Rishi Yajna, Deva Yajna, Manushya Yajna, Pitr Yajna and Bhuta Yajna—these are the five yajnas [sacrificial rituals]. Rishi Yajna is studying the scriptural texts. Puja, homa and other forms of worship fall under Deva Yajna. Taking care of guests is itself a yajna—Manushya Yajna. Protecting one’s mother and father is Pitr Yajna. Bhuta Yajna is protecting plants and animals. These five yajnas need to be observed by all people leading family life.
We are indebted to repay at least a portion of what we take from Nature. This is the great principle at the core of the five yajnas. Amma feels there is another principle behind the yajnas as well. The five yajnas are teaching us that, everyone, regardless of time and place, needs to learn to live with love and harmony with one another as well as with Nature.
Our rishis had no selfish desires or motives. It is the life-principles they taught that we have compiled as our scriptures. These books show us how to lead a proper life as well as about the nature of the world. They also teach us how to live so that we aren’t overpowered during adverse situations.
Someone who has studied agriculture knows which type of soil and which fertilizer each particular plant requires. He knows how to protect it from fungus and parasites. If someone decides to cultivate crops without first learning these basics, he may lose his entire harvest. In the same way, the scriptural texts help us to correctly understand life.
When firecrackers are set off without any warning, we will be startled. However if we know that they are about to go off, we won’t be that startled. One who doesn’t know how to swim will struggle in the waves, but someone who is a good swimmer is fully blissful swimming in the sea.
When we make studying the books comprising the words of our rishis part of our daily routine and apply what we learn from them in our lives, we are repaying our debt to these great souls. However, studying these texts is not enough; we need to apply that knowledge in our daily life. Just by reading a cookbook, no one’s hunger will be appeased. Daily study of the spiritual principles elucidated by the rishis so that we can make them an eternal part of our life is Rishi Yajna.
Prayer, worship, meditation, adhering to vows—all are part of Deva Yajna. Through such practices we gain concentration, intellectual sharpness, peace and mental purity. Through mantra japa, we eliminate extraneous thoughts. Through meditation we create intellectual clarity, subtlety and gain contentment and relief from agitation.
One should perform puja, homa and other rituals after understanding their principles. When we offer oblations into the sacrificial fire, we are in fact offering our own attachments. When we light an incense stick, we should imagine that we are offering ourselves in order to provide fragrance to the world. When we burn camphor during arati, we should imagine we are offering our ego, allowing it to burn until absolutely no selfishness remains. The chanting of the mantras and the smoke of the homa help purify both our mind, as well as the surrounding environment.
When we try to see every object as devata, it helps us to handle things with devotion, care and attention. Don’t we see even little children bowing respectfully before the lighted lamp? The belief that the divine is present in the lighted lamp comes to us naturally because of our traditional beliefs.
Fasting and other austerities help us gain control over our mind. Furthermore, they are extremely helpful for maintaining physical health. If you look, you will see that traditionally most of our fasts are in relation to the rising of the new moon. Scientific studies have revealed a connection between the waxing and waning of the moon and our mental states. During the full moon and moonless nights, people with mental problems often feel more disturbed and angry. Their emotions intensify. If they reduce their intake of food during these periods, only eat fruit and spend their time praying, the mental agitation can be reduced. Such fasting also increases our health and longevity. If a whole community observes such austerities, it has a positive impact on the environment as well. Rain and sunshine will come at the appropriate times. This is the principle behind the concept that through yajna the devatas could be pleased into making it rain.
Pitr Yajna should not be limited to tarpana and other such ancestral offerings. Real Pitr Yajna is when we serve our mother and father and other elders with reverence and love. If we fail to take care of them when they become infirm, their mental curse will remain in the atmosphere and eventually return to haunt us. It is even said that those who take proper care of their parents, respecting and honouring them, have no need for any other form of worshipping God. Matrdevo bhava pitrdevo bhava—“May the mother be God to you; may the father be God.” Isn’t that what is said?
Our culture tells us to see guests as God. Atithi devo bhava—“May you see the guest as God.” Manushya Puja is worshipping guests with a love that expects nothing in return. This helps us to view everyone in the world as part of one family and to extend our love to one and all.
Our ancestors used to eat only after sipping water with tulasi, pipal or bilva leaves in it. We placed flora and fauna on the same level as gods and the vehicles that carry them. When we plant a sapling, water it and tenderly nurse it, when the first blossom appears, when we pluck the flowers and sew them into a garland… Throughout all these actions our mind remains focused on God. When we take a pen and a piece of paper and get ready to write to a friend, although the pen, the paper and the ink are different, we see the unity—our friend—in all of them. Similarly, we should try to see God behind each and every action. We should perform each action with the awareness that “This is for God.” This will help us understand and perceive the underlying unity behind the diverse creation. There are a lot of people who speak Advaita [the philosophy of non-duality]. No one is practicing it in their life. However the real devotee, through Bhuta Yajna [worshipping of animals and plants], is able to see the one truth shining in everything sentient and insentient. Without knowing Advaita, he lives the principle. Therefore, Amma feels we should remain steadfast in all of these yajnas. Doing so will bring prosperity and goodness across the land.
--Amma, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi