In reply to a letter headed "The Sastras and animal sacrifices" published in the Standard of the 12th instant. I wish to offer the following brief explanation which, I trust, will remove the misconception with regard to "animal sacrifices."
In the sacred books of our Religions, figurative phraseology and symbols are freely used. The animal offerings such as man-horses-cows and goats, simply represent the different 'Sadanas' or religious, psychical practices whereby "Gnanam" is attained. The esoteric meaning of these Sadanas has been forgotten and symbol is mistaken for reality.
The chronological order of sacrifices as given in the "Aitariya Brahmana" is as follows:-
"The Gods killed a man for their victims. But from him thus killed the part which was fit for a sacrifice went out and entered a horse. Thence the horse became an animal fit for being sacrificed. The gods then killed the horse, but the part fit for being sacrificed went out of it and entered an ox. The Gods then killed the ox, but the part fit for being sacrificed went out of it and entered a sheep. Thence it entered a goat. The sacrificial part remained for the longest time in the goat, hence it became preeminently fit for being sacrificed."
The Sadana or practices prescribed for attaining gnanam are: -
(1) Sarithai, (2) Kriya, (3) Yoga.
By the 1st two "Sadana" we restrain the 10 external senses of the visible body and they become dead or inactive. This is killing the man. By the 3rd practice we restrain breath or "Vasi" of which the horse is the symbol, thus rendering the 4 internal organs inactive. Of these 4, mind remains for the longest time and its nature being leaping, it is represented by goat or leaper. This is referred to our Thayumanaswami as "துள்ளுமறியா மனதைப் பலிகொடுத்தேன்" which when translated means "I sacrificed my leaping ignorant mind." These internal organs being enfolded in the body they are compared to cattle that we see folded.
In our religious works "Punyam" is defined as acts tending to give pleasure to sentient beings and "Papam" as those tending to give pain to them.
We must therefore lift up the veil of symbolism, if we want to fall on the right track of the esoteric explanations of the animal sacrifices prescribed by the Vedas for the gaining of all."
A religion which advocates "Jivakarunyam" could never have intended the torture which is now being practiced.
C. S. SUNDARAM.
[That the ancient Aryans were partaking of animal food and that the system of animal sacrifice is as ancient as the world cannot be doubted. But the movement to give off animal food following an awakening of the higher moral sense began long before the rise of Buddhism and became more pronounced after it. And the system of animal sacrifices also became discredited; about the time of the Upanishads, they called the sacrificed as only a means and not an end in itself and then began to give a new meaning and signification to the whole system of sacrifices. The sacrifice that was required was of the animal (Pasutvam) in man (Pasu), the sacrifice of self, and the agamas took up the idea and invented forms to suit the new philosophical conception such as are found in our modern temples, with the Balipitam. Yupastumbham and Nandi (freed Pasu); there is a Yagna Sala in every saivite temple, and in the course of a Brahma Utsavam (a substitute for the old soma sacrifice) the yagnas are gone through, take the old mantras and finish with the grand car festival (Tirupurasamhara – the burning up of the three Malas or Pasa). But there old institutions die hard, and we find people here and there performing these sacrifices and it is said that the great Appaya Dikshita once cried at the sight of the slaughtered animas, 'Oh Vedas I believed you,' meaning thereby that but for his belief in the Vedas he would not have performed the obnoxious sacrifice. And we are glad to note the explanation of the Aitareya passage in the light of Yoga. We may note that 'Vasi' is one of the synonyms of a horse as given in the lexicon. – Ed]