Friday, November 6, 2009

Animal sacrifice – how Veda Dharma views it?

Violence is not supported by Hindu Dharma.
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?
Deep thinking and intricate analysis are needed to find convincing replies to these questions.

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.

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'
They are goat, horse, cow, all species of birds, domestic or wild, and herbs and plants.
The seven domestic animals approved for sacrifices are cow, goat, man, horse, sheep, mule, and ass.
The seven wild ones are lion, tiger, boar, buffalo, elephant, bear, and monkey. Their specific body parts were offered in fire for specific results.

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
'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.
Those who desire Supreme communion are also shown the way by Vedas which is done by means of mental yajna – meditation, japa etc.
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.

Some thoughts from Mahabharata on animal sacrifice:-

At numerous places in the Hindu texts, animal sacrifice or cruelty to life as part of yajnas is condemned. In a narration by Narada there comes a story of a Brahmin in by name Satya who was doing yajnas for Vishnu for the purpose of attaining Swarga (Heaven). He never slaughtered living animals for offering them in sacrifices because of his inability to procure them. He, therefore, substituted vegetable products for those animals. His sacrifices were aimed at reaching Heaven.

One day a deer that was living near their hermitage tempted him by offering itself as a sacrifice in the yajna. Its Justification was that the animal which is sacrificed in the yajna reaches Heaven and Higher abodes. Satya did not accept its plea because that animal has been living near his hermitage for many years. He was very compassionate towards it that he refused to kill it for the yajna. When the deer failed in tempting him to sacrifice it, it changed in to Dharma deva (who came in the form of the deer) and advised Satya to pursue the path to Salvation. Such a path required Saatwic approach and not animal sacrifices nor the plant substitutes he was using.

In the words of Dharma Deva:-"This (viz., slaughter of living creatures) is not conformable to the ordinances about Sacrifices."  Narada continues, "the injuring of living creatures, therefore, forms no part of sacrifice. Abstention from injury is that religion which is complete in respect of its rewards. The religion, however, of cruelty is only thus far beneficial that it leads to heaven (which has a termination). I have spoken to thee of that religion of Truth which, indeed, is the religion of those that are utterers of Brahma.'"

The translation of this narration can be read here:-

There is another narration from Shanthi parva in Mahabharata which also denounces animal sacrifice.
This is given in the form of a dialogue between sage Kapila and sage Syumarasmi. Once King Nahusha was doing a yajna, Kapila who was present there saw the animal kept for sacrifice. He could not bear the thought of that said "Alas ye Vedas".

On hearing this, a sage named Syumarasmi entered the body of the cow that is tied for sacrifice and stared talking to Kapila as though the cow was talking. Syumarasmi puts forth the arguments for the propriety of animal sacrifice because it is by that only the yajna can be completed and the desired goal of wealth or Heavens can be achieved. Syumarasmi's argument and Kapila's reply can be read in the following links:-

Kapila quotes sages like Yajna valkya and others who attain Emancipation by yajnas such as agnihotra which do not support animal sacrifice. The cause of their Greatness is the compassion they had for all creatures.
The way to get into God's good books is by yajna of Self – meditation internally. This does not require sacrifice of any life.
Kapila also says "One who hath no fear from any creature and from whom no creature hath any fear and who constitutes himself the soul of all creatures, should be known for a Brahmana"
Anyone who abstains from cruelty to life is a Brahmin.

Such cruelty though sanctioned in Vedic yajna is not recommended by Vedas themselves as the best thing. They have been given for those who want their wishes fulfilled. Vedas insist on the limited life of such goals and recommend striving for Moksha that requires "ahimsa" as the Supreme Dharma.

In Sandhyavandana:-
That the Veda dharma / Vedic religion does not support animal sacrifices is known from the mantra for evening Sandhyavandana.

These mantras were told by sage Sunascheba when he was tied to the post for sacrifice as a substitute for an animal that became unfit in a yajna done by king Ambareesh.

It was a prayer by the sage to Varuna bhagawan to save him from being sacrificed. As a result the sage's life was spared. This mantra is uttered by all those who do the evening (saayamkaala) sandhyavandana.

This mantra is in the nature of a pleading for sparing one's life and forgiving one of the sins committed knowingly and unknowingly. The inclusion of this mantra in sandhyavanda is perhaps to remind people that one must shun cruelty to any form of life by putting oneself in the shoes of the animal that is readied for sacrifice.

Veda dharma does not support sacrifices.
The existence of both types of yajna -with and without sacrifice – is to cater to the people of different nature of satwa, rajas and tamas.
From Tamas one must rise to Satwam.
That journey is needed for Realization of the Supreme.

Tail piece:-

#  I don't want to get into the nitty gritty of ashwamedha yajna. We don't know how much of it found in texts is interpolated. I say this because the 44 th chapter of Brihat samhita deals with a yajna for horses done before a war or for victory. Varaha mihira gives all details of how this yajna was done including the stars which are ideal for this yajna. He also says that at the end of the yajna, the king rides on the horse for which the yajna was done and marches to the battle field for the fight. This is the way Ashwamedha yajna was done in the times prior to Varahamihira.
Perhaps that is the way non-violent yajna was ushered in the Kaliyuga.

#  திருக்குறள்  259
அவிசொரிந் தாயிரம் வேட்டலின் ஒன்றன்
உயிர்செகுத் துண்ணாமை நன்று.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post!

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Thank you

Anand said...

Very good samanvayam. what you explain here is lot better than many others where people either try to avoid this question or try to emphatically prove that there was no animal sacrifice.

What runs in my mind is the conflicting practices of devotees in the itihasa puranas. For eg, Take examples of Ambarisha and Rantideva.
Ambarisha is well-known for his ekadashi story involving sudarshana chakram and sage durvasa. However he was the one who went for a human sacrifice. Similarly King Rantideva is shown to be such a benovelent king in Bhagavatham but the same person kills 2000 cows everyday as per the Mahabharata. Can you explain me why vishnu bhaktas would ever do such things? Or are they different personalities with same names?

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Thanks for your opinion Mr Anand.
Here are my views.

In Mahabharata, Dharma vyadha mentions about the sacrifice done by Rantideva in the context of explaining whether the butchery he was doing was sinful or not. The himsa done to life in a Vedic sacrifice and the himsa done as part of one’s ordained duty, done with an attitude of absence of likes and dislikes do not attract sin. This is also what is conveyed by Krishna to Arjuna in making him stick to swadharma and work like a karma yogin with a mind of a sthithprajna.

There can be no greater Vishnu bhakt than Arjuna. But he was advised by Krishna to take on his close relatives, to kill them in the battle field. Arjuna did as told by Krishna in a spirit of complete surrender. There were no personal strings attached to his acts in the battlefield. This is the essence of Vasihnava philosophy and also the reason why the likes of Ambhareesh and Ranti deva did sacrifices in which life were offered.

Sacrifice is not confined to other lives. Even sacrifice of the self was done on many occasions. It had happened as recently as a few centuries ago in parts of Karnataka. The devotees had entered the sacrificial fire at the time of total solar eclipse with a view to attain Adhitya mandalam as a fruit of devotion to Lord Surya. The inscriptions mentioning such sacrifices are found in Karnataka and the link to those sources have been given in my articles on Eclipses.

In Tamilnadu, the sangam poet Kapilar offered himself in a sacrifice of that kind. There is a rock inscription mentioning this.

From this we make out that life as such was considered as part of a larger cosmic existence and sacrificing it (one's own or someone else's) was viewed as part of a larger goal. There were no personal likes and dislikes attached to it. The sacrifice of Aravan by Pandavas before the start of the Mahabharata war was also part of such a larger goal wherein people came forward to offer themselves. Such an attitude can not be seen in Kaliyuga. Moreover the purpose of such sacrifices must be of greater relevance for the world at large. Such a purpose also will be absent in Kaliyuga. When viewed from such angles, we can understand why Ambaressh the VishnuBhakth, resorted to sacrifices where human being was offered.

He as a king had a bigger responsibility towards his country. He did the sacrifices for the sake of the country and people. Like him there were many kings who conducted the yajnas in the ways prescribed by Vedas. At the personal level, their achara might have been different. Ambhareesh was one example. King Janaka was another. Amabareesh and Janaka did the yajnas in their capacity as kings. Personally they stuck to their achara and had no personal attachment to the action they did as Kings. Janaka was called as a Karma yogi because of this.

There had been instances when the kings or others did sacrifices for personal benefits. The attainment of swarga is the maximum they can get from such sacrifices. I have explained in the article what happens to them. Ramanuja discourages such sacrifices as they do not bring ever lasting results. Only the mental sacrifice (surrender to the Lord) is the supreme sacrifice which involves no himsa. Hindu dharma encourages that by showing how limited all the other aspirations are.

Hope this explains your question.

Anand said...

Thank you for your explanation.
It was viewed as being for the greater good and also, as Ramanuja and Desika have written, the animal went to higher realms if sacrificed in a vedic ritual.

However, one doubt lingers in my mind. As you said, if these animals/men came voluntarily, then there is no question to ask. However, in the case of sunahshepa and ambareesha, the boy is so afraid that he had to take refuge in vishwamitra. Now, isn't it against personal rights and feelings to fetch a person forcefully for this purpose? It is no different than Sati and murder which we are punishing by law.(Don't take this comment to be in the offensive. I am just trying to clarify things which are not explained by most people)

Jayasree Saranathan said...

There are many issues to be looked into.
(1)What was originally a voluntary offering got degenerated in course of time. That is why sacrificing any life is no longer sacrosanct.

(2)Even the rishis were not without omissions and commissions. We take only the dharmic aspects from them. We have to take the 'sat' from the instances and need not justify the unjustifiable acts of Rishis. On the other hand , Veda dharma does not need any justification. It has not said unjustifiable things. If something becomes unjustifiable it is because of kala, desa, varthamana and purpose. Veda dharma does not expect us to blindly follow. Even after giving his Gita, Krishna asks Arjuna to apply his mind and act suitably.

(3)It is Sunashepa's prayers that we are using in sandhyavanthana mantras. Perhaps the incident involving him was designed to make this happen.

(4) It all boils to karma theory - what kind of end one gets and what kind of suffering one gets. The acts of rishis or any one is subjected to karma theory. Any one born in this world is subjected to that. Sita recalls this in sudhara khnada. So any distress caused to a rishi or some one like Sunashepa is due to the karmic baggage they carry.

(5) On Viswamitra, there is an incident involving his son Gavala narrated in Hari vamsa. That son was called as Gavala because he was bound with a cord (gala) and was to be sold by Gavala's mother at a time of famine. Selling one's child for money so that the rest of the children could be fed was accepted as "Apath-dharma" . There are many chapters in Shanti parva on what constitutes aapath dharma in various situations. Viswamitra himself ate forbidden meat of dog to survive (at a time of famine) and did so by offering a part of that meat in a yajna before eating that. It resulted in copious downpour of rains. Read my article on this by searching - chandala - in my blog. Sending Sunashepa also constituted aaptha dharma for the king's son. But inspite of all that the karmic dues created by such acts will have to be faced by the person. Viswamithra -though he consumed meat for survival did the prayaschita and tapas to ward off that karmic effect of that act.

(6)On Sati, that was voluntary and perhaps could be attributed to Sati devi, daughter of Daksha married to shiva. Such acts were not laws in Hindu dharma. I have given in my blog on death related ceremonies,, the original verses in Rig vedas that were twisted in course of time to make sati mandatory. Compelled sati was perhaps a feature in Kaliyuga. However there have been instances of voluntary sati. We have a verse in purananuru by a queen who wrote it before committing sati.

(7)All these acts - sacrifice of life - voluntary or forced - have no place in kali yuga. The kind of attitude behind them are not seen in Kaliyuga. That is why they would not give rise to the stated effects of such acts in Kali yuga. When we see them through our present level of perception, we are not able to appreciate the original purport.

Anand said...

Thank you very much for such a patient explanation. No one cares to go into these issues these days. It is one of the extremes that is found. The scholars frown upon people with such questions and concentrate only on the cream of vedanta. The other group just brushes off everything as bronze age myth. I am a person who sees a lot of merits in veda dharma except for the doubts that I had raised.

The yogic and esoteric nature of the samhitas are really a treasure to any humanbeing.

Just one more clarification. What I get from your above reply as well as "thraigunya vishayaa vedaa..." of the Gita is that even the Rishis can be saatvic, rajasic and tamasic. The only difference is that they have greater powers to do and know things that we, in Kali yuga are absolutely incapable of. So, just because a Rishi has done it, we need not consider it right or justify it. It is just a recorded story and can be right or wrong.

Also, the rituals were conducted by very efficient people in the previous yugas and so they could ensure that the animals definitely went to heaven. However, now we are not so sure about the efficiency of the people conducting such rituals too. Am I right in saying so?

Jayasree Saranathan said...

You are right. Triguinya vishayam and karma theory are the basics which explain most issues. Even if one is a highly evolved soul, unless he reaches the state of all-satwa (suddha satwa), liberation is an unattainable fruit.

The acts of rishis are not always discernible, but it is possible to understand why they have behaved in specific ways. The Gavala story is narrated by Narada to Dritharashtra in Mahabharata in the context of explaining how one should not be adamant. Duryodhana was adamant not to give any leeway to the Pandavas. Narada wanted to convey to Drithrashtra that such an adamant nature is not correct. To explain it he narrated the story of gavala.

Gavala was adamant that he would give whatever Viswamitra (his own father) asked as Guru dakshinai. Viswamitra was irritated by his persistence and asked for impossible things. That resulted in gavala becoming instrumental in making Madhavi, Yayati's daughter to marry 4 times to get the things that were to be given as guru dakshinai. The 4th one she married was Viswamitra himself!! It is told by Narada that Gavala did prayaschitha for what he had to do to Madhavi.

As an aside, it so happened that the 4 sons Madhavi begot became 4 great persons who played a major positive role in the history of Bharat in their own capacities. So how would you justify the discernible /objectionable acts?

What we deduce from this is that the world moves by balancing 2 things - (1) individual's acts and karma and (2) the progression or regression of world / creation / society. The mixed nature of individuals is exploited by Karma theory to fashion happenings on a larger scale in the human world. The rishis are not an exception in this scheme. Ultimately we have to understand the play of Karma and take up the upadesas of rishis and lessons from their life.

Anand said...

I tried to ask a few questions but got a failure message. So, have you actually got my 4 questions? If not , I will write them here.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

I didn't get the questions Mr Anand.

Anand said...

I was reading the story of Harischandra and sunahsepa in Bhagavatham and had a few doubts in general...

1. Why did Harischandra ask for a son from Varuna if the condition imposed by him was to sacrifice the same son after he was born? It does not make any sense to me. If this child is going to die after being born, it is best to keep quiet.(considering harischandra always wanted to keep up promises)

2. Varuna is supposed to be a devata. Why is he so mean minded to ask for a human being in sacrifice for any boons that he may give? Also, he comes across as demonaic when he exclaims later "brahmin is better than kshatriya" for the bali.

3. In general, the devas also come across as being so crooked minded. For eg, Indra in lots of instances. So, why are they called devas when they are so much worser than an ordinary human being?(Is it just because they live in a higher plane and have some more powers alone? appears so to me)

4. Some people point out that Brahma comitted incest with Saraswathi, who was his own daughter? Is this story true?. If it is then what is the rationale behind it? If it is purely wrong on the part of Brahma, then why do we respect him so much.

I just was asking these questions myself and wanted to know your thoughts on the same.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

I read the questions Mr Anand.

I am concentrating on the issues and concepts of Hindu thought and am of the opinion that they can not be faulted nor belittled. The animal sacrifice is one such issue that I have explained.

Apart from the issues, I am not concentrating on the individual instances and incidents such as the ones you have mentioned. But I am sure if you go through them with the background knowledge of the concepts of Hinduism, you can unearth the rationale.

VaruNa, Indra, Brahma and saravathi must be understood from the point of view of concepts that go with them. Varuna is a mithran, is the ruler of west and west related significances, personifies the after effect of Indra or that which follows Indra, stands for depths, water, seas, pralaya and so on. So we have to understand the message from the story involving Varuna from the significances he portrays.

On Indra I have done some analysis which is available in Tamil in my series on Thamizan thiraavidna. I have highlighted the most probable concepts related to Indra. Using them it is possible to understand every kind of story related to Indra. I have not done such an analysis on Varuna.

Your 3rd question has an answer in that series I mentioned above.

On the 4th question, it is all a matter of personification. If Brahma stands for Creation, saravathy stands for manifestation. Their relationship is similar to Thought and Words. I don't know the story but I can give hints like this as to how to view them or interpret them.

Most of the stories are personifications that carry some purport. With unflinching faith in Sanarthana dharma, one can unravel them.

As of now, I am not going into the questions you have raised - for want of time and my pre-occupations. May be you can get the answers by probing them with the right kind of inputs.

Anand said...

Thanks for reading my questions.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

I have one more point of view Mr Anand.

All the entities including devas like Indra, varuna etc exist in the created world. They also have the 3 gunas in some combination. They are not pure satva / all- satva embodied.

When an entity attains all- satva, it gets liberated. In other words, the all satva entity does not exist in the created worlds. The moment it attains all- satva, it leaves the system. But devas like Indra and Varuna exist in the created world due to some good karma or austerities and they are also dominated by tri-gunas.

An explicit narration of how a being can be born as a star is given in the last chapter of Brihad samhita. It says that the one who observes Nakshtra purusha vratha through out his life will be born as a star after his death. He will live as the star until the running Kalpa ends. But he does not get relieved from rebirths after that kalpa. He will be reborn as an emperor in the next kalpa.

This shows that observance of this vratha does not liberate one from the cycle of rebirth. The tri-guna combination anyway had existed. With that tri-gunas, he had existed as the star. These gunas have to be moderated in subsequent births. Only when all-satwa or suddha satwa level is reached, the soul gets liberated from rebirths.

So when we hear about Indra or Varuna in some questionable acts or talks, we have to understand that the tri-gunya permutation in them makes them behave like that. They are not speaking as all- satwa entities - though by virtue of some good karma they have attained deva-hood.

Tail piece :-For liberation from rebirth, this chapter in Brihad samhita echoes the well known dictum - of Ekadasi vratha and breaking that vratha on Dwadasi after worshiping Vishnu and chanting his 12 names.

Anand said...

Even I had the same line of thought. Even Brahma is in the created world for eg. So anywhere in leela vibhuthi, there are only gray black and white.

I consider devata Indra to be a kind of politician. They do have powers and responsibilities but are corrupt too. They have their own weaknesses and get cursed at times. They also run to perumal for help and so on.

However one good thing about itihasa puranas is that it has recorded all kinds of events and do not justify any wrong doings. Most often we see the devas being cursed for the acts.

One more connected thing I wanted to mention here is about the vedic hymns. Many think that they are hymns praising the devatas in svarga loka. That is not true to a large extent. Vedas are not that low level to sing praises of some jivatmas in swarga lokam. The correct interpretation of what the devas mean in the adhyatmic sense should be understood form commentaries of Scholars like Aurobindo and Madhvacharya. They talk about antaryami perumal and also the spiritual concepts like the fire of knowledge, spiritual sun etc. In a adhidhaivata sense for common people, they were ritually interpreted by medieval writers like Sayana(who led to their downfall with such horrible interpretations)

Sagar said...

I have belief in Hinduism.
and I I'm Hindu.

I need one line answer.
is sacrificing an animal is not wrong according to Hinduism ?

can we do them?

what makes sense doing so we can gain some?. it is cruel thing ever.

I remember my child hood that i Cray a lot by knowing some animals wer sacrificed nearby my surroundings. that means god makes me cry!.

is it true. I think better to not believe in Hinduism. and quit form my religion. and my only religion will be humanity.

eshan said...

Dear Madam,
In TamilNadu it is customary for many castes to offer animal (goat or chicken) sacrifice to village dieties (kula devan koil) like muniappan or amman during the child's head tonsuring or ear piercing event. I am thinking this is not a vedic practice. If for some reason there is no animal sacrifice is done, it is believed harm will come to the family. Moreover during the sacrifice of the animal no vedic rites are performed. So even the animal cannot benefit in such a sacrifice. That these dieties wish for animal sacrifice is conveyed by the priest during trance. Is there any way those deities can be pacified without animal sacrifice.


Jayasree Saranathan said...

Dear Ms Sheela,

A valid question. I have a plan to write it as an article. Animal sacrifice in some parts of TN came up at a time when forests were cleared to make human settlements. Forest is the place where murders / killings happen with predators killing their prey for food. Even though that is a normal occurrence in forests and among animals, the fact is that the life- energy or whatever you may call is snatched in an agonizing and unnatural way. So some bad energy (Dur devathas) wander the regions where they died with agony. The Kali and Vanacharini (Silappadhikaram mentions this word) were installed in forests so that those who had to cross the forests were not haunted by these bad-energies.

It is even said in an old Ayur Vedic text called Ashtanga sangraha that forest is the place where one should not enter even in the day time because murders take place there. The murder is that of animals killing other animals.

When a time came to clear the forests for human settlements, the fear of dur-shakthis in the forests was analysed. There exists inscriptions on copper plates belonging to Cholan period called as Purva pattayam and one belonging to the period of Cheraman Peruml Nayanar where it is said that the deity of the forest told the king the non desirability of people settling down in areas where forests existed. For protection to the settlers from trouble from such energy forms, the deity had asked for blood shed / murder of some animals on certain occasions. I will write down the entire inscription in the article which I am planning to write. As a result the animal sacrifice was started in those places.

So this is not what Hinduism says, but what came into practice to bring out some harmony in the environment so that the people do not suffer. All those regions / temples where animal sacrifice happens were once forests or uninhabited areas. Coimbatore, Kanyakumari belt and hilly tracts where forests were cleared for habitation in the past. These areas have the practice of animal sacrifice.

For the question whether an alternative is there, yes alternatives can be found out with help of religious leaders. Vedic Homas can also alter the situation and remove the need for animal sacrifices. These temples must be brought under agamic worship and vedic homas must be conducted to balance any imbalance. For this to happen religious leaders of the people who do such sacrifices must cooperate.Otherwise there won't be any positive response - as what happened when JJ brought out a legislation against animal sacrifice.

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ASHISH said...

Pls ref your comment:
"Viswamitra himself ate forbidden meat of dog to survive (at a time of famine) and did so by offering a part of that meat in a yajna before eating that. It resulted in copious downpour of rains. Read my article on this by searching - chandala - in my blog."

Could you provide link to the article, I have not found inspite of exhaustive search.

ASHISH said...

Re your comment "one who observes Nakshtra purusha vratha through out his life will be born as a star after his death."

I may add I read the following:

The Egyptians believed that human beings were the 'seeds' for stars. It was believed that human beings were walking, talking, thinking, conscious 'starstuff'. And indeed that is what we are.

Our bodies are made from interstellar dust which is the remains of ancient dead stars, cosmic debris and galactic particles.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

//Could you provide link to the article, I have not found inspite of exhaustive search.//

The article is What is Aryan morality - as told by Chandala to Vishwamitra.
The link is

Even I could not get it from the search box in the blog. When google searched it, I got the link:)

Jayasree Saranathan said...

//The Egyptians believed that human beings were the 'seeds' for stars. It was believed that human beings were walking, talking, thinking, conscious 'starstuff'. And indeed that is what we are.

Our bodies are made from interstellar dust which is the remains of ancient dead stars, cosmic debris and galactic particles.//

Egyptian belief came later to Vedic wisdom.

On the other point, yes. We share the body parts with the entire Universe around us. In the same logic our consciousness can not be something unique to us. Unless it is present in the Universe we could not have come to possess it. To put it differently, like the materials of the Universe (Prakruthi), the consciousness (Purusha) is also spread throughout the Universe. We have a part of it or we form a part of it.

Unknown said...

The last passage of Chandogya upanishad "ahimsan sarva-bhutani anyatra theerthebhyaha" is cited as an authority for animal sacrifice in yagnas. Dr. Radhakrishnan's book on Upanishads givers the meaning for this sentence as "practicing non-hatred to all creatures except in holy places" If one reads this sentence in the context in which this sentence occurs, then it would be clear that this meaning is not correct. The last passage of the Chandogya Upanishad answers the question as to who will reach Brahma-world without returning to earth again. It says that the person who has studied the vedas,thereafter settles down in his own house with contemplation on what he has learnt in vedas,has virtuous sons,and who concentrates all his senses in his Self, practicing ahimsa towards all creatures, elsewhere in holy places and who behaves thus throughout his life reaches Brahma-loka and never returns to earth.The word "anyatra" means "elsewhere" or "somewhere" just as "sarvatra" means "everywhere". The line "ahimsan sarva-bhutani" is complete in itself. A noble person who concentrates all his senses in Self will not definitely harm any creatures even in holy places. Upanishad will not certainly prescribe that ahimsa is to be practised everywhere except in holy places, that too by an enlightened person. The phrase "anyatra theerthebhyaha" should be taken in the context of the whole passage that too after "sarvendriyani sampratishtapya,ahimsan sarvabhutani,anyatra theerthebhya,sa kalvevam varthayanvaadayusham brahma lokam abhisampandyente".The passage beautifully sums up the growth of a noble soul from being a student,(teacher's house gurukul), a grahasta,(kutumbe),a vanaprastha (suchau dese) and finally a jnani who looks inward i.e. self (atma) by residing in holy places (finally anyetra theerthebyaha) and brcomes qualified to reach brahmaloka, never to come back to earth. Let us not try to give wrong justification by stating that the upanishad permits ahimsa except in holy places.This sends out wrong signal that violence to creatures is permitted in holy places. Let us be certain that Upanishad will not say so.As far as animal sacrifice in vedas is concerned, ShriR.L.Kashyap has given an wonderful spiritual interpretation to the passagesin Yajurveda by pointing out that the word pasu means knowledge and brings out the inner yagn aas the esdsence of vedas. His book on Yajurveda is worth reading and everyone who devoutely reads his work would be convinced that animal sacrifice was not contgemplated in vedas at all. S Raghavan

Truth Seeker said...

There seem to be a lot of discussion on the nature of the devas and why there are not depicted as perfect in puranas. We need to understand that Puranas are legends sometimes with meanings changed over a period of time, hence puranas themselves are not perfectly consistent with each other. Devas are divine beings who over millions of human years make mistakes, have ego etc . Their mistakes are like very small black dots on a white shirt. The puranas must be looked at with reverence in what they seek to convey with understanding that some of the actions were properly not understood by puranic writers and some have got mis-quoted over the period. It is a case of incompletely understood motives + misquotations and finally seeking to interpret without reading the whole story but just as bits and pieces. Puranas are the representation of the stories based on tradition as understood in recent past over events which have happened innumerable years ago.