Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 24 Nov 2020


The Real Essence of Homa

[Dr. JSR Prasad (Prof. of Sanskrit specialised in logic, Central University, Hyderabad) asked: Svāmipādebhyo sāṣṭāṅga praṇāmāḥ! I have been invited by my close relatives to participate in a Sundarakāṇḍa Homa. After hearing Your spiritual knowledge, I am convinced that a homa performed by burning ghee in the physical fire is wrong. Should I go there or refuse? At Your lotus feet, Prasad.]

Dealing with Rigid Traditionalists

Swāmi replied: O Learned and Devoted Servants of God! You may go and participate in the homa, as performed by them following the blind tradition. You will get an opportunity to put forth this spiritual knowledge before them. The force in the blind tradition is great because the tradition has been in existence for a long time. First, you have to run along with them for some time and only then slow down their speed along the wrong path. Finally, you can try to turn them to the right path. You cannot stop a forceful running bull suddenly, by catching hold of it and trying to turn it back to the right path. First, you have to catch hold of it and run along with it for some time so that the bull thinks that you are its friend and not its enemy. It should feel that you are following it and not opposing it. By thus playing along with the psychology of the bull, you can ensure that the bull does not use its tremendous force against you. Once it becomes tired and weak, you can control it. After following it for a few steps, you can control it and even turn it to the right path. This technique of approaching and changing a person is called the technique of controlling a running bull (Dhāvad-vṛṣabha-nigrahaṇa-nyāya).

This psychology of adamant students should be noted by the preacher. Every beginning is defective (Sarvārambhā hi doṣeṇa…—Gītā) and even God follows the defective path of the devotee for some time before controlling him and turning him to the right path. Devotees going to the Tirupati temple promise to offer some money to God, if their difficulty is solved by God. This is a defective path since it involves bribing God. God knows this very well, but He still responds to their prayer, so that in the course of time, the devotee develops better devotion. Once the devotee develops pure devotion, he should offer money to God out of true love, without aspiring for any fruit. Even the Veda follows this path by encouraging people to do sacrifices (kāmya yajña), showing them attractive fruits in this world as well as in heaven after death.

God Kṛṣṇa said that people always follow the age-old blind traditions since these traditions have become their inherent nature (prakṛti). It is very difficult to turn such people away from those traditions. You can try to work with them for some time to see whether they are ready to give up their rigidity and change. But if they are hard rocks and refuse to change, you must leave them to their fate and turn back. If you continue preaching to them, it will be like throwing stones in a mud pond. The mud will splash on to you and spoil your clothes! Hence, continuing your efforts to change such people is not good, as per the preaching of God Kṛṣṇa (Prakṛterguṇasammūḍhāḥ…, Prakṛtiṃ yānti bhūtāni…, Prakṛtistvāṃ niyokṣyati…—Gītā). But initial efforts must be made for some time in the hope that: (1) the person might not know the true concept and hence, is going on wrong path or that (2) the person might not be as rigid as a rock and may become soft, after some efforts from your side.

The Real Vedic Sacrifice

When you associate with such traditional-minded people, you have to propagate the following points to them:

1.  The first mantra of the first Veda says that the fire (havanīya or agni) to which offering of ghee is to be done and the person offering the ghee (hotā or ṛtvik) are one and the same (Agnim…hotāram). Hotā means the expert in Ṛg Veda. Also, based on its root meaning (yoga), hotā means the person offering ghee into the fire. How is this possible, if a person is sitting before the fire and is offering ghee into the fire?

2.  The above question can be answered by giving the following correlation: The hungry person is the possessor of the hunger-fire called vaiśvānarāgni (Ahaṃ Vaiśvānaro…—Gītā). By the figure of speech called jahallakṣaṇā (mañcāḥ krośanti), you can take the possessor of an item to be that item itself. Hence, the possessor of the hunger-fire can be said to be fire. By the same figure of speech (lakṣaṇā), the food containing plenty of ghee can also be referred to as ghee. Thus, when the possessor of hunger-fire is eating food that is prepared in plenty of ghee, we can say that both the fire and the person offering the ‘ghee’ into the fire are one and the same.

3.  Ghee is a very precious food item and should not be destroyed, as per the Vedic statement (Annaṃ na paricakṣīta…—Veda). Hence, the physical fire lit during the fire-sacrifice (bhautikāgni or laukikāgni) should only be taken to be an instrument for performing the sacrifice. The physical fire is only used to cook the food to be sacrificed. The hunger-fire, which is called devatāgni or vaiśvānarāgni, should be taken to be the fire into which the ghee-food is to be offered. It is this fire that is to be worshipped. The physical fire (laukikāgni) is thus the instrumental fire (yajña sādhanam) while the hunger fire (vaiśvānarāgni) is the fire to be worshipped (yajña upāsyaḥ). Then alone is it possible to resolve the contradiction between the opposing Vedic statements. Hence, inert fire should not be worshipped to avoid being reborn as an inert item (Bhūtejyā yānti bhūtāni…—Gītā) and only hungry living beings are to be served food containing ghee.

4.  When ghee is burnt in fire, the smoke produced only causes environmental pollution that stops rains. When the Sadguru and devotees are fed with ghee-food, it is merit (puṇyam), which causes rains. The Veda says that the Sadguru, the knower of true Vedic knowledge, contains all deities in Him. So, by feeding and satisfying Him, even Indra, the deity of rains, is satisfied and he gives sufficient rains (Yāvatīr vai devatāstāssarvā vedavidi brāhmaṇe vasanti…—Veda).

5.  Sage Kapila, the Incarnation of God Viṣṇu, while preaching to His mother, said that the person who burns ghee in the physical fire, is a fool (fourth skandha, Bhāgavatam). In the same Bhāgavatam, God Kṛṣṇa, along with hungry cowherd friends, approaches the wives of sages. He asks the ladies to feed Him and His friends, the food cooked by the ladies for the purpose of burning in the physical fire in a homa. God Kṛṣṇa was not opposing the Vedic Dharma, but He was opposing the misunderstood Vedic path. He was correcting the sages and making them follow the true path of homa by giving cooked food to hungry human beings.

6.  Yajña means worshipping the Sadguru and devotees through a divine seminar called satsaṅga, which improves the public’s spiritual knowledge and devotion to God. In such a seminar, the lunch during the lunch break is hosted by the owner or the host of the yajna. Eight types of food containing ghee are prepared (Āgneyamaṣṭākapālaṃ caruṃ nirvapati…—Veda) and served to the Sadguru and devotees attending the seminar. Without the seminar, merely meeting for having food together is not good (Śreyān dravyamayāt yajñāt jñānayajñaḥ…—Gītā). A hungry guest is said to be the vaiśvānara fire by the Veda (Vaiśvānaraḥ praviśatyatithiḥ…, Āgneyo vai brāhmaṇaḥ…). Angels are energetic living beings and their ‘food’ is cosmic energy. They directly consume energy from the rays of the sun or the moon (Sūryoṣmapāyinaḥ…, Nirviṣṭasārāṃ pitṛbhiḥ himāṃśoḥ…). Only human beings, who have materialized bodies, consume materialized food like ghee etc.