Saturday, April 16, 2016

Does Sanathana Dharma support eating meat? (Part 2)

Excerpted from an article by Mr Shrivathsa.B.

The definitive argument against eating any form of meat is found in the most ancient text concerning Vedic rites, the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa. The eighth and ninth khaṇḍas of the sixth adhyāya contains a brāhmaṇic story of  a puruṣa who was about to be sacrificed in a yajña (conducted by devas). The best material in him escapes because of the fear of death and enters various animal bodies and escapes them in sequence. It finally enters earth and then the grains. The sum and substance of the brāhmaṇic story is that the person conducting a sacrificial rite using puroḍāsha (a grain preparation) is indeed doing an animal sacrifice. This is  because of the yajña paśu has passed the bodies of various animals, earth and finally the grains. The drift being that grains have the best essence of all animals and the earth. The text also provides equivalence between the body parts of an animal and the different parts of a grain.

This seems to suggest that there was either (1) a parallel tradition which practiced sacrifices using grain alone; or (2) an opprobrium associated with animal sacrifice—which led to a brāhmaṇic story such as the above.

In any of the above cases it can be safely argued that the concept of sacrifices of the animal variety as the only means of attaining heaven was being reviewed by the ancients (thereby the story extolling grain over meat).

Animal sacrifice prohibited according Mahābhārata

The anuśāsana parva of Mahābhārata holds a view strictly against animal sacrifice of any sort. This is explained by the story of King Vasu. The story being: A king by name Vasu goes to heaven as a result of conducting yajñas. After he reached heaven, there happens to be a debate among the devas and ṛṣis about the use of goats, etc. in sacrifice. In this debate, the devas are in favour of goat sacrifice and ṛṣis favour oblation of unsprouted seeds. The tussle is about the word “aja” which can either mean unsprouted seeds or a goat. They decide that as Vasu has reached heaven performing yajñas, he is the right person to be consulted. Vasu, who is now a deva himself decides to be partial to the deva view and gives the verdict in favour of goats being killed. As a result of this, he is cursed immediately to be born on earth as a snake.

Were ancient Hindus beef-eaters? {as though they were eating beef at least once a week (if not every day)}. Let us ask a few questions and answer them.

Que:  Who are the ancients who are supposed to have eaten beef, if at all?

Ans: A subset of Brahmins called yājñika Brahmins who have done or taken part in somayāga. This is a “difficult” yāga to conduct owing to the requirement of numerous priests of a very high erudition. Generally the convention was for the yajamāna and his next seven generations to carry surnames such as somayājī,vājapeyī, etc. Any cursory population analysis of the Brahmins will reveal that the number is minuscule. Brahmins had other vocations such as temple duties, official duties in the royal court and the like. In fact, some communities in Brahmins are classified as (1) Kammis (corruption of “karmī”, i.e. worker) who were predominantly officials by tradition. (2) Ācārya: who were traditional school teachers. (3) Joshi: the ones predominantly traditional astrologers (4) Purāṇika: the ones who were traditional story tellers, bards etc. This being the case, the number of those who have eaten beef, if at all, is minuscule.

Que: How often did they eat beef (if at all)?

Ans: Somayāga was not a daily event. It had strict restrictions on its conduct including restrictions on
  1. the time of the year: certain varṇas had to conduct it in certain seasons;
  2. the yajamāna (the one on behalf of whom the yajña is conducted): before even beginning a somayāga, he should have (a) been an āhitāgni, (b) conducted the sapta pāka and sapta havissamsthas. Except in the case of a chosen few who probably had royal backing, to be an āhitāgni and have finished the samsthas is quite difficult practically;
  3. Ayajño vā etadadakṣiṇaḥ (that which doesn’t have substantial dakṣiṇā is not fit to be called a yajna) goes a famous maxim. Stories abound in itihāsaand purāṇa about kings giving away everything they had. The rājasūyasacrifice calls for giving away even the loin cloth worn by the king. Given this, the number of those even among even the yājñikas who were regularly conducting yāga is logically low;
  4. once seven Somayāgas are done, the yajamāna is supposed to have attained the merit of going to heaven, hence it isn’t necessary for him to do any more yāgas. So, at the most, he and the priests may have eaten beef seven times in their life (if at all).

Related article:-


sury siva said...

It appeals to me to say that we may neither glorify nor decry eating meat.
Loko Binna ruchihi.
In my career, I saw a Bengali Brahmin girl cooking fish. She told me that Bengali Brahmins eat fish. And they also used to recite all the sukthams just as I did.

Nothing is good or bad per se.

I may be wrong.

subbu thatha.

Jay said...

"sury Siva", you are more closer to Sanatana Dharma than this blog author Jayasree is. Take pride in that.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

@ Surya Siva,

Let there be 'loko binna ruchihi' But that does not mean meat is the best food. Meat comes with a baggage of bad karma. That is the issue here. A Bengali Brahmin eating fish does not sanctify or lend sanction to eating fish or flesh of an animal. A person who wishes to move ahead in spiritual path must abstain from any action that causes suffering to any living being. Sri Krishna tells that a person who realizes 'sarva bhoothaatma- bhoothaathmaa" rises above all bindings (Read 5th chapter of Gita). The realization that the self in yourself is the same that is in an an animal and in God is the ultimate realization. Santana Dharma preaches that omni-present nature of the Self. Only when that realization occurs, one starts moving high in spiritual path. That being so, how can one justify the snatching away of a life to satiate one's own tongue or stomach? Can such a person be a Sanatana Dharmist? If you don't want to be a Dharmist, you can relish on any life you like.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

@ Surya Siva,

Please read my comments in the previous article -

I have addressed the issue of a Brahmin eating meat.