When Killing is Not Violence: The Justification of Animal Sacrifice in Rāmānuja’s Śrībhāṣya

How to Cite

Aleksandar Uskokov. (2022). When Killing is Not Violence: The Justification of Animal Sacrifice in Rāmānuja’s Śrībhāṣya: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 26(2), 167–185. Retrieved from https://ivsjournal.com/index.php/jvs/article/view/417


This paper seeks to advance the understanding of the idea of non-violence or ahiṁsā in Hindu systematic thought—philosophy and theology—by focusing on the justification of animal sacrifice in the Śrībhāṣya commentary on the Brahma-Sūtra (BS) written by the great Vaiṣṇava Vedāntin Rāmānuja (ca. 1077–1157).1 While the issue of condemnation and vindication of animal sacrifice in Hindu systematic thought has received valuable scholarly consideration in the last decade of the 20th century, particularly in the work of Wilhelm Halbfass (1991), Jayashree Gune (1993), and Jan Houben (1999), Rāmānuja received comparatively less attention than the earlier Mīmāṁsakas and Vedāntins. There is, therefore, enough space to say something more on the topic.2 By reading Rāmānuja in
his context and with the help of his commentator Sudarśana Sūri, I propose to show here that Rāmānuja rejected two classical justifications of ritual killing that were associated with the Mīmāṁsakas Kumārila (ca. 600–650) and Prabhākara (ca. 620–680) and had dominated the Vedāntic discourse. I claim that Rāmānuja’s justification of animal sacrifice stands alone in the commentarial tradition of the BS, and that while his argument was by no means novel, it was significant for the context insofar as it turned the glance from the wellbeing of the perpetrator of violence to that of the victim.

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