A lot of us are interested in living a healthy and sustainable life and are passionate about our environment. We often wonder what can I as an individual do for the environment? How can I contribute positively to it? We also realise the influence of the environment on our health and well being. One often wonders how may I protect and take care of myself and my family from the pollution and harmful influences in the environment? What changes can I bring in my lifestyle and routine to be in tune with nature? Towards these one can look at yagna as an excellent practice to integrate in one’s life.
In the Indian tradition, the environment is seen as an extension of one’s body, of oneself and they mutually influence and impact each other. It is through our environment that we take in food, air, water, energy which form our body and through our life processes and actions, we in turn give back to the environment. Our thoughts and emotions are also influenced by the environment. Through Ayurveda we understand that the vata, pitta and kapha levels in our body change with the environment and so do our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Thus a healthy and pure environment nourishes us. By adopting a life in harmony with nature, we in turn give back to Her.
Yagna and environment
The process of yagna purifies the doer, the receiver and the environment. In the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan Shree Krishna explains the philosophy and different kinds of yagna.
The vedas describe yagna as a means to fulfil one’s desires, attain happiness through health, wealth, peace, strength, fame and protection from natural calamities, diseases, and all unforeseen events. The vedas give different kinds of yagnas for fulfilling the various needs and desires of beings.
In chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan Shree Krishna says that the creation is sustained through yagna and by individuals performing their swadharma. He further states that it is through yagna that the divine forces and nature are pleased and nourished and they in turn nourish us and fulfil our desires. Thus by mutually serving and taking care of each other, there is prosperity and abundance everywhere and well being for all.
Through yagna, one benefits not just oneself but also the environment. The environment when purified and nourished in turn makes us healthy and happy. The benefits of yagna are not limited to the time of activity or to the people who participate in it but extend much beyond the immediate visible sphere in space and time.
People across the world have started integrating the practice of yagna. Source: agnihotra.org
The most common form of a yagna that one would have seen is a homa (a havana) where offerings are made to agni in a kunda/vedi. The tradition of homas is ancient and is followed since the Vedic times. Special homas (havana — a form of yagna) are performed on special days such as ekadashi, poornima or on important occasions such as one’s birthday, anniversary, etc. One can also perform homas for the fulfilment of an important task or sankalpa. A common form of yagna performed daily is the agnihotra done at the time of sunrise and sunset. Through the process of yagna one can participate in positively contributing and enriching not just the outer but also one’s inner environment.
At our Ashram near Iyvar Malai, nitya yagna and japa happens at the Dhyanalayam, a consecrated space. The yagna is performed using cow dung patties which are freshly prepared from the gaushala. More on the agni kriya service at Dhyanalayam here:
Scientific research and sustainable living through Yagnas
In the previous articles we have looked at how yagnas and their ash benefit the air, water, soil and agriculture as found in scientific research. Through scientific research, we have begun to understand the timeless tradition of yagnas. There are numerous benefits of Yagna and this is a topic of further exploration.
On seeing the smoke arising from the yagna flames, It may seem counterintuitive that yagna actually purifies the air but research on yagnas has shown them to reduce air pollution by reducing the concentration of particulate matter in air and the harmful gases and improving the moisture content in the atmosphere. They have also been shown to reduce the harmful bacteria in the atmosphere significantly. After the yagna, the environment is charged with prana and positive energy which nourishes all beings. Thus through yagna, the air around becomes purified, and as one breathes in pure air, one need not worry about pollution, smoke and indoor pollution and the related respiratory diseases common in the urban environments. It is interesting to know that an average adult eats ~2 kg of food per day, drinks 3–4 litres of water and breathes 11,000 litres of air in a day! Thus the quality of air can have a significant impact on our health.
Similarly it has been shown that homa ash can be used to purify water in water bodies and made fit for drinking by increasing the dissolved oxygen content, regulating the pH and removing the harmful bacteria in it.
Homa ash is also being used to cultivate organic food which is shown to have higher yield and higher nutritional value. With the emerging popularity of kitchen gardens and other methods of growing plants and food at homes or locally, one can explore homa farming at home as well. There have been successful experiments around the globe on homa farming with agnihotra by individuals.
Yagna purifies the environment in a holistic manner
Another common source of ‘pollution’ that impacts the environment, other living beings and our mental and physical well being are the electromagnetic radiations. Especially since the lockdown, the exposure to devices has increased significantly and one often feels exhausted after spending long hours on them and looks for a relief. Research has shown that electromagnetic radiations from devices are greatly reduced in the yagna environment. One experiences a great sense of relaxation and the mind feels fresh and free from constant engagement.
Duing yagna is a greatly energising and spiritually uplifting process. The thoughts and emotions are purified. The mind calms down and a sense of serenity dawns. The atmosphere feels vibrant. One experiences positive energy during the whole day. The aroma of the yagna fumes is also quite refreshing and sometimes acts as a natural perfume 🙂
Through further research on yagna, we can examine and study their benefits and applications in our lives to a greater extent. The Vedas describe in detail the benefits of yagna in curing various diseases and fulfilling one’s needs. Yagna has shown to cure several diseases and their therapeutic use is a topic of research. In the Atharva Veda, various types of yagnas are given for curing diseases and each of them make use of different materials. Modern research has shown yagnas to help reduce anxiety, addictions, stress and other lifestyle related diseases.
Through the process of yagna, nature and the environment, the air, water, soil, atmosphere are purified and nourished and they in turn nourish the beings in them. Through By having rich and nutritious foods devoid of any chemical pesticides or fertilisers cultivated using homa farming, having pure and balanced water and breathing in pure air charged with prana, living in a charged atmosphere balancing our emotions and thoughts through yagna, having purified aahaara one can truly live a sustainable, healthy and holistic life that nourishes the environment and us.
Could there be anything better? One can only marvel and bow down in humility at the genius and greatness of the rishis who’ve laid the path to well-being and freedom for everybody.
Such is the greatness of the Sanatana Dharma where the workings of nature are integrated in one’s daily life in a participative manner so that one can experience and realise the truth oneself.