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I had posted the following in an answer but was urged to post it as a question.

I thought brahmins were not supposed to eat meat but I was reading MahAbhArata when I came across the following in sabhA parva.

भक्ष्यैर्मूलैैः फलैश्चैव मांसैर्वाराहहारिणैः ie by different types of foods like roots, fuit and pork and deer-meat

and again in

मांसैर्विबिधप्रकारैः खाद्यैश्चापि तथा नृप ie different types of meat and food (SabhA parva, 4th adhyaya, slokas 7 through 9)

which depict how dharma raja Yudhishtira fed the brahmanas before entering the palace of Indraprastha.

But it is a well known fact that Brahmanas shouldn't eat meat. Where does this come from?

Meat is considered a delicacy in the mahAbhArata. But we know, for tradition, that we are not supposed to eat meat. Why did this tradition arise? If serving meat to brAhmanas was considered punya by vedavyasa, why do we consider it a sin?

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  • 1
    it became a sin only after Lord Buddha appeared according to Swami Vivekananda:)
    – user17294
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 14:28
  • Did Lord Buddhaa add to or remove practices for the Kali Yuga alone?
    – D Marcher
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 14:41
  • I dont think He mentioned anthing as Kaliyuga
    – user17294
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 14:44
  • As I remember, Shukr-Acharya (Guru of Rakshas) restricted consumption of meat and alcohol for brahmans. There is a story of how he was forced to resurrect one person (son of Brahaspati, I think), whom he had eaten under influence of alcohol and had to teach him about the art of resurrection so that he can, in turn, resurrect Shukr-Acharaya.
    – V.Aggarwal
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 8:06
  • 1
    In earlier yugas, after doing a long yagna (sacrificial fire), eating a little meat as prasad was OK. In Kali yug, eating meat at McDonalds or Karim's Biryani shop is not OK.
    – ram
    Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 20:30

2 Answers 2

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Manu Smriti includes meat (prepared without spices) among Havi (i.e. food that are fit to be offered in Vedic sacrifices).

3.257. The food eaten by hermits in the forest, milk, Soma-juice, meat which is not prepared (with spices), and salt unprepared by art, are called, on account of their nature, sacrificial food.

A Brahmin can meat under certain circumstances, and he has to only consume the meat that has been duly sprinkled with mantra-infused water.

5.27. One may eat meat when it has been sprinkled with water, while Mantras were recited, when Brahmanas desire (one’s doing it), when one is engaged (in the performance of a rite) according to the law, and when one’s life is in danger.

Only the meat that has been first offered in an animal sacrifice is however considered fit to be eaten.

4.27. A Brahmana, who keeps sacred fires, shall, if he desires to live long, not eat new grain or meat, without having offered the (Agrayana) Ishti with new grain and an animal-(sacrifice).

Also, a Brahmin must not recite Vedas after he has consumed meat. So, if meat eating had been entirely prohibited for him, the following verse would not have been said:

4.112. While lying on a bed, while his feet are raised (on a bench), while he sits on his hams with a cloth tied round his knees, let him not study, nor when he has eaten meat or food given by a person impure on account of a birth or a death,

A Brahmin can not refuse eating meat in certain circumstances too, like in funeral ceremonies (Shraddhas).

And, a Brahmin becomes degraded if he chose not to eat meat, during the time when he is conducting a Vedic sacrifice.

See the following verses from Vyasa Smriti, chapter 3, Source:

A Brahmana, engaged in the celebration of a religious sacrifice, becomes degraded by not taking meat.

A Kshatriya should eat the cooked flesh of a quarry after Jiaving propitiated therewith the gods and his departed manes.

A Vaishya can take meat, lawfully obtained for money, after having worshipped therewith his departed manes. (56, 57)

Eating non-sacrificial meat is of course never recommended in any scriptures.

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  • Great answer. I think there are references in Tantras also, and those are also God's words as was mentioned by you before:)
    – user17294
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 14:27
  • @Rickross when following the instructions do you then still get the karma of the animal? Will you still receive the punishment as described in the manus smriti?
    – Wikash_
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 5:28
  • Which instructions actually? Hindu scriptures unanimously agree with the fact that killing in a sacrifice (if done as prescribed) is Ahimsha (non-killing) .. there will be no sin involved in that and hence no punishments @Wikash_hindu
    – Rickross
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 5:46
  • @Partha Yes true, but most people are not much acquainted with the Tantras .. sometime previously whn I was answering using Tantras as sources, people said better to give references from Sruti and Smriti as not everyone may follow Agamas :P But whn I added the references from Sruti it was found that it was saying exactly the same thing that the Tantras were saying .. :P
    – Rickross
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 5:48
  • Isn't it prohibited to sacrifice animals in Kli Yuga and hence flesh eating can not be possible? @rickross
    – Kanthri
    Commented Jan 16, 2022 at 0:17
4

At-least two views can be developed regarding this:


View 1: Categorical [Paurāṇika verse's] view:

  • Sattvika people, and/or, devotees of Vishnu mustn't even kill a being (even in a Vedic sacrifice). So no question of eating meat for those people, either brahmins or otherwise.

As per some verses in Book 2 - Vaiṣṇava-Khaṇḍa (Vāsudeva-Māhātmya) of the Skanda-Purāṇa, not just the Brahmins, but, all the devotees of the god Viṣṇu
(be it any caste/varna/creed/gender/asura/sura) must not even indulge in animal sacrifice or any other kind of violence, let alone eating any meat.

Skanda-Purāṇa maintains that the interpretation of Vedic verse is of three kinds, as per the gunas of the person and the deity being worshipped by them (iṣta) viz. Sattvika, Rajasika and Tamasika.

Thus, for Visnu, only and only Sattvika form of sacrifice is to be done, which as per Skanda-Purāṇa is the "true" interpretation of Vedas.

This follows from the story of the Uparicara Vasu, who got caught in a brawl between the Indra ( Viśvajit of Svāyaṃbhuva Manvantara), and somme highly exalted sages (Maharṣis), regarding "correct-interpretation" of Vedic verses, and thus he fell down from heaven (the sages cursed him), and entered the bowels of the earth for speaking an untruth out of partiality for the heaven-dwellers.

I'm quoting some relevant verses from Chapter 6 - Fall of Uparicara Vasu: Section 9 - Vāsudeva-Māhātmya in the Book 2 - Vaiṣṇava-khaṇḍa of Skanda-Purāṇa. Full chapter can be read from the link for a complete understanding of the context.

महर्षय ऊचुः ।
....
रजस्तमोदोषवशात्तथाप्यसुरपा नृपाः ।
मेध्येनाजेन यष्टव्यमित्यादौ मतिजाड्यतः ।
छागादिमर्थं बुबुधुर्व्रीह्यादिं तु न ते विदुः ॥ १६ ॥

The great sages said:

  1. Kings, rulers of Asuras, however, due to the fault of Rajas and Tamas, and
    dullness of intellect, take ‘a he-goat’ etc. as the meaning of “Aja” in the injunction “sacrifice should be performed with a sacrificial Aja.” They did not know Vrīhi (rice) etc. (which is its meaning).

सात्त्विकानां तु युष्माकं वेदस्यार्थो यथा स्थितः ।
ग्रहीतव्योन्यथा नैव तादृशी च क्रियोचिता ॥ १७ ॥

  1. In your case, who are created out of Sattvaguṇa, the true meaning of the Vedas should be accepted. Otherwise, that kind of performance (involving violence) is not at all proper.
    ...

सात्त्विकानां हि वो देवः साक्षाद्विष्णू रमापतिः ।
अहिंसयज्ञेऽस्ति ततोऽधिकारस्तस्य तुष्टये ॥ १९ ॥

  1. To you who are Sāttvikas the god is directly Viṣṇu, the consort of Ramā. For his gratification, one is authorized to perform a Yajña which does not involve any violence.

प्रत्यक्षपशुमालभ्य यज्ञस्याचरणं तु यत् ।
धर्मः स विपरीतो वै युष्माकं सुरसत्तमाः ॥ २० ॥

  1. The performance of a sacrifice by actually killing a beast, is contrary to Dharma in your case, O excellent Suras.

रजस्तमोगुणवशादासुरीं संपदं श्रिताः ।
युष्माकं याजका ह्येते सन्त्यवेदविदो यथा ॥ २१ ॥

  1. These performers of sacrifice on your behalf have resorted to Asura type of performance due to their being subjected to Rajas and Tamas Guṇas. They are ignorant of Vedas.

राजसानां तामसानामासुराणां तथा नृणाम् ।
यथागुणं भैरवाद्या उपास्याः सन्ति देवताः ॥ २३ ॥

  1. For Asuras and human beings, characterised by Rajas and Tamas Guṇas, there are deities like Bhairava and oṃers, worthy of being propitiated according to the Guṇas (of the devotees).

स्वगुणानुगुणात्मीयदेवतातुष्टये भुवि ।
हिंस्रयज्ञविधानं यत्तेषामेवोचितं हि तत् ॥ २४ ॥

  1. In this world, for the gratification of one’s deity of suitable guṇa, conforming to one’s own (i.e. devotee’s) guṇa, the performance of sacrifice involving violence is enjoined for them.

तत्रापि विष्णुभक्ता ये दैत्यरक्षोनरादयः ।

तेषामप्युचितो नास्ति हिंस्रयज्ञः कुतस्तु वः ॥ २५ ॥

25. Even out of them, for the Daityas, Rākṣasas and human beings who are devotees of Viṣṇu, Yajña involving violence is not proper. How can it be so, in your case?

...

सात्त्विकानां देवतानां सुरामांसाशनं क्वचित् ।
अस्माभिस्त्वीक्षितं नैव न श्रुतं च सतां मुखात् ॥ २७ ॥
तस्माद्व्रीहिभिरेवासौ यज्ञः क्षीरेण सर्पिषा ।
मेध्यैरन्नरसैश्चाऽन्यैः कार्यो न पशुहिंसया ॥ २८ ॥

  1. Consumption of liquor and eating of flesh by Sāttvika deities is neither seen by us nor heard from the mouths of saintly people anywhere.
  2. Hence this sacrifice should be performed with rice, milk, ghee and other foodstuffs fit for being used in sacrifices, and not with the killing of beasts.

......

This story, along with endorsement of ahiṃsa and thus it's pro-vegetarian stance
is also found in:


So, this seems to suggest that the Sattvika type of worship doesn't involve any killing, thus no meat-eating is prescribed for Sattvika people (and devotees of Vishnu), even in the form of a consecrated sacrifice' prasadam.



View 2: Acharya's / (Jagad)Guru's View:

  • Sacrificial (non-spicy) meat, which is consecrated, may be consumed as 'prasadam' exclusively, and not for taste-bud gratification.

Here's a selective list of acharyas, from various Sects (& Schools), along with their endorsement of the "Veda sanctioned animal-sacrifice" verse in Brahma Sutras, i.e., one should sacrifice an animal in an Agniṣṭoma-yajña.

Adhyāya III. Pada I. Adhikaraṇa VI, Sūtra: 25.

  • अशुद्धमिति चेन्न शब्दात् ।।३.१.६, २५।।

Scholar/Ācharya School Sampradaya Support Animal Sacrifice?
Shankara Advaita (Nirviśeṣādvaita) Smarta/Dasanami Yes
Ramanujacharya Visistadvaita Sri Vaishnava Yes
Srikantha Acharya Shiva-Vishishtadvaita/ Śivādvaita Shrouta Shaiva Siddhanta Yes
Madhavachrya Dvaita Bramha (Madhva)/ Sadh Sampradaya Yes
Sripati Pandita Aradhya Visheshadvaita Veerashaiva Yes
Nimbarkacharya Svabhavika Bhedabheda (Dvaitadvaita) Kumara Sampradaya Yes
Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣhana Acintyabhedābheda Gaudiya Vaisnava Yes

Now, when the above views of acharyas be read in conjunction with Manusmriti 5.27, then such kind of 'Vedic sacrifice meat', which is non-spicy, might be allowed, but only as prasadam.

Further, in reference to the same verse, Ācharya Medhātithi notes-

The text does not mean that one must eat meat under the circumstances; all that is meant is that if the Brāhmaṇas are very superior persons, then the disobeying of their wish would not be right
...

and the sanction does not apply to the eating of ‘carnivorous birds’ and the rest, or to the case of a man who has resolved to give up meat in view of ‘ceasing to eat meat being conducive to highest results,’—irrespective of the fact of the meat being either ‘consecrated’ or ‘unconsecrated,’ or ‘offered’ or ‘not offered.’


tl;dr:

So, for animal killed at a Vedic sacrifice, eating meat:-

  • View 1: Must be avoided (in fact killing must be avoided), in Sattvika Worship and for deities like Vishnu.

  • View 2: only consecrated meat may be consumed, but is not obligatory, even if the meat is from a Vedic sacrifice.

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