2 – The Hindu View of Food and Drink: A critique – Ganesh Krishnamoorthy

Hindu Education

Ganesh KrishnamoorthyThis is a response to the article Hindu View on Food and Drink by Shatavadhani R. Ganesh and Hari Ravikumar. It is authored by Ganesh Krishnamoorthy and edited by Shrivathsa B., and is a continuation of Shrivathsa’s B.’s brilliant critique of R. Ganesh’s sorry apology for those Hindus who eat beef. — Editor

It is our revised and considered view that R. Ganesh’s article could have been more aptly titled to suit the main theme of their thesis, namely: “Why it is OK for Hindus to eat beef and drink intoxicants? Weren’t their ancestors doing the same?”

The following is a detailed paragraph by paragraph analysis and rebuttal (where necessary) of R. Ganesh’s thesis.

The first paragraph of R. Ganesh’s (RG from here on) article refers to a survey of meat-eating in India. We are not sure how the authors are safely deducing that the decline in meat-eating in India is “not due to Hinduism” when the same survey they referred to clearly indicates that roughly only 20% of the population in India amounts to non-Hindus. This being the statistical data where the majority of population is still Hindu how one can discount the contribution of the majority to the food consumption statistics. Also, the base reference for the meat-eating study was a sample consisting of 14,680 respondents in which 60% were non-vegetarians. These two surveys when read together prove to us that the contribution to vegetarianism in India is essentially from the majority group, i.e. Hindus / Sanātanadharmis.

The second paragraph has a basic flaw which is inherited from the West by the Westerner-worshipping-Indian. The flaw being that Ṛg Veda predates other Vedas. This too when there are numerous references within Vedas such as Puruṣa Sūkta (also available in Ṛg Veda) that refers to all the three Vedas, Ṛg, Yajus, and Sāman. If Ṛg Veda were to be the first, how will it refer to other Vedas that came later? It is pathetic to see Indians who prefer to derogate their tradition and prefer to follow the school of thought established by the exploiting invader Westerners. Since this matter is already refuted well by Sri Swami Karpatri and well-handled much earlier in the ancient bhāṣyas of Sāyaṇa etc. we will not dilate much about this. Also it is sad to see that the authors have played clever and not referred to the Śrauta Sūtras, Pūrva Mīmaṃsā which are the fundamental works to refer to while discussing aspects of Soma sacrifices.

Palm-leaf ScriptureThe third para refers to Ṛg Veda 4.30.3 and this points to the mantra “viśve canedanā naktamātirah”. The meaning of the mantra is that the devas took Indra’s help in the form of prāṇa to fight and win the asuras every day and night (of the war). We don’t find any injunction here to sit while eating either by way of direct words or inference. We are not sure how such a meaning can be deduced. This number appears to have been added to give the article a veneer of authenticity (it is another matter that this may be a typo, in which case, we leave it to the authors to retract / clarify) for a majority of people who prefer the easy and lazy path. The majority which reads the articles haven’t read the original works and prefer the lazy way of reading their translations in English and thus outsourcing their thinking to others. Giving a reference number makes the lazy reader believe that to be the correct translation and purport of the original source. The reference against talking while eating in Baudhāyana Dharmasūtra is understood partially without referring to the whole context. The rules given in 3-4-29 to 31 relate to śālīna and yāyāvaras who are expected to be ātma yājis (similar injunction against speaking is available earlier in the Baudhāyana Dharmasūtra in the rules pertaining to snātaka dharma). A śālīna or yāyāvara is the highest class of householder Brahmin who performs the śrutyukta karmas diligently and is yajanayājanādi ṣaṭkarmanirata (śāliinavṛttih niyamairyutah pākayajñairiṣṭvāgnīn ādhāya pakṣe pakṣe darśapūrṇamāsayājī caturṣu caturṣu māseṣu cāturmāsyayājī ṣaṭsu ṣaṭsu māseṣu paśubandhayājī pratisaṃvatsaraṃ somayājī ca yāyāvaro haviryajnaiḥ somayajñaiśca yajate yājayatyadhīte adhyāpayati dadāti pratigṛhṇāti ṣaṭkarmanirato nityam agniparicaraṇam atithibhyo abhyāgatebhyo annādyam ca kurute). A specific instruction (for a particular type of gṛhastha cannot be generalized. Also in case of such ātma yājī there is a prayaścitta prescribed in the subsequent sutras for a transgression of the above rule. The Dharmasūtra prescribes eating while being seated on the floor and not on āsandi (elevated seat). Not sure why the authors have forgotten to mention this, is it because of its unpalatability in a world where almost everyone sits on a chair while eating?

The Brahma Sūtra Sarvannānumati refers to āpaddharma of extreme calamity where cākrāyaṇa had to give up the restriction against eating left-over food (that too of a “lower caste”). It is noteworthy here that he refuses to drink left over water as it was not necessary for saving his life (water being available aplenty elsewhere). This is an exception which caters to calamity and cannot be made a general rule. Also the same Upanishad readings in the same adhikaraṇa emphasizes āhara śuddhi which is necessary for sattva śuddhi. This has been completely ignored in the article. It will be of further interest to note that the Śaṅkarabhāṣya on this adhikaraṇa clearly lays down the exception of himsā in case of paśusamjñapana in yāga as an example. The drift being that the exceptional and rare event of pain to animals in yāga not being against the spirit of śāstras.

Coming to the interesting fourth paragraph with references the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa. This paragraph refers to the dīkṣā rituals in a somayāga. Even to begin this endeavor, one needs to be an āhitāgni without viccheda of somapītha (i.e., the preceeding three generations of the yajamāna ought to have performed the somayāga continuously. The brāhmaṇa text forbids eating of meat of cow and oxen and the final passage mentions that Yājñavalkya partaking it if it were māṃsala in a yajña.  This is a specific or viśeṣavidhi and not generic.

Common SenseBegetting a knowledgeable son

There are many haviryajñas mentioned in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 6.4.14 to 6.4.17 and only in 6.4.18 the maaṃsa of ukṣa (ox) is prescribed as per the sthālīpāka vidhi. Again this vidhi is specific to a śālīya or yāyāvara gṛhastha and the life of such a householder itself is a tapas as told by Bhagavān in Bhagavad Gītā 6.1 “kāryaṃ karma karoti yaḥ … sa sannyāsī ca yogī ca na niragnir”. It should be clear now that without reference to the context of the Veda paragraphs it is easy to get deluded and also pull the majority readers towards higher ignorance. It is sad to see such a state of affairs in people who ought to know better than laymen.

The Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa reference on paśubandha arthavāda in is again: (i) for an āhitāgni (ii) not easy to perform (iii) not mandatory for the āhitāgni are purely kāmya (for fulfilling worldly wishes). It is clear that this injunction is not for a gṛhastha but for a śālīya and yāyāvara who has conducted agnyādhāna. The paśubandha caru is not mixed with any “masala” but cooked in boiling water with ghee. Even of this, a very small part partaken without chewing by teeth (all rules which go to show how little one can “eat”). The yajamānas from the madhva many other communities use a piṣṭa paśu (a sacrificial animal made of flour) as the substitute, some communities use ghee as the substitute for paśu. The Vedas and Brāhmaṇas extol an āhitāgni for his is a way of life which is marked with the utmost self-control. If a person be inclined to eat beef, it is easier for him to not be a Hindu at all, than try be an āhitāgni merely to become a beef-eater.

In paragraph 5, the authors claim that the mantra 8.43.11 of Ṛg Veda says that the food of Agni is barren cows. One is at a loss to know how such an interpretation can be forced. This isn’t there in the Sāyaṇa commentary which the authors have seemed to have followed elsewhere. Barren or otherwise, a cow is an aghnyā (the one not fit to be killed).  The mention RVS 8.19.5 and 8.24.20 is irrelevant to the discussion. Sāyaṇa quotes Aśvalāyana saying that 8.19.5 extols pākayajña, whereas 8.4.20 has nothing to do with go the cow, but has to do with go, the speech as is clear from the Sāyaṇa bhāṣya which the authors seem to agree with in other places. The authors will do a favour to the readers as to what is the logic behind their conclusions with sufficient pramāṇa.

The reference of Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa seems erroneous because khaṇḍa 9 has only 5 adhyāyas. It is not clear which edition the authors referred to without which it is not possible to conclude and comment. Similarly the reference of Ranthideva in Mahabharata is in Vanaparvan and not Droṇaparvan as mentioned in the article. Also the dharmavyādha story reiterates the message of Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa which logically equates tax levied by a king executed by collector on one hand and cutting of darbha grass. The message being that if a paśvālambha is done as per injunctions it is the devas who benefit and hence the performer. The dharmavyādha in the same chapter even refers to the Svarga gātha for the yajñapaśu as “samskṛtāh kila mantraiśca te.api svargamavāpnuvan”. Also Meghadhūta 1.45 refers to a mountain Devagiri and not a river as the authors claim. Mallinātha gives his opinion of history as “ranthidevasya gavāmālambeśvekatra sambhṛtātraktaniśyandāccarmarāśeḥ kācinnadī saṣyande“. (Because of the blood which got collected due to Ranthideva’s cow sacrifices, a river carrying the blood as well as the skins started flowing). Only the most gullible among the masses will believe such an imaginary and exaggerated account. The Vanaparvan of Mahābhārata praises Ranthideva’s blessing as essential to get agniṣṭoma phala by conducting rituals in carmaṇvatī (charmaṇvatīm samāsādya niyato niyatāśanaḥ. ranthidevābhyanujñāto agniṣṭoma phalaṃ labhet). Ch. 80, Vanaparvan 73.

In the next paragraph the authors claim that in a later period Hindus started to be more vegan (without any proof or argument to substantiate their statement) and then they traverse reverse from Mallinātha to Apastamba. The usage of meat in śraddha rituals had been clearly discontinued in Kaliyuga due to the kalivarjya (forbidden in Kaliyuga) rules. Also even at the times when this was followed the sutras clearly state them as optional and for increased tenure of satisfaction of the pitṛs and not as a mandate.

MadhuparkaThe misinterpretation of the madhuparka ritual has been already dealt by earlier works and also in Part I of this critique. It bears repetition here that the generalized prescription was to release the animal. The Āśvalāyana Prayoga Granthas such as prayogaratna clearly specify this ritual as “go utsarjana” (letting the cow go).

The śūlagava is an optional kāmya ritual and the sūtra clearly forbids eating any remnants of the sacrifice, they forming part of Rudra bhāga (Rudra’s share).

The next reference quoted from Brahma Sūtraaśuddhamiti cenna śabdāt” explains the scriptural injunction for paśvālambana in the yajñas as exceptions or apavāda as it will not be breaking the general rule of ahiṃsā. In this discussion, Śaṅkara details the birth of lower animals such as dogs and plants and says that the atman that descends doesn’t enjoy the fruits while dwelling rice etc. in its journey into semen of a man. It is not clear as to how an interpretation about beef can be forced into this. The authors don’t quote śloka (5.33) of Manusmṛti which clearly enforces that meat should not be eaten without following the scriptural injunctions and according to one’s taste and preferences (na adyāt avidhinā māṃsam).

The next paragraph on Uttararamacharita also needs a complete reading of the successive discussion on why Janaka was not offered with meat and Dandayana’s explanation that Janaka decided to forsake meat only after seeing the grief his daughter had to undergo and to bring this plot of kāruṇya rasa in the latter scene this first discussion had been brought in.  It is very evidently twisted by the authors by writing King Janaka is a vegetarian which is not clearly what is being portrayed by Bhavabhūti.

While concluding on Jainism as purely vegetarian the authors have conveniently ignored the 15th śataka of Viyahanapaati which states in 685b that Mahavira contracted a fever and ate a rooster cooked by a woman called Revatī instead of two pigeons she was cooking for him. The Acharāṅga Sūtra which states “se bhikkhu va Java samane siya nam paro bahu-atthiena mamsena macchena va bahu-kanthaena utvanimantejja | ausanto samana abhikankhasi bahu-atthiyam mamsam padigahettae | etappagaram nighosatn socca nisamma se puvvam-eva aloejja | ausoti va bhaini ti va no khalu kappai me bahu-atthiyam mamsam paddigahettae | abhikankhasi me daum javatiyam tavatiyam poggalam daiayahi, ma atthiyaim | etc.” The householder asks the bhikṣu  whether he will accept “meat with many bones”. He says: “If you desire to make me a gift, give me as much of the substance as you like, but not the bones.” Also the Jain text of Dasaveyaliya refers to the bhikṣā in chapter 5.1 ślokas 84 to 86 a similar practice if a Jain ascetic encounters bone in the bhikṣā. Buddhist countries are the best known meat-eaters who proclaim ahiṃsā inspite of the mandate of the Brahmajāla Sūtra  to refrain from meat-eating. There are some references of meat-eating in the Buddhist texts that these Buddhist quote like Vinaya Piṭaka, Mahāvagga VI, 31 used to mention about a general Siha (Simha) who has served meat of ox to Gautama Buddha and his disciples and was discussed by Jain niganthas on the street. The modern Buddhist monks prefer to refrain from meat-eating in the numerous blogs that are currently available.

Ganja (Cannabis sativa)The authors display their stellar ignorance not only of Vedic rituals. The authors claim: “However, in the Vedas, we find many instances of the consumption of the juice from the soma creeper (possibly Cannabis sativa)”.

To justify drinking alcoholic drinks, the authors have quoted the paper of B.G.L. Swamy to say Soma = Cannabis sativa. The authors would have done themselves a favour if they had visited any somayāga. Let us bring the following to their notice:

  • The rtviks who drink soma have to continue in their priestly duties soberly and chant mantras. If the priests drink cannabis, they will not be able to do so. The complexity of rules of chanting mantras is such that even sober priests find it to be a challenge. This itself gives a lie to the claim of the creeper being alcoholic. Leave alone the later spin of the article to justify consumption of alcohol by people. Nothing short of a public apology will suffice for this error of the authors.
  • Given that the paper of B.G.L. Swamy never claims he having visited a somayāga and identified the creeper, how can his haranguing arguments be taken at face value? You should read the paper to see how much of arguments have been put forth because his conclusions seem to have been the drivers of his paper.
  • We also bring it to the notice of the authors that B.G.L. Swamy’s botany is based on a geography which is Aryan-invasion-based, hence it will be easier for us if RG declares that he has no problem with Aryan Invasion Theory.

A non-Brahmin varṇa can eat meat as per injunctions and whether Krishna, Rama or Sita being from a non-Brahmin varṇa are not forbidden from a dharma śāstra perspective.  The references given for the ślokas are again erratic and not sure why the authors have repeatedly preferred to use wrong references. Hence it is difficult to comment on the meaning unless the right perspective and a complete view is obtained. It is very easy to misguide with partial and wrong references.

The partial reading will only give a partial view. Much like the many blind men describing an elephant. This is seen in the authors’ explanation of yajña described in the śloka 3.13 of Bhagavad Gītā. Reading from 3.10 “saha yajnāḥ prajāḥ” till 3.12 makes it clear that the yajña mentioned by Bhagavān is the sapta pāka yajña. Also, when Bhagavad Gītā classifies food into 3 classes in chapter 17 which the authors refer next, the right choice is as well implied based on one’s predisposition and maturity. The adhikāra for a specific type of food is predisposed in the Sanātana Dharma.

The authors don’t prefer to conclude one should eat beef, meat or drink intoxicants but leave it very vague after quoting a lot from different texts partially. The article is written with loose references that appeal to those who don’t want to take upon themselves the pain of learning śāstras. The article appears purposeless and without a clear and original thought process. Is it any surprise then that this is a misleading article which doesn’t represent the “Hindu view” at all? –  ParyAyavAk, 26 March 2016

» Ganesh Krishnamoorthy an independent research student of Veda based in Bangalore.

Beef Festival

See also