During the time of Buddha, circa 500 BC, the Vedic religion of the Brahmin priesthood in India had become degenerate and suppressive and engaged in frequent animal sacrifices.
The Buddha is reputed to have denounced the Vedic religion at the time. He especially denounced the religious animal sacrifices so common during those days.
“Immense sacrificial ceremonies, such as the sacrifice of the horse (ashvameda), through which the Brahmans imposed their power, ruined the states financially,” writes Alain Danileou in his book While the Gods Play.
Danileou continues: “Gautama was at first attracted by the antisocial mysticism of the Shaivas (Tantra). For a time, he was also a disciple of Gosala and very close to Mahavira, who was three years younger. For several years he practiced with them the austere and free life of a wandering monk.”
The Buddha was not alone in denouncing these Vedic practices. His friend Mahavira, the now well known founder of the Jain religion in India, also became an ardent follower of ahimsa, or nonviolence.
Although it is commonly accepted that the Buddha spoke out against the ritualistic portions of the Vedas (karmakanda), it is doubtful that he rejected the Vedas outright.
“[Both Buddha and Mahavira] were in open revolt against the karmakanda [prehistoric ritualistic portions] of the Vedas, but they were not so opposed to the the jinanakanda [more recent philosophical portions, including certain Upanishads and Vedanta], because these were quite popular with spiritual aspirants.”
“Both Buddha and Mahavira vehemently opposed the ritualistic sacrifices, especially of animals, and both of them protested against the hostile attitude of the so-called dharma towards morality.” Quoted from Namami Shiva Shantaya by Shrii Shrii Anandamurti
In other words, Buddha was an animal and human rights activist long before the popularity of PETA , Amnesty International, vegan and vegetarian activism. About 2500 years before PETA, in fact.
By Ramesh Bjonneson, May 16, 2010