One of the intriguing features in Jainism is Sallekhana, fasting until death. It is a slow process, wherein a person gradually decreases his/her intake of food and liquids, resulting in death. It is considered a very sacred process and is undertaken as part of a vow. It is seen as means of liberating oneself from the effects of Karma (effect of action) and the cycle of rebirths. It is also known as Samthara (death-bed) in Shwetambar sect.
A person choosing to undertake Sallekhana must truly understand the principles behind it. He has to undergo a process of purification to overcome all passions and emotions. This process takes a few years, during which the individual gradually withdraws from all mental and physical activities. The quantity of food decreases day by day, which finally gives way to liquids. This reduced intake of food is seen as means of reducing the negative factors and focusing the mind entirely on spiritual matters. During this period the person has to abandon all worldly attachments and relations. He should seek forgiveness from his relatives, acquaintances and friends for his past unpleasant deeds and sins. He should concentrate solely on the soul and spend his time in meditation. In case he has some followers, he may spend his time giving religious discourses. The final approaching death should be accepted with calm mind and patience. He should not wish for a quick death or a death during later time. Death should be accepted as it comes. Any thoughts of seeing the near and dear ones at the final hours should not be entertained.
In case the person undergoing the fast falls ill or loses peace of mind, he should abandon the process of Sallekhana and resume his normal life.