[Advaita-l] Advaitic Foods

Sunil Bhattacharjya sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
Sat Jan 1 16:26:31 CST 2011

Dear Jaldharji,

In Mahabharata Bhishma (an avatara of a Vasu) that hypocrites only offer meat in the sacrifices and this means that offering meat was a ruse to eat meat. This does not mean that Bhishma was advocating vegetarianism. Even in Jainism the Bhagavati sutra tells a different story.


Sunil KB 

--- On Sat, 1/1/11, Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com> wrote:

From: Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Advaitic Foods
To: "A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta" <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Date: Saturday, January 1, 2011, 11:37 AM

On Fri, 17 Dec 2010, Shrisha Rao wrote:

> El dic 16, 2010, a las 2:53 p.m., Satish Arigela escribió:

>> brAhmaNa-s refraining from eating meat is more because of bauddha and jaina influence.
> That is certainly the refrain of modern Indologists who wish to minimize the worth of the Vaidika traditions and ascribe all good qualities to the Judeo-Christian faiths as far as possible, or at least to Buddhism and Jainism where not.  However, it is not correct in any obvious sense. Buddhists have never been vegetarians themselves -- the Buddha himself is said (by Buddhists) to have died by choking on a bone in his food, and Buddhists have always eaten all kinds of flesh, as may be seen even today.  The Buddhists criticized animal sacrifices as part of their all-round condemnation of Vedic rites, but this was not because of their concern for the pain and suffering of animals.

I am inclined to agree with you for the reasons you mention.  In particular we need to emphasize that Buddhist criticism of yajnas is part of a critique of _all_ karma not just violent types.  In their philosophy that "cruelty" occurred is _evidence_ of the invalidity of ritual not the cause of it.

However I would like to point out that the notion that Buddhists were some kind of proto-animal rights activists is not entirely a Western invention.

In the Dashavatara Stuti in the Gita Govinda of Kavi Jayadeva, there is the following verse:

nindasi yaGYavidherahaha shrutijAtam sadayahR^idaya darshitapashughAtam |
keshava dhR^itabuddhasharIra jaya jagadIsha hare ||

"You vehemently criticised the Yajna vidhis found in Shruti, your heart filled with compassion at the sight of animals being slaughtered. Thus Keshava took the form of Buddha. victory to Hari, Lord of the World!"

Jayadeva lived in the same time and place (13th century Bengal/Orissa) as the last remnants of Indian Buddhism.  The view expressed is the party line of "reformist" and philobuddhist Hindus to this day and if anything more Western scholars uncritically accept them than vice versa.

Even more relevant to the subject at hand is an interesting fact about Vishvanatha Tarkapanchana Bhattacharya.  He was a Nayaiyika of Bengali origin who lived in Kashi in in the 17th century.  He is the author of the Siddhanta Muktavali or BhAShA pariccheda which is the first or second introductory work on tarkashastra read by students of this shastra even today.  In the introduction to the Ramakrishna Mission edition of the BhAShA pariccheda, Prof. Satkari Mukherji writes:

"Vishvanatha also wrote another work called mAMsatattvaviveka -- an interesting treatise on smR^iti.  The work was written as a result of a controversy with the pandits of Maharashtra with a view of vindicating the custom of meat-eating among the Brahmanas of North India....The author shows vehemence in his advocacy of the custom, which prevails particularly in Bengal, and ridicules the South Indian pandits, who deprecate meat-eating, as the followers of the Buddhist tenets."

Curiously Vishvanatha was a Vaishnava.  His works all begin with mangalacharana to Krishna Bhagavan and he lived the last years of his life in Vrndavan.  Yet he doesn't seem to have considered vegetarianism to be a necessary part of his Vaishnavism.  (I was also amused to see the Gaudiya Vaishnava penchant for accusing their opponents of being Buddhists is not restricted to Advaitins. :-)

> With the Jaina tradition there is the actual practice of vegetarianism and concern for the suffering of animals, but there is no significant scholarly basis (the absurd fantasies of people like Zydenbos notwithstanding) to say that said tradition has had a significant influence on the Vaidika-s.  There is sufficient reason to hold that the Vaidika ethos is sui generis.

Yes.  Look at Brahmasutra 3.1.25 ashuddhamiti chet na shabdAt. Shankaracharya in his bhashya says it defends the validity of the himsaka yajnas because they are taught by the Vedas against an opponent who argues that the Vedas teach ahimsa on the grounds that it is contradictory to quote the authority of Shruti with one hand and deny it with the other. Inter alia it shows that there was a critique of animal sacrifices from within the astika tradition not just from the nastikas.

-- Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
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