Importance of Yagya during Gayatri Sadhana

Gayatri and Yagya form an inseparable pair. One is said to be the mother and the other, the father of Bhartiya Dharma. They are inter-dependent. Gayatri anushthan cannot be considered fully accomplished unless it is accompanied by Yagya. In old affluent times agnihotra used to be performed of one-tenth of the quantum of Jap, but now in view of the prevailing circumstances ahutis are given in one to hundred ratio. Those lacking in requisite resources fulfill the requirement of Yagya by performing one-tenth additional Jap.

Gayatri has been called righteous  wisdom and Yagya as righteous action. Coordination of both  solves all problems. Yagya may be performed as and when it is convenient.  It can be done by chanting Mantra and offering ghee and  sugar into the fire. If it is sought to be made still more brief, the purpose  of symbolic ritual of agnihotra can also be fulfilled if a ghrit  lamp is lighted, incense-stick is burnt and Gayatri Mantra chanted.

If even this little work cannot be performed daily, it should be done on  any convenient day at least once in a month. Those who are not acquainted  with the procedure and expert persons capable of performing  the ritual as well as necessary mterials are not available, can write  to Shantikunj for performance of the Yagya. Yagya is performed daily  in the morning at Shantikunj for two hours in a yagyashala.

Yagyas at a large scale are required to be performed to purify the  subtle environment and destroy pollution permeating the atmosphere.  It infuses religious fervour and enthusiasm in the participants and they  also get an opportunity to take a vow to give up one vice by way of  dev-dakshina and adopt one virtue or righteous tendency. In this way  big yagyas help in inculcating ethical values.
The meaning of the word Yagya is to do sacrifice, charity and worship.  Its practical message is that one ought not to spend his entire
earnings on himself and his family but should also distribute a part of it  for the welfare of others. It also implies that divinity and gentlemanliness  should be respected and people should live together in mutual cooperation  and loving kindness.

There is reference in the scriptures to a famous dialogue between Janak and Yagyavalkya. Janak went on pointing out difficulties in performing yogya and yagyavalkya, while emphasizing the essentiality of performing Yagya, suggested alternatives, one after another. Yagyavalkya said if charu and other articles of Yagya are not available, food grains of daily consumption can be offered in havan. If food grains are not available one can make do with herbs and vegetation. If they are also not available, mental Yagya can be performed by offering meditation and prayers in the symbolic fire of reverence and devotion. It has thus been emphasized that not only in anushthan, but even in daily Sadhana, Yagya is essential along with Gayatri Jap.

In emergency, house-wives used to utter Gayatri Mantra and offer five morsels of first chapati in the hearth. The daily routine of bali-Vaishya is nothing but a short form of havan. The purpose of symbolic worship of agnihotra can also be fulfilled by uttering Gayatri Mantra and offering ghee and sugar in the fire or lighting a ghrit lamp and burning incense-sticks. The celebration of Holi is nothing but a form of collective Yagya performed once in every year. Yagya is an essential part of every auspicious religious celebration, whether it be in the form of offering ahutis in sacrificial fire ( Yagya-kunda) or burning candle-sticks, incense sticks or ghrit-lamp.

Our ancient scriptures describe one of the names of God as Yagya-Purush. In shatpath, Yagya has been described as Vishnu, “Yagyovai Vishnu”. In the beginning of Rig-Ved, Yagya has been described as purohit (priest or religious guide). The importance of the fire of the Yagya has been stressed in all Vedic literature. In “ Agne naya supatha raye.........” an ardent prayer is made to Almighty God to lead us on righteous path as contained in the words “ dhiyo yonaha prachodayat” of Gayatri Mantra.

Yagya is essentially linked with all traditional religious functions. None of the essential sixteen purificatory rites (Shodash - Sanskar) right from child birth till death can be celebrated without performance of Yagya. The ceremony of Yagyopaveet is intrinsically linked with Yagya. It combines the ideology and philosophy of Gayatri with the performance of Yagya. In marriage ceremony it is essential for the bride and the groom to perform Yagya and take seven rounds of the fire of Yagya. Circumambulation of the sacrificial fire alone is the visible proof of solemnization of a Hindu marriage. The last rite in the series of sixteen rites is the funeral rite, in which the dead body is put on funeral pyre, set fire to and kapal-kriya piercing of the skull is performed with ghee by way of purnahuti.

This ancient tradition of Yagya incorporates the principles of theoretical knowledge and applied  science and contains in it all the elements of material elements in seed form. It is a sacred process conducive to the welfare and happiness of the individual as well as the society.

The meaning or purport of the word Yagya is an act or celebration of self-giving which aims at the highest universal good, an act which is generous, magnificent, noble and magnanimous. Yagya is a Sanskrit word which has three meanings,
(1) divinity
(2) organization and
(3) charity.

These three virtues can be said to be triple divine currents of individual and social transformation. Divinity means refined personality, divine virtues. Organization implies unity, cooperation team-spirit. Charity implies generous sharing, devotion to society, and considering the entire universe as one’s own family. All these three tendencies are thus combined in Yagya and it can be said to be the flaming torch of knowledge. It inspires man to translate higher sentiments and motives into righteous deeds. Coordination of knowledge and action creates the ground for making progress. Righteous deeds, which is known as tap, and true knowledge, which is known as yog, are the basis of spiritual progress.

The philosophy underlying Jeevan (life)- Yagya is to make a man great by adopting the philosophy of self-sacrifice. It has been stated in the Geeta that a man who eats without giving to others is a thief, he commits sin. A man should eat the leftover of Yagya -

Yagyashishta Shinah Santo Muchyante Sarva Kilvishaih

Bhunjate Te Twagham Papa Ye Panchntyatmakaranat
                                                                           - Gita 3/31

Devtas (divine beings) attain divinity only by Yagya. This is nothing but propounding the fact that in individual life man should not be selfish or self-centred and in his actions and behaviour, he should demonstrate sincere devotion for the welfare and upliftment of the society. This is a highway leading to all-round happiness, progress, peace and tranquillity of the individual as well as society.

There is no other religious medium as powerful as Yagya to educate the public mind by explaining the subtle implications of sacrifice, generosity and benevolence for purifying the individual and making the society capable and competent. According to Rig-ved, the fire of Yagya, although speechless, acts as purohit (spiritual priest) and inspires people in achieving all-round progress, happiness and peace. If the philosophy of Yagya is fully understood and assimilated in practical life circumstances can be created for the emergence of divinity in man and descent of heaven on the earth. These ideals have to be lived for changing the present era and building a bright future.

It is said that Devtas performed Yagya and attained divinity. Emergence of Brahman element in man is possible only by Yagya. Otherwise, devoid of it, man is no better than an animal. Performance of Yagya has been said to be the main function of a Brahman. The essence of Yagya is common good, universal peace and happiness. The chariot of human life runs smoothly so long as different parts of the body work in cooperation with each other. Every thing will be topsy-turvy if selfishness or non-cooperation predominate in social life. Take, for instance, the example of the cycle of water. Clouds get water from the sea, earth gets water from the clouds, rivers get water from the earth, and sea gets it from the rivers and thus there is growth of vegetation and greenery everywhere and the thirst of all living-beings is quenched. If there is any interruption anywhere in this cycle of unhindered giving or sacrifice this earth will become like a hot iron plate. Similarly, living-beings thrive on different vegetations which get their nourishment and diet from urine and faeces, (excrements) of the former. Living-beings inhale oxygen emitted by the trees and the latter thrive on carbon-di-oxide exhaled by the former. There is also a similar mutual give-and take between human beings and animals. This is the philosophy of Yagya, of give and take, around which the entire universe revolves. All outstanding problems find their solutions when these righteous tendencies are nurtured and properly followed. Their neglect, on the other hand, is bound to result in mutual strife, disharmony and destruction. The Geeta states that prajapati (God) created man and Yagya simultaneously and directed that human-beings will enjoy peace and happiness if there is this glad spirit of yagya ( give-and-take) in them. This great principle of promoting universal good is known as Yagyiya way of life and agnihotra is just a symbolic sacred ritual to educate the public mind.

There is one more aspect of Yagya, which relates to environment. It plays an important role in purifying the atmosphere neutralising  which has been polluted to the extreme by vehicular emissions and gaseous pollutants from industrial units. The energy produced by Yagya is extremely effective in killing the germs of several diseases. In ancient times, physical ailments and mental disorders were successfully controlled by Yagya. We must rediscover and further develop the science of yagyopathy (treatment through Yagya) which is equally effective in the healing of physical as well as mental disorders. The process of fumigation and vaporization by burning herbal medicines in the sacrificial fire is a subtle, and very effective and efficacious method of healing. Treatment by yagyopathy is effective in eccentricity, evil habits, criminal tendencies and similar other mental disorders with which a large number of human beings are suffering these days.

Broadly speaking, the main result of performance of Yagya is showering of parjanya. The gross meaning of parjanya is clouds but its subtle meaning is Pran or energy. In ancient times whenever there were famines, people used to perform of specific agnihotras, which resulted in rainfall. In fact, parjanya is the subtle element of Pran which is created by Yagya and people derive benefit through the air and the clouds. All creation (animate as well as inanimate) gets a special upsurge of energy and vibrancy through the showering of parjanya, which leads to all-round growth and progress. The greatest advantage of Yagya is purification of the atmosphere and environment. It also influences all aspects of the personality of man. His thinking is regulated by getting proper direction and inspiration and thus a sound basis for refinement of human tendencies is created. Performance of Gayatri Yagya at a mass scale plays an important role in creating beneficent environment.

An individual, society or a nation can prosper only on the basis of knowledge and science. Knowledge means learning, wisdom, discretion, far-sightedness, goodwill, generosity and judiciousness. Science means strength, efficiency, power and resources, prosperity and capacity to create abundance. In ancient times, India was rich both in knowledge as well as in science.

Knowledge, these days, is based on what is actually seen or experienced and science is based on machinery. This is not only less fruitful and more laborious but also temporary. All the knowledge which is being amassed by professors, research scholars and so-called learned persons does, no doubt, add to our physical knowledge, but it does not help at all in inculcating spiritual upliftment, benevolent outlook and a spontaneous feeling of self-sacrifice for the sake of public good. Modern knowledge makes people more and more selfish, self-centred and self-indulgent. Although there have been marvellous achievements in the field of physical scientific development and research, it has, at the same time, proved extremely harmful. Production of food grains and other crops has remarkably increased with the massive use of chemical fertilizers but the foods so produced contain elements which are injurious to health. Machinery has, no doubt, increased manifold our production of goods but can one imagine how much long range damage is being caused by poisoning the atmosphere due to pollution as a result of ever-increasing industrialisation? Scientists are very much worried over the fact that much before the end of the next century expires, all stocks of coal, fuel, oil, will be exhausted and huge factories, machinery etc. which are working at present will become idle. Production of energy by atomic devices is most expensive and it is also bound to adversely affect the environment even more seriously.

The basis of knowledge and science was quite different in the ancient days. It was, unlike today, spiritual and not materialistic. It is now scientifically accepted that everything which we see by our naked eyes is available in far more quantity in the subtle or astral world. Rishis in the past realized this scientific aspect that atoms of all the matter existing in the universe are available within the mind and body of a man. On this basis they conducted scientific research through different Sadhanas, and awakened various powers which lie hidden in human body and mind.

This research in the ancient times used to be conducted on the basis of Gayatri and Yagya which were regarded as mother and father of spiritual knowledge. Methodical and systematic worship of Gayatri awakens divine powers hidden in the body and the mind, helps in spiritual growth, refines the intellect and develops deep insight to handle the life’s problems calmly, confidently and wisely. When dissolved Ved-Mantras are chanted and Yagya is performed by offering samidhas, havi, charu etc. in the sacrificial fire, radioactive vibrations are created. These powerful waves can be transmitted to any part of the world or to any particular person or to achieve some specific object. They can be used for causing rainfall in the form of parjanya, promoting growth of food-grains and vegetation and also for enlivening or infusing life and energy in the atmosphere. The power released through Yagya can also bring about positive charges in ideas, feelings, circumstances and environment.

Rishis had attached special significance to Yagya because it was helpful not only in material progress but also in emancipation of the soul and building peaceful atmosphere by purifying mind and body. Balivaishya Yagya used to be performed in every house for promoting devoutness, spirituality and diety in the family life. Bajpeya yagyas were performed for awakening the dormant spiritual, intellectual and moral consciousness of the masses. For solving national and international problems, Rajsooya and Ashwamedh yagyas were performed. Gayatri Yagya is regarded as the quintessence of all kinds of yagyas.

Of all the Vedas, Rigved is the first to come into existence. In its first Mantra. “agni mide purohitam”, “Fire” has been described as the first name of God. Everything which is worth attaining in human life can be achieved through the power of Agni, which has been described as purohit (religious priest). God being omni-present has no form but He can be experienced in the form of divine attributes of Sat, Chit, Anand. There can be no better visible symbol of God than fire and it is for this reason that God has been described as divine fire in the first Mantra of Rig-Ved. He is also called as Brahma-Tejas, latent light, divine light, holy light etc. The  ancient Indian masters were, therefore, called fire-worshippers by several noted research scholars. Aryans who lived in Iran and call themselves as Parasis also worship fire. Fire temples are their places of worship. In India fire is worshipped in the volcanic mountains in the northern region. In Rishi-Ashrams, fire was kept alive through perpetual  fumigation, known as “dhooni”. Panchagni used to be installed in all Vedic Karma-kanda and daily Yagya used to be performed. Thus agnihotra is nothing but symbolic worship of God in the form of fire.

Why do we regard the sacrificial fire of Yagya as purohit (priest)?

It inspires us to imbibe its five idealistic qualities in our life.

1. Fire has the characteristic of always being hot and bright. We are inspired to lead bright, radiant, active lives like fire, full of wisdom and brilliance.

2. The flame of fire always goes upwards. One may apply any amount of pressure but its flame never goes downwards. It teaches us that despite immense pressures of fear and temptations our flame of wisdom, and foresight should ever be kept-alight and up-turned.

3. Anything coming in contact with fire becomes fire itself. We should also have such a quality of excellence in our character, so that any one coming in our contact may become refined.

4. Fire accumulates nothing. Whatever is offered in the fire is vaporized. It is scattered throughout in the atmosphere and becomes universal. We should also not accumulate possessions  for our selfish ends but utilize all our resources and qualities for advancing the good of the people. We should be generous and lovingly kind.

5. The residue of fire are ashes. Ultimately physical forms of all human beings are going to be reduced to a handful of ashes. The idea behind applying (ashes of Yagya) on the forehead is that man should always remember the inevitability of death and utilize each and every moment of his life in the best possible manner.

These five teachings are known as panchagnividya which the priest (purohit) in the form of fire teaches to every human being. A man is truly blessed if he imbibes these teachings in his daily life by performing symbolic worship in the form of Yagya.

The real purpose of Yagya is to imbibe virtues like self-sacrifice, self-restraint (sanyam), charity, beneficence, generosity, compassion etc. in our daily life. It inspires us to surrender everything, body, mind, ego and soul to God. A Sadhak on surrendering himself to God, who has been described as Yagya-purush in the scriptures, becomes one with Yagya, just as samidhas on being consumed in the sacrificial fire of Yagya become fire itself. In fact the real Yagya is to follow the directions and inspirations of our indwelling divinity and imbibe righteous tendencies. Constant rememberancce  of the Divine, keeping an attitude of detachment and remaining engrossed in regular sacred studies and devotion amounts to leading a Yagyiya life. Such a person sees the presence of God in everyone, everywhere and becomes free of evil deeds and sins.

Geeta describes several categories of Yagya, just as Deva-Yagya, Atma-Yagya, Brahma-Yagya, Tapa-Yagya, Yoga-Yagya, Swadhyaya-Yagya, Gyan-Yagya etc. and enunciates that whatever is done for realization of God or for self-realization is known as Yagya. Agnihotra or performance of material part of Yagya is a first step which culminates in the ultimate goal of spiritual Yagya. In the beginning, a Sadhak starts with symbolic idol worship but after some practice he starts meditating on the formless Omnipresent Brahma. Yagya is a specific and an inseparable part of Gayatri Sadhana which purifies a person’s thoughts, emotions, sentiments and actions, to be able to surrender himself at the lotus feet of the Almighty and become Yagya -maya or one with God. In short, it promotes virtues like beneficence, mutual cooperation, righteousness, good will, self-restraint, sacrifice, generosity, etc.

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