MANTRAS of the Rigveda are all in poetic form. But Yajurveda is principally in prose form. The word "Yajus" is derived from the root "Yaj," which means to consecrate, to offer, to sacrifice. The mantras of Yajurveda are, therefore, devoted to acts of sacrifice.
Sacrifice is understood primarily in its ritualistic sense, and Yajurveda itself speaks of various kinds of ritualistic sacrifices. Rituals of various sacrifices were laid down in detail and they are expected to be performed with meticulous care. There is a belief among ritualists that the rites, if properly performed, are effective and produce desired results. The important rites are related to sacrifices called "Chaturmasya", "Vajapeya", "Ashwamedha" and "Rajasuya".
But apart from the ritualistic meaning, sacrifice has also an inner meaning. It is this inner meaning which is extremely important. Every action is inwardly a sacrifice, if
it is done as an offering to the Divine. All inner offering is received by the Divine, and the Divine receives by Himself offering something of His divine nature to the doer of action. When this process of offering of the doer and the offering of the Divine in the act of receiving is repeated again and again, in every act, in every manner of being, the Divine begins to take charge of the doer and, eventually, the doer is transformed into the Divine Worker; he becomes the channel of the Divine Will. The ultimate result that ensues is the occurrence of the Divine Event, with all its splendour, glory, miraculousness and incalculable consequence for the world.
The Yajurveda is fundamentally the secret science of the Divine Events, which can alter what is preplanned or predestined by the power of human will, human action. Karma. The basic teaching of the Yajurveda is that Karma can be altered, that humanly destined events can be prevented, modified, transformed by means of intense processes of inner sacrifice.
There are two main versions of the Yajurveda: Shukia Yajurveda and Krishna Yajurveda. At one time, there were 101 Shakhas or branches of it. But over centuries, most of them have become extinct, and we have only the following Shakhas as shown in the table given as under:
The Vajasaneyi Yajurveda has 40 chapters; it has 29,625 words, and 88,875 letters. More than one third of the mantras of the Yajurveda have been taken from Rigveda. The last chapter of the Shukia Yajurveda is the famous Ishavasya Upanishad, to which we have made reference earlier. But as this Upanishad is very important, we may give briefly an idea of its main contents.
Isha Upanishad has eighteen mantras. Its main message is contained in the following:
तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्ञीथाः
"By that renounced, thou shouldst enjoy."
This Upanishad has four movements:
In the first, it is declared that the entire universe is inhabited by the Spirit. On that basis, the rule of a divine life for man is founded,—enjoyment of all by renunciation of all through the exclusion of desire. There is then declared the justification of works and the physical life.
In the second movement, the basis of fulfilment of the rule of life are found in the experience of unity by which man identifies himself with the cosmic and transcendental self and with all its becomings, but with an entire freedom from grief and illusion.
In the third movement, vidya and avidya, Knowledge and Ignorance are reconciled by their mutual utility to the progressive self-realisation which proceeds from the state of mortality to the state of immortality.
In the fourth movement, the relation of Supreme Truth and Immortality and the activities of the life are symbolically indicated.
The prayer to Agni, which is given in the last mantra of this chapter is very famous. It runs as follows:
अग्ने नय सुपथा राये अस्मान् विश्वनि देव वयुनानि विद्वान्।
युयोध्यस्मज्जुहुरामेनो भूयिष्ठां त ेनम उक्तिं विधेम।।
"0 Agni, Being of Illumined Will, knowing all things that are manifested, lead us by the good path to the felicity; remove from us the devious attraction of sin. To thee completes! speech of submission we dispose.