Some Vedic sacrifices of this century

Sankaran Jayanarayanan kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU
Tue Jan 11 15:59:07 CST 2000

On Mon, 10 Jan 2000, Anand Hudli wrote:


>  More seriously, it is  commonly acknowledged that 1) shruti, 2) smR^iti,
>  3) conduct of good people, and 4) one's own noble desire, intuition or
>  conscience, are the four pillars of dharma.

Yes. The BaudhAyana dharma shAstra explicitly lays down the first 3 points
(shruti, smR^iti, shishhTaachaara: the conduct of shishhTas -- those who
are well-versed in the Vedas) as the correct dhArmic codes.

> And each of these is more
>  powerful than the succeeding one. When there is a conflict between
>  factor i, 1 <= i <= 3, and factor (i+1) on any issue, factor i is
>  declared the winner and its dictates must be followed. It also follows
>  that whatever the shruti says overrides whatever any other source of
>  dharma may say to the contrary.

But when shruti says,"vasante vasante jyotishhaa yajeta," this must be
interpreted as an injunction only for those who have the available
finances to perform the yaGYa. The additional clause "only for those who
have the necessary financial backing" comes from smR^iti, not shruti
itself. One should accept smR^iti in this regard, and not enforce the rule
"perform the jyotishhaa sacrifice even if you're stuck with poverty,"
taking shruti to be the chief authority and saying that smR^iti
contradicts it by imposing the injunction only on the wealthy!

Therefore, smR^iti comes in handy while interpreting shruti, and is
complementary to it.

I'm only saying that one must consider smR^iti as an aid to understanding
the import of shruti statements, and not take shruti at face value when
smR^iti *seems to* contradict shruti. Rather, one should reconcile the
so-called contradictions.

>  This being the case, the shruti clearly declares animal sacrifices
>  by vAkyas such as:
>  agnIshhomIyaM pashumAlabheta,
>  pashumAlabhya puroDAshaM nirvapati,
>  tArpyeNAshvag.hM saMGYapayanti,
>  By means of clear words such as "pashu" (animal), Alabheta (should
>  be sacrificed/killed), saMGYapayanti (should be killed), etc., the
>  shruti makes it known to us that animals are to be killed in certain
>  yaGYas. Again, a YaGYa is also called "adhvara." The word adhvara
>  is the opposite of "dhvara" which arises from the root "dhvR^i" and
>  means "killing." Therefore, the word "adhvara" is interpreted as
>  saying that though there is killing of animals in a yaGYa, this is
>  really NOT killing, NOT hiMsA.

But even Shankara concedes in his BSB that animal sacrifices involve
injury to animals -- and it is in spite of this fact that he defends the
practise by saying this is virtuous since it is enjoined by the Vedas. The
MahAbhArata also says that such sacrifices are injurious to animal life.

On the other hand, if what you have said is read in conjunction with the
MahAbhArata, it can be interpreted as, "Only grains should be used in the
place of the real animal, and *therefore* this does not result in any
killing or harm to animals."

I agree it sounds a little contrived :-), but I have the complete support
of MB in this regard. Note the quite deliberate manner in which the MB
takes the word "aja" -- clearly meaning "goat" -- to mean "grain," thus
leading one away from the sacrifice of real animals. It is obvious that
VyAsa is not opposed to such sacrifices, and supports this interpretation.

A friend told me that appayya diikshita rejects the view that grains can
be used in lieu of animals. Maybe someone who has access to his writings
can help clarify this point.


>  It is important to note that the great AchAryas such as Shankara,
>  RAmAnuja, and even Madhva, as far as I know, endorse the validity
>  of animal sacrifices in their respective sUtra bhAshhyas. Surely,

The sacrifice of real animals has been defended by many in the advaita
tradition. That it is dhArmic to kill animals in the agnishhToma yaGYa
is clear.

I'm only trying to see if it is possible to defend the view that grains
can be used in the place of real animals. That this view has been defended
in the MahAbhArata is also very clear.

>  these AchAryas would have considered a great number and variety of
>  sources, including the 'bhArata, before they commented on "ashuddhamiti
>  chenna shabdAt.h"

Shankara's opinion on dharma is not an absolute in the advaita tradition.
An example is given by Sengaku Mayeda in his book "A thousand teachings,"
a translation of Shankara's upadeshasAhasrii. In his notes to the second
verse of the prose part, Mayeda writes,"In Shankara ad BrihadaaraNyaka
Upanishhad.h (3,5,1;4,5,15), Shankara definitely states that only a
Brahmin can be a saMnyAsin. Here in the Upadeshasaahasrii he excludes all
the classes except Brahmin. It is to be noted here that in his vArTTika on
his teacher's commentary of Brh. Up. (3,5,1), Sureshvara rejects
Shankara's view and that in his commentary on Sureshvara's vArTTika,
AnandaGYAna quotes passages from the MahAbhArata to support that Kshatriya
can enter the ascetic life."

> It is more likely that giving up of animal sacrifices
>  came about under the nonVedic influence of the Buddhists and Jainas.

I don't see why, unless you're implying that the MahAbhArata itself shows
Buddhist influence?

>  Anand


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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