Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Are a dog and an outcaste human equal?

Aranya(Forest)002 056 naatmaartham paacayed annam na vruthaa ghaatayet paSu`n--

na ca tat svayam aSniiyaad vidhivad yan na nirvapet

57 SvabhyaS ca SvapacebhyaS ca vayobhyaS ca avaped bhuvi--

vaiSvadevam hi naamaitat saayampraatar vidhiiyate

---missing line about food thrown to chandalas (outcastes),
dogs and birds. -----
vighasaaSii bhavet tasmaan nityam ca amrutabhojanah--

vighasam bhrutyaSesham tu yajgnaSesham tatha amrutam

etaam yo vartate vruttim vartamaano gruhaaSrame--

tasya dharmam param praahuh katham vaa vipra manyase

Ganguli's translation with minor editing by me. Context: Vol.3, Chapter 2. Pandavas are in forest. Yudhishthira was worried about the safety of priests. This conversation is between him and the priests accompanying him.

Yudhishthira said, 'O Brahmana, this my desire of wealth is not for
enjoying it when obtained. It is only for the support of the Brahmanas
that I desire it and not because I am actuated by avarice! For what
purpose, O Brahmana, doth one like us lead a domestic life, if he cannot
cherish and support those that follow him?

All creatures are seen to
divide the food (they procure) amongst those that depend on them. So
should a person leading a domestic life give a share of his food to Yatis
and Brahmacharins that have renounced cooking for themselves.

The houses of the good men can never be in want of grass (for seat), space (for rest), water (to wash and assuage thirst), and fourthly, sweet words. To the weary a bed,--to one fatigued with standing, a seat,--to the thirsty, water,--and to the hungry, food should ever be given. To a guest are due pleasant looks and a cheerful heart and sweet words.

The host, rising up, should advance towards the guest, offer him a seat, and duly worship him. Even this is eternal morality. They that perform not the Agnihotra not wait upon bulls, nor cherish their kinsmen and guests and friends and sons and wives and servants, are consumed with sin for such neglect. None
should cook his food for himself alone and none should slay an animal without dedicating it to the gods, the pitris, and guests.

Nor should one eat of that food which hath not been duly dedicated to the gods and pitris. By scattering food on the earth, morning and evening, for (the behoof of) dogs and Chandalas and birds, should a person perform the Viswedeva sacrifice.

He that eateth the Vighasa, is regarded as eating ambrosia. What remaineth in a sacrifice after dedication to the gods and the pitris (ancestors) is regarded as ambrosia; and what remaineth after feeding the guest is called Vighasa and is equivalent to ambrosia itself.

Feeding a guest is equivalent to a sacrifice, and the pleasant looks the host casteth upon the guest, the attention he devoteth to him, the sweet words in which he addresseth him, the respect he payeth by following him, and the food and drink with which he treateth him, are the five Dakshinas in that sacrifice.

He who giveth without stint food to a fatigued wayfarer never seen before, obtaineth merit that is great, and he who leading a domestic life, followeth such practices, acquireth religious merit that is said to be very great. O Brahmana, what is thy opinion on this?

ybrao a donkey's observation
Why the offending line in verse No. 57 (marked by me as missing line in the Sanskrit text above) was removed? The line is missing in the Bhandarkar files, Pune; Kyoto files, Japan; Sacred-text.com files which have published Ganguli's translation and Sanskrit Verses.

Removing the line in some electronic versions does not automatically purge the line from all other global and Indian sources. The line would continue in microfilms of manuscripts/palm leaves. They will be available in libraries who have not yet placed their digital files on the internet. They will be available in Sanskrit Mahabharata books published in the scripts of local languages. Some reader who has access to the hard copy will have to help in tracing this line from another book.

Ganguli's English translation was very clear that food should be thrown to dogs, chandalas (outcastes) and birds. Were chandalas not guests? Do they not deserve a humane treatment befitting fellow humans?
When new persons read the revised Sanskrit Mahabharata verses available at various places, they will NEVER know that there was an offending Sanskrit line at the end of verse 57 (before vighasa) which refers to throwing of food to dogs, chandalas and birds. Then they may start arguing that Mahabharata and Yudhishthira never mentioned in Aranya Parva that Yudhishthira ate only after throwing food to chandaalas, dogs and birds.

Right thing ought to have been to allow the line to continue in the scripts and make a note that Yudhishthira was under an erroneous belief and continued a cruel practice.

Won't the chandalas deserve leaf plates to eat food in? Yudhishthira need not feed them in golden or silver plates as he might have fed the Priests. Why Yudhshthira was so cruel to chandalas?

If a particular bad practice had taken place during Mahabharata times or the Gupta dynastic rule (the period of formation of Mahabharata into a book form), it does not mean that we are going to continue it in the 21st Century.

What we need is not laundering of ancient books. We have to recognise the facts. We need not blindly follow whatever was written in those books. Our wisdom should guide us to truths which have eluded Yudhishthira owing to the influence of Priests surrounding him.

ANOTHER POSSIBILITY (Added on 12.12.11.)
The particular line about throwing food to dogs, birds and outcastes may not be there in all the texts and versions. It was possible that Ganguli might have derived the sense from the meaning of the word "vaisvadevam" sacrifice, occuring in texts such as Jaiminiya Brahmana or from the Manu Smriti 3-92: शूनाम् च पतितानाम् च श्वपचाम् पापरोगिणाम् । वयसानाम् कृमीणाम् च शनकैर्निर्वपेद्भुवि ॥ ३-९२ Roman script: SunAm ca patitAnAm ca SvapacAm pAparOgiNAm. VayasAnAm krimINAm ca Sanakair nir vipaddhavi.

Additional comment about pAparOgiNam::= Persons suffering from ailments born out of sins. Presumably, these might have been diseases like psoriasis and leprosy. Why some diseases were considered ass sin-born? They needed greater sympathy from the Government and the Society.

One indication we often get during Mahabharata searches, is that there was no idol worship during Mahabharata days or the evolutionary days of the book. In the modern Hinduism, the Priests place food stuffs before the idol and take the whole thing as God's gift (prasadam or munaff in Urudu). Externally, they make a show that God eats whatever they place before the idol. Within their own minds, they might have been 100% certain that God would not eat. Hence, the entire food (e.g. laddu at Tirupati) is withdrawn and sold out as prasadam or God's gift. They never allow the God to eat, as their common-sense and money-sense dicatates that God cannot eat.

If they really believe that God does/can/will eat their offering, they have to examine the veracity of the idea only by waiting. If some ants and worms eat it, in the meantime, a better thing would probably have been to believe that ants, insects and birds are the representatives of God. They could have asked the God himself as to whether he was sending some ants, insects or birds to eat his/her food on his/her behalf.

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