The word Yajna is derived from Yaj Dhatu according to Panini Grammar. Yajna means to add or to communion. It is clear that the Yajna communions the self with the Supreme Soul God.Most of the time we considers Havan or Agnihotra equivalent to but Yajna do have more elaborate meaning.
Definition of Yajna:
1: Respect of the learned
2: Proper use of physical sciences
3: To impart knowledge and good deeds
4: To perform Agnihotra by which all creatures are benefited through the process of purification of air, rain, herbs etc.
According to Swami Dayanand Yajna means “Beginning from Agnihotra (the fire-ritual) unto Ashvamedha (the daily-ritual), or the material transaction and physical science that are used for the welfare for the universe is called Yajna”. (Aryoddeshyaratnamala)
In the four Vedas the term “Yajna” has been described 1184 times, in Rig-Veda 580 times, in Yajur-Veda 243 times, in Sama-Veda 63 times and in Atharva-Veda the word ‘Yajna’ has come 298 times.
It is said “Yajyo Vai Shreshthatamam Karmah” (Shatpath Brahmana: 22.214.171.124) which means the Yajna Karma is the best Karma.
Aim of Yajna:
Yajna is said to be the combination of three things i.e.
1: Dev-Pooja or Worship of God, Noble People and the five elements of Nature
2: Sangati-Karan or companionship
3: Daan or Donation
Dev-Pooja is to respect elders parents, teachers, learned persons and guests etc. Dev pooja is to obey and to respect them. Performing of Agnihotra is to make pollution free atmosphere.
Sangati-Karan is to have company of virtuous people,to make friendship and love with them and to remove all enmity.
Daan or Charity means making sacrifice for the good of others without self-interest.
Vedas on Yajna:
The Veda says: -“He who desires a blissful life (heavenly
atmosphere) must perform Yajna”.
The Yajna is as old (ancient) as the Vedas. The Rigveda is the first Veda, in which the very first mantra says: —
“Agni Meede Purohitam Yajnasya Devamritvijam,Hotaaram Ratna Dhaatamam.” (Rigveda 1-1-1-1)
In this very first mantra of the Veda it is clearly described the words “Yajna”,”Purohit”, “Ritvij” and “Hotaa”, hence it clear that Yajna is to be performed in the guidance of Purohit – Ritvij – Hotaa, hence Yajna are as ancient as the Veda itself.
“Aram Krinvantu vedim Samagnimindhataam Purah” (Rigveda: 1-170-4)
Means it is a commandment of the Supreme Soul that “Decorate the Yajna-Vedi i.e. your places where Yajna is performed, and do lit the sacred fire in it and raise it.
“Aa Vakshi Devaam Iha Vipra Yakshi Cha” (Rigveda 2-36-4) Means –O learned man!Invite the Gods and perform Yajna i.e. sacred fire.
“Juhota Pra Cha Tishthata” (Rigveda 1-15-9) Means it is a God’s order to perform Yajna and develop.
“Pra Yajnamanmaa Vrijanam Tiraate” (Rigveda 7-61-4) Means performing sacred Yajna solves all problems of life.
“One’s intellect is purified with the Yajna” (Rigveda 3-32-12)
There are many mantras in the four Vedas related to Yajna, which inspire to perform holy and sacred Yajna, in return of which all actions are done properly and purely.
Physical aspect of Yajna:
We ponder over the ideals, hidden in the basic sacrificial performance of Yajna.
The welfare of all prominently does manifest as its primary aim, because the materials such as clarified butter and herbs etc. which a person offers in fire in a Yajna are not his own individual good only. They are not congenial to him only but it is for the welfare of all and that his own welfare is desired through this common welfare. As mentioned by Lord Krishna in the Geeta (Chapter # 3 –Couplets from 9 to 15) “Yajna purifies air, which in turn causes rains,purifies all vegetation and herbs, and finally produces cereals that bestow longevity of life.
If all citizens perform Yajna daily, as was prevalent in the Vedic age, this statement will not be an airy imagination but will again become a reality, as it was then. Today, the vexation and intricate problems of the atmospheric pollution are endangering human existence on earth. This serious challenge can be best controlled and eradicated, along with other means by the device of Yajna also and the congenial changes can be brought about by further discovering the materials for oblations more suited to our present needs.
Psychological aspects of Yajna:
The benefits cannot be limited only to the Yajmaanas (Persons offering oblation)
0n the plea that he has incurred all expenditure on it. The benefits will be for all animate beings when Yajna through oblations is performed, since the whole atmosphere is affected, extending the benefits to all beings, including the person performing the Yajna, and all those who breath the air purified by the Yajna, will be benefited equally. But on the contrary, if the Yajmaanas want to restrict the benefits only to themselves or to their friends and family members only, it will not be possible to do so. He will have to seek his benefits of all. Further the Vedic axiom teaches that we should always see each other with friendly eyes and fearlessness, as is provided in the following Vedic verse:
“Abhayam Naktam Abhayam Divaa Nah Sarvaa aashaa Mam Mitram Bhavantu.”(Atharvaveda: 19.15.6)
It means may all quarters be friendly for us so we may feel fearless throughout day and night. This will help in the development of an outlook of brotherhood for all, with no enmity towards anyone. This outlook is the psychological aspect of Yajna.
The spiritual aspect of Yajna:
When fire is kindled during Yajna, the mantra recited five times along with five oblations means my soul is like fuel to God who enkindles to enhance it and may He bestow upon us progeny, domestic animals, good intelligence, food grains etc. with all blessing of happy and prosperous life. He also concludes thereby affirming that his oblations are for God alone. The Intelligent and not for himself.
Through aforesaid mantra the person performing Yajna-offering oblations in the ritual fire) implores God to enlighten his soul with His light. Just as the Samidhaa (wood) and the materials offered as oblations into fire by getting burnt in to the fire attain the properties of fire but still keep their identity, in the same way the individual soul maintains its individuality, though pervaded by God in the state of salvation. It has a separate identity full of light. This is the spiritual aspect of the Agnihotra (Yajna in fires).
The prayer is in the plural number, since its purpose is not to implore only for individuals benefit but it also implores the welfare of all by bestowing gifts of intelligence, animals, cereals, vitality energy and wealth.
The mantra of oblation and many other mantras recited while offering oblations end with words “Idam Na Mama” i.e. it is not for me or belongs to me (alone) but is dedicated to God (for the benefit of all).
Yajna is the best deed in human life.The ultimate aim of human life is to get rid of all pains and attain liberation.
Yajna is said to be the best ‘Nishkaam karma’.
Scientific aspect of Yajna
Agnihotra consists of a base fire wherein some desirable herbal substances are added. Since the calorific value of firewood used to generate the base fire is much less, the base fire breaks up the molecule-to-molecule bond of the substances causing them to vaporize, and does not cause their independent combustion process. It is a well-known fact that the substances when taken in their vapor form through the nostrils have much greater efficacy – many hundred times more. And, the same quantity of substance can benefit a much larger population. It is a common experience that if an individual eats a green chilly then that person alone would be sneezing under its influence. But if the same chilly is put in the fire then the resultant air can cause many hundred people to sneeze. Agnihotra magnifies the advantages of the desirable herbal substances. Further to this, the thermal and associated aerodynamic effects of the base fire cause the vaporized substances to traverse and diffuse into every part of the enclosed surroundings where agnihotra may be conducted.
The overall temperatures in the combustion of firewood are lower to the extent that production of the oxides of nitrogen can be safely ruled out. Supply of more than adequate oxygen cannot give rise to production of unburned hydrocarbon or carbon monoxide in any significant measure. Minimum quantity of firewood is burned in the agnihotra. Burning of firewood is not the purpose of the agnihotra. The same is burned in minimum quantity so that the base fire remains available to vaporize the incoming oblations. Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas does get formed. With this in mind, the ancient Vedic seers always performed agnihotra in green surroundings and in the presence of sunlight so that the greenery utilizes the carbon dioxide so generated. In the modern times, when agnihotra is performed in cramped households care should be taken to keep some plants in the vicinity.
Yajna is a noble Karma for benefit of whole mankind.
Dr Vivek Arya