Vedic Lore Age of the Vedas Upanishads Brahma Devas I Devas II Rta and Satya Yajña RIGVEDA Mandala I Mandala III Mandala V Mandala X Author e-mail me

Yajña

Yajña

The Vehicle of Common Weal

 

I am the first born [Hiranyagarbha] of the unfolding Rta (Cosmic Order);

I, seated in immortality, exist way before gods (devas).

Who gives (offers to) me [= all beings], he alone serves me.

I am food, but devour the one [greedy, wasteful and mindless]

Not sharing food [or even wisdom] with others. (SV 594)

The mantra admonishes one evading Yajña (or Vedic karma), or the one who simply eats (and does not produce and distribute food). This is reinforced in the following verses of the Bhagavad Gita.

By Him in the beginning were ordained

The Brahmanas (explanatory books), the Vedas and Yajñas. (BG xvii.23)

In the beginning, on creating mankind with yajña,

Lord of creatures (Prajapati) spoke to them:

With this (yajña), you flourish; this be your wish-fulfiller!

For you thus foster macrocosmic gods,

Who in turn foster you through law of cyclic welfare. ...

But one who does not foster them in return (through Yajña)

Breaches this wheel of sacrifice;

Leads verily a life of thief: purposeless and sinful. ...

Virtuous are ones who enjoy

The left-over of distributes of sacrifice;

While sinful undertake sacrifice

Primarily for themselves. (iii.10-16 ibid.)

Our physical life much depends on five elements like air, fire, water etc. There is no life without sound, touch, sight, taste and smell. These five in fact are vital for our survival. We need to breathe air constantly; we cannot survive without it beyond a few minutes. We regularly need appropriate temperature, water and food.

Yajña is praised and mandated as the remedy to our survival needs, because the creatures thrive with food; food comes from clouds; clouds from Yajña &c. Yajña helps in cleaning the environment too.

 Yajña is cosmic upkeep. It is the vehicle of common weal. Yajña not only fulfills our wishes but also delivers us from karma taint. The Gita categorically declares that except for Yajña, this world binds you into good and bad acts. (iii.9 ibid.)

What distinguishes Yajña is that it is ordained or mandated. We saw in the home page how mandate when faithfully carried out delivers from karma taint. Please refer to that for detail. When personal motive rides us (as said in the Bhagavad Gita), then Yajña is marred. Moreover, Yajña is cosmic in nature and scope; and not individualistic or personal.

 

That explains equating Yajña to Purusha or Prajapati.

Contemplating first-born Purusha in heart or sacrifice, gods, rishis and

sādhyas (perfect ones) worshipped him as Yajña (= venerable). (RV X.90.7)

And it is declared as primary law/canon (dharma) by the Vedas.

With yajña, gods propitiated the yajña Purusha;

Those verily were the primary dicta/canons (dharmas). (X.90.16 ibid.)

 

But what  constitutes Yajña

Yajña (or yajana or yāga) is generally seen as prescribed fire ritual, in which oblations are offered to fire. But Yajña is phenomenal and cosmic. Our altar is miniscule. Our fiery Sun that is 333, 000 times more massive than Earth is the cosmic Yajña because without it our life will simply freeze and wither. 

Scriptures essentially regard Yajña not just at the altar or outer only. From what is said in the Bhagavad Gita, it is clear that Yajña means an altruistic attitude and sacrifice. It is Yoga (surrender to Cosmic Will). Outer Yajña is an extension only of internal Yajña or Yoga. What is that?

Read the following dialogue from the Satapatha Brahmana:

Question: O Yajñavalkya, do you know the fire sacrifice (agnihotra)?

Answer: O emperor (Janaka), I know.

Q. What is that?

A. Milk [or its product ghee].

Q. If milk is not there, then how will you sacrifice?

A. Then with barley and rice.

Q. What if barley and rice are not available?

A. Then with forest grains.

Q. What if forest grains are not there?

A. With forest fruits.

Q. What if forest fruits are also not there?

A. With water.

Q. When even water is not there?

A. When all this of course wasn’t there in the beginning, even then sacrifice existed. Then we sacrifice with truth (Satya, the Vedas) in the faithful mind (Sraddhā). (XI.2.2-4 ibid.) …

 

The whole holy life can be summed up as faithful recitation (svadhyaya) of the Vedas. This is also evident from the role of each and every Vedic god. Vedic gods have dual role: stirring Holy Speech (the Vedas or intuitions) at spiritual level and rains at physical plane. Some names of gods of particular interest are Vayu, Vāk (speech or Holy Speech), Rta (truth and water), Aditi, Saramā (Holy Speech as gods’ scout), Gauri, Go, Dhenu (all the three meaning wish-fulfilling Cow and Holy Speech), Aghnyā (again Cow and Holy Speech; literally meaning dispelling evil/sin and not worth harming and neglecting), Idā, Sarasvatī and Mahī/Bhāratī (the last three are the names for Holy Speech, Intuitions and Waters), Brihaspati, Brahmanaspati and Vāchaspati (the three gods of Holy Speech and the Vedas). Here we take up the mantras with the names Aghnyā and Gauri for illustration.

In the supreme heaven of Rik’s akshara

Whereunder All Gods [keepers of Rta, cosmic order and water] bide in repose;   

What one not knowing that will do with the sacred Rik!

They know that alone attain the privileged haven. ¶39

The Rik’s akshara here refers to (1) immutable sound (i.e. Om) or Brahma and (2) the truth extolled/propounded by the sacred Rik (or the Rig Veda mantra). The mantra is highly critical of people who either do not know Brahma or do not have faith in the verity (truth) of the Vedas. [The Vedas are called the Holy Speech.]

O venerable and evil/sin dispelling Aghnyā

In the supreme heaven of Rik’s akshara

Whereunder All Gods [keepers of Rta, cosmic order and water] bide in repose;   

What one not knowing that will do with the sacred Rik!

They know that alone attain the privileged haven. ¶39

The Rik’s akshara here refers to (1) immutable sound (i.e. Om) or Brahma and (2) the truth extolled/propounded by the sacred Rik (or the Rig Veda mantra). The mantra is highly critical of people who either do not know Brahma or do not have faith in the verity (truth) of the Vedas. [The Vedas are called the Holy Speech.]

O venerable and evil/sin dispelling Aghnyā

In the supreme heaven of Rik’s akshara

Whereunder All Gods [keepers of Rta, cosmic order and water] bide in repose;   

What one not knowing that will do with the sacred Rik!

They know that alone attain the privileged haven. ¶39

The Rik’s akshara here refers to (1) immutable sound (i.e. Om) or Brahma and (2) the truth extolled/propounded by the sacred Rik (or the Rig Veda mantra). The mantra is highly critical of people who either do not know Brahma or do not have faith in the verity (truth) of the Vedas. [The Vedas are called the Holy Speech.]

O venerable and evil/sin dispelling Aghnyā (wish fulfilling Cow and Holy Speech),

Become luxuriant with milk (water and food)

So we may flourish and possess luxuries (riches).

Ever gracing us, eat the grass/plants (or tear cloud in the case of Holy Speech)

And drink (or preserve) pure/vital water. ¶40

Gauri (Cow or Holy Speech) moos and creates [the world] by creating waters;

She goes by steps or names: one, two, four, eight and nine.

She is infinite store of waters [and truth/intuitions: akshara (i.e. Rta)]

And is seated in the highest heaven [Brahma]. ¶41

Steps could be mid-region, mid-region and heaven, four/eight directions, and directions plus Sun. Names could be Brahma, Purusha-Prakriti, moral-means-desire-salvation, eight Yoga limbs or siddhis and nine (seven facial openings, mind and intellect).

By her grace, intuitions inundate; by her grace, creatures in four directions have life;

From her pours the unending stream of water [i.e. akshara]

That is the blood and soul of whole universe.¶42 (RV I.164.39-42)

Become luxuriant with milk (water and food)

So we may flourish and possess luxuries (riches).

Ever gracing us, eat the grass/plants (or tear cloud in the case of Holy Speech)

And drink (or preserve) pure/vital water. ¶40

Gauri (Cow or Holy Speech) moos and creates [the world] by creating waters;

She goes by steps or names: one, two, four, eight and nine.

She is infinite store of waters [and truth/intuitions: akshara (i.e. Rta)]

And is seated in the highest heaven [Brahma]. ¶41

Steps could be mid-region, mid-region and heaven, four/eight directions, and directions plus Sun. Names could be Brahma, Purusha-Prakriti, moral-means-desire-salvation, eight Yoga limbs or siddhis and nine (seven facial openings, mind and intellect).

By her grace, intuitions inundate; by her grace, creatures in four directions have life;

From her pours the unending stream of water [i.e. akshara]

That is the blood and soul of whole universe.¶42 (RV I.164.39-42)

Become luxuriant with milk (water and food)

So we may flourish and possess luxuries (riches).

Ever gracing us, eat the grass/plants (or tear cloud in the case of Holy Speech)

And drink (or preserve) pure/vital water. ¶40

Gauri (Cow or Holy Speech) moos and creates [the world] by creating waters;

She goes by steps or names: one, two, four, eight and nine.

She is infinite store of waters [and truth/intuitions: akshara (i.e. Rta)]

And is seated in the highest heaven [Brahma]. ¶41

Steps could be mid-region, mid-region and heaven, four/eight directions, and directions plus Sun. Names could be Brahma, Purusha-Prakriti, moral-means-desire-salvation, eight Yoga limbs or siddhis and nine (seven facial openings, mind and intellect).

By her grace, intuitions inundate; by her grace, creatures in four directions have life;

From her pours the unending stream of water [i.e. akshara]

That is the blood and soul of whole universe.¶42 (RV I.164.39-42)

 

Yajña is not what one has to do; Yajña just happens. It is up to one whether to participate in it or not. Yajña is already there where there is faithful recitation of the Vedas (svadhyaya). Gauri (Holy Speech) moos and creates the worlds by creating waters.