Beef and the Hindus – the ongoing debate

Previous discussions may be read here.

I am repeating Shri Kedar’s last post here so that easy reference is possible –

1) Below are two references that show cow-killing is not permitted. The best thing to do would be to go to someone who knows about Vedas (and knows Samskrtam!!) and confirm what I have typed here:

Ref-I:
RigVeda 1st Mandala, 164th sukta, 27th Rik:

HinkRnvatI vasupatnI vasUnAm vasamicchantI
manasAbhyAgAt |
duhAmaSvibhyAm payO aghnyEyam sA vardhatAm
mahatE soubhagAya ||

This verse is about Go, the cow. The word to look for is “aghnyEyam” which after sandhi-viccheda becomes “aghnyA + aghnyA “>aghnyA “>iyam”. In english that is “she is aghnyA” or “she shall not be killed”.

Notes:
1) This alone should be enough because it comes out of asyAvAmIya sukta which contains the famous “ekam sat” and “dvA suparNA sayujA sakhAyA” (two birds– one active, one inert– a reference to mind and atma). This can be considered as a generic sukta which has something from all other suktas of the rigveda.

2) Interestingly, the Griffith translation misses out on aghnyA. I am not sure what meaning was assigned to that word by him, but there you go– thats Western Indology for you! No wonder people are not able to find references against cow-killing in the vedas.

3) More importantly, when the first letter of the first line (Hin) and first letter of the second line(du) of this rik are joined, we get the name of ourselves– Hindu!

Palahalli S writes – I don’t think it is necessary to prove that Cow-slaughter was allowed in our past in order to argue that Cow-slaughter or beef-eating is not against our Dharma. And that’s the entire basis of my argument – to say that beef-eating per se is not against Hindu Dharma. The referenced verse does not make clear if this injunction against slaughter is valid for everybody and for all time. This latter point will be explained by me further on.
———————————-

Ref-II
Mandala-VIII, sukta 101, rik 15:

 class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=””> pre=””>mAtA rudRNAm duhitA vasUnAm svasA AdityAnAm amRtasya nAbhih |
pra nu vOcham chikitushE janAya mA gAmanAgAditim vadhiShTa ||

This is another verse about the Cow:
The latter part of second line is: mA (dont)  class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=””>gAm (cow) anAgAm (innocent) aditim (aditi) vadhiShTa (let be killed).
So, that comes to be: Let not the Cow who is innocent, and who is Aditi Herself, be killed.

Palahalli S – I have a query and this may sound frivolous – but which animal is not innocent in itself? How is the innocence of the Cow more valid than the innocence of say, the goat or the camel? Were there pointed injunctions against Cow slaughter (we haven’t seen anything against consuming beef yet) because there was too much Cow slaughter? Any society that valued the Cow so much would be worried if its cattle wealth began to dwindle or if there was some imbalance in the supply chain. Were these injunctions against too much consumption of beef?

Else why would such strict guidelines be necessary at all? Imagine a society insisting Cows be spared when none were harming it in any case. Something does not fit.

I would like it to be noted that nowhere have I questioned the sacredness of the Cow. How Hindus have related to its sacredness (which ideally translates into how useful the Cow was/is to Hindu society) has varied with time and space.
———————————–

I am interested in Rigveda and I happen to know people connected to it. Hence, Rigveda was my natural choice to search. And these are the ones my guruji came up with, off the top of his head, when I asked him suddenly.

But more references can be easily found in yajurveda, atharvaveda, upanishads, manusmRti, and other dharma-shaastraas. If this is a cause of contention and you do not believe there are any other references elsewhere, we can stop the discussion. (Pala S – I am not arguing against the references.)

There may be an issue that these vedas are meant for spiritually inclined and not for the err… “spiritually un-inclined (declined?)”. In that case, I am afraid that the entire religious literature of Bhaarat is spiritually inclined, and we can stop the discussion. (Pala S – The point is that not everybody’s spiritual state is similar. This fact is brought out within the Dharma in various ways. The manner we grade diets, our stages of Ashramas, our Purusharthas – all of these and more take into account obligations and duties. For instance the spirituality of the Brahmana and the Kshatriya are not similar. The relation to the Cow’s sacredness is obviously different wrt the Brahmana and the Shudra who tans its leather)

2) As to

a) why Cow should not be killed, or

b) how did the Rishis offer and eat Havis if they didnt kill it, we can discuss these ONLY AFTER you accept cow should not be killed, else we can stop the discussion. (Pala S – As you will have seen, my acceptance is qualified)

Closing comments:

This really makes me feel like I am Manmohan Singh and you are Zardari–asking proof for things too obvious! Irony is that we people– you, me, and OT are all on the same side. But you think beef is fine, and OT (Shri Kedar is referring to a debate on at Seriously Sandeep) thinks a consensual extra-marital affair is fine! (Pala S – I don’t think one can relate beef-eating to something that would destroy the family)

I just hope that tomorrow no one raises a question that since “there is no verse against killing one’s own mother in the vedas” and Parashurama killed his own mother Renuka Devi, does that mean killing one’s own mother is permitted? If you then talk about special circumstances or it happened only once while rishis ate beef in every yajna, etc, I can then say “I don’t feel comfortable with that reasoning. Net net, who killed was the son and who was killed was the mother, and what happened was in cold blood.” (Pala S – Not a good argument. This will mean all those that work to tan Cow leather indulge in the horrible act of tanning their mother’s skin)

I just hope that day doesnt come! But then, just like I am hoping today, somebody sometime ago would have already hoped against a day like today when someone would question “why is beef not permitted”. And against the hope, that day has indeed arrived. Who knows, in the days ahead, there may be a day when someone would indeed kill his own mother and still say stuff like “dharma is …protect… family… society”! (Pala S – I’m unable to comprehend your point here)

VenkaTaramaNaa.. Gonvindaa Goooovinda!

Palahalli S writes – On a related note I’m linking to an article by Shri Anil Chawla that uses another argument for beef-eating while remaining within the traditional parameter.

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One Response

  1. 1) Along with indulging in hard-core logic and verbal gymnastics, please also provide a reference from any Indian text of your choice to show that beef was an ingredient in our diet at any point in the History. Please.

    2) You said:
    “I don’t think it is necessary to prove that Cow-slaughter was allowed in our past in order to argue that Cow-slaughter or beef-eating is not against our Dharma. And that’s the entire basis of my argument – to say that beef-eating per se is not against Hindu Dharma.”

    My response:
    No. Thats was not my point. I said I will bring a strong and clear reference against cow-killing, and I did. I took liberty and changed the subject from “beef-eating is not allowed in Hinduism” to “Cow-slaughter is not allowed in Hinduism”, only because they are synonymous. If not, please prove (with a reference rather than logic, for a change).

    3) You said:
    “The referenced verse does not make clear if this injunction against slaughter is valid for everybody and for all time.”

    My response:
    Weak argument. If it was indeed meant for a particular kind of people, the mantra would have said so. The emphasis is not on who shall/shall not kill/eat the Cow, but on the Cow herself– “she shall not be killed”. It is simple, complete, comprehensible, and has no special cases in its application.

    4)You said:
    ” I have a query and this may sound frivolous – but which animal is not innocent in itself? How is the innocence of the Cow more valid than the innocence of say, the goat or the camel?”

    My response:
    Irrelevant sentences. The word “innocent” or “Aditi” were translated only because they are present in the original samskrta text. They are not indispensable for the discussion. The intended meaning was “Let not the Cow …. be killed”. Please refrain from such redundant wordplay.

    5) You said:
    “Were there pointed injunctions against Cow slaughter (we haven’t seen anything against consuming beef yet) because there was too much Cow slaughter? Any society that valued the Cow so much would be worried if its cattle wealth began to dwindle or if there was some imbalance in the supply chain. Were these injunctions against too much consumption of beef?”

    “Else why would such strict guidelines be necessary at all? Imagine a society insisting Cows be spared when none were harming it in any case. Something does not fit.”

    My response:
    Baseless Assumption (or rather, reverie) about “too much” Cow Slaughter. Proof/reference not provided (as usual).

    Also, from the very link you have referred to, your “Shri Anil Chawla” argues for exactly the opposite:

    “The misguided orthodox zealots who oppose all mechanized slaughter houses and meat exports often argue that continuous slaughtering of progeny of cows will lead to elimination of cows and bulls from the country causing a milk famine. The fact is just opposite – the countries that consume cow-meat have substantially higher milk availability.”

    Hence, “too much” Cow-slaughtering would then mean “too many more Cows”, at least according to your “Shri Anil Chawla” (go figure the math in that!:) ). So no need to bring in any injunction against Cow slaughter!

    6) You said:
    “The manner we grade diets, our stages of Ashramas, our Purusharthas – all of these and more take into account obligations and duties. For instance the spirituality of the Brahmana and the Kshatriya are not similar.”

    My response:
    Fallacy. Please explain how the spirituality (what?) of the Brahmana and the Kshatriya has anything to do with Cow-slaughter. Slaughtering a Cow is a mahA-pAtakam (as I already mentioned once). You just do NOT do it. It is a fully understood subject. So where is the question of VarnAshrama and spirituality (what?) here.

    7) You said:
    “The relation to the Cow’s sacredness is obviously different wrt the Brahmana and the Shudra who tans its leather”

    My response:
    Wrong assertion. shudras do NOT tan its leather. shUdrAs are engineers, technicians and the labour force of the nation. They have pride in their varna and are respected in the society. Skinning and tanning of dead animals was done only by ChAnDAlAs, the panchamas. It is exactly for this reason that they are shunned by the society.

    8) You said:
    “I don’t think one can relate beef-eating to something that would destroy the family”

    My response:
    Well your thought is wrong. Not just eating beef, accepting a gift from someone who eats beef (from a muslim sultAn) got one very famous musical family banished from Hinduism (not an isolated incident). After extreme hardships, they had to convert to Islam. The family in question is the DAgar family–the dhrupad gAyaki mAsters.

    Hence, beef eating is as destructive to the family, if not more, as killing one’s own mother.

    9) You said:
    “This will mean all those that work to tan Cow leather indulge in the horrible act of tanning their mother’s skin”

    My response:
    Answered above. All those who do work on skinning and tanning were indeed ostracised and not accepted in society as they WERE committing that horrible sin.

    10) You said:
    “I’m unable to comprehend your point here”

    My response:
    I agree.

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