Yajna denotes selfless or “ God- centred ” action, as opposed to self-centred action.3 min read

“ Actions create bondage unless performed as a sacrifice (yajna) to please the Lord. Therefore perform thy actions as a yajna keeping thyself unattached to their fruits.” Chap. Ill, Verse 9

AS long as man lives, he acts and his action is a most important factor influencing his personality. Thinking itself is a form of activity, and our knowledge modifies our action and vice versa. A man’s bondage and release depend to a very large extent on his action.

In the Gita it is said that all actions other than those performed in the spirit of sacrifice (yajna) bind the individual. Thus even good and righteous action, if performed to obtain merit—that is with a desire for its fruits— helps to prolong the limited individuality. It may provide comfort, joy and fame, even holiness ; but its results are transitory, and it does not lead to the absorption of the mind, the individualising force, into the pure Spirit.

So long as we live we cannot give up actions even for a minute. But there is, says the Gita, a way of escape from this bondage, for actions performed in the spirit of yajnfl do not bind the individual.

The term yajna ordinarily means “ sacrifice ” and originally applied to the sacrificial rites. Great importance was attached to these in Vedic times. They were the special acts of offering what was held dear and of value, to the Gods (Devas) in order to please them, and that they might show their grace to all. Some of the sacrificial ceremonies were very intricate, and the Mimansa-Shastra (the ritualistic portion of the Vedas) is entirely devoted to them.

But in the Gita, the term yajna is used in a wider sense than this, meaning any action performed in the spirit of tyaga or renunciation. It denotes selfless or “ God- centred ” action, as opposed to self-centred action. Such action does not bind the individual, and, moreover, helps him to obtain wisdom.

The root “yaj” means “ giving up ” or “ bestowing,” and it is clear that yajna implies self-sacrifice. Those actions which serve the purpose of the Creator are called yajna. Selfish enjoyment of pleasure and comfort interferes with the plan of the universe, and disturbs the cosmic balance and harmony by creating an excessive attachment for some particular object. It is renunciation which serves the cosmic purpose ; renunciation expands the soul and frees the individual from the bondage of limitations. It is through renunciation that the individual can link himself up to the cosmic law. We live to conform to the Divine Law, which is manifest through renunciation in nature and man. In everyday language yajna means offering all to God.

Desire for objects and attachment to them are the roots of the restrictions on the flow of the universal consciousness, forcing it to be directed along a special limited channel. Desire implies want ; but action performed in a detached and regulated manner will satisfy and eradicate these wants. Discipline and detachment are the keys to liberating action, and they are summed up in the service of God. All action (karma) is eventually transcended through the practice of desireless action—dharma or duty. Desireless action leads to knowledge (jnana) and to the cessation of all karma.

The Gita says :—

“ The action of a man who is free from all attachments, who has acquired liberation and whose mind is firmly founded in wisdom, who acts only to offer yajna to the Lord, entirely dissolves away.”—Chapter IV, Verse 23.