[Advaita-l] Animal Sacrifice

S.N. Sastri sn.sastri at gmail.com
Wed Jan 4 23:29:36 CST 2006

Sankara has expressed his views on animal sacrifice in his commentary on
brahmasUtra 3.1.25- "aSuddham iti cet na, Sabdaat"-  After raising the
question whether animal sacrifice is impure and evil, Sankara says: "It is
not so, because knowledge of dharma and adharma is derived solely from the
scriptures. The scriptures alone are the source for knowing what act is
virtuous and what is not. Dharma and adharma are not matters which can be
known through the senses. They are not the same for all places, times and
situations. A deed that is virtuous in a particular place, time and
situation may be the opposite in another place, time and situation. It is
declared in the scriptures that the jyotishToma sacrifice, which involves
killing of an animal, is a virtuous deed and so it cannot be said to be
impure (sinful). The general rule is that injury should not be caused to any
creature; but there is the exception in the form of the sruti statement,
"One should immolate an animal for agni and soma". Therefore Vedic rites are
pure (virtuous), since they are practised by the virtuous and are not
denigrated". Sankara did not give any symbolic meaning to animal sacrifice.
That has been done by modern scholars.

It will be seen from the above that animal sacrifice is sanctioned by the
Vedas. Sankara makes a specific reference to the fact that a particular
order has been laid down in the Vedas for the cutting of the various parts
of the sacrificed animal and offering them as oblation into the sacrificial
fire. See his statement in his commentary on brahmasUtra 1.1.1: "And no
sequence is meant here between these two like the procedure laid down in the
matter of taking up the heart, etc". Specifications about the pole to which
the sacrificial animal is to be tied are also given in the Vedas; the pole,
called 'yUpa' should be made of khAdirA wood and should be fashioned with an
octagonal shape. Thus elaborate details are lad down in the Vedas on how the
sacrifice should be performed.


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