Yajna is the celebration of the birth of human civilization. When man discovered fire, his consciousness took an evolutionary leap from the instinctive to the intelligent and intuitive plane. Before fire was discovered, we ate raw fruits, seeds, roots, grains, even raw meat like animals. The moment man realized he could use fire to protect, nurture and sustain himself is enshrined in the ritual of yajna developed by the vedic seers.
The Rig Veda, the oldest written text of a most ancient civilization, begins with a tribute to this awesome manifestation of nature.
Agnimide purohitam yajnasya devam ritvijam; hotaram ratna dhatamam.
We worship the adorable Fire, the chief priest of the yajna. He has the yajna done in due season. He, as the summoner, is capable of bringing the gods to the yajna performed here.
This statement gives agni, fire, the status of divinity or one that illumines the path. We can clearly see how the ceremony of yajna evolved as a commemoration of this historic event, a salute to that foremost quantum leap made by our forefathers. Agni, the fire god, is the presiding deity of yajna.
Without fire, the yajna of civilization cannot move ahead. Fire is the forerunner of our civilization. After fire came grain. Fire and grain are the two eternal principles. When man learnt that grain could be cooked and cultivated, that he could even dispose of his own body in fire and purify it, he reached the first rung of evolution. The tradition of yajna began from that day. In the esoteric sense, fire and grain became catalysts of creation, signifying that we owe them our existence.
Yajna is a celebration of humankind, not a celebration of Hindus, Muslims or Christians, blacks or whites. We are celebrating the day when primitive man, the example of a universal human being, discovered fire and grain. We light the fire in the traditional manner, by creating friction, and offer grain into it.
Yajna is not just a fire ceremony. The word ‘yajna’ comes from the root yaj, meaning to offer. It implies the offering of all things that are pure and auspicious, which nurture and sustain life and creation. This offering is made to the cosmic, universal and global energies, to the shakti, in order to sanctify and recharge the elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether, thus increasing their positive and regenerative properties. Yajnas restore balance in nature.
In ancient India yajna was a way of life, and had a powerful impact on both human ecology and global ecology. Yajna is designed to establish our connection with the cosmic properties abounding in the universe. Yajna has the potential to expand the mind, to launch the consciousness into unknown dimensions and give us the sublime experience of unity with the source of creation.
In the twenty-first century, when global order has been replaced by global disorder, performing yajnas becomes an act of greater importance in order to restore harmony. It is not a religious observance to invoke gods and goddesses; it is knowledge of life and how to live it. It is the process through which you can know yourself and converse with your inner being. Yajna is the most ancient ritual connecting human beings with the divine essence.