[Advaita-l] Question about vegetarianism

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Mon May 4 00:47:49 CDT 2015

On Mon, 27 Apr 2015, Keshava PRASAD Halemane wrote:

> On the question of meat-eating and animal sacrifice purportedly/allegedly
> sanctioned by the vEdaas, 
> my humble questions are the following: 
> (1) What are those places in the vEdaas if any wherein it
> advocates/sanctions meat-eating and/or animal-sacrifice-in-yajnaas? 

There are too many to count.  I presume you are familiar with the puruSa 
sUkta atleast?  It tells how the priomordial purush was sacrficed to 
create the universe.  Both yatpuruSheNahaviSha... and saptasyAsanna.. in 
that sUkta mention it directly.

We also have secondary evidence from literature ancient and modern such 

1. The Charvakas (atheist materialists) used to ridicule Astikas with this 

pashushchennihitaH svargaM jyotiShTome gamiShyati |
svapitA yajamAnena tatra kasmanna hiMsyate ||

"If a beast slain in the Jyotishtoma [A vedic yajna] rite will itself go to 
heaven, why then does not the sacrificer forthwith offer his own father?"

(see charvakadarshanam in Madhavacharyas' sarvadarshanasamgraha.)

2. Here is a part of manusmrti dealing with allowable and forbidden foods 
(bhakShyAbhakShya) which I had translated during an earlier conversation 
we had on this topic:


3. BrahmasUtra 3.1.25 is ashuddhamitichenna shabdAt
"if you say 'impure'; no from the Veda"

In other words a person cannot say himsaka yajnas are impure because the 
Vedas teach ahimsa because it is the very same Veda that teaches 
non-violence that also teaches that animals should be killed at certain 
points.  In his bhashya Shankaracharya explains that ahimsa is the general 
rule but there is a specific exception in the case of yajnas.

4. The famous kavi Jayadeva seems to think that the Vedas enjoined himsaka 
yajnas and the purpose of the Buddha avatar was to stop them.

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!"

(Gita Govinda, Dashavatara stuti 8)

5. It is related in the life story of the saint Appaya Dikshita that 
when he performed a soma yajna for Chinna Bomma Nayaka the onlookers saw 
the sacrificial animals visibly ascend to swarga.

6. The book "Edifying Parables" contains many discourses by Shringeri 
Jagadguru Swami Abhinava Vidyatirtha.  On page 143 is one called "Combined 
Influence of Many" which is actually about the importance of 
mandirs but begins:

"A Somayaji bought some goats for sacrificing in a Soma Yaga he was about 
to perform..."

And these few examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

There is archaeological evidence too.  For instance a Gupta era 
agnichayana (a kind of vedi in the shape of a bird used in particular 
yajnas) was unearthed at Kaushambi U.P. which used to be a major city in 
ancient times.  Animal bones were found at the site.

I'm not aware of any specific shruti vakya that says eat meat has to be 
eaten though because a portion of of a yajna has to be eaten as prasad by 
the yajamana it is implied.  But why would you even need a book to tell 
you that?  It is obvious by simple observation that the human being is 
omnivorous (Even the most ardent vegetarians have canine teeth for 
example.)  Even amongst Brahmanas those from the North and Bengal etc. eat 
meat and fish.

[On this topic an aside:  Here is a quote from the introduction to 
the Ramakrishna Mission translation of the Bhasha Pariccheda, a standard 
work on tarka shastra studied by Pandits all over India, by a Bengali 
named Vishvanatha Tarkapanchanana Bhattacharya.  "Vishvanatha also wrote 
another work called mamsatattvaviveka--an interesting treatise on smrti. 
The work was written as a result of a controversy with the Pandits of 
Maharashtra with a view to vindicating the custom of meat-eating among 
the Brahmins of Northern India...The author shows vehemance 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."]

> (2) In what contexts/scenarios each of such occurrences appear in the
> vEda-text? 

It is generally the more complex (and optional) shrauta yajnas which 
required an animal sacrifice.  The daily agnihotra does not.  Nor do the 
ishtis perform on new and full moons or the three four-monthly chaturmasya 
yajnas.  Amongst the obligatory grhya rites most do not.  However it was 
obligatory in former ages to offer meat at a shraddha.  (For example see 
paraskara grhya sutra 3.10.48-49.)  Dharmashastras such as dharmasindhu 
say this is kalivarjya.  Advaitins believe we only need to do the nitya 
and naimittika karmas and can ignore the kamya ones but that is not the 
same as trying to pretend such things didn't exist.

> (3) Could there possibly be other interpretations, quite different from what
> may be conveyed through mere word-for-word meanings etc. ? 

Of course.  A sufficiently talented person can torture, er, "interpret" a 
word to mean anything they please like Humpty-Dumpty in "Alice in 
Wonderland."  Or for instance:

> let me share just one of the places i have been looking
> at which presents the material in a way that seems to be in line with
> the general orientation of my inner conscience; the URL is
> - Misconceptions on Vedas - VedicGranth.Org

This is nastika Arya Samajist drivel.  Utterly worthless for you.  It is 
however an apt illustration of why "inner conscience" (translation: 
whatever feels good to me.) is not a pramana for Dharma.

> The same kind of questions as above may kindly be looked into the acceptance
> or otherwise of food items like onion/garlic/etc.

It's the wrong line of reasoning.  What you should be asking is "What do 
the elders and other eminent people do?"  We find that they avoid onions 
and garlic but do not consider it as much of a sin as eating meat.

> Also, is it essential to simply go by 'shishTaachaara' ('tradition'?)
> without checking on possible sanction or otherwise from the vEdaas? 

A shista is someone who lives according to the teachings of the Vedas so 
why would there be any discrepancy between the two?  The shruti itself 
gives the pramana for shistachara.  TaittarIyopaniShad shikShAvalli 
(1.11.3) says:

atha yadi te karmavichikitsA vA vR^ittavichikitsA vA syAt | ye tatra 
brAhmaNAH saMmarshinaH ||  yuktAH AyuktAH | alUkShA dharmakAmAH syuH | 
yathA te tatra varteran | tathA tatra vartethA ||

"Now if there is a doubt about karma or a doubt about conduct the 
Brahmanas who are competent to judge [such questions], joined [or focused 
on dharma] and not joined [or swayed by public opinion], not harsh, not 
overcome with passion, as they behave so should you behave."

On Tue, 28 Apr 2015, Keshava PRASAD Halemane via Advaita-l wrote:

> Is it not that the first thing to be cleared is whether the vEdaas/Sruti
> advocates/sanctions/tolerates/forbids meat-eating & animal-sacrifice, or
> whether it could be that such interpretations are indeed erroneous
> (whatever be the reasons thereof); right?

On what basis could one make the "right interpretation"?  Just "it feels 
good to me" (in which case why even bother with the fig leaf of 
following shastras) or something more substantial?  If so, what?

On Tue, 28 Apr 2015, Chandrasekhar S via Advaita-l wrote:

> I dont understand why eating meat or not eating should be a serious
> topic in a forum advanced teachings of advaitha are discussed.

Well as mentioned previously Bhagavan sutrakara seems to think a related 
topic is worthy of Vedantic discussion so why not?  And in general people 
(most definitely myself included) are only in the position to discuss 
advanced teachings because someone discussed basic teachings with them 
in the path.  So we should have some sympathy for Keshava Prasad.  I did 
not detect any insincerity or ulterior motive in him asking about this.

> Veda in general talks about only Nithya and Naimithika karmas as an
> injunction.  All other actions are left to individual discretion

This is true but requires some clarification.  According to the Purva 
Mimamsakas whose view on this Advaitins follow in the main, _every_ act 
can be connected to vedokta karma in some way.  Civil law?  You need money 
to give as dakshina to the rtviks in a yajna.  Adoption?  You need a son 
to perform the shraddha.  Even when the upanishads talk of the self, PM 
says it is only praise of the yajamana.  (Advaita Vedanta rejects that 
bit.)  So food too has a connection to yajna in the form of prasad.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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