You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : July 1998

Re: use of silk etc.,

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_be.com)
Date: Wed Jul 29 1998 - 11:51:38 PDT

Parthasarati Dileepan wrote:
> In Srimad BG our Lord Himself urges Arjuna to enter the 
> battle and provide extreme _himsai_ to his near and dear 
> ones, let alone some unknown animal.

I do not see how it follows that because Krishna urged
Arjuna to wage war in a particular situation, under a particular
set of rules, with people ready to do battle, it then behooves
one to rationalize harming an animal.  In fact, ahimsA is 
extolled as a great virtue at least 2 or 3 times in the Gita.

In the Mahabharata, of which the Gita is the essence, it is
very clearly stated, "ahimsA paramo dharma" -- non-injury is
the greatest dharma, and in the bRhad-AraNyaka-upanishad it
is stated that one should never hurt any creature, the exception
being the Vedic sacrifice.

> Further, our own 
> Sri Ramanuja says that animal sacrifice as in Agnishomiya 
> is good for the animal.  Ref: Sri Rmaanuja Githa Bhashya 
> Chapter 2, Verse 31.

And while Ramanuja did say this, one should ponder whether
the acharya himself ever sacrificed an animal, or after doing
so, ate its remains.  I seriously doubt it.  Ramanuja's 
adherence to the validity of animal sacrifice is not so much
a commandment that we perform the same, but belief in the
validity of the Vedic method for some purpose.  Anything that
can be achieved by animal sacrifice can be achieved by non-
violent worship.  Further, the very thought of harming even
a plant, even out of "AcArya-kainkarya" (service to one's guru)
would cause the venerable Kuratt-Alvan to faint.  It is said
that Alvan would faint at seeing someone cut down a banana
tree for its leaves, in utter sympathy for the plant.

> Then, we have the examples of Guhan and Dharmavyadhar.
> Dharmavyadhar says,
> 
> "The one who consumes meat after 
> offering it to Devas and Pithrus will 
> not incur any sin."

We have to make a serious distinction between "no sin" and
the "right thing to do".  There is a difference. There are many
things that are not sinful -- selfless action of any sort does
not incur sin.  One can kill an innocent someone without any 
self-interest; this may not be sinful, but it certainly isn't
the right thing to do.  The Gita and the Bharata can be easily
misunderstood to mean that cold-blooded, calculated murder
is OK, but a crime of passion is not, because the former is
selfless but the latter is not! This could not be further from
the truth.

> Thus, there is no blanket injunction
> against himsai as in Buddism and Jainism.

Yes there is! At all costs we are to avoid violence --
except when it is absolultely mandatory to preserve a higher
good. In this context, Vedic sacrifice is no longer necessary,
and while not sinful, is deprecated.  Waging war, while it
may not be sinful, is not the right thing to do when the same
can be accomplished at lesser cost by peaceful means.

> Please permit me to present another angle.  Those who offer
> meat to the Lord and then consume it as "prasadham" is a lot
> better off than those who live as strict vegetarians without
> ever touching even eggs, but have no time for perumaaL.  

What about those who engage in "bhUta-kainkarya", and avoid meat,
without thinking about God too much, but those who slaughter animals
mercilessly, and offer a little bit to God to appease their
conscience? I would rather spend time with the former, as they
are selflessly worshipping some mode of God in truth.

We can talk all we want about lions, but I refuse to believe
that it is the natural state of some human beings to consume
meat, and that it therefore should be tolerated.  There is much
evidence in sAstra against such a position.

> In summary, please consider the possibility that it is possible
> for prapannas to use silk for the pleasure our Lord Sriman Narayana.

We can rationalize all that we like, just because it has
tradition or the world's opinion in its favor.  But I find it
very hard to accept that SrIman nArAyaNa is happy with us causing
unnecessary harm to thousands of His creatures, very often for us
to "prove" our devotion by spending more money.  

Mani

P.S. It should be noted that Sri Madhvacharya believed that
grain models of animals could be used in sacrifices instead
of real animals, and that this was the better way of conducting
a Vedic sacrifice.