The science of tantra advocates expansion of mind, and although it teaches specific techniques to achieve this state it also says that this can occur naturally in anyone at any time. It is these moments of expansion of mind that have led to the greatest discoveries of man throughout the ages. If this phenomenon did not occur, man would have remained at the level of instinct, just as in animals.
Expansion of mind is that state when you begin to perceive a different dimension in relation to your existence, which until that moment remains unknown or concealed from you. After all, we see apples falling off trees every single day but it took a Newton to realize the law of gravity. Something similar must have happened to the man who first discovered fire. That precise moment when man recognized fire was the moment of his greatest insight. You can say that it was the split second when his consciousness took an evolutionary leap from the instinctive to the intelligent and intuitive plane.
Of course, fire existed even before man discovered it, for fire is primordial. Who knows how often he gazed at it without realizing the significance of the role it was to play in his future development. Animals even today do not know fire, even though it exists all around them. We have never seen animals, plants or birds utilizing fire the way we do. Have you ever seen a lion roast his meat or a bird bake her bread? Man too was in this state of blissful ignorance until one of our primitive ancestors experienced that expanded state of mind which tantra has so lucidly defined.
This led to the greatest discovery of man - fire, which must have then led to a chain reaction, because after that there was no stopping man. His realization of a difference between himself and other living creatures led him to a further insight into how he could live apart from them, nurturing his home, growing his own food, and rearing his cattle and livestock. Fire and grain thus signify that precise moment of insight into a world which, until then, was unknown to the primitive man who existed billions and trillions of years ago. A discovery that catapulted him into what he is today.
It is not surprising therefore that the Rig Veda, the oldest written text of a most ancient civilization, begins with a tribute to this awesome manifestation of nature. "Agni mide purohitam", a statement that gives agni or fire the status of divinity or one that illumines the path. One can thus clearly see how the ceremony of yajna evolved as a commemoration of this historic event, a salute to the foremost quantum leap made by man.
This is the utilitarian aspect of his discovery. But beyond that there is another deeper esoteric aspect to this event, which relates to that expanded state of mind that tantra talks about. For in that state of mind, fire and grain assume a different role, one that elevates them to the role of catalyst of creation, signifying that we owe our existence to fire and grain.
In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says to Arjuna:
All living beings spring forth from anna, which is a product of rain. Rain is caused by yajna, which in turn takes place due to karma. Karmas manifest out of knowledge, which is the essence of Parabrahma or the supreme Self. On account of this, that supreme immortal Paramatma is forever enshrined in yajna.
In order to understand the esoteric or tantric significance of yajna this statement has to be scrutinized, because until we can grasp the profundity of these words, yajna will remain just a fire ceremony for us. It will not expand the mind and give us that sublime experience of unity with the source of our creation.
The Bible tells us of just such an event in the life of a man called Moses, who in a similar expanded state of mind saw that highest reality as fire behind the bush, which revealed to him the Ten Commandments, a revelation which gave birth to one of the foremost religions in the world. That fire Moses saw was no ordinary fire; it was the cosmic light born out of the divine vibration, an experience which tantra developed through the ritual of yajna, highlighting how an exoteric act can become an uplifting esoteric experience.
In the physical body this cosmic light manifesting as the inner fire or prana is the link between annamaya kosha and manomaya kosha. It is the mythical missing link that transported man from the physical animal dimension to the intelligent and creative being of the twenty-first century. In the slokas mentioned above, the Gita hints at yajna being the medium of his further evolution from man to superman, for that supreme knowledge is pratishthit or established in this rite, just as heat is established in fire or light in the sun.
In 2003 the sacred event of yajna was performed at Rikhiadham for the seventh year. Before it started Swami Satyananda said that the yajna being held at Rikhia was a celebration of man's first awakening. If that had not happened, we may still be living in the dark ages in caves and tree-tops like savages.
Modern man in his hurry may have forgotten that moment of jubilation and victory in the life of his ancestors because it was not recorded by any race, nationality or civilization. Then man was not American, Indian or Chinese but the true example of a universal human being. Yet, we are fortunate, as that moment is forever enshrined in the ritual of yajna, which was developed by the vedic seers.
Perhaps future civilizations will view man's venture into space with as much awe and reverence because that too is a significant evolutionary leap in the destiny of man. Whether it will be a constructive leap, as in the case of his discovery of fire, or a destructive one, only time and history will tell.
The ritual of yajna therefore is designed to establish man's connection with the cosmic properties abounding in the universe. This event was commemorated at Rikhiadham by the distribution of anna or grain in the presence of agni to over sixty villages in Sri Swamiji's neighbourhood, as well as to thousands of devotees assembled at this gathering.
The highlight of the event was the participation of the kanyas whom Sri Swamiji called bal sundaris or beautiful children. They were the chosen medium for this tantric ceremony and the versatility with which they managed each and every aspect of it lends credibility to the claim that the ritual of yajna expands the mind. After all, many of you have seen them over the years and it was hard to imagine their potential at that time.
From the pooja or worship, to the kitchen and meals, to the welcoming and seating of guests as well as distribution of prasad in the form of grains, these little kanyas, who until now could hardly even speak a word, handled it all with grace, charm and endearing innocence. Their kirtans and chanting of stotras and prayers was simply enchanting and everyone was a witness to that. With their rhythm and beat they transported each and everyone to a different realm!
At the culmination of the yajna Sri Swamiji said that in 2004, the eighth year of the Rajasooya Yajna, the prasad would once again be grain, as it has a universal application in the life of man. Whether rich or poor, young or old, all of us are nourished and live by grain. Along with grain, tools or implements for agricultural purposes, such as sprayers, spades, pickaxes, hulls or ploughs, gum boots, raincoats and umbrellas will also be given to the neighbours of Sri Swamiji, many of whom are farmers or tillers of the soil. In addition tools of trade will be given to carpenters, barbers, tailors, iron smiths and labourers. Sivananda Math has undertaken the enormous task of purchasing, packing and distributing the grain and implements, and if you are interested in participating in this, you may contact us for further information.
Do not, however, think for a moment that it is just grain you will be receiving, which perhaps you already have in abundance at your home. Instead, understand that the rites and rituals of tantra can transform even the most mundane object, act, thought, word or deed into a vehicle for receiving the divine grace in your life.
So come one and all and receive this grace of Guru and Devi Ma in abundance.
- Namo Narayana