[Advaita-l] vedic yajna

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Wed Nov 30 09:22:00 CST 2011

> I am repeating earlier statements. We have to follow Sruti keeping
> respect for Desha and Kala Dharma also. 

This post is meant primarily to address Sri Venkatesh Murthy's points, in the
course of which Sri Ravi Chandrasekhar's points will also get addressed. I
hope this will be my last post on this thread and that we can move on to
matters more pertinent to advaita vedAnta.
1. Yes, ahimsA is a great ideal that we should all incorporate into our lives.
But this does not mean that one interprets the veda as and how one pleases.
It also does not mean that we can cast doubt on SankarAcArya's explanation
with some weak appeal to his having taken to saMnyAsa directly from the
brahmacaryA stage. That is my foremost objection to Sri Venkatesh Murthy's
2. Yes, SishTAcAra is to be followed, and Sri Murthy, you have done a great
job citing some names. However, your attitude towards the entire issue of
dharma, the meaning of the upanishad and bhAshya, the role of deSa and
kAla, has several internal contradictions. Dharma, or righteous conduct, is to
be decided with respect to deSa and kAla, and SishTa-s are one's best guides
in this. The intrinsic meaning of the veda and the bhAshya are, however, not
deSa-kAla dependent. If you have a doubt about what a particular sentence
means, then by all means approach SishTa-s to get instruction and clarification.
Do not decide, a priori, that such and such is the right meaning and then make
blanket statements that make no sense.
3. Let me give you an example of the internal contradictions in your perspective.
You said that the word aghniyAH in the very first yajur vAkya tells us not to kill
cows (or any member of the bovine species). You also agreed that in times
past, the meat of ukshA and Rshabha (bulls) were sacrificed and consumed
and that goat meat should be substituted, or better still, meat should be done
away with. You have also said that what the veda says is independent of yuga
restrictions. Therfore, you have said that at all times, from kRta to kali yuga,
the meaning of aghniyAH means that no animal should be killed, whether for
a vaidika ritual or otherwise. By this, you have accused (a) SankarAcArya of
not taking the force of aghniyAH into account in his comments on the bR.Ar.up.
passage in question, and (b) the entire history and tradition of Srauta sacrifices
and dharmaSAstra-s of contradicting the very first few words of the yajurveda.
Thereby, you are accusing every adhvaryu in every sacrifice in history of having
committed himsA to the sacrificial animal. Please ask yourself whether this
contradiction lies in your view of the matter or in the entire tradition of the veda
and Srauta/gRhya yajna-s. You seem to want to overlook your own internal
contradictions by talking of the tapasyA of Rshi-s in earlier times and our current
inability to do the same. The unsaid assumption in your attitude is that the tapo-
bala of the Rshi-s somehow excused or expiated the sins they committed by
eating meat. My point is that it was not a sin in the first place, and that you have
misunderstood the meaning of the word aghniyAH in the yajur-veda, when you
take into account the proper context of yajna, medha and the consumption of
the mAMsa of the paSu.
4. The only way you can walk out of this is to claim that animals were never
sacrificed and that all references to mAMsa, go, ukshA, Rshabha, aSva, aja etc.
are actually to plants/herbs/juices/soups/puddings, much like what Pt. Haridas
Sastri argues in his review cited by Rajaram on this list. If you do, then at the
very least, you have to give up your understanding of what the past practice was
and what the current substitution needs to be. You will have to do a lot of special
pleading like this Sastriji does, e.g. in the bR.Ar.up passage that we have been
discussing, mAMsa is the fleshy portion of a fruit or other plant part, whereas in
the mahAbhArata description of rantideva's kitchen, mAMsa is pAyasam and
elsewhere it is something else. Anything but the direct meaning of the word as
has been understood for centuries on end. Take your pick. And of course, you
will be forced to agree that all the smRti statements about yuga-dharma for the
kali age are indeed meaningless, given that according to this highly creative
reinterpretation, no animal was supposedly sacrificed even in kRta, tretA and
dvApara yuga-s. Is that really the case? 
5. Moreover, you seem to be under the mistaken notion that all that I have said
on this list on this issue is somehow an argument in support of meat eating (or
beef eating in particular) on a regular basis today. It is not. I am not at all saying
that it is okay to chow down on a burger or steak, merely to satisfy one's hunger,
without regard for the cruelty involved in the process. However, I distinguish the
vaidika ritual context clearly from our usual secular lives. Even within the vaidika
context, this particular case is a kAmya karmA, not nitya or naimittika karmA.
There is no vaidika injunction that everyone should do this. And even with this
kAmya karmA, there are five possibilities, depending on the particular icchA of
the parents-to-be, four out of which involve no meat. However, the fifth instance
definitely calls for it. All that I have emphasized all along is that the words ukshA
and Rshabha in the bR.Ar.up. refer to youthful bull and older bull. The upanishad
and its bhAshya should be understood properly and their meanings should not be
twisted to suit one's convenience. The mAMsa in question here is definitely beef,
particularly from the male of the species, but it is not veal. The mAMsa is question
here is supposed to be consumed by both husband and wife, in a ritual context,
prior to conception and it has nothing to do with diet and nutrition in pregnancy.
These sorts of supposedly scientific explanations ultimately trivialize the veda 
and will not be acceptable to anyone who is moderately familiar with the details
of the vaidika ritual tradition. 
6. All that said, finally, if today, someone wants to observe the ritual and hope
for a son who is a master of four veda-s, samitiMgama etc., by all means, go
to the SishTa-s and get proper guidance. I don't think anybody on this list is
qualified in this matter, and personally, I can't presume to speak on this count.
However, I can guarantee that if you were to go to a traditional SishTa and
ask, you will first be asked about your adhikAra to do the rite as described.
For example, have you established the three vaidika ritual fires in your home
and are you doing the agnihotra as prescribed? Are you strict in observing the
anushThAna-s that have been prescribed? How much of the veda have you
yourself mastered properly? The answer to what should be done and how it
should be done today will depend a lot on what answers you can give to these
questions. A desire is a necessary condition to do a particular vaidika kArya,
but it does not automatically confer upon you the qualification to do it. That
is why alternative means have been suggested by the learned, over time. That
is how deSa and kAla have a role in modifying the dhArmika course of action,
not in reinterpreting the veda and the bhAshya-s as merrily as one pleases. 

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