SWAMI DAYANAND UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION TO YAJNIC THOUGHT
dr vivek arya
Yajnas or agnihotram are considered by swami Dayanand as one of essential daily five duties of Aryans. Yajnas mentioned in Vedic beliefs were interpretated as sacrifices by most of western scholars as they were familiar with word sacrifice in bible (for e.g. Genesis 22:1-18, In Exodus 13:2 etc.).When they started translation of the Vedic texts their previous beliefs made them to interpretate Vedic Yajnas as sacrifice or fire service. But wise persons always search for the truth. Truth seekers always search for few questions about Vedic Yajnas.
Does Vedic Yajnas supports animal or humans sacrifice? Do the offerings of Vedic Yajnas go to the gods who resides in swarga (heaven) in bodily forms? Are previous viniyogakaras or commentators like Sayan, Mahidhar, Uuvvat wrong in their interpretation of Vedic texts as they supports animal sacrifices in Vedic Yajnas? What is the real form and purpose of Yajnas?
We will go one by one to understand the real facts of Yajnas.
Does Vedic Yajnas supports animal or humans sacrifice?
Many kings of Yajnas are described in brahmanas, shraytasutras, and grihyasutras like texts which are basis for diverse kinds of Yajnas performed by rajas, maharajas and yajmanas. These texts mentions ashwamedha in which a horse was killed and its flesh was offered in the fire, ajamedha in which a goat was sacrificed, naramedha in which flesh of human being was offered in the fire. This concept is well supported by Indian commentators like sayan, mahidhar etc apart from maxmuller, Griffith and other western indologists. The vedas clearly prohibits the killing of animals and offering of their flesh in the fire. Vedas says a person who performs a yajna without any havi (offerings) at all is far better than one who offers flesh as havi (ref atharv 7.5.4). Persons not knowing their duties perform Yajnas with the flesh of dogs and cows. Please reveal the true essence of the Yajnas to us; o guru, please enlighten us on the mysteries of yajna (ref atharv 7.5.5) Yajurveda 7.47-51 mantra prohibits killing of biped animals like man, one hoofed animals like horses, cows, sheep, goats, for sacrificial purposes in Yajnas. In these mantras prayer had been made to Agni requesting him not to kill these five types of animals. Swami Dayanand has interpretated in very beautiful and educative meaning the terms ashwamedha, ajamedha, naramedha in 11th chapter of satyarth prakash- “A king governs his people justly and righteously. This called Ashwamedha.” “A learned man gives a free gift of knowledge to the people. This also called Ashwamedha. Again, “the burning of clarified butter and odoriferous and nutritious substances in the fire in order to purify the air is also called Ashwamedha. Shathapatha brahmanas 13: 1, 6; 3. “To keep the food pure or to keep the senses under control. Or to make a good use of the rays of the sun or keep the earth free from impurities (clean) is called Gomedha.” “The cremation of the body of a dead person in accordance with the principles laid down in the Vedas is called Naramedha.” Again vedas uses the word “Adhvara” for Yajnas. Adhvara means that which is without killing. When the vedas itself calls a yajna as Adhvara then how any animal or living being can be killed for the Yajnas? To do so would be a gross insult to the aforesaid intention of the vedas and would be against the vedas. Vedas uses word “Aghnya” or does not deserve to be killed for cow or which should never be killed. When the vedas itself declares a cow as aghnya then how can the vedas be blamed with the responsibility of sanctioning a horrible practice like gomedha? In this was Swami Dayanand has saved yajna places from becoming slaughter houses and has cleared the vedas of the false blame of recommending animal sacrifice.
Do the offerings of Vedic Yajnas go to the gods who resides in swarga (heaven) in bodily forms?
Most of people beliefs that in sky there is a place name swarga where gods like indra, Agni, varuna, surya etc resides in bodily forms like men, never falls ill, never grow old and always remain youthful and they will never die. They have their wives, courtesans and dancing girls who continue to make their lives sweet and delightful. These gods are believed to be the presiding deities of elements of fire, air, water found on earth and of the phenomenon of the dawn and the sun and the moon that are visible in the sky. In this manner the gods happen to be of two forms. In one form as inanimate objects like fire, water and sun and in other as deities, fully animate and conscious as human beings. These gods appear at the Yajnas in invisible forms and partake of the foods offered. After taking these foods and on hearing the hymns sung in their praise they grant the desires of the persons on whose behalf are performed Yajnas. Persons performing Yajnas are sent after their death to swarga by the gods where they also becomes gods and all pleasures enjoyed by the gods become available to them also. This has been the view of sayan and other commentators about the fruit of Yajnas.
Swami Dayanand does not accept Vedic gods like Agni, varuna etc as gods living in heaven in bodily forms. He interprets these gods as the creator, the ruler of universe or country or at certain places as officers of the government, as teachers, preachers, actual visible fire, air, water, moon, sun and animate objects. He believes that the relevant mantras described their qualities and talk about putting them to use. Swami Dayanand asked that if the god has bodily forms than why these gods are not seen accepting offerings in Yajnas. Why do they come in invisible forms? Why not in visible form to show to their devotees? On seeing their forms their devotees would have their devotion heightened and they would serve them ever better. Swami Dayanand interpretated heaven as a life of pleasures, happiness and prosperity in this world while hell as a life full of sorrows and sufferings on this earth. Even today science proves that none of the telescopes even Hubble is able to visualize any heaven in space. None of the astronauts found any such place on moon itself. Thus both heaven and hell are false imagination only. Thus by his original thought swami Dayanand established expose a great myth about the Yajnas.
Are previous viniyogakaras or commentators like Sayan, Mahidhar, Uuvvat wrong in their interpretation of Vedic texts as they supports animal sacrifices in Vedic Yajnas?
Commentators of vedas like sayan etc who follow the brahmanas, shraytasutras and grihyasutras have wrongly applied Vedic mantras not only for performing Yajnas of animal sacrifices but have also applied them in different Yajnas and rituals. Their use of Vedic mantra is not authentic. This may be `viniyoga’ according to their own conceptions. At many places the meaning of the mantra means one thing, the viniyoga has an entirely different purport. For e.g. atharveda in 9th chapter 4th sukta sayan writes “The Brahmin kills an ox and offers havi of its flesh to different gods. He praises the different limbs of the animal and also elaborates as to which limb is dear to which particular god. The sukta also describes the glory of performing a havan by sacrificing an ox. The benefits occurring from such a havan have been sung” If the real meaning of this sukta is subtly reflected upon no such interpretation is present there. The real meaning is “In order to improve the breed of the cows, a high breed male calf be let off to grow up as a pedigree bull.” The last mantra of same sukt cow has been addressed in a very sentimental way as “O ye cows! We mate you with this youthful bull. Move about as you please while playing with him. Do not deprive us of your offering and bless us with all the emblems of prosperity” Question arises how will the cows mate with a bull, who has been killed and put into the fire? How will they move about with him and also increase their offspring? It can be possible for the cows to do so only with a living bull. Thus we see how opposed the interpretation by the viniyogakaras of the sukta is to the real meaning of the vedas. Being a great scholar of the vedas swami Dayanand was able to detect the illogical and non Vedic interpretation of the viniyogakaras with the help of his penetrating intellectual vision. He writes in his famous work rigvedadibhasyabhumika “The viniyoga of the mantras as employed in Yajnas according to Shathapatha and Aitreya Brahmans and Shraytasutras can be accepted only if it is logical , is in accordance with the vedas and meaning of the mantras.” Thus swami Dayanand has liberated the vedas from the iron chains of the meanings and interpretations of the viniyogakaras by condemning their blind following of their ways. He has thus also strongly supported and made smooth the practice of making independent and free interpretations of the vedas.
What is the real form and purpose of Yajnas?
Swami Dayanand saw that Yajnas had reduced to some sort of magical rituals and different kind of Yajnas were being performed to fulfill different sorts of worldly desires. Even animal flesh was offered for this purpose in Yajnas. Swami Dayanand was extremely moved to see this cruel and horrible form of Yajnas on name of vedas. He declared that there is no provision for such Yajnas as magical rituals for fulfillment of desires. Swami Dayanand describes following advantages of performing Yajnas in rigvedadibhasyabhumika “Properly purified, fragrant, sweet, nourishing and disease – dispelling materials are offered as offerings into the yajnic fire. This purifies the atmosphere and rain water and thus the yajna becomes a yielder of happiness to the whole world.” He also narrates in third chapter of satyarth prakash as “One is the aforesaid purification of air and water and the second is the protection of the vedas. Vedmantra are employed in the performance of the Yajnas like Agnihotras and Ashwamedha etc. diverse mantras are recited in their performance. In this way, these mantras continue to be used and recited and they also get memorized. ”
While performing a yajna the teachings of mantras get impressed upon the minds of priest and yajamana which influence their practical day to day life, their lives become ennobled. The root word `Yaja’ from which word yajna emerges has three meanings: Deva puja (meditation upon and imbibitions of the virtues of god; respect for and service of the learned and acquiring knowledge from them), `Sangatikarana’ (useful compounding of material substances to start corporate organizations) and `Dana’ (gift of wealth, learning etc.) Swami Dayanand has pointed towards the universal meanings and ideas of these words at many places in his commentary on vedas. Overall Swami Dayanand focus was to impart a very vast scope to the concept of yajna by describing all actions performed for the general good of the people as Yajnas. Finally Yajnas can be best described as “An act performed with the motive of welfare for the whole society and in which the performer becomes a part of that society is called a yajna”
Om shanti shanti shanti