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Homam,Havis,Yajna and Yaga
Yajna in the broadest sense has been defined as a sacrificial rite or spiritual offering made generally in fire. Grihasthas are expected to observe the following daily yajnas:
1. Bhuta Yajna: an oblation or offering to all of the created beings with whom we share this earth.
2. Pitri Yajna: Obesquial offerings in the form of libations of water to the deceased ancestors.
3.Deva Yajna: Sacrifice to Sudarshana , Lakshmi Narasimha, and others through oblations offered in fire with Veda mantras or bijaksharams. This is commonly called homa.
4.Manushya Yajna: Athiti Satkaram or hospitality to guests or strangers , who visit one.
5.Brahma Yajna: Teaching and recitation of the Vedas
In Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan declares that He is of the japa yajna among the various yajnas. Here reference is to the mantra japam of one's ishta devata or upasana murti or the sacred ashtakshara maha-mantram.
Yaga is generally associated with elaborate performance of fire sacrifices on a large scale ( Vajapeyam, Paundarikam, Ashvamedham etc ) Special priests with expertise in Vedic injunctions(vidhis) such as advharyu (officating priest), hotr(for Rg Vedic recitation), udgata(Sama Vedic passage reciter ) and brahma (presiding priest, often employed at a Soma Yaga) are involved in the successful conductance of these Yagas. The Number of priests can go as high as16 in complicated sacrifices.
Homa is generally a small scale "yaga" and is performed at home as opposed to yagas , which take place in a public place with attendance of a large group of people. Some times the scriptural passages are recited in the format of a homa . Examples of such homas are the Purusha Sukta Homa and Bhagavat Gita Homam. Agni is involved and sacrificial offerings are made to propitiate the Lord or the sacred passages associated with the Vedas or Vishnu.
Havis is the term used for the oblations offered to the Lord, which are offered with reverence into the Fire. Havis generally is an oblation of burnt offering. It can be clarified butter also. Agni is the medium, which carries the havis.
Havyapaka: is the oblation cooked with butter and milk.
Purva Mimamsa Sutras of Jaimini go into great detail about the various aspects (the vessels to be used, the different priests, et al ) of the yagas,
The Vishnu Sahasra-nama (971-982) deal with the yajna swarupam of Lord Narayana.The namas and the meanings as intrepreted by Parasara Bhattar are as follows:
971: om yajnaya namah - He is Himself the sacrifice (japa-yajna) for those who wish to attain Him , But who do not have the wherewithall to acquire the dharma to worship Him.
972: Yajna pathi - He gives the fruit of the sacrifice done to please Him.
973: Yajva-- He who performs the sacrifice for those , who are unable to do a yajna. In the Vaishnava Dharma in the Ashvamedha Parva , Lord Krishna says: " O Yudhishtira, for the purification of those ( who are unable to observe the daily rites ), I am myself doing the yajna at both dawn and dusk every day. I never fail in carrying out this vow of Mine."
974: Yajnangah - He who has the sacrifices of others as an accessory to what He is doing.
975: Yajna-vahana - He helps those,who perform the sacrifices by investing them with the necessary power, faith and equipment to perform them.
976: Yajna bhrit - He, who brings about the completion of the sacrifice.
977: Yajna krit – He who created the sacrifice.
978: Yajni - He for whose sake the sacrifices are done.
979: Yajna bhuk - The enjoyer or the protector of the sacrifice.
980: Yajna sadhana - He who is an accessory to the sacrifice.
981 : Yajnanta krit -He who produces the fruits of the sacrifice.
982: Yajna guhyam - He, who is the secret of the sacrifice.
The Nama "Yajna Guhyam" is very elaborately commented upon by Parasara Bhattar this way:
" Though Bhagavan is not in wants, He accepts the offerings made in a sacrifice as though He has been long expecting them and enjoys them. Thus, He feels satisfied and also satisfies those,who do sacrifices. This is understood only by the wise, who know the injunctions, the means and the fruit of sacrifices, but not by those who have only a superficial knowledge. Hence the name of Him as the Secret of the sacrifice."
"All the Vedas and all that has to be learnt , all the Sastras and all sacrifices, and all worship--All are Shri Krishna. O Kings! Those, who know Krishna correctly in this way ,may be considered to have completed successfully all sacrifices."
"All the shining luminaries in the world, the three worlds and three guardians of the Worlds ,the three fires and the five offerings in them and all the Gods--All are Shri Krishna ,the son of Devaki."
Yajna Varaha Murti and Shrimad Bhagavatam
The relation between Bhagavan and the yajnas is described by Shrimad Bhagavatam.
The third Canto of Bhagavatam in the verses 13 to 35 describe the body of the Lord as made up of the various utensils used in the yajnas, the ceremonies and all the havis. In this description, the havis known as purodasam is seen as the stomach of the Lord, Pracityam (Brahma's havis) as the mouth of Yajna Varaha-murti. Bhagavatam also describes the 7 Soma yajnas(Agnishtomam,Atyagnishtomam, Ukthyam, Sodashi, Vajapeyam, Atiratram, Abtoryamam) as taking the parts of skin, flesh, medhas, bones, majjai, blood and shukra . The total view of the Yajna Varaha-murti is that of a yajna without the affiliation of the soma creeper (lata) .
Blessed indeed are those, who can do homa in one form or other , while understanding the significance of them and their intimate relationship to the Lord .