Mahrtmuh hahtzoutz, “ohv eh kogh eem khugheen metch”
Keedtzahv poloruh, buzdeekuh meechev mehdz
A man inquired: who is a thief in my village?
He discovered after his survey that all the villagers from the poorest to the chief are thieves.
Mahrtmuh hahtzoutz, “ohv eh kogh eem khugheen metch”
Keedtzahv poloruh, buzdeekuh meechev mehdz
A man inquired: who is a thief in my village?
He discovered after his survey that all the villagers from the poorest to the chief are thieves.
A gracious leader attracts humble followers
who will help him prevail through every difficult struggle.
They will strive cooperatively for all to thrive.
Never asking for recognition or a bribe.
They who give now will be gifted all things; those who withhold will receive nothing.
Douhr heemah vohr vehrchuh ushsdahnahss, chee duhvoghuh vehrcuh chee uhsdahnahr
Learn the value of politeness from the impolite
Pahreegeehrtoutiahn ahrzehkuh uhngeertehn sohrveh
mahrt mahrtou kahhanah,
mahrt mahrtou sadahnah
Literally one man may serve as another’s priest
and one may serve as a devil
Ouur vartabed kuhnahnah hon artouneh sadanah
(pronounce the “ouur” like “our” in your without the y)
sadanaheen bocheen dzayhruh
Once, Satan’s wife held her child in her arms and and flew through the wind and alighted on top of a wall to view the world. They saw an old farmer’s wife milking a cow with one hand and pointing the teat into a clay pot which she held with her other hand. The cow suddenly kicked the old woman. She fell over bloodied, dropped the pot, which broke and the milk spilled on the ground. The injured elder, flat on her back, began to curse the devil,
“May your children go blind, evil Satan, may your home and family be destroyed, why did you have to do this to me?”
The devil’s son began to speak to his mother after hearing the curses of the old woman.
“Mother, why are these humans so unjust. We were sitting here peacefully, not bothering anyone or anything. Why does this old woman blame us for her misfortune and curse us?”
The mother devil calmly informed her son, “Hold your peace, dear son, the woman is actually right in her condemnation. Although I am sitting here with you seemingly aloof from her suffering, the tip of my tail caused the cow to kick the woman.”
“Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed that an exception would be made in my case. Now what?
Ahmehn mahrt beedee mehrnee, ahbah yes guh hahvadahee vohr mahhuh eenzeee pahtzahreek tzehvov chehr ountounehl. ahbsos, heemah eench beedee uhllah eenzee?
These were the last words of William Saroyan that he telephoned to the San Fransisco bureau of the Associated Press for release after his death.
Saroyan was adept at capturing the common man’s fascination with life’s little moments and little people. He could dramatize the human
foibles that kept men from attaining their desired destiny. And fittingly, his last words expressed the naive innocence of a man who spent his life dreaming myriad dreams. The best of which was the fantasy that death would make an exception of him. Why should death make an exception for him?
He was the eloquent voice of the tattered Armenians in diaspora. The little people that silently lamented unthinkable atrocities perpetrated by the Turks who successfully butchered them and desecrated 5000 years of their history. Raping and torturing virgin Armenian women and murdering them brutally. Forcing younger girls into concubinage. This was the ultimate humiliation of a subjugated people. Slaughter the men, rape the women, force march the elders until they starve or die of thirst, and take the youngest children and raise them to be Turks. Burn and destroy all vestiges of Armenian history such churches, monasteries, graveyards, seize houses and land, and eliminate as much as possible any Armenian survivor on the ancestral grounds of ancient Armenia.
Saroyan eloquently wrote,
” I should like to see any power of the world
destroy this race; this small tribe of unimportant people
whose history is ended,
whose wars have all been fought and lost,
whose structures have crumbled,
whose literature is unread,
whose music is unheard,
whose prayers are no longer uttered.
Go ahead, destroy this race. Let us say that it is again 1915; there is was in the world. Destroy Armenia.
See if you can do it.
Send them from their homes into the desert. Let them have neither bread nor water. Burn their house and their churches.
See if they will not live again. See if they will not laugh again.
See if you stop them from mocking the big ideas of the world.
You sons of bitches
Go ahead, try to destroy them.”
He loudly echoed the quiet frustration of hundreds and thousands of survivors trying to piece together their broken lives and traditions. Trying desperately to teach a new generation what they barely learned themselves. Saroyan, however, mysteriously picked up the broken mantel of the Armenian writers who were mercilessly massacred by the Turks. They tried to systematically wipe out the Armenian intellectuals of Istambul and silence the Armenian renaissance of literary eloquence. But Saroyan, born in a dusty town called Fresno, California, reincarnated the heroic characters of ancient Armenia, who were appearing in California as farmers, barbers, grocery shop owners, wise grandmothers, struggling mothers, and wild kids. They were all nondescriptly living banal lives until Saroyan revealed the noble stature of their dignified failures in life. How could they not fail?
Failure for nearly 20 centuries has made the Armenian a happy creature: one of intuition, of heart and soul, who continues to live because of music, poetry, dance, soft lullabies, stories of wisdom, epic lost battles, and the joy of human warmth.
Saroyan demonstrated his playful nature when he stopped a lecture and began to sing and dance to the simple Armenian folk song,
khndzoreen dzahreenuh dahguh
yes eem yahruss seeretzee
khndzoreen dzahreenuh dahguh
khndzoreen dzahreenuh dahguh
Under the apple tree
I lovingly embraced my sweetheart
Under the apple tree
Under the apple tree
Saroyan brandished his mustache, his belly, his singing and dancing, his elan for the village culture of the old country. He epitomized the determined resistance of the Armenian villager who tolerated centuries of oppression by dancing to the sweet notes and simple words of his folk songs.
Why should death not make an exception of such a man? He was a failure. He failed himself and he failed his people and all people. Saroyan entertained them charmingly, but left them in the midst of an unending tragic-comedy. He should die. But even by dying, he entertained and instructed an unfinished lesson with no concrete answer. His last words were the quintessence of Saroyan. He demonstrated what he didn’t know, the final lesson that he never learned, the ultimate knowledge that he never reached.
He was genuinely gifted as a writer. He could connect with the common man by expressing their pains and joys. His heroes resolved their unending monotony by human compassion They were little people with endless love. Their hopelessness was dwarfed by their moments of intense comedy, the impossible, the unimaginable happening in the most banal situations. Saroyan was an explorer as daring as Columbus. He explored the human soul riddled with paradoxes which was a most perilous terrain. He did not unravel its mysteries nor did he reach the goal of understanding the purpose of life. But he entertained his reader with vignettes into the lives of the little guy and his heroic attempts at offsetting life’s miseries.
Saroyan writes about an Armenian barber in Fresno who was the worst barber in the world. He couldn’t cut hair. He pretended to be a barber in order to capture a single audience for his philosophizing about life. As a young teenager Saroyan would save up his coins to get a haircut so that he could hear the barber tell tales about distant Armenia and its heroes, politics, history, current events, cutting hair, dogs and cats, any subject was fair game. Saroyan was spell bound by the barber’s eloquence and knowledge. The barber would serve him a cup of strong Armenian coffee and they would spend an afternoon together without caring about time, money, schedules or the haircut which was awful. The barber was a gigantic character hidden in an obscure barbershop in Fresno thousands of miles away from Armenia. He was a little guy whose understanding of life was oceanic. He was willing to share his knowledge with young William for 25 cents. No wonder Saroyan became a great writer. His teachers were the unknown bards of poetry and song of ancient Armenia, who miraculously escaped the sabers of merciless Turks. They lived incognito in little shops and humble homes. They were orphans whose education was interrupted when they were still children. But they clung on to whatever little bits and pieces that they remembered from their childhood of what it meant to be an Armenian. The rest was revealed to them from the voices in their hearts and the rhythms in their blood and whatever they could pick up from the few elders that survived.
Saroyan tells another story of the saddest Armenian in the world who joined a traveling circus. His job was the put his head into the mouth of a lion during a circus act. One day, during a performance, a lion killed the Armenian while his head was inside the lion’s mouth. His stories revealed the plight of the ordinary person who struggles with fleeting joys and seemingly unending frustrations. One tries to remember the joys to offset the interminable frustrations. Eventually and inevitably one is defeated by the frustrations of life. Saroyan did not give a solution to the human problem. He made defeat heroic, sad but great in magnitude. He had to because he was Armenian. He was a member of a race of people who were accustomed to heroic defeat, to living dignified while constantly being subject to humiliation by barbaric people.
Being an Armenian was Saroyan’s religion. It was not a religion, but it was Saroyan’s religion, his god, his purpose in life. He wanted to prove that no one, no army, no nation, no world power can kill the Armenian spirit. He was the voice of the Armenians in America. The immigrant Armenians were survivors of massacre and untold cruelty, But now, they could breathe the fresh air of American freedom. He was a first generation American of Armenian descent who inherited a horrible past full of blood and gore and defeat. His father, an Armenian Protestant minister died when he was a child. His mother had to turn her children over to adoption because she couldn’t afford to care for them.
With such a history, he couldn’t believe in God. What God would permit such horrors?
His religion became the Armenian American identity. It was something strange and beautiful, full of paradoxes, tinged with irrationality, impetuous, daring, heroic, unpredictable, irascible, a lonely warrior in a vast desert with phantom enemies and no friends. His solaces were the vivid descriptions of the people he met in his family and in the streets of Fresno.
My brother Dan was part of Saroyan’s world of first generation Armenians in America. Dan’s religion was not exactly Orthodox Christianity. It was being an Armenian which included going to the Armenian Church and attending services that for the most part commemorated important dates in Armenian Christian history. The only part of the Christian teaching Dan imbibed was living a moral life. He didn’t learn this from the sermons but from the statements and example of Kevork Amou and Amoghli Terhanian and their good wives, baron Hampartzoum our father, and Vehanoush mayrik our mother, darling Morkor – Mom’s auntie, Tavit Sudjian, Bolotdos Vosbikian who was our tuhatzee in Matalia, Pemyamin Gostigian who owned the gaifee where Pop used to hang out, Mom convinced him to bring Morkor into America from Cuba where she was stuck Beden Endrikian, Garabed kehree, Uncle Charlie Artinian or Boston Charlie, Khosrof Essayian and his good wife, Uncle George Tashjian and his wife Manoushag, Horobagee, Mariam bagee, Eghsabet kouiyrik, Jimmy Vosbikians parents, Diamond Essayian and her husband, Baron Panossian, Hye Sird, Baron Roupen the Evangelist, Der haiyr Hagopian, Ingehr Gostan Boyajian, the Arpagians, and many many other elders (I can’t remember all of them) who always exemplified the baseline wisdom, mahdtuh badeevov behdk eh ahpree – man must live with honor and dignity.
For the last thirty years, Dan and I talked about these heroic Saroyanesque characters and the lessons we learned from them. They were unknown giants of humanity. Supermen and superwomen who stories would make you hair stand on end. But they reluctantly talked about their past. They wanted to protect us from the horrors and the humiliation. Morkor was a Mona Lisa like angel who taught us to be a human being that endures all the miseries of life and comes out an angel rather than a devil. She was an angel who was raped and stabbed and left for dead, whose child by an Arab died, but somehow she lived and came to America and became the surrogate mother of three Armenian boys. She taught me to go to church every Sunday and pray to Jesus who she was convinced was an Armenian. She would perform the ancient ritual of aghsharel or purification with salt and prayers of Narekgatzee whenever we were sick. She taught me to pray in Krapar, the ancient Armenian language glorifying God. Dan loved and respected Morkor more than anything. Every time we talked he would say, I went to church and lighted one candle for Pop, one for Mom, one for Morkor, one for Amou and one for Amoughli. These were his heroes, his saviors, the ones he loved the most. I am sure he is so happy to lay next to them in eternity because they were the paradigm of dignity and honor vohrohvhedev badeevov aprehtzan yehv mehran.
My brother George loves Danny very much. He did not always agree with him in material matters but he imbibed the unspoken law in traditional Armenian families of always deferring to an elder out of respect. Because our father died in 1956, Dan became the leader of the family, the protector of Mom and Morkor and myself and George was second in command. Dan had the stature of a leader. He was one of the founders of Camphi, he started the Armenian radio program with Hye Sird in the 1950s and assiduously spent every Sunday preparing for it on his meat counter at the back of Betty’s Market. I was very proud of him when I would hear his voice on the radio. “That’s my big brother Danny.” George gave me my first car when I was sixteen and Danny taught me to drive. He would say, “Now watch out, be careful, don’t do that, go slow, look to the right, look to the left, ease out ease out, don’t go fast…. Kevork Amou taught me an Armenian proverb, “Vodkut vehrmageet chap vehrgantour – don’t stretch your foot beyond your blanket.” Dan was the incarnation of this proverb. He always lived within his means and never dared to take a chance if he could help it. Dan related to me once a story about Kevork Amou who was invited by a family to dinner so that they could borrow money from him for a business venture. Uncle Kevork enjoyed a wonderful Armenian dinner, chorek, dolmas, meesohv kufteh, tutvash, mahnur yapragh, vossbohv abour, tahrkhanuh abour, baklava, kadaheef, ect. After the sumptious meal, they sat down to drink Armenian coffee and the hosts presented their business plan to Kevork Amou. After hearing the long explanation, Amou said, “Khelkuhs chee hahsneer gohr – meaning it (your proposal) doesn’t sit well in my mind or in other words I don’t understand your proposal.” He kept repeating this cryptic phrase and finally left without saying no, but not saying yes. Dan and I would laugh over and over again at Amou’s shrewd way of getting out of the obligation of loaning money. Dan respected Amou more than anyone because he was a man of discipline, principled and steady as a rock. He hardly ever deviated from his principles. At least, we did not know of it.
Dan and I frequently talked about Amou and Pop. Amou was disciplined and Pop was more passionate and untamed. Pop could wax eloquently in a speech or toast. He was more daring and had a warm heart. Indeed, he ran off with Mom to get married without getting permission from her relatives the Endrikians. Dan learned to be disciplined and very cautious, overly cautious from Amou. Amou taught him to buy US Government saving bonds every month once he was an independent business man. Dan followed his advice religiously.
Dan learned from Mom how to work hard. She started her own tailor and dry cleaning shop on Wayne avenue to increase the family income. She worked her heart out trying to make a success and Pop would get angry at her. She was cleaver and good with the clients sometimes working 12 to 14 hours to make sure they got their clothes promptly. Pop kept his shop in the Mayfair house and employed Morkor to help him. Morkor was loyal and obedient but Mom was more independent and daring. Dan and George resolved this situation by uniting the whole family in a new venture, Betty’s Market. Everyone had their duty in the store, even me. Mom was Betty the business woman, entrepreneur and working Mom. Pop was the grandsire who would spend hours during the day drinking coffee at Horn and Hardart’s in Germantown and I think, all night playing cards at Gostigyan’s café. After the café, he would go to the Wharf in the wee hours of the morning and make the purchases of produce for Betty’s Market. At that pace, Pop didn’t last long and he finally succumbed to cancer of the lungs caused by three or four packs of Chesterfields a day and ten to twelve cups of coffee.
I remember the day Pop died in the morning on June 3rd, 1956. Later in the day, Amou and Amoughli arrived from New York. Amoghli immediately started to cry when he saw Mom. And then all of them began to cry. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t understand death or what it meant. But I could see it was very emotional and heartbreaking. Mom cried for a week.
Dan told me a few years ago that Pop, Amou and, I think Amoghli, were saved from certain death because Pop’s and Amou’s mother understood that there was a bleak future in Malatia for young Armenian men. She sacrificed everything she had to send them to America where they would be safe and perhaps be able to one day save the rest of the Terhanian family. This was in 1913. When the massacres started the Terhanian boys in America were helpless and tortured by the bits and pieces of news that came from Turkey revealing progressively the horrors of the massacre in Malatia and elsewhere. Danny told me whenever Amou talked about his mother he would cry and Pop’s eyes would become wet. They realized how much she sacrificed to save them and they couldn’t do anything to save her. I think this was one reason why Pop killed himself by smoking and sometimes drinking because there was no other way to mask the pain of being helpless and humiliated and living in a foreign country where everything was difficult for him.
A few months ago, George took me to see Danny in the hospice. We were jolly. Dan would always ask me, “para bedk ouness, yes shad para ounem, chem kedehr inch uhnem.’ I told him, “parayeet pehranuh kaknem, yes kou paraheet bedkt chounem.”
Dan chuckled and said, Seedak uhseer, megh uhnkam chee, hahzahr uhnkam parayeen pehrahnuh kaknem, yes ahl bedhk chounem.” He looked at George and said, “Beats (Danny called George, Beats), you got all my money right?” George said, “Don’t worry, I got it all safe in the bank. You’re a rich man.” Dan said, “You’re Goddamn right, I want to give it all to the church, I don’t want you guys to take a penny of it.”
We all laughed and laughed.
I asked Dan, “Where is Mary?” He said, “I think she’s at home.” I said, “No, she died, don’t you remember?” He looked at me and said, “Vehruh kuhnatz gahm vahruh kunatz aghcheekuh?” George smiled and said, “Kohrem teh vahruh kuhnatz.” (I think she went down.)
Dan said, “Votch, aghchikuh huhreshdak ehr, movie star ehr, vehr kuhnatz. She was an angel, a movie star, she went up.” We all laughed.
Then Dan said, “geenuhs ehren thrahmnehruh ennzee chee tzuhketz.”
(My wife didn’t leave any of her money for me.) I said, “kehzee dahr neh Casino guh vazeheer, yehv shit house gehtahr tuhramneerut.” (if she left any of her money to you, you would have run to the casino and the money would have been lost to the shit house) Again we laughed and laughed.
I’ll end by saying, I loved Danny. He was family, He was good. He was jolly and funny and all Armenian. I learned from George that we should always respect mehdz yeghpaiyr (big or oldest brother).
He was our medz yeghpaiyr and he will always remain in our prayers.
On November 24th and 25th every year the religious festival of worship of Gadhimai, the Nepali goddess of motherhood of all living beings was celebrated. Pleasing her is supposed to release the worshipers from sin, anger, desire and stupidity. It is shocking that a group of Nepali priests decided that the best way to worship Gadhimai is by slaughtering up to 500,000 animals in two days. The animals include cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, rats, pigeons, rabbits, etc.
The animals are hacked to pieces by traditional Nepali knives called kukri traditionally used by the Gurkhas. These blades of these weapons vary in size from a few inches to three feet. The longer kukri are used to chop off the heads of the buffaloes and cows with one strike. The animals are penned up and often tied down. A group of 250 appointed hackers, usually in an alcohol induced frenzy, mutilate to death the animals. The brutal slaughter turns many acres surrounding the temple of Gadhimai into bloody marshes in which people stand. The stink of the hacked body parts of the animals and their entails will spread for miles and last for months. The spectators regale hearing the piercing shrieks of the animals and many people’s clothes are splattered in blood. Rather than release the hackers and spectators from sin, anger and stupidity, it inflames them to extreme acts of cruelty and calloused savagery against defenseless animals in the name of religion.
This orgy of slaughter is supposed to be a religious festival during which the Deity of Gadhimai is literally covered with the feces, urine and blood of the sacrificed animals. It takes place every five years in the Bara district of south-west Nepal. It is partially funded by the government of Nepal and attended by up to one million worshippers.
Manoj Shah, a Nepali driver, has attended the event since he was six. In an interview this year he said: â€œIt is the traditional way. If we want anything, we come here with an offering for the goddess. Within five years, all our dreams will be fulfilled.â€ It is the popular belief that the worshippers can make their wishes come true by offering animals for slaughter to the goddess. This was validated by a Hindu priest named Chandan Dev Chaudhary. He declared: “The goddess needs blood so that the person can make his wishes come true.”
The Gadhimala mela was run by the animal skin, bone and meat coalition of businessmen and money-lenders which fund the priests and temple for their blessings amid a ceremonial air of piety. Deals were made with butchers. Trucks commissioned to take away the fresh meat and bones. The skins sold to contractors in Chennai and Kolkata for the manufacture of shoes. Stalls rented to alcohol, food and flower vendors. The animal sacrifices were propelled by commercial interests.
Is there justification in the Vedas (the Hindus scriptures) for this spectacle of animal sacrifice? Are the Hindu priests in Nepal justified in encouraging the common people to engage in such religious ceremonies of animal sacrifice?
Animal sacrifice was performed in earlier times by qualified Vedic priests. This was over 5000 years ago in a previous age called Dvapara yuga when there were highly qualified Vedic priests who could rejuvenate the dead cows. Such practices were performed to prove that the priests were actually qualified. They were only allowed to kill if they could resuscitate the dead cows. But such practices were not permitted when the present age began 5000 years ago because there are no longer qualified priests who can rejuvenate a dead animal.
We must understand from Vedic authorities the real purpose of animal sacrifice in the Vedas. This question was debated by Lord Caitanya (the 15th century with Chand Kazi, the Mohammedan magistrate of the area of Bengal where the Lord appeared over five hundred years ago. Lord Caitanya challenged the Chand Kazi by asking a question:
The Lord said, “You drink cows’ milk; therefore the cow is your mother. And the bull produces grains for your maintenance; therefore he is your father. Since the bull and cow are your father and mother, how can you kill and eat them? What kind of religious principle is this? On what strength are you so daring that you commit such sinful activities?” (CC. Adi.ch.17.153)
Chand Kazi was a Muslim scholar of the Koran as well as knowledgeable in the Vedas. He stated that killing cows is permitted in the Koran. He reminded Lord Caitanya that the Vedas also recommend cow sacrifice:
“In Your Vedic scriptures there is an injunction for killing a cow. On the strength of this injunction, great sages performed sacrifices involving cow-killing.”
The Lord immediately replied, “The Vedas clearly enjoin that cows should not be killed. Therefore every Hindu, whoever he may be, avoids indulging in cow-killing.” There is an explicit statement in the Bhagavad-gita (18.44) that cows should be protected, “The duty of vaisyas (businessmen and agriculturalists) is to produce agricultural products, trade and give protection to cows.” Therefore it is a false statement that the Vedic scriptures contain injunctions permitting cow-killing.
The Lord proceeded to give the correct explanation of why cow sacrifice was permitted in earlier Vedic period. The Vedas permit qualified brahmanas to kill animals for experimental purposes if and only if they have the power to immediately bring the animal back to life. Whenever there was a Vedic sacrifice, the brahmanas performing it were tested to see if they were successful or not. The test was a sacrificial offering of an old cow placed in the fire. The brahmana priest repeated certain mantras while the cow burned and then pulled the cow out of the fire. If he conducted the sacrifice perfectly the cow was rejuvenated to a young calf. The purpose of the sacrifice was not to kill the animal and then eat it. It was to test whether the brahmana could give the animal new life. The animal sacrifice tested the power and purity of the Vedic mantras he recited and his character. It was not a frenzy of ritual animal killing for commercial profit or a huge barbecue.
The Vedas enjoin that in the present age called Kaliyuga such animal sacrifices are not allowed because the brahmanas no longer are qualified to conduct them successfully.
In the Brahma-vaivarta Purana (KrÌshna-janma-khana 185.180), it is stated, ‘In this Age of Kali, five acts are forbidden: the offering of a horse in sacrifice, the offering of a cow (or bull) in sacrifice, the acceptance of the order of sannyasa (renunciation), the offering of oblations of flesh to the forefathers, and a man’s begetting children in his brother’s wife.’
For a more complete historical perspective, we must mention that Lord Buddha, an incarnation of Lord Krishna, who appeared over 2500 years ago in India, raised the same objection to animal slaughter by Hindus in the name of religion. Lord Buddha was born into a Hindu royal family. On attaining adulthood, he noticed that there was tremendous suffering in his kingdom. He tried to understand why. After a period of renunciation and contemplation, he realized that the cause was due to improper teaching of the Vedas by the priestly brahmana class that misled people into sinful activities. Rather than attempt to correct the brahmanas of his time who were not qualified to perform Vedic sacrifices because they had lost the power and purity to do so, he decided to categorically reject the Vedic authority and set up a standard of ahimsa paramo dharma (supreme spiritual practices) based on ahimsa (nonviolence and compassion for all living beings) for the benefit of the common people. He recognized that the brahmanas had strayed so far away from the correct following of the Vedas and that they were so corrupted by material benefits derived from ritual performances that they would never understand. So he undermined their entire corrupt system of ritual sacrifice by rejecting the Vedas.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a Vedic authority and recognized scholar and author of translations and commentary on many Vedic texts, has written about Lord Buddha,
“Technically Lord Buddha’s philosophy is called atheistic because there is no acceptance of the Supreme Lord and because that system of philosophy denied the authority of the Vedas. But that is an act of camouflage by the Lord. Lord Buddha is the incarnation of Godhead. As such, he is the original propounder of Vedic knowledge. He therefore cannot reject Vedic philosophy. But he rejected it outwardly because the asura, or the demons who are always envious of the devotees of Godhead, try to support cow-killing or animal-killing from the pages of the Vedas, and this is now being done by the modernized sannyasis. Lord Buddha had to reject the authority of the Vedas altogether. This is simply technical, and had it not been so he would not have been so accepted as the incarnation of Godhead.
Nor would he have been worshiped in the transcendental songs of the poet Jayadeva, who is a Vaisnava Ãcarya(guru in disciplic succession). Lord Buddha preached the preliminary principles of the Vedas in a manner suitable for the time being (and so also did Sankaracarya) to establish the authority of the Vedas. Therefore both Lord Buddha and Ãcarya Sankara paved the path of theism, and the Vaisnava Ãcaryas (such as Ramanujacarya, Madhavacarya and), specifically Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, led the people on the path towards a realization of going back to Godhead.”
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada also writes about Jesus Christ in the Srimad Bhagavatam (7.15.10) as follows,
“Upon seeing the person engaged in performing the sacrifice, animals meant to be sacrificed are extremely afraid, thinking, “This merciless performer of sacrifices, being ignorant of the purpose of sacrifice and being most satisfied by killing others, will surely kill us.”
“Animal sacrifice in the name of religion is current practically all over the world in every established religion. It is said that Lord Jesus Christ, when twelve years old, was shocked to see the Jews sacrificing birds and animals in the synagogues and that he therefore rejected the Jewish system of religion and started the religious system of Christianity, adhering to the Old Testament commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ At the present day, however, not only are animals killed in the name of sacrifice, but the killing of animals has increased enormously because of the increasing number of slaughterhouses. Slaughtering animals, either for religion or for food, is most abominable and is condemned herein. Unless one is merciless, one cannot sacrifice animals, either in the name of religion or for food.”
Today, as in the time of Lord Buddha (2500 years ago) and Lord Caitanya (500 years ago), the priestly class whether, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jewish or even Buddhist who are not qualified to teach their scripture have invented horrible rituals or customs permitting massive animal slaughter in the name of religion. For example, the Thanksgiving Day in the USA requires the slaughter of 47 million turkeys. In Islam, after Ramadan or Hajj, millions of animals are slaughtered ritually. The rabbis slaughter animals for the kosher diet. Even amongst some sects of Buddhism there is also animal slaughter. A friend of one of my sons is a Buddhist. He attends a Buddhist temple in Redmond. He explained to me that the chief monk of the Buddhist temple explained that when a Buddhist (in their sect of Buddhism) eats meat, the soul of the animal is elevated quickly to a human birth. This is their belief. People can believe whatever they want, but there is no evidence in the life and teaching of Buddha that such a claim is true.
The problem is not with the teaching of the prophets, it is with the misinterpretations of unqualified teachers or priests who misrepresent the teaching for vested interests. This misrepresentation is taking place in all the religions of the world and is causing havoc in society. The common people are bewildered in determining what is right or wrong.
There was once a marriage ceremony. Right before the marriage was consecrated a bird fell down dead in front of the bride and groom. Everyone looked at the elder amongst them for an explanation. He said immediately get a straw hat. The hat was handed to him. He carefully and seemingly ceremoniously placed the hat over the bird. He said solemnly, “Let the marriage continue.” Years later, the elder died and the child of the bride and groom became of marriage age. When the preparations for the marriage were being discussed they consulted with the elders on how to perform the marriage according to their religious and family customs. The elders said, “You must have a dead bird place about two feet nears the bride and groom. A special straw hat must be placed ceremoniously on the bird by the groom’s father and he must say solemnly, “Let the marriage continue.” Thus a family tradition became part of the marriage ritual for all future generations.
Many customs and rituals that are being practiced today are also similarly fabricated like the dead bird ritual above. The ritual slaughter of cows and buffaloes in Nepal is a ceremonial performance that dates back hundred of years. Similarly, in other parts of India such as Calcutta when Kali or Durga puja is performed many thousands of animals are slaughtered. However, these sacrificial slaughter of innocent animals have no basis in Vedic scriptural evidence. Yet, the common people believe that because these ritual performances have a long history, if they stop them, there will be catastrophic consequences.
By testing the validity of a statement against Vedic evidence and the collaborating evidence of previous recognized acaryas or great teachers such as Buddha, Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhava, Caitanya, we can determine what is true and what is misrepresentation.
We can ask if there is Vedic evidence that permits animal sacrifice? The answer is yes but with many strict restrictions. First, there is no provision for slaughter of cows.
It is explained in the Sri Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi-lila, Chapter 17, verse 166): “Cow killers are condemned to rot in hellish life for as many thousands of years as there are hairs on the body of the cow.” The Yajur Veda 13.43 and 13.48 states, “Do not kill the cow which is splendor of life and [which is] inviolable,” and “Do not kill the Ox.”
The Manu Samhita states that the karmic punishment for killing a cow is very severe.
“If he has a strong desire (for meat) he may make an animal of clarified butter or one of flour (and eat that); but let him never seek to destroy an animal without a (lawful) reason. As many hairs as the slain beast has, so often indeed will he who killed it without a (lawful) reason suffer a violent death in future births.” (Manu-samhita 5.37-38)
A lawful reason means according to scriptural laws. According to Vedic scripture, license is given to meat eaters to sacrifice a black goat once a month on the dark moon night. It is strictly forbidden to purchase a slain animal for consumption in Vedic scripture. The person who wants to eat meat must kill the goat on a dark (or new) moon night under the supervision of a priest who instructs him to repeat the following mantra before cutting the throat of the goat, “Mam sa khadatiti mamsah.” The Sanskrit word is mamsa. Mam means “me,” and sa means “he.” I am killing this animal; I am eating him. And in my next lifetime he’ll kill me and eat me. When the animal is sacrificed, this mantra is recited into the ear of the animal ˜You are giving your life, so in your next life you will get the opportunity of becoming a human being. And I who am now killing you will become an animal, and you will kill me. (Journey of Self Discovery 6.5)
The purpose of the ritual and the repetition of the mantra is to contain unrestricted meat eating by forcing the meat eater to kill the animal himself and witness the horror of the act as well as to repeat the mantra that reveals the consequences of such an act. Such regulation is meant to discourage the meat eater by making him understand the consequences of his acts. Unrestricted meat eating is forbidden. The massive slaughter of animals for Gadhimai or Kali puja is not a bona fide Vedic ritual.
Further Vedic evidence is given in the Srimad Bhagavatam (11.5.14),
“Those sinful persons who are ignorant of actual religious principles, yet consider themselves to be completely pious, without compunction commit violence against innocent animals who are fully trusting in them. In their next lives, such sinful persons will be eaten by the same creatures they have killed in this world.”
In conclusion, we may cite two quotes, one by Mahatma Gandhi and the second by His Divine Grave A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.
“Cow-slaughter and man-slaughter are in my opinion two sides of the same coin.” (Mahatma Gandhi)
“You are killing innocent cows and other animals, nature will take revenge. Just wait. As soon as the time is right, nature will gather all these rascals and slaughter them. Finished. They’ll fight amongst themselves, Protestants and Catholics, Russia and America, this one and that one. It is going on. Why? That is nature’s law. Tit for tat. “You have killed. Now you kill yourselves.” (Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)
Animal sacrifice is also practiced officially in the Armenian Christian Church since it began as the state religion of Armenia in 303 AD, St. Gregory the Illuminator, the Armenian Saint who converted King Drtad of Armenia, converted a large portion of the Armenian people in his kingdom to Christianity, He also used the forces loyal to the king who objected to conversion. This happened in Taron, which is an area of traditional Armenian habitation west of Lake Van known as Sassoun and Moush in modern times. There was also an colony of Hindus that lived in the area of Taron who maintained Hindu temples. The Hindus that numbered approximately 15,000 revolted against the forced conversion and they were defeated by the forces under the control of St. Gregory. Once the Hindus were defeated, St Gregory had their main temple and other shrines destroyed. On the ruins of their main temple which was dedicated to the worship of Rukmini and Krishna St. Gregory established the second most famous temple and monastery of ancient Armenia called Sourp Garabed (St. John the Baptist). It is here that he instituted the ceremony of matagh or sacrifice of animals. The following is a first hand account of British scholars who witnessed and chronicled the practice of animal sacrifice in traditional Armenia which was in the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century.
“I now pass on to report a few noticeable survivals of animal sacrifice amongst the Armenians.
Mr. Croybeare, whose acquaintance with Armenian history and literature is of the first order, had advised me that such sacrifices were still extant amongst the Armenians, and I was interested to verify the matter for myself. In his Key of Truth, p.115, note 4, he tells us that ‘the custom of offering victims in church and eating their flesh continues in Armenia and Georgia until today.’ Thus Gregory of Datev, c. 1375, in his manual condemns the Mahometans because they refused to eat of the Armenian victims.”
In the same work, p.134, note i., there is a long passage from Neres Shnorhali, born c. 1100, and Armenian Catholicos 1165, in defence of the custom of sacrificing animals in church in expiation of the sins of the dead. This sacrifice was called Matagh, and was said to be for the repose of the dead. If I understand Nerses rightly, the sacrifice was to take place at the door of the church, the body of the animal being divided in the following order: (i.) the priests, (ii.) the poor and needy, (iii.) the friends of the offerer.
At Archag, not far to the east of Lake Van, I took the opportunity of inquiring from the priests of the village with regard to this custom. They readily admitted the fact; the sacrifice occurred at leading festivals such as Easter, but especially, if I understood rightly, on the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin. The victims were usually lambs. Their blood was poured out upon the ground and the meat given to the poor. The sacrifice was not, however, performed in the church, but outside. They also informed me it was done in remembrance of the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham!” (Notes from Armenia, p. 439 Folklore Vol XV no.1, March 25, 1904, Transactions of the Folklore Society, A Quarterly Review of Myth, Institutuion and Custom)
Today, the Armenian Apostalic Orthodox Church continues the practice of animal sacrifice, which is explained on the official web page of the Armenian Church, The Catholicosate of All Armenians, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. They explain the meaning of Matagh performance as part of the church tradition.
“Matagh, offering, is one of the traditions of the Armenian Church, its main meaning is giving a gift to God and giving alms to the poor.
Matagh existed in Armenia as early as in the times of St. Gregory the Illuminator. After having converted King Trdat to Christianity, along with all his people, St. Gregory the Illuminator offered a thanksgiving sacrifice to God in the Church of St. John the Forerunner, in Taron, killing numerous animals and distributing them to the poor.
Since ancient times the custom of offering sacrifice during great feasts, in the connection with the consecration of Churches or khatchkars (cross-stones), was practiced in the Armenian Church.
Offering is carried out for different purposes:
as gratitude to God for having saved the individual from misfortune or for granting health and well being,
as plea for the peace of the souls of the deceased.
One needs two elements for offering a sacrifice: an animal and salt. The animal must be male. It can be a cow, sheep, chicken or dove. When a cow is killed, its meat is distributed to 40 houses, a lamb, to 7 houses, a chicken, to 3 houses. The meat must not be left until the next day. If the sacrifice is a dove, it should be set free. First, the salt must be blessed. The salt is the element which purifies the matagh and makes it different from the pagan sacrifice. The meat is cooked only in salted water.
The custom of the Armenian matagh is a profoundly humane, Christian custom, which gives an opportunity to the faithful to express their love towards God, show mercy by helping the poor.
The origin of matagh comes from Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and other patriarchs. Christ Himself during the Last Supper ate the meat of the Easter lamb, which is considered to be matagh, handed down by Prophet Moses.” (web page of the Armenian Church, The Catholicosate of All Armenians, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin)
The sacrifice of Matagh (animal sacrifice) is not actually a Christian practice. It has no relevance to the teaching of Jesus Christ. In fact, Christ stopped the practice of animal sacrifice as performed traditionally by the ancient Jews when He presented the bread and wine of the last Supper as the embodiment of His blood and flesh. He presented Himself as the lamb of sacrifice for all time which ended the Jewish practice and instituted a new covenant in which Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross would atone for the sins of all who put their faith in him.” (Matthew 26:28)
We can see a pattern in modern religions or religions that have started in the last three thousand years from Judaism onward, including the modern form of the Vedic religion which is Hinduism, of deviation from the original teachings of the founders. Animal sacrifice or ritual killing of animals whether in Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity has brought misfortune to those who insist on practicing it. Ritual sacrifice of animals (or animal slaughter for food) is not necessary in any of the religions. It is contrary to the principle of compassion and mercy which is inherent to all the religions. Yet, the priests of the different religions promote it for material gain and to satisfy the palate of meat eaters who would be reluctant to follow a vegetarian diet.
meenchehv hahstuh pahragnah
pahrageen hohkeen gehlah
Sacrifice for one who has a lot of means is bearable. But for those who have very little means, it is life threatening.
The following is an article about a tragic event in South India. People who were devastated by the Tsunami and later by a downpour flood were seeking relief aid and became victims of yet another tragedy.
“They came in droves seeking relief for a tragedy. But became victims of another tragedy instead. In the second incident of its kind, 42 people were killed and 37 injured in a stampede at a corporation school here on Sunday morning in a rush to collect coupons for flood relief.
Six people had died and 20 injured in a similar stampede in North Chennai on November 6. The tragedy took place at 5 am, when over 4,500 who had gathered outside a school in MGR Nagar rushed to the building after a sudden downpour, smashing the police cordon. Several people, mostly women, were crushed in the chaos as people slipped in the slush and fell on one another, eyewitnesses said.
The people had apparently started gathering at the venue as early as 3 am. “There was no need for people to come in so early during the day when it had been announced that relief distribution would begin from 9 am,” chief minister Jayalalithaa told the media after visiting the injured at the hospital.
Attributing the stampede to rumours about selective relief spread by mischief-mongers, she ordered a judicial probe by a retired high court judge. “We had made elaborate arrangement by restricting the number of relief-seekers to 500 at each of the nine counters and deployed heavy security. It was announced that everyone would get relief,” she said.
Jayalalithaa announced an ex gratia of Rs 1 lakh each to the kin of the victims and Rs 15,000 to each to the injured.
On Saturday, 3,452 families were issued coupons in the school and it was announced on the public address system that over 4,500 families would be given coupons from 9 am on Sunday, Jayalalithaa said.
The coupons were to be distributed at the ration shops, but the authorities shifted the venue to the school since the shops were located on narrow lanes. Saroja, a local resident, who survived the stampede, said everything was organized till the downpour, when people scurried for shelter in a school building.
The site of the stampede is near a police booth. What is intriguing is that the police allowed the people to gather at the odd hour. Eyewitnesses said the tragedy could have been avoided if enough police personnel were deployed in front of the school.”
Dash for relief kills 42 in TN
Chennai, December 18, 2005
ahrahntz ahkaghaghee ahl, guh loussahnah
Ahnjahmanag khoshogh ahklohreen kouloughuh guh guhduhrehn
Dehvi bes martuh abberakhdt eh, hatzut goudeh, guh khmeh, paytz ahchkuh gnotch vurrat eh
vohdahvohruh tzeeahvohree vuhrah dzeedzaghoum eh