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By Shankara Bharadwaj Khandavalli
Yajña is the central concept of !rauta -- the tradition that follows from the !ruti (Veda). There are many concepts that are based on and evolved from the concept of yajña. The word yajña comes from the root-"yaj" which means to worship. Yajña is a broad concept which is hard to translate into English. The closest single English word for yajña is sacrifice. There are multiple synonyms of the word yajña that convey different aspects of this broad concept. For instance it is also called “karma”, meaning action or the act of sacrifice/offering/worshiping. In the general sense it can be understood as any action done with the sense of sacrifice, like praying, remembering, meditating. In the specific sense it is the act of offering oblations to propitiate a Devata. The word karma is also used in different contexts. Yajña is karma in the general sense. In the more specific sense, karma is the component rite of a yajña. In the most general sense, karma refers to any action. The path of karma/yajña is called Karma yoga or Karma m"rga.
1 The Theory of Yajña/Karma M"rga 1.1 Prav!tti and Niv!tti 2 Constituents of Yajña 2.1 Karma 2.1.1 Artha Karma 2.1.2 Gu"a Karma 2.2 Bh"vana 2.3 Svadhyaya 2.4 Ty"ga 2.5 Devata 2.5.1 Agni 2.6 Phala 3 Prayoga 3.1 Yajña Dravya and Homas 3.2 Participants of a Y"ga 3.3 Y"ga S"la 3.4 Classification of Agni 3.5 Types of Yajna 3.6 Samsk"ras 4 The Concepts Involved 4.1 Anna (Food) 4.2 Bali (Sacrifice) 5 Texts 6 Yajña in the four Ashramas 6.1 Yajña in the Daily life of G!hastha: The Panca Maha Yajñas 7 Extension of the concept of Yajña 7.1 Karma 7.2 Symbolic Yajña 8 Jn"na and Karma Approaches 9 Notes & References
The Theory of Yajña/Karma M"rga
Karma m"rga is based on the concept of Dharma. The result of an action performed is determined by the Dharmic or adharmic nature of the action. Dharma determines the fruit of karma and karma determines the course of experience of beings. Karma M#m"msa the base text for Karma M#m"msa, opens up by saying "ath"to dharma jijñ"sa", to expound the nature of Dharma. The text clearly states that karma and its results are based on Dharma - "Dharma m"tre tu karmasy"d niv!tte# pray"javat" . In karma m"rga, mukti is possible through karma niv!tti, through the performance of righteous karma. The object of central importance in karma m"rga is karma or action. Worship or sacrifice too, assumes importance in the path of karma, primarily as the “act of worshiping or sacrifice” (karma), rather than the “state of worshiping” (which is the object in up"sana m"rga). In
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Hindupedia. learning (sv"dhy"ya). by invoking Him) is interpreted differently in Karma and Up"sana m"rgas. the material involved. for sustenance as well as learning. In niv!tti. In grhastha ashrama he attempts to repay these by offering the same back to the society. involving many rites like creation). In Nir#%vara approach Karma phala or the result of sacrifice follows the rules of Dharma. In $%vara V"da. The ones whose results are enjoyed after the present life (such as heaven. devata and the results (phala). prav!tti and niv!tti. the union is taken to be implicit. In prav!tti one experiences the bliss of Devatas. Devatas. increasing hundred fold for each level.com/en/Yajna contrast to the yoga/up"sana m"rga where the worshiper and the process of worship dissolve in the object of worship ($%vara). done regularly. Optional rites are performed when a specific purpose is intended to be served through a sacrifice. In Karma Yoga sacrifice assumes primary importance and $%vara assumes secondary importance. in Karma the act of worship assumes importance. liberation -.hindupedia. $%vara receives the offerings of a sacrifice. Baudhayana's "n" rudro rudram arcayet"  (one who is not Rudra cannot worship Rudra . explains this grand sacrifice. Even sacrifice becomes part of a grander sacrifice (the universe itself is a grand sacrifice. Up"sana. In karma. the Hindu Encyclopedia http://www. Sany"sa is the phase of complete renunciation.are only by-products. one increases his debts through his dependence. However some of the rites like pitru yajña are still performed. If this is seen in parallel to the ashrama dharma.Yajna . This helps man fulfill his aspirations as well as contribute to social living. one enters niv!tti. Constituents of Yajña The primary constituents of a Yajña are the inspiration or urge of the doer (bh"vana). done optionally. the one who receives the offerings. Everything else – desires. manes. Karma There are two types of rites in a sacrifice. the offerings. yajña brings liberation. lord of Devatas. This helps in clearing past karma. $%vara and Nir#%vara approaches are held by G#ta and Karma M#m"msa respectively.meaning one becomes or unites with Rudra in order to worship Him. Prav!tti and Niv!tti There are two directions of movement or phases in life. offerings (ty"ga). Gu"a karmas are the constituent accessory rites associated with a principal rite. the state of union of the seeker and Rudra is primary. In niv!tti. and there is no greater purpose. In artha karma. Naimittika karma. In gu"a karma. merely as a duty. These are in turn three types based on the results they give. In brahmacarya. V"naprastha is the phase of containment. creator of Devatas and the creator of the universe in the ascending order. The rites that give results in the present life are called aihika. Example of nitya karma is Agni hotra (the homa done thrice a day). teacher of the Devatas. done occasionally. while the act of worship is secondary. Through fulfillment of responsibilities and desires. yajña is done without any desire. for he can renounce karma itself. This is how he enters the niv!tti phase. There are specific Vedic injunctions that make the rites mandatory. material is primary and rite secondary to it. The affirmation of $%vara in the path of Karma is not unanimous. Prav!tti is accumulating and indulging. Sacrifice itself is the purpose in yajña. Those like pitru tarpana are naimittika rites. rites involved (karma). the bliss is equated to that of a veda-wise person (!rotriya) who overcame his desire (k"ma hatasya). Brahmandavalli of the Taittir#ya Upanishad expounds the gradation of happiness experienced by men. brahmacarya and grhastha ashramas involve prav!tti. This is the ni$k"ma karma explained in the Karma Yoga of Bhagavad G#ta. For instance. The sacrifices like soma y"ga and v"japeya are examples of optional rites. Niv!tti is clearing debts and transcending. In niv!tti one grows beyond desires and experiences the bliss of Brahman. Artha Karma Artha karmas are three types. everything involved – the one who is performing sacrifice. and the act of Rudra worshiping Himself becomes primary. 2 of 10 5/25/12 10:39 PM . The Puru$a s&kta of Rig Veda for example. During niv!tti. yajña brings eternal bliss. the rite is primary and material is subsidiary to the rite. but increases his sources of attachment in that attempt. are each a part of the act of sacrifice. but this greatly helps the well-being of surroundings (loka kaly""a). Nitya and naimittika rites are mandatory. Material is treated as accessory. principal (artha karma) and subsidiary (gu"a karma). In the grand scheme. transcending desires. righteousness and heavenly bliss. yajña brings material possessions. These are rites involving specific occasions. where rites are performed without any personal material desire. K"mya karma. At each level. Man gradually grows beyond desires and becomes more impersonal. Being action-centric does not make yajña any more outward or superficial compared to Up"sana m"rga. the rites. In prav!tti. prosperity in the next life or breaking the cycle of life itself) are called "mu$mika. Nitya karma. It is not mandatory for a Sany"si to perform any yajña/karma. presides over the sacrifice and gives the Karma phala. The rites that give both kinds of results are called aihika-"mu$mika. This is the way the realized soul performs yajña.
Devatas consume the havis offered in a sacrifice and give the result of sacrifice performed. Ty!ga Ty"ga is associated with offering. desire is seen as an inspiration to performing karma. In prav!tti m"rga. This is again of two types. the word y"ga refers to principal rite and the other two are associated with subsidiary rites. making yajña the ultimate purpose. makes all these along with the life. fulfillment of desires. Homa is central to any agni karya or sacrifice performed in Agni. Bh!vana Bh"vana is the urge.com/en/Yajna Gu"a Karma Gu"a karmas. speech. This does not involve any expectation of result (though it has an invisible result. They are four types: utpatti (origination – for instance creating fire for the sacrifice) "pti (obtaining/attaining – for instance learning required to perform the rite) vik!ti (modification – for instance husking or cooking rice for sacrifice) samsk!ti (consecration/purification – for instance purifying the material by sprinkling water and/or through mantra). disposal (pratipatti) and purification. and then sublimated in karma m"rga. This explains how desire is positively treated. which are subsidiary and form components of artha karmas. Need and desire are the two inspirations for beings to perform karma that run the activity of phenomenal world. This is caused by the desire for its result. the rites he can perform for various other desired purposes. to the one who is taking.Hindupedia. When sacrifice is performed without desiring a result. For instance. Subsidiary rites are in general meant for purification. In some kinds of yajña which do not involve Agni karya. Thus from the perspective of yajña. Following the injunctions of the scriptures and being righteous. inspiration to perform yajña. grace of devatas. devata’s grace remains the result of sacrifice. these are learned. the Hindu Encyclopedia http://www.hindupedia. Homa is offering of havis in Agni. and then towards conclusion. This involves ty"ga of what is being offered. Svadhyaya is the primary duty during brahmacarya. However in the advanced stages in karma m"rga. but its result will become part of the result of the entire sacrifice. Svadhyaya Svadhyaya means learning one’s Veda (the branch of Veda one is ordained to pursue) along with the Vedangas. From the injunctions of !ruti. how to perform those. meaning He is bound to give the result of a 3 of 10 5/25/12 10:39 PM . Pr"ya%citta or expiation rites are also part of the subsidiary rites/gu"a karmas. There are three kinds of offerings: y"ga (sacrifice) d"na (giving) homa (offering) Of these. oblations are offered as dana instead of homa. There is no expectation of result in the homa itself. D"na is transferring one’s right over what is given. are intended for purification (samsk"ra). one can fulfill these. and it ensues only when the result is not desired for). one performs karma with a desired result. a part of the sacrifice itself. Devata Devata is a constituent of sacrifice as well as its result. meaning what is being offered is no more mine. along with the desired result. asking for devatas themselves. sacrifice alone remains the purpose. the different rites of a sacrifice. The Camaka of Sri Rudram starts with praying for a variety of material gains. the grace of devata remains. with the mention “na mama”. from injunctions such as “one who desires cattle should perform Citra”. soul and the whole sacrifice. Devata is mantra-baddha. and forms the basis for performing all the rites of subsequent ashramas.Yajna . and what his conduct should be to gain the desired results (these could be material or heavenly or liberation). However it should be understood that homa is a component of yajña. As a result of sacrifice. It is through learning that one gains the knowledge of the rites he should perform as his duty. it belongs to the Devata (or the pitri as the case may be) to whom the offering is being made. Bh"vana has three aspects: what is desired what is the means what is the method. It has become almost synonymous to the word yajña itself. mind. All that is desired is also desired for the sake of performing sacrifice. the various ingredients involved in sacrifice.
com/en/Yajna sacrifice/mantra when invoked./0. eating food. Pratyak$a is the visible gain that results from performing the sacrifice. the application of text to perform yajña. There are two kinds of results of a sacrifice – visible (pratyak$a) and invisible ("laukika). This is explained in the Karma Yoga of Bhagavad G#ta: !"#$%#"&'#() * !"# %#"&$'+ ". Thus through mutual nourishment. It is the performance of sacrifice. It includes purification rites and the homas. This is called apurva. the Hindu Encyclopedia http://www. Sacrifice brings transcendence. There are six ingradients involved in performing an Agni Karya. makes these actions yajñas. Then the priest is invited to officiate. when made as an offering to the $%vara.997 dev"n bh"vayat"nena te dev" bh"vayantu va# parasparam bh"vayanta# sreyah param avapsyatha All life is said to be a yajña. According to Kum"rila Bha%%a. Worshipping. Transcendence through sacrifice is the meaning of life in the Vedic religion./1 %#"&$'.  They are: Sruk and Sruva (ladles used for making offering in fire) Idhma (wooden pieces/sticks used as fuel in the sacrifice – also called samidhas) P"tras (bowls) There are three kinds of p"tras used: the prok$i"i (used for purification) "jya (to hold the clarified butter) 4 of 10 5/25/12 10:39 PM . It begins with cleaning the place and building the altar. Each rite creates a unique result. . The injunctions to perform the sacrifice or vidhi are found in Brahmana portion of Veda./4"#50&6 78. fighting war. Every action. men and Devatas bring about the well being of all. running family. Alaukika result can be like begetting heaven in prav!tti and mukti in niv!tti (through karma niv!tti). is a yajña.Hindupedia. The total of unique results of all the rites of a sacrifice cause the grand unique final result of the sacrifice. The presiding deities of these two kinds of offerings are Sv"ha and Swatha respectively. Yajña Dravya and Homas Agni karya forms the core of a sacrifice. there is only an additional result in performing those. Different schools hold different opinions on the results of nitya karmas. There are different stages in performing a sacrifice. In case of k"mya rites. combined with the result of the main rite. Phala The result of a sacrifice ensues from the results of each of the subsidiary rites. Havis offered in a sacrifice is the food for Devatas. Devatas grow on havis and bring the well-being of men (through rains and so on).Yajna . there will be an additional merit even in the performance of nitya karmas.hindupedia. Oblations (havis) are offered in the fire and Agni is said to carry those to the Devatas. called Mah"purva. Prayoga Literally prayoga means performance. There are two contexts of offering. When these actions are not done for material gain but with a selfless motive. Doing these as offerings to derive something greater. Offering and the carrier of offerings are inseparable and the former is stated to be the consort of the latter (Agni). The offerings to Devatas and Pitris are made through these two. The sacrifice concludes with cleaning up the place and taking the fruit of sacrifice. Then the homas (in the fire) and danas (alms etc) are done. that is the highest form of yajña. Then the dravya is acquired. The ingredients used in a yajña are called dravya. the para (pertaining to Devatas) and apara (pertaining to Pitris). Thus the result of any form of worship is bound to come. 23&. creating wealth. Then the purification of each of the dravya is done. Agni Agni is called Deva Mukha and is the central deity for yajña. material or otherwise. each of these is a yajña. since they are optional. These are the two consorts of Agni. contributing to human knowledge. Thus Devatas grow on man’s offerings and man’s elevation is brought by the Devatas. in terms of visible or invisible effect. Following that the altar is decorated and Agni invoked. According to Prabh"kara School it is said that there is no additional benefit or fruit of performing nitya karmas but there is a loss of merit or righteousness in not performing those. Kalpa S&tr"s explain the prayoga part further. .
It could be rice. However any major y"ga requires the yajam"ni to be accompanied by his consort. and chants the 'ks. The eight Dikp"lakas preside over the eight (four directions and four corners) positions of the y"ga s"la. as applicable. G"rhapatya (literally belonging to the g!ha pati or the owner of the house) Dak$i"a 'havan#y" G"rhapatya is the origin of the other two. Fifty eight homas (to Praj"pati. specific samidhas. Aswattha. A dvija performs regular rites himself.two homas with clarified butter poured in the fire circularly. curd etc. 5 of 10 5/25/12 10:39 PM . a !tvija (priest) is involved. blades of grass. grouped as "tret"gni"s. according to the rites of the respective Vedas.Yajna . each of the !tvijas. Hota should be learned in Rig Veda. Most of the prayogas nitya or otherwise.com/en/Yajna p&r"a p"tra (literally “complete”. called y"ga %"l"s. However. one has to perform &a%p"tra. Agnis are also classified into two types: Vihara"#y" (those that can be moved) Upastheya (those that are fixed/deposited at a place). Then oblations to the main deity of the sacrifice are offered.Hindupedia. where the bali (sacrificial offering) is made. decorated with the leaves of four kinds of trees. the one used for completion of the rite) Based on the dravya used and rites performed. there are two major classes of prayoga – Catu$p"tra (using four ingredients) and &a%p"tra (using six ingredients). Audumbara and Plaksha. For instance marriage ritual in 'pastamba s"mprad"ya is called dasa p"tra (involving 10 ingredients). the regular rite that a brahmacari performs. Besides there is a bali sthana. Major y"gas are performed in premises meant for them. Catu$p"tra is sufficient for the regular homas to praj"pati.idhma or ajya for instance. pr"ya%citta homas etc) follow that. Homa Participants of a Y!ga The primary participant of a sacrifice is the one who performs it – the owner or the yajam"ni. Classification of Agni There are three types of Agni. Some of the sacrifices are referred to variously as involving more than six primary ingredients. There are positions designated for the yajam"ni. In major y"gas. However all of them come under &a%p"tra only and the additional dravya is classified as one of the six . and all the three are worshiped regularly. does not mandatorily involve any p"tra (though usage is not prohibited). In case of a k"mya prayoga. Besides. the Hindu Encyclopedia http://www. 'dhvaryu is the one who performs the sacrifice (makes the yajam"ni do it with instructions). brahma and udg"ta. These homas also include the pr"ya%citta rites (expiation rites).hindupedia. and it is concluded with P&r""huti (literally the “completion” oblation or the conclusive one). He should be learned in Yajurveda. dravya and the audience. Each of these two have eight sub-categories and are positioned in different places in the premises where sacrifice is performed. corn. Homas are performed in those designated places to the corresponding devatas. They are Nyagrodha. In the four directions altars are built in shapes specified against those positions (they could be circular. Dikp"lakas and Grahas Lokap"lakas etc) inclusive of Cak$ur-homas (literally the homas of eyes . as if they are the eyes of Agni) and done in the beginning of the sacrifice. Catu$p"tra does not involve idhma and p&r"a p"tra. However pr"ya%citta rites are common to Catu$p"tra and &a%p"tra. Brahma supervises the sacrifice. Dravya depends on the nature of rite. Indra Agni etc. &a%p"tra involves the usage all the six dravyas mentioned above. Aup"sana is performed by g!hasthas. Y!ga S!la The regular rites are conducted in a designated place in the house. The four entrances have four gates. she should offer the fire ('pastamba S&tras). milk. square or following any other geometry according to the !rauta !&tras). Major y"gas like Vajapeya use many more. It has four entrances. In general. Udg"ta sings the S"ma Veda. In order to propitiate a specific deity. This involves additional dravya and homas. adhvaryu. or rather named after the four trees. involve &a%p"tra prayoga. Y"ga s"la follows a specific architecture/layout. there are at least four rtviks involved.  They are hota. representing the four Vedas. Jay"di homas (additional homas to propitiate various Devatas representative of faculties of consciousness.
sr"va"i. Harming any living being is against that principle. positioned with the Yajam"ni.Hindupedia. These are specified by the g!hya s&tr"s. One of them is periodicity. pumsavana. v"japeya. niruudha pa%u bandha. near the !utvik called Acch"v"k 8. positioned at the C"tv"la sth"na 4. sn"taka and viv"ha. "grahayani. They are garbh"dh"n". Vahnirasi Havyav"hana. 8. Ajosyekap"t. or with the sense of sustaining the up"dhi. They involve offering havis. consumption of life defeats the same principle (for other creatures). Four are Vedavratas. Superfluous consumption of life. Five are the panca mah" Yajñ"s. Asam!$tosi Havyas&da. invoked at the place of the !utvik designated as Br"hma""ccha 5. caitri and "sv#yuji). U%i Gasi Kavi. positioned near the 'gn#dhra’s (one of the !utviks) place 2. the Hindu Encyclopedia http://www. This is explained by the concept of sacrifice. near the !utvik called M"rj"la (the one who does m"rjana or purification and consecration) The Upastheyas are: 1. They involve consecrating cooked items. and this is the inherent principle of nature. positioned at the sukha%"la. Dar%a and P&r"amasa are done on new moon and full moon days. caula. The ones performed at a collective level are called %rauta rites. The Concepts Involved Anna (Food) Anna or food is the basis of life. It is the up"dhi. is one of the most sacred and important ones. This is the 'havan#y" Agni. sautr"ma"i). agni hotra. atyagnistoma. yearly or even once in a life time. 'tadh"m"si Suvarjyoti. namely consumption. Samsk!ras Samsk"ra is a rite that involves mantra. positioned near !utvik designed Potru 6. Another classification is the scale of the rite. upanayana. Pratakv"si nabhasv"n. monthly. !undhy&rasi M"rj"l#ya. s#manta. but extract of a particular tree specifically) is called a Soma Yajña. Life is sustained by the consumption of life. This is the G"rhapatya. Any other yajña is occasional – performed fortnightly. Types of Yajna Yajñas can be classified in different ways. Seven are Havir Yajñas (agniy"dh"na. atir"tra and aptoryama). positioned at Audumbara (the !tvija who chants the S"ma Veda). near the !utvik designated Ne$%!u 7.hindupedia. c"turm"sya. Body is called anna-maya kosha or the sheath of food. Pari$adyosi Pavam"na. positioned near the Hota’s abode 3. uktya. "grayana. At the same time. positioned with the Brahma (chief !utvik) of the sacrifice 7. Seven are Soma Yajñas (agnistoma. Others are usually referred to as haviryañnas. shodasi. j"takarma. positioned at the secondary altar in the north. Avasyurasi Duvasv"n.Yajna . Angh"ri rasi jambh"r#. the basis for every rite. this means that only the consumption done with the sense of sacrifice. Parvani sraddha is done once a month. The y"g" that involves the extraction. through performance of which the purpose of life is fulfilled. is considered sacred. is against the principle of sustenance. There are forty samsk"ras or rites performed in one’s lifetime: Seven are paka Yajñas (a$taka. 6 of 10 5/25/12 10:39 PM . Brahmajyotirasi suvardh"ma. Tuthosi Viswaveda. Most of the other Yajñas can be done once a year or even in a lifetime. positioned at Dhruva sthali 3. The rite undertaken for sustaining the up"dhi. Thus there arises the need for reconciliation between the principle of consumption and the principle of sustenance. which are done during Vedic education. The rites undertaken at a household level are called g!hya rites. However. !v"trosi Praceta. positioned at %amitra (the place of pa%u) 5. Remaining ten are one-time samsk"ras that are done at different stages in life. Ahirasi budhniya. utility and consumption of Soma (in the general sense nectar. n"makara"a. at the place of Maitra Varu"a (the place where these Devatas are invoked) 4. Samr"dasi K!u%"n&. Apart from the Panca Maha Yajñas. Agnihotra is the homa done thrice a day.com/en/Yajna The Vihara"#y" Agnis are: 1. 2. annapr"%ana. Dar%a-P&r"am"sa. The ones like Agnihotra are done in the house while the sacrifices like soma y"ga or v"japeya need to be undertaken at a much bigger scale involving priests. Vibh&rasi Prav"h". parvana. 6. And sustenance of life is the highest principle. Aup"sana and Agnihotra are performed every day. sth"lip"ka.
It is called Yajurveda because it is composed of Yajus or the mantras used for yajña. cooked with specific ingredients to the like of the Devata. The history of yajña shows that Yajñas rarely involved animal sacrifices and that they were always a matter of inconvenience to the Vedic seers. and mandated that Devatas should not make it obligatory for yajñas to involve animal sacrifices. out of the four Vedas. where a symbolic bali (pi$%a pa%u) is offered. the nature and essence of devatas. Thus while explaining violence/consumption to be inherent in nature. they bring prosperity to man. The same is consecrated and consumed. called lak$a""s. and making sacrifice symbolic. The Bali sthana of the y"ga %ala is designated for this. Seers like Sankara have taken the path of advocating symbolic bali in temples and interpreting ritual itself in a symbolic way in case of personal worship.com/en/Yajna Most of the offerings in a Sacrifice are edible offerings. Texts The samhita portion of the Veda contains the mantras used for yajña. The Smritis give guidelines for the preparation consecration and consumption of food. Kum"rila Bha%%a's Tantra V"rtika is a commentary of !"bara Bh"$ya. The text expounding Karma M#m"msa is Jaimini's M#m"msa S&tras. Madhyama K"nda. each participant offers as well as consumes. it is sought to be minimized by the same principle that makes it inevitable. The Brahmana portion of the Veda deals with Karma k"nda. the !$is mandated that in every sacrifice the havis after p&r""huti should go to Vasu. However. their purposes and methods. It deals with the purpose of mantras. In symbolic sacrifice. regulations and austerities of yajña. Devata K"nda and Up"sana K"nda. The Devata being worshiped . the food becomes pras"da. the Hindu Encyclopedia http://www. Kalpa S&tr"s deal with the rules. Consumption of life involves consuming the karma samsk"ra of the creature being consumed. The authentic commentary on P&rva M#m"msa is !"bara Bh"shya. from the !$is’s perspective.hindupedia.one should be particular about diet during specific D#k$"s like Man(ala D#k$a or C"turm"sya. P&rva M#m"msa deals extensively with the philosophy of yajña. Bali in a sacrifice is part of the optional rites. When eating is performed as a rite. Offering and consuming are the two sides of a sacrifice. One of them is the symbolic interpretation of “pa%u” as the one that is bound by p"%a (binding). Vedic injunctions regarding sacrifices. such as “saptadasa pr"j"paty"n pa%&n "labhet”  are explicit in their message. there are two ways to look at it: the literal sacrifice and symbolic sacrifice. 7 of 10 5/25/12 10:39 PM . along with what kind of food is to be taken. offered to $%vara who is the ultimate absolver of every samsk"ra. makes it clear that the sacrifice is not intended to be literal. and their application in sacrifice. called Sankarsha K"nda. The fact that Vasordh"ra is performed. The other is the literal interpretation. and king Vasu conducted a sacrifice by inviting the !$is as !tviks for the sacrifice. In turn. This is divided into 12 chapters. This is also called Karma M#m"msa. where there is a Yupa (pillar) positioned. Havis offered in a sacrifice is the food for Devatas. there are two aspects in food . a remain/fruit of sacrificial offering. To this day major sacrifices involve havis to Vasu starting with the mantra “Vasordh"ra juhoti”. Yajñas mostly involve symbolic sacrifice (pi$%a pa%u) and seldom involve a literal sacrifice. Appreciative of this. With consecration. Bali (Sacrifice) Bali or sacrifice is the most controversial topic in yajña. Broadly. Therefore the food is first consecrated. This depends on many factors. one of the offerings involved in k"mya rites.each Devata is propitiated with a specific kind of food. and the purpose of worshiping devatas. such injunctions are interpreted in different ways. and the rites to be undertaken at each stage of life. However.practicing brahmins should be vegetarians in general and consuming specific vegetables in particular. Anna is called s"da. Jaimini also wrote a four-chapter supplement to M#m"msa. Literal sacrifice involves sacrificing an animal. The !$is had an argument with the Devatas that they would offer only symbolic sacrifice and not animals. The kind of D#k$a undertaken . The Devatas did not like it. It is primarily an inquiry into the Brahmana portion of the Veda and deals with various sacrifices.Hindupedia. in which he made only symbolic sacrifices.consecration and consumption. Yajurveda is the primary Veda concerned with yajña. It is also called Madhyama M#m"msa.Yajna . because of its implications. However this has exceptions. This could be k&$m"nda (ash gourd) or any other consumable. There is a story in the Pur""a that tells how animal sacrifice is made redundant in yajñas. In turn. '$is mandated that animals will not be offered in yajña. Some of them are Var"a of the person . how to understand the mantra and brahmana portions. Specifically. a pi$%a pa%u is offered. In fact consumption is also done with the sense that $%vara the essence of each being is consuming the food in the form of the oneself. the geometry of altars.
!ishi yajña. Yajña in the Daily life of G!hastha: The Panca Maha Yajñas A G!hastha is supposed to do five yajñas every day. Sm"rta. follow directly from yajnic principles. Sm"rta and !rauta are so closely associated that they are usually referred to as the combination Sm"rta-!rauta. These are from Brahmana as well as Aranyaka portion. !$i !na. though minimal nitya karma is performed.Hindupedia. Sm"rta which developed after !rauta. '$is. Extension of the concept of Yajña Yajnic life is an ancient school. one clears his debts towards his fellow men. Raising children as an injunction is no longer relevant here. by treating the guests well. one clears his debts towards the pitris. However pitru tarpana is still done during v"naprastha. the religion of smritis. However the prescribed rites are different in each ashrama. Saubhagya Lakshmi Upanishad explains the yogic import of !r# S&kta. By doing the above yajñas. as being performed in the subtle body. In Mantra Vidyas mantra sadhana is likened to yajña. These are called panca maha yajñas. maintaining a moral code. Teaching should be done. man repays those debts and fulfills his purposes in life. and through sacrifices one clears his debts to Devatas. By praying to Devatas and offering oblations to them. and doing every action as a sacrifice. In sany"sa. without losing its spirit. The yajnic ideal thus has wide impact. raising them properly.Vedic learning. They are called deva yajña. by teaching. creatures and men. By gaining Vedic knowledge. Many of the ideals seen today in learned men. Even teaching is optional for him. being content and not greedy. follows the Sm"rta S&tras (Dharma S&tras and G!hya S&tras). and causing liberation through karma niv!tti. by helping those in need. These are offerings to Devatas. and by continuing the race by begetting progeny.Yajna . A sany"si also undertakes naimittika rites such as Caturmasya (four-month austerity undertaken in a year). In fact this is supported explicitly by smriti. living as a part of nature without harming it. it became impractical to lead such life because of the rigorous discipline it requires. This is called !$i yajña. keeping righteousness above desires. By offering oblations to pitris. In grhastha ashrama. by getting good name for the lineage. In v"naprastha. This is called pit! yajña. his family and social responsibility as the smriti prescribes. pit! !na and manu$ya !na. the eight daily rituals to be performed. This is called manu$ya yajña. But the concept of yajña has been extended in different ways. pitris. Bh&ta yajña is showing compassion towards living beings in general. homa. doing actions without being particular about results. form part of his main rites in grhastha ashrama. there is no compulsion on karma. and positively influences a moral social order. the Hindu Encyclopedia http://www. This includes abstaining from inflicting violence and killing. by doing actions that are beneficial to men.com/en/Yajna Yajña in the four Ashramas In all the four ashramas. Man has four debts. for instance Manusmriti says that a dvija becomes dvija by mantra japa alone. Leading a life with these ideals is treated as equal to living a yaajnic life. nitya and naimittika rites should be performed. many of the rites of grhastha ashrama become optional and even unnecessary. sharing and passing it on to subsequent generations one clears his debts towards the seers. tarpana and sandhyavandana as part of nitya karma. Pitris (departed fathers). the principal rite to be performed is svadhyaya . fulfilling desires in a righteous way. Sm"rta prescribes japa. such as being righteous. Karma The widest application has been the karma concept in life. These are called deva !na. The karma yoga that many of the men live (though they are not into the path of worship) is a reflection of the yajnic ideal in their lives. not harming anyone unnecessarily. This is called deva yajña. bh&ta yajña and manu$ya yajña respectively.hindupedia. Along with these. Nitya and naimittika karmas should be performed. For instance the Sandhya Vandana prakarana itself is 8 of 10 5/25/12 10:39 PM . !r# S&kta of Rig Veda khila portion is used in sacrifices and also in Sri Vidya. has also based its ideal on the same ideal of dharma. by excusing those by which one has been wronged. There are still people who perform regular sacrifice. and over time. one should perform the panca maha yajñas (or nitya karma astaka as the school may be). In brahmacarya. part Vedanga Kalpa. Symbolic Yajña The other extension of the concept of yajña is found in its yogic interpretation. even if he cannot perform the panca maha yajñas. This is apart from other rites like daily oblations to Agni and service of Guru. !ishis and fellow-men. Y"ga becomes antary"ga (the inner sacrifice) – performing homa in the sv"dhi$%h"na agni. to Devatas. pit! yajña. By showing compassion towards fellow men.
However this only differentiates between the Karma and Jn"na approaches. in karma yoga. as part of which the dravya is also enumerated. Dharma S&tr"s add one more category to the three classical kinds of karma (nitya. kundalini yoga etc are sacrifices. The rites of a temple as prescribed by 'gam"s are four-fold. The different categories of yajña. it is praised as a divine inspiration in the latter. the institution that made religion reachable to common man. Thus in the general sense mantra japa. Karma purifies and prepares the being for the state of knowledge/discrimination. ) Bhagavad G#ta 3. liberation is possible only through jn"na. is liberation – because "tma is always liberated. as different from an"tma. pr"na and n"dis. And realizing one’s identity as "tma.9 2. but the sacrificial approach to the same aim differs from the yogic approach. whose righteousness does not depend much on fulfillment of responsibilities. For instance. Beyond that.1 and 1. ) Apurva literally means “never before” because it did not exist before the rite was done. ) Nir#%vara V"da is one that does not affirm $%vara or the supreme existential principle. For instance. ) Taittir#ya Br"hma"a 2.9. and devata is a result of the sacrifice. reflect in the rituals prescribed in these paths. ) The different classes of Agni worshiped are enumerated in !rauta !&tras . In kundalini yoga the gross and the subtle unite with the causal being through the movement of kundalini.1 7. a preparation for acquiring jn"na. and without that one is not deemed fit for the path of knowledge. Adi Sankara reconciles karma with jn"na approach by categorizing karma as the preparatory stage for acquiring jn"na. Jn"na m"rga is about discriminating these up"dhis from self. Jn"na m"rga involves nididhyasana. k"mya and pr"ya%citta) the same as that in !rauta/Sm"rta. In fact the self is always liberated. ) Brhadaranyaka Upanishad Ch 3 17. naimittika. worship or ritual has no greater importance in jn"na m"rga. in jn"na m"rga.Hindupedia. ) Here the meaning of the word “bh"vana” follows its technical definition according to Karma m"rga: the objective urge.7 8. and not worship. ) Please refer the article on Mantra Marga for more details on this 10. Detachment and consecration. is a replica of yajña %"la (the place where yajña is conducted) – in its major components as well as concept. the subtle body yogas such as mantra yoga and kundalini yoga are acknowledged in jn"na m"rga as means to attain the necessary state for pursuing the path of knowledge. such as vedic ritual. For instance. spiritual knowledge is the means of liberation.2 6. Thus most of the yajnic procedures are redundant from the viewpoint of jn"na m"rga.Yajna . In laya yoga dissolving the individual consciousness in the cosmic consciousness is liberation. Jn"na and Karma Approaches Jn"na M"rga is expounded in Ved"nta and thus. and does not necessarily make one of them superior. In the path of karma.hindupedia.4. (nitya. However. Ved"nta treats yajña/karma to be a means of purification. and came into existence as a consequence of the rite 15. Fulfilling one’s responsibilities is the primary criterion for detachment. which is the intellectual’s approach – the path of discrimination. In yogic terms this is described differently: mantra is the means to achieving yoga with the devata. Thus it is both 'stika (acknowledging the !abda Pram""a) as well as theistic. the two approaches of jn"na and karma respectively. and the state of liberation for a being is the knowledge of difference between self and non-self ("tma-an"tma vivecana). ) 'pastamba Dharma S&tr"s chapter 1. while anger is sought to be overcome in the former. jn"na m"rga acknowledges the performance of nitya karma. In jn"na m"rga.6. 16. J#va is bound because he does not identify himself as "tma but identifies himself with various up"dhis. ) Agni carries these offerings to the Devatas 9. Notes & References 1. Chapter 51 of Matsya Pur""a. karma niv!tti begets liberation. Through contemplation (on the import of mahavakyas) one learns to discriminate between "tma and non-"tma ("tma-an"tma vivecana). ) Deva Mukha literally meaning face of the Devatas 14. 9 of 10 5/25/12 10:39 PM .11 12.'pastamba !rauta !&tras for instance.1.1. ) K!$"a Yajurveda 4. naimittika and k"mya) – the pr"ya%citta or expiation rites. 4. All these involve different up"dhis of the subtle body – mind. mantra japa itself is the sacrifice to be done. As the means to acquire the necessary purity and wisdom for pursuing this path. this does not amount to negation of Devatas or 'tma. ) P&rva M#m"msa S&tr"s 2. such fulfillment with dissociation brings about the necessary change for salvation. In mantra yoga realizing para vak is the final realization. Beyond that. Temple. ) Agni is the God of Fire 13. ) Mahanyasa 3. where performing each of those rites at their highest level is the means for liberation. ) Brahmandavalli of the Taittir#ya Upanishad (chapter 8) 5. ) Taittir#ya Samhita 2. This is in contrast with all the karmic and yogic paths. Vedantic approach is prescribed for a person who is technically out of the social fold.2 are dedicated to the injunctions for &a%p"tra procedure. the Hindu Encyclopedia http://www. inspiration or desire 11.com/en/Yajna found in Taittir#ya Aranyaka (Maha Narayana Upanishad).
Yajna . ) Note that %rauta is a general term and does not necessarily classify a rite. ) Reference required for this 22. ) 'pastamba Dharma S&tras 1.4. 20. 18. ) manyuh-ak"r$# namo namah – Sandhya Vandana. including the Vihara"#y"s and Upasthey"s.hindupedia. Rig Veda Explore Other Articles Karungaali Sri Chinthaamaneesarar Antara Prayer to the 5 mothers Datt"treya Cedi 10 of 10 5/25/12 10:39 PM . ) Taittir#ya Br"hma"a 1.3 21. ) literally the one meant for “up"sana” 19.13 23. ) Manyu s&kta. Aranyaka portion of Krishna Yajurveda 25. the Hindu Encyclopedia http://www. ) See article on Yoga Sastra for more details 24.3.com/en/Yajna and Brahm"nda Pur""a also explain the different Agnis.Hindupedia.