Some Vedic sacrifices of this century

Sankaran Jayanarayanan kartik at ECE.UTEXAS.EDU
Fri Dec 24 16:28:14 CST 1999


I asked my doubts in this topic to a learned earlier member of this list,
shrI Subhanu Saxena. I received two emails on the subject. The relevant
portions of the emails are attached.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: subhanu saxena <subhanu at>
To: kartik at
Subject: Re: Vedic sacrifices

Please see my responses below

>May I please share it
>with my friends and the readers of the mailing list advaita-l (attributing
>the source to you)?

Please feel free to do so. I am not sure about how much time I would have to
deal with further questions anyone on the list will raise but I will try.

>There are some yaGYas like the agnishhToma which require the killing of
>animals. Is this yaGYa like an *injunction* wherein one is *required* to
>perform this YaGYa? Or is there a certain "goal" to be achieved in the
>performance of this YaGYa, like svarga, better health, etc.?

The MeemAmsa sutras of Jaimini(and also I believe in the srauta sutras)
have the sutra relating to the jyotiSToma and agniSToma yagyas as
"swargakAmo yajeta", meaning one desirous of heaven should perform
sacrifice. The meemAmsakas' view is the that the ultimate goal of properly
performed yagya's was swarga, defined by them as a state of unalloyed
happiness. The word yajeta implies injunction, and the whole basis of
purva meemamsa is that of injunctions guiding actions that lead to heaven.
no prescribed actions, no heaven.

Apastamba Srauta Sutram 10.2.1-5

swargakAmo jyotiSTomena yajeta. ekakAmah sarvakAmo vA. yugapatkAmayet
AhArapRthaktwe vA
vasante jyotiSTomena yajeta
agniSTomah prathama yagyaha
atirArtameke pUrvam samAmananti
vasante vasante jyotiSTomena yajeta. tasya tisro dakhSiNA iti
chhandogabrAmhaNam bhavati

"One who is desirous of heaven should perform the jyotiSToma yagya, whether
entertaining one or many desires. (With many desires) he should proclaim
these simultaneously or separatety at different performances. jyotiStoma
should be performed in spring. agniSToma is the first among yagya's. Some
say that the atirAtra is the first. "One should perform jyotiSToma every
spring.  The dakshina should be three (cows)". So says the brAhmaNa for the

Here,we have to make a distinction between pUrva meemAmsa and uttara
meemAmsa.  The ritualist will tell you the karma phala of performing
agniSToma is swarga, as mentioned above.  The vedantin will tell you that
such karma cannot lead to an eternal state of happiness because of it
springs from an action that is not eternal (ie an act). Therefore, once the
phala of such karma is exhausted, then the performer must return to the
world of samsAra (see muNDaka upanishad).


>I know that Shankara explicitly says that performance of animal sacrifices
>is virtuous. I also know that the goal of all karma according to Shankara
>is chitta shuddhi (as stated in his vivekachuuDAmaNi), but still, this
>surely does not mean that if one fails to perform agnishhToma, one incurs
>Personally, I do no eat meat and would go to as much an extent of avoiding
>any killing as possible. Is it all right to "overlook" performing the
>animal sacrifices? Can you please provide a quote also regarding this?

There is a famous (but long) quote from Shankara's Brahma Sutra bhashyam
wherein he clearly lays out that agnihotra etc have as their purpose to lead
one to the desire for vidya.  I will send you the full quote and translation
in the new year. As such, non perfomance cannot accrue sin in the vedanta
context. Sin is only accrued from non-performance according to the meemamsa
doctrine. Shankara says it is better to perform , but the goal should be to
TRANSCEND such karmas and aim straight at the target of brahmavidya. (I too
am a vegetarian)

We often see people confusing the meemamsa doctrine and vedanta.  This is
because, over the millenia, we have become so infused with the need for
ritual, that we tend to follow it blindly.  It is worth remembering
Kalidasa's verse (spoken in a different context, but equally valid), of
"purANam ityeva na sAdhu sarvam", "just because something is old, it does
not mean it is right".  Advaita requires we use our discriminatory intellect
to separate the real from the false, to identify injunctions as ultimately
only appararent in nature,lying as they do on the pathway to the Supreme,
and not the end destination.




bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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