Vedā: Yajña and Ṛta

Before continuing on saying about what to do when you are enlightened, let us revisit the Vedic yajña. There is a lot that should be spoken about before we realize how we have to row through the Ṛta. And to realize what I speak of, we should be aware of the Vedic perceptional model.

To the naive, the Vedas are all about random invocations to some nature gods who matter very less in their fanciful “spiritual world” devoid of forms and meanings. If so, why would it be so hard to interpret Rigveda (as chāndasa verses are aggregated together in Rigveda, I am using Rigveda as the standard to explain Vedas) that Rigveda is still deemed to be an undeciphered text? So far, the explanations of the Vedic gods by the countable stalwarts worked on Vedas seem to the newbie as all signifying some sort of sun, water, or fire. If it was all Sun, why would we have a separate Savitar, a Pūṣan, a Bhaga, a Sūrya, Mitra? If all Vedic devas are literally the same, then why exactly should the wise and inspired sages invoke them variously? Why would you even bother about the various forms of the same deva like Agni Rakṣohan/Agni Tanūnapāt or Soma Rājan/Pavamāna Soma or Indra Vṛtrahan/Indra Marutvā? Why would sages even bother to distinguish all of these concepts if they are all the same sun, light?

Surely, it is not their problem, but ours. What we have made the rich and abstract Viśvedevas into. The whole philosophy of Vedas has based on the bandhus the sages connect between various worlds. Hence by the inner reality, we see sun, light or a basic function common to all of these concepts. That is their success in conveying the oneness of everything. But have we understood how varied and how unique each deva is?

As much as they are physically unique, the Devas are also spiritually unique. Every deva has homologous parts in the various worlds we live in. They all connect together and reveal to us the otherwise hidden “purpose” and “meaning” of life and this cosmos. That is exactly what the bandhus convey to us.

That the sun rises at dawn is analogous to the fact that we will rise from our sleep too. Just as the spark rises from friction, we realize that friction can be the cause of creation. We realize that water is our foster mother. We realize we naturally need air to breathe and live. Why should we live then? The purpose of everything is the edifice in which everything is built. The dharmans. In physics, we have these basic forces which govern the entire universe. In Vedas, the dharmans are similarly established as the eternal yajñas that occur here. Yajñas are the kind of models into which the reactions, transformations, metamorphoses are formulated. They are the mathematical equations we have in science. They are the perceptional models into which we put our perception of this world and identify it. They are the measuring sticks that tell us the difference between one metre and two metre. Yajña is always productive, but production is the result of an offering. There are always both sides to equations. There has to be an object of perception. In a way, yajña recreates itself – one equation is the source of another.

This bandhu or the homologous/analogous connection is visible in science too. Despite the mechanics and electricity being apparently unrelated directly, you can convert an electrical system into an analogous mechanical system and vice-versa, with the help of the mathematical “formulae” that describe to us the power of analogy. The sages also do the same. They hold the right “equations” into which we put the reality around us, and suddenly everything becomes meaningful and validated. Thus, the sun is analogous to self in a context which you might see in the Vedic “formulae” (brahman) crafted by the formulator sages (brahmās) in whom they say, is the highest station of Vāk. The brahmā conceives the formulae in the yajñas by the power of his intuitive and intellectual union, formed out of divine inspiration. He makes the yajñas real. Those were the times of Vedas, when sages were brahmās in the yajñas, spontaneously versifying a reality that makes the yajña an enactment of reality rather than a “ritual”.

Yajñas can be both self-sustained (the eternal yajñas which are dharmans) or have to be activated (by us appropriately). The automated ones happen everywhere around us, even in us. Right now, as you read this, you are breathing involuntarily, the train of thoughts arriving in your mind is mostly involuntary. This is indeed your share, your “fortune”. People are unique. Everything in this cosmos is unique and has its own share and purpose. The apportioner of share, the Bhaga, belongs to Ādityas, signifying his primarily moral existence. But not everything seems automated and complete (Āditya) in this world. There are things that require an initiation, a kick-off by an agent at the right time. Thus, we have these yajñas kicked off by Ṛtvijs (who perform yajña in the ṛtus) who do their yajña from what is allotted to them.

What is that which mediates between the automated world of uncertainty and our “choice to experience the reality”? It is the “light” that helps us “see” and “identify”. Thus, we generate the medium of yajña, the Agni, who connects the Dyāvāpṛthivī together, the devas with us mortals. We, through friction, give birth to the Agni who is, in reality, the fashioner of his own perceptional form (tanu). He is light himself. He is ultimately the subject and agent of the yajña. The object is what we call the “motivation” or “inspiration” which fuels him to the destination – the soma which goes to the gods. Agni is thus the visible example of mass-energy equivalence as well as conservation of matter and energy. He has heat and light in him. He proves that there is his latent form inherent in everything, which can be brought out by efforts and kept throughout by offerings. As the nāsadīya hymn says, “svadhā avastāt prayatiḥ parastāt” (the self-established power as offered below, the effort above).

The very quality of this yajña is māya – how we model and perceive the reality, how we set up the equation for the experiment. And this is where Ṛta plays the most important factor. Ṛta is that which connects everything and moves through all reality, making them real. Without Ṛta, there is no reality perceivable. Whatever you want to perceive, be it the food in your mouth or yourself in meditation, you require this Ṛta to act all over. On experiencing the food, the associated taste buds generate their models, which are then compared with known models so that you can “taste” the food. Ṛta is that which cemented the experience of “sweetness” or “sourness” for you, which through Ṛta you will discern.

But again yes, so why should we do yajña as worship? Why do we worship the Vedic devas? Why do the brahmās instantaneously verify their formulae in yajñas, or at least rationalize the models of yajñas? It is because yajña is the ṛta of spiritual existence. Through yajña, we take the position of sages and devas. We keep the cosmos going meaningfully and (hopefully) desirably. As a result, Vedic devas are also unique – they are poetic perceptions of the reality they embody in their words and symbols, testified by the bandhus.

We worship the reality through Ṛta so that there is a meaning to our “choice” of living in this world, not just for ourselves but for others too. We make hay while the sun shines. What else would be the best way to worship the devas than to celebrate the reality they represent? Vedic Brahmanic rituals are all painfully provided meanings, step-by-step, and given an elaborate mythological symbolism in Brāhmaṇas only because of the Ṛta significance.

In real life, how do we know what is Ṛta? Isn’t it possible that our perceptions can be wrong and can often result in a wrong path? Who is there to control this?

Ṛta, as we see, is synonymous with harmony. If what you are doing is known to create harmony, it is Ṛta. Because then, the various aspects become aligned meaningfully. When a person dies due to the “automated” reasons, that is Ṛta. When he is murdered by a person “who chooses”, that is anṛta, and it has to be answered. Vedas try to enforce the good faith that if yajñas are done, we regularly take the position of devas and our conscience becomes limitless as our consciousness, the Aditi. At the time, we become offenseless in our inner court. This also puts the burden to be moralistic upon us, and a true necessity to be moralistic as a well-wisher of the entire world we live in.

Ṛta is applicable in every perceivable unit. For example, what you do maybe harmonious within your family, but might disturb things outside it. That means, in that unit, what you do is still anṛta. Thus if one goes by the golden rule of empathy, one would be traversing through Ṛta.

However, since Ṛta is a “revealed path”, can it always result in success? Ideally, it should be. That is how it is – like the two sides of the equation. However, practically, we might not have knowledge or control over every parameter that affects this equation. Thus, naturally, māyā does create another by-product – the Vṛtra who tests our limits of applying Ṛta. This Vṛtra needs to be dealt with. It is our duty to. We have this powerful option inside us – rightly guided thought/inspired thought (soma) which challenges Vṛtra through the enabling divinity in us, the Indra.

If Ṛta is not always applicable ideally, how would we deem it a reality? Well, the thing is that Ṛta is never fully applicable by us save through the best models where we get closer to the satya through Ṛta. Certain things are beyond our measuring scope (māyā) and it is not wise to cry over the setting sun. Why is science the “best knowledge”? Because science is essentially falsifiable at least in principle. That is also how Ṛta is applied – the best guess through observed reality. Ṛta is true because its application is essentially falsifiable in principle. Yajñas are real because they are essentially modifiable in their constructs. Indra is the best Reality because he can always be questioned. Hence why Rigvedic sages have recorded people always questioning Indra.

Rta (cosmic harmony) and through our ignorance of this harmony, we unintentionally create unwanted reactions and these unwanted reactions are Vrtra? And when we experience something unwanted, who shows the path? Soma? Soma is our genuine feeling of how to deal with the given situation? Where and who/what is Indra here?

Let us take this example.

We all know that colors, for instance, are perceptions created by our mind. There is no “colour” inherent in the world if not for our perception. There are many tests to show how our brain has learned to perceive them apart.

Now, knowing that there is no color in the “outer” world apart from our perception, does that mean our perception of the color is false? No, it is still, our reality. The way another person experiences colors might be his reality. Ṛta, when applied, is exactly like that – it can be applied in unique ways in various models of perception. So, you might think – Ṛta is a non-existent thing outside our perception. But wait.

We have some cases called “disorders” where we know some people cannot differentiate between blue and green. If we don’t know how does another person even experience a physically “non-existent” (as we dismissed off it quite a while before) color in his perspective (we are still in our own brain, not in another one’s) how can we say that his color blindness is a disorder? Because we can relate it with a general harmony by which we all can differentiate what we all call green and what we all call blue, but this guy cannot. That “harmony” or “order” against which we measured to understand his “disorder” is analogous to the Ṛta we are speaking about. (Only that Ṛta comes in the planes where we could choose our disorders)

Your life is yours. The main reason why you should know your self (“see the Sun” or “know your day” in Vedic words) is to understand how you should apply the Ṛta in your life. Have you seen how a baby learns? You can see how his brain instinctively uses the Ṛta to understand and learn from his mistakes and experiences. Ṛta is always fresh and evolving. It is there for you to see and know. It is not an objective thing, but a very non-individualistic thing, applying what you realize and acknowledge you are a part of this ever-evolving jigsaw puzzle of cosmos. Whether you fit into your position is what your life is about.

The power of Ṛta-aided māyā is beautiful. Through māyā, you can now read this sentence in seconds without having to read through each alphabet as you did in your initial schooldays. That we are able to read through the words just by seeing and comparing them unconsciously with known models shows our brain has adapted to the Ṛta. That is also why we can type “typos” and also read words that are spelled wrong. Our steadfastness to Ṛta makes them right to us. 🙂

Whatever happens without perception is Ṛta. It has to happen like that. Whatever happens due to perception is māyā. It is what we think about how it should happen. When māyā is in accordance with Ṛta, we say it is harmonious and appropriate. Else, we say it is not appropriate. That could also come like an ethical problem of what is right and what is wrong. There is nothing like that which is objective, and there should be one like that in the subjective, common world and that is exactly why there is Ṛta. Perception is the cause and end of all – be it desire, suffering, or anything. And the answer for what we are lies in ourselves – what we perceive, what tanu we have. It is not right to kill our perception to bid good riddance to this world. There is a difference between enlightenment and absolute ignorance.

Author/Researcher: Kiron Krishnan
Jan 19th, 2020


Yajña is a combination of kratu the resolve, kavi the insightful sage and karma the action. Or you take it as the combination of dīkṣa, dakṣiṇā and dakṣa. Or you think it as the combination of manas, dhī and kalpanā. The union of ṛk, sāman, yajus in the chandas that makes the Vāk that literally enlivens the yajña.

When sage tradition was put to an end, the kratu became an artificial ritual of dīkṣā, the kavi became extinct in whose position the purohita was the brahmā, and yajña was reduced to the mere ritual which is karma. At least the mīmāṃsā school of classical Brahmanist philosophy believed in absolute efficacy of karma over anything else. Nothing else mattered. So naturally, you couldn’t fulfill yourself in one life. Your “karma” had to haunt you to several rebirths. And to attain liberation, you had to deal with this karma.

It is not that insight or intention disappeared (they were subsumed into karma) but their relevance did. No wonder why Sarasvatī, the symbol of Vāk, became a pool instead of a flowing river, ending up in a desert. And the modern sons of Brahmā had several issues about their ancestor brahmā, ending up in jealousy, envy or even denial, that would result in the caricature of brahmā later in literature.

The brahman remained literally the “source of everything” because of course, the verses were still committed to by-heart. But brahmā?

The way by which the sons of brahmā tied up brahmā is much known throughout in the myths they have ended up with. The “father” is an old guy who has no control over his senses even being this old, and son tries to correct it. (However, I must note that Rāma is perhaps the only person who tries to side with, obey Daśaratha, and goes to forest) Brahmā is a poet, a specialized liar. In his hands are Vedas, full of lower-level knowledge (but which have to be revered because they are heritage, paitṛka, which you receive from your dad and hence your personal property). Brahmā the poet marries his own inspired daughter – the dhīti of Vāk (later, Sarasvatī) and see – you have all reasons to chastize him and absolve yourself of the guilt of “dethroning” him and his position for your benefits.

In the world of kings, the priests did get their share of “karma” – we do see the kings taking away wives of priests. Or maybe it was also a defence to say that tapas (that could make him a kavi) can be unhealthy for a priest – his wife can be taken over by king at any time.

Author/Researcher: Kiron Krishnan
Mar 9th, 2020