Some Vedic sacrifices of this century

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Mon Jan 10 16:00:42 CST 2000

On Thu, 23 Dec 1999, Vivek Anand Ganesan wrote:

>   I have a few more questions. In fact, until this discussion, I was
> not
> aware that meat-eating was allowed for Brahmins ( except under severe
> duress, ofcourse ). But, the above quote atleast shows that our
> shAstras
> do not issue a license to indulge in sins of the flesh ( literally ).

We should be very careful to look at the whole context and not isolated
quotations.  Whatever may be the practice in other times or places, for
Gurjara and Dravid Brahmans (and  no doubt many other people) vegetarianism is part
of our shistachara and not just a suggestion but a rule equal in force to
anything in Shruti or Smrti.  The purpose of discussions such as this one
is to understand the history and theory of Dharma.  The practice is very

> Now, to my questions.
> a) I have heard of another reason to avoid meat. It has to do with the
>     three gunas.  I suppose meat falls in the tamas/rAjas category ( I
>    have heard both ).  Since, a humble bhakta should cultivate sattvik
>    guna, he/she would do good to avoid meat.  In fact, this argument
>    is also applied to onions, garlic etc.  Orthoprax Southern Brahmins
>    avoid meat, liquor, onions and garlic.  If this is indeed the case,
>    then what is the "guna" of an animal that has been sacrificed in
>    a havan?
> b) Does ShrI BhagavatpAda discuss such issues?

I haven't come across anything on this yet.  Here is a paraphrase of
the brahmasutra Kartik mentioned.

The Brahmasutra "ashuddhamiti chena shabdat" (If it is said "unclean"; no
from the words. [3.1.25]) discusses the passage in the Chandogyopanishad
that describes the reincarnations of the Jiva.  It mentions that some
Jivas owing to their bad karma become rice, plants etc.  Maharshi
Badarayana says in 3.1.24 anyadhishtitepurvavatabhilapat ("Into what is
owned by another as before[1] as is stated [by Shruti]")  In the same way,
the Jiva doesn't become a plant but is somehow "stuck" to a plant which
presumably has its own Jiva[2].

While attached to the plant, the Jiva suffers the indignity of being eaten
by higher animals.  Eventually it ends up in sperm or ova and becomes born
as some creature which hopefully has enough consciousness to be able to
make better choices in life.[3]

This is why the word "born" is not literally interpreted because a Jiva
leaves the body at death and the plant dies when it is picked which would
make the above scenario impossible.

How did the Jiva end up in this undignified position?  Earlier it was
mentioned because of its bad karma.  Because the Vedas say that it is a
sin to kill another conscious being.  Unfortunately some go one step too
far and say that even the person who performs yagnas according to the
dictates of the shastras suffers that fate.  It is to those people that
3.1.25 is addressed.  The Vedas are the sole source of
knowledge of Dharma.  If you believe them when they say "do not harm any living being"
how can you arbitrarily decide not to  believe them when they say "make
sacrifice"?[4]  Shankaracharya comments that there are many instances
where the shastras make a general commandment or prohibition and then lay
down exceptions and this case is no different.

[1] "as before" in that sutra refers to previous discussion where it was
established that the Jiva travels to the chandraloka or the suryaloka but
it doesn't _become_ the sun or moon.

[2] and how did _that_ jiva get there?  It may "naturally" be in that
stage of bodily evolution.  The Jivas the Upanishad is discussing here
are only those who have fallen because of their bad karma.

[3] This is a novel argument for vegetarianism!  By eating plants we aid
the transmigration of jivas but by eating animals we are retarding their

[4] the modern person of a "progressive" bent may argue that the Vedas do
not teach a unitary doctrine and earlier "barbaric" ideas were superceded
by more "enlightened" ones.  However a review of the historical evidence
shows that neither the sages of the Upanishads did not see their work as
being some kind of "new testament" but rather a continuation and
embellishment of existing themes.  To a man all the interpreters and
commentators have proceeded the same way.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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