Since eternity the universal consciousness has been expressing itself in two distinct ways, the material and the spiritual. Although seemingly poles apart, yet both these expressions are manifestations of that one consciousness which has evolved into this diverse creation.
The Vedas extol Purusha, the cosmic being, who sacrificed Himself to become the universe. This is the spirit of Purusha Sukta, that magnificent hymn revealing the transformation of the eternal, infinite being into the finite, cognizable material world, initiating the unending chain of creation. You and I, the entire vegetable, mineral and animal kingdom, the sun, moon, stars and planets, the oceans, mountains, deserts and skies, each and every speck of creation, from the smallest amoeba to the mightiest galaxy, is resplendent with that magnificent and awesome power.
The source of this material creation is that homogeneous consciousness. However, despite being the catalyst of this creation, it remains full, complete, undivided, unfragmented and whole.
Poornamadah poornamidam poornaat poornamudachyate
poornasya poornamaadaaye poornameva avashishyate.
From the full the full is taken and yet the full remains.
No wonder then that if and when we want to influence life, the best and most successful way to do so would be to invoke that supreme consciousness at whose behest this creation has come into being. This is primarily the role of yajna in our lives. To seek divine intervention in the fulfilment of our desires, to overcome the obstacles that fall in our path, to pave the way for a better future, to alter the structure of our thoughts, to give us a goal and a direction too, to connect us with ourselves and our environment, in short to uplift us in every way.
The need of man today is prosperity, not moksha. The race is on for the achievement of this end. Mandirs, mosques and churches are bursting at the seams with people who turn to these places for divine intervention in their lives. Someone wants a child, another a job, another relief from sickness, another a promotion at work, another a transfer, a visit abroad, or a better house, better car, better wife or husband! No one asks for moksha or liberation!
This is not just true of today; even in vedic times this was the demand. All the vedic prayers and invocations to divine beings were for good crops, timely rains, healthy cattle, abundant grains and healthy progeny. They sought the help of divine gods and goddesses for this purpose. Yajnas were conducted to propitiate different deities who seemed to arrive there just as today a minister or important dignitary arrives to grace the occasion and confer their blessings and fulfil the wishes of those present, whether it is the sanction of a gas cylinder, a petrol pump, or a prime piece of land! The hot favourites of today which everyone has their sights set upon.
That is precisely how and why yajnas became so popular right from ancient vedic times. They had the inherent power and potential to fulfil the demands of the masses. The rites and rituals, or karma kanda, along with the invocation of mantras, united the collective consciousness to create a suitable ambience for the descent of the divine beings. The arrival and presence of divinity surcharged the atmosphere with electric energy, which uplifted each and everyone to streamline their own thoughts and energies in a positive and auspicious direction for the fulfilment of their aims and objectives in life.
Yajnas confer peace, plenty and prosperity through the medium of the divine energy that is invoked by mantras and rituals. Divine intervention is sought for the removal of obstacles, difficulties and kleshas, or afflictions, and these divine powers miraculously render it possible for those deepest desires and wishes to be fulfilled. Thus through an esoteric act, exoteric desires are accomplished.
This is not asana or pranayama or dhyana or any form of yoga. You do not have to strike a pose, stand on your head or inhale deeply and close your nostrils, nor do you have to close your eyes and concentrate to dive deep within. This is yajna, purely a non-intellectual affair where the mind, intellect and intelligence have no role to play and are on hold for the time being. In this situation childlike innocence and spontaneity pay higher dividends.
In a yajna you have to tune into the present moment with the natural ease of a child. Just as the awareness of a child does not attach any great importance to the past or future, but simply lives from moment to moment, in the same way your awareness, too, has to attune with the environment of the ceremony because you are in the proximity of a higher power. In Sanskrit, it is known as samipya, to be near the divine.
Ultimately, it is the aim of every seeker to experience the divine. Knowing and understanding is simply not enough if it is not enriched by experience. We want a touch of divinity in our lives, even if it is just to fulfil our desires. Is there anyone free from desire? No, not at all. Even those who have supposedly renounced everything live in a world of paradox because the desire for liberation is still strong.
The seed of desire, or iccha shakti, is inherent in us. We are born because of desire, we live steeped in desire, and desire is at the root of each and every act that we perform. If we did not have desire, we would stagnate and perish like the cauliflowers and potatoes that lie on our kitchen shelves.
This is why yajnas are most important for us, because they have the power to accomplish each and every one of our desires, whether it be artha, kama, dharma or moksha, depending on ones frequency of mind. The highly specialised ritual of yajna is able to touch all dimensions of our life, because the power invoked is a divine deity who can grant all of our desires, from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Therefore, yajna is not to be understood merely as a ritual of offering oblations into the sacred fire. Of more important value is the spirit behind the ritual, which is the means of bringing about the unity of devatas and human beings. These devatas, or luminescent, shining beings, are invoked to descend from dyuloka, the shining region, to preside over the ritual, and even though invisible to the naked eye, as the soul in our bodies, they operate on us in an immensely profound and everlasting way.
One can easily say that these are not tall claims as they have been verified over the past ten years of the Sat Chandi Mahayajna. Each year you have been making abundant offerings to the deity of the yajna, which are distributed as prasad to all the neighbours of Sri Swamiji. It is because your wishes are fulfilled that you make this significant contribution and offering to the yajna. This itself is proof, for if your sankalpas were not fulfilled, you would not be so extravagant.
Last year the Sat Chandi Mahayajna and Sita Kalyanam at Rikhia, which are a part of a greater event, the Rajasooya Yajna, was a runaway success. It was attended by people from over forty countries as well as from all states and corners of India. Before the yajna commenced, Swami Satyananda graced the yajnasthal with his presence and blessed everyone present, saying that an opportunity to participate in yajna is granted only to extremely fortunate souls.
Explaining the importance of yajna in the transformation of mans awareness, right from primitive man to present day modern man, Sri Swamiji sanctified the entire yajnasthal with his speech and presence. He spoke of Devi and how this force will be embodied through the medium of the kanyas who would be worshipped on the last day. He ended by saying, Let us experience this yajna like these little children, with innocence, purity and spontaneity.
After that, it seemed as if all the divine energies of Devi crystallised at this nucleus in Rikhia. There is only one word to describe the next five days magical! The enticing melodies of kirtans, mantras, stotras and vedic hymns by the kanyas and batuks, along with the Durga Saptashati Path of the pundits, captivated the hearts and minds of each and everyone present. Vedic mantras floated through the air and the entire vicinity was saturated with a profound and subtle luminosity which remained constant throughout, whether it was day or night.
The kanyas and batuks of Rikhia, who were the official hosts on behalf of Sri Swamiji, welcomed thousands of people daily to this sacred event. Imagine that! These children between the ages of seven to twelve executed each and every detail from kirtan and bhajan, pooja and worship, announcements and welcome addresses, seating, prasad distribution, serving of meals and wholehearted entertainment of Sri Swamijis guests with love, innocence, purity and spontaneity. They simply doled out happiness, purity and joy to all.
Smartly turned out in a brand new outfit each day, which they received from Sri Swamiji as Devi prasad, they looked stunning and radiant, truly befitting the occasion. Whether it was the jeans outfit from Spain, the lehenga choli from Rajasthan, the kurti from Delhi or the Pavadai from Tamil Nadu, they carried each dress with elegance and style.
In addition to the kanyas and batuks, each and every family from over sixty villages of Rikhia and its neighbouring panchayats received grains, clothing, woollens, utensils, ornaments, a blanket, thermal undergarments, seeds, a calendar, a bucket and a brand new cosy quilt, which was the novelty of last years Devi prasad to the gramins, or villagers. The quilt, brought especially from Rajasthan, ensured that the children and elders of this vicinity would sleep warmly and snugly each night in the biting cold. Truly inspiring!
That is the glory of yajna, as it brings happiness to all. As the yajna commenced, the chief yajaman, or host, Swami Niranjanananda, took the sankalpa of bahujana hitaya bahujana sukhaya, for the good of many, for the happiness of many. Any act you perform for the happiness and welfare of many is a yajna. That is dharma. On the other hand, any act you perform for the happiness and welfare of those you consider yours is karma. The wise and the ancients say that in order to progress in every sphere of life, one should establish a delicate balance between dharma and karma. They are like the two wings of a bird. Cut off one and the bird simply cannot ascend to great heights.
So come one and all and be a part of this sacred event so that your life may prosper through the grace of Guru and Devi Maa.