Some Vedic sacrifices of this century

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 12 10:24:35 CST 2000

On Tue, 11 Jan 2000 15:59:07 -0600, Sankaran Jayanarayanan
<kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU> wrote:

>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.

 Not so. There is absolutely no question of reconciling shruti with
 smR^iti. Reconciliation is possible ONLY when two or more texts
 at the SAME level of authority seemingly contradict each other.
 Reconciliation cannot be done when one text is at a higher level of
 authority than the others under consideration. In such cases, the
 text at the higher level wins, hands down!

 Back to your specific question on the injunction on the jyotishhToma,
 the smR^iti which says only the wealthy may do it is NOT contradicting
 the shruti. It is explaining the shruti injunction without contradicting
 it. The shruti, in this case, has never said you must do the jyotishhToma
 at all costs such as, for example, when you are seriously ill or in a
 comatose state. The shruti cannot go on exhaustively listing all
 conditions under which you may or may not do the jyotishhToma. It is
 left to the smR^iti and other authoritative sources of dharma to do this.

 Yes, I agree "smR^iti comes in handy while interpreting shruti, and is
 complementary to it" but only as long as the smR^iti does not contradict
 the shruti. If there is a contradiction, the particular text of the
 smR^iti must be ignored. (Other parts of the smR^iti which do not
 contradict the shruti are fine and we accept them.)

>>  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."

 Not by any means. Please read my previous message again. There is no
 mistake at all that the shruti and also as interpreted by the shrauta
 sUtras means actual animals, not animals made of grains. There is no
 possibility that the shrauta shAstras can mean anything other than
 real animals in flesh and blood for the following additional reasons:

 1) The shrauta texts mention prAyashchittas or atonement if the
    sacrificial animal passes urine or excrement during the sacrifice.
    How can this atonement possibly make sense if animals made of
    grains are used? Can a dummy animal made of grain pass urine?

 2) The shrauta texts also mention that "Ajya" or ghee may be used in
   place of the sacrificial animal if the animal gets lost or dies
   before the sacrifice. Again, how can such an injunction refer to
   a dummy animal? Can a dummy animal get lost? May be, but not likely.
   Can it die? Think about it.

 3) The proponents of the "pishhTa-pashu-yaGYas", the Vaishnavas and
    yourself included, overlook one thing. Even when the "pishhTa-pashu"
    (animal made of grain) is used, such a pashu gets done the
    prANa-pratishhThA rite which means you intend the pashu to be filled
    with life. Then you go ahead and "kill" it. By doing this are you
    not, at least in principle, breaking your lofty vow of ahiMsA
    that says "thou shalt not kill."

>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.

 Again, read the arguments I have offered above and in my previous post.

>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.

 The smArta tradition has rejected the pishhTa-pashu-yaGYa principle
 all along.

>>  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.

 This view cannot be defended regardless of whether it is supported by
 the mahAbhArata or not for the reasons I mentioned above. Even if the
 mahAbhArata were to condemn animal sacrifices, its position cannot be
 higher than the brAhmaNa texts of the Vedas and the shrauta texts by
 BodhAyana, ApastaMba, and others, which also qualify as smR^iti. The
 latter texts are more authoritative on *this* issue because they are
 supposed to be texts specifically made for shrauta karmas unlike the
 mahAbhArata which is not specifically about shrauta karmas.

>>  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."

 This is going beyond the scope of this discussion and not relevant.
 I will have to discuss it in a separate thread if no one else is
 willing to do so. It is not only Shankara but also RAmAnuja, Madhva,
 shrIkaNTha, and may be others as well. All these AchAryas are unanimous
 on this issue as indicated by the Brahma sUtra "ashuddhamiti chenna
 shabdAt.h", though they may sharply differ on other issues. Can all
 these AchAryas be wrong? I dont think so.

>> 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?
 It could be the other way round. The mahAbhArata may have influenced
 the Buddhists and they may have misinterpreted it and then influenced


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

Archives :
Help     : Email to listmaster at
Options  : To leave the list send a mail to
           listserv at with
           SIGNOFF ADVAITA-L in the body.

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list