Friday, February 23, 2007

Sacrificial Killing in Vedic Yajnas - Maha Periyval

Sri Kanchi MaaMunivar was camping in Mylapore Sanskrit College, Chennai, in the year 1957, along with his disciple Sri Jayendra Sarawathi SwamigaL. A Vegetarian Conference held at that time in the Adyar Theosophical Society was attended by representatives from all over the world. Resolutions were passed in the conference to the effect that it was a great sin to harm the animals for whatever reason; so flesh eating should be avoided and only vegetarian food should be taken. They had also devised ways to popularise the message of ahimsa and vegetarianism among the general public.
When the conference was over, its president and the chairman of the Theosophical Society Sri Sankara Menan brought a group of people from the western countries for darshan and blessings of Sri Kanchi Acharya MahaSwamigaL, after taking his prior permission. The delegates were keen on meeting the sage.
Their president (Sri Menan) introduced everyone to SwamigaL, telling him the name and country. After this introduction, when he started telling them about the sage, SwamigaL interrupted him and said, "You need not tell much about me. The extent they know about me is enough."
Some of the delegates wanted to ask questions to Swamiji. When he said yes, the very first question that came was "Is sacrificial killing in Vedic Yajnas justified? Is it not a sin?"
SwamigaL said, "Yes, it can be done, it is not a sin!"
At this reply, they all suddenly laughed. Menan was angry that they had insulted the sage. He told them, "I brought you to this sage to seek his blessings. Had I known you would behave with such indecency, I would not have ventured at this task."
SwamigaL pacified Menan. "Don't be angy with them! They have come with a premeditated resolution. They have concluded that jIva himsa is a sin and it should not be done for any reason. Since my reply was contrary to their conclusion, they had this laugh. They never had any thought of insulting me. We should reply to them in the proper manner."
As Menan's anger subsided, SwamigaL continued: "A rowdy kills a man. A law court inquires the incident and a judge gives him a sentence of death. The rowdy committed the sin of killing, say in a fit of passion, with no idea of sin and spiritual rewards. Then isn't it a jIva himsa to give him a death sentence? Do we blame the judge for this action?"
These words from SwamigaL sent them into thinking. After all, they were learned people. Sensing some interesting exposition of truths, they waited eagerly for the next words from Swamiji.
SwamigaL continued: "In a junction of four roads, an ambulance comes first. Since the vehicle is for saving a life, we stop all other vehicles and permit it to pass first. On another occasion, an ambulance and a fire engine come on the road. We let the fire engine pass at the cost of saving one life, because the fire engine is rushing to save many lives. On a third occasion, a fire engine and a military van in an emergency come up. What do we do now? We let the military van go first since the life of a country assumes more importance than the lives of a few people. At such a time, we don't think of voluntarily sacrificing the lives of a few people in the city for the sake of the country.
"A king is conducting a battle to save his country. He kills thousands of people in the battle. If a man who kills another gets a death sentence, how large a sentence should the king be given? But then we garland him for his victory. In all such cases, we justify and accept jIva himsa. We develop our own rules and regulations to guide us in such matters. In the same way, we don't consider the sacrificial killing as sin. The Vedas say that if they are done for the welfare of the world, they are admissible and won't be construed as sin.
"Veda is beginningless. It is like the air that Bhagavan breathes. So both Vedas and the Bhagavan are both eternal.
shastraya ca sukhaya ca.
Vedas and shastra teach only good things. Bhagavan Sri Krishna also says the same thing in his Bhagavat Gita:
"'devAn bhAvayatAnena te devA bhAvayantu vaH parasparaM bhAvayantaH shreyaH param avapsyatha '

"If we do the yajnas and satisfy the devas they give us rains and good life. So the killing done in sacrifices won't be construed as sin.


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