How to Perform Yagna: An Ancient Purification Practice
Yogis have historically performed rituals as a way to connect with the cosmos and with their own higher consciousness. Rites and rituals are a means to mold our minds – to transform them from a place of chaos, confusion and chatter to a place of focus and reconnection with our center.
Rituals bring our minds into a place of focus and reconnection with our center.
Modern yogis can benefit greatly from ancient rituals that have served this purpose for thousands of years. Yagna is one such ancient ritual that uses fire as a medium to create that connection with your calm center and your higher self.
Fire as a sacred element
Fire was the first element that humans discovered. The other three elements (earth, wind and water) were already there in plain sight. Finding fire gave power to humans to protect themselves, to cook their food, and to cleanse their environment.
Learning to tend fire was the turning point for humans to elevate themselves, and eventually evolve into vital sparks of consciousness.
Naturally, the sages of the ancient Vedic period placed the utmost importance on kindling the fire of creation. The first word in the Rig Veda (considered the oldest book of Sanskrit hymns) is “Agni,” the cosmic fire of the universe.
Incidentally, “Agni” is the root word for the Latin root “Ign” which is the root word for “Ignite” – isn’t it neat when we get small reminders that we’re all connected at the root?
So what does Yagna mean?
“Yagna” was a Vedic (meaning a practice related or connected to the Vedas) ritual that probably took shape between 1500 – 1200 BC, although the dates are widely debated. It began as a ritual of sacrifice to the sacred Agni.
The purpose of a Yagna ritual was to bring ancient yogis into direct contact with the source of the universe by connecting them with the elements – the underlying forces of creation itself. Ancient yogis began by building an altar of bricks made from soil, added logs and kindle, started fire from flint-stones, fueled it with ghee (clarified butter), and chanted sacred verses from the Vedas.
But the most important ingredient was to sacrifice something meaningful into the fire. These Yagnas were big – they sometimes continued for days on end – and were performed for the welfare of the society, power to the country, or for peace on earth.
But why should you perform Yagna?
Although they were performed for the community, Yagna is also an activity of the soul, for a person who gains the fruits of his karmas (actions) through his or her sacrifices.
Each soul has an inner fire, which is a reflection of the cosmic fire. As above, so below.
Tending to our inner fire requires consciousness, concentration, perseverance and a sense of purpose. When we neglect our inner fire, our passions and purpose go haywire because of fire’s destructive properties. But when tended carefully, fire provides focus for our purpose, destroys our inner impurities, and increases our intelligence.
Below are the steps to perform your own mini-ritual of Yagna at home:
- Set your intention – this is very important for a Yagna to be successful
- Spend time to recognize what you need to let go of. This will be your “sacrificial offering.” What self-limiting thoughts and beliefs are you clinging to that you need to release so you can gain clarity on your purpose?
- Choose an affirmation or mantra that relates to your intention to recite at your Yagna
- Pick out a clay pot (without a hole) to represent the earth and hold the fire / flame
- Set a cotton wick in the pot that’s long enough to touch the bottom, but also to peek out at the top or the side, to keep the flame lit collect fuel for the fire: ghee (the purest you can find), camphor, or match sticks
- Find a quiet time in your day – first thing after your morning shower is the best time, when your mind is clear and your body is clean
- Set your clay pot in your sacred space (make sure it’s wiped clean)
- Add ghee or your chosen fuel to the clay pot with the wick
- Close your eyes and re-affirm your intention
- Open your eyes when you’re ready, and light the flame
- Gazing into the fire, repeat your affirmation 11 times (or 21, or 108, or 1008 – these are considered sacred numbers)
- Each time you repeat your chant, add a matchstick or a tiny piece of camphor to the flame, offering away your thoughts and beliefs that are holding you back
- At the end, before you get up from the Yagna, re-affirm your intention and purpose
- Yagnas are not meant to be extinguished – be sure to let the fire go out on its own
- If you don’t have enough time to wait for the flame to go out, start with only a small amount of oil in the pot
- If the flame looks like it’s going out before you’re done, you can carefully add more oil to the pot\
Gazing into a fire or a flame can be mesmerizing, almost leading to a meditative state. Use the power of fire to drive your inner fire toward its purpose. You can perform a Yagna as an everyday ritual, or when you’re about to begin a new venture, or once a year to give a more emphatic direction to your current journey.
What are the limiting thought patterns or beliefs that you want to release? Have you practiced a Yagna ritual? Please share your questions, thoughts and experiences in the comments below – we love hearing from you!