The Mystery of Yajna

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

For a complete picture of yajna, we have to look at three factors: the event, the vision behind the event, and the source of that vision. However, even when we get a complete picture, we will still not be able to understand yajna. Understanding is a cerebral process and yajna is a non-cerebral, abstract and non-linear experience. You cannot experience it through the heart either. Just as you have to bypass intellect, you also have to bypass feelings. Those things that cannot be explained or even felt in their totality are mysterious. Yajna is a mystery, just as God is a mystery, life is a mystery, mind is a mystery. Everything that is unfathomable and incomprehensible is mysterious, and that mystery represents an ongoing, evolving process within. We must have these experiences in life so we can experience something deeper than the normal body-mind-spirit ideas. So, if you think that you will understand something, just know that you will not. You simply have to be and become.

Yajna as a spiritual means

However, there comes a time when, for a moment, we are able to experience the integrated form of body-mind-spirit in which the universe is contained in us and we are contained in the universe, when we are able to break through the heart of the body-mind-spirit unit and take a peek into infinity. Yajna becomes a process that allows us that peek into the infinite spiritual dimension. We all see yajna differently. Some see the organization and beauty outside. Others see the essence inside. Somehow we tend to hold on to the edge of that experience, not the whole which cannot be defined or rationalized. The edge is what will inspire you eventually to discover the principle of bliss and peace inside. The impressions you carry back help you to discover what you have received from your experience. After all, you have all seen and heard the same things: Paramahamsaji, the kanyas, the batuks, the havan, the mantras. But has that experience educated you in any way?

It is the knowledge and teaching you received from your experience that will eventually uplift you. One has to educate oneself through the memories that one retains. It is like putting your hand in fire. You know that it burns, but even with that knowledge you may continue doing it. Only the education you derive from your experience will stop you doing it again. One level of knowledge is realized and then one’s understanding becomes alive. Yajna, yoga, asana, meditation, mantras or worship give an understanding of and education in something definite and specific related to one’s life. They inspire and give us a glimpse into another reality of life.

So the event, the vision behind the event, and the source of that vision have to be seen in relation to each other and then the understanding that comes to you will be your own inspiration and motivation.

Sat Chandi Mahayajna

Sat Chandi Mahayajna is an ancient tantric worship of the Cosmic Mother done through invocation, chanting of mantras, creation of yantras, formation of mandalas, and the fire ceremony. The Sat Chandi Mahayajna conducted in Rikhia is part of another yajna, the Rajasooya Yajna, which in ancient times was performed by kings and emperors. It symbolized the sharing of their achievements and prosperity with their subjects. After conquering new territories, they would return to their kingdoms and distribute the wealth through the medium of this yajna.

The Rajasooya Yajna was, and is, a yajna to share what one has achieved and attained in life. Because of the magnitude of the yajna, only kings and emperors could perform it. In Rikhia, it is performed as a tribute to the work that Paramahamsaji has done in relation to yoga. The Sat Chandi Mahayajna becomes the medium to invoke the cosmic energy, the benevolent force.

The medium of the yajna

Two forces – the children (the kanyas and batuks) and Paramahamsaji, who was present on all five days – are the medium through which the yajna was being performed. There was a synergy between the kanyas, batuks and Paramahamsaji. The shakti could be seen flowing out of Paramahamsaji into the kanyas and batuks, transforming their attitudes, responses and performance. The kanyas and batuks became the medium to channel the energy of Paramahamsaji during the yajna.

As Paramahamsaji has told us, a yajna has three main components: gifting, worship and satsang. But no component of a yajna ever achieves the mark unless it is guided by a sankalpa. Paramahamsaji took a sankalpa of peace, plenty and prosperity for all eleven years ago in 1995 when he started the Sat Chandi Mahayajna. This sankalpa, and Swami Sivananda’s sankalpa to serve, love and give, have become the motivating force, the spirit behind the yajna.

Swami Sivananda used to say that any sadhana a person does for his or her own upliftment and emancipation still reflects the selfish nature of the individual. Only when one is able to connect with atmabhava, the ability to see oneself in others, does spiritual life begin to unfold, not before. Sri Krishna has also mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita (12:13) that the first qualification of a competent and likeable person is adveshta sarvabhutanam, regarding all beings as oneself. The beginning of spiritual life is experiencing and living in unity, in oneness.

The sankalpas of Swami Satyananda and Swami Sivananda have their roots in the spiritual precepts in the first mantra of the Ishavasya Upanishad: Om ishaavaasyamidam sarvam yatkincha jagatyaam jagat – “This entire creation is God’s house; we are living in God’s house. God pervades the entire creation.” All that exists in this ever-changing universe is the abode of the Lord (in which the Lord resides). Enjoy whatever the Lord gives you. Do not covet, for whose indeed is wealth?

Living in God’s home

Generally, indiscipline and irregularity are the two common barriers in our evolution. This becomes the cause of ashanti, the absence of peace, giving birth to distress. In order to find solace, we try to understand some principle, system or idea by which we can regain our balance.

The best principle is given in the mantra quoted above. It says that creation is God’s home. Believe that you are living in God’s home and live with dignity. There is a system and order in every house, in every society. If you begin to believe that this entire creation is God’s home and you are living in it, you will make an effort to remain within the structure of what is just and appropriate. Half the problems will disappear because you will not do anything wrong in God’s home, just as you will not do anything wrong in your own home.

This mantra from the Ishavasya Upanishad has guided the vision of the seers through the ages. We have to try to create an awareness that the kingdom of heaven is here. This reflects the harmony between our material life and spiritual aspirations. With the combination of the material and the spiritual, life evolves towards truth (sat), towards the expansive nature (chit), and towards bliss (ananda).

Seva as a means to purify

In the course of our evolution, there are different needs that have to be addressed in terms of the level of consciousness, the behaviour of the mind. At one time, the need was ahimsa, non-violence, and that was propagated by Buddha, Mahavira and others. And in this age, the need has been seva, service, as a means of connecting with others. Seva, along with prem, love, and daan, gifting, leads to purification.

So the four components of Swami Sivananda’s yoga – serve, love, give and purify – are the outcomes of this ancient Upanishadic thought. In order to live in the house of God with dignity, purification is a must, which comes through selfless service and unconditional love. The ability to let go and overcome needs is the concept of purity that leads to the awakening of the spirit.

When Swami Satyananda gave the sankalpa of peace, plenty and prosperity, nobody thought that it reflected a deeper spiritual meaning. Peace can be had only when all the absences are gone from life. In order to get rid of the absences, you need to have plenty. And in order to acquire plenty, you have to be prosperous. ‘Prosperous’ does not mean rich; prosperous means having the means to attain. So, peace, plenty and prosperity became the message for those who are looking for the fulfilment of the most immediate needs in life – whether material or spiritual.

Open heart surgery

The biggest message of this Sat Chandi Mahayajna is that we all need to have ‘open heart surgery’. The arteries are blocked by heavy deposits which have to be removed. How can that happen? Think about it. In that one phrase, Paramahamsaji has indicated many thoughts about improving the quality of life. So, try to focus on one and work to overcome the blockage of the heart. If that is possible, then the message of the Sat Chandi Mahayajna will have been lived by everyone.

—Ganga Darshan, November 2006

When we worship an object or form or symbol, like the Devi in Rikhia, can’t it become an obstacle? We become so engrossed in trying to attach our spirituality to this form that we neglect each other and our environment. Shouldn’t we be worshipping instead each and every person present around us?

There is no harm in worshipping everyone present around us, providing our worship does not make them bigheaded. It is not only we who are important, the object of worship is equally important. If the person we worship is not balanced, their ego will go sky-high, and that is the danger of worshipping everyone. Worship by nature must instil a sense of purity, humbleness, awe and respect, and it should be mutual.

We also worship the guru. The guru is not swayed by emotions when being worshipped – there is equanimity. If we are able to offer our worship to the feeling and existence of equanimity, then we are part of nature, and we can worship nature in any way we wish.

There are two aspects of worship – exoteric and esoteric. When we feel hungry, we go to the kitchen, make something to eat, and eat it. That is the external effort, which stops when we have swallowed the food. But the process of digestion goes on, unknown to us. That is the internal aspect, the esoteric aspect, over which we have no control. Up to a point we are in control of what we do; beyond that things happen according to the law of nature, the law of the divine. It is the same in worship. Up to a point we can worship according to the pleasure of our heart, but thereafter the worship goes on internally unknown to us, in the psychic dimension. Therefore, it is impossible and impractical to have the same sentiment for everyone we encounter.

What you saw in Rikhia was the attachment to form. But the culmination of the worship was the sadhana of Swami Satyananda; it was his sankalpa working through it. If you had identified with Paramahamsaji’s sankalpa and not with the people who had just come to see a show and who had no feeling for it, you would have felt differently. The purity and intensity of the sankalpa and the participation of Paramahamsaji was the moving factor of the worship. Those who were able to witness that intensity which he was expressing in his own inner being would have realized the worth of worship. Maybe in the entire group there were only ten or twenty people who were connected – and it only takes one person to be connected for worship to be fruitful.

One has to connect one’s feelings with what is happening, whether it is a spiritual, material or social effort. When the feeling is strong and we are able to experience the intensity of the feeling with our participation, then even in chaos we are able to glimpse harmony. Being able to witness harmony in chaos is the biggest miracle that can happen.

Express your devotion, ensuring that you are pure and the object to which you are offering your devotion is pure. That is when bhakti comes alive.

—Ganga Darshan, December 2000