According to many vedic scholars, yajna is one of the greatest activities that can be performed. In this context, it acquires a meaning more profound than that which is understood in a narrow ritualistic sense. In fact, yajna is the source or origin of the Vedas itself. The four Vedas, Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva, along with the Upanishads are the embodiment of the concept of yajna. A fundamental question in these ancient scriptures is implicitly raised as to what is the unifying factor of the entire cosmos. Indeed, yajna is the abiding principle that sustains the entire creation, the unifying power that links the creature with the creator, the microcosm with the macrocosm.
Kinds of yajna
Yajna can be broadly classified as vedic or tantric, depending on the rituals employed. A yajna can be performed with a specific desire in mind (sakama yajna), or without any desire, for the benefit of humanity in general (nishkama yajna). According to vedic scholars, the main kinds of yajnas are: paka yajna, havi yajna, (pancha) maha yajna, ati yajna and shiro yajna. Each yajna offers a way to purify the senses, mind, mental archetypes, tattwas (elements), gunas or the entire ecological system.
Paka yajna (in which food is offered as oblationary material) was considered a daily ritual for householders. In havi yajna, oblation material consists of stuff other than food.
The pancha maha yajnas include Brahma yajna, deva yajna, pitri yajna, manushya yajna and bhoota yajna. In Brahma yajna the body, wealth, mind and emotions are surrendered to the creator; in deva yajna offerings are made to various deities like Indra, Varuna, Shiva, Devi, etc.; in pitri yajna obeisance is paid to forefathers and superiors; in manushya (or nri) yajna the essence is service to humanity (represented by service to guests); and bhoota yajna is appeasing lower species.
Rajasooya, ashvamedha and vajapeya yajnas constitute ati yajna. Such yajnas were performed on a large scale by kings and involve immense manpower and resources. Shiro yajna is also referred to as dharma yaga.
There were other yajnas such as Vishvadeva yajna in which the entire cosmos (vishva) is considered the divine manifestation and is worshipped as such. Purushamedha yajna was performed as self-sacrifice, gomedha yajna was performed for the welfare of cattle, and sarvamedha yajna involved sacrificing the interests of a smaller community for a broader and nobler cause.
Rajasooya yajna: In ancient India, the ruler was invested with supreme administrative powers and was accepted by his subjects due to the strong moral and spiritual values that he professed. Rajasooya yajna was an integral part of the political and administrative system, as it was the deciding factor as to who was qualified to govern a state. It was performed at different stages of rule, such as in times of peace or whenever the need to evaluate administrative abilities by the people at large was felt. During the yajna, the state policies and activities of royal officers were evaluated, complaints attended to and measures to rectify past errors decided upon. Rajasooya yajnas provided a platform for a close interaction between the ruler and the ruled.
Vajapeya yajna: This yajna was performed with the specific objective of maintaining harmony within the state. It was essentially an assemblage of learned scholars, enlightened sages and spiritual mendicants from different parts of the land. There was an exchange of views on various issues of contemporary lifestyle, leading to formulation of policies as well as the means to implement them.
Vishwajeet yajna: This yajna was performed with the objective of unifying the entire human race into one single world community. The most significant and unique message conveyed by this yajna is that love, not war, is instrumental in achieving such a unity.
Ashvamedha yajna: Only an undisputed sovereign was qualified to conduct an ashvamedha yajna. It required a time span of two years. Before the yajna, the royal horse, signifying the power and sovereignty of the king, was sent to different kingdoms. Those who accepted the sovereignty allowed the horse to pass through. If the horse was captured, it was seen as a challenge for the king to prove his skills. If the horse came back unopposed, it was a clear sign of the sovereignty of the monarch. This enabled him to establish his empire on a firm basis.
THE YAGNA ( SACRIFICE ) DONE BY PRAJAPATI
The initial sacrifice was that of the divine being PURUSHA sacrificing himself to become the universe. The ancient vedic hymn Purusha Sukta tells of the transformation of the eternal, infinite being into the finite cognizable material world, initiating the eternal cycle of creation. So the spirit of sacrifice came to be recognized as the source of creation, the heart of all creative forces.
This yajna was called sarvahut, the offering of all. The Purusha was the object of worship. Brahma, the creative aspect of the Purusha, performed it. The priests were the devas, the Purusha's senses. Brahma was the beast of the sacrifice. The altar was all of nature. The fire was the Purusha's heart. The Purusha himself was sacrificed to bring forth all of creation. This is a message of love, that the Purusha would consume himself in the fire of sacrifice, to create all the worlds. From his mind emerged the moon, the sun from his eyes, Indra and Agni from his mouth, and the cosmic breath, Vayu emerged from his breath (prana). Atmosphere emerged from his navel, the sphere of light (divyaloka) from his head, the earth from his feet, the directions from his ears. The devas created all the spheres (lokas) from his cosmic body. Thus the gods worshipped the god of gods through sacrifice. The original sacrifice, the original yajna, became the law of life.
The person who does the Yagya is Purusha. His offerings are also Purusha, the fire into which he offers his offerings is also purusha and to whom does him offer ? To purusha himself. SHIVOHAM
We say that God is pleased if humanity is served. Social workers proclaim " Service to man is service to GOD". service to society is service to God. Similarly, serving the divinities who are amongst God's creations by Yajna earns God's grace.
When Brahma Prajapathi created the world, he also created the Yajnas for performance of men. " Continue to perform the yajnas. Live well as a result of the benefits that would follow. Regard this Yajna as Kaamadhenu" says the Bhagavad Gita.
In Yagna, the chant of a mantra pertaining to a particular deva calls forth that Deva. Those who are spiritually evolved can see them in person. Even if not visible to the naked eye, their presence will be subtly felt. Even so, directly offering oblation to them is not proper. Only oblations made in Agni, along with the chant of the prescribed mantras, will make them assume the form in which they become acceptable to the Devas.
One must not wonder as to how the oblations can reach their destination when fire has consumed most of them and the rest has been eaten by the performer of the Yajna as Prasad. The Devas donot have bodies physically constituted like ours by the five elements ( Earth, water, fire, sky,air). They dont need the type of material food that we consume. Even for us, the digestive organs convert the food into different forms before absorption by the body, In the same way, the sacrificial fire converts the oblation to a subtle state before carrying it to the Devas.
Now let me talking about an observation of mine. We have seen Cats. There many varieties of CATS in the so called " Cat family".
In case of dogs, there are many such animals identical in body structure and properties, which we call the " Dog family". Similarly among birds, fishes etc we have different varieties but see Humans. We cannot call ourselves apes, as we are different in properties and body structure with them. We can mediate which is the greatest difference we have with apes even if one advocate that we are an evolved ape, he cannot give much points as we are not talking about evolution here but the present state . Among humanoid beings we believe that there is just men in this creation. Some people believe in aliens in outer planets who are intelligent like us.The spiritual and celestial experiences can be felt only by humans as we always had the potential in us.One basic thing I can say is that we are the only beings who can touch the forefinger with the thumb which is the basis of Mediation.We don't have a framework as we are the most powerful being in this plane of existence. In a jungle, the lion may be the strongest but considering the world as whole, a Lion is nothing in front of a human gun. But if u consider the skies and upper planes, there are humanoids who are highly evolved and advanced compared to us. In Puranas and other religious, we have heard of many humaniod beings other than humans like angels, demons, JInn,Rakshasas, Kinnaras, Gandharvas, Daityas, Danavas, Adityas, rudras, Marutas etc.
Devas coexist in the five elements in this world and also appear in material form but in their own plane of existance they have individual form. If full benefits are attained by correcxtly chanting mantras, we can see them in their corporeal form in Devalokain addition to their material favours here. The mantras at the Sabda Roopa por sound form of Devas.
In Yajna, the chant of a mantra pertaining to a particular Deva calls forth that Deva. Those who are spiritually evolved can see them in person. Even if not visible to the naked eyes, their presence will be subtly felt.
The Yajnas alone can satisfy these. If they are to help us to improve our lives in this world here, we should also help to increase their power by doing Yajnas to satisfy their requirements. It we do these with a mind dedicated to their welfare, they also would respond by showering their favors on us.
Although the Devas depend on us, we should not forget that they are superior beings. We should show them proper respect. Other religions directly pay their homage to a single God, offering prayerto him directly. There is no such method as pleasing diverse divine forces through rituals. In our culture Saints, those who have renounced worldly riches and pleasures need not approach the Devas and seek well being through their benevolence. In order to please the devas, oblations, yajnas etc have to be done.
When we consider other religions, take for example Christianity. There are practices of worshiping Jesus, St.Peter, St. Antony, Alphonsa etc as messengers of God. They believe that these second set of Godsmen will speak to God for them and worship them with food, wine etc. There is still another sect that summons lower beings like demons and angel, which are close to class of Pishachinis for difference purposes. Similarly in Islam, they to does Jin sadhanas for different day to day success in life.
To illustrate this by a mundane example : All cannot have direct access to talk ti the king of the country. People approach the officials of the King for the redress of their various grievances. The officials do not act in their personal capacity but under the direction of the King.
Parameshwara is the emperor. The citizens are the entire mankind. Varuna, Agni, Indra, Vayu etc are the officials. We should get our benefits through them.
We perform Yajnas to give more power to the Devas. The oblations we give constitute the food for Devas. Only things that we offer renouncing our right in them reach the Devas. Things consigned to the fire should unequivocally be offered to the Devas. This is why when offering an oblation we say "na mama" which means " Not for me". The path through which the Devas takes food is through Agni. Similarly, through Agni and Veda mantras we give offerings to the spirits of our departed ancestors.
Engineers can only arrange for the proper flow of rain water through canals and for storage in reservoirs; they cannot make rain. If we are to get rains, we must give offerings for the Devas who are responsible for rain. This mutal exchange agreement is what Gita refers to when it says :
"You please the DEvas through Yajnas - Let the devas please you by rains and such other things. Thus, helping each other may you prosper".
Different routes but same destination
Yajna means offering liberation to each Deva through mantras. In a sense, the sama Veda mantras constitute the form of the Devata. Like the substances offered in sacrifice, the words of these mantras become the food, as it were, for the Devatas and thus increase their power. Mnatra, thus has a manifold purpose. We pay different taxes which go to swell the government's revenue.
Never less, there are different places where the different types of taxes have to be paid, like income tax, sales tax, land tax, vehicle tax etc. A different kind of receiptnis issued for each by a different authority. Likewise, for each ritual, there is a separate mantra, Devata, sacrificial object, time etc. Thus , although there is a different procedure for performing each, the ultimate goal is to please the supreme Being. We know that although paid in different offices, all taxes are credited to the Government's revenue. We should regard the various Yajnas done to various Devatas as reaching Supreme Being, through these Devatas.
Ecological significance of yajna
Ecology relates to the interrelationship between living organisms and their environment. Our survival and well-being depend on sound ecological relationships, or a balance between matter and spirit. If matter is polluted, it adversely affects nature or spirit. Maintaining harmony between the two is therefore indispensable. It is this principle that led the ancient rishis to study the scientific aspects of yajna.
The entire process of a yajna, consisting of mantra chanting, lighting the sacrificial fire and offering havi to the gods in the form of ghee, vanaspati (materials from plants and trees) and other objects, purifies the environment significantly. In fact, yajnas have been successfully performed even in modern times to induce rainfall, to check the spread of epidemics, and so on.
Yajna is verily a process of give and take. Offerings are made to gods and they bestow blessings in turn. This is how the cosmic balance and order is maintained. Underlying all of this is the unity between all forms of creation and their essential relationship with the One or supreme soul, realized through the process of yajna. This relationship between the parts and the whole is interpreted as a spiritual relationship, best described by the Upanishads as:
From full, the full is taken, the full has come.
According to Dr. Shirowich, a Russian scientist, (i) Cow’s milk contains great power of protection from atomic radiation; (ii) Houses having cow-dung covered floors enjoy complete protection from atomic radiation; (iii) If cow’s ghee is put into Yagya fire, its fumes lessen the effect of atomic radiation to a great extent. The medicinal fumes emanating from Yagya have been observed by researchers in the field of microbiology to be clearly bacteriolethal in nature.As stated under products of combustion, the partial oxidation of hydrocarbons and decomposition of complex organic substances produce formal aldehyde which is a powerful antiseptic. It is also interesting to note that germicidal action of formaldehyde is only effective in the presence of water vapor which is also produced in large quantities during Yagya. The use of formaldehyde spray for disinfecting of walls, ceiling etc., is common and such a spray is automatically produced when Yagya is performed.
Nowadays, the science behind his concept of moisture acceleration is followed and experimented using different terminology called cloud seeding. This attempt by the scientific community appears to originate from lack of understanding of how this chemical-rain making succeeds in some instances and fails in others. But the rebranding to ‘cloud seeding’ may be to distance themselves away from the heavily critiqued Charles Hatfield, lest they may be seen as similar snake charmers.
At the core of the concept of cloud seeding lies the same practice of composing a chemical mixture and sending it into the sky. As reported in Las Vegas Sun newspaper on November 25, 2009 “Cloud seeding creates rain Northern Nevada needs, Las Vegas wants” - “Cloud seeding means adding chemicals to clouds to induce or increase precipitation. In Nevada that most often involves pumping silver iodide particles into clouds from a remote controlled mountaintop station when the right cloud patterns are present. The silver iodide changes the composition of ultracold water in the clouds, turning the liquid into snow or ice, which then falls to the ground.”
Like the modern-intellect-appeasing so called ‘scientific’ concepts of moisture acceleration and cloud seeding above, Vedic yagnyas also involved releasing a chemical composition into the air in an effort to induce rain fall. Of course, the chemicals released in a yagnya were derived by organic compounds concocted using carbohydrates, protein and fat burnt in fire and wood; but whether such released chemicals are identical to chemicals released in cloud seeding or of those released by Charles Hatfield is not known to me. However, in light of such recent scientific development in the area of chemically induced rain making, it is not hard to believe that the Vedic yagnyas performed since the ancient past are also reasonably successful in producing rain.
- THE VEDAS, Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati