Yajna and Animal Sacrifice
Some Hindus argue that Yajna never meant animal sacrifice in the sense popularly understood. Yajna in the Vedas meant a noble deed or the highest purifying action. Therefore, there is no justification for beef eating at all according to them.
Adhvaraiti Yajnanaama – Dhvaratihimsaakarmaatatpratishedhah.(Nirukta 2.7)
According to YaaskaAcharya, one of the synonyms of Yajna in Nirukta or the Vedic philology is Adhvara.
Dhvara means an act with himsa or violence. Therefore, a-dhvara means an act involving no himsa or no violence. There isa large number of such usages of Adhvara in the Vedas.
The True Meaning of Dhvara (Violence) and A-dhvara (Non-violence)
The above-mentioned interpretation of A-dhvara (non-violence)is incorrect because the word ‘Adhvar’ has been misplaced and interpreted incompletely. Yaska is merely giving the etymology of the word ‘Adhvar’ and not where it is to be applied and what constitutes violence. To know the true application of the word ‘Adhvar’, we will have to turn to Shatapath Brahman, which gives the complete understanding of why ‘Yajna’ is called ‘Adhvar’. Shatapath Brahman says:
“Once when the gods were engaged in sacrificing, their rivals, the Asuras wished to injure (or make dhvar) them; but, though desirous of injuring them, they were unable to injure them and were foiled: for this reason the sacrifice is called adhvara (‘not damaged, uninterrupted’).”
Thus, the argument of the polemicist turns out to be a deception aimed at fooling those who have no access to the original texts. The passage of Shatapath Brahman makes it clear that ‘Adhvar’ is called so because the priests performing the Yajna did not become victims of violence. It has no connection to the violence of the animals done in the Yajna.
Renowned classical commentator of the four Vedas, SayanaAchary also gives the same reason for calling Yajna as ‘Adhvar’. He says in his comments on Rigveda.(2)
अध्वरं हिंसारहितम् ह्वग्निना सर्वतः पालितं यज्ञं राक्षसादयो हिंसितुं प्रभवंति
“Adhvar is called ‘without violence’ because being protected by Agni on all sides it is uninterrupted by Rakshashas or violent enemies, who are unable to mar it.”
Again we see that Acharya Sayan expresses the same view as that of the Shatapath Brahman i.e. the violence referred in the ‘adhvar’ is not for the sacrificial animal in the Yajna.
Sacrificing an Animal is a New Life for the Sacrificed Animal
Renowned Hindu scholar, Swami Prabhupada, explains the so-called violence in Yajna in the following words: “Although animal killing in a sacrifice is recommended in the Vedic literature, the animal is not considered to be killed. The sacrifice is to give a new life to the animal. Sometimes the animal is given a new animal life after being killed in the sacrifice, and sometimes the animal is promoted immediately to the human form of life.”(3)
Even Manu Smriti echoes the same opinion in a more clear way, as it says:
“Svayambhu (the Self-existent) himself created animals for the sake of sacrifices; sacrifices (have been instituted) for the good of this whole (world); hence the slaughtering (of beasts) for sacrifices is not slaughtering (in the ordinary sense of the word).”(4)
Again Manu Smriti Chapter 5, verse 44 says:
“Know that the injury to moving creatures and to those destitute of motion, which the Veda has prescribed for certain occasions, is no injury at all; for the sacred law shone forth from the Veda.”
Thus, this argument stands nullified and it became clear that the violence on animals in the Yajna is actually no violence.
Animal Sacrifices in Vedas Including Cow
Chapter 24th of the Shukla Yajurveda includes some important points that will help us throw light on the animal sacrifices in the Vedas. This chapter contains an exact enumeration of animals that are to be tied to the sacrificial stakes, with the names of the deities to which they are dedicated. Several of the animals cannot be identified. This entire chapter is a weird puzzle which is difficult to solve for the modern vegetarian Hindus. They are simply unable to explain the coherent meaning of this chapter. You will be amazed to know that even a Vedic scholar like Swami Dayanand is unable to throw any light on it. He merely says that we should know the qualities of each animal by relating to the qualities of the deity to whom they are dedicated. This statement of the Swami is itself a puzzle, as it gives no clear beneficial knowledge to us. Even Pandit Devi Chand, an Arya Samaj scholar, who based his English translation of the Yajurveda on Swami Dayanand’s work, is clueless about the exact meaning of this chapter. He says in the footnote to verse no. 1:
“The exact significance of these animals being attached to the forces of nature is not clear to me.”
Does this mean that no Hindu scholar for thousands of years has been able to understand the meaning of this chapter? I would say that this is not the case. If we go to the Brahmanas and the classical commentators of the Vedas, the puzzle is solved. According to them each animal dedicated to a particular deity in this chapter has to be sacrificed to that deity.(5)
If this view is not accepted as the correct one, then every verse of this chapter would be a question mark with no answer. For example, verse 1 dedicates ‘a cow that slips her calf’ to Indra. But the question is what will Indra do with such a cow? Is Indra going to give a sermon to it? Or is Indra going to punish it? Such questions require satisfactory answers which modern vegetarian Hindus are unable to provide.
The Yajnas include rice and meat of bulls that were cooked and offered to the deity.
अद्रिणा ते मन्दिन इन्द्र तूयान सुन्वन्ति सोमान पिबसि तवमेशाम |
पचन्ति ते वर्षभानत्सि तेषां पर्क्षेण यन्मघवन हूयमानः ||(6)
“Your worshippers express with the stone fast flowing exhilarating Soma-juices for you. You drink them. They roast bulls for you, you eat them when you are invoked, Maghavan, to the sacrificial food.”
This was interpreted by Sayana Acharya as follows:
“You (O Indra), eat the cattle offered as oblations belonging to the worshippers who cook them for you.”
Acharya Sayana explicitly mentions about sacrificing a bull in the introduction to Atharvaveda 9/4/1 as follows:
“The Brahman after killing the bull offers its meat to the different deities. In this hymn, the bull is praised, detailing which parts of the bull are attached to which deity as well as the importance of sacrificing the bull and the rewards of doing the same.”
What is Ashwamedha Yajna?
The ‘Practical Sanskrit English Dictionary’ by V. S. Apte (1890) gives the following meaning of ‘Ashwa-medha’
अश्वः प्रधानतया मेध्यते हिंस्यते अत्र
“A Yajna in which a Horse is primarily sacrificed is called Ashwamedha [a horse sacrifice].”
The dictionary further goes on to say:
“In Vedic times this sacrifice was performed by kings desirous of offspring.”
This statement is right when we turn to Shatapath Brahman 13/1/9/9.
To give readers a brief idea of Ashwamedha Yajna, I will briefly mention the entire ritual based on Hindu texts like Katyayana Srauta Sutra, Apastamba Sutra, etc; but I will not mention the obscene portion of the Ashwamedha ritual as it is irrelevant with the topic at hand.
The horse to be sacrificed is sprinkled with water and the Adhvaryu and the sacrificer whisper mantras into its ear. Anyone who should stop the horse is ritually cursed and a dog is killed symbolic of the punishment for the sinners. The horse is then set loose towards the north-east, to roam around wherever it chooses, for the period of one year (or half a year, according to some commentators). The horse is associated with the sun and its yearly course. If the horse wanders into neighboring provinces hostile to the sacrificer, they must be subjugated. The wandering horse is attended by a hundred young men, sons of princes or high court officials, charged with guarding the horse from all dangers and inconvenience. During the absence of the horse, an uninterrupted series of ceremonies is performed in the sacrificer’s home.
After the return of the horse, more ceremonies are performed that have been omitted here but those who wish to read them can see Shukla Yajurveda Chapter 23; verses 19-31 with the commentary of classical scholars.
Anyway, the validity of the slaughtering cow and bull in the Hindu religion has become clear and obvious due to the evidences and ample proofs that have been presented in this article. And Hindu scriptures have allowed beef eating. We do not know why Hindu brothers insist on their rigid attitude. This article does not intend to invite Hindu brothers to eat beef, it intended only to call them to renounce violence against those who eat meat or beef according to their own faith or religion.On the other hand, we find Muslims patient and tolerant to those who eat pork, which is definitely forbidden in Islam and they never exercise any pressure on the people who eat the pork according to their belief or tradition. Is it reasonable to kill a human being or create serious trouble or sectarian strife because of eating meat? Is not your brother of human being higher and more important than an animal? Is it reasonable to leave slaughtering animals on the grounds of compassion and mercy then you slaughter a human being mercilessly? Is not a human being more deserving of your mercy and tolerance, especially when he eats meat because it is permissible in his religion and faith? Also when people slaughter the animal they slaughter them in the slaughterhouses far from your sights in order to avoid hurting your religious feelings. I think if you ask your own mind far from the dictates of the religious and political leaders you would be more just and tolerant to your human brothers and I am sure that you will find many satisfactory excuses for your brothers of same country and land.
(1)Shatapath Brahman 1/4/1/40.
(3) Bhagavad Gita 18/3.
(4)Manu Smriti, Chapter 5, verse 39.
(5) See: Shatapath Brahmana 13/2/2/1-10
Source: This article has been taken from:islamhinduism.com with modifications.