expiation for eating beef

Jan E.M. Houben jhouben at RULLET.LEIDENUNIV.NL
Thu Jan 27 07:53:38 EST 2000

Dear Tim, hope you are doing well!

Already in the Rgveda it is said to the sacrificial horse "you do not really
die here, you are not hurt ... " (RV 1.162.21ab). This is very similar to
the first two paadas of a verse in TB Here the next two paadas
run: "you are going to the gods along paths easy to traverse, where those go
who have acted well, not the evil-doers". The verse in the TB is intended
for the Pazubandha. Taking into account that the relatively simple animal
sacrifice must have been more frequent and common than the Azvamedha in
which RV 1.162.21 is employed (already in the RV the horse sacrifice seems
to have a strong link with royal power), it could very well be that the
verse in TB is at least as old if not older than the RV verse which
presupposes an established ritual (as far as the meaning is concerned the TB
verse seems to be a stronger unity, the last two paadas in RV show a slight
change in topic). (In other words: although the TB is established later as
text the mantra it records NEED not be younger than the RV 1.164; sorry for
the deviation from the subject.) More in my recent paper "to kill or not to
kill the sacrificial animal? arguments and perspectives in brahminical
ethical philosophy" in Violence denied: violence, non-violence and the
rationalization of violence in south asian cultural history (Brill 1999) (on
the animal and horse sacrifice: p. 117ff).

Much useful material (citations etc.) can be found, of course, in the
Encyclopedia of Kane, Pune (start via the indices under beef, meat eating).
As for your dharmic problem: the mainstream Hindu idea is that "in sacrifice
killing is no killing" (Manu 5.39), and that eating meat resulting from a
proper sacrifice is O.K. This means that before undertaking to eat the beef
one should make sure the animal is killed in a proper Vedic cow sacrifice,
and further ignore the Kalivarjyas (they are just Smrti) which forbid cow
sacrifice in the present age.  However, if improper beef has already been
consumed the only way out I can think of is to go to one of those tiirthas
which absolve you even from mahaapaatakas (e.g., if I remember it properly
after several years, in Rameshvaram there is a well where Rama is said to
have expiated for the sin of killing the Brahmin RaavaNa).

Greetings, JH

Jan E.M. Houben,
Kern Institute, Leiden University,
P.O. Box 9515, NL-2300 RA   Leiden
jhouben at RULLET.LeidenUniv.NL
-----Original Message-----
From: Timothy C. Cahill <tccahill at LOYNO.EDU>
Date: Wednesday, January 26, 2000 11:08 PM
Subject: expiation for eating beef

>   I've been asked if there is any way that a Hindu can 'make up' for
>having accidently eaten beef. I checked Indology's archive and went
>through many messages under the heading *beef eating in the Veda* which
>deal with many aspects of the topic. I also searched under 'expiation' and
>read a brief exchange on the Gosava ritual. But I'm wondering if there was
>any ritual or procedure (or if one has been developed in modern times)
>which is intended to remove the stain of eating beef. I remember the
>'panca-gavyam' for returning from abroad, but I've never heard about
>anything which would apply specificly to this. Washing in the Ganga is all
>I could come up with! I seem to remember an apology that a ritualist gives
>to his sacrificial victim --the specific reference to this would be
>Tim Cahill

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