Then, there are many more यज्ञ-s(prayerful offerings/rituals) mentioned. These are used as a metaphor for different activities of our lives-
* श्लोक २८ *
द्रव्ययज्ञास्तपोयज्ञा योगयज्ञास्तथापरे ।
स्वाध्यायज्ञानयज्ञाश्च यतय: संशितव्रता: ॥ २८॥
There are people who offer different द्रव्य (substances). In this case, द्रव्य means धनम् |
धनम्/giving is an integral part of one’s life in सनातनधर्म |
Even if this is not the case at this point in time, one should try to grow into a person who contributes more than consuming.
द्रव्य could be helping someone with their education, or working on some innovation. In earlier times द्रव्य would be the giving of cows, gold, land etc. द्रव्य is considered as an offering unto ईश्वर, because there is a certain discipline which comes with it.
One may have standing instructions with the bank so that a certain amount of money is deducted from one’s account on a monthly basis for the charitable causes that one supports. The intention is that I want to be able to give every month depending on the शक्ति that I have. So, for the ones who share their wealth, one can also have mastery in this.
It can be considered as an ordinary act of giving, but here I am learning to give and be free of my रागद्वेष of hoarding and collecting, and it is an offering unto ईश्वर |
भगवान् Ramana Maharishi in his Upadesha Sara explains how to do सेवा to भगवान् –
जगत ईशधी युक्तसेवनम् ।
अष्टमूर्तिभृद्देवपूजनम् ॥ ५॥
He describes this as अष्टमूर्तिभृद्देवपूजनम् | The entire world that is there is in the form of अष्टमूर्ति (8-fold form) i.e. the पञ्चमहाभूत (the 5 great elements), the Sun & the moon (both representing all luminaries in the sky), and चैतन्य (consciousness). [N.B. it is not that चैतन्य is the 8th, because it is not at the same level of reality; it is considered the 8th with respect to the other 7].
So, one can make an offering to any of these manifestations, based on one’s talents & skillsets. This is one’s यज्ञ |
तपोयज्ञ is the next form of यज्ञ that is spoken of as an offering to भगवान् | तपस् is an important part of सनातनधर्म | It is a religious discipline that includes fasting (not necessarily followed by feasting), or going on तीर्थयात्रा | तीर्थयात्रा is not a 5-star luxury trip, there must be some discomfort, and despite this discomfort, one is prayerful. When a religious discipline is involved, there has to be some denial of comfort. Why? Because I am extending my sense of ‘I’. Otherwise, I remain in my comfort zone. For instance, I stay in my comfort zone so I do not interact with others, because I find that when I interact with others, it is too disturbing. So, this is not the right way of thinking.
Another तपस् is व्रत (vow) of doing मंत्र |
There is an elaborate साधना called पुरश्चरण | If the मंत्र that one has received has 5 letters, e.g. ॐ नमःशिवाय, then as a part of पुरश्चरण, one chants this मंत्र for 500, 000 times spread out over 1-2years. But there are a lot of stipulations, so not everyone can do it. For instance, the time when one does this is fixed, the place where one does this is fixed, a certain शुद्धि/cleanliness should be there, etc.
So, it is a religious discipline, and one does it though one does not feel like doing it, and even though the mind is going all over the place, and one keeps on wondering- when is my माला going to end, that this feels so mechanical, I am not doing this meaningfully, do others feel the same, I keep on thinking of my to-do list etc. So, this happens to all of us, and this is all offered. This is the discipline- that my mind can go all over the place, but I bring it back again & again.
योग यज्ञ refers to all the people who practise अष्टाङ्ग योग | अष्टाङ्ग योग is a very deep and sophisticated body of knowledge that starts with an ethical basis of यम and नियम | For instance, we have a natural tendency to hurt people so we should restrain oneself i.e. अहिंसा | So, there is no specific अहिंसा-action, but the restraint in wanting to hurt, insult or humiliate another is exercised and this is अहिंसा |
So अष्टाङ्ग योग includes यम, नियम, आसन, प्राणायाम, प्रत्याहार, ध्यान, धारणा, समाधि |
So, one may look upon these practices as a यज्ञ | In the earlier practice of all the आसन-s, the chanting of मंत्र-s for each of the 12 postures would be included. But unfortunately, some of this knowledge has been lost.
आसन practice is important with huge benefits – good health, it prepares one for वेदान्त | Importantly, it helps one to focus on one’s sensations and alignment, and one becomes more aware of oneself and one’s surroundings.
And because there is discipline and mastery involved, this योग can be offered to भगवान् |
Otherwise, one can get into a competitive spirit in this practice. E.g. one compares oneself to others and feels bad about oneself because I am not as flexible as the other.
So, both संतोष (contentment) and तपस् should go hand in hand. One should be content with what one’s body can do, but at the same time, one should push one’s body. If there is too much तपस्, then one will have injuries. But, if one is too lackadaisical, then one thinks that one did a lot of work, though doing very little. So, getting that dynamism is important.
So, one’s योग practice can be offered to भगवान्; it is a यज्ञ |
स्वाध्याय यज्ञ – स्वाध्याय is an important part of नियम | स्वाध्याय means that one studies the scriptures. But this is not an academic study. It is स्व i.e. one is studying oneself in the light of the scriptures- योगसूत्र, or श्रीमद् भगवद्-गीता |
So, it is not about knowing the definition of कर्म योग or कौशलम् | It is understanding how समत्वम् & कौशलम् are reflected in my life. This self-reflection is a यज्ञ | One is not saying that X & Y have to change so that I am happy. Instead one reflects on me- where I am, what am I doing in my life, how am I using my time, effort and energy, how am I aligning with धर्म, how am I offering my actions to भगवान्, my surrender. Reflection does not mean criticism, this breeding द्वेष towards oneself is not objectivity.
So स्वाध्याय is a यज्ञ |
ज्ञान यज्ञ is the offering of my ignorance into the ज्ञानम् that is me. This is an activity that one takes regularly, e.g. weekly गीता अमृतम् class. And because there is an element of surrender, one is not too worried about फल | I make my offering and trust that the परंपरा blesses me, and I seek their blessings also, so I have no doubt that I will get the understanding that I seek in this lifetime. This is श्रद्धा | One makes the adequate effort for learning वेदान्त and trusts that I will be rewarded.
Otherwise if one thinks that I am in charge of my self-study i.e. I will decide what text I am going to do, when I am going to do etc., then there is no room for भगवान्, because one is so full of me, I & myself. Then, whatever understanding I have, I keep questioning it, and criticizing myself in the light of that understanding. So, this is not helpful at all.
So, this ज्ञान यज्ञ is an offering to भगवान् |
Then, there may also be the thinking that I did not attend class for many weeks, so I think that it is time to drop out. But really in any pursuit, there are phases. For instance, in one’s profession, there may be phases of excitement and phases of stagnation, and then one also takes leave- privilege leave, casual leave etc. So, in the pursuit of wealth, there are many phases, and the phases are all different from each other. Therefore, if this is acceptable to one, then the मोक्ष pursuit and the different phases that are there in it should also be acceptable to one. There will be moments where one wonders- what am I doing, am I really progressing? Or, I have heard this so many times, I am really bored, maybe I should try something new. Or, I want to take some time off. All of this is okay. As, if it is a commitment, one will come back to it. Maybe right now, one doesn’t feel up to it, or maybe one is going through a fragile phase, e.g. dealing with the death of someone. But this is actually more of a reason to attend class. So, one should not worry about what the Teacher will think or that I have let myself down. There is no need to create such drama for oneself. One should just attend when one can. Just as one shows up to work when one can- but this commitment because it has external accountability is much more higher, and then there is also the factor of one’s salary being involved.
But, we try to show up. This is ज्ञान यज्ञ | Despite one’s mood, one stays with it. As one recognizes it as a very important pursuit with different phases. So, one is not too hard on oneself.
स्वाध्याय also involves the recitation of the वेद | वेदान्त is an oral tradition and a lot of the knowledge was preserved by chanting, memorizing, retaining, reproducing anytime and anywhere. A book is not needed. Traditionally also, chanting was not taught with a book, though now we have the स्वर marks. One is just supposed to listen and repeat many times. For instance, one can make it into a discipline to repeat a word 108 times, and so this goes very deep into one’s cellular memory, with increase in neural pathways through this repetition. The Sanskrit effect is also seen with the study of the structure of the brain of people who did Vedic chanting for many hours per day.
The uniqueness about Hinduism is that there is no library that has all the treasure of Hinduism. So, it is not that- if the library is destroyed, then Hinduism is destroyed. It is not like this. The knowledge is all there with people, and available to them whenever.
Traditionally, if one has not memorized a text, then it is not taught to one. E.g. in मठ-s, the verses are repeated for hours with the intention to memorize, and this repetition is offered.
Then, when one has the verses with one, then the way in which one understands the verses also changes. Then, one does not have to keep looking at one’s notes.
So, this repetition and recitation is very important. Chanting & singing practice is recommended for everyone. It is a beautiful aspect of music- everyone must sing as it is an important aspect of self-expression.
यतय: is the संन्यासी-s. They are totally devoted to ज्ञान यज्ञ | Their lifestyle is such that most of their waking hours is spent in reading, learning, chanting, assimilating, contemplating etc.
So, all of our कर्म can be made an offering, and we learn about surrender as we do this, and our mind expands in the understanding of भगवान् |
Upcoming, verse 29 speaks elaborately about प्राणायाम, so प्राणायाम is also a यज्ञ | Then, in verse 30, we see moderation in eating- this आहार नियम also can become a religious discipline. So, all of one’s activities can be made into a religious discipline, with the understanding of धर्म, and with the understanding of ईश्वर |
So, one makes an offering, which is my कौशलम् i.e. competence in the कर्म and समत्वम् i.e. acceptance of the different kinds of results.
Summary of यज्ञ-s discussed so far-
1. दैव यज्ञ ~ offering unto deities.
2. विषय-भोग यज्ञ ~ offering of one’s pleasure & sense pursuits.
3. दम यज्ञ ~ restraint of sense organs, and organs of action.
4. शम यज्ञ ~ being centered, alert and mindful in terms of what one consumes.
5. द्रव्य यज्ञ ~ धनम् and सेवा to अष्टमूर्ति i.e. the entire world.
6. तपोयज्ञ ~ तपस् including fasting, going on तीर्थयात्रा, व्रत of doing मंत्र |
7. योग यज्ञ ~ अष्टाङ्ग योग practices.
8. स्वाध्याय यज्ञ ~ studying oneself in the light of the scriptures; the recitation of the वेद |
9. ज्ञान यज्ञ ~ offering of my ignorance into the ज्ञानम् that is me through the study of the scriptures.