How do you reach Indra, what is the means of reaching Indra? For reaching Indra, the one which is nearest to us, and which is everywhere, you can find in everything, – Agni, Fire. Agni also is symbolic, but it is something that is very near to us. It is said that Agni is in the earth, plants, all the herb, all the animals and creatures; Agni is in our heart; and Agni is a very special entity. This Agni is one of the secrets, because that is the one which is immediately available to you and which can immediately open the doors of your upward movements. Without Agni there is no upward movement.
That is the one great discovery of the Veda. That even to start your journey, you should approach Agni. It is said: “devaḥ devebhiḥ āgama”, he the one god if you approach him, all the other gods come; devaḥ, it is one god, devebhiḥ, when he comes, then, all the other gods come. So if you want to have all the cosmic powers, and approach to all the cosmic powers, then first you should propitiate Agni.
What is Agni? Agni is what we normally call fire, which we know very well what fire is, that even if you physically touch it, it burns you. It takes away all the impurities: when you want to purify any metal, you put into the fire, physical fire and impurities are burned. It is said that Agni is capable of devouring everything. In other words, it has such a power that everything can be consumed, the whole earth, the whole universe can be consumed by it. This Agni is also described as jātaveda: “One who is born with all the knowledge”. Or it is also interpreted in another way: “One who knows everything that is born”, jātaveda.
If you want to find out your true Self, then also there is Agni in you. Agni is supposed to be that which is immortal in the mortals. We are all mortals, but even in mortals there is one element, which is immortal, and that is Agni. It is inextinguishable, that is the mark of it; it is inextinguishable: ordinary fire of course is extinguishable, but that fire of which Veda speaks, which has been discovered by the Veda, and which is in the heart of everyone is inextinguishable. It is when you approach that Agni, and when that Agni burns in you all the time, then you become fit for a higher journey.
In fact the ‘Vedic journey’ starts with Agni. All yajñā therefore, is supposed to start with Agni: yajñā is nothing but sacrifice of all that you are, all that you have, that is the one simple definition of sacrifice. To offer all that you are and all that you have is sacrifice. And Agni is capable of receiving: that is why Agni is called in the very beginning, because Agni is the one which can receive all that you are and all that you have, and when it is received what does it mean? Received means that it burns away all that is unacceptable, all impurities are burnt away when you offer it to Agni. It purifies everything: it no more remains.
One of the first things that human beings have is activity. Every kind of activity: from breathing to any other achievement is nothing but activity.
The Veda says that if you want to approach that Reality, from where a new event can be created, then the starting point is that your activities you throw into the fire, into Agni. And first of all, Agni will purify all the impurities from your activities. We offer everything: all that we are, all that we have, and much of that is impure. Before it becomes acceptable to that Sun power, this great Tapasya has to be done in which you throw yourself into the Fire.
This Fire is of many kinds. And that is what in the 4th chapter, Sri Krishna describes: various kinds of fires. That is the inner meaning of outer ritualistic interpretation of the Veda, which speaks only of fire that we normally see as a physical fire: you do a sacrifice, you offer samidh(s), and then you believe that an action has been done, yajñā has been done, and the results will come. That is purely an outer symbolic act, but really speaking, the real yajñā is quite different.
It is at this point that we have to understand, that unless you offer yourself to Agni and to the other gods, which we described just now. There are many others but I have only told you in general the basic hierarchy.
Agni comes first, in reply to that Indra comes, and Indra takes you farther to these four Kings: Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman, and Bhaga, and from there you go upward and you get Surya. And when you get Surya then it gives you Soma, the highest delight: this is the entire hierarchy, basic hierarchy. There are many more details, but this is the basic administration of the whole world. All these powers, according to the Veda, are powers of one Reality. That is why the famous sentence of the Veda is: ekaṁ sad viprā bahudhā vadanti, (Rig Veda, 1, 164, 46), “He is one, but different learned people speak of Him in many different ways.”
Indra is supreme; Agni is supreme; Varuna is supreme; Mitra is supreme; Bhaga is supreme; Aryaman is supreme; Surya is supreme; all of them are supreme. But even though each one of them is supreme, it has still its specific function, and therefore that specificity cannot be ruled out. Unless you first of all go to Agni, you cannot start the journey. Therefore, this sentence simply says that, when Prajapati created the world, yajñā was created at the same time, and he said to people: “You offer yourself to yajñā, as a result of that “they”, the forces, the cosmic forces will give you back, you please them and they will please you”: this is the basic principle of the cycle of life.
Then it goes farther, in III, 12, it says:
iṣṭān bhogān hi vo devā dāsyante yajña-bhāvitāḥ |
tair dattān apradāyaibhyo yo bhuṅkte stena eva saḥ ||12||
We had seen last time all these verses but I am seeing it from another point of view, in a larger context of the Vedic knowledge: “The gods, pleased by yajñā will bestow upon you the objects of your desire. He who enjoys the objects given by the gods without offering yajñā to them is a thief.”
In other words, all that you have you offer to Agni, by which when Agni is there, then all the other gods come: devaḥ devebhiḥ āgama. Then, the gods give you back.
In the ordinary life, normally, we are full of desires: all human beings are normally moved by this desire or that desire, and we want the desire to be fulfilled. In other words we want an event to occur by which the desire is fulfilled. Therefore, the first proposition that is made by the Vedic knowledge is: “You bring your desires, but throw your desires into Agni, and then you will find that the gods, in return, will fulfil your desires.” This is the small “Eventology” as it were; small events will occur in your life, when you give up your desires first to Agni. Then whatever is given to you, you give back again; keep with you only what is necessary, and if you do not give again back, you are a thief.
yajña-śiṣṭāśinaḥ santo mucyante sarva-kilbiṣaiḥ |
bhuñjate te tv aghaṁ pāpā ye pacanty ātma-kāraṇāt ||13|| (III)
“Those good men who eat only what is left from the sacrifice are freed from all sins…” This is purely ritualistic process. What happens is that you arrange a big sacrifice, you arrange a lot of food, and you sacrifice as much as you can, and all the remains is prasāda, and you eat only the Prasad. It is said that if you do not offer first, and then take the remaining, then you are a thief, but if you eat only what is left out, then you are free from all the sins: now this is purely ritualistic understanding.
But really speaking it is not that: you throw your desires first to do Agni, then, whatever is given back to you, you put again back into Agni, and then what remains, a little for you; you keep that. Therefore, it is said that if you cook only for yourself, then there is no yajñā: you should cook first of all so much that you can offer a great deal out of it so something remains. But in the purely ritualistic sense it means that you cook a lot of food, invite hundreds and thousands of people, and have a big yajñā, and whatever remains like a Prasad you give to everybody. But this is purely ritualistic interpretation of it. But internally, it is a question of your desires, giving up your desires to Agni, and then whatever returns to you, you keep only a little and then you again make a sacrifice.
In this cycle, why this yajñā becomes effective, why this yajñā is an effective instrument of creating events; because of the following reason:
annād bhavanti bhūtāni parjanyād-annasambhavaḥ |
yajñād bhavati parjanyo yajñaḥ karma-samudbhavaḥ ||14|| (III)
This is the cycle: “From food creatures come into being; from rain grows the food. It is yajñā that gives rise to rain, while yajñā is born of action.” All the human beings or everything that is born ultimately is born from food: that is the basic, you might say, vasu. In the Veda there is the concept of vasu: vasu is substance. In fact everybody in the world is in pursuit of vasu: substance. Whether it is in the form of wealth, because wealth is something that is substantial; or it is in the form of knowledge, which is also vasu because it is knowledge that gives you further substance; or joy that is also a substance because you really become fulfilled, but all that basically is food.
From food arises everything. If there is no substance, then there is no creation out of anything: substance is the most important thing. In the world as we understand, there is lot of hollowness, and because of hollowness we are in need of substance. Desire is what? Desire is an experience of a need, need that arises out of hollowness. Because we live in hollowness, we want to fill that hollowness by annā. Therefore we seek food, and it is only from food: basic substance is food. That food gives rise to the people; everything in the world depends upon food. Now, food itself arises out of rain; that is a purely physical understanding of food, but everything that you call vasu requires some kind of a fostering condition, in which it is fostered. Now this rain can come only out of yajñā, and yajñā cannot be done without action. That is the importance of action: if you don’t do action, then there is no yajñā; if there is no yajñā there is no rain; if there is no rain then the food is not produced. And therefore, there is no such thing as what you can really possess and enjoy.