Just as each individual has a character and a destiny, each and every pieceof land in this universe too has a character and also a destiny. Its character is born out of the acts performed by the people who inhabit that land, and these acts ultimately carve out its destiny.
The people who inhabited Bharatvarsha, now known as modern India, were deeply rooted in the tradition of yajna. It was not just a ritual, it was a way of life for them. They believed in its efficacy and sanctity too. References to these yajnas can be found in the historical, geographical, mythological, philosophical and spiritual granthas or texts of this unique land.
They devised a systematic yet simple method whereby through the act of yajna an unseen force is invited to visit your home in much the same way asyou would send an invitation to avery important person. Imagine what lengths you would go to if the President of the USA were to visit you. Moving heaven and earth, you would leave no stone unturned to make his visit pleasant, comfortable, memorable and to his liking, choosing all the items of food, decoration, entertainment and guests to suit his whim and fancy. Of course, this is not exactly an apt comparison because that unseen force which you call to the yajna is a universal phenomenon, not confined to any country, religion, creed or gender. This very fact gives it unlimited powers that supersede those of even the most powerful man on earth.
These yajnas, which were conducted by highly proficient, skilled, learned and benevolent souls, created, over the course of not just years or centuries but eons or yugas, an immense spiritual aura overt his land which can be felt even tot his present day when yajnas are not conducted as often nor on that grand scale as they were in the past. It is this spiritual aura which has set this land known as Bharat varsha apart from others and given it a definite character or identity, as well as its destiny to be the Guru or spiritual preceptor among countries.
Prayag, the place where the sacred Ganga waters mix and merge with Yamuna and Saraswati, got its name simply by virtue of being a spot where numerous important yajnas were held. Yag is another term used for yajnas and the prefix pra indicates the place where yajnas were held. From this itself we can surmise what must have been happening there. Now Prayag is the modern day Allahabad, yet its attraction has not abated and during the Kumbha Mela it becomes the epicentre for spiritual forces.
Varanasi is yet another example. Although this city has absolutely no standards of cleanliness, scenic beauty, or anything as picturesque as the mountains of Switzerland or the landscape of Holland, yet it draws people from all over the world. So too does the ancient city of Ujjain and a host of other places that simply have nothing to admire on a superficial level.
The point is simple. Beyond the physical dimension where beauty is just skin deep, superficial and wears away with time, there is a dimension of such immense beauty generated through the sacred act of yajna that it with stands the ravages of time and accidents of history, governments and civilizations.
This dimension is related to each and every individual, like you and me. You go there not because your religion or government tells you to, not even because friends and family tell you to, perhaps not even because your personal beliefs tell you to. You visit such places simply because there is a force that pulls you there, a force that belies logic, a force that communes not with your outer form but with something deep within.
This factor is evident at Rikhia too, as one can see that over the years Paramahamsa Alakh Bara has become one such focal point of attraction. Sat Chandi Mahayajna is now in its seventh year and with each consecutive year its effect becomes more profound. The build-up of spiritual energy and the divine vibrations that emanate as a consequence of the yajna being held here year after year have created a magnetic aura which is simply so attractive that it pulls greater numbers to Rikhia Dham each year, even though the place is so remote, difficult to access and provides little or no comfort of the type that modern people are used to.
This letter from a devotee who attended the yajna in 2002 expresses the sentiments of all those who were fortunate to witness this spectacular event at Rikhia Dham last year: "It gives me profound pleasure to send this letter to you expressing my deepest sense of gratitude for planning, organizing and managing such a huge gathering so meticulously that everything went off very systematically, effidently and peacefully, maintaining pin drop silence and strict discipline in a very ideal, pious and exemplary way. Indeed it was a unique and historical event, which could be scarcely and rarely observed in any function in the country or even in any part of the world. We have every appreciation for such functions, which leave a permanent impression on our mind and body."
Swami Satyananda's sankalpa of patra daan for the Rajasooya Yajna last year was fulfilled by offering beautiful vessels and containers to families of over fifty villages in and around Rikhia panchayat. Along with vessels, these families also received blankets, clothing and ornaments, as well as household gadgets and amenities that were brought in abundance by devotees from all parts of the world. In addition to the villagers, each and every family that participated in the yajna received patra for their home containing akshat blessed by Sri Swamiji.
On the last day when Sri Swamiji gave darshan to the participants of the yajna who had sat through all the rituals and chanting of mantras with the utmost discipline, sanyama and shraddha, he spoke of his sankalpa to offer panch dhanya or the five traditional grains as bhet during the Rajasooya Yajna in 2003.
Dhanya means consisting of or made from grain, and originally the term was coined because it alludes to grains of seed being laid into and conceived by the earth. It is this same concept that will apply to the grain offered to you by Sri Swamiji. For it is not just grain that he will be giving you. Through the medium of grain he will be impregnating each and everyone one of you with spiritual blessings to shine forth in every sphere of life. This is a tantric and vedic concept which he will be presenting to you through the medium of yajna.
At the Rajasooya Yajna last year, Sri Swamiji said, "Man is the only creature who knows God. Therefore, when a man dies of hunger, in actual fact it is God who dies. By feeding man you feed God; by serving man you serveGod and by honouring man you honour God. Especially the man out on the street whom you do not know, with whom you are not related, who is in dire need and distress."
Moreover, the offering of anna is significant because this body is made up of anna and therefore is known as annamaya kosha or the sheath composed of food. It is the vehicle through which you conduct yourself in this world as well as the medium through which you can know the Divine. It is simply for this reason that according to vedic beliefs and traditions, anna, or grain has earned the status of being worshipped as devata.
So important and ingrained is this belief that several hymns and prayers are found in the Vedas and Upanishads invoking gods and goddesses who govern the annamaya kosha. A beautiful Sanskrit stotra to Annapurna beseeches the goddess of grain, who is worshipped at Varanasi alongside the jyotirlinga known as Vishwanath,
Bhikshaam dehi kripa-awalambana-kari maata-annapumesshwari.
"O Annapurna, Mother, do not delayany longer
in giving me bhiksha or alms as a symbol of your grace."
The Taittireya Upanishad, one of the twelve classical Upanishads, has several important and significant mantras devoted to the worship of anna, and direct references are given about its relation to the annamayakosha whereby it influences the speech, thoughts, actions and emotions of man. In yoga too definite practices are taught to influence this first kosha, or sheath, which is constituted of the food we eat.
Just as in people, anna too is categorized as sattwic, rajasic and tamasic, and although you may largely ignore this classification in order to satisfy your taste buds, if you want to begin a journey inwards to the experience of pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya and anandamaya koshas, you will have to make certain discriminations in this regard. In order to emphasize the importance of this discipline there is a very important initiation which every child in India receives at the age of six months, known as anna prashana, when he is fed the first morsel of cooked grain and his body or annamaya kosha is introduced to the food it will relish later in life.
Of all types of daan or charity, anna daan is considered to be the most superior. It is believed that this type of daan ties the giver and receiver with such a strong bond that it is hard to extract oneself from the rin, or debt, of anna daan. In India the dean of anna is so significant that there is a special term coined for one who gives food in charity. He is known as anna daata and worshipped as a benefactor. Not only that, there is a special abuse coined for the person who betrays his anna daata! From this it is easy to understand how revered is the person who feeds others.
Then again there are two kinds of anna daan - uncooked grains and cooked food, of which the latter is regarded as superior to the former for it is food that sustains, nourishes and cures. Sri Swamiji has said that when the rites of Rajasooya Yajna are firmly established he will offer food to each and everyone who comes to Paramahamsa Alakh Bara for the yajna-humans, cows, dogs, cats, goats and even the Gods!
Swami Satyananda has instilled in sannyasins the discipline of treating food with respect so that it is not wasted, spoilt due to neglect or carelessness, nor overeaten due to greed, but shared with all. In his life he has always regarded food as bhiksha, or alms, which he receives from the divine, never demanding more than he has received and never complaining if it is not tasty and satisfying. For it is said that those who disrespect anna meet with a pitiable fate in this life as well as in future ones, facing suffering due to starvation, disease and death.
It is this important and extremely significant tradition from the vedic era which Sri Swamiji is upholding by offering grain to one and all this year at the Rajasooya Yajna. The three primary grains he has chosen are dhaan (rice), gehu (wheat) and makai (maize). Along with these three, jau (barley) and bajra (millet) will be given as a symbol or token of obeisance to the rishis and munis of the vedic era who familiarized us with and made us aware of this subtle concept.
Those who wish to participate in the offering of grains may send their contributions to Sivananda Math, as this institution will undertake the task of purchasing, packaging and distributing grains to all on behalf of Sri Swamiji at Sita Kalyanam, which will be held at Paramahamsa Alakh Bara, Rikhia Dham, from 24th to 28th November 2003, during which time Sat Chandi Mahayajna will be performed to invoke Devi, the Cosmic Mother, to bear witness to this grand event and shower her grace and blessings on us all.
All of you are invited to receive the benevolence of Guru and Devi Ma!