By G.V. SubbaRao
From Sanathana Sarathi, December 1997
(The photographs on this page show scenes from
the Veda Purusha Jnana Yajna held in October 1988)
For many years since 1962, Bhagavan Baba has been conducting a Veda Purusha Jnana Yajna (a ritual) for seven days during Dasara for the promotion of the material and spiritual well-being of mankind. After a break of about three years, the performance of this rite (yajna) was resumed in October this year (1997) in the Puurnachandra Auditorium.
The ritual (yajna) is the means for securing awareness of the Divine. It is governed by mantras, sacrifice and divinity. Hence by performing the ritual for seven days, one secures the two-fold well-being (sreyas) and the awareness of the Divine (jnana). It may be asked why the ritual should be performed for seven days. The number seven has a special esoteric significance in relation to creation. For instance, there are said to be seven worlds (sapta lokas), seven sages, seven seas, seven sacred mountains, seven musical notations (swaras), seven colors of the Sun's ray, and so on. If these are worshipped as symbols of the Divine, awareness of the Divine arises. By the performance of the ritual for seven days according to Vedic injunctions, man can acquire the ability to get rid of the seven veils of ignorance, ascend the seven stages of spiritual knowledge and achieve liberation (moksha).
Before the commencement of the ritual (yajna), the Vedic pandits take the prescribed vow to perform the ritual after chanting the mantras for sanctifying the place of ritual.
All the Vedic pandits who taking part in the ritual, wearing sacred orange robes, arrive in a procession from the temple (mandir) to the Puurnachandra Auditorium to the accompaniment of auspicious nadasvaram music and the chanting of Vedic hymns by students.
The ritual begins with the lighting of the sacred sacrificial fire. The fire is started by the rapid rubbing of two sacred wooden sticks by the priests. The sacrificial fire starts burning by the natural emergence of fire in the latent sticks, symbolic of the latent presence of the Divine in every object in creation. Bhagavan has often declared that if one turns the vision inward he would be able to experience the light Divine effulgent in one's heart.
In this ritual (yajna), seven principal deities are worshipped. Ganesha, Surya (the Sun God), Devi (The Divine Mother), Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and Agni Shakthi. Vedic chants are recited to adore the four-faced Brahma who is the propagator of Vedas. The Fire God (Agni), the transmitter of devotional fire offerings to the deities (dhevas), is also propitiated by the offerings to the sacrificial fire. Altogether, seven divine potencies are worshipped. Bhagavan has declared that all these potencies are in man.
Before worship is done to any particular deity, the help of Vighnesvara (Ganesha, Ganapathi) is invoked for the prevention of any obstacles to the worship. Ganapathi is worshipped as primary deity who is the embodiment of the sacred mantra "Om" (Pranava). He is the bestower of knowledge and powers of various kinds.
The worship of the Sun-God is an important part of this ritual. The priest engaged in this Sun-worship repeats the sacred mantras relating to the Sun while offering prostrations (Surya-namaskar) to the Sun-God. The Sun is the bestower of health and is the Lord of all planets in the solar system. The worship is offered not to the physical sun but to the presiding deity, Suryanarayana.
Another important feature of the ritual (yajna) is the worship of Devi. She is Paramesvari, Chithsvarupini, and Maayasvarupini. She represents Nature, the Mother of the Universe, and is the supreme embodiment of Love. She represents seven material forms of the Divine. In the ritual, Devi is worshipped by the recitation of Lalitha Sahasranama and the reading of the Devi Bhagavatham.
Vishnu is worshipped in this ritual by the recitation of Bhagavatham and Purusha Shukta. Vishnu is hailed as the all-pervading Lord of the Cosmos in the Purusha Shukta. The Sage Shuka told King Parikshith that by listening to the glories of Vishnu in the seven days given to him before his end, he could attain salvation.
The reading of Vaalmeeki's Raamaayana is another significant item in this ritual. The regular reading of the Ramayana has great value for the spiritual aspirant. In this context, Swami has often stressed the special importance of Sundarakanda, in which Vaalmeeki extols the exploits of Hanuman, the Supreme devotee of Rama.
The most important aspect of this ritual (yajna) is the worship of Shiva. This worship is done by the worship (puja) offered to one thousand lingas of Shiva and by the offerings to Shiva in the sacrificial fire on all the seven days of the ritual with the chanting of "Rudram". On the final day of the ritual, Bhagavan materializes various precious objects and offers them to the sacrificial fire. Bhagavan has declared that what everyone should offer in the sacrificial fire are his bad qualities. Swami has explained that the sacred smoke rising from the sacrificial fire, fully charged with the power of the sacred Vedic mantras, enters the clouds and purifies the rain tailing from them. The smoke of the sacrificial fire thus purifies the pollution in the atmosphere and on earth.
Brahma as Creator is propitiated in this ritual by the chanting of the Vedas by the priests (ritwiks). The Vedas are eternal and are the basis for all dharma. Bharath (India) is esteemed as the soul of the Vedas and the land that gave the Vedhas to the world. Bhagavan has proclaimed the glory of the Vedas in many of His discourses.
Pandits who have mastered the Rik and Yajur Vedas had a prominent part in the ritual. Bhagavan has often emphasized the purifying and sacrificial power of the Vedic mantras.
Bhagavan's discourses during the seven days of the ritual (yajna) are veritable spiritual feasts for the devotees. Bhagavan explains in the simplest language profoundest Vedantic Truths so that everyone understands the message of the nondualisitic (a-dwaitha) doctrine and the oneness of the individual self and the Supreme Self. This, indeed, is the real purpose of the "Spiritual wisdom ritual (Jnana Yajna)".
Baba generously honors all the priests (ritwiks)
and others participating in the ritual with gifts of clothes and other
things. This year's Veda Purusha Yajna has
become one of the most memorable in the annals of Prasanthi Nilayam.