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Yajna or Sacrifice
We make frequent use of the word yajna. We have raised spinning to the rank of a daily mahayajna (primary sacrifice). It is therefore necessary to think out the various implications of the term yajna.
Yajna means an act directed to the welfare of others, done without desiring any return for it, whether of a temporal or spiritual nature. 'Act' here must be taken in its widest sense, and includes thoughts and word, as well as deed. 'Others' embraces not only humanity, but all life. Therefore, and also from the standpoint of ahimsa, it is not a yajna to sacrifice lower animals even with a view to the service of humanity. It does not matter, that animal sacrifice is alleged to find a place in the Vedas. It is enough for us, that such sacrifice cannot stand the fundamental tests of Truth and Non-violence. I readily admit my incompetence in Vedic scholarship. But the incompetence, so far as this subject is concerned, does not worry me, because even if the practice of animal sacrifice be proved to have been a feature of Vedic society, it can form no precedent for a votary of ahimsa.
Again a primary sacrifice must be an act, which conduces the most to the welfare of the greatest number in the widest area, and which can be performed by the largest number of men and women with the least trouble. It will not therefore, be a yajna, much less a mahayajna, to wish or to do ill to any one else, even in order to serve a so-called higher interest. And the Gita teaches, and experience testifies, that all action that cannot come under the category of yajna promotes bondage.
The world cannot subsist for a single moment without yajna in this sense, and therefore the Gita, after having dealt with true wisdom in the second chapter, takes up in the third the means of attaining it, and declares in so many words, that yajna came with the Creation itself. This body therefore has been given us, only in order that we may serve all Creation with it. And therefore, says the Gita, he who eats without offering yajna eats stolen food. Every single act of one who would lead a life of purity should be in the nature of yajna. Yajna having come to us with our birth, we are debtors all our lives, and thus for ever bound to serve the universe. And even as a bondslave receives food, clothing and so on from the master whom he serves, so should we gratefully accept such gifts as may be assigned to us by the Lord of the universe. What we receive must be called a gift; for as debtors we are entitled to no consideration for the discharge of our obligations. Therefore we may not blame the Master, if we fail to get it. Our body is His to be cherished or cast away according to His will. This is not a matter for complaint or even pity; on the contrary, it is a natural and even a pleasant and desirable state, if only we realize our proper place in God's Scheme. We do indeed need strong faith, if we would experience this supreme bliss. "Do not worry in the least about yourself, leave all worry to God,"—this appears to be the commandment in all religions.
This need not frighten any one. He who devotes himself to service with a clear conscience will day by day grasp the necessity for it in greater measure, and will continually grow richer in faith. The path of service can hardly be trodden by one, who is not prepared to renounce self-interest, and to recognize the conditions of his birth. Consciously or unconsciously every one of us does render some service or other. If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger, and will make not only for our own happiness but that of the world at large.