Why did Arjuna despite being a pure devotee hunt animals?

by Chaitanya Charan dasNovember 12, 2013

Answer Podcast

Transcription: Vandana Goel Mataji

Question: Why did Arjuna kill innocent animals while hunting along with Krishna in Khandava Forest?

Answer: As described in Shrimad Bhagwatam  Kshatriyas are expected to have a martial spirit. And in the Mahabharata when Pandu when kills dear and actually that dear turns out be to be a Brahmin who is uniting with his wife while taking dear forms and the Brahmin in the dear in human body opposes, ‘ why are you killing?’ why are you killing like this? At that time Pandu gives reasons why Kshatriyas are allowed to kill animals? And actually there are multiple reasons. One is that dangerous animals have to be killed so that forests remain safe for the sages. Secondly there are animals that are sacrificed in the yagya and for that sacrifice also animals are needed and sometimes animals are killed for that purpose also. Now of course the way animals are killed are different at different times. And the third is that actually hunting is always allowed for the Kshatriyas because the Kshatriyas have to practice their archery skills and have to get used to the sight of blood and death and for that purpose they are allowed to kill. So now allowed to kill doesn’t mean that they eat meat also. Here we understand that the devotee kings did not eat meat even when they are Kshatriyas whereas others may eat meat. I have answered somewhere else that how the Kshatriyas are also allowed to eat meat because they often had to go inside the forest and they had to go on war campaigns where grains may always be not available for cooking and when they are travelling through forest  and just fruits and herbs were not enough for eating. To have Kshatriya kind of strength was necessary duty. Anyway the important point is that we shouldn’t impose what we have as a picture of a devotee on the kshatriya kings of past times. Even if they are devotees like Arjuna. Now Arjuna is soft hearted. Arjuna is a vaishnava who is a ‘adweshtasarvbhutanam’at the same time Arjuna is in a particular body, the Kshatriya body. And as a Kshatriya he has to the prescribed duties. So we may also raise the question then that when Arjuna killed so many warriors and so many soldiers who were on the side of Duryadhana . Were all those soldiers culpable? No, not all those soldiers may have had apneumonic mentality which Duryodhana had but then Arjuna had to kill all of them because they were all siding with Duryodhana. So the Kshatriya duty can often be quite ghastly and bloody and as devotees what we have to understand is that what is favourable for my Bhakti. I have to do things favourable for my bhakti and avoid things that are unfavourable for my bhakti so certainly killing animals and that way having the karma of killing animals is forbidden that is undesirable. That means very pratikul  for Bhakti. We don’t have to impose it on Kshatriya king or Kshatriya warrior like Arjuna who although spiritually is a pure devotee materially is in different kind of body and that body bring you in certain kind of mentality in certain duties which are expected of the Kshatriya. So we will see that hunting is quite common among Kshatriyas in the Vedic culture and Dashrath Maharaj, father of Lord Rama also went on hunting expedition. So how do we reconcile with our standard of no meat eating? First of all, not all Kshatriyas would eat meat after killing also. A few Kshatriyas might do that but they are not considered to be vaishnava Kshatriyas. What Srila Prabhupada has given us is not just a vedic culture, he has given us the best of Vedic culture. The highest standard of Vedic culture and Srila Prabhupada also mentions in first canto in a purport that although Rantideva was a Kshatriya he never ate meat. That means the Kshatriyas would eat meat normally but Rantideva was exception because he didn’t eat meat. So Prabhupada mentions that Kshatriyas may even eat meat along with hunting animals….and that is allowed in extreme circumstances but that is not what our acharyas have told us and that is not what is anukul for our bhakti. so we have to choose what is anukul for our bhakti. But not imposed our standard on others who may be in different situations and have different   set of duties expected of them.

Thank you

Hare Krishna

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Chaitanya Charan das

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