[Query] Why do Hindus give Bali or sacrifices? The Vedas support this cruel act and how can the Vedas be regarded as revealed scriptures?
The concept of Pashu Bali being ‘barbaric’ was publicized by the Catholics as an aid to their rigorous conversion activities. It is quite ridiculous for ‘Catholics’, who eat animals all through their lives, to complain of Pashu Bali during sacrifices as an act of cruelty against animals! In this world, wild animals like lion and tiger kill other animals and devour them. The objective of the Shastra is not to question this act. Even human beings, for selfish reasons, behave cruelly and kill animals to devour them. Such people lack humanity and do not accept the pramANa of the Vedas. For such people, the Vedic injunction, ‘Do not hurt any being’, makes no sense. This injunction is applicable only to those who accept the Vedas as pramANa. So, let’s continue this topic only to address the second category of people. The same Veda which specifies the above injunction also instructs pashvAlambha in a sacrifice called Agnishomiya. So how is it that one can accept the first and reject the second instruction? Let’s think about killing an animal. What really happens by killing an animal? Nothing happens then and there. But we are still bothered by the sin that we believe gets accumulated due to the act. Can we see this sin? No! We understand that this act of cruelty generates sin by the pramANa of the Sruti and Smrti. In a country, a man is not allowed to kill another man. But the government can impose a death sentence on a criminal who has killed several men. In this case, should the executioner who carries out the orders of the government and executes the death sentence be considered as a murderer and killed too? It should be understood that the act of the executioner was not himsa but instead it was his dharma. The Vedas are the commands of Paramatman (shrutismrtii mamaivaajne) and hence an act which looks like himsa but done as per the Vedic instruction without a selfish motive, does not generate any sin.
The same concept was explained to Arjuna by Lord Sri Krishna, when Arjuna refused to kill his kin during the battle of Kurukshetra. The objections to this explanation could be: Why should one kill an innocent animal for earning heavenly worlds? Take the example of a king who fights a battle and kills several men. Is he going to be considered as a sinner and punished by the Shastras? No! This is because yuddha is his dharma and though the king has fought a battle for his own sake, he has only followed his dharma. So, even if a Yajamana performs a sacrifice such as Agnishomiya for his own benefit, he would not be considered a sinner, if such a sacrifice is an ordained Karma for him. From the pramANa - yajnArthaM pashavassR^iShTAH, it becomes clear that the pashu was created to be sacrificed during a sacrifice. To use a being for an act that fulfills the very purpose of its creation cannot be a sin. Thus, one cannot selectively accept Vedic authority and ignore the so called controversial parts of the Karma Kanda. The subtle Tatva behind this concept of Pashu Bali as related to the microcosm should be larnt from a competent Guru. There have also been several questions mailed to me about the ban on crossing the ocean imposed by the scriptures. The nine qualities desired in a Brahmana are: Shama (to understand that objects of the materialistic world are full of imperfections and to turn away the mind from them, towards the Atman), Dama (to control the ten Indriyas by preventing them from becoming prey to their respective objects.
TapaH (Tapas can be shArIra, vAMgmaya and mAnasika. By following practices such as Shaucha, ahimsa, Brahmacharya etc., one can perform shArira tapas. To control speech in such a way as to always speak truth and never hurt another person, at the same time indulging in the recitation of the scriptures, is vAngmaya Tapas. To completely control the mind by qualities such as Chittashuddhi and Trpti is called mAnasika Tapas), Shaucha (this is of two types, bAhya and Abhyantara i.e. internal and external cleanliness), kShAnti (forgiveness), Arjava (having Riju SwabhAva, showing cruelty and hatred to none), Jnana (learning the Veda), Vijnana (understanding the actual purport of the read scripture and experiencing this truth), Astikya (faith in Paramatman). By giving up these qualities, one loses Brahmanya. By residing in places where people lack one or more of these qualities, the person also beings to lose these virtues. To avoid this grave situation due to sahavAsa doSha, the Vedas have imposed this restriction. Due to dwIpAntaravAsa which is aided by SamudrayAna, the Brahmana loses all his virtues and begins to ignore (and even practice) mahapAtakas such as surApAna (consumption of liquor) and hence this restriction is imposed. The Shastras have banned these only for those belonging to the first three Varnas.