From Bhakti Yoga Sagar, Volume Six, Swami Satyananda Saraswati

In the forests of South America I have seen rare sights from the pre-Columbian era. I found that the people of the pre-Columbian civilization practised yajna. Archaeological excavations throughout the world investigating the Stone Age, Bronze Age and various ages have given us evidence that they performed a ceremony in which natural herbs were offered into the fire with the chanting of mantras and dance rituals. Unfortunately, those traditions have become extinct throughout the world, except in India.

India has preserved this tradition of yajna for thousands of years. It has given various interpretations of yajna. What are the different forms of yajna? How does an individual perform a yajna? How does a community perform a yajna? And if at all the king or the sovereign of a country wants to perform a yajna, how does he do it? All these things have been preserved, maintained and kept alive in India even until today. It is not only here in Rikhia that the Sat Chandi Yajna is performed. Yajna in India is not a rare event. It is a very popular event, like popular music in the West. The pandits, the acharyas, who will be coming to perform the yajna are booked years in advance. If you decide to perform a yajna, you can’t do it tomorrow or the day after because there will be no acharyas available.

I am telling you this for a reason. Remember that the priests are Brahmins; they are not kshatriyas, the warrior caste, or vaishyas, the merchant class, or shudras, the working class of India. Not all brahmins perform yajnas, only certain types of brahmins become the acharyas who perform yajna. Rich people, poor people and communities get together, collect some money and invite the brahmins, the priests, to perform the yajna. People in the vicinity are not invited to the yajna.

There is no invitation; that is one rule here. When you perform a yajna you prepare it, then you just put posters and banners somewhere along the footpath.

Purifying the environment

People come in their thousands because yajna purifies the physical atmosphere, ecology as you call it. Yajna also purifies the akashic or subtle atmosphere, the atmosphere which influences your mind, but first of all it purifies that atmosphere which influences your body. Nowadays you know a lot about the environment, about the greenhouse effect, the heating of the earth, and so on. I don’t have to tell you about that. Yajna is the cure, the remedy. First of all, lovers and devotees of the environment, all those who believe that the atmosphere should be purified, that carbon monoxide must be reduced, are the ones who must practise yajna, not only on this scale but also on an individual scale.

In the Vedas, there is a system of yajna which an individual can perform at home with his family. I come from an Arya Samaj family. My father was an Arya Samajist. Arya Samajis are reformers, just like Protestants in Christianity. Every morning, my father would position a few sticks in a copper pot and chant the Agnihotra Vidhi Veda Mantra for fifteen minutes:

Aum shanno devirabhistaya aapo bhavantu peetaye

Sham yorabhi sravantu nah.
Om bhooragnaye praanaaya svaaha,

Idamagnaye praanaaya – idam na mama.
Aum bhuvarvaayave apaanaaya svaaha,

Idam vaayave apaarnaya – idam na mama.
Aum svaraadityaaya vyaanaaya svaaha

idamaadityaaya vyaanaaya – idam na mama.
Aum bhoorbhuvah svaragnivaayvaadityebhyah

praanaapaanavyaanebhyah svaaha
Idamagnivaayvaadityebhyah praanaapaanavyaanebhyah – idam na mama.
Svaahaa svaahaa svaahaa svaahaa – aahaah!

I still remember it from the time I was a small child. So an individual can perform yajna at home and purify the atmosphere. A community can perform yajna and purify the atmosphere of the community, the village or town.

More than purification of the physical atmosphere of the earth and its environment, it is now becoming more important that we should purify the mental atmosphere, the psychic atmosphere, the emotional atmosphere which has become corrupt. Your mind is full of bad thoughts. It is just like a monkey which has been stung by a scorpion. Imagine what will happen to it. Then add some champagne and you can imagine what that monkey will be like. You are that monkey. All the monkeys are here!

Now how can you silence that monkey? Our ancestors, your ancestors, everyone’s ancestors said, “Perform yajna.” Yajna means offering. When you offer food to the poor and hungry, that is yajna. When you give clothes to someone who has none, that is yajna. To give and to give and to give is yajna. In Sanskrit the word yajna is a combination of three letters ‘ya’ ‘ja’ and ‘na’ – production, consumption and distribution. There has to be a balance between production, consumption and distribution. The Bhagavad Gita has also suggested various other forms of yajna and you should read it.