Some Vedic sacrifices of this century

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Sun Dec 26 13:18:50 CST 1999

Sankaran Jayanarayanan wrote:

>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.?

 1) There are many yajnas, including many kAmya yajnas which are performed
     with a desire for some result. The difference between mImAMsakas and
    advaitins is that the latter believe that peformance of nitya and
    naimittika karmas should not be given up unless one is in sannyAsa
    and that the kAmya karmas may be given up.
    The important question, therefore, becomes: what are these nitya and
    naimittika karmas for each station in life, other than sannyAsa.

 2) In trying to answer this question, we have run into another question
    "are there some yajnas that involve killing animals and that are
     also obligatory, ie nitya?" So we are trying to make a linkage
    between nitya karmas and yajnas that involve killing animals.
   Implicit in this attempt to make this linkage is the (erroneous)
   notion that killing animals in whatever context is hiMsA and so we
   have to be careful to avoid yajnas that involve animal killing.
   In my opinion, this linkage between nitya karmas and yajnas involving
   animals is not well founded. There does not seem to be any such
   "criterion of ahiMsA" based on which yajnas have been recommended
   as nitya, obligatory.

 3) Nevertheless, it appears that there is a  criterion for deciding
   whether a recommended yajna becomes obligatory or not. And this
   criterion is whether one has the resources and logistics available
   to perform the yajna in question. For example, it takes 16 R^itviks
   who are all well versed in their respective Vedas to perform the
   agnishhToma with the yajamAna, the Sacrificer. And needless to say,
   it takes a lot of financial backing to do such a Yajna on a regular
   basis. What can one does not enough financial strength to do a

 4) Therefore, I feel we should approach this issue from a viewpoint
    of resource availability and financial conditions, rather than
    link it to the vegetarian/nonvegetarian issue. To make this
    point I have collected some quotes from the Manu and the
    YAGYavalkya smR^itis. I have also given the popular commentary
    mitAxarA with translation for two of the relevant verses in
    the yAGYavalkya smR^iti. These texts seem to indicate that
    there are some yajnas, including soma and pashu yajnas that
    require killing of animals, which are obligatory if one has
    the financial capability to do them.

 5) The following are from the Manu smR^iti:

 agnihotraM cha juhuyaadaadyante dyunishoH sadaa |
 darshena chaardhamaasaante paurNamaasena chaiva hi ||
 sasyaante navasasyeshhTyaa tathaartvante dvijo.adhvaraiH |
 pashunaa tvayanasyaadau samaante saumikairmakhaiH || (4.25-26)

 A dvija (twice-born one) should always perform the agnihotra at the
 beginning or end of day and night (twice a day), the darsha-pUrNamAsa
 sacrifice (ishhTi) at the end of each fortnight, the (AgrayaNa) ishhTi
 after the harvest of the new crop, the ChaturmAsya sacrifices at the
 end of the seasons (every four months), the animal sacrifice (nirUDha-
 pashubandha) at the beginning of each ayana (the winter and summer
 solstices), and the soma-yAga at the end of each year.

 The frequency of the various sacrifices are as follows:

    agnihotra - twice a day
    darsha-pUrNamAsa ishhTi - every fortnight (every half lunar month)
    AgrayaNa ishhTi - after the harvest of new crop
    chAturmAsya ishhTi - every four months
    nirUDha-pashu yajna - at the winter and summer solstices, ie. once
                          every six months
    soma-yAga       -   every year

 ishhTiM vaishvaanariiM nityaM nirvapedabdaparyaye |
 kL^iptaanaaM pashusomaanaaM nishhkR^ityarthamasaMbhave || 4.27

 If performance of the animal and soma yajnas is not possible,
 then he (the dvija) should always offer the VaishvAnarI ishhTi
 when the year changes, as an atonement for having omitted (the
 performance of the pashu and soma yajnas.)

 6) The YAGYavalkya smR^iti, which is also important due to the
 popular commentary mitAxarA of ViGYAneshvara, has this to say:

 traivArshhikAdhikAnno yaH sa hi somaM pibed.hdvijaH |
 prAksaumikIH kriyAH kuryAdyasyAnnaM vArshhikaM bhavet.h || 124 ||

 The dvija who has enough to eat for more than three years should
 drink soma (ie. perform the soma-yAga). The dvija who has enough
 to eat for a year should do the rites prior to the soma-yAga, namely
 the agnihotra, darsha-pUrNamAsa, AgrayaNa, pashu, and chAturmAsya.

 pratisaMvatsaraM somaH pashuH pratyayanaM tathA |
 kartavyAgrayaNeshhTishcha chAturmAsyAni chaiva hi ||

 VijnAneshvara's mitAxarA :

  saMvatsare saMvatsare somayAgaH kAryaH | pashuH pratyayanaM ayane ayane
  daxiNottarasaMGYite nirUDhaH pashuyAgaH kAryaH | tathA pratisaMvatsaraM
  vA "pashunA saMvatsare saMvatsare yajeta shhaTsu shhaTsu vA
  iti baudhAyanasmaraNAt.h | AgrayaNeshhTishcha sasyotpattau kartavyA |
  chAturmAsyAni cha pratisaMvatsaraM kartavyAni || 125 ||

  Every year a soma-yAga must be performed. A nirUDha-pashu (animal) yAga
  must be performed in the daxINAyana and uttarAyaNa (the six month periods
  during  which the sun moves south or north). Or (the nirUDha pashu yAga)
  can be done every year as per) the smR^iti of BodhAyana "one should offer
  the animal sacrifice every year or every six months according to some."
  At the production of new grains, the AgrayaNa ishhTi is to be done.
  The four-monthly ChAturmAsya sacrifices are be done every year (at the
  end of every four months.)

  Now we come to an important verse in the YAGYavalkya smR^iti:

  eshhAmasaMbhave kuryAdishhTiM vaishvAnarIM dvijaH |
  hInakalpaM na kurvIta sati dravye phalapradaM ||

 VijnAneshvara's mitAxarA :

  eshhAM somaprabhR^itInAM pUrvoktAnAM nityAnAM kathaMchidasaMbhave
  tatkAle vaishvAnarImishhTiM kuryAt.h | kiMcha yo .ayaM hInakalpa uktaH
  sati dravye .asau na kartavyaH | yachcha phalapradaM kAmyaM
  taddhInakalpaM  na kurvIta na kartavyamiti || 126 ||

  If these nitya (obligatory) yajnas such as soma, described in the
  previous  (verse) are somehow impossible to perform, one should perform
  the vaishvAnarI  ishhTi. Further, one who has sufficient resources,
  should NOT perform this  optional rite  (the vaishvAnarI) (but should
  do the regular soma and other  yajnas).  Also, (one who has enough
  resources) must not perform the optional  rite instead of a kAmya yajna.

 7) The shrauta sUtras do accept that a mAnasika yaGYa (a mentally
    performed YaGYa) is better than an actually performed one. This form
    of YaGYa is difficult to do (even mentallY) unless one is
    knowledgeable about each and every detail of the YaGYa.


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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