The Spirit of Yajna

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, Sat Chandi Maha Yajna, December 5-9, 2002

In 2001 Sri Swamiji pronounced that the Rajasooya Yajna would be conducted for twelve years at Rikhia Dham. The basis or medium of the Rajasooya Yajna is the Sat Chandi Yajna. It is important to understand the process of the yajna, which is why we lay out the ground rules beforehand. This is not an ordinary yajna; it is one of the most sacred yajnas of tantra. Tantra is a very powerful science. Many people think that tantra is living a free life, breaking down the barriers of life, but this is not true.

Tantra is a process of invoking and experiencing the divine force within. This divine force does not come naturally or spontaneously. Although it is inherent in everyone, we have to prepare the receiver of the mind. We are surrounded by radio waves but we are unable to see them. In order to materialize and to hear those waves we need to have the right instrument, whether it is a radio or a transistor. We also need the ability to tune that instrument, because when the receiver is tuned we can hear any station we wish. The same applies to the cosmic energy. It surrounds us, within and without, internally and externally, above and below. Just as a fish is surrounded by water, we are also surrounded by that cosmic force which is responsible for creation, sustenance, transformation and change.

A sacred event

The purpose of the yajna is to tune this instrument within us - mind, emotions, heart, feelings - and to be the receiver, the experiencer, of that cosmic force, that cosmic shakti. In order to tune this instrument, we have to fiddle with the knobs, which are the senses and the fluctuating mind. Therefore, during the five days of the yajna you need to exercise control over your bladder, the process of elimination, the desire to eat and drink, and drowsiness and sleep. Swami Sivananda used to sing a beautiful song: "Eat a little, drink a little, talk a little, sleep a little, mix a little, move a little, serve a little, rest a little....." - moderation in all things. Just as you control these desires or urges when you meditate, the same thing has to happen here. Then you will return home with a new inspiration and vision of how to live spiritual life.

This is a spiritual retreat, not a mela or a place for enjoyment. You have come here for spiritual upliftment, to come into contact with your inner nature. As participants you are equally responsible for the culmination and fulfilment of the sankalpa of a yogi, a siddha, of Sri Swamiji. He has given the sankalpa that the worship of Devi is done for one purpose only: to bring prosperity, peace and happiness into people's lives. But in order to have prosperity, peace and happiness, you have to prepare yourself mentally.

These observances are for five days only. For 360 days of the year you are free to do whatever you like. The remaining five days belong to Devi, and your entire awareness should be focused on the yajna. Be spiritual aspirants. Expand the antenna of your mind and remain alert. If you attend a meditation retreat which requires you to sit for eight hours, you ensure that you do it because that is the focus, otherwise the retreat has no meaning. Similarly, when you take the sankalpa for five days ensure that you maintain it with the utmost sincerity and commitment.

While the chanting, the worship and the aradhana are going on have a one-track mind. If a mother has a small child, she is constantly aware of that child no matter what she is doing, because if the child is neglected for even a minute, an accident can happen; the child can put his hand in the fire, or cut himself with a knife, or fall down the stairs. Awareness does not mean watching the child all the time to ensure his well-being. It means being alert to the process while performing different activities.

Another important point is that these premises are not a 'free for all' campus. When you enter this area, you need to maintain the same decorum, dignity and sanctity as you would in a holy place, a place of worship, a place of God. In the vedi, the cosmic power will be invoked and, according to the rules of yajna, that place is off-limits to everyone except for the acharyas and authorized people. The area in front of the vedi is reserved for those who have taken a sankalpa to participate in the chanting of Durga Saptashati for all five days of the yajna. That is the maryada, the observance, of this tantric yajna.

Cosmic shakti

The cosmic energy being worshipped here is inherent in each and every object of creation. There is no form in this world that is devoid of this cosmic presence. Once we become aware of this cosmic presence, we begin to love that divine nature whom some people call God. Loving God is a personal expression of human sentiment, not a matter of religion. Religions are systems which can evoke that feeling, but love is not religion, feeling for God is not religion, experiencing God is not religion. It is a natural expression of the human sentiment which is aware of, connected and filled with the presence of that cosmic force.

Our sankalpa mantra is the prayer to the Cosmic Mother in which the cosmic power is visualized in the form of Durga. Durga is the one who removes distress from our lives. When invoked, she manifests not in the form of a physical body, but in the form of a body which is created through the power of the mantras. If the president of a country were to walk into this area, you would all remain silent and treat that person with respect and dignity. In the same manner, although the presence of that divine power cannot be seen through the physical eyes, because it does not have a physical form, the form is present here. It is invoked through the mantras and manifests in the hearts of everyone who has fixed their mind on that presence which we can generate and feel here. So, when we chant the sankalpa mantra, when we invoke that cosmic force, feel within you, around you, above you and below you, the presence of this cosmic shakti.

For many, the mantras may not mean anything, but the mantras tune our mind, our feelings and our emotions to capture the essence of the cosmic energy which has been invoked. Devi has manifested, you have seen her, you have witnessed her, and if you don't find her beautiful, try to look again. The beauty of Devi is not skin deep, it is soul deep. Human beauty can be skin deep, but divine beauty is soul deep. In order to be a recipient of that cosmic grace you have to involve yourself in the chanting of the mantras, because mantras tune the body, the mind, the emotions and the spirit to experience that power, that shakti.

A fish cannot say, "I am thirsty," because she lives in water, she swims in water, her life passes in water. Similarly, we are all surrounded by this cosmic energy, and it is only because of our own ignorance that we fail to realize that we are part and parcel of the cosmic energy. The peculiar thing is that man always thinks he is untouched by this cosmic play. Man always thinks he is the master, the controller of destiny, not realizing that someone else is controlling and guiding it.

We are all part of the same creative power that has created the entire universe. This creative power is the Mother aspect. What is your relationship with your mother? One of affection and respect, and it is these sentiments that you have to express here also. Once we are able to express love, compassion and affection continuously in our lives, the grace of the Mother that is received will fill our lives totally.

Cosmic body

In the Sat Chandi Maha Yajna energies are invoked and placed in different areas of the vedi, which becomes like the body. The senses are placed in different areas of our own body and because of this placement our bodies are able to function in a systematic manner. Just as the eyes, the ears, the nose, the mouth, all the different senses have their roles in the physical structure, in the same way, through the chanting of mantras this vedi made of mud and brick becomes the cosmic body of Devi. Through mantras, different forces are invoked to become the sense organs of this cosmic body. Once the body is created through the mantra chanting, then the Goddess is invoked. After the invocation, the chanting of Durga Saptashati begins. That is the process of Sat Chandi Yajna.

Mantras are being chanted from all the four Vedas. If you listen carefully, you will find each Veda has a different notation. This is the tantric method of conducting Devi worship. Devi worship is a very ancient and powerful tantric ritual. If one is in tune with the worship, then the energy bestows a lot of up-liftment, spiritual and material.

Sri Swamiji's vision

The purpose of yajna is to bring peace and prosperity into people's lives. Swami Satyananda has always worked for these two ideals. He worked for peace and made yoga the medium. Now he is working for prosperity and has made yajna the medium. When Sri Swamiji travelled around India as a parivrajaka for nine years, from 1954 to 1963, he lived in the villages with the poor. Many sannyasins go to big cities and live there for some time collecting disciples and money and imparting their wisdom, but when Sri Swamiji did his pada yatra, he went to the remote areas of the country, not to the cities. Sri Swamiji's life is like the spectrum of a rainbow, he is a multi-faceted personality. He has lived with the affluent and with the poor with the same ease, helping both at the same time.

For peace he used the science and wisdom of yoga. Sri Swamiji has been the major inspirer in the propagation of yoga and Satyananda Yoga, or Bihar Yoga, is a well recognized system of yoga around the world. The banner of yoga is flying high throughout the world. Through his efforts, Sri Swamiji brought yoga to everyone, whether in Western countries or Eastern countries, Christians or Muslims, believers or non-believers. He said yoga can help you find peace, yoga can help you overcome all of life's problems and difficulties, because it gives one the ability to choose the correct solution. Yoga is not a science of miracles, yoga is a science of common sense and Sri Swamiji made yoga the medium to experience, to attain and to live in peace.

Now he is inspiring us to work for the prosperity of one and all and he has made yajna the medium. Yajna literally means production, distribution and enjoyment. The whole world, the whole of creation, thrives only because of production, distribution and enjoyment. There has to be a balance between these three aspects. Everyone accumulates and some distribute, but when there is a balance between accumulation and distribution, that is known as satkarma, appropriate and righteous action. When there is a balance between accumulation and distribution, that is known as yajna. One component of the Rajasooya Yajna is receiving and giving, sharing the prosperity, sharing the plenty, sharing the peace. The Rajasooya Yajna, which was inspired by Sri Swamiji in 2001, represents this vision of finding a balance between accumulation and distribution.