CAN DEATH BE STALLED?
Can there be any salvation in this world?
Or any refuge or dignity, 0 Brother?
Even he who enjoys the wealth of the six continents,
Absolute power, yet suffers frustration! Why?
Great glory lasts as long as proud illusion endures,
Till life remains unswallowed by cruel death!
Horses, elephants, chariots, armies and great warriors
Are of little avail, when Death chooses to come!
Houses made of steel, yet is man afraid!
In humility bent! What might rescue him?
Neither ascending to the mountain top, nor plunging into the sea,
Doth offer any protection against impending death!
The holding of the breath, and the practice of yoga,
Learning and magic, too, are here to mockery reduced!
Disease and old age come, the body grows inert
What medicine here can cure a man of these?
Yet a four-fold refuge is ever available to him!
The Enlightened, the Liberated, the Saints
And true and perfect Religion!
Salvation for reprobates, for the helpless, hope,
Loving care for the orphans, for the drowning, a hand
A friend to the friendless, to the abandoned, a brother,
The savior of all, whether rich or poor!
Q.The illusion of taking the transient for the eternal is
the result of delusion. The cause of delusion is the illusory nature of one's
approach. On account of a perverse point of view, a man's conceptions go awry.
One aspect of those conceptions you have cleared up. But there must be some
other aspects, too. Will you kindly talk about these?
Ans. When the mortal is taken to be immortal, it is a patently false approach.
Similarly, to look upon that which has no refuge as a haven betrays an illusory
perception. Man seeks protection in material objects and thus further sinks into
delusion. If we go into it deeply, we shall find that none in the family,
society and the country, can give salvation to man. To begin with, it seems that
the greater the extension of relationship, the more solid is one's base, but
even those things which, in the process of their acquisition, seemed to offer
lasting joy, are later found to be wanting. What seemed to offer salvation,
later appears to bring damnation. That some person or thing might bring us
salvation at the time of calamity, or in the moment of death, is a false belief,
and one must come to see it as such.
The empire and the army are considered to be saviors. But neither the empire nor
the army can save a man about to be swallowed by death.
Changez Khan greatly feared death. Because of this fear he killed millions of
people. The kith and kin of the killed became his enemies. His fear increased. A
sentinel was appointed for his protection. But Changez Khan grew suspicious of
him. Another sentinel had to be appointed. But growing suspicion necessitated an
increase in the number of sentinels. However, Changez Khan was not reassured
even when seven sentinels kept watch for him. He sat all night with a sword in
He had left his royal palace for sometime and lived in tents with his army. One
night he dozed off for a while. At that very moment, a horse tied to a nearby
post broke loose. It caused a tumult. Changez Khan woke up with a start. He
thought the enemy had assaulted. In great panic, he started to move out of the
tent. While fleeing he stumbled over a spike. A pointed stake pierced his
stomach and he died. Changez Khan had the tent with stakes erected for his
safety, and yet his very means for salvation were responsible for his death.
Q.Is it possible to stall death?
Ans. For thousands of years, the avoidance of death has been contemplated upon.
Research is being carried out in this connection. Even today the scientists are
occupied with this problem. They say death can certainly be stalled. In proof of
their assertion, they say that the basis of life is healthy cells. These cells
can be repaired and kept going in good order for a long time. As long as, a
dying cell, after being rejuvenated, retains the capacity for division and for
reproduction of a new cell, life would continue. The scientists have succeeded
in replacing inert or dead parts of the body by transplanting in it new parts.
They have also achieved success in heart-transplantations. But they have not
been able to achieve victory over death. If, as claimed by them, they can stall
death by rejuvenating the cells, it would create a great commotion in the world
of philosophy and science. Right now it seems hardly possible.
Q.Can death be stalled according to Jain philosophy? The scientists say that
life is connected with the cells of the body. How does Jain philosophy react to
Ans. Jain philosophy is the philosophy of conquering death. The wished-for
consummation lies in getting rid of the cycle of life and death. But this
happens only in a state of perfect freedom. The soul wandering in the world has
no deliverer; it will have to accept death one day, sooner or later. But the
frontiers of death can be modified; untimely death can be avoided.
According to Jain philosophy, it is the vital energy that regulates life. In
theoretical language, it may be called oja, the vital food. The cell begins its
new life by taking the fertilized egg of the mother. This process is called
ojahar. As long as the effect of oja lasts, life continues. Oja is the name
given to the atoms of the life-force. Every living being in the first moment of
its existence, receives these atoms. As long as this source remains active,
death cannot occur.
There are chance happenings which bring home to us the importance of the
life-giving force. For example, a house fell and a person was buried under the
debris. It took five to seven days to clear away the debris. And the man, when
pulled out, still had life in him. He survived because his oja was secure.
However, if the oja or life-force itself had been hit, his life would have
instantly ended. It was just a matter of chance. Everything depended on the
preservation or non-preservation of the life-force!
Q.In the opinion of some people the practice of breath control leads to
immortality. Is there any truth in it?
Ans. Life is connected with inhalation-exhalation. In view of this some monks go
into deep meditation for long periods. But even this practice cannot save anyone
from death. The use of learning and magic in this connection also does not prove
effective. Some people build strong and powerful mansions for their security;
others go to the mountain tops still others cross over the ocean, but nowhere is
it possible to avoid death. Disease and old age are indicative of man's utter
helplessness and lack of security. In the case of the body getting ill, recourse
is taken to the vaids, doctors and medicines. By these means some diseases get
cured. Yet the fact remains that in spite of these facilities, many diseases are
incurable. When the life-force or bio-electricity in an organism gets weakened,
doctors and drugs become meaningless. If, doctors and medicines could prolong
life endlessly, death itself would have died.
Sometimes towards the end, a drug is administered which makes even a moribund
man speak out, but its effect does not last for long. Similarly, a lot of
research is being done to stall old age. However, these efforts have not as yet
yielded any satisfactory results. This much, of course, is possible that old age
should be free from pain or its arrival delayed.
Disease and old age are painful conditions from which none can deliver us. How
can then mortal chance offer any protection? The only means to salvation in this
atmosphere of uncertainty is constantly awakened consciousness. In other words,
a man's own soul is his only refuge. "I seek refuge in the Enlightened Ones; I
seek refuge in the Liberated Ones; I seek refuge in the Saints; I seek refuge in
Religion, the Way of Salvation"---this fourfold refuge is symbolic. The
enlightened, the accomplished, the monks and religion symbolise four forms of
the soul. Excepting these, nothing in this world can ensure salvation. Through
constant contemplation of the total absence of salvation in this world, it is
possible to neutralise concepts which only serve to increase delusion.