This process needs to be stopped mortified death' (sallekhana), where, under the supervision of a teacher, one gradually fasted to death. It was seen as the proper thinning out' of both passions and body. Such a guided and managed ritual suicide was a public act. The prerequisites for doing it were traditionally terminal illness, famine, age or not being able to keep vows.
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We could call it a quick way out, where there were no other options. It can be explained as a way of saving your honour and to show courage – both central values in most pre-modern societies, according to the scholar Baldissera (2005). However, influenced by the emerging Axial episteme (new way of thinkingâ) the Jains charged archaic rituals with new meaning and content and wanted to terminate their life before it was deemed necessary by circumstances.
From Archaic ritual to Axial liberation.
Ritual suicide Praya – sitting in restraint awaitine death.
So many of the proto-Sramanas, especially the Jains, consisted of groups living on the edges of society, helping people to die (Samuel 2008). They could be specialists in securing people an honourable slide into the after-life. This expertise was their cultural capital enabling them to transact with society. It was probably in this cultural field that proto-Sramanas developed and refined their practices and doctrines of karma and the liberation of the soul.
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