I had always assumed that the Advaitin philosopher Adi Shankaracharya opposed animal sacrifice in Vedic Yagnas (fire-rituals). Here is what this blog post says, for instance:
In the 7th century A.D. the great philosopher Adi Shankara stopped animal sacrifice wherever he went – from Pashupatinath in Nepal to Kanchi Kamakshi in the south (he walked all over India).
But now I've found reason to believe otherwise. As a proponent of Advaita, Adi Shankaracharya was part of the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy. And as I discuss in this question, the defining text of the Vedanta school is the Brahma Sutras, a work by the sage Vyasa which summarizes and systematizes the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads. You can read the Brahma Sutras here. In any case, Vyasa discusses the issue of animal sacrifice in Adhyaya 3 Pada 1 of the Brahma Sutras:
- If it be argued that rites (invoking killing of animals) are unholy, we say, no, since they are sanctioned by scriptures.
And here is what Adi Shankaracharya says about this Sutra in his commentary on the Brahma Sutras:
We proceed to refute the remark made by the pûrvapakshin that sacrificial works are unholy because involving harm done to animals ... Now from scripture we derive the certain knowledge that the gyotishtoma-sacrifice, which involves harm done to animals (i.e. the animal sacrifice), &c., is an act of duty; how then can it be called unholy?--But does not the scriptural precept, 'Do not harm any creature,' intimate that to do harm to any being is an act contrary to duty?--True, but that is a general rule, while the precept, 'Let him offer an animal to Agnîshomau,' embodies an exception; and general rule and exception have different spheres of application.
So does that mean that Adi Shankarcharya was actually in favor of animal sacrifice? Is the claim that he went around stopping animal sacrifice incorrect? Or was he in favor of animal sacrifice at one point in his life and against it at another?