[Advaita-l] Animal sacrifice is black karma

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Thu Jan 27 12:38:49 CST 2005

On Thu, 27 Jan 2005, Raghavendra N Kalyan wrote:

> Namaste,
> While we are at it, Sankara considers animal sacrifice as black karma.
> This view is based on his commentary on the yoga sUtras of patanjali.
> This commentary (vivaraNa) appears to be a genuine work of Sankara as no
> scholar worth his reputation found any reason to question its
> authenticity.

On the other hand, the vivarana was not included in the Vani Vilasa
edition of the complete works of Shankaracharya.  Indeed I believe the
first editions of this work only came out relatively recently.  It seems
strange that such a major work of Shankaracharya would have been totally
forgotten.  It is also strange that none of his disciples have quoted from
it even though there are many instances where yoga is discussed.

On the third hand Shankaracharya does I believe quote from the Yogasutras
in the Gita and Brahmasutra bhashyas so I suppose it is not out of the
question he could have composed a yogasutra bhashya.

> While commenting on the yogasUtra 4.7 (or 4.8, I dont
> remember), Sankara says that since animal sacrifice involves causing
> pain, it must have its own negative consequences apart from positive
> consequences like heaven which are mentioned in the vedas. An analogy
> for this dual causality is eating which gives pleasure and also provides
> for subsistence. The animal sacrifice is classified as a black karma by
> Sankara. He specifically mentions the jyotistoma and agnistomiya
> sacrifices here.

This is indeed the classic Samkhya/Yoga position but see Brahmasutra
3.1.25, ashuddhimiti chenna shabdAt.  (If it is argued "impure" no,
because of shruti.)

The opponent says that because the Vedas teach ahimsa, killing of animals
for sacrifice is a sin.  Shankaracharya says you cannot rely on the Vedas
as your authority and then use them to contradict themselves.  The correct
interpretation is that ahimsa is a general rule, but killing in sacrifices
is an exception to that general rule.

> It doesn't appear that there would be a reason for an serious advaitin
> (or more generally, a vedantin) to do animal sacrifice. That would
> probably be on the list of a purva mimamsaka.

I want to clarify one thing:

Kartik wrote:

> But there are nitya karmas that require animal sacrifice and therefore
> meat-eating. How can one take the vow of abstention from meat-eating
> and fail to perform the nitya karmas?

Actually the animal sacrifices are all kamya and hence optional.  So even
the karmayogi can abstain from rhinoceros with a clean conscience :-)

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a boy! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/nilagriva/

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