Devata (God of Life)
We all know what is 'Life'. Let us now see what is 'Homa' or 'Yajna' ? Lord Krishna explains
"The Importance of Yajna" in Bhagavad-Gita (3/9-12). Yajna is only in Vedic Society. No other religion has it. Yajna is the best of all karmas.
Competition, co-operation and self-dedication are
the three ways in which beings make life a fulfilment. The lowest order of creation exists by sheer competition. In this stage,
the struggle for existence is an endless warfare. The physically strong and the fittest thrives and prosper, while the weak
and the feeble are either left in the background or exterminated. Plants, birds and animals bear testimony to this. This is
the physical level.
In the life at the mental plane, cruel competition gets minimized. Intelligent co-operation gains
ground here. This process is also known as social life. Man is a social being, though corporate life is not his exclusive
prerogative. Other beings are also found very well at it. Corporate life is more conducive to growth and progress than the
Self-dedication is the first stage of life. It prevails at the ethical and spiritual planes. It is
given to the enlightened man alone to practise self-dedication. The act of offering the best and the most useful in one for
the welfare of the others is self-dedication. Both the giver and the receiver stand to gain through this sacred act. It is
like pumping the water from a copious well into a fertile field. This bounteous act goes by the name of 'Yajna', which literally
means sacrifice. Meritorious act untainted by selfishness, disinterested service, work of any kind performed for general welfare,
adoration of the Almighty, ethical and spiritual endeavours - all these salutary activities are contained in Yajna. Dedicating
oneself exclusively to spiritual life amounts to the performance of Yajna. It is the attitude that tranforms the soul-entangling
karma into the soul-emancipating Yajna. Divinity reveals itself best where Yajna takes place. Performance of yajna leads man
Homams are Yajnas performed to propitiate
a particular 'Devata', expecting some special gifts or blessings from Him. In every Homam we invoke 'Agni', the God of Fire.
Man needs the blessings of God for his life, health, education, wealth, profession, fame, power, family life, mental peace
and finally a peaceful death. Among these long life is the most important; ie. years to life. All the other factors add life
to the years. Whatever it is, nobody is happy to die early. Everyone wants to extend his period of life as much as possible.
Sage Bodhayana, in His Bodhayana Sutras, explains about the 'Ayushya Homam'. In the Hindu scriptures we find many
incidents - Markandeya, Satyavan, Adi Sankara, Nachiketas and so on - which prove that the destiny of 'Life' at the time of
birth can be modified by various actions later on. For this purpose, special Yajna is performed to please the 'Ayur
Devata', on the birthday of the person concerned as per his name, nakshatram, rasi and gotram. It is an appeal for sanctioning
maximum life-term, so that he can do more good things in life.
Yajna and Man
Has yajna any place in cosmic plan ? The answer
is given by Lord Sri Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita 3.10
In the beginning of creation, the Lord of all creatures sent forth generations of men and demigods, along
with sacrifices for Viṣṇu
, and blessed them by saying, "Be thou happy by this yaj˝a
[sacrifice] because its performance will bestow upon you everything desirable for living happily and achieving liberation."
Prajapathi (Brahma) created man. For his sake (Food, shelter, education, wealth, health, property, peace, progeny
etc.), Brahma created Yajnas also. It is not creation of one after another. He created man and Yajna together (saha). Infact,
Yajna comes first, as mentioned in the Shloka. in this world life is miserable, although people may pose to be
happy. There is an unfailing way to convert worldly life into a 'spiritual life' When all activities in life are dedicated
for 'Yajna', the spectacle also undergoes a corresponding change.
Man is born to 'give', and not to 'grab'. The grabbing man pays the penalty in the form of misery;
the giver reaps the reward in the form of undiluted joy. The means to give somehow increases in the man who has a mind to
give. The resources, the bodily effort and the mental disposition - all these becomes multiplied in the man of Yajna. His
life flowers in being useful to others and fruits in enlightenment. The doer of Yajna is never in wants; he is always in affluence.
Whatever he wants to offer to others comes to him easily. His bounteous mind is the real 'Kamadhenu'. Preyas and Shreyas both
do pay homage to him. This is the plan and purpose of the Cosmos.
Practical shape of Yajna.
is the practical shape that can be given to the spirit of Yajna. The answer comes in the Bhagavad-Gita 3.11:
The demigods, being pleased by sacrifices, will also please you, and thus, by cooperation between
men and demigods, prosperity will reign for all.
Highly evolved souls are called 'devas', wherever they happen to be. Cosmic forces are also called
'Devas', because of their efficient functioning. The characteristic of the good and the enlightened is that they are always
engaged in the welfare of all. It is Yajna to aid them in their noble and auspicious endeavours. The good and the noble in
the world spontaneously come forward to serve the doers of good and to promote their noble causes. Those who sacrifice themselves
completely to God get their reward accordingly. As the fuel that gives itself away to fire becomes fire in its turn, the devotees
who surrender their everything to the Lord, become all Divinity. By sacrificing his all to God, man attains godliness. This
is the supreme good that Yajna brings.
In the words of Sri Ramakrishna: "Whatever you offer to the Lord is returned
to you, magnified, manifold. Therefore, remember, that you do not offer anything bad to Him".
In practice, we
offer many items to the Devatas-Rudran, Vishnu, Indra, Varuna, Vayu and so on- through Agni (Fire), chanting specific Mantras,
to please the respective Devata. The fire burns these offerings and forward their essence to the particular devata on our
behalf. Devatas and gods are manifestations of Brahman. They depend for their food on the offerings by man in the Yajnas.
There is no field and cultivation in the Devaloka. Taittiriya Aranyaka mentions: "Durbhiksham Devalokam." Devatas
are more powerful than men. We have to depend on them for rain, sunshine, air etc., which are the basis of our life. Without
these elements, we cannot cultivate and produce food-grains. So it is a mutual help. That is why there is the usage of "Parasparam
Bhavayantah" in the Shloka-11. If we fail to do yajnas, these Gods and Devatas will have to starve and they will naturally
become angry and will create calamities for men. They can make the rain fall only on the oceans instead of on the land area;
or they can create floods, earthquakes, cyclones etc. to take revenge on us. Devatas are a very powerful lot. We cannot antagonise
them. Chanting of the holy names of Lord Krishna or Vishnu in the form of Mantras is equal to writing the address in a letter.
It will help the fire god 'Agni' to locate and forward the essence of our offerings in the yajna to the particular Devata.
The Devatas also have wishes and wants. If we satisfy their demands, they will become more powerful and happy; and will bestow
blessings on us in the form of wealth, rain, food, health etc. If we look after them, they will look after us. We have doing
power; they have protecting power.
Who is a Thief?
answer comes in the Shloka-12.
"In charge of the various necessities of life, the demigods, being satisfied by the performance
of yaj˝a [sacrifice], will supply all necessities to you. But he who enjoys such gifts without offering them to the demigods in return
is certainly a thief." This world abounds in facilities and amenities that have come about as a result of the sacrifices of
several people. The new born baby is nursed and brought up. That is "sacrifice" of the parents. The youth receives education.
It comes from sacrifice made by the builders of educational institutions. The food that man consumes, the house that he lives
in, the clothing that he wears, the means of transport that is available to him - all these are the outcome of sacrificees
made by other people. While availing himself of all these advantages, man ought to ask himself as to how his own life is going
to be useful to the others. Whatever man does must be more beneficial to others than to himself. His doings become yajna in
proportion to their public utility. When a balance is struck between receipts and gifts, a righteous man is he who gives more
than he receives. Indebted is that man who appropriates more than he gifts. A thief is he who grabs everything and sacrifices
nothing. This seemingly prosperous man ends his career as a non-entity. The enlightened do not place themselves in that pitiable
Pancha Maha yajna (The Five Great yajnas)
A day passed bereft of
the performance of Yajna is a day gone to waste. Such is the injunction enjoined in the scriptures. An ideal family man is
he who engages himself daily in the five great Yajnas:
- Deva yajna - Worship of the Supreme Lord Krishna
- Rishi Yajna - The adoration of the Enlightened Sages
- Pitru Yajna - Remembering Fore-fathers
- Nara yajna - Service to mankind (preaching about Krishna)
- Bhuta Yajna - Looking after other domestic animals, birds etc. by giving them maha-prasadam
All the five of them form his 'Nitya-karma' (Obligatory work). Through them the life of man on
earth becomes prosperous and auspicious.
annād bhavanti bhūtāni
yaj˝ād bhavati parjanyo
All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rains. Rains are produced by performance
of yaj˝a [sacrifice], and yaj˝a is born of prescribed duties.". Work performed with the right frame of mind gets converted into Yajna. It is the thought
or the feeling that really constitutes the mental force - Mantra.