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Background:

The question Is the Gadhimai massacre a Hindu ritual? has an answer which says animal sacrifice is against the Hindu principles of ahimsa while the other answer says 'Animal sacrifice is spoken of in the Vedas. It belongs to another era.' probably discouraging animal sacrifices.

Now since those answers were written in 2014, it appears as stated in this Wikipedia article this archaic Hindu ritual has been stopped for good:

It is estimated that 50,000 animals were sacrificed during the Gadhimai festival of 2009. In 2015, Nepal's temple trust has announced to cancel all future animal sacrifices at the country's Gadhimai festival.

According to this announcement:

For generations, pilgrims have sacrificed animals to the Goddess Gadhimai, in the hope of a better life. For every life taken, our heart is heavy. The time has come to transform an old tradition. The time has come to replace killing and violence with peaceful worship and celebration.

The Gadhimai Temple Trust hereby declares our formal decision to end animal sacrifice. With your help, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is free from bloodshed. Moreover, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is a momentous celebration of life.

Question:

Does Hindu morality come from scripture or is it the other way round?

  • Scripture guiding morality:

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  • (Inherent) Morality guiding our perception of scripture:

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Given the above example (animal sacrifice once done and now stopped or discouraged), it appears it's our inherent morality that's been guiding our perception of scripture. In one case, we deliberately choose to ignore animal sacrifices. In another case, it could be polygamy.

So is it correct to assume that the Hindu morality is constantly changing and beyond the scope of any one scripture including the Vedas?

  • Hindu morality doesn't come from scriptures directly. E.g Before Svetaketu, wives were allowed to have physical relationships with other men after marriage, Svetaketu changed the trend. Hindu scriptures attempt to develop conscience. i.e, we are meant to develop conscience through scriptures rather than parroting them . Listening wises helps us to understand scriptures to develop conscience. – Mr. Sigma. Jun 8 '17 at 3:02
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    Where do you feel non-Hindu morality comes from? – user1195 Jun 8 '17 at 4:12
  • Well, as an atheist I am all of the time accused of being immoral second incarnation of Hitler by fellow christians (i'm from christian dominated coutry, so not much comparative material, but I guess bigotry is not catholic-specific phenomenon) – charlie_pl Jun 8 '17 at 9:48
  • @charlie_pl: The difference will be that in Hinduism, you can sit in temple itself and debate about existence of God, and deny God existence and freely declare that you are an atheist and nobody will have any problem with you. Only requirement is that you do not disrespect idol or God, but you can respectfully critique it, expose fault in it. Nobody requires you to have faith 'in their' God or beleif. Nobody will declare you hitler or evil. – zaxebo1 Dec 31 '18 at 10:53
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There is no consensus on this issue. Some think morality is based on scripture and others disagree.

Bhishma said, 'Some say that righteousness consists in what has been upheld in the Srutis. Others do not agree to this. I would not censure them that say so. Everything, again, has not been laid down in the Srutis.’

Mahabharata, Santi Parva, Section CIX

  • could you post the original Sanskrit text ? – ram Mar 1 '18 at 0:35
  • Sorry! I only have access to Sri K. M. Ganguli's English translation of the Mahabharata. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Mar 1 '18 at 5:50
  • Does Sruti encompass all scriptures ? what about Smritis ? – ram Jan 3 at 13:38
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Morality comes from scripture. For starters, here is what Adi Shankaracharya says in this section of his Brahma Sutra Bhashya, which is actually about the subject of animal sacrifice:

[The reasoning criticizing animal sacrifice] is not valid, because our knowledge of what is duty and the contrary of duty depends entirely on scripture. The knowledge of one action being right and another wrong is based on scripture only; for it lies out of the cognizance of the senses, and there moreover is, in the case of right and wrong, an entire want of binding rules as to place, time, and occasion. What in one place, at one time, on one occasion is performed as a right action, is a wrong action in another place, at another time, on another occasion; none therefore can know, without scripture, what is either right or wrong.

For a more systematic look at things, we must turn not to the Brahma Sutras, which begin with "Athato Brahma Jijnasa" or "Now therefore there is a desire to know Brahman", but to the Purva Mimamsa Sutras, which begin with "Athato Dharma Jijnasa" or "Now therefore there is a desire to know Dharma". Here is what Adhyaya 1 Pada 1 Sutra 4 of the Purva Mimamsa Sutras says:

satsaṃprayoge puruṣasyendriyāṇāṃ buddhijanma tatpratyakṣamanimitrta vidyamānopalambhanatvāt

That cognition by a person which appears when there is contact of the sense-organs is "sense-perception", and it is not a means (of knowing Dharma), as it apprehends only things existing at the present time.

And here is what Shabaraswami's commentary says about this Sutra:

The examination (promised in the preceding Sutra) is as follows:- Sense. perception is not the means (of knowing Dharma), - why?- because the character of Sense-perception is that it is "that cognition by a person, etc."(sutra); that is, it is that cognition which a man has when his sense-organs are in contact with the object cognised. - Dharma however is something that is yet to come, and it does not exist at the time that it is to be known; - while Sense-perception is the apprehending of an object that is actually present and not non-existent at the time (of cognition); - hence Sense-perception cannot be the means (of knowing Dharma). In the Sutra, no stress is meant to be laid upon either "cognition", or the "appearance", or upon mere "contact"; the only factor meant to be emphasised is the fact of its being such as is possible only when there is contact between the sense-organ and the object, and not when there is no such contact between them. If stress were laid upon several factors, then there would be syntactical split. As for (the other means of Cognition.) Inference, Analogy, and Apparent Inconsistency, these also presuppose (are based upon) Sense-perception; hence these also cannot be the means (of knowing Dharma). Nor can Dharma be amenable to “Negation' (i.e. it cannot be regarded as non-existent; because of the reason given in the next Sutra which indicates the real means of knowing Dharma).

The idea is that perception and inference can only tell us about the world of things which already exist. They cannot tell us about that which does not yet exist, namely the consequences that you will experience for the actions that you do. So we require some other means of knowledge to tell us what actions are linked to what kinds of consequence. What is that means of knowledge? It is Hindu scripture. Here is what Adhyaya 1 Pada Sutra 5 of the Purva Mimamsa Sutras says:

autpattikastu śabdasyārthena sambandhastasya jñānamupadeśo 'vyatirekaścārthe 'nupalabdhe tatpramāṇaṃ bādarāyaṇasyānapekṣatvāt

The relation of the word with its denotation is inborn.- [Vedic] instruction is the means of knowing it (Dharma) - infallible regarding all that is imperceptible; it is a valid means of knowledge, as it is independent, according to Badarayana.

The idea is that the human mind is powerless to find out what is right or wrong, since as I discussed above morality concerns that which does not yet exist, but the Vedas, since they are Apaurusheya or authorless, have the capacity to talk about the imperceptible realm, since they do not depend on the knowledge of a human being. (The authoritativeness of Smriti is derived from the authoritativeness of the Vedas in Adhyaya 1 Pada 3 of the Purva Mimamsa Sutras.)

Now I could go on to discuss Shabara's commentary on Adhyaya 1 Pada 1 Sutra 5 and on the subsequent Sutras of Adhyaya 1, which demonstrate the Pramanya (authoritativeness) and Apaurusheyatva (authorlesness) of the Vedas, but that would require me to write a book. (Which I might well do! See idea #1 in my Medium post here.)

Bottom line, people might have all kinds of false, ever-changing beliefs about morality due to the temptations of the Kali Yuga, but what is actually moral and immoral is based on scripture, not on human beliefs.

  • 'Bottom line, people might have all kinds of false, ever-changing beliefs about morality' - so if someone wants to better what it states in scripture about polygamy and decides to have a single wife instead, that's a false belief? In this comment, you said: 'taking an Eka Patni Vrata can be a meritorious act' so you too are using your own personal judgement (possibly derived from Ramayana) to say being married to a single wife is better & meritorious than multiple wives? – sv. Jun 8 '17 at 15:49
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    @sv Even scripturally, ekapatnivrata is held superior. I am told there are atharvaveda mantras that extol the husband& wife to be faithful to each other, the rigveda lists the pitfalls of having more than one wife.Having said that,society "allowed" polygamy keeping in mind the weaknesses of humans.Even then it had rules such as marrying in descending order of varna order.Polygamy also had more sanction in kshatriya varna for various reasons.Sometimes war was preempted thr' matrimonial alliances.So peace and by extn - preservation of economic and social order trumped polygamy. 1/2 – user1195 Jun 8 '17 at 16:21
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    @sv. "so if someone wants to better what it states in scripture about polygamy and decides to have a single wife instead, that's a false belief?" No, it is not and has never been a required Dharma to have multiple wives. Polygamy is an allowed but not required practice. But the fact that society currently believes that polygamy is immoral has no effect on the fact that polygamy is allowed. And the same principle holds true of animal sacrifice, gender roles for men and women, and any other practice that modern society considers immoral to due being deluded by the temptations of the Kali Yuga. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 8 '17 at 16:58
  • "But the fact that society currently believes that polygamy is immoral has no effect on the fact that polygamy is allowed" It has an effect, in Indian Constitution people not allowed to have multiple marriages. In anycase with degrading sex ratio we cannot hope to have more than one wife in India unless someone is a Casanova. – Yogi Jun 8 '17 at 20:37
  • @Yogi Certainly it affects what laws governments may pass. I'm just saying that it doesn't change the fundamental nature of right and wrong. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 8 '17 at 21:25
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Laws of morality or the laws pertaining to what's good and what's bad are the ones which are laid down in the scriptures.

So, its definitely not the other way round.

Vedo Akhilo Dharmamulam Smritikhilo Cha...

...............

2.6. The whole Veda is the (first) source of the sacred law, next the tradition and the virtuous conduct of those who know the (Veda further), also the customs of holy men, and (finally) self-satisfaction.

2.7. Whatever law has been ordained for any (person) by Manu, that has been fully declared in the Veda: for that (sage was) omniscient.

The knowledge that is there in the Vedas are God's words so irrefutable. The orders that are present in the Smritis are also the words of the sages who were omniscient.

So, both determine all laws including even those pertaining to morality.

Srutis Tu Vedo Vigneyo Dharmashastram Tu Vai Smriti...

..................

2.10. But by Sruti (revelation) is meant the Veda, and by Smriti (tradition) the Institutes of the sacred law (or the Dharmashastras): those two must not be called into question in any matter, since from those two the sacred law shone forth

However there is also an option of applying our own conscience before adhering to the scriptural injunctions, but still scriptures shall override in all conditions.

2.8. But a learned man after fully scrutinizing all this with the eye of knowledge, should, in accordance with the authority of the revealed texts, be intent on (the performance of) his duties.

NOTe: All verses are from the Manu Smriti.

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    I meant Applying conscience only after understanding scriptures, otherwise not. Without scriptural injunctions, mind is prone to decide based on latent ego. :) – Mr. Sigma. Jun 8 '17 at 11:16
  • Thanks for attempting to answer but this doesn't answer the main issue in my question which is that there is a contradiction in what scripture says and what majority of Hindus today follow (no one likes to do animal sacrifice nowadays and no man wants to have multiple wives). You're simply stating what it says in the scripture without addressing the contradiction between preaching and practice I point out in my question. – sv. Jun 8 '17 at 15:39
  • @sv Hindu scriptures say animal sacrifices are allowed but they are optional. So, that most people today don't resort to sacrifices does not imply that they are revolting against scriptures, ( however sacrifices are still practiced at some places or the other) .. Similarly hindu scriptures don't say you have to have multiple wives..But one can. – Rickross Jun 8 '17 at 16:44
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    Ok got it now @Aghori You are talking about the comment of urs which u have posted under the question. – Rickross Jun 9 '17 at 5:07
  • Also @sv. that men are becoming more and more immoral by the days is something that can be empirically verified. So being moral or compassionate towards animals is not the reason behind stopping animal sacrifices. Otherwise why would the slaughterhouses crop up in every corners of the city nowadays.? Regarding polygamy the same reasoning work. People these days are more than happy if they can satisfy their lust by committing adultery etc instead of having more than one legally wed wife. Also, most people can't afford more than one wives. So, morality is not an issue here. – Rickross Jun 9 '17 at 5:27

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