critiques of sacrifice

Vincent Eltschinger veltsch at OEAW.AC.AT
Mon Apr 19 20:28:56 UTC 2010

Dear Finnian,
Direct criticism of Vedic sacrifice or even Hindu puujaa is surprisingly
rare in Buddhist Sanskrit literature. What the Buddhist intellectuals are
prone to criticize is, e.g., the ontological presuppositions behind the
caste system (Eltschinger 2001 - sorry), or meat eating as a consequence
of animal slaughter (e.g., in the 10th chapter of the La.nkaavataarasuutra
or the 9th chapter of Bhavya's Madhyamakah.rdayakaarikaa), not without a
certain amount of hypocrisy in both cases, however. One thing that comes
immediately to mind is the Buddhists' repeated attacks on tiirthasnaana,
i.e., ablutions (see the references in La Vallée Poussin,
L'Abhidharmako'sa..., vol. III.135n. 2 and 189n. 3, IV.76nn. 3-5; to these
references one may add Huber, Suutraala.mkaara, p. 439, Bhavya's
Madhyamakah.rdayakaarikaa 9.120-123, Ui Hakuju, The Vai'seshika
Philosophy, p. 74, and Benoytosh Bhattacharya, An Introduction to Buddhist
Esoterism, p. 119). In Abhidharmic terms, sacrifices, etc., fall under the
category of 'siilavrataparaamar'sa (as one among the d.r.s.tis or "false
views"), and Vasubandhu's critique of it should be regarded as
paradigmatic. The Buddhist tradition has also developed
interesting arguments against ablutions, especially in connection with
Pramaa.navaarttikasvav.rtti (Gnoli edition) 109,1-3 and Pramaa.navaarttika
1.340 (see 'Saakyabuddhi's and Kar.nakagomin's elaborations on the
stanza). To the late Buddhist philosophers, these arguments were also
relevant concerning homa, agnihotra, japa, upavaasa, etc. Here again,
Dharmakiirti's treatment must be considered as paradigmatic regarding the
structure of any kind of argument directed against the alleged efficacy of
With very best wishes
Vincent Eltschinger

Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia
Austrian Academy of Sciences
Prinz-Eugen-Strasse 8-10
A-1050 Vienna

> Dear List--
> Can anyone recommend primary or secondary literature on critiques of Vedic
> sacrifice and orthopraxy? I am interested in Buddhist & Jain critiques as
> well as those from within the Brahmanic fold.
> Thanks
> Finnian Moore Gerety
> doctoral student, Dept. of Sanskrit & Indian Studies, Harvard University

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