold for God, into the resolution of Nirvana that you have made. Babuji has also with all firmness given consent for this resolution of yours. It would be helpful to still have the tube in your throat as it would enable us to clear the phlegm that accumulates there. This would make your breathing easier and you could comfortably chant the name of God. If you agree you may call the nurse to carry out the aspiration. We always remain to await your blessings Hanskumar,Priti, Anurav and Ayushi

25th January 2008
Again she complained about the current Do not switch on the heater; I can feel the current here Then she wrote The doctor who came in the night I told her that tomorrow is 26th January (Our country’s Republic day). Now what was this resolution that Palakmati had made? She could very well recollect the words of the famous Jain Muni Vidyanand “Try and live life fully till the last moment. But when you feel that death is near, you must leave all else and turn inwards. Sallekhana is the Jain way of making death a time for contemplation and celebration, and not mourning. Every creature instinctively knows the time of its death. A tiger, when it knows that it is going to die, lies down quietly and refuses to eat. Sallekhana is a brave way to die; it is an embracing of the inevitable, instead of trying to run away from it” Sallekhana is the Jain practice of conscious dying, where a person willfully embraces death at the end of a full life. It is a brave way to die, by embracing the inevitable in awareness; instead of running away from it. Sallekhana is inspired by the need to turn within at the time of death. Death is thus made into a time for contemplation and celebration.

26th January 2008
Palakmati wrote: I have to enter the domain that transcends the body, Hansu cannot see me suffering. All this medical treatment is not of my soul, I am determined to maintain a state of impartiality towards everything. Renouncing everything I now reside in the soul. You must relieve Babuji after 5 PM, call the Nurse… Then I told her that do hold any attachments towards only then would you be able to find peace in residing in your soul.

She wrote: Please forgive me, all ask for forgiveness from all; this journey of my life is going to be successful. The body has to bear the effects of my deeds, I am not attached to it amymore and now reside in my soul. I was feeling uneasy in the night, the after the doctor did the aspiration I am feeling better. Kallu’s wife had come and I don’t know what happened but the pain increased, please don’t misunderstand my pain. She forgot her own grief of kaka’s death and came to see me. I hold no attachments, but this weakness that I feel is not in my hands. She had that yearning to listen to the words of Jain Muni Vidyanand, now that her resolve had become firm, she could see the betrayal caused by deeds that was leading to so much suffering: My Karma is betraying me and I can feel it, I have a great longing to listen the words that would lead to my salvation, in listening the words I can visualize Muni Vidyanand Don’t leave the ‘Jinvani’ lying there on the sofa! Please treat it with respect! The stranglehold of time is very strong, how long can one hold on… Tell Priti to get me the works of Muni Sri Charitrasagar lying in the almirah. I can see all these temples now… Please do maintain some cleanliness around here call the nurse and tell her to change the bed sheet which is getting dirty. And please do not give my water without filtering it through the cloth. I am going to defeat this suffering; I pray that I have enough strength to not deter from the spiritual path… I give up everything. The sallekhana (death in Samadhi) practice of dying in Jain culture, especially as prescribed for ascetics, has been an inspiration for all Indians from times immemorial, through legend and widespread observance. It is similar in tone and tenor to Krishna’s retreat into the forest after the fulfillment of his work as an avatar, to offer himself as a sacrifice to the unknown hunter’s arrow. Sallekhana is sacred death observed only at the end of a full life chosen with dignity, when faced with imminent departure through old age or sickness, with the sanction of religious authority and one’s family. It involves fasting unto death, with the choice of quitting the fast at any time if the person has changed his or her mind. The place of undertaking this rite is usually a sacred site where many in the past have similarly embraced death as a conscious and controlled spiritual act. It calls for meditation upon the true nature of Self, until the life force merges into the unknown, in what is known as ‘samadhi’ death, or dying while immersed in meditation.

27th January 2008
Throughout her illness Palakmati always insisted on maintaining body hygiene and cleanliness around her. Apart from this, her residing in the spiritual or religious mood was almost constant. Let death come when it has to come, I am determined to bear all the pain of the body but I shall not deviate from my objective and maintain an impartial outlook in these last moments that I have to live.

Please speak softly, I can now visualize Muni Sri Vidyasagar, I like his words, he prompts me to meditate on God and remain there. To Sandeep and Rashmi who came to meet her To see you both happy and smiling gives me tremendous peace, both of you must spend your life like that only.

28th January 2008
Palakmati wrote: I do not want anything anymore; I have a great thirst for gradually reducing the intake like the Muni’s do it towards the end. During these last moments I wish to be completely immersed in Religion, please do not talk of anything else. I want to go home, as to where I shall stay that you people decide. There is no discrimination against women as such in the observance of sallekhana, and many women ascetics are known to have willingly embraced death in this manner. At the same time, samadhi deaths of nuns and male householders are simple and personal affairs, compared to the recognition and veneration accorded to monks who may have made a major contribution to the sangha in life, as in death. Facing death with a detached attitude, mind wholly fixed on a spiritual purpose; there are five transgressions to be strictly avoided. Persons undertaking sallekhana must not seek to delay death; there must be no desire to hasten death; death must not be feared; there must be no remembrance of friends and relatives at that stage; and above all, there must not be hankering after particular rewards after death. It maybe householder or ascetic, the person seeking death in this manner should not be afflicted by disturbance or obstruction. in any manner. All ties to family and friends being terminated along with doubts, fears and attachment to desires.

29th January 2008
Pakakmati wrote: I ask for forgiveness from all Dr Vidya asked: What do you feel like? Do you feel better with the Oxygen? I have nothing in my mind, I accept what everybody says, you ask them all and decide. Dr Vidya: If after the reduction of medicines you feel better we can take you home, today we shall reduce the medicines. The later: Are you writing a book? Everybody’s life is like a book, a book and written by a pen, the ink at times is colorful and at times in black and white, everybody’s… This day would pass away sleeping, I don’t want to move as movement causes pain, I don’t want to deviate from my resolution... I want to go home…freedom from this phlegm and urination… I can hold on to my resolution even at home. I want to die peacefully, let only the oxygen remain, renounce the saline bottle. To day that elderly lady from Kanchan bag had come, she advised me to renounce the saline bottle, probably that is causing the congestion of the phlegm. On her expressing the desire to remove the saline bottle I said:

I don’t think it is appropriate to stop the saline bottle; it’s a source of fluids and energy. Still if you wish to home arrangements for it can be made there as well… I have no wish anymore; I will accept whatever you decide. She had this strong wish to renounce the saline bottle, but when we all tried to convince her to continue, she left it on us. Anyway if things have to continue here let it be so, let this hospital room be my temple and let all religious discourses go on here.

30th January 2008
To her daughter Poornima she wrote: I have not renounced water yet, so give some to do gargles. Later in the night to Poornima: I know that it may not be possible for you to sleep while the tape of chanting of the Namokar mantra goes on all night. So you just reduce the volume so that I can listen to it in a low tone.

31st January 2008
Palakmati wrote: Let me tell you about my life, I lost and gained a lot according to the circumstances, but now it is all dissolution, this body is heading towards dissolution. Despite of carrying this diseased body for so many years, at any cost I do not want to lose my religious attributes, let me be strong in my resolution and take it to completion. About Dr Manish Kaushal she wrote: He takes great care of me and I feel as though he is a part of my family. It is only the fortunate ones who get the happiness of such care. Further: I feel this heat, this burning and bitterness in the throat please don’t give this water in which cloves have been added. Please do not take any trouble for me, even if you won’t come it wouldn’t matter, I do not wish anybody to be troubled for my sake. This desire for the cold clove water still remains. Indeed this pit of desire is such a terrible thing, we try to fill it up with so many things, yet it remains as empty as ever. Dr Vidya said: This enchanting smile of yours is indeed worth a millions for us, what is the secret of this smile? The secret of this smile is you people, you all who take such great care of me; I have this wish to die smiling. What can I say? My body itself tells the story of my pain, but I have decided that I would keep on smiling.

1st February 2008
She expressed the wish to give Dr Manish a ring: Please give the doctor a ring on my behalf so that he remembers all his life that there was a patient like me To Prafulla:

To remain tension-free is the best treatment for any disease, worry and tension is the root of all disease. Further: Please call the nurse and remove this phlegm, I am feeling a lot of uneasiness. Throw away this water in the bottle, it has become stale, always use fresh water. For Rajju she wrote: Remain happy like I do, Hansu loves you so you also should continue to do so. Hansu used to tell me not to go to the temple due to my illness, probably he wanted me to take rest, but later he never said so. I do keep feeling very uneasy, Vidya and husband(Doctor Arvind) do take care of me, yet the uneasiness continues, I wonder when I would go, everybody gets so frightened. This cancer has now spread all over the I body, I can feel it, you put water through the tube but it tastes bitter, how much trouble I have subjected you all to. Tell Praful to explain the meaning of the story he narrated to everybody in the family, you all smile when I am smiling so I don’t want to cry anymore. This is indeed a time to celebrate, Priti you must not cry, like the Maharj at Anandpandhana I have not given up water yet. Sallekhana is a time to take death not as mourning but as a contemplation and celebration. Such demise is undertaken with the permission of near and dear ones, after begging their forgiveness for causing injury to them in the course of living, and making peace within themselves, so that there are no negative feelings and unresolved issues in the end. All ties to the living, and mental attachments, are given up before undertaking the vow of sallekhana. The fasting is a gradual process, whereby food intake is drastically reduced at first, then given up altogether, followed by a refusal of water intake also. Death may occur at any time from within a few days to a month or more. In that period, gradual withdrawal of senses from external objects occurs, leading to detachment and inner purification, with a strong and increasing focus on meditation. Anything in the environment that may create an obstruction to the solemnity of the occasion or cause disturbance is to be avoided, and this may involve the knowledge and legal sanction of government authorities. The muted surrender of attachment to life itself is seen as a great sacrifice that not only helps resolve old karma for the person concerned, but also prevents the egress of new karma at the time of death, so that it may be possible to go beyond the cycle of death and rebirth and attain liberation of the soul. At the same time, it is also asserted that the person performing sallekhana must not be attached to its outcome, which is unknown. For Dr Manish’s children Do take some sweets for the children of Dr Manish. And later Dr Arvind had come, he tired to give me some water but it did not go down, I take water to do away with this bitterness. Just see all these members of my family running around so much, coming to the hospital at odd hours, so much trouble to them! O God! Please set me free from all this.

2nd February 2008

To the Aunt from Sanawad: I told the Aunt from Sanawad to go back to Sanawad with Pramod, she should follow the path of religion and worry about things here anymore. Then while giving Dr Manish the ring: This is my wish so you will have to agree to it, you will remember me by seeing it. To Dr Vidya: It is now a month since I have renounced food. Dr Vidya commented: well even Aishwaya Rai does not eat to retain her beauty! Palakmati used to feel this extreme heat and burning in the mouth and throat: I feel this burning sensation in the mouth; I can’t drink the water so at least I can do some gargles with it. She used to get worried about others visiting her: How will this lady go back, she has no means, will she go on foot? She did want even to trouble the hospital staff: These nurses have to some again and again to sponge me and all that, why don’t you get me catheterized, it would save them a lot of trouble.

3rd February 2008
Palakmati felt: I resolve not to hold on to any attachments anymore To the nurse: Get these hair cut and make trim them small and remove this phlegm that has got stuck in the tube. And: I have the highest respect for the ‘Gandhodak’. In Jains the bathing of idols is known as ‘Jalabhisheka’ and after that the idols are cleaned with a wet cloth which is known as ‘Prakshal’. Going around the idol three times is the ‘Parikrama’ and along with are recited the ‘Prayer’. After finishing prayer one should take the ‘Gandhodak’, which is the holy water collected after the ‘Prakshal’ and apply it to one’s eyelids, forehead and so forth and recite: ‘This pure, clean and sacred water I offer you for destroying my cycle of life and death’. She felt: My Consciousness is in good condition, I am meditating on the Consciousness only.

4th February 2008
Palakmati wrote: Please call the nurse; I am feeling this tremendous burning, apply something cool, it is becoming unbearable. I am trying my best to bear as much as I can, but this burning in the throat and in the stomach too is terrible. Call the nurse and tell her to remove this phlegm from the tube as well. Despite of the agony she was living through her faith never deterred from her religion. She constantly kept on listening to the ‘Panch Parmeshthi’ (Another name for the Namokar mantra). Shro wrote:

I meditate on the ‘Pancha Parmeshthi’. And then she wrote only one word: ‘Pratikramana’ ‘Pratikramana’ is actually a ritual that forms a part of the Jain festival ‘Payushana’. The ‘Payushana’ is an important Jain festival observed in August-September, usually the peak monsoon time. Paryushana is a time of reflection on actions and meditation on the past year. Paryushana is marked by strict observance of the ten cardinal virtues: forgiveness, charity, simplicity, contentment, truthfulness, self-restraint, fasting, detachment, humility and continence. During this festival, Jains of all ages visit the divine temples or Upashrayas to listen to the discourses and readings of Kalpa Sutra. In the evenings, Jains perform a kriya called Pratikraman, a form of meditation to reflect on spiritual journey.The following is the prayer is said while doing Pratikraman: ‘KHAMEMI SAVVE JIVE, SAVVE JIVA KHAMANTU ME METTI ME SAVVE BHUYESU, VERAM MAJAHAM N KENAI’ This means: ‘I forgive (from the bottom of my heart without any reservation) all living beings (who may have caused me any pain and suffering either in this life or previous lives), and I beg (again from the bottom of my heart without any reservation) for the forgiveness from all living beings (no matter how small or big to whom I may have caused pain and suffering in this life or previous lives, knowingly or unknowingly, mentally, verbally or physically, or if I have asked or encouraged someone else to carry out such activities). (Let all creatures know that) I have a friendship with everybody and I have no revenge (animosity or enmity) toward anybody.’

5th February 2008
Palakmati was shifted from this hospital, which had a lot of hustle-bustle, to another local hospital close by which was in a very quiet environment. She wrote: It is much cleaner and quiet over here, now I can peacefully attain ‘Nirvana’… Pratikramana… I can’t bear these lights and this heater too they cause so much heat and burning in my body. Look at these bed sores I have developed by constantly lying down, please apply some powder on this bruises. I am feeling this terrible agony and pain but I must not deter... ‘Om Namokar’ It is almost 3 to 4 months that I have renounced food. Tell Babuji to back home now Please don’t talk loudly here, those who want speak loudly please go out The saline bottle is about to finish I would like to listen to the ‘Bhaktamar Puja’ The Bhaktamar stotra is the most the most famous of the Jain Sanskrit prayers. Its length varies from 48 to 52 verses and was composed by Acharya Manatunga whose name

appears in the last verse. According to the Bhaktamar legends that are given in several texts, the Jain monk Manatunga was chained and imprisoned by the local King Bhoja. Manatunga composed his stotra (hymn) in the prison. With the completion of each verse, a chain broke, or a door opened. Manatunga was free when all the verses were finished. The first verse is ‘Bhaktamara pranata mauli maniprabhanam uddyotakam dalita papa tamo vitanam Samyak pranamya jinapadayugam yugadavalambanam bhavajale patatam jananam’ This means: When the gods bow down at the feet of Bhagavan Rishabhdeva the radiance of the jewels of their crowns is intensified by the divine glow of the nails of his feet. Mere touch of his feet absolves the beings from sins. He who submits himself at these feet crosses the mundane barriers of rebirth into the state of liberation. I convey my reverential salutation salutations at the feet of Bhagavan Rishabhdeva, the first Thrthmkara, the propagator of religion at the beginning of this era. The last verse is: ‘Stotrasrajam tava Jinendra! gunaih nibaddham bhaktya maya ruchira varna vichitrapushpam. Dhattejanoya iha kanthagatam ajasramtam Manatunga mavasha samupaiti Lakshmih.’ This means: O Jina! With devotion I have made up this string (panegyric) of your virtues. I have decorated it with charming and multicoloured (words) flowers (sentiments). The devotee who always wears it in the neck (memorises and chants) attracts the goddess of success (attracts highest honour, the goal of liberation).

6th to 8th February 2008
Palakmati had now become very weak, even to write anything was very difficult for her, yet at times she wrote: Please filter the water before giving to me for gargles. This whole sickness stuck up inside is coming out now in the form of this phlegm. This urination is wetting the clothes… Remove this tube… Pratikramana.

9th February 2008
Quite suddenly Palakmati wrote:

I am feeling this tremendous hunger; all roads seem to be closing. I do not know as to how long I would have to bear all this suffering, how long can I maintain my equanimity and poise? I must have done some bad deeds or troubled somebody that I have to bear this agony and pain. To Dr Vidya she wrote: Please give my love and blessings to Tamanna (their daughter), the mother is so intelligent so there is no reason as to why the daughter too should not be so. Dr Vidya replied: You get well, then I shall come to your house and we will eat ‘pav-bhaji’. You are already doing so much, please do not hold any attachments towards me, let me attain freedom

10th to 11th February 2008:
Seeing Palakmati suffer like that raised some questions in my mind: - If at all there is any worship in religion, they why even after so much worship there is no liberation? - Even after giving up all attraction towards the world, the path of freedom is not easy. - If in a simple, hassle-free life it so difficult, then what would happen in difficult times? - It is during such difficult times that your faith in religion divulges. Then my younger brother Sangeet said: If at all there is any God call him now, let him appear… Palakmati wrote: God is in all, whatever you see is God Om Namah, Om Namah, Om Namah Nobody has come from home? Who is doing what I do not know I want to go home.

12th February 2008
Palakmati wrote: Everything has been stopped Now who is going to carry all this rubbish home? I see now only the path of Nirvana. I said to her: We will go home, if at all a drip has to be given I shall make arrangements at home. She wrote: At home, especially in the night it is going to be troublesome, here at least there is a nurse to attend on me. This saline drip is no use anymore; stop everything when we go home.

13th and 14th February 2008
The Last Day and after

At home she was calm and peaceful, but the final assault of the disease had begun, Palakmati could hardly write, although she scribbled to call Dr Arvind and she also asked for a bed-pan and queried whether it had become wet? The last letter (word) scribbled twice by her was: O (m)...O (m)... She could not completely write the Om Namah or finish it, but quite obviously she attained Nirvana while meditating on the Namokar Mantra… Another day had begun, it was 14th February 2008. At times people tend to confuse ‘Sallekhana’ with suicide, whereas in reality, they are two completely different matters. Suicide is a sudden and impulsive termination of life, often through violent means. It happens in a depressed or disturbed emotional state, because of frustration of desires and attachment to worldly goals, or through great despair over perceived lack of meaning in one’s life. It implies a strong negation of life itself. Thus suicide is a self-destructive act of delusion sometimes even undertaken in revengeful infliction of punishment on the living. It is condemned in most spiritual traditions, and is believed to result in the degradation of the soul entity. Sallekhana, on the other hand, is an uplifting example of personal sacrifice as the result of a well thought out and planned culmination of a life well lived, undertaken with detachment, calmness and contentment. The difference in attitude is striking. It follows a well-laid tradition of penance and meditation, is a slow process that allows an individual to withdraw at any time should there be doubts or misgivings in his mind. It not only ensures purification of the mind-body system before death, it also enables survivors to face the parting with calm acceptance, so that there is gain in wisdom by witnessing this supreme act of asceticism. Above all, this form of sacred death is also thought to purify the environs through the wholly positive spiritual vibrations at the time of the final merging, and the blessings of the departed soul.


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