HINDUISM AND SANATAN DHARMA

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Animal Sacrifice in Ancient India-Not Truth, half knowledge

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Animal sacrifice, called bhuta yajna in Sanskrit is widely practised in Nepal,Bali and certain remote parts of India as part of Hindu rituals.. Most of these practises are associated in Shaktism and in currents of folk Hinduism strongly rooted in local tribal traditions.A Sanskrit term used for animal sacrifice is bali, in origin meaning “tribute, offering or oblation” generically (“vegetable oblations and animal oblations,”)..It is important to note that Hinduism eveolved from ancient times assimilating rituals and traditions from various Indigenous cultures. If Hinduism is a Big Banayan tree – several branches exists with varying traditions which never stick to particular ritual. Aghora sadhus happen to eat dead bodies to reach spiritual peak and follow hard rituals.

Proponents of animal sacrifice usually cite the Rig Veda, the oldest of Hinduism’s revealed scriptures. Certain of its verses could be interpreted to support the practice, but scholars differ: Should those words be taken literally, or do they have a deeper, mystical meaning?

Some Vedic commentators, such as Udgita, Ananda Tirtha, Atmananda and Sayana, refer to Rig Veda verse 10.86.14, in which Indra says, “They cook for me 15 plus 20 oxen,” and verse 8.43.11, which describes Agni as one whose food is the ox and the barren cow. These verses, they say, mean that these animals should be offered in yajnas. Vedic-Agamic scholar and priest Dr. S.P. Sabharathnam Sivachariyar says these verses should not be interpreted literally. He asserts that the true meaning is symbolic: “The tenth mandala of the Rig Veda states that the words of the Veda mantras are concealed words, encapsulating deeper meanings. Therefore the reader should never take the meaning literally.” Hinduism is full of symbolism, perhaps more than any other religion; and Dr. Sabharathnam explains that various animals mentioned in the context of sacrifices are actually representative of our inner faculties, qualities, emotions and external and internal organs. “Killing a horse refers to suppressing the human/animal side of our life-energy and transmuting it to the Divine. Similarly in all other contexts.”

Pandit Vamadeva Shastri amplifies the mystical viewpoint: “The Vedic yajna has an inner side, with the offerings of speech, mind and prana, such as outlined in the fourth chapter of the Gita, and as reflected in many Vedic mantras. The practice of yoga itself arose from the inner sacrifice.”

Along these lines, Sabharathnam offers an alternate translation for one of the above-mentioned verses: “Agni, who maintains the order of the universe and the inner faculties of the human body, makes the ox (pingala nadi, the human masculine-aggressive current) and the cow (ida nadi, the feminine passive-emotional current) his tools and bears the soma-delight (attainable in the sahasrara chakra) on his back (to distribute it to the seekers).” As a whole, he maintains, the hymn is speaking to the aspirant about deeply mystical practices. “No doubt the literal translation starts ‘Agni whose food is the ox and the barren cow…’ but this is not correct according to the context of the hymn.”

The Agamas do not prescribe animal sacrifice. Sabharathnam asks, “How is it that one set of revelations (Agamas) do not speak of animal sacrifice, while another set of revelations (Vedas) from the same Lord could? The Rig Veda itself states that the Veda mantras should be understood against the background of the Agamas. The two sets of scriptures complement each other.”

Vamadeva adds, “It would be wrong to say that the Vedas do not allow any animal sacrifice. However, animal sacrifice was generally regarded as an inferior sacrifice for less-evolved souls, in whom the gunas [qualities] of rajas [agitation] and tamas [lethargy] are still powerful. For those of inner vision, more sattvic [pure] in nature, the animal was symbolic of certain states of mind to be offered to the Deity. So, it is also wrong to say that the Vedas had a high regard for animal sacrifice and thought it to be equal to the other types of sacrifice.”

Sabharathnam remarks, “I am not saying that sacrifices were not conducted externally. The grains, vegetables, plants, sweets and other such items the Vedas enjoin us to sacrifice should be considered representative of the animals. It was never the actual animals that were intended to be sacrificed. It was in this way that the Vedic yajnas were conducted in the earlier periods, before the Brahmanas and Aranyakas were written. Certain Vedic pandits took the literal meaning and wrote treatises prescribing the sacrifice of actual animals. Unfortunately, their writings were widely read, and genuine yajnas came to be considered a lesser form of worship.”

Vamadeva points out the rarity of references to animal sacrifice in the Vedas: “Of substance-based offerings, dairy products like ghee and milk are the most common, and Soma, which usually had a plant basis, is said to be the highest of all offerings. Actual references to animal sacrifices in Vedic texts do exist but are relatively rare. I have found no more than a handful of such potential references in the entire Rig Veda, whereas offerings of ghee, honey and Soma can be found in great abundance.”

According to Sabharathnam, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad established that the Vedic sacrifices are intended to be spiritual, that they do not involve the killing of animals. “In fact, many Upanishads were the result of sages’ efforts to expose the spiritual side of the Vedic yajnas, to be performed internally.”

Phagunadi maintains, “Animal sacrifice is right as per the Vedas. It is discussed in the Mahabharata as well. Orthodox [ancient] Hinduism is completely different than what Hindus practice in India now.”

Swami Harshananda’s A Concise Encyclopaedia of Hinduism offers this opinion: “Sacrificing an animal to please a supernatural Deity is a common feature found in many cultures, including that of Hinduism, during the early part of their development. Though formal animal sacrifices of the early Vedic period gradually lost their importance, due to the reformatory movements of the Upanishadic sages, Jainism and Buddhism, a new type of animal sacrifice got into the fabric of Hinduism during later ages as aboriginal cultures got integrated into the Hindu fold. The Deity was invariably an aspect of Durga or Kali and the rituals were very simple. Buffaloes, goats, sheep and cockerels were the usual sacrificial victims. It was believed that these victims would go to heaven.”

According to Vamadeva, animal sacrifice occurs today not only in Bali but in the Himalayas, Assam and the northeast of India, as well parts of Orissa and Bengal, Nepal and a few places in Panjub.Still Gadhimai in Nepal witness largest slaughter of animals in the name of Hindu religion.

“I am above the weakness of seeking to establish a sequence of cause and effect, between the disaster and the atrocity.”
-Edgar Allan Poe

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This entry was posted on May 7, 2015 by in animal sacrifice, RIGVED, VED, VEDA, VEDAS and tagged , , .

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