The Ultimate Dharma is "Ahimsa" – "Ahimsa ParamO dharma:"
The only place where violence is supported is mentioned in the last verse of Chandogya Upanishad, that says that Violence is not permitted except in the cases where it is done for Vedic dharma.
There is a saying – Vaidee himsa, na himsa – meaning violence done in the process of Vedic purpose, is not violence. But this does not hold good in Kali yuga and no animal sacrifice is authorized in Kali yuga.
Killing cow is adharmic. But killing a cow that charges towards one to kill is dharmic.
Killing a life is adharmic. But killing a life for the sake of a dharma of Vedic nature that is done for the benefit of many is not adharmic.
This is the rationale behind sacrifices in Vedic yajnas.
Before going into further details, let me quote from the foreword (Urai peru katturai) of Silappadhikaram, where Ilango adigal says that the Pandyan king who came after Nedumchezhiyan, performed a shanthi pooja to pacify Kannagi to get relief for the people who were suffering form the after effects of the fire and for getting rainfall to cool Madurai. Adigal says that the king sacrificed 1000 goldsmiths in this pooja!!
Why were 1000 goldsmiths killed in the pooja?
If the wrong doer were to be punished, he must have punished the goldsmith who did the deceit. Why sacrifice other innocent ones also?
But then Kannagi also did an unjust act of killing many innocent citizens in the fire who were not at all connected with the wrong done to Kovalan.
Is what Kannagi did right?
But the rationale is that to bring down the effect of heat and her anger, the sacrifices were done. It resulted in a downpour that wiped off the heat, drought and sufferings of people!
This is purpose of the Yajna.
Yajna means worship done by give and take.
You offer something in a yajna to get back something.
What you offer is related to what you want to get.
It is like supplementing a deficiency.
If you have weak bones, you gulp calcium tablets.
If your blood count is low, you take food to improve blood count.
In this way sacrifices were done to get back a specific thing.
This is the way Nature works.
This was captured by Vedic wisdom and done for common welfare.
The body is identified on the basis of basic Dhathus (elements) that are localized in specific parts. For instance fats stand for Jupiter and for pushti and growth. One wanting growth, will offer fats in the yajna. If one wants to reap benefits of Jupiter or the lord of Jupiter, he will have to offer fats specifically meant for that.
The Vedic sacrifices are fashioned on this basis and the offering was done connected with the specific goal desired. So, many items of that dhatu were offered in vedic fire and the related body part is also one among them. That is how the animal sacrifice came into practice.
Certain life forms were identified as "Yajna pashu'
These are for kaamya phalan to attain mundane goals – that include attainment of wealth, power, acquisition of land and other desires and a place in Heaven.
The Vedas are a body of knowledge that recorded everything under the sun.
Ishtam manishana Sarvam manishana – says Purusha sooktham.
'What ever you desire can be achieved.
Everything can be achieved.'
The methods are all recorded in Vedas.
Those who desire mundane pleasures are shown the ways through such yajnas. Those who want wealth and place in Heaven do the yajnas that include sacrifice of life. But these yajnas are limited in power. They can not give ever lasting results.
The ever lasting result is the attainment Moksha – or the state of no –rebirth or communion with the Supreme Consciousness which is variously called as Sat, God, Ishwara, Brahman, Satyam etc.
It can not be attained by the above means of yajnas that show cruelty to animals.
The Choice is left to man.
In the former, the good and bad karma connected to that yajnas attach to the person for whose sake the yajna is done. He will be reborn to undergo the effect of pains caused to the sacrificed animal.
In the latter, one has to sacrifice even the punyam and all dharmas so that one is not reborn.
This is the essence of Vedas given in 2 parts – the former told through Poorva mimamsa (also known as Karma khandam) – on methods of doing yajnas to attain desired goals and the latter told through Uttara mimamsa (also known as Gyaana khandam) which is about soul's search about the Eternal Truth so that one rises above mundane searches and meditate towards attaining Final Emancipation.
This is the gist of Vedas.
If some one goes the mundane way and does this or that sacrifice, that is not the mistake of Veda dharma.
But Veda Dharma's aim is to see that all rise above the mundane searches and reach Him.
Einstein's discovery can be used to make an atom bomb to destroy the world. It can also be used to cure a remote disease. It depends what use we put into.
We must look at the yajnas and sacrifices such as Ashwa medhas in this paradigm.
Just for having discovered his theory, Einstein could not be faulted for the drop of atom bomb.
In the same way, for recording the ways of ashwamedhas etc, Vedas and Hinduism can not be faulted.
Everything is recorded and dealt with in Veda matham. Veda matham also tells what we must aspire for – through teachers, gurus, rishis, Upanishads, Brahma sutras and numerous texts such as Gita. It depends on the mental make up of the person in choosing.
உயிர்செகுத் துண்ணாமை நன்று.