THE CORRECT WAY OF PERFORMING YAJNA
By Shri. Datta Swami
Special Article Contributed to the 1st World Parliament on Spirituality 17-21st December 2012
Burning Food in Fire is Not Yajna
[November 27, 2012. A Vedic scholar, who presided over a meeting called as the Veda Vidvat Sabha, concluded that the reason for droughts and floods is that these days people do not perform sacrifices (yajnas), in which ghee (clarified butter) is poured into the sacrificial fire. Swami ridiculed this conclusion and gave the following message.]
O Learned and Devoted Servants of God! Burning ghee in the fire leads to environmental pollution, which causes droughts and floods. These ignorant people are saying that the cause and the promoter of a disease itself is the remedial medicine! If you eat sweets, your blood sugar will rise and cause damage to your heart and kidneys. The patient is already in a serious condition due to a damaged heart and damaged kidneys. A foolish doctor says that in order to save the patient, he should be given more sweets to eat. Perhaps, the doctor is correct in the sense that the patient will die soon and thus he will get relief from the suffering of the disease! The climax of the joke is that this conclusion was drawn in the Veda Vidvat Sabha. Veda means knowledge. Vidvat means the scholar of the divine knowledge of the scripture. Here, 'knowledge' is stressed twice by the two words 'Veda' and 'Vidvat'. But the conclusion drawn shows the total ignorance of the Veda, since the fundamental concept is missing.An error in the foundation will pervade into all the floors of the building and the whole building will crumble.
The True Concept of Yajna in the Veda
The fundamental concept of the Veda is to serve food to:
- (i) the Divine Preacher, who is the human incarnation of God (Agnou karana),
- (ii) to devoted human beings (Brahmana Bhojana) and finally,
- (iii) to other livings beings like birds and animals (Pinda pradana).
All food is originally prepared by God from the five inert elements for the sake of living beings. If you waste such food by throwing it into inert elements like fire, earth etc., you are insulting God. Pouring milk into the pores of the earth is also foolish. In that case, all the efforts of God to synthesize food from inert materials, are wasted. Food is essential for life, since it generates energy in the living being. One can preach knowledge and the other can listen to it and practice it, only with the help of this energy. The entire essence of the sacrifice (yajna) is serving food to the Divine Preacher, followed by serving food to devotees, elder people like parents and other invited guests and finally serving food to birds and animals.Serving food to the Divine Preacher is called Brahma Yajna. Serving food to scholars is called Rushi Yajna. Serving food to devotees is called Deva Yajna. Serving food to old people is called Pitru Yajna. Serving food to other invited guests is called Manushya Yajna. Serving food to birds and animals is called Bhoota Yajna. Finally, eating food to maintain the self is called Atma Yajna.
Space, fire, air, water and earth. In scientific terms, they are: space, energy and the three states of matter (gas, liquid and solid) respectively.
Some people pour milk into termite mounds for the worship of the cobra, which is considered to be a divine symbol.
The first is Brahma Yajna in which the Divine Preacher or the human incarnation of God is served.He is the Director of your spiritual effort throughout your entire life. By serving Him you are benefitted here (this world) and there (upper world). This is the reason why the post of Director is the topmost position in any institution. Once the correct direction is given, the work done by the employees also proceeds correctly, and the institution succeeds. This Divine Preacher, being the greatest, should be served with the best food in the beginning itself. Since He is to be served first, He is called Agni. The word Agni comes from the word Agri, which means 'the first to be served'. Therefore, the meaning of the word Agni in this context is the Divine Preacher and not the physical fire . Brahma means God and service to the Divine Preacher is service to God. Therefore, serving food to the Divine Preacher is called as Brahma Yajna.
The Significance of Ghee in Yajna
The best food is the food prepared using plenty of ghee. In the context of Yajna, Ghrutam does not mean pure ghee (clarified butter). It only means food prepared with plenty of ghee. People have misunderstood the meanings of these two words Agni and Ghrutam . Ignorant people mistook Agni for the physical fire and Ghrutam for pure ghee and they started pouring ghee in the fire.
Even in the ceremonies performed for departed souls , you must satisfy the person eating the food (Bhokta) and serve him with the food items that he likes. If he is satisfied, the effect of that satisfaction called as Apoorvam or Punyam saves the departed souls. You need not force the eater to eat the food items that the departed soul used to like . It is foolish ignorance since there is no connection between the eater and the departed soul.
Yajna in the Rig Veda
In the sacrifices performed by the followers of the Rig Veda , there is no physical fire. The food would be placed in the palm of the eater (Pani Homa). The idea of burning food in the fire, developed only later on due to the ignorance of the Scripture. If you understand the meaning of the first hymn of the first Veda (Rig Veda), you have understood the meaning of all the four Vedas. The first Veda introduced the main concept in the first hymn itself, in order to attack this fundamental ignorance. The first hymn is:
Agni Meele Purohitam, Yajnasya Devamrutvijam, Hotaaram Ratna
I praise the Agni, who is 'Purohita' , the deity to be worshipped in the sacrifice, the priest, the performer of the sacrifice and the possessor of the greatest gem.
The literal meanings of Ghrutam (clarified butter or ghee) and Agni (fire) are not valid in the context of Yajna or the Vedic fire-sacrifice.
The ceremonies performed after the death of a family member involve the feeding of deserving people.
Merit derived from feeding deserving people.
The popular belief is that that feeding people with the food items that the dead person used to like, will bring satisfaction to the soul of the dead person.
The Veda is a vast collection of sacred hymns and is divided into four parts or the four Vedas: the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda. The Rig Veda is the first and the most ancient.
Purohita is the one who is the first or the foremost.
If you analyze this verse, you can easily understand that the actual meaning of the word Agni mentioned in it, is a living human being and not the inert fire. All the adjectives of the word Agni stress again and again that Agni in this verse only means a specific, special human being. One important adjective is that Agni is said to be 'the one who pours ghee in the fire' (Hotru). If the word Agni had meant the inert fire, then the inert fire cannot pour ghee in itself on its own! Ghee can be poured only by a living being. You may argue that by this explanation, the practice of pouring of ghee in inert fire is not contradicted. But this argument is rejected because a human being can pour the ghee in the hunger-fire of his own stomach (i.e. eat the food prepared in ghee). This hunger-fire in the stomach is called Vaishvanara. Besides, the burning of ghee in fire is objected by another Vedic statement, which says that food should not be wasted or destroyed (Annam Na parichekshita). The Divine Preacher Himself can be compared to the fire, since He burns ignorance. Thus, He can be compared to fire and in a metaphorical sense you can say that the Divine Preacher is Fire. The same is also stated elsewhere in the Veda (Aagneyovai Brahmanah).
From all angles, the Divine Preacher eating the ghee-food in the beginning is the most correct interpretation of yajna or the fire-sacrifice. He is called as Purohita, since He helps you here itself, before your death. After death, you will go to the upper world called as Bhoga Loka where you cannot do any spiritual effort. Only here, in this Karma Loka , can you do spiritual effort. For the spiritual effort, right direction is essential, which comes only from the true knowledge given by the Divine Preacher. He is the God worshipped through your sacrifice or service, since He is the human form of God. He is the Priest, since He directs you on the right path. He is the Possessor of the true knowledge, which is the most valuable gem that helps you here (this world) and there (upper world). The essence of this first hymn is only to say that Agni means the present living Human Incarnation of God and not the inert fire.
The inert fire is lit in the beginning only to cook food. Fire is only a helping instrument (Saadhanam) and not the goal of worship (Upaasya) in the sacrifice. This fire ignited in the beginning for cooking is misunderstood to be the deity of the worship, since in ancient times there was no separate kitchen in the hut (Aashrama). The fire would be lit in the southeast corner of the single room and hot cooked food was served then and there. The fire was kept burning continuously to avoid the entry of cruel animals from the forest. The continuous smoke also repelled mosquitoes.
In the Bhagavatam , Kapila, the incarnation of God, says that only a fool pours ghee in the physical fire. Lord Krishna also disturbed the blind practice of burning food in the fire by asking it to satisfy hunger. As per the Veda (Yaavateervai...) all the deities dwell in the body of the Divine Preacher. They are satisfied by the food eaten by the Divine Preacher and give rains at the proper time to the world. Thus, this real sacrifice is the actual reason for timely rains (Yajnaat bhavati-Gita). On the contrary, the blind practice of burning ghee in fire, which is based on a misunderstanding of the Veda, produces smoke, pollutes the environment and stops the rains!
This world is said to be a Karma Loka which is 'a world of action' or 'a world of spiritual effort'.
Srimad Bhagavatam is one of the eighteen Puranas, which are the secondary scriptures in Hinduism.