"The Sat Chandi Yajna is the worship of God as Mother. A yajna is performed to attract the attention of a particular deity, so with Chandi we are calling the Mother and asking for Her help. This depends on our devotion. This is a yajna of bhakti. The yajna area is considered sacred and must be treated with respect and decorum. The Mother knows all our needs and wants, yet we still have to ask Her. It is the mother's job to raise the child and provide for its needs, so make a sankalpa asking the Divine Mother to help with your needs."
Swami Satyananda Saraswati
The Sat Chandi Yajnas at Rikhia are conducted for the health, well-being and fulfilment of not only the people of this panchayat, but for the benefit of the whole planet. Sri Swamiji often tells us that God gave him the divine command to serve his neighbours; in our limited minds we usually think of this as his immediate neighbours in Rikhia only. But Sri Swamiji's vision is much bigger and encompasses the entire planet and all its inhabitants.
Swami Niranjanananda has said: "Yajna changes the human psyche - through the fire, the mantras, the invocation of the higher forces, all the ritual aspects. When external ritual becomes internal, then it becomes jnana. Jnana, karma and bhakti are needed for a complete human experience. People suffer when they ignore one of these three. Yajna is a complete process of living a spiritual life. It is belief, action and lifestyle and this has a human and global impact. All yogas are integrated in the process of yajna. You perceive yourself as the offerer and the offering. The external yajna is learning to give, learning how to let go of attachment to what you accumulate - then you can become spiritually free."
The yajnashala contains no statues, icons, pictures or murtis. All representations of the Devi and the cosmos are purely symbolic. They are worshipped and honoured with fresh flowers and gifts daily.
Each year a small flock of tiny birds makes the yajnashala their home. Under the thatched roof of their new home, they set about conducting their own rituals with much fluttering about, dancing and singing. In the skies above, eagles are to be seen circling the Akhara compound. Perhaps the ritual behaviour of the birds is a symbol, a sign from Nature, indicating delight with the yajna activities of interconnectedness. Just as human beings, knowing the benefits, 'flock' to a yajna, so too the birds!
Sri Swamiji has said: "The worship of God as Mother is much easier because Mother is the replica of love, compassion and eternal forgiveness. There is distance in the relationship with the father. The relationship between a child and its mother is intense, not only intimate; it is a very natural relationship. The child's warmth is drawn from the mother, not the father. Mother's milk has maintained life.
"It is much easier, more natural and practical to conceive of God as Mother. Mother never considers sins; mother is always kind and compassionate. Worship of the Mother is shakti worship. Energy, capacity, ability, potentiality - this is all shakti worship. Shakti worship is very ancient, much more ancient than all the religions, even older than the Vedas. The first thing that man saw was the mother. This is the basis of shakti worship in tantra, which is more ancient than the Vedic culture. We can awaken the dormant shakti through willpower, sankalpa. The easiest way is by developing the relationship of mother and child - bhakti; this will awaken shakti. Bhakti is a spiritual science, we are not alone, we are part of a whole. May the Mother incarnate in you and destroy all the demons so that you may realize the grace of the Divine."
With mantra and mudra, the pandits call upon the Devi, asking her to be present. Through purification, consecration and invocation, the entire yajnashala becomes the symbolic representation of the universe. Even the pillars are worshipped as the energy that supports the universe. Symbolically speaking, the whole of creation is installed within the yajnashala to participate in this ancient ritual of creation. Each and every feature of the yajnashala symbolizes some aspect of the universe and the deities. Nothing is forgotten, not even the demons, for they also have a place in the Divine Creation. So they too are worshipped and offered food to their liking.
Sri Swamiji explained: "The mantras provide a stir in the etheric atmosphere and in our etheric personality. Imbibe this feeling, attune yourselves to these finer vibrations. Sensitize your inner being to feel and experience the subtle effect. Don't worry about what the priests are doing or how the rituals are done. Intellect is the barrier - transcend it! This is not an intellectual feast, it is not to be understood. Just accept it. We have invoked the formless, nameless, placeless, eternal. We have given her a space and a sex."
Each year Swami Niranjan kindles the yajna fire with the traditional method of friction. The wood used to ignite the fire is from two different trees, the peepul, which is masculine in nature, and the sami, which is the feminine. Through this union the first sparks of the yajna fire are created.
Sri Swamiji illuminates us further on the benefits of yajna: "Yajna purifies the akashic, subtle atmosphere; it purifies the mind and influences the body. Yajna is a cure for environmental problems, carbon monoxide, etc. on an individual and community scale. The physical atmosphere, the environment, is purified. The mental, psychic and emotional atmosphere is purified. To offer is yajna. Offering food to the poor and hungry is yajna. Helping poor souls is yajna. To give and to give and to give is yajna. Ya - ja - na, production - distribution - assimilation. There must be a balance between these three.
"Religions all have stories of war and battles, they are symbolic of our fight with the lower tendencies of life, the limitations we have, blockages in personality, like ignorance, (avidya). Yajna helps us to conquer these tendencies, limitations and blockages. Yajna heightens awareness. Make a sankalpa, 'God reveal yourself to me in any form you like.' Yajna is not a subject of logic or intellect, it is a subject of the heart."
We can offer all our negative characteristics, habits and attitudes to the fire, like ego, jealously, hatred, vices, arrogance, misunderstandings, procrastination and other ignoble aspects of self. The senses can be offered collectively into the fire of self-control along with the objects of the senses. We can also offer our positive characteristics, qualities and skills to the Devi, asking her to direct us so that we may use these abilities in true seva.
Numerous natural items are offered throughout the yajna as symbolic representations and beautiful gifts for the Mother. A continuous flow of ghee (a symbol of wealth) is offered into the flames throughout the yajna. This is a prayer requesting a continual flow of abundance and prosperity for all humanity, the essence of Sri Swamiji's sankalpa.
Swami Niranjan performs the ultimate sacrifice of the yajna - the sacrifice of a symbolic representation of humanity. He kneels at the foot of the Devi, poised, with a sword held high. Quickly, with single-pointed focus, he performs the sacrifice, chopping the symbol - a pumpkin - into five pieces. Vermilion, representing our spilt blood, is rubbed along the blade of the sword and onto the five pieces of the sacrificial symbol. These five pieces also represent the sacrifice of the five senses. Camphor is set upon the vermilion, then set alight. The burning camphor is the melting ego becoming one with the Divine Light. The sacrifice, all aflame, is then set before the Devi, an offering representing all of us - completely.
The Rajasooya Yajna has three essential components - worship of the deity, the ritualistic installation and daan, giving and receiving. Sri Swamiji has said, "What we give is not ours, but gifts from Devi. There is a clear provision for giving in the Rajasooya Yajna. The yajna is not complete without daan. This was the tradition when Sri Rama ruled the earth. All the kings who had been vanquished by Sri Rama came to the yajna offering gifts to the conqueror king, who in turn gave away gifts."
Sri Swamiji is following the same tradition. Whatever gifts are offered to him he gives as prasad. After all, the gifts come through the loving hands of the Mother.
Swami Niranjan has told us: "Yajna is part of Sivananda Yoga, yajna in its totality, where we are considerate to each and everything that surrounds us. Where we care for, nurture and support the growth of each and everything that is around us. This is the fulfilment of life as human beings. Having the stamina to uplift others is yajna, either spiritually or materially. The entire planet is our home, this is the vision one gets through yajna."
This is the message that Swamis Sivananda, Satyananda and Niranjanananda want us to imbibe, incorporate and implement, using head, heart and hands in selfless service to all of creation. 2002 saw the second year of the twelve year Rajasooya Yajna. Each year the gifts - the bhet - that Sri Swamiji gives will be different. The first year he gave to one and all vastra (cloth). This year he gave patra (containers) and in 2003 his gift to everyone will be anna (grain). So there will be many more opportunities for all of us to contribute to this mission of selfless service and thereby begin to learn what it truly means to be fulfilled as a human being.