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Tuesday, 27 January 2015
ANIMAL SACRIFICE IN VEDIC YAJNA IS NOT A SINFUL ACT :
ANIMAL SACRIFICE IN VEDIC YAJNA IS NOT A SINFUL ACT :
============== " Vaidhi Himsaa Na Himsaa " ==============
तस्माच्छास्त्रं प्रमाणं ते कार्याकार्यव्यवस्थितौ।
ज्ञात्वा शास्त्रविधानोक्तं कर्म कर्तुमिहार्हसि॥
................. Gita 16.24
" So let the Shâstra be your authority in ascertaining what ought to be done and what ought not to be done. Having known what is said in the ordinance of the Shâstra, you should act here. "
(Objection) : Animal sacrifice is opposed to Vedas. Vedas mention " Adhwaram Yajnam ", i.e. non-violent yajna. " Adhvara iti Yajnanaama – Dhvaratihimsaakarmaa tatpratishedhah "
According to Yaaska Acharya, one of the synonyms of Yajna in Nirukta or the Vedic philology is Adhvara. Dhvara means an act with himsa or violence. And therefore a-dhvara means an act involving no himsa or no violence. There are a large number of such usage of Adhvara in the Vedas.
(Reply) : The first is usually employed as a substantive, meaning, also, sacrifice : it is here used as an adjective, signifying free from injury or interruption,—that is, by Raakshasas, evil spirits, always on the alert to vitiate an act of worship. Yaskacharya is merely giving the etymology of the word 'Adhvar' and not where it is to be applied and what constitutes violence. To know the true application of the word 'Adhvar' we will have to turn to Shatapath Brahman, which gives the complete understanding of why 'Yajna' is called 'Adhvar'.
Shatapath Brahman 1/4/1/40 says,
" For once when the gods were engaged in sacrificing, their rivals, the Asuras, wished to injure (dhvar) them; but, though desirous of injuring them, they were unable to injure them and were foiled: for this reason the sacrifice is called adhvara ('not damaged, uninterrupted')."
Thus the argument of the polemicist turns out to be a deception aimed at fooling those who have no access to the original texts. The passage of Shatapath Brahman makes it clear that 'Adhvar' is called so because the priests performing the Yajna did not become victims of violence. It has no connection to the violence of the animals done in the Yajna.
Sayanacharya, also gives the same reason for calling Yajna as 'Adhvar'. He says in his comments on Rigveda 1/1/4,
"Adhvar is called 'without violence' because being protected by Agni on all sides it is uninterrupted by Rakshashas or violent enemies, who are unable to mar it."
Again we see that Acharya Sayan expresses the same view as that of the Shatapath Brahman i.e the violence referred in the 'adhvar' is not for the sacrificial animal in the Yajna.
" Asuddhamiti chet na sabdat " [Brahma Sutra III.1.25 (316)]
" If it be said that (sacrificial work is) unholy, (we say) not so, on account of scriptural authority. "
Shankaracharya's Commentary :
An objection may be raised that the sacrificial work, such as the Jyotistoma sacrifice and the like where animals are killed is unholy. Therefore its result may cause the sacrificer to be actually born as a corn or a plant as penalty for his cruel action. Such objection is groundless, because the killing of animals in sacrifices causes no demerit as it is sanctioned by the scriptures.
The sacrifices are not impure or sinful because the scriptures declare them to be meritorious. The scriptures alone can tell us what is Dharma and what is Adharma, what is holy and what is unholy. Our knowledge of what is duty and the contrary of duty depends entirely on Sastras, because these are Atindriya, i.e., beyond sense perception and there is in the case of right and wrong an entire want of binding rules as to place, time and occasion. What in one place, at one time on one occasion is performed as a right action, is a wrong action in another place, at another time, on another occasion. Therefore no one can know without a scripture, what is either right or wrong.
No doubt the scripture says that one must not cause injury (" Ma himsyat sarva bhutani " – let not any animal be injured (killed). That is the general rule. 'Let him offer an animal sacred to Agnistoma' is an exception.
General rule and exception have different spheres of application. They have different scopes settled by usage, and so there is no conflict between them.
Shankaracharya's Commentary on Gita 2.10 :
" Our Lord says that, since fighting which is the profession of the warrior caste is a proper duty (of the caste), it is not sinful though it involves cruelty to elders, brother's sons and the like and is therefore very horrible ; and He further says that, in the case of a neglect of this duty, '' abandoning thy duty and fame thou shalt incur sin." (Gita 2.33), This is clearly tantamount to asserting that those rites which are enjoined as life-long duties by the Vedas are sinless though they involve cruelty to animals. "
Similarly although Vedas proclaim non-injury towards all living creatures as a general rule, still harmful animals should be destroyed and it is an exception of this general rule :
Atharva Ved 6.50.1 :
" Destroy the rat, the mole, the boring beetle, cut off their heads and crush their ribs, O Asvins. Bind fast their mouths; let them not eat our barley : so guard, ye twain, our growing corn from danger. "
Sri Ramanujacharya's Commentary on Brahma Sutra 3.1.25 :
" Scripture declares that the killing of sacrificial animals makes them to go up to the heavenly world, and therefore is not of the nature of harm. This is declared in the text, 'The animal killed at the sacrifice having assumed a divine body goes to the heavenly world'; 'with a golden body it ascends to the heavenly world.' An action which is the means of supreme exaltation is not of the nature of harm, even if it involves some little pain; it rather is of beneficial nature."
With this the mantra also agrees,
न वा उ एतन मरियसे न रिष्यसि देवानिदेषि पथिभिः सुगेभिः |
............. Rig Ved 1.162.21
" You do not die here, indeed, you are not injured. On easy paths you go to the Devas ; "
" You do not die, indeed, you are not injured. On easy paths you go to the Devas; where virtuous men go, not evil doers. There the divine Savitri may lead you. "
.......... [vide Taittiriya Samhita 4.6.9, Taittiriya Brahman 22.214.171.124]
" He who desires prosperity should offer a white (animal) to Vayu; Vayu is the swiftest deity "
............. Taittiriya Samhita 2-1-1
" He who wishes that a son should be born to him who would be a reputed scholar, frequenting the assemblies and speaking delightful words, would study all the Vedas and attain a full term of life, should have rice cooked with the meat of a vigorous bull or one more advanced in' years, and he and his wife should eat it with clarified butter. Then they would be able to produce such a son. "
.............. Brihadaranyak Upanishad 6-4-18
Shankaracharya's Commentary :
" Vigita (reputed} literally means 'variously praised.' Frequenting the assemblies, i.e. eloquent for scholarship has been separately mentioned. Delightful, lit. pleasant to hear, i.e. words that are chaste and pregnant with meaning. Rice cooked together with meat. The meat is restricted to that of a vigorous bull, able to breed or one which is more advanced in years. "
Acharya Sayana explicitly mentions about sacrificing a bull in the introduction to Atharvaveda 9/4/1 as follows
" The Brahman after killing the bull, offers its meat to the different deities. In this hymn, the bull is praised, detailing which parts of the bull are attached to which deity as well as the importance of sacrificing the bull and the rewards of doing the same. "
" He who has not given pain to any creature except as specially ordained places and times "
............. Chandogya Upanishad 8-15-1
Shankaracharya's Commentary on Chandogya Up. 5.10.6 :
" And it cannot be inferred that Vedic rites are cause of both [Dharma and Adharma] on the ground that they involve inflicting injury, since the infliction of injury is enjoined by the sacred texts. On the basis of the Sruti, " He who has not given pain to any living creature except as specially ordained (sacrificial) places and times ", it is accepted that the infliction of injury which is enjoined by the sacred texts does not lead to demerit. "
Shankaracharya next accepts, for the sake of argument, the view that inflicting injury in Vedic rites lead to demerit. But then he emphasizes that it can be removed,
" Even if one would accept that it leads to demerit; because it is possible to remove this [demerit] by means of mantras ---- just as poison etc. [is removed by mantras] ---- the Vedic rites need not produce the effect of suffering; just as swallowing poison with a mantra [need not produce the effect of suffering]. "
" . …Turn the animal's feet northwards. Make its eyes go to the Sun, dismiss its breath to the wond, its life to the space, its hearing to the directions, its body to the earth. In this way the Hotar (priest) connets it with these world. Take of the entire skin without cutting it. Before opening the navel tear out the omentum. Stop its breathing within (by stopping its mouth). Thus the Hotar puts breath in the animals. Make of its breast a piece like an eagle, of its arms (two pieces like) two hatchets, of its forearms (two pieces like) two spikes, of its shoulders (two pieces like) two kashyapas (tortoises), its loins should be unbroken (entire); make of its thigs (two pieces like) two shields, of the two kneepans (two pieces like) two oleander leaves; take out its twenty-six ribs according to their order; preserve every limb of its in its integrity. Thus he benefits all its limbs. Dig a ditch in the earth to hide its excrements. "
[Aitareya Brahman, Book 2, para 6]
Subsequently, the same Aitareya Brahman instructing on how to distribute different parts of the sacrificial animal says,
" Now follows the division of the different parts of the sacrificial animal (among the priests). We shall describe it. The two jawbones with the tongue are to be given to the Prastotar; the breast in the form of an eagle to the Udgatar; the throat with the palate to the Pratihartar; the lower part of the right loins to the Hotar; the left to the Brahma; the right thigh to the Maitravaruna; the left to the Brahmanuchhamsi; the right side with the shoulder to the Adhvaryu; the left side to those who accompany the chants; the left shoulder to the Pratipasthatar; the lower part of the right arm to the Neshtar; the lower part of the left arm to the Potar; the upper part of the right thigh to the Achhavaka; the left to the Agnidhra; the upper part of the right arm to the Aitreya; the left to the Sadasya; the back bone and the urinal bladder to the Grihapati (sacrificer); the right feet to the Grihapati who gives a feasting; the left feet to the wife of that Grihapati who gives a feasting; the upper lip is common to both, which is to be divided by the Grihapati. They offer the tail of the animal to wives, but they should give it to a Brahmana; the fleshy processes (maanihah) on the neck and three gristles (kikasaah) to the Grahvastut; three other gristles and one half of the fleshy part on the back (vaikartta) to the Unnetar; the other half of the fleshy part on the neck and the left lobe (Kloma) to the Slaughterer (Shamita), who should present it to a Brahmana, if he himself would not happen to be a Brahmana. The head is to be given to the Subrahmanya, the skin belongs to him (the Subrahmanya), who spoke, Svaah Sutyam (to morrow at the Soma Sacriice); that part of the sacrificial animal at a Soma sacrifice which beloings to Ilaa (sacrificial food) is common to all the priests; only for the Hotar it is optional.
All these portions of the sacrificial animal amount to thirty-six single pieces, each of which represents the paada (foot) of a verse by which the sacrifice is carried up…"
"To those who divide the sacrificial animal in the way mentioned, it becomes the guide to heaven (Swarga). But those who make the division otherwise are like scoundrels and miscreants who kill an animal merely."
"This division of the sacrificial animal was invented by Rishi Devabhaaga, a son of Srauta. When he was departing from this life, he did not entrust (the secret to anyone). But a supernatural being communicated it to Girija,the son of Babhru. Since his time men study it."
[Aitareya Brahman, Book 7, Para 1]
The Purva Mimamsa Sutras of Maharshi Jaimini give the details of animal sacrifice in Vedic Yajnas.
Commenting on Purva Mimansa Sutra Adhyaya 3, Pada 6, Sutra 18, the Shabarbhasyasays,
" There are also certain details to be performed in connection with the animals, such as : Upaakaranam [Touching the animal with the two mantras], Upaanayanam [Bringing forward], Akshanyaa-bandhah [Tying with a rope], Yoope niyojanam [Fettering to the Sacrificial Post], (e) Sanjnapanam [Suffocating to death], Vishasanam [Dissecting], and so forth. "
[Shabhar bhashya on Mimamsa Sutra 3/6/18; translated by Ganganath Jha]
Mimamsa Sutra 3/7/28 says,
" The 'Shamita' (slaughterer of the animal) is not distinct from the major priests. "
Commenting on it the Shabarbhashya says,
"The liver and the upper quarter belongs to the Shamita Priest ; one should give it to a Brahmana if he be a non-Brahmana."
[Shabhar bhasya on Mimamsa Sutra 3/7/28; translated by Ganganath Jha]
Notice that this is exactly the same things that we saw was said in Aitareya Brahman Book 7; Para 1. This proves that Shabarbhashya is confirming the Aitareya Brahman and the translation is also accurate.
Further in Mimamsa Sutra 3/8/43 it is mentioned,
"Only the 'Savaniya' cakes should consist of flesh"
All these passages prove that the flesh of the sacrificed animal was consumed as per the instructions of the Hindu texts.
Manusmriti condemns meat eating since meat can not be obtained without violence. Meat of those animals which have been offered in a sacrifice, can only be consumed.
" prokshitam bhakshayen mamsam brahmananam ca kamyaya |
yathavidhi niyuktastu prananameva catyaye || 5.27.
One may eat meat when it has been sprinkled with water, while Mantras were recited, when Brahmanas desire (one’s doing it), when one is engaged (in the performance of a rite) according to the law, and when one’s life is in danger. "
natta dushyatyadannadyan pranino.ahanya.ahanyapi |
dhatraiva shrishta hyadyashca pranino.attara eva ca || 5.30.
" The eater who daily even devours those destined to be his food, commits no sin; for the creator himself created both the eaters and those who are to be eaten (for those special purposes of sacrifice). "
yajnaya jagdhirmamsasyetyesha daivo vidhih smritah |
ato.anyatha pravrittistu rakshaso vidhirucyate || 5.31.
" The consumption of meat (is befitting) for sacrifices,’that is declared to be a rule made by the devas; but to persist (in using it) on other (occasions) is said to be a proceeding worthy of Rakshasas. "
kritva svayam va.apyutpadya paropakritameva va |
devan pitrimshcarcayitva khadan mamsam na dushyati || 5.32.
" He who eats meat, when he honours the devas and manes, commits no sin, whether he has bought it,or himself has killed (the animal), or has received it as a present from others. "
nadyadavidhina mamsam vidhijno.anapadi dvijah |
jagdhva hyavidhina mamsam pretastairadyate.avashah || 5.33.
" A Dwija who knows the law, must not eat meat except in conformity with the law; for if he has eaten it unlawfully, he will, unable to save himself,be eaten after death by his (victims). "
na tadrisham bhavatyeno mrigahanturdhanarthinah |
yadrisham bhavati pretya vrithamamsani khadatah || 5.34.
" After death the guilt of one who slays deer for gain is not as (great) as that of him who eats meat for no (sacred) purpose. "
niyuktastu yathanyayam yo mamsam natti manavah |
sa pretya pashutam yati sambhavanekavimshatim || 5.35.
" But a man who, being duly engaged (to officiate or to dine at a sacred rite), refuses to eat meat, becomes after death an animal during twenty-one existences. "
asamskritan pashun mantrairnadyad viprah kada cana |
mantraistu samskritanadyatshashvatam vidhimasthitah || 5.36.
" A Brahmana must never eat (the flesh of animals unhallowed by Mantras) ; but, obedient to the primeval law, he may eat it, consecrated with Vedic texts. "
yavanti pashuromani tavatkritvo ha maranam |
vrithapashughnah prapnoti pretya janmani janmani || 5.38.
" As many hairs as the slain beast has, so often indeed will he who killed it without a (lawful) reason suffer a violent death in future births. "
yajnartham pashavah shrishtah svayameva svayambhuva |
yajno.asya bhutyai sarvasya tasmad yajne vadho.avadhah || 5.39.
" Svayambhu (the Self-existent) himself created animals for the sake of sacrifices; sacrifices (have been instituted) for the good of this whole (world); hence the slaughtering (of beasts) for sacrifices is not slaughtering (in the ordinary sense of the word). "
oshadhyah pashavo vrikshastiryancah pakshinastatha |
yajnartham nidhanam praptah prapnuvantyutshritih punah || 5.40.
" Herbs, trees, cattle, birds, and (other) animals that have been destroyed for sacrifices, receive (being reborn) higher existences. "
madhuparke ca yajne ca pitridaivatakarmani |
atraiva pashavo himsya nanyatraityabravin manuh || 5.41.
" On offering the honey-mixture (to a guest), at a sacrifice and at the rites in honour of the manes, but on these occasions only, may an animal be slain; that (rule) Manu proclaimed. "
eshvartheshu pashun himsan vedatattvarthavid dvijah |
atmanam ca pashum caiva gamayatyuttamam gatim || 5.42.
" A twice-born man who, knowing the true meaning of the Veda, slays an animal for these purposes, causes both himself and the animal to enter a most blessed state. "
grihe guravaranye va nivasannatmavan dvijah |
navedavihitam himsamapadyapi samacaret || 5.43.
" A twice-born man of virtuous disposition, whether he dwells in (his own) house, with a teacher, or in the forest, must never, even in times of distress, cause an injury (to any creature) which is not sanctioned by the Veda. "
ya vedavihita himsa niyata.asmimshcaracare |
ahimsameva tam vidyad vedad dharmo hi nirbabhau || 5.44.
" Know that the injury to moving creatures and to those destitute of motion, which the Veda has prescribed for certain occasions, is no injury at all; for the sacred law shone forth from the Veda. "
From The Mahabharata
Anusasana Parva, Section CXV
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli
"Yudhishthira said, 'Thou hast told it many times that abstention from injury is the highest religion. In Sraddhas, however, that are performed in honour of the Pitris, persons for their own good should make offerings of diverse kinds of meat. Thou hast said so while discoursing formerly upon the ordinances in respect of Sraddhas. How can meat, however, be procured without slaying a living creature? Thy declarations, therefore, seem to me to be contradictory. A doubt has, therefore, arisen in our mind respecting the duty of abstaining from meat. What are the faults that one incurs by eating meat, and what are the merits that one wins? What are the demerits of him who eats meat by himself killing a living creature? What are the merits of him who eats the meat of animals killed by others? What the merits and demerits of him who kills a living creature for another? Or of him who eats meat buying it of others? I desire, O sinless one, that thou shouldst discourse to me on this topic in detail. I desire to ascertain this eternal religion with certainty. How does one attain to longevity? How does one acquire strength? How does one attain to faultlessness of limbs? Indeed, how does one become endued with excellent indications?
"Bhishma said, 'Listen to me, O, scion of Kuru's race, what the merit is that attaches to abstention from meat. Listen to me as I declare to thee what the excellent ordinances, in truth, are on this head. Those high-souled persons who desire beauty, faultlessness of limbs, long life, understanding, mental and physical strength, and memory, should abstain from acts of injury. On this topic, O scion of Kuru's race, innumerable discourses took place between the Rishis. Listen, O Yudhishthira, what their opinion was. The merit acquired by that person, O Yudhishthira, who, with the steadiness of a vow, adores the deities every month in horse-sacrifices, is equal to his who discards honey and meat. The seven celestial Rishis, the Valakhilyas, and those Rishis who drink the rays of the sun, endued with great wisdom, applaud abstention from meat. The Self-born Manu has said that that man who does not eat meat, or who does not slay living creatures, or who does not cause them to be slain, is a friend of all creatures. Such a man is incapable of being oppressed by any creature. He enjoys the confidence of all living beings. He always enjoys, besides, the approbation and commendation of the righteous. The righteous-souled Narada has said that that man who wishes to increase his own flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures, meets with calamity. Vrihaspati has said that that man who abstains from honey and meat acquires the merit of gifts and sacrifices and penances. In my estimation, these two persons are equal, viz., he who adores the deities every month in a horse-sacrifice for a space of hundred years and he who abstains from honey and meat. In consequence of abstention from meat one comes to be regarded as one who always adores the deities in sacrifices, or as one who always makes gifts to others, or as one who always undergoes the severest austerities. That man who having eaten meat gives it up afterwards, acquires merit by such an act that is so great that a study of all the Vedas or a performance, O Bharata, of all the sacrifices, cannot bestow its like. It is exceedingly difficult to give up meat after one has become acquainted with its taste. Indeed, it is exceedingly difficult for such a person to observe the high vow of abstention from meat, a vow that assures every creature by dispelling all fear. That learned person who giveth to all living creatures the Dakshina of complete assurance comes to be regarded, without doubt, as the giver of life-breaths in this world. Even this is the high religion which men of wisdom applaud. The life-breaths of other creatures are as dear to them as those of one's to one's own self. Men endued with intelligence and cleansed souls should always behave towards other creatures after the manner of that behaviour which they like others to observe towards themselves. It is seen that even those men who are possessed of learning and who seek to achieve the highest good in the form of Emancipation, are not free from the fear of death. What need there be said of those innocent and healthy creatures endued with love of life, when they are sought to be slain by sinful wretches subsisting by slaughter? For this reason, O monarch, know that the discarding of meat is the highest refuge of religion, of heaven, and of happiness. Abstention from injury is the highest religion. It is, again, the highest penance. It is also the highest truths from which all duty proceeds. Flesh cannot be had from grass or wood or stone. Unless a living creature is slain, it cannot be had. Hence is the fault in eating flesh. The deities who subsist upon Swaha, Swadha, and nectar, are devoted to truth and sincerity. Those persons, however, who are for gratifying the sensation of taste, should be known as Rakshasas wedded to the attribute of Passion. That man who abstains from meat, is never put in fear, O king, by any creature, wherever he may be, viz., in terrible wildernesses or inaccessible fastnesses, by day or by night, or at the two twilights, in the open squares of towns or in assemblies of men, from upraised weapons or in places where there is great fright from wild animals or snakes. All creatures seek his protection. He is an object of confidence with all creatures. He never causes any anxiety in others, and himself has never to become anxious. If there were nobody who ate flesh there would then be nobody to kill living creatures. The man who kills living creatures kill them for the sake of the person who eats flesh. If flesh were regarded as inedible, there would then be no slaughter of living creatures. It is for the sake of the eater that the slaughter of living creatures goes on in the world. Since, O thou of great splendour, the period of life is shortened of persons who slaughter living creatures or cause them to be slaughtered, it is clear that the person who wishes his own good should give up meat entirely. Those fierce persons who are engaged in slaughter of living creatures, never find protectors when they are in need. Such persons should always be molested and persecuted even as beasts of prey. Through cupidity or stupefaction of the understanding, for the sake of strength and energy, or through association with the sinful, the disposition manifests itself in men for sinning. That man who seeks to increase his own flesh by (eating) the flesh of others, has to live in this world in great anxiety and after death has to take birth in indifferent races and families. High Rishis devoted to the observance of vows and self-restraint have said that abstention from meat is worthy of every praise, productive of fame and Heaven, and a great propitiation by itself. This I heard in days of old, O son of Kunti, from Markandeya when that Rishi discoursed on the demerits of eating flesh. He who eats the flesh of animals that are desirous of living but that have been killed by either himself or others, incurs the sin that attaches to the slaughter for his this act of cruelty. He who purchases flesh slays living creatures through his wealth. He who eats flesh slays living creatures through such act of eating. He who binds or seizes and actually kills living creatures is the slaughterer. Those are the three kinds of slaughter, each of these three acts being so. He who does not himself eat flesh but approves of an act of slaughter becomes stained with the sin of slaughter. By abstaining from meat and showing compassion to all creatures one becomes incapable of being molested by any creature, and acquires a long life, perfect health, and happiness. The merit that is acquired by a person by abstaining from meat, we have heard, is superior to that of one who makes presents of gold, of kine, and of land. One should never eat meat of animals not dedicated in sacrifices and that are, therefore, slain for nothing, and that has not been offered to the gods and Pitris with the aid of the ordinances. There is not the slightest doubt that a person by eating such meat goes to Hell. If one eats the meat that has been sanctified in consequence of its having been procured from animals dedicated in sacrifices and that have been slain for the purpose of feeding Brahmanas, one incurs a little fault. By behaving otherwise, one becomes stained with sin. That wretch among men who slays living creatures for the sake of those who would eat them, incurs great demerit. The eater's demerit is not so great.
That wretch among men who, following the path of religious rites and sacrifices laid down in the Vedas, would kill a living creature from desire of eating its flesh, would certainly become a resident of hell. That man who having eaten flesh abstains from it afterwards, attains to great merit in consequence of such abstention from sin. He who arranges for obtaining flesh, he who approves of those arrangements, he who slays, he who buys or sells, he who cooks, and he who eats, are all regarded as eaters of flesh. I shall now cite another authority, depending upon that was declared by the ordainer himself, and established in the Vedas. It has been said that that religion which has acts for its indications has been ordained for householders, O chief of kings, and not for those men who are desirous of emancipation. Mann himself has said that meat which is sanctified with mantras and properly dedicated, according to the ordinances of the Vedas, in rites performed in honour of the Pitris, is pure. All other meat falls under the class of what is obtained by useless slaughter, and is, therefore, uneatable, and leads to Hell and infamy. One should never eat, O chief of Bharata's race, like a Rakshasa, any meat that has been obtained by means not sanctioned by the ordinance. Indeed, one should never eat flesh obtained from useless slaughter and that has not been sanctified by the ordinance. That man who wishes to avoid calamity of every kind should abstain from the meat of every living creature. It is heard that in the ancient Kalpa, persons, desirous of attaining to regions of merit hereafter, performed sacrifices with seeds, regarding such animals as dedicated by them.
From The Mahabharata
Anusasana Parva, Section CXVI
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli
Yudhishthira said: Alas, those cruel men, who, discarding diverse kinds of food, covet only flesh, are really like great Rakshasas (demons)! Alas, they do not relish diverse kinds of cakes and diverse sorts of potherbs and various species of Khanda with juicy flavour so much as they do flesh! My understanding, for this reason, becomes stupefied in this matter. I think, when such is the case, that, there is nothing that can compare with flesh in the matter of taste. I desire, therefore, O puissant one, to hear what the merits are of abstention from flesh, and the demerits that attach to the eating of flesh, O chief of Bharata’s race. Thou art conversant with every duty. Do thou discourse to me in full agreeably to the ordinances on duty, on this subject. Do tell me what, indeed, is edible and what inedible. Tell me, O grandsire, what is flesh, of what substances it is, the merits that attach to abstention from it, and what the demerits are that attach to the eating of flesh.
Bhishma said: There is nothing on earth that is superior to flesh in point of taste. There is nothing that is more beneficial then flesh to persons that are lean, or weak, or afflicted with disease, or addicted to sexual congress, or exhausted with travel. Flesh speedily increases strength. It produces great development. There is no food, O scorcher of foes, that is superior to flesh. But, O delighter of the Kurus, the merits are great that attach to men that abstain from it. Listen to me as I discourse to thee on it. That man who wished to increase his own flesh by the flesh of another living creature is such that there is none meaner and more cruel than he. In this world there is nothing that is dearer to a creature than his life. Hence (instead of taking that valuable possession), one should show compassion to the lives of others as one does to one's own life.
Meat sanctified with Mantras :
Without doubt, O son, flesh has its origin in the vital seed. There is great demerit attaching to its eating, as, indeed, there is merit in abstaining from it. One does not, however, incur any fault by eating flesh sanctified according to the ordinances of the Vedas. The audition is heard that animals were created for sacrifice. They who eat flesh in any other way are said to follow the Rakshasa practice.
It has been said that that religion which has acts for its indications has been ordained for householders, O chief of Kings, and not for those men who are desirous of emancipation. Manu himself has said that meat which is sanctified with mantras and properly dedicated, according to the ordinances of the Vedas, in rites performed in honour of the Pitris, is pure. All other meat falls under the class of what is obtained by useless slaughter, and is, therefore, uneatable, and leads to Hell and infamy. One should never eat, O chief of Bharata`s race, like a Rakshasa, any meat that has been obtained by means not sanctioned by the ordinance. Indeed, one should never eat flesh obtained from useless slaughter and that has not been sanctified by the ordinance. That man who wishes to avoid calamity of every kind should abstain from the meat of every living creature.
Desirous of benefiting all men, the high-souled Agastya, by the aid of his penances, dedicated, once for all, all wild animals of the deer species to the deities. Hence, there is no longer any necessity of sanctifying those animals for offering them to the deities and the Pitris. Served with flesh according to the ordinance, the Pitris become gratified.
One who has abstained from meat (under any vow) should not take meat even if it be sanctified with mantras from the Yajurveda. One should also avoid the flesh about the vertebral column (of any animal) and the flesh of any animal not slain in sacrifices.
There is complete happiness in abstaining from meat, O monarch. He that undergoes severe austerities for a hundred years and he that abstains from meat, are both equal in point of merit. In the lighted fortnight of the month of Karttika in special, one should abstain from honey and meat. In this, it has been ordained, there is great merit. He who abstains for the whole month of Karttika from meat of every kind, transcends all kinds of woe and lives in complete happiness. He who abstains from meat for the four months of the rains acquires the four valued blessings of achievements, longevity, fame and might.
Those righteous men who, from the time of birth, abstain from honey and meat and wine, are regarded as Munis. That man who practises this religion consisting of abstention from meat or who recites it for causing others to hear it, will never have to go to hell even if he be exceedingly wicked in conduct in other respects. He, O king, who (often times) reads these ordinances about abstention from meat, that are sacred and adored by the Rishis, or hears it read, becomes cleansed of every sin and attains to great felicity in consequence of the fruition of every wish. Without doubt, he attains also to a position of eminence among kinsmen. When afflicted with calamity, he readily transcends it. When obstructed with impediments, he succeeds in freeing himself from them with the utmost ease. When ill with disease, he becomes cured speedily, and afflicted with sorrow he becomes liberated from it with greatest ease. Such a man has never to take birth in the intermediate order of animals or birds. Born in the order of humanity, he attains to great beauty of person. Endued with great prosperity, O chief of Kuru’s race, he acquires great fame as well.
From The Mahabharata
Anusasana Parva, Section CLXII
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli
Addressing King Yudhishthira, Bhishma said:
One does not incur any fault or stain by eating the meat of animals slain in sacrifices with the aid of Tantra from the Yajur Veda.The flesh of the back-bone, or that of animals not slain in sacrifice, should be avoided even as one avoids the flesh of one's own son.
( Words of Kanchi Paramacharya Chandrashekharendra Saraswati Swami ) :
[ extracts from the book " Hindu Dharma " ]
A yaga or sacrifice takes shape with the chanting of the mantras, the invoking of the deity and the offering of havis (oblation). The mantras are chanted (orally) and the deity is meditated upon (mentally). The most important material required for homa is the havis offered in the sacrificial fire - in this "work" the body is involved. So, altogether, in a sacrificial offering mind, speech and body (mano-vak-kaya) are brought together.
Ghee (clarified butter) is an important ingredient of the oblation. While ghee by itself is offered as an oblation, it is also used to purify other sacrificial materials - in fact this is obligatory. In a number of sacrifices the vapa(fat or marrow) of animals is offered. Is the performance of a sacrifice sinful, or is it meritorius? Or is it both?
Madvacharya was against the killing of any pasu for a sacrifice. In his compassion he said that a substitute for the vapa must be made with flour and offered in the fire. ("Pasu" does not necessarily mean a cow. In Sanskrit any animal is called a "pasu".)
In his Brahmasutra, Vyasa has expounded the nature of the Atman as found expressed in the Upanishads which constitute the jnanakanda of the Vedas. The actual conduct of sacrifices is dealt with in the Purvamimamsa which is the karmakanda of the Vedas. The true purpose of sacrifices is explained in the Uttaramimamsa, that is the jnanakanda.
What is this purposse or goal? It is the cleansing of the consciousness and such cleansing is essential to lead a man to the path of jnana.The Brahmasutra says: "Asuddhamiti cen na sabdat". The performance of sacrifices is based on scriptural authority and it is part of the quest for Self realisation. So how can it be called an impure act? How do we determine whether or not an object or an act is impure or whether it is good or bad? We do so by judging it according to the authority of of the sastras. Vyasa goes on to state in his Brahmasutra that animal sacrifice is not sinful since the act is permeated by the sound of the Vedas. What is pure or impure is to be known by the authority provided by the Vedas or rather their sound called Sabdapramana. If sacrifices were impure acts according to the Vedas, they would not have accepted them as part of the Atmic quest. Even if the sacrificial animal is made of flour (the substitute according to Madhvacharya) it is imbued with life by the chanting of the Vedic mantras. Would it not then be like a living animal and would not offering it in a sacrifice be taken as an act of violence?
Tiruvalluvar says in his Tirukkural that not to kill an animal and eat it is better than performing a thousand sacrifices in which the oblation is consigned to the fire. You should not take this to mean that the poet speaks ill of sacrifices.
What is in accordance or in pursuance of dharma must be practised howsoever or whatsoever it be. Here questions of violence must be disregarded. The Tirukkural says that it is better not to kill an animal than perform a thousand sacrifices. From this statement it is made out that Tiruvalluvar condemns sacrifices. According to Manu himself conducting one asvamedha (horse sacrifice) is superior to performing a thousand other sacrifices. At the same time, he declares that higher than a thousand horse sacrifices is the fact of one truth. If we say that one thing is better than another, the implication is that both are good. If the performance of a sacrifice were sinful, would it be claimed that one meritorious act is superior to a thousand sinful deeds? You may state that fasting on one Sivaratri is superior to fasting on a hundred Ekadasis. But would you say that the same is better than running a hundred butcheries? When you remark that "this rite is better than that rite or another", it means that the comparison is among two or more meritorious observances.
In the concluding passage of the Chandogya Upanishad where ahimsa or non-violence is extolled you find these words, "Anyatra tirthebhyah". It means ahimsa must be practised except with regard to Vedic rites.
Considerations of violence have no place in sacrifices and the conduct of war. If the ideal of non-violence were superior to the performance of sacrifices, it would mean that "sacrifices are good but non-violence is better". The performance of a thousand sacrifices must be spoken of highly but the practice of non-violence is to be regarded as even higher: It is in this sense that the Kural stanza concerning sacrifices is to be interpreted. We must not also forget that it occurs in the section on renunciation. What the poet wants to convey is that a sanyasin does better by abstaining from killing than a householder does by conducting a thousand sacrifices. According to the sastras also a sanyasin has no right to perform sacrifices.
There are several types of sacrifices. I shall speak about them later when I deal with "Kalpa" (an Anga or limb of the Vedas) aaand "Grihasthasrama" (the stage of the householder). What I wish to state here is that animals are not killed in all sacrifices. There are a number of yagnas in which only ghee (ajya) is offered in the fire. In some, havisyanna (rice mixed with ghee) is offered and in some the cooked grains called "caru" or "purodasa", a kind of baked cake. In agnihotri milk is poured into the fire; in aupasana unbroken rice grains (aksata) are used; and in samidadhana the sticks of the palasa (flame of the forest). In sacrifices in which the vapa of animals is offered, only a tiny bit of the remains of the burnt offering is partaken of - and of course in the form of prasada.
One is enjoined to perform twenty-one sacrifices. These are of three types: pakayajna, haviryajna and somayajna. In each category there are seven subdivisions. In all the seven pakayajnas as well as in the first five haviryajnas there is no animal sacrifice. It is only from the sixth haviryajna onwards (it is called "nirudhapasubandha") that animals are sacrificed.
"Brahmins sacrificed herds and herds of animals and gorged themselves on their meat. The Buddha saved such herds when they were being taken to the sacrificial altar, “we often read such accounts in books. To tell the truth, there is no sacrifice in which a large number of animals are killed.
For vajapeya which is the highest type of yajna performed by Brahmins, only twenty-three animals are mentioned. For asvamedha (horse sacrifice), the biggest of the sacrifices conducted by imperial rulers, one hundred animals are mentioned.
It is totally false to state that Brahmins performed sacrifices only to satisfy their appetite for meat and that the talk of pleasing the deities was only a pretext. There are rules regarding the meat to be carved out from a sacrificial animal, the part of the body from which it is to be taken and the quantity each rtvik can partake of as prasada (idavatarana). This is not more than the size of a pigeon-pea and it is to be swallowed without anything added to taste. There may be various reasons for you to attack the system of sacrifices but it would be preposterous to do so on the score that Brahmins practised deception by making them a pretext to eat meat.
Nowadays a large number of animals are slaughtered in the laboratories as guinea-pigs. Animal sacrifices must be regarded as a little hurt caused in the cause of a great ideal, the welfare of mankind. As a matter of fact there is no hurt caused since the animal sacrificed attains to an elevated state.
There is another falsehood spread these days, that Brahmins performed the somayajnas only as a pretext to drink somarasa (the essence of the soma plant). Those who propagate this lie add that drinking somarasa is akin to imbibing liquor or wine. As a matter of fact somarasa is not an intoxicating drink. There is a reference in the Vedas to Indra killing his foe when he was "intoxicated" with somarasa. People who spread the above falsehoods have recourse to “Arthavada" and base their perverse views on this passage.
The principle on which the physiology of deities is based is superior to that of humans. That apart, to say that the priests drank bottle after bottle of somarasa or pot after pot is to betray gross ignorance of the Vedic dharma. The soma plant is pounded and crushed in a small mortar called "graha". There are rules with regard to the quantity of essence to be offered to the gods. The small portion that remains after the oblation has been made, "hutasesa", which is drunk drop by drop, does not add
up to more than an ounce. No one has been knocked out by such drinking. They say that somarasa is not very palatable.The preposterous suggestion is made that somarasa was the coffee of those times. There are Vedic mantras which speak about the joy aroused by drinking it. This has been misinterpreted. While coffee is injurious to the mind, somarasa cleanses it. It is absurd to equate the two. The soma plant was available in plenty in ancient times. Now it is becoming more and more scarce: this indeed is in keeping with the decline of Vedic dharma. In recent years, the Raja of Kollengode made it a point to supply the soma plant for the soma sacrifice wherever it was held.
Animal Sacrifice in the Age of Kali :
An argument runs thus: In the eons gone by mankind possessed high ideals and noble character. Men could sacrifice animals for the well-being of the world because they had great affection in their hearts and were selfless. As householders, in their middle years, they followed the karmamarga (the path of works) and performed rites to please the deities for the good of the world. But, in doing so, they desired no rewards.
Later, they renounced all works, all puja, all observances, to become sannyasins delighting themselves in their Atman. They were men of such refinement and noble character that, if their brother, a king, died heirless they begot a son by his wife without any passion in their hearts and without a bit detracting from their brahmacharya. Their only motive was that the kingdom should not be plunged in anarchy for want of an heir to the throne.
In our own Kali age we do not have such men who are desireless in their actions, who can subdue their minds and give up all works to become ascetics and who will remain chaste at heart even in the company of women. So it is contended that the following are to be eschewed in the
Kali age: horse and cow sacrifices, meat in the sraddha ceremony, sannyasa, begetting a son by the husband's brother. As authority we have the following verse:
" Asvalambham gavalambham sanyasam palapatrikam
Devarena sutotpattim kalau panca vivarjayet "
According to one view "asvalambham" in this verse should be substituted with "agniyadhanam". If you accept this version it would mean that even those sacrifices in which animals are not killed should not be performed.
In other words it would mean a total prohibition of all sacrifices. The very first in the haviryajna category is agniyadhana. If that were to be prohibited it would mean that, apart from small sacrifices called "pakayajnas", no yajna can be performed.
According to great men such a view is wrong. Sankara Bhagavatpada, whose mission in life was the re-establishment of Vedic dharma, did not stop with the admonishment that Vedas must be chanted every day ("Vedo nityam adhiyatam"). He insisted that rites imposed on us by the Vedas must be performed: " "Taduditam karma svanusthiyatam. " Of Vedic rites, sacrifices occupy the foremost place. If they are to be eschewed what other Vedic rites are we to perform? It may be that certain types of sacrifices need not be gone through in the age of Kali.
If, according to the verse, agniyadhana is interdicted, and no big sacrifice is to be performed in the age of Kali, why should gavalambha (cow sacrifice) have been mentioned in the prohibited category? If agniyadhana is not permissible, it goes without saying that gavalambha also is prohibited. So, apart from certain types, all sacrifices are to be performed at all times.
According to another verse quoted from the Dharmasastra, so long as the varnasrama system is followed in the age of Kali, in however small a measure, and so long as the sound of the Vedas pervades the air, works like agniyadhana must be performed and the sannyasasrama followed, the stage of life in which there is no karma. The prohibition in Kali applies to certain types of animal sacrifices, meat in sraddha ceremonies and begetting a son by the husband's brother.
" Om Shanti Shanti Shanti "