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Is Sallekhanā a form of Suicide? A Critical Examination of the Legality and Ethicality of the Jain Fast to Death


Prof. Dr. Claire Maes (Universität Tübingen)

Datum und Zeit

05. April 2023, 14:00 - 15:30 Uhr


Universität Zürich, Asien-Orient-Institut, Raum RAA E 21, Rämistrasse 59, 8001 Zürich


Jains have a wide constellation of different types and lengths of fasts. Within this constellation, sallekhanā, or the soteriological practice of fasting to death, is the summum bonum. While the rite went uncontested for over two millennia, in recent years it became a matter of the courts. The Rajasthan High Court criminalized the practice as illegal on 10 August 2015. Soon after the Supreme Court of India stayed the ban on sallekhanā. While the final ruling is still pending, the Rajasthan Court case brought to the foreground pertinent questions around fasting and the ethics of dying.
Is, for instance, sallekhanā a form of suicide? Or also, does the support of a sallekhanā-aspirant constitute assisted suicide? In this lecture, I seek to discuss these legal and ethical questions by bringing the case of sallekhanā in conversation with the end-of-life option, known as the “Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking” (VSED), a legitimate and widely available option to hasten death in various countries, including Austria.


Asien-Orient-Institut - Indologie