Death in Jainism

Death in Jainism consist of a variety of concepts and reactions for the soul. Jainism considers death to be a mysterious event that can be experienced by ordinary souls and higher types of souls.

Types of Deaths

According to Jainism, there are 17 different types of death:

  • Avici-marana
  • Avadhimarana
  • Atyantika-marana
  • Vasarta-marana
  • Valana-marana
  • Antahsalya-marana
  • Tadhava-marana
  • Bala-marana or Akama marana
  • Pandita-marana or Sakama marana
  • Balpandita-marana
  • Chadmastha-marana
  • Kevali-marana
  • Vaihayasa-marana
  • Guddhapristha-marana
  • Bhaktapratyakhyana-marana
  • Inginta-marana
  • Padopagamana-marana

Akama Marana & Sakama Marana

Out of all 17 types of Marana, there are two that are extremely important to Jainism:

Akama Marana which refers to someone who has attachment to life and doesn't want to die but dies when his life is over. Therefore, he has died helplessly and not on his own accord. According to Jainism, this person is often one who is willingly or unwillingly ignorant to the concepts of rebirth, other worlds, and liberation of the soul.

Sakama Marana which refers to someone who is not afraid of death and who accepts it willingly and at ease. They understand that there is no way to avoid death and that it is a natural process. Sakama Marana can be further divided into 4 types. These are Samadhi marana, anasana, santharo, and santhara.

The great philosophers of Jainism evolved a view of the universe as material and permanent, in strong contrast to the Buddhist view that everything is illusory and transient and nirvana or moksa means the merging or extinction of individuality in an undifferentiated final state. In contrast, in Jainism death leads ultimately to the liberation of the soul into an individual state of total knowledge and bliss, although this process may take several cycles of death and rebirth. In Hinduism, unlike Jainism, there is no possible form of transmitting conscious memory from one life to another, because its domain belongs to the world of illusions and dissolves at death.

The distinctive aspects of the Jain tradition are the belief in unending cycles and "half cycles" of time as well as of life and death; the spiritual model provided by twenty-four leaders ( jinas ) who regenerated the Jain tradition in the present "half cycle" of time; the five vows of noninjury or nonviolence; speaking the truth; taking only that which is given; chastity; and detachment from place, persons, and things. The aim of Jain spiritual endeavor is to liberate the soul ( jiva ), which is believed to leave the physical body with one's karmic matter. This matter supplies the energy for onward travel to a new destiny in the cycle of death and rebirth ( karma ), which in the Jain tradition has a material nature. "Drier," more dispassionate souls are not so easily polluted by negative karma, whereas karmic matter is more easily attracted to souls that are "moist" with desires that might contravene the five vows. The soul can leave the body through several orifices. The soul of a sinner is perceived as leaving an already decayed body through the anus. The suture at the top of the skull is the purest point of the soul's exit, reserved for those who have led a life of renunciation, such as that of a dead ascetic. Just before the body of the deceased is cremated, the eldest son may help the soul of his father on its way by cracking the skull.

"First there must be knowledge and then compassion. This is how all ascetics achieve self-control" ( Dasavaikalika 4:33). In Jainism, a good life through moral conduct ( ahimsaa, or nonviolence and reverence for life in thoughts, words, and deeds) leads to a good death, one in which the body remains, to the last, under an ascetic type of control. Jain scriptures detail the destiny of the soul after death and the causes of physical death. These causes are classified as death because of old age or degeneration; death with desires; death without desires; the fool's death; the prudent person's death; a mixed death (i.e., the death of one who is neither a fool nor a prudent person, but one who is only partially disciplined); holy death, and (the highest state) omniscient death. "The concept of omniscience," writes Natubhai Shah, "is the central feature of Jainism and its philosophy. . . . The ultimate goal of worldly life is to acquire omniscience" (Shah 1998, 2:114). Thus, by definition, the state of perfect knowledge or omniscience ( kevala jnaana ) is the highest form of life before death.

"When a wise man, in whatever way, comes to know that the apportioned space of his life draws towards its end, he should in the meantime quickly learn the method of dying a religious death." This extract from the Jain holy scriptures, known as Sutra krtraanga, identifies a ritual almost unique among the world's religions (except in the most ascetic sects): a holy fast unto death, which through inaction rids the soul of negative karma and brings about death with dignity and dispassion ( sallekhanaa ). Within the Jain tradition, this is not regarded as an act of suicide (which involves passion and violence and is thus anathema) and is recommended only for a few spiritually fit persons and under strict supervision, usually in a public forum, with the approval of the family and spiritual superiors. People who die in this "death of the wise" ( pandita-marana )are considered to be only a few births removed from final liberation from the painful cycle of death and rebirth. Two other forms of withdrawal from life are also practiced in conjunction with abstention from food. These are death through renunciation ( sannyasana marana ) and death through meditation ( samaadhi marana ).

At a Jain deathbed, the sacred mantra of surrender, obeisance, and veneration to the five supreme beings ( Navakara Mantra ) is recited and hymns are sung. The same mantra is recited after death, when hymns are sung and other prayers recited. In the Indian subcontinent, the dead person is normally cremated within twenty-four hours of death (though there may be a delay of up to a week among the diaspora in Europe and the United States). Before the body is consumed in the crematorium oven, there is a period of meditation for the peace of the soul, a sermon on the temporary nature of worldly life and advice to those present not to feel grief at the departure of the soul, which will be reborn in a new body. In the Indian subcontinent, the ashes of the deceased are dispersed in a nearby sacred river, or in the absence of a suitable river, a pit. The departure of the soul at death is part of a Jain worldview in which the concept of a living soul is thought to exist in all human beings, animals, insects, and vegetation, and even in the earth, stone, fire, water, and air. The distinctive Jain respect for life and refusal to kill animals, insects, and plants for food arises from this worldview.


Cort, John E. Jains in the World: Religious Values and Ideology in India. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Laidlaw, James. Riches and Renunciation: Religion, Economy, and Society among the Jains. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.

Shah, Natubhai. Jainism: The World of Conquerors. 2 vols. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1998.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Jainism — Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma / Shraman Dharma (जैन धर्म) is an ancient religion of India. Jains are a small but influential religious minority with at least 10 million followers in modern India, [ [… …   Wikipedia

  • Jainism and non-creationism — Jainism does not support belief in a creator deity. According to Jain doctrine, the universe and its constituents soul, matter, space, time, and principles of motion have always existed (a static universe similar to that of Epicureanism). All the …   Wikipedia

  • Jainism — /juy niz euhm/, n. a dualistic religion founded in the 6th century B.C. as a revolt against current Hinduism and emphasizing the perfectibility of human nature and liberation of the soul, esp. through asceticism and nonviolence toward all living… …   Universalium

  • Death (personification) — Grim Reaper redirects here. For other uses, see Grim Reaper (disambiguation). A Western depiction of Death as a skeleton carrying a scythe. The concept of death as a sentient entity has existed in many societies since the beginning of history. In …   Wikipedia

  • Jainism and Sikhism — Both Jainism and Sikhism have originated in South Asia and are Eastern philosophical faiths. Jainism, like Buddhism, rejected the authority (but not the values) of the Vedas and created independent textual traditions based on the words and… …   Wikipedia

  • Criticism of Jainism — Jainism This article is part of a series on Jainism Prayers and Vows …   Wikipedia

  • Nirvana (Jainism) — Jainism This article is part of a series on Jainism Prayers and Vows …   Wikipedia

  • Tattva (Jainism) — Jainism This article is part of a series on Jainism Prayers and Vows …   Wikipedia

  • Triple gems of Jainism — Jainism emphasises that the right vision or view ( Samyak Darsana ), right knowledge ( Samyak Jnana ) and right conduct ( Samyak Caritra ) together constitute the path of liberation. These three are known as the triple gems (or jewels) of Jainism …   Wikipedia

  • Ahimsa in Jainism — IAST|Ahiṃsā (Sanskrit : अहिंसा, Prakrit : अहिंसा) means “non violence”, “non injury” or absence of desire to harm any life forms. Ahiṃsā is the fundamental principle of Jainism forming cornerstone of its ethics and doctrine. Vegetarianism and… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.