Yajña, Yāga and Homa
By Swami Harshananda
Yajña and yāga has derived from the verbal root ‘yaj’. It means a worship in the form of offering oblations, a sacrifice unto the gods. It is also defined as the tyāga of a dravya unto a devatā. Homa is the act of pouring ājya into the duly consecrated gṛhya or domestic fire. It is a later adaptation of the original yajñas and yāgas and is more common in pujā or the ritualistic worship of deities of the religious pantheon.
The general principle accepted by the religious tradition is that the scriptures, the Śruti and the smṛtis, are the final authority regarding the things beyond, the ultimate values of life. According to them, yajña or the system of sacrifices was given by God himself at the beginning of creation, to human beings and the gods like Indra, Agni, Varuṇa and so on, as a link between them, to sustain each other. The human beings were to satiate the gods through the sacrifices and the gods in return would bestow on the human beings rains, food and other things needed to live a prosperous life, because they controlled the various forces of nature.
When a person performs Vedic sacrifices like Jyotiṣṭoma, to go to heaven; the potential effect of it in a subtle form resides in his soul and will give its fruit after death. This potential imperceptible power or śakti, is called ‘apurva’.
Human beings need light and heat to sustain themselves in life. The sun and the fire are the two sources for these. The sun is not under human control, but fire is. Perhaps it was this fact that might have induced our ancient ancestors to protect and maintain the fire with respect and even worship it. It must have been given the status of a deity as a result of the intuitive experiences of the sages.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore