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Yagya and the fire element PDF Print E-mail
Gita - Gita Articles

Yagyarthaatmkarmanonyatra lokoyam karmabandhanaha
Tadartham karmam kaunteya muktasangaha samachara


Any karma that is not done for yagya 
Becomes a binding O Kaunteya (son of Kunti) 
Hence, do your karma without 
Any attachment and surrendered to Parmatma 
(Yagya = karma performed in surrender to Parmatma) ||3:9||


Krishna has already touched on the importance of doing karma (an act). Everyone is destined to do karma. Life is incompatible without karma. Then he talked about what karma to do and how we can get in touch with our inner flow and find out what is our type of karma (niyatam). Now he is touching the aspect of why. Why do we do any karma? What is the driving force? Who do we work for? And he brings in the concept of yagya.

We understand several eastern terms to an extent even though there is no exact translation in English. We have an idea what yoga is and we all have some idea of what meditation is. But yagya is one such terminology that we have not really grasped very well. Not only there is no such word in English, we also do not see its practical applications in life. Recently I had my sister come to USA. She has been here for a few days. She has been fasting for occasions like Teej, Raakhi and Janmashtami and doing things the way they are done in India. These practices, that are so common in India, looked so alien in the USA. My children had a new experience. Sooner or later those practices will remain in text books. Yagya has gone out of the door even in India. We see the rituals of fire and Swaha, but we miss the whole point. We have translated the word Yagya as sacrifice. And there cannot be any better way to kill the meaning of yagya than to translate it to sacrifice. And then you can make it worse by saying the key word, human sacrifice.

So, what is yagya? Krishna says that karma performed as yagya is not a binding. Karma performed in surrender to Parmatma comes closest. Yet, it does not convey the full meaning. Let us try to understand it. In surrender, the individual who surrenders is somehow still there. In yagay, the individual is gone. He is not only purified, he is also evaporated. And that is one reason why fire is what the purifying agent is. We see a physical fire when we burn wood or gas. There is another fire inside us. No I am not talking about the ATP cycle. That is energy too. Every element and individual has a fire lement. There is fire in love and there is fire in hate. If you take the gross element and surrender it to the fire element, then a yagya is performed. It is easy for us to physically see when we throw havan samagri in fire and say say Swaha. The material burns and there is fragrance coming out of it. It is so obvious. But, we do not see how karma can be a yagya.

How can we throw our karma to the fire of Parmatma? We want to hold on to our karma. We want the credit and we want to see the results. I have worked so hard all my life. I have a catalogue my head. The accounting system is there. How can I let it go? Krishna is not only asking us to let it go. He wants to see all the documents burn in his fire. We know that fire is used to purify gold. But, gold is still there in the end. If we knew that gold will be gone, we will not put the gold in fire. Krishna does not want any remains. This is not easy. But who says life is easy.

And that is not because Krishna says so. Krishna is saying this because Krishna knows so. He knows that yagya is a methodology for attaining excellence beyond the possibilities of an individual himself. And in addition there are no imprints left. There is no baggage to carry.

We started with questions like why do we work, who do we work for and what is the driving force. In yagya technology the answers will be something like this. We work because we have to work. There is no alternative. We work for Parmatma; in fact only Parmatma remains. There is karma (an act) and there is the Parmatma. What is gone in the flames of Yagya is the doership. There is no one to claim the result. And as for what is the driving foce. It is the fire within. We talked about the inner core and its flow. The flow is that of the water element. Once we know the flow, we understand our individual karma and niyatam. There is also an inner fire and knowing this we know the ultimate driving force. Mahavira talks about tapa. Tapa is also a concept in other eastern concepts. Austerity is the translation. This tapa represents the fire element, but is conceptually different from the yagya. Let me attempt to express the concept of yagya:


There is always something to offer (havan)
Havan has to be offered to something that has a flame (agni)
And everything has a fire element that can be a flame
A flame that can burn and purify

Yagya is surrendering,
Yagya is dissolving,
Yagya is purifying by burning
Surrendered in the invisible flame
It is an art and
It is a science
Yagya is a technology
It is a methodology
It applies to the highest, the Brahma
And to many others apart from the Brahma.

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