Jainism – USPC Ethics Thinkers

Do you think the Jain practice of Santhara is ethical? Substantiate with valid arguments. (200 Words)

Santhara is a centuries old Jain practice that encompasses voluntary fasting to death. Jainism believe that regular activities like eating adds a negative karma and santhara is perceived as best way of purification by negating the negative karma acquired throughout life.
The Rajasthan HC verdict has equated this practice as suicide. This has embroiled santhara in controversy. Suicide is often a result of emotional and hasty decision and cannot be considered ethical. Though both ultimately causes death, they carry huge difference as Santhara is done in systematic way with full consciousness. For a culture that believes in rebirth, it certainly cannot be suicide.  Further it is performed as an ethical act. For them it is ultimate route to attain moksha.
However, such religious practices often hampers with ethics of society as whole taking in view following points.
  1. The practice can also be a mean to overcome economic hardships and other grave problems of life. It is very difficult to parse out the real intention behind one’s vow of sallekhana or santara.
  2. Statistically more women perform it than men that forces one to think that religious belief cannot be the sole reason behind it.
  3. Additionally as suicide is a legal offence, individuals can take guise of such practice. It will also help them in earning admiration and worship.
  4. It will also motivate others to adopt the same which can never be in the interest of any society.
Society is a complex system and beliefs or standards accepted also varies across religion or caste. It cannot be a good idea to annihilate absolutely such religious practice but a proper counselling of the individual and understanding their psychological thinking can help in differentiating the real motto behind it.



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