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On Hinduism$
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Wendy Doniger

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199360079

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199360079.001.0001

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The Ambivalence of Ahimsa 1

The Ambivalence of Ahimsa 1

(p.408) (p.409) The Ambivalence of Ahimsa1
On Hinduism

Wendy Doniger

Oxford University Press

On the religious question of how to treat animals, Hinduism has been clear and explicit in its position. Contrary to widespread misconceptions, Hindus have not always been vegetarians and are not particularly kind to animals. This chapter examines the history of Hindu ambivalence to animals. It begins with a discussion of the ritual slaughter of animals in the Vedas and in the Brahmanas. It then looks at what the Brahmanas and Upanishads say about nonviolence and vegetarianism. It also cites an important moment in the history of ambivalence toward the killing of animals in India, which came during the reign of the emperor Ashoka, in the third century BCE. In addition, it discusses the ambivalence of ahimsa in The Laws of Manu and Mahatma Gandhi’s attitude toward nonviolence. The chapter concludes with an analysis of how Hinduism sought to rethink the nature of the Vedic animal sacrifice in myths and to come to terms with the ritual killing of animals.

Keywords:   animals, Hinduism, slaughter, nonviolence, vegetarianism, India, ahimsa, The Laws of Manu, Mahatma Gandhi, animal sacrifice

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