How did other schools of Indian philosophy respond to this argument by the Cārvākas with regard to animal sacrifice as part of a yajña?

If a beast slain in the Jyotishtoma rite will itself go to heaven,
Why then does not the sacrificer forthwith offer his own father?

So why isn't a human offered (more frequently) in place of an animal in a sacrifice?

  • 4
    Because sacrifice are made on Shruti rules... for eg. Shruti says 'If this animal is sacrificed on this Yajna, it will ascend to heaven.' Now, one can't form speculations on human too that sacrificing human will also do it... it's because there is no Shruti rule for human sacrifice... also one can't go just through Anumana (thinking that if it works for animal it should also work for human)... because Dharma can't be known through our senses... and Shrutis which are authorless are considered as Valid means to know Dharma (Jaimini Sutras)..... hence priest doesn't sacrifice his father....
    – Tezz
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 1:17
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    @moonstar2001 I don't think this question is off topic... because question is not asking about Charvaka philosophy... it's asking refutations of Charvaka philosophy which is found in works of ancient commentators as well as in some Puranas too....
    – Tezz
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 1:22
  • 1
    @sv. this question is valid because charvaka is also part of hinduism... Commented May 1, 2017 at 3:43
  • 2
    Human sacrifices are never prescribed so what to refute here?
    – Rickross
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 6:40
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    To all those holding this misconception - Carvaka is not part of Hinduism.
    – user1195
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 2:44

2 Answers 2

If a beast slain in the Jyotishtoma rite will itself go to heaven

This is from the observer perspective. Beast itself doesn't get sacrificed for the sake of attaining heaven. Like how soldiers don't get martyred themselves just to go to heaven.
[ Add on reference: Martyr concept in Hinduism ]

That means, beast (or a soldier) would be living normally. Upon its master's (country's) requirement, it will be sacrificed (martyred). This falls under action out of duty, where one acts without desire of result. Such sacrifice is termed as SAtvika:

BG 18.23 - The regular obligatory action which is performed without attachment and without likes or dislikes by one who does not hanker for rewards, that is said to be born of sattva

The actions performed under sattva has the heavenly happiness:

BG 14.9 - ... sattva attaches one to happiness, ...
BG 14.14 - When an embodied one undergoes death while mainly sattva is predominant, then they attain the taint-less plane of knower of the highest
BG 14.18 - Those with sattva go higher [regions] ...

Why then does not the sacrificer forthwith offer his own father?

Because father will not attain heaven.
What is the purpose of offering father?

  • Is it in their tribe or local's constitution or scripture -- NO
  • Will father be useful for eating -- NO
  • Is there any other purpose for sacrificing father -- NO

So here the sole purpose is to send father to heaven. Since it's a fruitive action, it becomes RAjasika in nature.

BG 18.24 - But that action is said to be born of rajas, which is done by one desirous of results or by one who is egotistic, and which is highly strenuous.

Actions performed under RAjasika would result in sin followed by sorrow.
Refer Sin according to Hinduism.

  • "Because father will not attain heaven" - I guess the real question is, why not, if you accept the concept of yajña and its purpose is to appease the Gods? And if a human is sacrificed as an offering to the Gods, does he go to heaven? There was an attempt to sacrifice a young boy as noted in Aitareya Brahmana - even the priests were ok with this. They didn't say no. The question then is, if the priests went ahead with the yajña and the offering, would the boy have ascended to heaven? Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 21:21
  • Now according to BG 3.11, the concept of yajña is kind of a mutual agreement between men and gods: you please us, we please you with rains, children, so on. It can be argued that sacrificing a father or son is the greatest sacrifice of all. A mutual agreement is clearly a fruitive action/associated with rewards. I think the Cārvāka argument is based on this concept of mutual appeasement and rewards. Why don't you offer your father or son and reap the greatest of benefits? Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 21:31
  • @sv. In Gita the yajna is perseverance -- not limited to homa havana. Example if the trees are planted to save nature then it's a yajna to varuna deva. The god of water is Not an impersonal deity. The various water bodies combined have their own consciousness, like how you & me have ours. Earth & Sun also have their consciousness. The solar system has its own. The whole universe is Brahman consciousness. Like how fingers in hand serves to body by eating food, ultimately nutritious come back to it. Similarly consider humans as fingers & whole body as Deva. Then yajna will make more sense.
    – iammilind
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 1:40
  • @sv. I have already explained why father will not attain heaven. Suppose if sacrificing a person at certain age due to certain burden created on certain community and if it's agreed by all, then it may have chances of heaven. This can be called as their constitution or scripture. Here the main purpose is to reduce the burden on community so that it functions healthily. However in your Qn, it appears that the sole purpose is heaven. In that case even a soldier may suicide to avoid torture or agony of sudden death & then attend heaven. Those who act without fruits in mind only are eligible.
    – iammilind
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 1:46

Religious texts often reflect the cultural and societal values of the time and place in which they were written. One of these values is the importance placed on family relationships, and the stronger emotional bond between a parent and child than a random street goat. This cultural value is likely to be reflected in religious texts.

That being said there is atleast one documented vedic ritual sacrifice of a human being, Purushamedha, described in ancient Hindu texts as a royal rite. It is one of the most controversial and debated topics in Hinduism, as it is considered a form of human sacrifice. The ritual is not considered to be practiced or condoned by mainstream Hinduism today, and is considered to be a symbolic or allegorical rite by some scholars.

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