Yajna and Nature

From the teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati

There is a mysterious side to man, a dimension of sounds, colours, lights and images, that converses with nature at all times and at all levels. If you want to be totally in tune with nature you must tap into that dimension. Nature is not static. Movement is inherent in nature. The Sanskrit word for nature is prakriti. Prais the prefix and kriti means creation and movement. Through the constant movement of this great energy known as prakriti, a spandan or vibration emanates which is either heard as sound, seen as light and colour, or touched as form.

Microcosm and macrocosm

First of all we have to realign ourselves with nature. We have to reconnect ourselves with the source of our mysterious disposition. The vedic concept of prakriti is that it is both jada and chetana, insentient as well as sentient. Everything in nature has intelligence or some form of consciousness, which is either dormant and latent or active and alert.

Nature does not merely mean mountains, rivers, plants, birds and animals. That is its manifest form; the sun, moon, stars, planets and seasons are manifested nature. But there is also an unmanifest form of nature, which is both macrocosmic and microcosmic. In its microcosmic form it is trapped within matter and in its macrocosmic form it is the various forms of material and non-material energy pervading the universe.

The basic principle of yajna, which can be traced back to the core of tantric and vedic philosophy, is the profound idea that man is a microcosm of the macrocosm that is the universe. The formed entities in the universe are also found in the human body and vice versa. As such, each and every human being is equal to the entire universe.

Both man and the universe are controlled by the sun and moon. Agni and soma tattwa sustain the universe and also control the physiological and psychological activities of the human body through the harmonious flow of ida and pingala. They are called agnishomoyama, the noble concept of sustenance.

Feast for the senses

The experience of energy, whether microcosmic or macrocosmic, needs to be awakened within each and every individual if he wishes to rise above the gross mundane experience and enter the subtler realms of that tremendous force of prakriti.

Yajna aims to establish this experience. As the rites and rituals of yajna strictly adhere to the laws of nature and do not oppose them, it is most effective in achieving this aim. Yajnas use the principle of sound through the constant intonation of mantras. These create a powerful field of energy for the descent of a magnetic force that is the deity of the mantra. Light, form and colour contribute magnificently to the ambience, in which this subtle energy can manifest. A feast for the senses!

Thus the most important part of a yajna is the mantra, the sound. More than the mechanics of the ritual, mantra is what makes the yajna efficacious. It is through the mantra that the perfected being or deity of the yajna is worshipped. It is the mantra that awakens and communicates the power of the chosen deity.

The ingredients offered in yajna are drawn from nature without a trace of chemical, toxic or artificial elements. Water is brought from the purest source of all the rivers in India and the herbs and grains are not chosen at random but are those specifically prescribed for that particular yajna.

Purpose of yajna

Yajnas restore balance in nature. Today, more than ever before, this has become absolutely essential, as nature is being stripped and shorn of its dignity by modern civilization. Today we will have to resort to the invocation of divine forces to descend and fill our hearts with peace so that agitation, disharmony and imbalance disappear and our lives may prosper.

This is only possible if nature is happy. If nature is sick, ailing and disturbed by the actions that oppose and destroy its balance, it will certainly rebound. That is what we are experiencing today. The air is sick, the water is impure, the rains do not come on time, the heat is exaggerated, the winters are harsh and severe. Insects, flies and mosquitoes are increasing rapidly, virulent diseases are spreading without any check. In short, the harmony is disturbed.

Yajnas make nature happy. And this in turn is communicated to the environment and the people who inhabit it. Tantra describes the yajnasthanam as a place where the heart is spontaneously filled with peace and totally attuned to nature or prakriti. It is in these peaceful moments of harmony and balance that the universe and subsequently man is rejuvenated and restored.

Yajnas serve as an antidote to the effects of widespread pollution, whether it is air, water, noise, light or even thought pollution that is invading us from all sides. In the 21st century, when man is surrounded by artificial products that may serve his purpose very well but have made him a stranger to the nature which creates, nourishes and sustains him, it is the simple ceremony of yajna alone that can once again forge the link between him and Mother Nature.

Yajna is an ancient practice shrouded in antiquity. But it is as relevant to modern man as it was to the rishis and munis of the vedic era who conceived the spirit of yajna to express their love, respect and reverence for Mother Nature.