Ahimsa and the Vedas

Vivek Anand Ganesan v_ganesan at YAHOO.COM
Mon Dec 20 16:48:33 CST 1999

Hello all :

    Pursuant to the very informative discussion on Vedic rituals,
I have a few questions about the meaning and role of ahimsa.

1)  As I have been taught and led to believe, Ahimsa is an important
    aspect of Vedic Dharma.  And Ahimsa, as understood today, is
    strict vegitarianism coupled with ethical conduct practicising
    non-injury.  I have often heard the quote, "Ahimso paramo dharma".
    How can we reconcile this understanding of Ahimsa with Shrauta
    rituals involving the slaughter of animals?
2)  I remember reading in the bhakti archives a while ago, that even a
    staunch Vaishnava as ShrI RamanujAcharya does not find fault with
    vedic sacrifices that involve animal slaughter.  I believe that he
    claims that the animals do not actually **feel** pain as they are
    given to God.  In fact, they are supposedly "blessed".  What does
    the SmArtha tradition believe?
3)  This question is based upon my personal observation and is very
    specualtive.  If it is baseless, I would be grateful to list
    who correct me.  Is it not true that "ethical ahimsa" became
    important only after the rise of Buddhism and Jainism?  It seems to
    me that after the vehement objections raised by the Buddhists and
    Jains with respect to animal slaughter in Vedic rituals, "Ahimsa"
    became a main issue of Indian ethics.  Furthermore, the association
    of vegetarianism with Ahimsa seems to be a Jain contribution, as
    Buddhists do eat meat.  Even, Gandhiji seems to have been
    by Jainism more than Hinduism in this regard.  Later, during the
    Bhakti era, many bhakti saints adopted vegetarianism ( which was an
    attractive feature of Jainism, I suppose ). For instance, the tamil
    word for vegetarian is literally "shaiva".  I think it is called
    "vaishnava" up north.  Is it possible that our present conception
    ethics and ahimsa is a result of these influences and does not
    reflect the "original" conception of Ahimsa?

Thanks and forgive the rambling.

-Vivek Aanand Ganesan.
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